She said the way she learned it from Richard Freeman is that as you breathe in, you lift the bhandas. When you exhale, the bandhas gather naturally; you lift them up as you breathe. This makes sense, and is in conjunction with what I was taught when lifting weights - breathing while lifting the bhandas, lifting the bhandas while breathing - should protect one from straining a muscle. She said other teachers may have a different way of explaining it, but that is how she learned it.
By the way, looking at Richard Freeman's website, I notice he has an upcoming workshop on July 5-8 on yoga and Buddhism, with Roshi Joan Halifax. Wow, that is really powerful. I would like to do such a retreat in the future.
8 random things about me
1. I played the piano and the accordion into my late teens.
2. Because I grew up in an island, I boated every weekend for fun with family, going to small islands located offshore near my town.
3. My family ran a big sugar mill. As a kid I remember once going to warehouse where we could eat raw sugar from the wheels of the tractor that loaded the sugar into train containers. And now I avoid sugar in my diet.
4. I love to hike.
5. Before my middle teens I was extremely talkative - you could not keep me quiet. In my late teens I became so quiet it appeared I was catatonic. It was at about the time of a religious conversion. My father bought me a book with descriptions of the life of saints, and I seemed to like one called St. John the Mute. So my father told everyone I was quiet because I liked "Chucho el Mudo", his nickname in Spanish for St. John the Mute.
6. Both my parents have a great sense of humor. I think they got it from their parents, and from each other, since they have been together so many years. But that is not a random thing about me. So tell me, what do you think about me? No, don't answer that. If my Buddhist teachers found out about all of this self centered-ness, when there is no self... tsk tsk.
7. I once bought a book on the art of jewelry because I thought that creating a piece of jewelry is like creating great architecture. Well, it is.
8. My favorite food used to be anything with pesto sauce in it, but since going vegan and practicing CR, I haven't found a food application for pesto sauce that is low in calories and healthy.
I remember once Teacher's kind response when I let her know of my difficulties of getting to practice that week due to work demands. She said something like, that I should not stress myself out. It's enough that our practice is demanding that we should not be adding the stress of preoccupation of not being to attend on occasion yoga practice daily, because of the demands placed on us by our work world . Something like that.
I'm saying goodbye to a watercolor by Brad Braune, this painting of a cowboy illustrated here. Brad is well known in the southwest for his portraits of cowboys, cacti and such. You can view his website here. I once enclosed a room in the house of my friend Emilio, called the "Brad Braune Room" to house his large collection of Brad's paintings. People say I left Texas because I never learned to dance the two-step. I don't know. I love the San Francisco bay area.
I have the intent of selling the sculpture titled "Man holding the moon" by Texas artist David Swim. It's cast from a live model, using the material used for making dental impressions. The artist said that he was inspired by a poem by Chekov that said that "man's troubles feed the moon." In my opinion, he must have been also inspired by the neoclassical painting by Hyppolite Flandrin titled, "Naked Young Man Sitting by the Sea." I've owned this piece since 1993. Being an architect, I understand that heavy things must be installed properly. Exhibiting lapsus mentis, I installed it innapproriately, and gravity did its thing. So the arm and head got separated from the body. However, a friend who studied sculpture glued it together, then dissapeared before helping me sand the attachment points and painting it. So someone who fixes art needs to touch it up a bit. It's no big deal. I've had artwork repaired before. In fact, a previous landlord makes a living repairing artwork. But the Buddhist way is to believe that we don't own things, we merely take care of them for their next owners - I've just gotten tired of taking care of David Swim's sculpture, so I've placed it for sale at deep discount on craigslist. Let's see if an artistically inclined person can do the final touch up. I may have to list it several times, since it's an unusual item.
Okay, some of you might be thinking, there's a lot of, ahem, lack of clothing there. So I'll post a picture of a painting I'm not putting on sale, which more appropriately describes the remainder of my collection. This one is by Phillip Wade. This one is titled, "Dog Sipping Tea" and it epitomizes the work of Phillip, which is always full of serendipity and joy. This painting makes you feel that life is a party, to be enjoyed like an afternoon picnic in the park with a dog.
In dropbacks, I tend to also forget to keep the arms straight. I tend to bend them a bit still. So I practiced keeping them straight. Also Teacher said that if I walk my hands too far towards the feet it might make it more difficult when I'm doing the rocking motion to come up to standing. But I thought that if you walked the hands closer to the feet, then all the legs have to do is kind of tip towards the front and you would come up naturally by yourself. Hmmm.
