Yoga poses by the beach

We went to a beautiful beach in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico today. Inspired by Laskmi's witty and fun yoga by the beach in snorkeling equipment, I asked my sister to take some pictures of me in yoga poses and at least one wearing fins. Above is Marichyasana C, which she snapped before I could flex the left foot. Below is Utkatasana:Parivritta Parvokanasana:Finsharvangasana:

Adhomukha Svanasana:


Happy New Year

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year filled with peace and happiness. I may wait until I'm back in SF to blog about my yoga practice. Right now I practice however much time allows while on holiday. And the intention to practice, in itself, is practice when one is too distracted. I have only gained two pounds since being here one week, but I have to watch myself.

My niece got married in a ceremony puctuated by beautiful choral music. The reception had wonderful live music as well to which everyone danced. Puerto Ricans love to dance. I enjoyed a conversation with life-long friends of my parents who told me of their daughter, a concert pianist, who is practicing Budhism and yoga. I seem to be on a similar path and am glad to find a kindred spirit. She and her husband plan to move to Portland and I hope I can establish a friendship with them. I think I mentioned I would post a picture of me in a tux, which I had to buy for the wedding. I'll do it Lax-style chopping off part of the picture. I can't foresee when I would need to use it again.


Kayaking in a bioluminescent bay

The remainder of my holiday with the family I may need to practice yoga on my own, when I have the ocassion to do so. There is too much uncertainty regarding schedules of family get togethers to know if I'll be able to go to a class according to the San Juan shala's schedule. So if I blog about another class there this week, it may be due to some rare opportunity that occured.

I find it amusing that Laksmi is worried about stats. As I commented on her blog, I view those as the analysis of a project, to use the wording of those companies that provide widgets to analyze traffic to our blogs. I like the widget that shows who is tuning in. Stat Counter is helpful because it lets us know what people are searching in the internet that led them to find our blogs. It is helpful to know what led people to find our blogs. But the results can be funny. For example, it would appear that a lot of people are tuning in this week to my blog, when many of the visits to my blog are by me using my mom's computer. At home visits from my computer to my own blog do not count, but my own visits from my mom's computer have added to the count. Since I don't have my favorite links in her computer, where I can surf the blogs to visit other friends' blogs, I have gone to mine to link to those blogs. So it would appear that my stats are skyrocketing :)
Frankly, the holidays are quiet, reflective times. I feel I have more important things to say about my usual topics - yoga, architecture, calorie restriction- when I'm at home in San Francisco, following my usual diet, working at the office and practicing with my teachers and visiting teachers. I'm sharing in this post pictures of the view from my parent's home at different times of the day. Depending on the time of the day, the colors can range from orange to blue green, to purple. I'm grateful to have grown in this house where the focus has always been on a beautiful view. This is a basic element to my designs as an architect and I'm blessed to work in a firm whose practice includes the design of hotels and resorts. Our architecture emphasizes placement of buildings for optimizing a beautiful view. I also post two pictures from my hike in the national rain forest of El Yunque.

My hour and a half self practice today held a record for number of interruptions, both from my own mind ("go check the laundry", "wash parent's car this afternoon", "when is lunch time?", "is practicing next to my dad the same as practicing next to my teacher?") as from my mom looking for the checkbook to pay the telephone repairman, my aunt ringing her bell for someone to come to her assistance, my mom discussing with the person working on the garden his schedule next week, my sister needing to use this computer to resolve some issues with her work, such that I had to move my practice to another room, my father giving me the clothes I left at my aunt's last night after a kayaking trip, which someone brought up from her house while I was practicing, and the smell of lunch being prepared coming from the kitchen. And yet I felt lighter for having practiced a bit.

Last night I joined my cousins to go on a kayak tour of a bioluminescent bay in our town. It was a really a cool experience. As that hyperlink explains, "the luminescence is caused by micro-organisms called dinoflagellates which glow whenever the water is disturbed, leaving a trail of neon blue."
Speaking of luminescence, I pass on this healing prayer by Sensei O'Hara that Albert shared:

May penetrating light dispel the darkness of ignorance, let all karma be resolved and the mind-flower bloom in eternal spring. We pray for the health and well being of our loved ones, all those afflicted by diseases of body, mind, or spirit; all those working towards the healing of those afflictions; may they be serene through all their ills, and may we realize the Buddha Way together.


