Schedule disruption

Yikes. All this disruption to my schedule from late picture taking last night contributed to my missing practice this morning. I think I may go this Saturday to a new mysore class that is offered in a recenlty opened shala, despite that this is a day of rest for me.


Doing the bhandas safely

Today I had a question on how to make sure I'm doing the bhandas safely. When I used to go daily to the gym I remember physical trainers saying that in any exercise one should not constrain the stomach muscles and hold the breadth at the same time, since it can lead to hernias. I have been practicing the bhandas energetically recently and uddhyana bhanda, the stomach one, in particular was concerning me. It seemed in my fervor I was sometimes holding my breadth while holding the bhanda in. So I asked Teacher the correct way to do it.

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

Okay, I give in to the meme game. Here are 8 random things about me. The difficult part is deciding who to tag, since most of the people I would think of tagging have already been tagged. Ursula, do you mind if I tag you, although maybe Cody or Tim or Karen or Tiff or Lauren or Dave tagged you or ... you see where this is going. But wait, I have a plan. Those are all fellow ashtangis. Maybe the best thing for me to do is to tag CR practioners, then they won' t know what hit them. I'll do what April suggests, which is to tag people who haven't been posting. Hmmm.

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.

No CRONflakes, but Yogiflakes this past week

CRONies sometimes feel they fall of the bandwagon, having days or weeks that feel bad because they've been eating foods generally bad for them for consecutive days. I've been lucky to report that except for some ad-lib eating at a birthday party celebrated by the beach with friends, I've followed my regular disciplined eating in the past week. It's been my yoga that's been flaky. So what do CRONies do when they've fallen off the wagon? They pick themselves up and start again. I guess that is what I'll have to do with yoga; pick myself up and do it again. In both cases, with nutrition and with the asana practice, repetition is what helps to stabilize the routine again. Well after all, discipline is really repetition - the practice over and over of good habits. And Lord knows, our yoga is one based on repetition.

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.


Some of my artwork

I'm moving to a smaller apartment, so I'm saying goodbye to some of my artwork. Some of it will be on auction with JavaBears Corp, an Ebay retailer that has helped me in the past to sell arts and crafts and collectibles. Many in my family are art collectors, so I collected some works myself, but they don't fit in my new apartment. I hope the CR folks and yogis and yoginis don't think this post to be too wacked out - but as an architect I am also an art enthusiast and amateur artist myself. I have many paintings by my friend Phillip Wade. You can view his web site here. I'm keeping his paintings, except one that is too big for my apartment, entitled "The Seizing of Saturn". It's listed with JavaBears. I must have about 9 paintings by Phillip and my family 3 other ones. By this Thursday, Michael Armijo of Java Bears plans to place several other paintings on his EBay store, including enamel on wood paintings of tropical fruits by Mexican artist Antonio Acosta.

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.


Giving and receiving

Today the circle of giving and receiving worked. Someone at the Zen Center had posted that she was seeking a boom box that played CDs and cassettes. I had one and left my number. I figured in my new apartment I can listen to CDs on the computer. She was happy and we agreed on a price. I left it for her after service this morning. As I was walking to the bus, I noticed a Mercedes Benz with a sticker that said, "powered by cooking oil." Hmm, green, giving back to the environment, I thought. I ran to cross the street and someone shouted that I dropped something. So I walked back. I had dropped a glove and a hat. I put them back in my bag and smiled and thanked the kind man who alerted me. He smiled back and said he had lost items before, and gloves are expensive to replace. Then a homeless person called at me. I typically don't give money to the homeless. I'm pan handled 12 times daily, basically almost three times at 4 corners I traverse on the way to and from work. You don't know if these people are going to spend the money on food or on drugs. But this morning I felt I've gived and received, so I pulled out a dollar and gave it to the homeless man, who smiled with a toothless grin and wished me good luck on my day. On the way back from groceries later, I read a label on a truck that read "vegi powered" - a truck powered with cooking oil. Hmm, how enlightened, more green examples of protecting the environment. All of this giving and receiving and it's only 9:15 am on a Saturday morning.