The other day she observed that in Septu Bandasana (Charlie Chaplin pose) I needed to straighten the legs. I'm so glad that at some point a few years ago I could do this pose without feeling like I was going to dislocate the neck, since the neck is arched back. Whenever I would see someone doing this asana correctly a few years back, I would inwardly scream, "Noooo! How is that neck still attached to shoulders?" But now I can do it, except, as she pointed, I need to extend the legs.
At first, Dandelion practiced next to me. Women practice quietly, but exceed us guys in flexibility. Lancelot followed. He's quite strong and graceful. Close to him was TheAgent. When he started, my judging mind kicked in, telling me, "Hmm, normal appearing guy; am I thinner than him? Would that make me more flexible?" Well this normal appearing guy doesn't get comments from his body, like mine does. My body might tell me, "What!? You're going to get the feet behind the head and it's going to stay there? Says who?". Not so for TheAgent. He just seamlessly moves from asana to asana, the body seeming not to give him resistance. How blessed! Okay, I should have concentrated on my own practice. I did, with a few moments during the closing sequence where I couldn't help but admire the seemingly quiet grace TheAgent had in getting into and out of poses.
Then I started reading up on blood pressure. In layman's terms, the heart pumps blood through your blood vessels. If your blood vessels are full of plaque it has to work harder to pump. The kidneys help to eliminate toxins from the body. If the kidneys are taxed, which can happen if you are consuming excess protein, it causes the heart to work harder to eliminate waste through the urine. Well, I had incremented my protein intake, but being vegetarian, my sources were whey powder, rice bran protein, brewer's yeast and hemp powder. I have stopped taking those with my guar gum puddings. I will use some of those tomorrow when I prepare megaleather, but it will result in smaller daily portions of whey and brewer's yeast compared to what I was consuming last week.
Also, I stopped taking the vitamin C supplement called "emergen-C". It contains sodium. I still have kept my teaspoon of brewer's yeast added to my daily soup. With these reduction measures, I have noticed that my diastolic blood pressure lowered to 85 by this morning. The systolic has been in the range of 131 consistently, except for the day that the diastolic shot up to 97, when the systolic went up to 139.
[A reader tells me that the importance is what the difference between the two blood pressures is. Nevertheless, when I was heavy 10 years ago and borderline hypertensive, my physician would tell me that in my case whenever the diastolic would near 90, that was an indication of borderline hypertension. This may not be in agreement with correct medical thinking, but that is what I recall being told.]
I was consuming up to 30% of my daily intake in proteins with these supplements, but now it's at 13%. But now the percentage of fat is higher at 38%, leaving the balance of 49% to carbohydrates. I think what I would like to do is increase the carbohydrates and diminish the fats by consuming less nuts and consuming more fruits or vegetables. Anyway, that is my tinkering this week and I really want to reduce the blood pressure.
There has been discussions on the lists that maybe it's wiser to have a diet lower in protein. I was using the increased protein to stave off hunger between meals, but now I will accept the slight hunger feeling, which in any case CRONies say it's OK to feel. You accept it.
Friday I resumed my usual practice time. Teacher asked me to get my legs closer to my trunk in Baddha Konasana and keep the chest lifting as I folded forward. I've also learned to keep my back shoulder blades soft, going downward as I fold forward. On the ever growing number of small steps to getting dropbacks correctly while assisted, a new step was the timing of when the hips go forward and the knees bend as your arms are extended to meet the floor. One of these days I should put in one report all of these instructions, because they really are a moment by moment description of what the body is doing in this asana.
Practice went well, with good attention to the breath. My mind went through some constructs of how happy I was to be back in the room, as it rattled off the names I've invented for my fellow practitioners, whose presence I enjoy being in. But the wiser part of me said, "that's nice, but I'm not writing about them at this instance. " Thank you, Snowwhite, Ironman, Orange Blossom, Legacy Rose, Surfer Guy, LaMargarita, Koolkeds, HonestAbe, TheWriter... HorsebackRider is practicing at another shala and the Aviator moved to a different city. One of these days there is going to be a "Come to Buddha" talk, probably at some get together, when people might tell me whether they like these names or not. Hopefully we'll just enjoy a good belly laugh, one that will exercise our Uddiyana Bhanda.
