I'm celebrating being able to post again, after a week of not being able to. I have gone back over 50% of my previous posts and removed all hyperlinks. I just re-posted them. I'm thinking of putting pictures in my blog and giving attributes as to their source, since too many hyperlinks may cause problems. Those of us in ashtanga follow a set routine, and our movements have names in sanskrit. Since not everyone knows what we're referring to when we mention one name, we find it convenient to link to a website that has the particular asana photographed. If we continually are linking to the same site, this may make it appear that we're an improperly behaving site, always pointing to one particular one. It may take me time, but I may experiment with drawing the asanas I want to talk about, then scan them into the blog and refer to my drawings. The problem with that approach is that it takes a lot of time - something we busy professionals lack.
I practiced this morning. My thighs were a bit sore for I don't know what reason. I have also been sweating more recently, possibly since we're having warmer weather. To get my hands in through my lotus for Garbha Pindasana, I'm not needing to have the water bottle nearby. Simply spreading the sweat a bit on my arms is doing the trick.
One more detail I observed when R was coming up to standing from Urdha Danurasana this morning, is that he lifted the heels just before making his legs bring his body up. I remember V. suggesting I do the same one Sunday. I tried doing that this morning, but my feet felt heavy and did not cooperate. I think the action is supposed to make your legs feel like they have to pull the rest of the body up.
I'm relatively new to blogging. I read in different journals that one of the problems with programs such as MySpace and Facebook is that if there are too many links in a post, it makes search engines work in overdrive. This makes the internet less efficient since it eats up bandwidth. Recently I posted a blog on my story with calorie restriction and linked to the blogs of fellow CRONies, as we call each other. It seems those links trigger the same problem of overworking the search engines, so I will limit linking in my posts from now on.
I worked all weekend for a presentation; a client decided to visit our office three days earlier and we scrambled to get things ready. So I did not practice yoga yesterday. Today I had the day off so I practiced and had time to talk a little with Teacher after class. I mentioned what I'm trying to do to prepare my left leg to stay behind the head in Eka Pada Sirsasana on the left side. Someone in a blog recommended sitting in lotus a lot during the day. I could attempt sitting in lotus at work, but I may get some curious looks, particularly since my desk is close to the door in the studio. At least I can sit in lotus as I type into the computer at home, which I'm doing now. Teacher suggested that I cross the legs the opposite way to which I'm used to. We also discussed what Vanessa said a few months back, that only the bony part of the leg has to be behind the back, not the entire leg. Teacher said that the "proof is in the pudding". When it's comfortable, you'll know you're there. Ideally the leg would be way back, but it doesn't have to be. The important thing is that you're not rotating the knee or putting undue pressure on the number 9 vertebrae. (I hope I got that number correctly. I'm not familiar with the names of the vertebrae.) When you lift your head to hold the feet, it should feel comfortable and you should be able to breathe. The times when I have felt that I was there, the left shoulder was able to get under the leg comfortably and the fleshy part of the lower leg was comfortably behind the head. I can only think of the word in Spanish for it, "la batata" - but somehow, saying that "the sweet potato of my leg was confortable behind the head" will get the reaction of, WHA? I have asked my brain to give the name of this part of the body, but my brain is on break. Maybe it will answer later. Anyway, I'll give sitting in lotus at home more often a try and report later on my progress with Eka Pada Sirsasana.
As I approached the bus stop, I saw the back of a beautiful medical office building I see daily and realized that it is physically connected with a stainless steel reveal partition, called a "hyphen" in architecture, to the adjacent building, which in turn is connected to a memorial service chapel. The adjacencies of these buildings seemed funny to me, sort of as if one building is inviting us to get well, but if you don't, the one in the corner can take care of you. It reminds me of the quote possibly attributed to Phillip Johnson that, "doctors can bury their mistakes; architects can only advice their clients to plant ivy to hide theirs." We architects live with our mistakes, and unless we're creating something of lasting beauty, our buildings get demoed and other buildings put in their place.
In answer to Tara's question as to what are my goals with calorie restriction: this practice is not about weight loss. Weight loss occurs when you practice calorie restriction, but our focus is on health, well being and longevity. In my case I was brought to it because I had heard a client of mine practiced calorie restriction. I had lost my adult onset overweight with a diet an acupuncturist had given me, but I wanted to lose an additional 10 pounds to be able to bind in Marichyasana D. I was always heavy around the legs and could not reach around them to wrap my hands. I figured if I restricted calories I would be able to lose the weight so I could accomplish that. I noticed that most men that went to Mysore came back 10 pounds thinner.I did not envision having the time to spend several months there, given the pressure of my busy architecture career. So finding a way to control calories seemed like the way for me. I googled "calorie restriction" and came upon the Calorie Restriction Society. I then remembered that this was the group my client belonged to. I opted to receive their emails and started reading, eventually reading books such as Dr. Walford's Beyond the 120 Year Diet and Lisa Walford and Brian Delaney's The Longevity Diet. I also joined the calorie restriction support group in yahoo groups. I started keeping track of what I ate daily with the software created by FitDay.com. Eventually I used DWIDP (Dr Walford's Interactive Diet Planner) and also Nutribase. I now use CRON-O-Meter, which is downloadable free.