Balanced nutrition and yoga

Someone blogged last year about how ashtanga forces us to find a balanced nutrition. You can't eat too much, or you won't be able to practice. You can't eat too little, or you won't have the energy to practice. I was tweaking my diet this week to get my BP lower. So I greatly reduced consumption of protein powders and greatly reduced consumption of nuts. My BP lowered, but I lost weight also. So feeling a little light yesterday, I took a break from practicing and went back to sleep. Today I went to practice, but I left early. My excuse for leaving early isn't feeling light, but that I want to get to the office early. I'm helping with two renderings of a building in a project involving several buildings and the person generating the remainder of the renderings wants to finish the work before going on vacation. She's an energetic coworker and it's a pleasure helping someone like her.


My problem with Lolita

Pardon my sanskrit, this should be titled, "My problem with Tolasana" but Lolita is what I called it when I was asking Teacher a question this morning. It seems I scrape the floor in vinyasa jump throughs. So L. had recommended last week that, with bhandas strong, I bring the feet up in Tolasana just before shooting them through the arms. I mentioned to Teacher that when I'm in "Lolita" just before the final moments of the jump through, I tend to jab my arms with my toes, so I want to dispense with the legs and get done with the business as quickly as possible. "Tolasana", she corrected me. She recommended I do the Tolasana slowly when jumping back, then do downward dog, then while holding the bandhas and while feeling the feet close to the body, go ahead and quickly pass it through Tolasana and through the feet, without holding it long, in order to avoid jabbing my arms. However, any time that because of lack of concentration, I scrape the floor, I should do it a again correctly.


No banana bow while in handstands

"No banana bow. It's hurts your back," Teacher said today while I was doing a handstand. The banana bow, which is a bad habit of mine, probably happens because the feet are looking for a wall to rest on. But I was in the middle of the room. So I need to strenghten the core while in handstand. "Heels flexed towards the sky," was another instruction. I'm getting a little better. For a few others, doing these in the middle of the room presents no problem.

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.


Sunday was the Bay to Breakers run in San Francisco. So on the way to practicing yoga I saw the requisite freakishly attired runners on their way to San Francisco from Berkeley. Practice was very good. My kapotasana improved. After tightening my the grips of my arms on my toes, Teacher adjusted in supta vajrasana by standing on my thighs. That was sufficient pressure for me to be able to go up and down withouth further help, since my arms are able to keep the holding of the toes these days. In urdha danurasana I think I really got the rocking motion that helps the body come up to standing.

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.


Graphic of BP

Here is a graphic, in reverse of occurence, of my BP stats in the past week. The baddies are in the middle. May 11 represents a typical day for me lately.


Tinkering my nutrition to reduce blood pressure

I haven't written about CRON lately. Well, my weight has been really stable at 130lbs. It's my diastolic blood pressure that was concerning me. It crept up to 91, then 97 one day upon returning from traveling. When the diastolic pressure was at 91, the systolic was at 131. When the diastolic went to 97, the systolic rose to 139. Analysing what may have caused my diastolic pressure to go up I conclude that it's a combination of things. I was not practicing my yoga as I regularly do. The asanas help keep the blood pressure down. I think even my meditation in the evening has been sparse. On the nutrition side, I behaved OK during the trip. I took nuts, some ThinkGreen energy bars, fresh fruits, and guar gum pudding mix. I had run out of megaleather jerkey, so I could not take that. Whenever I needed to eat but could not get decent food, I snacked on those. My main meals consisted of salads, guacamole, some bread and wine, which was offered. Some of those foods were probably high in sodium, which drove the BP up.

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.

Practice this week

On Thursday, recovering from traveling, I went to an afternoon Mysore class with L. Her advice centered on bhandas, picking up the legs up in a crossed fashion just before releasing them in the vinyasa jump through, on Bujapidasana (shoulder pressure asana) and on twisting and lifting the ribcage sufficiently before wrapping in Marychasna D . On Bujapidasana, to get the head down to the floor, I tend to cheat by letting my toes touch the floor so I don't loose my balance. L. said I should concentrate on suspending the feet in the air and gradually move forward, as I feel comfortable over time, to get the head down to the floor. When my feet are suspended in the air, they see saw, so it feels comical.

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.



