11/30/07

Veganmofo

Erin posted this. Technically, I’m not vegan at the moment, since I’m consuming kefir and occasionally eating 4 oz of mozzarella cheese. But most of the time I’m vegan and most of the time a raw foodist.

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?’
Oat milk. Soy products consumed in excess are problematic for men.
2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Pumkin Soup, artichoke-carrot-blackeye pea pate and sweet potato pate. But they are not “cooked” – rather they are processed.
3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
I don’t eat it.
4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
Homemade wholewheat pasta with an egg and sea vegetables sauce. The pasta turned out super pasty and the sauce was gross. My guest was courteous and said it was tasty. That was 12 years ago.
5. Favorite pickled item?
Cucumbers.
6. How do you organize your recipes?
I don’t organize them. I do use nutritional software, the same one Erin uses, Cron-o-meter.
7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
Trash. I don't have a choice where I live currently.
8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods, what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?
I grew up on an island. I would bring bananas, rice and coconuts.
9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
My mom’s tomato and onions casserole. She still makes it at Christmas.
10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Vanilla.
11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
Mixer for my guar gum puddings.
12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Parsely, followed by cilantro.
13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
I gave away all of my cookbooks as my eating style changed. These days what remain are raw food preparation cookbooks.
14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
I don’t buy any, but I enjoy a little honey in my coffee or tea.
15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Flaxseed crackers. But what is an omni friend?
16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
I don’t prepare any of them at home, but at a restaurant I might eat any of the three.
17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
I cook on weekends. During the week I assemble the food and consume it.
18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
It’s an undercounter refrigerator. Sometimes the dehydrator is on top of it, at other times the food processor, and yet another time my supplements.
19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Guar gum, a bottle of water for when I go hiking, and another bottle of water for the same occasion.
20. What’s on your grocery list?
The staples I need for my weekly soups and pates, plus the fruits for breakfast, etc.
21. Favorite grocery store?
Whole Foods, followed by Rainbow Market.
22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.
I don’t know.
23. Food blog you read the most? Or maybe the top 3?
Erin’s veganweblog.
24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
Dark chocolate. Sorry Erin, I’m editing your entries as I respond to mine. We have similar tastes.
25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
A huge mango that said “grown in the USA” but I could not guess where. It fed about 6 people in my office.

Challenges

I'm sitting here with a heating pad on my lower back. That noise I heard while doing yogidrasana yesterday must have affected my lower back. I went to practice this morning, but when I lifted the left leg in padangustasana, which is opposite to the back muscles that are tender, the contracting of the muscles to assist in the lift hurt. I got into child's pose, then reclined over a rounded cushion, then slowly gathered my things, changed and returned home. This has happened maybe twice before in 3 years. The Writer offered her sympathies. I'm sure I'll be fine in the coming week as the pain goes away. In the shala we had a visitor this morning, an Indian fellow with a beautiful practice. It felt as if Sharath was practicing with us. I'm sorry I wasn't able to complete mine.

This is one example of the challenges of our practice. You advance a little forward, then the body rebels. As Ironman says, your body sometimes just gets out of whack. So you go to your foundation and build again. That's the architect in me speaking. In ashtanga our foundation may be the Primary Series. With regards to the frequency of my practice, I think I probably practice 5 days a week in all honesty. On Mondays I'm usually sore and typically do not go to the shala. So I probably practice the same number of days days that women who take their women's holidays and moon days off do. Who said men are that different? Love you, ladies.

I'm looking forward to meeting Peg D., a fellow CRONie with whom I've corresponded for three years. I'm going to take the Ferry to Sausalito on Sunday and meet her there. She recently moved to Marin to be near her son, who lives there. I'm sure we will have a grand time talking about calorie restriction and optimal nutrition. Her background is medical, so her knowledge is great. The last time I met a fellow CRONie for lunch we were so fascinated by the conversation on topics of health, longevity, approaches to good nutrition, what the experts say about CRON and such that we hardly touched our lunches. Here's my hurrah: "May the SIRT1 come to the rescue of the mitochondrial. May my leptins not make me too hungry and my gerhlins be satisfied. May I find the right balance of Proteins to Carbohydrates to Fats (PCF) ratio and the right amount of protein to eat daily. Ha!"

11/29/07

Sympathetic behaviors

This must be a morning of sympathies. I woke up with some congestion, probably a sympathy nod to Karen's cold. Thankfully, I don't have a cold. In my practice of 2nd I was winded out of breadth, in sympathy for Laksmi, who reported being low in energy in her practice yesterday.

In Kapo, I did it once with the sandbags (and Teacher's assist, which got me closer to the feet) and once without the sandbags, where I noticed that I'm getting a better opening of the thoracic spine all the way to the neck. It helps that as a warm up before practicing I'm following Teacher's recommendation to lay down on some blocks - so the lower part of the chest rests against the higher edge of a block. The head rests on another block. I hold that for 20 breadths. Then I lower the block under the head to flatter, so I get a better opening of the neck portion of the spine.

Teacher assisted in Dwi Pada again. Her assists are really great, because it makes my shoulders get way in front of my legs and I can lift the chest and head way up. It makes me feel like a statue and then it's easy to lift the assembly and exit out through Tittibasana. Well, except that I forgot which was the next pose and started on Tittibasana, so Teacher reminded me to do Yogidrasana. While I was in Yogidrasana, as I was putting pressure on the elbows to lift the head, something like the rearranging of some bones made some noises. Ugh. I felt no pain, although I said, "ouch", but for the remaining of the practice I was spacey and I had to take two Tylenol pills when I got home because the lower right back was tender. It's a few hours since now and I don't feel anything amiss. I remembered Horseback Rider saying, "Oh, sometimes the knee bothers you, or the back, but the body has to get used to the practice." The illustration is of one of the Mountainview practitioners.
This morning Teacher also helped me to do Karandavasana in its full expression. It's a good think I'm skinny, otherwise it would be what Kiran referred to as "moving furniture." After doing Karandavasana, Teacher smiled and asked me if I survived that. "Yes", I replied, "and is it 5 breadths up and 5 breaths down?" Yes, you hold the position up while in lotus bound feet five breadths and then bring the assembly down, hold five breadths, then bring it back up and land in chaturanga. Phew!

I thought there was a vinyasa after Tittibasana A, then you did B, C and D all together. So when Teacher caught me doing a vinyasa after A, she said you continue to B etc. I got extra instructions while in B. My focus has to be to the ceiling. Hehehe. It feels like you're going to lose the balance while you're doing Kurmasana from a standing position when you stare towards the ceiling.

I just noticed I mixed up my discussion of my asana practice in this post. Like, the Tittibasanas come before Karandavasana. Well that is how my mind was. Upside down. I'm so looking to Primary practice tomorrow.

Other reality checks. I had to buy a tuxedo for my niece's wedding. I saved between $50 to $100 by buying it online. Amazingly, Target.com had a high quality Italian tuxedo with all the sizes measured so that I won't incur tailoring costs. The shirt with built in studs would not have arrived on time, but tuxedosonline.com, another site, had great values for that. Looking at suits made me realize the jump in prices in just 10 years. A suite by Ralph Lauren that used to cost around $450 10 years ago is now priced at $1,000. The price of dry cleaning has increased about three times as much in that time as well. This might explain why one uses suits for client presentations, then wash and wear clothes most of the rest of the time.

Oh, and Dr. McDougall has vegan soups which are convenient and tasty. I got some at Walgreens yesterday. For some reason I didn't cook that much this week.


11/28/07

Wednesday

I again did Kapotasana with the sandbags helping me get a lift on the thoracic spine. Teacher also helped get the hands closer and keeping the arms parallel to one another. Then I did the asana without the sandbags. I think the upward curve in the spine has improved.

Doing again what I did yesterday, the Karandavasana on the base of a three point headstand, Teacher observed that I did that so well that my practice for the time being should be to do Pincha, Karandavasana modification and then attempt the Karandavasana lotus feet on the Pincha Mayurasana arm balance. I attempted that three times. Balancing in Pincha is presently a challenge for me. (My spell check wants to change Mayurasana to Mayoress, and that asana sometimes feels like a Mayoress challenge.)