I went over my blog archives and I did not find one entry specifically on my story with calorie restriction. I found the following that I had written in a post to the society, where I was reporting on the great improvement on my blood results from one year to another. I'm cutting and pasting it here, and adding a few more comments at the end. As a side note, obesity has been a problem in my immediate family. My siblings and I have endured bad health because of it. Some have dealt with the problem with surgery; I did with diet and exercise. Obesity robs a person of good health and if not controlled can lead to complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, arthritis, diabetes type 2, and atherosclerosis. All of these have made their unwelcome visit in my family.
I do an hour and a half of ashtanga yoga 6 days a week, unless I take off time from practice on Mondays. I also walk or bike a mile a day to and from work. My caloric restriction is about 20 to 25%, consuming 1800 kcals daily, for my 5'9 1/2" frame. I'm 51 yo andweigh 130. I'm also vegan most of the time, and snack on something healthy between meals, such as carrots, some pieces of megaleather, V8 juice, etc., to keep my energy up throughout the day. Megaleather is a vegetarian dehydrated jerky containing sweet potato, spinach, strawberry, mushrooms, kale and other things. While my activity level is not akin to endurance exercise, my life is still quite active. Calorie restriction has improved my blood pressure,lipids, energy level. I also have very little tendency to get sick.
I would recommend that you pick up a copy of The Longevity Diet. It is easy to read. You can join some of the email lists I link to on my blog, start reading the email in their lists, and that would, over time explain the benefits of restricting calories.
You may want to also check the blogs of Mary Robinson, April Smith, Sara, Robin, Matt, Mizzi and Deborah, where our community shares their experiences with calorie restriction. There are many more in our community that blog on CRON - Illiah, Chris, Amy, Brianna, Nerissa, Nenette and others I may be forgetting. My fellow CRONies write more about calorie restriction than I do, since I also write about yoga. I just don't have links to them here. I do have a link to Erin's beautifully photographed vegan blog on my page. If you want to read their blogs, you can go to Erin's blog, where he has a blog roll with links to them.
Mary Robinson practices power yoga. And Lisa Walford, the co-author of The Longevity Diet, is a well known Iyengar yoga teacher in Los Angeles.
Practice was good and meditative. I typically do 6 Urdha Danurasanas at closing. After the assist with dropbacks, I asked teacher whether I should be walking the hands towards the feet as I get closer to completing the upward bows, so that the weight starts shifting to the legs. She agreed. I tend to do so. When I rest my head on the floor in between the upward bows, I bring the hands closer. But I now need to bring the hands closer to the feet while pushing upwards.
I'm usually the first one to arrive at our shala during the week and one of the first to leave (FIFO) I don't deserve a medal badge. That's the time the bus brings me there, although I have to put my effort in getting up early.
Regarding practice, the only thing I could comment is my observations of two of my fellow practitioners. They both can come up to standing in Urdha Danurasana by themselves. But do you know what? Their feet splay open slightly just as they are ascending upwards. I once told Teacher L. 2 years ago that maybe I should splay my feet a bit and it might help me in getting up. She said that was not the correct form. The feet are supposed to be parallel. Splaying the feet might affect the lower back. That may be so, however, I have heard it discussed that in India and in South East Asian classes, if a person does the splaying of the feet while coming up, teachers let them do it. One of my fellow practitioners has a body type similar to mine, where our thighs are very muscular. It's possible that those with our body types need to do this splaying just before coming up. But even a friend in Orlando who is very thin was doing this to get up to standing when she started doing it. Teacher V. had me try splaying my feet a bit, as an experiment to see if I came up to standing by myself. I didn't. As of today I haven't come to standing on my own. I'm also still stuck in Eka Pada Sirsasana in the Second Series, until my left leg stays on its own behind my head. How long will I be stuck there? A year? It's been six months so far. Oh well.
The room was particularly warm today, which helps the practice, although we were sweating so much that we were, gasp! wiping our sweat with our small towels. I confess to not having the habit that R. told me was the correct way to deal with sweat during practice, as told to him by our guru. You don't wipe it with a towel. If there is sweat, you distribute it with your hands throughout your body, or don't do anything with it. I can't distribute sweat over my face because my instinct is not to touch my face. My father's early instruction to me was that the face is touched with your elbows, meaning, you don't touch it, otherwise you bring dirt to it. So I, gasp! blot my face and, gasp! parts of my body with the towel. But I'm not following the guru's instructions to the letter.