Carl asks whether I'm presuming limitations in the future with respect to doing third series. So I though I'd clarify what I meant. It wasn't me, but Tim Miller, who has been teaching this system over 30 years, who said that if you start in your 20s you can aspire to do all series in ashtanga. There used to be 6 series, then they compacted them to 4: primary, secondary, advanced series A and advanced series B. Advanced A is all about strength in the core, with lots of inversions and legs behind the head poses. You can actually do those asanas physically before second series, but in reality you shouldn't because 2nd helps with opening the back. There are reasons why Guruji organized them in the order that he did. Some of the poses of Advanced B have extreme rotations of your feet, making bows, turning them inwards and downwards, and flipping backwards until you see your thighs. There is one where you somersault and twist the lower part of your body while doing upward bow, while rotating in a clockwise manner. You scream inwardly when you see someone doing that, because it looks difficult. If you begin practicing this system in your 20s, or earlier, you can develop enough flexibility to do all that. You also have to dedicate a lot of hours daily to practicing. Realistically I began in my 40s, so from Tim Miller's view point, I should not aspire to do the extreme poses of advanced series B.

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.


Happiness and one's goals

I've been preparing for client presentations, then traveling to them, so my practice has been spotty. So this posting is philosophical in nature. In his excellent book, Happiness, Matthieu Richard says, "we marvel at the idea of an athlete's being able to clear an eight foot high jump, and if we hadn't seen it on television, we wouldn't believe it possible, since we know that most of us can barely clear four. When it comes to physical performance, we soon run into limitations, but the mind is far more flexible."

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.


BP measure

My systolic BP has been on the high side the last few days. 90 is considered borderline hypertensive. It reminds me of another reason for the importance of practicing yoga. It lowers the blood pressure. It's possible that despite my low caloric intake, I may have eaten some gak with trans fats, such as commercially prepared cookies, which tends to make BP higher.

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.


Mysore etiquette tips

Teacher Vance Selover emailed us some tips titled, Mysore Etiquette. They are posted here with his permission. The first tip reminds me of when I attended an intensive with Beryl Bender Birch four years ago. She recommends in her books to shower before and after morning practice. She mentioned that in her intensive as well. When she passed by and adjusted me in one of the asanas, she smelled me and said, "hmm, clean yogi." It also reminds of how I violated some of these tips accidentally in the past. For a year I practiced at home and for some reason I started using a lot of cologne. I may have gotten a deal at Casswell & Massey and rationalized that wearing cologne was some sort of practice [laugh]. On Sundays I would practice at the shala. On those days I would be sparing on the cologne, but still use it. One Sunday I forgot and slathered it on like I was doing at home. The Aviator, practicing next to me, was about to pass out, so he moved to the opposite side of the studio. I'm not sure how Teacher Catherine put up with me on that occasion. I apologized afterwards to the Aviator and tempered my behavior since.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Mysore etiquette

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:

  • perfumes
  • colognes
  • 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!


My practice on Sundays are usually the most intense. However, today I could not go to practice. I noticed when measuring my biomarkers that my blood pressure was a bit higher than usual. That is not surprising considering that now I'm starting the process of selling things that won't fit in the new apartment I found this week, starting the process of moving, while at the same time managing the increasing responsibilities I have at work on a new project. Also, yesterday, a friend who is a reseller of artwork and ornaments on EBay came to pick up a lot of things that won't fit in the new place. I'm keeping artwork that has some personal value, such as that a friend painted it. Artwork by artists I did not know personally will be sold. All of that requires planning and organization.

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.


nice note

I got a nice email from the manager of the studio that they are sorry for this week's snafu - it's their intention to have the space open for us mysorians to start practicing early. They've given a key to one of the longtime students who can open the studio next time there is an emergency. Yay! Could it be Surferguy? Hehehe.


Yoga and spirituality - ashtanga and zen

This is a brief question on yoga and spirituality. Yoga brought me back to meditation. My meditation practice is not pranayama outside of yoga practice, but seating zazen, seating meditation in the form of Zen Buddhism. This seems work for me. I don't find it conflictive. However, recently someone invited me to an online newsgroup in yahoo on yoga spirituality based on Hinduism. I'm not of Hindu origin. My theological and philophical studies where steeped in Western European traditions. It's only in the last few years that I've started reading books on Vedic philosophy, Hinduism and Buddhism. Actually, that rounds out my philosophical studies.