An instruction yesterday, which I forgot to report, was for Halasana, plow pose, to make sure to squeeze the shoulders together, lifting the neck of the floor. This is good advice. I have been able to return to doing Urdvha Padmasana and Pindasana because the lift has taken the weight off the neck, so therefore, there is no pain there. For about a month now I had not been doing the full expression of UP and Pindasana because of discomfort in the neck, but the effort to lift more in Halasana has helped shift the weight off.
There's a lot of discussion going on in the CR Society on the recommendable amount of protein to consume. Bob Cavanaugh advices, "the RDA minimum for a young adult is .36 grams per pound and .5 grams per pound for adults over the age of 60 (according to Dr Walford) and still yet, endurance athletes need .6 grams per pound daily." So since I weigh 130lbs, that would be 46 grams of protein a day. I consume up to 70 grams daily. That puts me in the range of endurance athletes as far as protein consumption. Maybe those of us doing ashtanga and living very busy lives are like endurance athletes, so the added grams of protein help us maintain and rebuild muscles. Bob adds that as far as fat consumption in the diet, Dr. Walford recommended a low fat diet (20% of total calories from fat.) The American Medical Association recommends not to exceed 30% of total calories from fat, and these should be from healthy sources. The sources of fat in my diet are flaxseeds, tahini in the pates, nuts and nut butters. I'm exceeding the 30% range sometimes, so I have to cut down on the foods that contribute to fats in the diet.

craig_crow_forest


craig_crow_forest
Originally uploaded by myyogaonline

Great picture and setting

11/27/07

Tuesday

Today I did the modification to Kapotasana with the sandbags, which I wrote about here. It gave me good lift and Teacher Catherine was able to get my hands closer to my feet. In Ardha Matsyendrasana she reminded me to keep the toes of the foot that is to the front of the mat on the floor. In Eka Pada Sirsasana, she mentioned that once I have the foot behind the head, to reach the shoulder forward, and push the kidney forward. She helped me with Dwi Pada and I got an incredible neat lift up of the chest, pushing the legs back. It was awesome. We discussed what I learned on Pincha Mayurasana during Leigha Nicole's visit. They both have been suggesting pushing the chest downwards while bringing the feet closer to the head, before floating the feet (rather than jumping) up. Right now I'm doing the asana about 4 feet from the wall, sufficiently far away to feel like it's in the middle of the room, but close enough that if one leg overshoots, the toes will touch the wall. She asked me where I had stopped with Leigha, and it was there at Pincha. She suggested I try Karandavasana, which at this moment I can do from a three point headstand. My arm balance part is not there totally yet. I don't have too much of a problem getting the feet into lotus while inverted. It's funny, this modification is really Urdvha Kukkutasana A from the advanced series, but it is easier to do than perfect Karandavasana because you don't have to worry about two things at the same time: balancing and also getting the feet into lotus. Teacher Vance in his practice when coming to Karandavasana reaches for a water bottle sprayer and douses his legs. I think this helps with making the getting into lotus portion go very quickly. It helps also if your feet are not sufficiently sweaty. Hope he doesn't mind me mentioning that. Sometimes you observe what works for someone else and learn from it. A student in his shala did the Karandavasana modification I'm mentioning here last Sunday. Hey, sometime I'll do the asana from an arm balance. (I would change the labels to my graphics to "Karandavasana Modification", but I'm pressed for time at the moment.)After the Karandavasana modification Teacher Catherine let me do Mayurasana and Nakrasana. I actually learned the exit from Mayurasana. When you come back to your feet, your hands are opposite of the way they usually are in Samastitihi. I think she said you look up while the hands are down, you look down, then you straighten yourself up and jump, closing the legs. I thought you had to bring the hands up to prayer position over your head when finishing but I was wrong. In Nakrasana she asked me to coordinate my movement with the breadth. I'm sure I'll be revisiting those refinements.

Yoga Studio introduced this cool product, a yoga mat cleanser, by Blisoma. It is manufactured by Iriestar, and that is the source of the graphic. I find it difficult to put the mat in a washing machine, since I live in an apartment and use commercial washers. Instead, I spray the mat with water, with the same sprayer I take to practice, then follow with generous sprays of this product, and spread it around with a paper towel. The result is a clean fresh smell and nice soft touch.

11/26/07

Vegetarian raw food diet benefits

Some vegetarian yogis follow a raw food diet. My diet is primarily raw. A study in Germany concludes that a long term strict raw food diet helps with prevention of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and mascular degeneration. Raw food diets are high in nutritive content with substances such as carotenoids, which help reduce chronic diseases.

The studies were made on people who ate primarily nuts, fruits and vegetables. The intake of bread, cereals and dairy is low with many of these diets. Adherence to such a diet is often associated with a favorable serum LDL-cholesterol, but at the same time with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL concentrations. The studies were made on people that did not mix these foods with others.In that sense, I differ. I make pates from raw vegetables, but mix them together.with soy mayonnaise and tahini. According to the study, however, processing by means of grinding, fermenting or cooking, will increase the bio-availability of carotene.

Plant based diets provide high amounts of carotenoids. However,the carotenoids in the body depend on gender, smoking, oral contraceptive use in women, BMI, protein, iron, zinc, and on the consumption of fat and alcohol. The study concentrated specifically on identifying the presence of Vitamin A in the bodies of raw food diet followers.

Studies showed that cartenoid absorption improved when people consumed salads containing full-fat salad dressing rather than low-fat dressings, or in combining a salad with avocado. The people studied consumed about 30% of their total caloric intake from fat, from foods containing these, such as nuts, seeds and fruits.

The conclusion was that subjects following this diet have normal vitamin-A concentration and high beta-carotene concentrations as recommended for avoiding cardiovascular diseases, but they have low lycopene levels.

Thanks to Dr. Al Pater for posting this information. Original source: PMID: 18028575

11/25/07

Practice on Sunday

The birds must have flown south on vacation because they didn't accompany me on the quiet bus trip to Berkeley this morning. Practice was quiet and the room packed. Teacher Vance let me carry on with the flow of my practice. I'm not sure how far I got in Kapotasana, meaning my hands didn't reach the feet and I don't know the distance they were from them. In Dwi Pada I remember telling myself, "Don't engage the feet. Keep them soft." I got the left leg behind my head, maintained balance and brought the right leg up to the point of almost being able to hook it behind the other leg while balancing. That set up was my practice of this asana. For me that is progress. In Urdvha Danurasana, I applied yesterday's point to rotate the feet and bring them together, which gave me a good lift. In assisted dropbacks, I mentioned to Teacher that I am confused as to how much to bend the legs, that I understand that when starting they should be somewhat straight then they should bend a lot when you are close to the ground. He agreed. Later he reminded me to keep the hands straight while on the ground. He said my progress was coming.

I'm reading "The Places that Scare You" by Pema Chodron, which Kino MacGreggor recommended in her workshop when she discussed coming to standing from Urdvha Danurasana and dropping back unassisted to Urdvha Danurasana from standing. First you're supposed to come up to standing before dropping back. Leigha Nicole told me a few years back that anyone can fall back, but it is more difficult to come up to standing from the upward bow. So reading the book made me ask myself, what could possibly be scaring me from coming up that is impeding me from doing so? I came up with some possibilities and analyzed them:

1. Fear of having to strain the thighs too much? This could be possible. There have been times when my thighs have felt strain on them when I'm trying to come up.
2. Fear that if I succeed I'll have to do it over and over on a regular basis? Possibly, but that should not stop me.
3. Fear of jamming my back? No I don't think so.
4. Fear of exhausting my energy or being nauseous after 6 Urdvha Danurasanas? Possibly. I read that people practicing in Mysore sometimes experience nausea.
5. Fear of having to wait to go to a different country to practice with a different teacher in a setting where my entire focus would be on practice for an a period of time? No. That is how I got Chakrasana, but I have very little time when I travel on vacation. My vacations are usually one week long.

Conclusion: I don't have an answer and I don't think there is a fear that is powerful enough to be holding me back. I am not fixated on achieving this as a requirement for happiness. Happiness is in the journey as well as in the destination. I must remember that just getting lotus was like this. It took a long time. First my teacher asked me to try it just a bit on one side, then higher the next time, then a bit on both sides at the same time, then on both higher. That took a long time. The same with coming to standing and dropbacks. All of my teachers recommendations, little by little will get me there. Just this weekend I had one little pointer added to squeeze the legs while rotating them inwards, which took off the effort from the thighs and lifted the spine up effortlessly. This just has to happen on a grand scale so that the weight transfers to the legs, the hands float and I come up.

When I succeed, I will blog about it and be nationalistic. In my entry I'll put images of the flag of Puerto Rico and of the United States, an image of the El Morro Fort in Old San Juan, strong like a mountain against the ocean, and an image of our national frog, el coqui, a cute little frog indigenous to Puerto Rico that every night chants a sound that gives it its name: "coqui, coqui." I will title my entry, "El Coqui, the little Puerto Rican frog that could." Isn't it funny that I'm already planning my celebration of when I come up to standing by myself in the yoga asana of Urdvha Danurasana? This practice of ashtanga is humbling, but hey, imagining a celebration could just be the motivation I need.