Presently, in any case, I'm stopping at Dwi Pada in second series, where my left leg tends to kick out of the asana. When I can get this asana really well, Teacher will allow me to move to the next one. My body has to respond and become accustomed to the asana.
I marvel at yogis doing second and third series A gracefully. I don't aspire to do advanced series B- I started too late in life- but third series A should be attainable. There was a practitioner at Open Door Yoga a few years ago who on Sundays did third series. He told me he learned it watching videos. By sharing his practice with us on Sundays, our teacher could observe him and assist him. If you saw him outside of practice, your first perception might be - "oh, skinny guy." If you saw him doing third series, you would say to yourself, "OMG what incredible grace and strength - and he can do all of those inversions and transfers in asanas without collapsing in a heap or breaking something."
Well I'm wondering - if the mind's capacity is far more flexible, can believing that you can do it get you there? L. said she's been doing this practice 10 years and that getting to doing second series perfectly takes a long time. I've been practicing 4 1/2 years. I guess I've got about 6 years before I'll be doing 2nd series really well and ____ years before I'll be doing 3rd series. I'm not filling in the blank. I hope I can start practicing some asanas from third series before 3 years pass. I don't know. For those whose entire life is devoted to the practice and who teach, or those who are blessed with great strength and flexibility, maybe it comes earlier. For those of us who practice and also live in the work-a-day world, it might take longer.
I went to a lecture today with Daniel Liebskind, a starchitect. I will blog about it later on this week when I can post references to his fabulous projects. He's a very dynamic speaker and very optimistic.
Please shower before class
Please do not wear any scents, just like natural body odor these scents intensify from the heat of practice. Some people are very sensitive to these chemicals, please refrain from wearing them during class, they include:
- scented antiperspirants
- natural oils
Please ensure that your clothes and mat are odor free. Yoga mats can actually be washed in a washing machine.
Bring a towel/hand towel for receiving adjustments.
Wipe up sweat around your mat, especially before moving to the finishing area.
Make space available to people if they are looking for a spot to place their mat.
Move to the front of the room if a spot is available, particularly if you begin your practice in the third or fourth row.
Have Fun and Laugh Often!
Ironically, the exercise part of the asanas helps keep the blood pressure down. Oh well. I know that once I'm in my new apartment, I will have new tranquility knowing that I will be saving a lot of money. I'll soon be able to not have debt. That will be part of the process of achieving "financial peace", as Dave Ramsey calls it.
I wonder what other ashtangis consider the spiritual side of their practice. Is it doing kundalini-type mantra resitations? Is it quiet, contemplative meditation? Is it the pranic breathing of pranayama, with variations on inhalations and with counting of breadth? Is it seated non-thinking quiet meditation? My feeling is that I should continue doing what I'm doing. I think all practices are good. The group with which I ocassionally practice meditation on Sundays is a pan-Buddhist group, with people who practice one of those systems I've mentioned. But when I started reading the yoga spirituality group in yahoo, part of me gets restless. I do see the resemblance between the moral codes of the Namas and Niyamas in yogic studies to the Eightfold noble path of Buddhism. But I don't know what puja means. And is an achyara a synonym for a boddhisatva? (holy persons) Do you see what I mean? I get the feeling that I'm delving into unknown territory and should stick with Zen. Asthanga yoga and Zen - that seems to be my practice.
She gave me more technical instructions when doing dropbacks. The thighs should be doing an inward rotation. As you're beginning to drop back the pelvis should be lifting up and out. This motion allows a curve to form in the lower spine that allows the heart cage to lift up. As you drop back the pelvis moves forward into the space created by the inwardly rotated hips. The feet are firm. The heart is lifting up as you drop back. The hands need to be straight for landing. When coming back the arms can be limp, as if dragged upwards. The legs have to be doing their rocking motion. The heart or chest cavity lifts the body as the legs bring you up. The head and arms are last to come up.
Teacher has us do handstands after dropbacks. I like handstand now. But if she wasn't there to spot me, I do it against the wall. I imagine if the wall wasn't there, if I felt I'm was going to fall, I could just get out of the handstand. But here it's where the factor of fear that holds me back. Maybe it's the time when I was heavier and ignorant of what I was doing that I did an inversion and fell on my head and squashed my eyeglasses that were nearby. But focusing on those past memories is what holds us back from progressing, another teacher told me years ago.