I went to an industry related function. The vegetarian lunch offered was surprisingly the same I got last time there was a vendor in the office. It seems that these food purveyors to presenters share recipes. It was a spinach and mozzarella cheese sandwich with a tomato paste dressing on foccacia. I avoided the foccacia where I could, since I did not have utensils. I had to eat the inside of the sandwich without biting too much bread. I think construction managers who have to attend a lot of lunch meetings where sandwiches are the only food have end up eating the inside of the sandwiches without the bread, if they want to be health conscious. I was weak and at half a potato chip bag (90 cals). Dessert was a banana. The lunch must have been about 500 cals. My only additional weakness was that the meeting took place near a shop serving the best kept secret cookies in San Francisco, a small shop near Kearny and Bush Streets, where I obtained two cookies. More gasps. I ate very moderately for dinner to compensate for the extra calories.
Practice was strong today. I was able to concentrate on the breath and keep a good flow. To summarize tips from my teachers when doing dropbacks and coming up to standing in urdha danurasana: "While preparing for a dropback, the sacrum sticks out, the chest puffs up. As you lift the chest and arch backwards, the sacrum pushes forward into the space created. The legs bend and shift forward, towards where the teacher is assisting. Keep the ams straight when dropping. When the hands reach the floor, lift the heart towards the back wall. While lifting the body from the floor with straight arms, bring the hands closer to the feet. Rock the body back and forth. Engage the legs. You need strong legs. The throat is relaxed. Let the legs bring you up with the motion. The chest lifts. The head comes up last." Hope that helps.
In the ashtanga yahoo groups a while back someone asked whether anyone was feeling that after years of practice they were slowing down, maybe practicing less. I don't remember where the discussion went. Probably in the direction that it was OK to slow down a bit and not obsess about it. Maybe the question was brought up by someone who was pushing himself so hard that he was wrecking his body. If I recall correctly, he was only in his 30s! I don't push myself really hard. I also don't wreck my body. Tomorrow is my 51st birthday. But I've noticed it's difficult to get to practice on Monday mornings. So as of late I end up practicing 5 days a week. I don't practice on Saturdays, because, conveniently, it's the days ashtangis take rest. But then, it's a day for me to go to the Zen Center, and to do my home chores. So why do I slack off on Mondays? I'm not sure. I've had a daily practice for about 4 1/2 years. My usual excuse is that I'm too sore since on Sundays I push myself the hardest. Five days a week is better than nothing, I suppose. I think I also get attached to fellow practitioners. Some that I see daily motivate me to continue on because of the beauty of their practice. When one person I practiced with went to another shala, my heart sunk a bit. I stay in touch by email, but it's not the same. I will continue aiming towards six days a week. How many days a week do you practice?
After having socialized with fellow ashtangis yesterday at a get-together, it was nice to practice next to them this morning. I received great adjustments in Marichyasana C and Badha Konasana. My legs got to the floor and my head to my toes in that last one, with the assist. My body felt flexible in Urdha Danurasana. I remembered Vanessa's wise words in her blog yesterday that thousands of people have done this before us, so we should get over it and do it. I think that is really in sync with Pathabi Jois' teaching. Yesterday as a gift to us practitioners, Teacher gave us a small booklet written by Jois on the Surya Namaskaras, the foundation of our practice. In the introductory words, Guruji mentions how our predecessors who practiced these movements attained health and spiritual well-being. He references the many people that have done this practice before us.
Teacher is going to Mysore for a month and a half. Actually, my friend Krista will be going during the same period. She will be blogging about her experience here. She has put a lot of information about Mysore in her webpage.
I don't intend to make snarky remarks, but an email offer for yoga travels with a caption that "we carbon offset your trip" sounded a bit strange. They say that it's not in their interest to not make people travel to their yoga retreats (notice the double negatives - I'm confused already) but that if you go on the trip, they'll find ways to offset the carbon your jet airplane spent in getting you there, things, I suppose, like giving money for environmental causes. Are they hiking the price of the trip so they can channel the funds to these causes? I started to think, is this a new trend? I first heard of it when people complained that the British Royals should not visit too many cities on their trip to the US, so as to carbon offset their trip. If a royal or head of state has to travel on behalf of their country, should one obsess about carbon offsetting? Where will this lead? For the past 30 years, I've been travelling yearly to visit my family in Puerto Rico. Will it now be politically correct for me to look for ways to carbon offset my trips, and should this be done retroactively? Maybe this is all well intended, but energies should probably be spent researching on fuel alternatives and on greener materials. I think marketers trumpet statements like, "we carbon offset your trip" so as to make their offers stand out.