11/24/07

Saturday

Funny, today is a Saturday and a moon day, and I practiced yoga. I needed to because practice was so spotty this week due to the holiday that I needed to stretch the body. I went to a led class where the teacher subbing was Surfer Guy. Honest Abe showed up and since at first it looked like we were going to be the only students, this being a holiday weekend, Surfer Guy suggested we do Mysore practice. As we started, more students trickled in and he was able to lead them in a modified Primary Practice while we did ours.

While I was on downward dog, SG came and spread my fingers further apart on the mat. Later I made sure to place them like that every time I had my hands on the mat. It is interesting that widening the fingers apart from each other as possible had the effect of transferring muscular energy to the arms, so that they felt much more stronger in taking my weight in coming to Samastitihi. I felt enough strength that I could have gone into a handstand, and the only change from my usual stance was the widening of the fingers.

In Parsvottanasana he emphasized alignment of the feet parallel to the mat edge, and squaring the pelvis. In Marichyasana A, he helped me press the bent foot downward and get a grip lower; I got a good forward bend. Likewise in Mari B, he helped me get deeper. In Badakonasana he told me to push the pelvis/lower back forward a lot before folding forward, as he pointed with fingers there. In Supta Konasana he told me to lift the back up as much as possible and suggested I do the same lifting action in all of the following poses where the legs go back at first into plow pose. It is important to not be rounding the spine here. In Urdvha Danurasana, he stood where my legs were and said, "press your thighs against my legs." We did that twice as I was in the upward bow. When he left to continue leading the class, I did this motion again. It was very useful because many teachers and other practitioners have told me to have the inward rotation going when lifted in the upward bow. The next times that I got into upward bow (three more times) I rotated the legs and also pressed them against each other. Every time I did so, the spine springed up effortlessly. I got a good lift without a lot of work. Who-hoo! I think this means I'm close to coming up to standing.

After class, Honest Abe shared about his very pleasant ashtanga led class in Karen's studio in Scottsdale, where Volley Ball Guy led the class. He was really impressed with the dedication of everyone. He said that after a while, other students took turns in counting the breaths. At the end Sanskrit Scholar chanted some sutras beautifully. She has a pretty voice, he says. If I remember correctly, she also explained their meaning. (It feels funny to mentioning someone else's story and to be using Karen's names for her fellow practitioners.) Honest Abe was not able to return to a Mysore class on Monday because he was at a large family get-together. He's thinking that maybe we can start a sutras study group next year. I've noticed that the shala in Mountainview studies the sutras on moon days.

I set a budget and went shopping for Christmas. My niece is getting married over the holidays so I needed some new clothes for the wedding. The Westfield Mall extension opened this year in the heart of the shopping district of San Francisco. It basically doubled the amount of stores that existed previously. There is a food court in the basement that must hold about a thousand people. Can you imagine that both yesterday and today, this space was full? The times I visited it were around 11:00am yesterday and 2:00pm today. Afterwards, I walked into stores on Maiden Lane I had never been into - Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Lang. The stores could not be more apart in design. The first one reminds me of a well appointed art deco space. Everything is black and white. Coco Channel could have stepped out of a changing room any moment. The second is minimalist in the style of Koolhas' academic building at IIT in Chicago - with tape and floated gypboard left unfinished, tubes for hanging clothes, exposed structure steel stairs, warm fluorescent lighting strips near the floor at the entrance. The store just opened about a few weeks ago. We'll see over time if this minimalist approach in retail pleases customers. The clothes where elegant and simple, minimalist like the architecture.

Mid-peninsula hike on Thanksgiving Day

On Thanksgiving day, I accompanied my friend V. on a hike in the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve, in the mid-peninsula mountains above Palo Alto. The trails there are very gradual and ideal for a leisurely walk among pine trees, oaks and maples. You can see the Pacific Ocean from the ridge. The colors here are very beautiful. V. shared the pictures he took with his Canon 30D camera.

11/23/07

Humorous book offer

Yogadawg's humorous proposal to create a magazine of yoga for men only, YQ, led me to a few internet clicks that yielded this humorous book offer. The title is, "Yoga for Men Only". You can actually purchase it at Amazon or find a used copy for a reduced price here (that is the source of the graphic). The caption to this book says, "Here, at last, is the first and only book that presents a specific Yoga program for "men only" - a book that shows you how to use this amazing 4,000 year old science to tap a roaring torrent of new strength, energy, and masculine power!" Maybe it was written by somebody who has observed that the majority of yoga practitioners in the US are women. There are theories of why that occurred in this country, which I won't delve into because other people have written about it. People who came up with names like vinyasa flow and power yoga did so to attract the same group the author of this book seems to be trying to attract. But historically, from what I know, yogis were primarily men, and historically in India, men yoga practitioners may have outnumbered women yoga practitioners. If the publisher is trying to attract men, why choose a pink color for the jacket? In medieval times pink and red were colors for men and blue was for women. In current times, since the early 20th century, the color association with gender was reversed.

Thanksgivings past

2007 My Thanksgiving was non-traditional. My friend, Lucas' mom hosted a vegan vegetarian feast. There were several unusual things about this gathering. While everyone was either a citizen or legal resident, the countries of origin of our group included Slovenia, Romania, Taiwan, Argentina and Puerto Rico. There was only one American born in the US mainland. How similar to the first Thanksgiving gathering at Plymouth Rock. The level of education was pretty high in our group - several PhDs, several with multiple master's degrees, and on and on. The food was all vegan and served in about 5 courses over 3 hours. Appetizers of spanakopita, flaxseed crackers and potato skins. This was followed by pumpkin soup. Then followed the most delicious lasagna I can remember. Then followed sweet potato puree, green bean and onion casserole and teriyaki chicken. Dessert was cherries flambee with soy ice cream. The conversations delved into the things that are appropriate at social gatherings (fashion, the latest movies, favorite TV programs), and into the things that are not appropriate at such gatherings - the value of the dollar, global warming, the war, the stock market of China, the strangeness of American foreign policy, the strangeness of other developed countries' foreign policies in history. And these were conversations with a group of people mostly in their early 30s. At 51, I was probably the single senior person at this gathering. At one point, the molecular biologists brought up the subject of the study of worms living longer because they were fed antidepressants, and because they were put on calorie restricted diets. Being a member of the CR Society, I was aware of these studies, so it was a shoe-in for talking about calorie restriction, food labeling and nutrition.

(0v0) did did a beautiful recap of her Thanksgivings past. I can't be as eloquent as she, but I can do a short recap of some of my past gatherings. They might have to be lumped into type of get-togethers.

2006 My Austrian friend S. hosted a beautiful gathering in her home in Oakland where most of the people were architects and designers. One of our friends brought his 90 year old dad, whose stories taught us a lot about life. We ate a traditional Thanksgiving meal, went for a walk in the neighborhood and then enjoyed dessert. S.'s mom sent a sacher torte from Vienna federal express for the occasion, from the hotel where this cake originated. S's son opened his birthday gifts. When he opened a box of chocolates sent by his grandmother, he hugged the box and exclaimed, "my religion!" We all laughed. S. looked puzzled and said, "where did that come from?"

2005 I took myself to the New World Vegetarian restaurant in Oakland and had their mock turkey dinner, with dessert of vegan carrot cake. I didn't mind celebrating by myself.

2003 I joined Lucas' mom for Thanksgiving dinner at the New World Vegetarian restaurant in Oakland. We were thankful for our friendship. Both of us had moved here at the same time from Florida.

2002-1997 All of my Thanksgivings of these years were spent at the home of D. & K., two dancers who met when they were in their 20s and have spent 35 years together. These gatherings show that Thanksgiving means getting together with those you love and being thankful for your life and for their friendship. Although I'm lumping together 6 years of celebrations, my recollection was that the group gathering resembled the group of last night, minus the angst about the world we live in. But those were different times. Back there in Miami Beach, we gathered people such as dancers, aerobics instructors, medical doctors, several psychologists who kept us sane, an astronomer, people in sales in various industries, restaurant owners, artists, and real estate investors. They were sweet gatherings; alcohol flowed. The music was great because the dancers were also choreographers. The location was in a charming little cottage house; one of the houses in the neighborhood was rented by a Broadway celebrity. My recollection of the food was that it was traditional for Thanksgiving. As with last night, most of the people gathered where born outside of the continental United States. The countries of origin of our friends were primarily from the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe.