For the Cyclist, doing a handstand in the middle of the room is no problem. He does several during his practice daily, even during vynasas. It helps he has a lot of upper body core strength. I admire him for other reasons as well, such as that he is always consistently happy. Have you met people that even when they may be frustrated, show a certain happiness about how they're handling their frustration? In Buddhism they call that skillful behavior. For the Cyclist, though, it seems to occur naturally to be perennially in a good mood.
Orange Blossom came to practice this morning, after what seemed like a long hiatus. We often miss those people that for some reason are not practicing with the group.
I wonder if the lady that opened this morning was upset with me. It is true that I sent an email to the managers of the studio commenting that no one was available to open one day this week. Although as I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the conversation with fellow ashtangis until Teacher arrived. It is also true that I'm usually the first one to arrive, because that is the result of the bus schedule and because of my need to do the practice and then get ready for work. I understand it is difficult to run a studio. It has overhead costs. There are times that for some reason someone cannot meet the schedule. Our studio is new and very beautiful. As an architect, I appreciate the careful thought that went into its exquisite design. It also has a lot of merchandise in the front, so it's not likely that the owner would give one of us practitioners a key for us to open and let others in to start practicing. Someone needs to mind the store. And the store may be there to bring in revenues to offset the overhead costs, as well as to provide useful yoga clothing and equipment.
The nutrition crunch is below. I still don't know why copper is so high. I don't worry about it. These nutrition summaries are without counting my supplements. That puts the numbers over the top by a lot. I don't like posting this C-O-M picture because, since I mostly eat the same every day, it's going to read basically the same every day - typical this, typical that.
This reminds me of when I first went off to college. My parents instructed me to write home every week. I was a continent away from home after all and this was before the time of cell phones and cheap long distance calls. Well, I had just gone through an intense spiritual period in my life. Everything to me was simple. (It still basically is.) So I would write letters that would say in Spanish, "School is fine, classes are fine, I am fine, prayer meetings are fine." My mom, typical of a person trained in child psychology, would write back and tell me, "Arturo, your letters say that school is fine, your classes are fine, you're fine and everything is fine." She was trying to get me to elaborate on the details. Well, I won't elaborate on the details of what I ate today, because I've already discussed in another post what I typically eat on a daily basis [laugh].
Nutrition Summary for May 8, 2007
Energy 1859.8 kcal 109%
Protein 123.0 g 137%
Carbs 225.9 g 143%
Fiber 54.8 g 144%
Fat 67.5 g 169%
Water 1569.4 g 42%
Vitamin A 8324.9 IU 277%
Folate 654.8 µg 164%
B1 (Thiamine) 4.5 mg 379%
B2 (Riboflavin) 5.2 mg 403%
B3 (Niacin) 36.8 mg 230%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 6.1 mg 121%
B6 (Pyridoxine) 3.2 mg 250%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 1.2 µg 51%
Vitamin C 151.4 mg 168%
Vitamin D 4.1 IU 2%
Vitamin E 14.7 mg 98%
Vitamin K 157.9 µg 132%
Calcium 639.7 mg 64%
Copper 5.9 mg 661%
Iron 26.7 mg 334%
Magnesium 674.7 mg 161%
Manganese 6.5 mg 282%
Phosphorus 1916.5 mg 274%
Potassium 5182.0 mg 110%
Selenium 185.2 µg 337%
Sodium 1492.1 mg 99%
Zinc 15.5 mg 141%
Saturated 15.5 g 78%
Omega-3 3.1 g 193%
Omega-6 15.7 g 92%
Cholesterol 15.1 mg 5%
It seems I've acquired sufficient flexibility in my hips that I can be adjusted in baddha konasana and my body doesn't resist. While doing bridge in preparation for upward bow, Teacher pressed down on my thighs. This had the effect of reminding me of the strength that needs to be in the thighs for them to bring you up to standing from upward bow. Not that I should be distracted, but one of my fellow practitioner's thighs look almost about to explode like Lance Armstrong's thighs during a race, just before he comes to standing. Well maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But the legs need to be strong to bring you up.
I am contemplating moving to a different apartment, to save on rent, since they raised the rent on mine. I answered an ad for a neat studio behind a house, located near the Berkeley yoga studio. The thing is I can entertain that thought, but I won't proceed with moving from the city. Living in Berkeley would mean commuting an hour each way daily. My priority is first with my job in the city, then with yoga. I've been in situations where I lived in an ideal place, but far from work. The commute really affects your work performance. It feels comfortable to live within 20 minutes walking distance from work, as I do now.