Similarly to this, have you noticed that everywhere you go, they are serving Starbucks coffee, even in State Parks? It's because when that brandname is dropped, people think it's got to be good, it's the real coffee. It reminds me of a story about houses in San Antonio, Texas and the hill country towns that surround it. People intending to sell their homes identified them as designed by O'Neill Ford, because he was one of the most famous architects of residences in the 50s and many years that followed. Saying your house was by O'Neill Ford was like for a rancher's wife to say that her pearls were real.
I practiced today the primary series. After returning from hiking Sunday, I did not go to practice for three days. I don't want to delve into why I took a break. CRON-wise my diet was higher in percentage of carbs this week because I had leftovers from the food I used during the visit to the parks last week and I did not have time to make my weekly vegetable pates and soups. I still stayed at my daily caloric goal. Today was not a good CRON day. There was a vendor presentation, for which I usually request a veggie lunch. There was a nice mozzarella, tomato and spinach sandwich. I ate the contents of the sandwich, and one slice of bread, plus 10 grapes, a strawberry and a big cookie. Eating the cookie made me greedy with cookies, making me go and buy two cookies outside the office, and for some unknown reason, a package of two Reese's peanut butter cups. Yikes. I ate gak on my sojourn outside the office. I plugged what I ate into C-O-M. I went over 100 calories for the day, and my food was high on fat. Oh well, tomorrow is another day. On the home front, I'm happy though, that I found someone to help me organize my apartment four hours this weekend. It will feel good to be organized again.
I went to Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park with a friend. We hiked a lot, sometimes 12 miles in a day. My friend gave me tips on composing photos and on observing the layering effect light has on mountains at sunset. On the first day of hiking we reached an area with four lakes where there was a great variety of colorful flowers. On the last day's hike we reached a beautiful place called Paradise Valley, with a meandering stream surrounded by varied vegetation and rocky mountains. Sitting on a rock by the river's side, I enjoyed meditating while focusing my eyes on a mountain in the distance. Yoga practice every morning helped with stamina. I did the standing sequence of Ashtanga, part of the seated sequence up to Marychasna D, and a few of the asanas in the closing sequence. One of my first Ashtanga teachers, Lewis Rothlein, of Full Circle Yoga in Orlando, said that runners benefit from shoulder stands and headstands because the blood flows away from the legs, giving them rest. For the same reason, they help hikers. My food consisted of the following. Breakfast: fruit and cereal, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on whole grain bread, a serving of guar gum pudding. Snack: apple. Lunch: celery sticks and baby carrots with hummus, a slice of whole grain bread, one half of an oats and honey cereal bar, and a 4 oz serving of soy yogurt drink. Snack: half a tangerine, or an energy bar. Dinner was a cup of rice, cup of tomato or mushroom soup, salad of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, and dessert of a small piece of carob date and nut bar. I did not count the calories, but we expended more than we consumed.
I'll be going to King's Canyon and Grand Sequoia National Parks, south of Yosemite for the remainder of the week, so I won't be blogging about yoga this week. I'm posting here a few more pictures from the March trip to Yosemite. My friend took the pictures.
I did go to practice today. It went fine. On Sunday while I was ironing my clothes I accidentally burned the back of my left arm, above the elbow. The vigorous practice today stretched that bruised skin and made it messy although not bloody. It's a good thing Teacher didn't adjust me today. My skin should be cured by the time I return to practice next week.
The Birds accompanied me on the bus ride to Berkeley this morning. There were five of them and three chirped incessantly all the way to Berkeley. The chatter was so loud and authoritative, I fell into a distracted sleep and missed my usual bus stop. Who is that awake at 6:30am? I was able to get off at the following bus stop and catch the bus with the kind old man who usually rides on the way to the shala. I had to run to that bus because they changed the location of where it stops. Aren's situations in life funny?
As I arrived, Teacher was completing his practice. It is usually very bendy and springy - which is inspiring. I started my practice. During the standing sequence in yoga, I was low in energy - not sure if it was tiredness. But as I continued, the breadth gave me energy, so I forgot about how I felt. So my practice was quiet and nice. I can now do Pasasana without propping up my feet on a bolster. I quieted the mind, and applied what I learned in Buddhist meditation, that if a thought came through, I would let pass like a cloud.
The friend with whom I went hiking in Yosemite in March shared his pictures. The scenery is beautiful and I should post a few. Here goes at least one, which has me in it.
I'm an architect, originally from Puerto Rico, living and working in Shanghai, China. I practice ashtanga yoga and Buddhist meditation. I also observe calorie restriction while seeking optimal nutrition (CRON).