1996-1982 Most of my Thanksgivings during these years were held at my cousins' home in San Antonio, Texas. These were large family gatherings of the colony of Puerto Ricans who had migrated to San Antonio from our town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The meals were always Southern traditional fare, since my cousins had married women from Alabama and Florida.

It would be difficult to describe any earlier Thanksgiving meals, as too many years have passed. I would say that they were traditional American meals because both my parents came to college to the United States, as did their parents. I would say, though, that except for Christmas, it was the only time that turkey was served in our home. This was Puerto Rico, after all, and our traditional foods are different from those of the mainland U.S.

It would be interesting if the media did a poll to determine at how many gatherings for Thanksgiving this year the conversation topics delved into the social, economic and foreign policy problems we face today.

11/22/07

Happy Thanksgiving

Stephen C. in our Buddhist group shares this Thanksgiving blessing, adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh:

This food is the gift of the whole universe - the earth, the sky and much hard work. May I live in a way that makes me worthy to receive it. May I transform my unskillful state of mind and learn to eat in moderation. May I take only foods that nourish me and prevent illness. I accept this food so that I may realize the path of bodhicitta.
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Happy Thanksgiving
Photos of Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco at night, from FreeDigitalPhotos

11/20/07

Tuesday

On Saturday I was invited to go hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains bordering Palo Alto. The next morning, I excused myself by email to Teacher Vance from going to Berkeley. I thought that I might practice with Teacher Leigha. I went back to sleep one hour with the intention of going to the shala, but I ended sleeping until 10:00, something I never do unless I'm on vacation. Then Monday it was impossible to cajole myself to go to practice. Oh well, it's a holiday week and we have to hand in a project at work before everyone goes on holiday.

Teacher Catherine was back from her Colorado trip. Let's see. She observed that on downward dog, I need to soften the upper back muscles, keep them soft, then push the rib cage down towards the feet. On Marichyasana C there was instruction regarding pressing the sitting bone down to the mat so as to get more lift in the trunk. So if I'm doing Mari C on the first side, the left sitting bone should press down, to help lift the torso as it turns. If I'm doing Mari C on the second side, the right sitting bone presses down. In Pashimattanasana, I need to extend the feet as is I was standing and lower the thighs to the mat. My Matsyasana has improved where I can get good lift of the thoracic spine, but she helped me lift further. The resulting arch felt so comfortable and opening, that I remained 20 breaths there. One last observation during Padmasana, one I've gotten since the day I started practicing in a shala, "Soften your face, Arturo." I can be such a grinch in my face when I'm not aware of myself.

I told Teacher that I'm doing short practices today and tomorrow because of a deadline. I noticed Snow White did her sandbag modification on Kapotasana, getting a good lift on her thoracic spine. I can't wait to try that modification. I think it caught Teacher by surprise because no one in the studio had tried that before.

11/19/07

Further musings on personal nutrition

My recent post on Protein to Carbohydrate to Fats ratio (FPC) made me scrutinize the source of fat in my diet. It is from nuts, flax seeds in my homemade flax seed crackers, peanut butter, and the bit of tahini in the pates I make. What I can gleam from some comments from the lists is a confirmation that the calories in nuts are not entirely bioavailable to the body. Also I gleam that consumption of nuts per se don't contribute to cardiovascular disease. On the contrary, consuming some nuts, walnuts in particular, have been shown to benefit vascular health. But my assumption that if the calories may not be bioavailable then maybe the fat in nuts might not be bioavailable may be incorrect, or at least unproven.

A fellow member told me that my ratio of protein to carbohydrates to fats of 20 40 40 is actually one recommended for people with diabetes type 2, and to people suffering from metabolic syndrome. I had to look that up to understand what it meant. I don't suffer from either ailment. My blood studies show that everything is normal. Another member stated that he follows a healthy diet of 20P 45C and 35F. He changed to this after years of following a virtually no protein, very low fat, low glycemix high carbohydrate diet. He noticed this was causing a lowering of his HDL. His LDL kept on being high. So he switched to a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet and increased his protein. My HDL and LDL both are low. All of this makes me reflect that I would like to increase my low glycemix carbohydrate consumption, avoid saturated fats and sugar from baked goods, decrease my consumption of flax seeds, and be sparing with consumption of peanut butter or eliminate it altogether. If there is one food that is entirely all fat it is peanut butter.

Writing about this here has the effect of making me more careful and make me embarrassed enough to avoid eating the baked goods that I should not be eating. It is curious how my style of writing this also reflects how I write about yoga, where I observe others and see where I am, determine where I should be and chart a path of how to get there, with the help of experts. In the case of yoga my teachers, fellow practitioners and ashtanga blogging community help steer me. In the case of nutrition, the expert members of the various nutrition lists, fellow members and other CRONie bloggers help guide me.

11/18/07

Central Square in Trieste, Italy


Central Square in Trieste, Italy
Originally uploaded by vgane

You may want to visit my friend V.'s Flickr photo site, which contains beautiful architecture and nature photos.

Nature and architecture photos

My friend V. is a talented architect and expert photographer. Recently he obtained a Cannon 30D camera. Here are some of his pictures, posted with his permission. His site is located here. Late autum in Palo Alto, CA
Ljubljana, Slovenia

A jellyfish in the Adriatic Sea

Santiago Calatrava's Museum in Milwaukee, WI
Beach scene in Dominican Republic
Saint Chapelle interior in Paris
A bridge in Seville, Spain

Bad eating habits, and PCF ratios

I'm priviledged to have handled $10 in newly minted quarters. These were dedicated to the State of Wyoming. I used them to do my laundry. Money - we need to circulate it to live, but a portion of it should be ours to keep.

I need to device techniques to stop eating cookies, or at least limit their consumption. I eat about 4 per week, 12 per month. I can describe these: a large vegan pecan cookie and a large vegan chocolate cookie from Segafredos, a butter thumbprint and a vegan whole wheat cookie from WholeFoods. I also eat two brownies per month - Segafredo's triple chocolate brownie, and a scone from the Bread Factory. That doesn't count free sample cookies at WholeFoods where yesterdays included coconut macaroon cookies, or two small cookies offered during afternoon tea at Buddhist gatherings. Buddhists love tea and cookies, for some reason. These last ones augment my estimate of cookie consumption by 20%.

OK, so I outed my cookie consumption. Cancer-causing cells crave sweets. Why feed them? That should be a good warning. CRON protects you from a lot of ailments, but it is not a guarantee. A healthy diet and a lifestyle that includes exercise, (in my case I do yoga, hike, bike around town) protects you too, but even yogis can be susceptible to diabetes type 2. Anyway we crave things that are bad for us. Eating empty calories is a no-no in the CRONiedom.

On another matter, there has been recent discussion in the CR Society about the appropriate levels of protein consumption. Proteins stimulate hormones in the body and cause growth, but over consumption of it has effects on the IGF-I hormone, which some physicians have found to have a link to cancer. I'll wait for Paul and Meredith's book, The CR Way to come out and hopefully it will shed light more light on that. The discussion has made people come forth and discuss the ratio of Proteins to Carbohydrates to Fats (PCF ratio) in their diets, which makes me take a look at mine. So here are the various ratios among CRONies:

  • Some people eat a diet in which the PCF ratio is 30-40-30. This group eats carbohydrates that are lower in the glycemix index. They might very little or no grains, a limited amount of legumes, a limited amount of fruits, and eggs, fish, meats, quorn and low fat dairy. This is called a zoned diet. Some people do a vegetarian version of this.
  • Some people eat a diet in which the PCF ratio is 20-60-20. The group might moderate amounts of meat, or do it the vegetarian way.
  • Some people eat a diet in which the PCF ratio is 80-10-10. It appears that those who attempt these ratios are primarily eating a vegan vegetarian diet, consisting of mainly low glycemix fruits and vegetables, very little fat and little protein. For this last one there is a book by Dr. Douglas Graham titled, the 80-10-10 diet.

That makes me evaluate my own diet. I've tweaked it over three years depending on what I was learning from the discussion. The software I use to track my nutrition, C-O-M tells me that my PCF ratio when I consume my regular diet is 20-40-40. That makes it appear that my diet is high in fats. I don't even seem to be near most of the people in the group. But I don't believe what the software tells me on one point. At least half of the contribution to fat amount in my diet is from nuts. I consume daily two Brazil nuts, and 30 grams of a combination of walnuts, almonds or filberts. Nuts are so dense that most of their calories are not bio-available to the body. You end up excreting most of the calories. I suspect that most of the oils in them are also not bio-available to the body for the same reason. My other source of fat recently is from consuming 2 to 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, which I consume with 6 baby carrots as an afternoon snack. Recently I added kefir to my primarily raw vegan vegetarian diet, so that has increase the calcium and protein in my diet.