Practice in San Juan shala Wednesday

Because I didn't have to drive my parents to a family get-together yesterday I was able to go to It's Yoga in San Juan yesterday and practice. The teacher remembered me from past years when I joined the group in their led classes. I asked if I could leave at the beginning of Savasana to go to a family gathering. I noticed that they placed wood over the tile base of their floors. It gives the room a warm, clean and welcoming look. It made me reflect on the various floors of the ashtanga shalas in San Francisco in which I practice. Ashtanga Yoga Berkeley has a wonderful and bouncy wood floor. The building was built entirely in wood and the studio is located on a second floor. You get a bouncy feel when you practice. Yoga Studio SF was built recently and has a beautiful wood floor as well, although theirs is on runners over a concrete base. AYSF has a concrete floor with a radiant heated floor. All of these floors have their own appeal, but also each has its level of flexibility. From the point of view of safety for those of us who have to land in chaturanga from an inversion, the floors with the biggest bounce are the safest for our bodies. In floors with concrete bases, in my opinion, one should use more padding by doubling up practice mats, and fall on mats to be safe.

The led class yesterday at IYPR was one of their rocket variations on ashtanga, which is organized on the primary series, but introduces poses from second series and a couple from advanced series. This brings some fun surprises for those of us accustomed to an ashtanga self practice. For example, there were the following variations during the standing sequence. Some people went into a three point headstand from Prasaritta Paddotanasana A. We did Bakasana at some point, as well as Pincha Mayurasana twice during that time. We also did Samakonasana and Hanumanasana.

The Janus Shirsasanas and Marichyasanas were abbreviated, and people were not asked to do the full expression of the twists, the wrapping and grabbing parts. During Navasana, we went into a headstand three times. The intent of this transition would be to lift from Navasana directly into headstand. One can see this in the early videos of David Swenson. But realistically, that requires unusual strength and in many years of practice I have only seen one yogi do that, and as a demonstration at that. So at this point it required getting out of Navasana, doing headstand, then going back to Navasana.

After Uppavhista Konasana, we did an asana that not having my books with me I could not name, but it involved bending forward while the legs where in a split. It made me observe the unusual-ness of body types in yoga. My neighbor to the left, a yogi, seemed to lack strength yesterday to finish the Suryanamaskaras A & B, but had the flexibility to do the splits. The neighbor to the right, a yogini, didn't have wads of muscles, yet she floated her feet up from Prasaritta Padotanasana into three point headstand gracefully, then returned to the Prasaritta slowly and gracefully from the inversion. I felt as if I had practiced next to these two people last year, but I don't think I did. I practiced near the door so I could leave at the beginning of savasana. There was a nice breeze coming through the window which took away the sweat I was generating from the practice. It felt good to practice with a group and hopefully I will be able to practice with them once or twice more before I return to SF next Tuesday.


Mom's tomato-onion casserole

In the recent meme we were asked to mention a favorite dish from childhood. This is my mom's recipe, which she makes every Christmas holiday. I asked her if it needed the tablespoon of sugar and the 6 tablespoons of butter. She responded that it sounded like a lot, but if you start taking the ingredients out, the casserole won't taste as good. So, CRON warning, this is not adjusted for lower calories (laugh).

  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced (or whole) tomatoes, or one 1 lb, 13 oz can
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups of onions sliced in thin rounds
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, or crushed cornflakes

Directions: Melt two tablespoons butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Melt remaining butter. Cook the onions in the butter until golden. Mix flour, salt and sugar together and add to tomatoes. Lightly grease a 2 quart pyrex mold. Add onions, add tomato mixture in alternating layers. Top with breadcrumbs or cornflake mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Serves 8. This recipe can be doubled for larger groups and baked in a 4 quart mold.