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.

Today's instructions

Teacher's first comment today was to find my breadth. The main thing that is going to advance my practice is deep breadth. Her observation was very keen. Somehow I was having trouble finding my breadth during practice today. It was probably because I missed practice yesterday.

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.


Celebrating a milestone

In order to celebrate completing a milestone on a recent project, in the office we had a team lunch yesterday at a very elegant French/Italian restaurant called La Scala Bistro. I searched the webpage of the restaurant prior to going to see if I could read the menu and decide ahead of time what healthy things I could order that would not offset my caloric intake. I did not find the menu, but I found the recipe for the fudge on top of a dessert. The group ordered two concoctions that had this fudge on top. Everyone got a spoon. That way none of us had more than two or three spoonfuls of dessert. That was a good idea, considering that the fudge contained butter, sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup - too high on the glycemix index. The chef jokes in the website "Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt." It puts us in their debt? Are restaurants are going to start taking responsibility for people becoming overweight? Just kidding, it's just a business. I had a baby greens salad and two side order - grilled spinach and polenta with cream. I don't think I broke 800 calories during the meal. We enjoyed a great time together, with conversations ranging on topics such as philosphy, history, the war in Iraq, the origins of Buddhism and Christianity, new archeological digs in Pompeii, architecture in the Amalfi coast. We sure are an interesting bunch.


C-O-M crunch

Here is my C-O-M picture today. My aim is 1700 calories daily. I was on the way to a haircut and needed change for a $10 so I could have a tip for the hairstylist. The fastest thing I could buy to get change at the Walgreens next to the hairstylist was chocolate. Of course I ate it, thank you. Hence the 155 extra calories.

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

General (90%)
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%

Vitamins (88%)
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%

Minerals (96%)
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%

Lipids (69%)
Saturated 15.5 g 78%
Omega-3 3.1 g 193%
Omega-6 15.7 g 92%
Cholesterol 15.1 mg 5%

yoga social

I got to meet my fellow practitioners more this morning. It's so nice to know them as people. That's the opportunity brought by the fact that this morning the girl who opens the studio had trouble getting to the shala. How nice are my fellow practitioners. It reminds me of what a Buddhist teacher said, that when you bump into people you practice with you give each other a look of joy, knowing that other human being has similar intents that you do. You share a common "knowing". He was probably referring to people you practice meditation with, but I think we can expand it to people you practice ashtanga with, since our practice is a moving meditation. Only our Teacher knows everyone personally, which is possibly a benefit of teaching, so this was a nice opportunity to meet other practitioners. 45 minutes is a long time to chat. I'm not being sarcastic. We reflected on how patient we are as people. Teacher actually let us into the studio. The ensuing practice was short and very nice actually. So I feel that tomorrow I can do a strong 2nd series.


Yoga therapy

I got to practice this morning. The usual comforting signs on my trip to Berkeley where there - the chirpy ladies in the bus who talk in Chinese nonstop during the ride, the elderly man who shuffles with dignity into the transfer bus every Sunday, the nice bus driver on the transfer bus who waves to fellow bus drivers. Despite the congestion in my chest, I did a fairly decent practice. I remembered that SKPJ refers to the Primary Series as yoga chikita, or yoga therapy. (I'm borrowing the way other bloggers referred to Guruji by his initials, SKPJ. Doesn't that rhyme with Skippy?) There are some asanas that are particularly good for when you have a cold, such as kurmasana. The heat you build when falling forward burns the phlem in your chest.

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.


Took led class today

Today I took a led hatha class. There is a shala that is beginning a Saturday ashtanga mysore class in the Castro area, but it's not beginning for another week. I had only practiced Monday this week, and I've been experiencing a cold. It was nice to practice again, although I had trouble finding my breadth, something ashtanga yoga practitioners make a priority.


Link to raw-ba-ghanoush recipe

Erin, the writer of zenpawn vegan food blog, recently prepared a raw baba ghanoush. I just ordered the book from Amazon from where the recipe comes from and can't wait to try it. I eat 1 tablespoon of a commercially prepared baba ghanoush daily with the two raw food pates I mentioned earlier. It would be really nice to prepare this baba ghanoush version. Thanks Erin for trying out something unusual and writing about it.