Now that I think of it, I may need to revisit the percentage of nutrients in my diet and adjust them if my diet is unbalanced in PCF ratios. I also don't know what is optimal for ashtanga yoga practitioners. Our yoga is very vigorous so you could compare us to professional athletes. We need excellent nutrition. Long time ashtangis tend to be slim because the practice makes you thinner. We may not burn as many calories as runners do. We're also not trying to bulk up muscles as weight lifters do. Weight lifting and calorie restriction don't work hand in hand. I wonder if my diet was lower in fats whether I would crave cookies less.

11/16/07

Marichyasana D, Chakrasana and an old friend

A few of us started practice early as usual. It looked like it was going to be a medium sized group when more people came in. Sometimes a person would come in and a waft of the incense burning in the lobby would follow their movement. It had the effect of giving people auras as they walked into the room and settled to a practice space. At one point it felt like a movie where more people were appearing in a scene out of nowhere. Snow White would not mind me saying that I felt there was a group of dwarfs and elves carrying her cape as she breezed through the room earlier in the week, as the aroma of the incense waved into the room.

In Marichyasana A, Teacher Leigha suggested that I (1) lower my head as I'm setting up, (2)reach the hand that is going to wrap frontwards towards the feet (advice (2) she gave me three years ago for this asana, but it is appropriate to bring it up now), then (3) bring the wrapping arm then very low around the foot that is grounded on the floor. The lower the hand is on the feet, she said, the easier it will be to bring, in my case, my forehead to the chin. Bringing the forehead to the chin is what my body is allowing and should be my work. In the future, when my chest touches my thighs while in the asana, I can bring the chin of the head to the chin of the feet, and focus the dristhe on the toes. Interesting to get this refinement.

After supta padangustasana, I was hesitating to transition into chakrasana. My wait was so long that Teacher noticed, so I said that I was currently afraid of it because I didn't want to hurt my neck. So she tried an adjustment to break down this asana, so that I would understand what needs to happen and protect my neck. She brought two folded blankets and placed them on the front of the mat. I then I placed my back over them, with my neck hanging on the mat. Then I got into halasana (plow pose) and placed my hands as if going into urdva danurasana. She instructed me to then lift the feet over and shoot them straight out so that I would land in chaturanga. She helped me by holding my thighs until I got to chaturanga. The motion was smooth, although the first time I did it I heard her saying, "chaturanga, chaturanga, get into chaturanga." Poor thing- it's a good thing I don't weight that much these days. We repeated that three times. It reminded me that when doing chakrasana you're supposed to land in chaturanga. Later I did the transition without blankets and landed relatively well. (My spell check wants to substitute Chattanooga for chaturanga. When I was nine, I spent two months there at a summer camp. Right now I'm satisfied with chaturanga.)

I brought up my quandry from yesterday regarding how much to bend the legs in assisted dropbacks. She said to think of ustrasana, camel pose when starting to bend back. So the feet at first are not bending a lot, as your thoracic spine is bending back. As you're closer to the floor, then the feet bend a lot. I asked her about the reverse, of when you want to come up to standing from urdvha danurasana, how bent are the legs? She says it's the same in reverse. The feet are first bent, but then you need to straighten them and bring the spine up quickly. I would add that the inward rotation of the legs might help to get the springing up motion of the spine occurring. The image is of a practitioner in Mountainview.

11/15/07

Fellow practitioners share their knowledge

I usually arrive first at the shala and if the opener is late, will start doing on the sidewalk an exercise I learned from David Williams to warm up the bandhas. You crouch placing your hands on you thighs, exhale, then bring the stomach out and in about 10 times. You do three sets. Then you kneel as if to do cat-cow and do the same motion, three sets of 10. You can do it with the lungs full of air, but it is easier to do it with the lungs empty. David says that this is as effective as stomach crunches in strengthening the bandhas.

The shala opener was late. Honest Abe arrived and we started talking about our week with Teacher Leigha, about how it was interesting to have another set of eyes looking at our practice and making suggestions. I started mentioning about my confusion with what the legs need to be doing in Urdhva Danurasana. When she was assisting me in dropbacks yesterday, Leigha told me not to bend the legs as I went back, and to strengthen them as I came up, but not bend them.

I mentioned to Honest Abe that I didn't know if she was telling me that because my form was bad or because by bending my legs too much, my weight was distributed weirdly and it might be difficult for her to assist me. Teacher Catherine says that when I bend my arms, something I understand is bad form in assisted dropbacks and in Urdvha Danurasana in general, my body weighs more from her vantage point and it is difficult to bring me back up during the forward and aft motion that one does. So I thought that this request to not bend the legs was for the same reason, to keep my body light.

So next I mentioned to Honest Abe, that my thought process when practicing dropbacks is - "tailbone down, pelvis towards the front, chest lifting, drop the head, shoulders away from the ears, don't arch up the shoulders, keep lifting as you go back, pelvis towards the front, hands in prayer motion moving back, when you see the floor extend arms straight, then do the forward and aft motion, first moving the chest back, then forward, come back up as the weight transfers to the feet, and (in my case) the teacher is pulling."

We started mimicking the motions of going into a drop back when Quiet Strength arrived. I went into reporter mode, sans recorder or notepad. I went over and said, "D. you come up to standing in Urdvha Danurasana, I'm sort of confused as to why Leigha told me not to bend the legs. I understand that when you start, the legs are closer together, about a hip's width apart, but then they get wider as you get deeper in the pose and are about to come up. I also thought that you had to bend the legs a bit or a lot when the weight is transferring to the legs, but Leigha was telling not to bend the legs. "

He was very helpful. This is my recollection of how he responded: "There is a lot is happening when you're about to come to standing in upward bow. If you have the legs too close, you can pinch the lower back at the sacrum. It's OK to have them there at the beginning, but their position when you're going to come up may be wider, depending on your body. More importantly, you need to have openness in the chest. The thoracic spine, that area over the sacrum, needs to be flexible so that when your weight is transferring to the feet, and your hands start to float, there is a hinge action in the spine as the hips bring you up. This hinge motion has to occur and you need to have openness in your body. The place to work on this openness is while you're doing upward bow on the mat. When you are coming up, you don't think about it much. By the time your hands are floating the weight has transferred to the feet. But you need the flexible motion in the thoracic spine and the opening of the chest so that when the action of coming up happens when the hips pull. Also, it is important to have an inward rotation of the hips."

He demonstrated by getting the feet wider than hips width apart, then showing an inward rotating motion in the feet. Later on during practice I watched him while in upward bow doing the forward and aft motion, his hands floating, and his hips bringing him up. Then he dropped back twice.

Soon after this sidewalk conversation, The Writer and Kool Keds arrived, followed by Surfer Guy, who opened for us. Teacher helped me with Pasasana. She mentioned that I really needed to lift the hand that was about to wrap really high, get it low and past the thigh, keep the feet, which were in a squat, together, then hook the wrapping arm strongly, then with an upward and outward motion bring the other arm to bind, and open the chest back. I was loosing my balance so she brought a block for my feet. Some days I keep the balance without need for a prop under the feet. She says I should have a dishcloth-like cloth to help me when my body is slippery. My towel was too thick. This would also help when the toes are too sweaty for grabbing them in Supta Vajrasana.

Now here is the most interesting thing that happened today. It was an adjustment suggestion that Teacher gave to Snow White (SW) during Kapotasana. I find this so interesting and remember when Karen discovers something that she has to share, such as that tip for using a rolled manduka mat behind your back for when you're doing Supta Vajrasana by yourself - but I digress. Not wanting to miss anything, I stopped my practice, put on my glasses and observed. Here is what I saw. And please understand that SW can do Kapotasana okay. So there must have been a purpose for this variation. Teacher brought two sandbags- they were long and thin. The previous day she had tried it with a bolster, but found it to be too slippery. SW went into Kapotasana and then her hands landed on the sand bags, and while maintaining her upward lift, she walked the hands to the feet. Her hands appeared to be doing a gradual scoop motion towards the feet during all this time.

So I wrote an email to SW to ask her what the benefits of the sandbags were. The adjustment was new to me. She replied that this adjustment was new to her as well and added, "My understanding of the use of the sandbags, is that it acts to extend the length of your arms so you can push down firmly into the sandbags which in turn creates lift and deepens the thoracic spinal extension. The goal being to grasp the heels of the feet with the hands, and ultimately, without the use of props."

I can't wait to try that next week. I'm very thankful for my fellow practitioners to share with me their knowledge, which I'm passing here through my notes. I hope they are useful to other practitioners. Cheers!