The megaleather jerkey recipe was developed by Dean Pommerlau and can be found in the CR Society archives, if you reach it through Tim Tyler’s website. It is 4 pages long, because Dean gave a lot of information on their nutrition and their preparation and dehydration. It is not complicated to make. It may be actually less daunting than megamuffins. You do need a dehydrator. I make one batch every three weeks and wrap in plastic two pie shaped pieces for morning snacks. Or if I have to work late at the office and need to eat something nutritious, I make a sandwich with two pieces and 2 TBL of peanut butter. Because of the length of the recipe, I won’t post it here.
Sprouted Legume Pate
To make this recipe, you can use the sprouted legumes found in the produce section of your grocery store, or sprout some lentils or garbanzos at home. You can learn how to do sprouting from books such as “Sprouts, the Miracle Food, by Steve Meyerowitz, or from Gabriel Coussen's book.
1 can artichokes, drained (the kind packed in water)
1 bunch cilantro
Nayonaisse (I prefer the one with dijon mustard in it) 2tbl
sesame tahini, 2 tbl
1 red or yellow beet, peeled and cut into blocks
1 carrot, peeled and cut in blocks
1 package of sprouted legumes (it usually contains
sprouted garbanzos and mung beans- you can find
it at Whole Foods Market near the other sprouts in produce)
Alternatively you can use about 1 1/2 cups of your own
sprouted lentils or garbanzos.
garlic powder (dash)
Wash the cilantro. Drain. Place in food processor
with S blade and chop. Add the carrot and beet and
chop some more. Add the sprouted legumes, artichokes,
juice of one lemon, about 2 to 3 tablespoons of
nayonaisse, 1 to 2 tablespoons of tahini, salt, pepper
garlic powder (dash-optional). Process throughout.
It can last 4 - 6 days in the refrigerator, or more.
Enjoy it with veggie crackers or flaxseed crackers.
Sweet Potato Pate
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
(about 5" length)
nayonaisse, 2 tbl
tahini, 2 tbl
1 carrot, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 bunch parseley (I use 1 bunch, but for some people that
is too much)
Light soy sauce to taste
garlic powder (dash- optional)
Wash the parsely and drain. Process in the food processor.
Add the carrots and sweet potato and ginger. Process some more.
Add the remaining ingredients. It can last 4 to 6 days in the
refrigerator. Enjoy it with veggie crackers or flaxseed crackers.
My mind was quiet, which I appreciated. I couldn't help but think of something, though, and it's the past little moments of joy in my yoga path. It's moments such as when I landed correctly from uppa vista konasana. It should be 1, 2, 3. Easy as Do Re Mi. Well, not really. I was always landing really hard on the backs of my feet. I was feeling like I would live a life with pain in that particular area of the body. It did not matter that I would tell myself, "Thighs first, thighs first, the thighs land first." One day Teacher said across the room as I was about to land kaboom on the floor, "Lift the chest up, Arturo" I did, and this motion countered the thrust of my somewhat heavy legs so that I landed softly. I say somewhat heavy legs because in my family we tend to have larger thighs. But since I practice calorie restriction, I don't perceive my body to be disproportionate in any area any more. With the new attention to lifting the chest up when coming out of this asana, I've been landing softly ever since.
Other little moments of joy include, in reverse order of when they occurred: when I was first able to get my feet behind my head, when I was first able to do the somersault of chakrasana, when I was first able to get my hands through my bent feet in garbha pindasana and be able to do lift my body with my hands through the bent feet in kukutasana, when I got my feet in lotus position the first time, etc. etc. That list is probably what happened historically in reverse. And it took years to get there.
It would be safe to predict, based on this, that I will experience a moment of joy when I will come up to standing by myself in urdha danurasana. But I'm not worried as to when this will happen. As you learn from other disciplines, the joy is in the journey. If you only focus in the final results, then you will be frustrated because you haven't reached the destination. And when you reach the destination, in our practice at least, there will always be the next pose to learn, the next challenge. A past teacher of mine celebrated with clapping in the studio when someone made a breakthrough, accompanied by an exclamation of "Yay! that was the first time you did that!" That is in sync with the child-like feelings of joy in yoga.
Well, I best be hitting the sack early. I stayed up late last night again, tweaking a fun drawing. But I made it to practice this morning and want to make it to practice again tomorrow...