A bit under the weather

CRONies sometimes complain in their journals about falling off the bandwagon in their eating habits. I haven't had that problem recently with respect to eating. However, I have had a problem with getting to my yoga practice regularly. Last week I was interrupted by demands from work. This week I have a slight cold. I say slight because since practicing calorie restriction I rarely get colds. If I get them, they are wimpy, usually a distraction such as a mild sore throat, some congestion at night for which I need to take Nyquil and a nose spray. Those medications don't let me sleep very well. I phase those out after a few days. No one at work even suspects I have a cold during these periods because they just see me sniffle a bit or blow my nose a few times. But I feel it's an effort to get myself to the shala on such days.

View of San Francisco from Sausalito

This is a view of San Francisco from Sausalito on a rare day that is not foggy. The other image is of the redwoods in Muir Woods, near Sausalito. A friend is in the picture, giving an idea of the scale of the trees.

Calorie restriction calculator

You can calculate the level of calories you're comfortable restricting with Tony Zamora's calorie restriction calculator.


Vegetarian pate recipes

A reader requested the recipes for some of the raw vegetarian pates I make.These recipes are my own variations of other people’s pates. The Sprouted Legume Pate is a variation of the Sunned Patty recipe by Elyssa Markowitz, in her book, “Warming up to Living Foods”. You can eat the pate once it’s processed, or you can dehydrate patties to create your own veggie burgers. The Sweet Potato Pate is a variation of one by Dr. Gabriel Coussens, from his book "Conscious Eating". His recipe contained the sea vegetable arame, which I have removed from the ingredient list, following recommendations by Michael Rae to avoid sea vegetables to limit the amount of iodine in my diet. For my lunch I typically serve myself about 3 tablespoons of each pate and add 2 tablespoons of commercially prepared hummus.

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)
1 lemon

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
1 lemon
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.

Observing the moon day is like arriving late, leaving on time

I was set on getting up to practice today, then I was reminded it's a moon day. Should I observe the moon day, considering that I only practiced 2 days last week? I probably could be excused and allowed to practice it. I may sleep a bit longer and then practice at home some yin yoga poses where there are no vinyasas or standing poses. This not practicing so much last week, then going on to observe the moon day reminds me of the story of the architects for the interior design of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The architect was Cesar Pelli and the architect for the interiors was Studios Architecture. We architects are always fascinated by the habits of people in other cultures. In fact, we make a point of studying them. Well, the architects commented that, being from the US, they showed up for meetings punctually. But their hosts would arrive late. In the US, if you arrive late you probably compensate by staying late and putting in the hours you agreed to spend on a task. Not so with the architect's clients. The hosts would arrive late, then leave on time. That is part of their culture. So this not practicing yoga last week then going to observe the moon day gives me that same feeling of arriving late, leaving on time.


Breathing in sync with the movement

Today in yoga I focused on breathing properly. Well, Teacher was listening in on whether I was sequencing the breathing with the movements in the asanas correctly, particularly on the exiting from the asana and transitioning to a vinyasa. She also observed that towards the end of the practice, I can get sloppy on the vinyasa, so she asked me to pay attention to doing upward bow correctly, and transitioning to downward dog correctly. I did feel I remembered to keep the elbows in when doing upward dog, which L., when she substituted last month, said was important to do. It prepares you to do upward bow with the elbows in correctly.

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...

Spinach and other nutritious foods

In the CR society list, Bob Phillips touts the merits of eating spinach as often as possible. This reminds me that though I have a diet of repetition (I basically eat the same meals every day), the ingredients in my daily fare include some of the healthiest foods around - berries, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, spring greens, pumpkin, mushrooms, ginger, carrots, artichokes, celery, lentils, oats, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews. All of those form part of my megaleather jerkey, pates, or principal dish on a daily basis. So I feel I'm covered in the nutrition area. From the food alone, I don't fall short on RDAs. However, I supplement so that I consume over the daily requirements of some nutrients, those recommended for vegans.
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