11/14/07

Dropbacks

Wednesday's practice was short. I worked the previous night, so I waked up later and arrived at the shala much later than usual. I concentrated on urdva danurasana. By the time Teacher came by I had already gone up about 8 times, working towards getting up. Teacher commented that I needed to get more lift in my upward bow with the hands extended. While up in urdvha, she had me push the legs, move the chest towards the hands and straighten the hands. We did that two more times.

She then asked if I wanted to do handstands, assisted dropbacks or both. She guessed right that I wanted to do both. Here is the part that I get a bit confused. She asked me not to bend the legs as I dropped back, to keep the legs strong. Perhaps it's because that is how she prefers to adjust me. But with other teachers, I do bend the legs. Usually my mental thought process is, tailbone down, pelvis forward, lift the chest, keep lifting, drop the head, bend the legs. Maybe she was saying that because I might be bending the legs too soon as I begin to drop back. I know that I tend to forget to straighten the hands as I reach the floor. That's not good form and it's not safe for the teacher if I do that because it makes my body heavier from where they stand. As I came back up, she was telling me to put strength on the legs, to make them strong to bring me back up. This last makes sense.

During handstand, I got up reasonably okay, but she repeated what she said during Tim Miller's workshop, that I really need to engage the bandhas, straighten the legs, keep them together and be energetic. She says I'm wobbling my legs when I'm up there, sometimes doing a banana boat, other times shaking like a water serpent. Well, she didn't say water serpent, but she did a movement to demonstrate how my body is shaking, then demonstrated how strong it needs to be. It's so funny. I imitated the movements of what the body is supposed to be doing, while standing up, to get it in my head.

Vanessa is writing about her challenges with Karandavasana. I have to master balancing in pincha before moving to that one. I find it curious how our bodies are. We should not compare ourselves to others, but for example, I was practicing near GM-engine in our shala this morning. Lizzie N. was practicing nearby and asked him if he needed assistance in supta vajrasana. He smiled and said he really could not do it. I don't seem to struggle that much with that pose anymore. Then later I saw him do pincha and karandavasana effortlessly and without sweat, as if the body is just supposed to do those moves as naturally as walking. I'm not there yet. I think he did kapotasana also as if it was the most normal thing anyone should do every day. No shaking, just flip back slowly and do the deed. With some of us in the shala, we go into this convulsion state - with a little shaking that says "Oh, here it comes, Big K." I like how GM-engine does it. I bet his mind is really clear, calm and collected, the way it should be. He just gets into the pose gracefully.

Hey fellow yoga bloggers, is it okay to be blogging about stuff my mind wondered into -digressions from self focus - or am I supposed to just blog about my yoga experience? I must be really unfocused this week if I'm supposed to be only talking about my experience. I'm talking a lot about other's practices. What do you all think? The image is of Ross doing Urdvha Danurasana.

11/13/07

Tuesday

It's been a long day and it's late, so I may just scribble quickly my notes on practice today. I guess it's a week of analyzing the visit by Teacher Leigha. I received my clarifications regarding chatuari - it's done before all of the poses in 2nd where you come to your belly - salabhasana, bekasana and danurasana. You can hover in chatuari for 3 breaths, or up to 5.

I received a long interchange on pincha mayurasana. Here is my interchange, as I was setting up in front of the mat, facing the center of the room.

Teacher: "why don't you come to the wall? You are putting your head way too forward and simply are setting yourself up for falling."
Me: "I'm trying to get over the fear of doing it in the middle of the room. I know I can do it against the wall."
Teacher: "Well, come away this far from the wall (it was about 4 feet away) so you have it for an emergency."
Me: I moved there and started setting up.
Teacher: "Now, you're too far forward. Your chest needs to push down towards your tail bone, or you're not going to get it."
Me: I push back as she indicates the direction with her hand.
Teacher: "Keep pushing back; walk the feet in while holding the chest down and kick the feet up."
Me: I become aloft and don't fall forward.
Teacher: "You got it! Keep the legs together."
Me: I descend after a few breaths and ask "What about landing?"
Teacher: "It's okay to bend the feet while going up, but landing is in chaturanga. No bending of the feet when landing." She then added, "when you work in the middle of the room, have a strategy for falling, which will sometimes happen. You could put some blankets on the floor to cushion the fall."
Me: "Oh, blankets on the floor, great idea."

That was neat. I noticed that others got some details on particular asanas as well. Honest Abe got a great adjustment on Septu Bandasana, carrying it to the fullest expression. Snow White got a lot of descriptions on positioning for Kapotasana. Then she very gracefully arched back and walked her hands to her toes. I noticed because I was waiting for an assist on Supta Vajrasana. Okay, so my dristhe was all over the place today. Banda Girl got instruction on Pasana. She was in front of me, I could not miss it. Legacy Rose received instructions on Bekasana and danurasana. That one I heard because she was near me. So if the last one was not a dristhe distraction, what was it? A hear-thee distraction?

Teacher Catherine's hubby, L., joined us for practice this morning. Teacher's spouses and significant others deserve recognition. They must really miss their partners when the teachers go away to a foreign country for an extended period of time to study with the master.

The new California Academy of Sciences

My colleague Alex Ho went on a tour of the new California Academy of Sciences, now nearly complete, and took pictures, which he posted on his website. This marvel of a building was designed by Renzo Piano, with Chong Partners as executive architects. Renzo is an architectural genius. This will become a must see building for anyone visiting San Francisco when complete. Alex is a consultant that creates beautiful 3D images of buildings in design. Here is a link to Alex's pictures of the California Academy of Sciences and to the main page of his website. These images are from the website.



11/12/07

Monday

You all may want to check fellow CRONie Tony Zamora's blog and see the picture of himself he just posted. He's 65! You're amazing, Tony.

It was nice to see Teacher Leigha this morning. She will be with us this week, and return for five weeks in January when Teacher Catherine goes to Mysore. One cool observation I got today is that at the AYRI they now expect you to hold three breaths in chatuari before plopping your belly down for salabhasana. I think she meant that we need to do the same before bekasana and danurasana, since you put your belly down in those also when beginning. I'll have to ask for a clarification. Do you know that we architects LOVE clarifications? It's what we call changes still within the contract when we talk to the contractor, when there is something we didn't detail completely, but should have been inferred from our plans.

When in Eka Pada on the right side, Teacher said to hold the bandas and lift. I was rounding the back too much. I was having trouble with Eka Pada on the left side, then setting up for Dwi Pada. I must have done it 4 times on the left side, as Teacher got closer each time. She gives great Dwi Pada adjustments, but today she suggested that since I was having trouble getting into it, why not get into supta kurmasana, getting the feet over, then lifting out of it, and making sure I was lifting the head up and pushing the chest down. I seemed to do that well and got the feeling of pushing back while in the pose. I stopped at just before Pincha Mayurasana because I ran out of time. I don't want to be late for work.

In the shala this morning is was mostly us guys, Moustache Blanc, The Cyclist, Surfer Guy, Kool Keds and Honest Abe. Two girls joined us also. If Eeyore was there, he may have been near the Buddha statue. I thought that was P. but when I put on my glasses it wasn't.

11/11/07

Sunday spent on yoga and meditation

The early morning was spent in Berkeley at AYB. We were a half hour into our meditative self practice when an alarm clock started ringing with a tune of a Hindi chant. It caused some ripples of laughter as Teacher Vance went over to turn it off.

Teacher adjusted in pasanana. His adjustment really helped me understand what needs to be happening in the body to do it correctly: feet flat on the floor, arm that is wrapping lifting way up, then down to the floor, soft, take two breaths, wrap the arm around, push it down to hold the balance, bring the other hand to bind behind the legs, lift the chest, twist towards the back, direct the head towards the back, press the legs down and bring the thighs up. Whew! A lot to do.
I stopped at Eka Pada. I'm getting enough balance in Dwi Pada to be able to set up for it, but for the time being, I tend to lose the balance just as the right leg is approaching the head. I need to remember not to engage the legs, keep them soft, bring them back, lift the head up and press the chest back. That will hold the legs up there.

An interesting comment from Teacher today. When I'm doing the quick assisted urdhva danurasanas, where I need to remember to keep the arms straight, then do the motion with the chest of "fore and aft", the feet can be on the floor a hips distance apart. When I go into a deeper urdhva danurasana, still during the assist mode, to be helped in coming up later, I drop to the floor, wait five breaths, rest the head, lift, walk the hands towards the feet, now the feet should be further apart, almost the width of my mat, and pigeon toed. Then I come up, in this case with his help. I noticed that is what Teacher himself did in his practice before ours earlier in the morning. Of course he does not need an assist at the moment of coming up and by this time his feet have gotten a bit wider apart.

The rest of the day I was at a daylong meditation with Jon Bernie, who leads a satsang group. His background is Zen and Vipassana traditions. Right now he is practicing a method of teaching that is like Zen, but involves talking to the student directly, without reference to any teaching, in answer to what the student brought up. There were a lot of things that people brought up, such as dealing with greed, confusions about the self, how to be deal with the state of the world. Well, you see, those are pretty complicated issues. Jon was more concerned with how we could act within ourselves to the chaos around us. Most of the day was spent in short to medium silent meditations. Albert K., prepared a vegetarian meal - salad, cheeses, couscous, fruit, and macaroni and cheese. Tom B. brought a dish also. I had not eaten mac & cheese in a long time and it was delicious. I've started consuming kefir with so far good results. I entered all into COM and I stayed within my caloric goals for the day.

CRONie note. I could not believe it. Tom B. recently moved to an apartment in a shared house, and on the lower floor lives one of the long time CRONies, who was interviewed several years ago in an article that Warren Taylor linked us to regarding CR practitioners in the Bay area. It will be nice to get together since he's been doing this longer than I and I could learn so much from just a brief get together. He also practices yoga.

11/10/07

Genius

The other day there was a discussion in the CR Society list about raw food diets and I mentioned what a spirited speaker David Wolfe, author of The Sunfood Diet Success System and proponent of such diets was. I heard him speak in Florida. I also mentioned that I had read the book, that the writing was not in a style that I enjoyed and if anyone wanted to read it I would send it to them. The style is a bit like a manifesto that wants to bonk you on the head to get the point. It contrasted a bit too much with the quiet meditative style of books by Dr. Gabriel Coussens, who proposes similar styles of eating. There are different styles of getting a message across, and some people respond to an "in your face" approach and others are attracted with honey.

I had two takers on my offer of the book, so I sent it to the first one, Dr. Alexandre do Espirito Santo, who heads the Department of Scientific Information at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, teaches at the State University of Londrina in Brazil, and is a writer of many books. He so enjoyed my gift that he sent me a philosophy book of short observations that he wrote and published. The observations are funny, insightful and poignant. I'm delighted by his book. My first degree was in philosophy and although I have not formally studied Portuguese, my Spanish and French help understand what is being conveyed. I am translating here one entry titled, "Genius". To me, Sri Pathabi Jois is a genius, and so are great architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne.

Genius, by Dr. Alexandre do Espirito Santo, PhD, translated by Arturo.
  • A complete genius does not exist. A genius is not born a genius, without first having been brought up, having things explained, demonstrated, made, played or painted for him or her.
  • Someones genius, unfortunately, is limited to a small part of the brain.
  • You can come up with a great mechanical intuition or a spectacular insight, but come up short in mathematics or in the sciences.
  • There exists genius for something specific, something generally unexpected, but never for everything.
  • But true genius is not found in knowing more about this or that, but in discovering that which has never been applied.

11/9/07

Tall hopes

In a week where I had trouble getting up for yoga practice due to the time change and managed to get to practice one day, I didn't need it to be a moon day today. What an easy excuse to slide from practicing : ( I will allow no excuses for myself next week.

Last night I went to a listen to a panel discussion on experts on tall buildings. The panel included several distinguished structural engineers, an architect of high rise towers, a developer, two soils engineers and the person in charge of permitting in the city. They hope that tall buildings of interesting architecture continue being planned for the city. The discussion was about the challenges and opportunities to design, develop and build these buildings in our seismic zone. It appears that there is a precedent for some of the worlds' tallests towers being built in seismic zones around the world.

Here is a link to an article with images of some of the worlds' tallest twisting towers. If that link does not work, try this one. My friend V. worked on the one in Dubai (the fourth slide).

11/8/07

Thursday

Went to practice today and did Second Series to Kapotasana. Putting the alarm sufficiently away from the bed worked in getting up today, as well as turning the area heater on after turning off the alarm. The apartment is small, so it gets warm quickly. Honest Abe had emailed wondering about my absence at practice.

Teacher Catherine will be at a workshop with Richard Freeman in Colorado. Leigha Nicole will be subbing for Mysore practice at Yoga Studio San Francisco from tomorrow Friday until Monday the 19th. Shout out to Eeyore: are you going to join us for Mysore practice during Leigha's teaching?

I'm going to revise my diet recommendations for vegetarians. We've heard it that Guruji recommends drinking a lot of milk. There is good sense to that. Those of us that practice calorie restriction can be subject to osteoporosis, despite our yoga practice. Some of us gravitate naturally to veganism because we simply don't digest milk and dairy products well. It would be recommendable to eat yogurt or drink kefir for calcium. I have a similar effect from consuming yogurt than from drinking milk - it gives me nasal congestion, particularly noticeably at the beginning of falling asleep. I am going to give kefir a try next week to see how my body reacts. It protects against developing osteoporosis.

11/7/07

A teaching of the Buddha

Today is the third day in a row of being unable to wake up early to get to yoga. I've been waking up at the time that I normally would be boarding the bus to get to the shala. I usually wake up an hour and a half to two hours earlier than that. I don't recall that when the clock springs forward I have this much difficulty in getting up, but when it falls back, I do. At least I've kept up a daily meditation, and kept up to my good nutrition practices.

So while I wait for my body to be responsive to my yoga practice, I thought I'd pass on this teaching of the Buddha, which Albert K. in our Buddhist group sent. I've learned that the Buddha talked differently depending to whom he was talking to. With Ananda he could speak for hours on theoretical ideas. Here he was talking to a householder, so the instruction is simple. It's good advice even today. Here is the passage with a brief comment below.

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Once the Blessed One addressed the householder Anathapindika thus:"There are, O householder, five things that are wished for, loved and agreeable yet rarely gained in the world. What five? Long life, beauty, happiness, fame, and rebirth in heaven. But of those five things, householder, I do not teach that they are to be obtained by prayer or by vow,. If one could obtain them by prayer or vows, who would not obtain them?"

For a noble disciple, householder, who wishes to have long life, it is not befitting that he should pray for long life or take delight in so doing. He should rather follow a path of life that is conducive to longevity. By following such a path he will obtain long life, be it divine or human.

"For a noble disciple, householder, who wishes to have beauty, happiness, fame, and rebirth in heaven, it is not befitting that he should pray for them or take delight in so doing. He should rather follow a path of life that is conducive to beauty, happiness, fame, and rebirth in heaven. By following such a path he will obtain, beauty, happiness, fame, and rebirth in heaven."

Anguttara Nikaya, V:43, in Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, translated and edited by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi

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This passage doesn't need further breakdown. I'm amazed at people who want health and longevity, but then think that people who eat moderately, exercise and simplify their living are miserable ascetics. You should read the comment sections whenever there are articles in the press on calorie restriction. Invariably commenter put down the people talked about in the article as being unhappy repressed zombies. What ignorance. The Buddha's teaching is that you don't achieve longevity, beauty, happiness and fame (I've left out rebirth) by praying for it or making a vow, but by following a path of life that is conducive to these things. Examples of that path would include activities such as eating moderately, exercising regularly, offering consistent good quality work to your employer and clients, not overspending and living simply.

11/6/07

Time change

The change in time and a sudden drop in temperature in SF has made it difficult to get up for practice two days in a row. My recollection is that it usually takes me a week to adjust to setting the clock back. The photograph above is of Venice (in winter of 2006?) by Berkeley photographer Kate Kerrigan, in a flyer distributed next to Ashtanga Yoga Berkeley. Below, Maestro Pablo Casals playing the cello at home, based on a photograph taken in 1975 by Fritz Henle.

11/4/07

Sunday

The ladies ("birds") who talk incessantly on the bus trip to Berkeley on Sundays did not disappoint today. Today was one of Teacher Vance's once a month led Primary classes. The class is intense. I think we develop preferences of how long to stay on poses, depending on how our bodies cooperate. When someone is keeping a steady count throughout, it seems certain portions of the practice are more strenuous and that if a class were not led, one might hold those positions in one's daily practice for a shorter time. I seem to do that with Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana. Also, in one's daily practice one might take more time to set up in challenging poses, such as Marichyasana D. Even throughout the daily practice one might take an extra breath after a vinyasa before beginning the next asana. But when the class is led, it's nonstop. I usually go to the bathroom at least three times before such a class, so I won't have to interrupt the flow.

Although you're not supposed to be comparing yourself to others, since during the led class you're working at the same pace, it makes you discover things about yourself and others. For example, the guy practicing next to me cannot bind in Marichyasana D. Maybe I'll call him The Sage. I usually can bind in Mari D, although today I was sweaty and unable to get the grasp on the bind on the first side. The Sage, however, can do Supta Padangustasana like there is no tomorrow; his legs just extend out and up with seemingly no effort. One has to open the legs and something has to be aligned correctly at the femur-hip connection for the legs to open that easily. Tim Feldmand demonstrated an incorrect and a correct way to extend the legs. With me, the legs start shaking; they think they're on the ground and have to hold me up. I have to tell them to ease up. I don't get as much extension yet as I would like to get but maybe I could try lifting the leg higher, to get the correct femur to hip soccet alignment. The Sage can roll from laying down up to Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana in one breath, with legs extended the whole time. I think it's been three years that a teacher asked me to roll into that position in one breath while keeping the legs extended. When I try to come up with legs extended, I either roll back or fall on the floor in front. So my feet come up extended at first, then as my back is coming up, the knees bend. Then I extend the legs. Maybe I should work on refining that entry since my entry is not the right entry. The next challenge in the pose is to tell my left psoas to give me feedback, so I don't list to the left side. That is improving because I'm paying more attention.

I had a chance to say hello to Teacher after class. Last Sunday when I went to the workshop, he attended a daylong meditation with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock. That is a great way to spend a day. I mentioned in my practice my spine was opening up, so that my kapotasana was improving. He mentioned that unless one is a natural bender, for us men, achieving bending in this asana is a lifetime commitment.

11/3/07

Offsubject - debunking euphemisms

This is not a typical subject in my blog. I like it when people debunk euphemisms. This story relates to an exchange between a moderator of an architectural forum and one of the readers. My writing here will be a paraphrasing of what was discussed, such as if I were writing a paper, with only a few quotes.

The moderator of the newsgroup wrote an entry titled, "young men and women of color..." as an introduction to an offer from a university in New England whose architecture department is desperately seeking young men and women who are interested in one of their 10 scholarship positions. They stated that they have a number of Hispanics signed up but had not attained interest from African American students.

To this, a reader named Hector wrote, "Young men and women of color. . . which color? . . . you forgot to mention . . .tangerine?"

The moderator replied angrily, telling the reader to not get his panties all in a wad, "with a name like Hector of Hispanic origin, he would know what in the USA is meant when people use the phrase 'people of color'," adding that, "it's an exquisitely polite and politically correct manner of saying, 'people who are less privileged than us (the majority of Americans)." Then he proceeded to refer the reader to Webster's online for further reference, signing, "God bless, peace out, Moderator #1 of African descent commonly known as American Black 'person of color'".

In reply, Hector wrote a humorous entry, which in my paraphrasing might lose some of its humor. He stated that his name is assumed to be of Greek origin, referencing Achilles, Paris, (hint - Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom.) He expressed sadness about the American society, as seen on TV and that Webster's online is as reliable as TV for a source of information, but to use it in his reply, he found that people of color has the meaning,
  1. of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal.
  2. of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the United States; especially : one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin.

He could not see himself in those meanings because he's not a Spaniard, he does not live in the USA, is Peruvian, Latin American, of Ibero American ancestry. The second meaning, in his opinion, is an invention of the US Census Bureau. He added that he's not an activist, he would rather be Pro-life than Pro-Hispanic and that he felt berated for the first time by the moderator's comments, never having been leveled in the European or South American universities he attended. He has various degrees from these institutions, which, he says, only care if he's a smartass. He's currently living in Canada, where immigrant issues, in his opinion, are different because immigrants there tend to be skilled with a profession or trade. (Ouch!)

If there end up being less Hispanics in the New England university, it does not matter to him. When abroad he like to party with them all - he would like the list to include French Canadians, Italians and Romanians. He's partied with them all - they have a joie de vivre expressed in dance, playing soccer and eating.

"Regardless of the source of definition, the use of the term people of color," says Hector, "is an euphemism." (Well said!) Tangerine, he added, is a nice color, but if he had rephrased his comment as butternut squash, maybe the moderator would have perhaps gotten his point.

Regarding the moderator's comment about people who are less privileged, Hector acknowledged that perhaps the moderator is right, but that south of Panama, the established American cultural influences fade away. He admonished that in a world oriented forum generic concepts that pertain to the American situation should not be presented. Discrimination exists, but in his opinion it is more culturally based. He signed off, "Blessings back to you, plus the intercession of the angels and all of the saints. Carpe diem." In a postscript, he mentioned that he knew the moderator's background, having read his profile, and requested that he read his comments plainly, without animosity.

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That's the story. If you have read this far, let me explain why this is of interest to me. I was born in Puerto Rico. When I came to the continental United States in 1976 to study in college, when registering for school I had to answer a US Census Bureau questionnaire every semester regarding race. I had to chose between white and Hispanic. I used to check both, since I am both. A friend of mine from Valencia, Spain who married an American used to be so peeved at the questionnaire that she typically checked Aleutian Islander in the census forms. Things have improved since then, where now they have further breakdowns of Hispanic backgrounds. You probably have Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans to thank for that. I cannot define my background in words similar to Hector's. In my case, I am a third generation Puerto Rican of Franco-Anglo-Ibero-Italo-American ancestry. Complicated isn't it?

Protein consumption for vegetarians

This is my attempt to summarize some advice for vegetarians and vegans with information culled from recent postings in the CR Society, where nutrition is discussed among experts in the field. Many yoga practitioners are vegetarians because it is the tradition, because it is a way of practicing ahimsa by not harming sentient beings in obtaining food. We don't necessarily chose vegetarianism for health reasons, although there are health benefits associated with vegetarianism. Most of my summaries are interpretations of what Michael Rae (MR), Richard Schulman and others discussed. There is a concern for limiting methionine in one's diet, because excess methionine affects longevity.

There has been concern about the higher mortality rate among vegans, compared to ovo-lacto vegetarians (vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy products) and some types of omnivores (specifically pescatarians, those primarily vegetarians who eat fish.) Calorie restriction and healthy vegetarian diets reduce the likelihood of cancers developing and generally help with lower incidence of heart disease, arthritis and other ailments. But there is no guarantee that a person won't get sick. Protein in our diet is important for maintenance of muscle. Consuming it with other food, protein consumption inhibits post-prandial glucose spikes. In layman's terms that means that protein consumption drives one's blood sugar down, in particular helping to avoid blood sugar going up immediately after consuming food at the beginning of digestion. Protein also helps us feel less hungry so that we're satisfied with less food. But what are the choices of protein and their implication to health?

  • You could chose to be pescatarian, or a vegetarian who eats fish. Pescatarians have less incidence of mortality from ischemic heart disease than omnivores who get their meat based proteins from other sources.
  • The next choice is to be ovo-lacto vegetarian. Eggs are a good choice of choline and protein, but are also high in fat and methionine. It is important to restrict excess of methionine. Dairy products are a good source of calcium and protein, but they are high in fat. High fat diets are not good for heart health. You can obtain protein from whey powder supplement. Whey is a dairy products derivative.
  • The next choice is to be a vegetarian that doesn't consume eggs or dairy, which is called vegan. Where would one get one's protein? You can consume soy based products such as tempeh, tofu, soy milk and others. Soy has many health benefits, but presents problems for men. Over consumption of soy can lead to dementia in men as one approaches old age. Phytoestrogens in soy can lead to development of breasts in men. There is a plethora of soy based products in the market - soy milks, spreads, cheeses, for example. It is safer to consume fermented soy products such as tempeh and soy sauce, and avoid over consuming many of these recently invented soy products as the ones just listed. Consuming oat milk would be a better nutrition choice to consuming soy milk. At least if you're going to consume soy milk, it's best to be moderate in the amount of consumption.
  • Brewer's yeast is a choice of protein. It is full of a lot of nutrients. In the case of at least one person, the ease with which it passes through the body may have some disadvantages. I missed the discussion on brewer's yeast. I don't think there is too much concern about consuming it
  • That leaves soy protein isolates, rice protein, pea powder and hemp protein. According to MR, these are fairly slow digesting because they form a thick goo and pudding like consistency when mixed with a moderate amount of liquid. These seem like a safe choice of protein for vegans and vegetarians. For people who need to moderate their intake of soy, rice protein, pea powder and hemp protein would be the best choice.
  • Kefir is a good source of calcium and protein. Kefir is a fermented and cultured dairy product similar to yogurt. It can be made from dairy and also from soy. People who practice calorie restriction are at risk of osteoporosis and should monitor their consumption of calcium. It is preferable to obtain your nutrients from the foods you eat rather than from pills. Therefore for some people it is wise to consume kefir.
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