Yoga challenged and our Xmas meal

I imagine it's difficult for us yoga practitioners to practice during the holidays. It is for me. Besides it being Christmas spent with the family, it's the time of my niece's wedding. Everyday there is an activity planned. I'm staying at a distance of one hour's drive to the yoga studio and they have a reduced class schedule of evening classes plus two morning classes on Friday. I may be able to attend one of the morning classes on Friday and that my be about it. Although since I started writing this, some plans changed and I may be able to go to tomorrow evening's class, after which I have to rush to a get together.

This is a picture of our holiday meal. I asked my niece what to call it - a Puerto Rican holiday meal, or an American holiday meal. She suggested it was a Puerto Rican - Gringo holiday meal. The main course consisted of turkey and stuffing, tomato-onion casserole, green beans, mexican cole slaw salad, cranberry sauce, rice and pigeon peas and garlic bread. Dessert included coconut custard, rice pudding (ginger, rice, coconut milk, raisins and prunes), sugar free chocolate mousse, Spanish almond nougat and a cup of expresso. I obtained the recipe for the tomato-onion casserole, so I can post that on another day.


Random musings

Happy Holidays, y'all. Here's are some random pictures. Above, a picture from our office party with a dear and talented coworker, M. Thanks to A. for taking the jolly foto. Yesterday, after attending church with the family, we went to an italian restaurant in San Juan, Bon Gustaio! where they prepared this grilled vegetable dish that was beautiful enough to photograph - the eggplant, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms were marinated in balsamic vinaigraite and grilled. (That picture is dedicated to Bindifry and Mary, who ocassionally post pictures of food they eat at a restaurant.) Restaurants in Puerto Rico have improved where now sometimes the wait staff understand what being vegetarian entails. Once at one of the fanciest restaurants here, where I ate with my aunt, the waiter thought that vegetarians eat fish.
At Miami Airport, I went to visit the new South Terminal. I worked on this project three cities, three companies ago. (Laugh) I'm glad they finished it because at one point the project ran out of money. These are a picture of the exterior, and two pictures of the space in front of the registration desks, where you see light wells adjacent to the international arrivals room on the second floor. I love the light and the structural elements.
I have been practicing a little yoga in my room and will see if I can visit It's Yoga in San Juan on Thursday and Friday for led classes. They posted their Holiday Schedule on their web page, which is a help.I've been practicing a modified calorie restriction. I haven't gained weight, but I forgot to bring my guar gum pudding mix, which helps me to feel full and not overeat. I was describing to Peg D. my usual recipe for guar gum pudding and thought I might share that in the following weeks. It helps make calorie restriction easier. Oh, and I saw my mom preparing to make her tomato casserole for Christmas dinner. Was it Gipsy Girl that requested the recipe? I'm making a note to get the recipe. I guess I should post pictures of the Island. Yesterday the moon was so big on the horizon that it was really impressive.
(Spellchecking disclaimer - I'm blogging from my mom's computer at home, which has a cable-internet connection. The spellchecker does not come up, so I'm doing my best at avoiding spelling errors. Also, it is unusual to say so casually that I'm blogging from my mom's laptop, as if it's as normal as eating one of her favorite dishes. She's 82 years old and recently joined the internet world. Her brother, my uncle, started a few years earlier and was ahead of us regarding internet use compared to us in our 50s.)


Finding your center

My wise friend Albert shared this everyday dharma piece, which I'm passing on. A version of this word of wisdom hapenned for me while in transit traveling to visit family. I found a chapel at Miami Airport and having some time I spent it in meditation. It gave me a renewed sense of energy and peace.

Your Center (Between Your Bathroom and Kitchen)

It is not merely enthusiasm that erodes when practice declines. Your body and mind go out of tune. You are no longer a vessel of insight. The cardinal can sing; the wind can move the ironwood trees delicately; a child can ask a wise question - and where is your center? How can you respond?

It is time to put yourself back in tune, to be ready for experiences that make life fulfilling. Take up the advice for beginners. Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and your kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you can sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.
Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words


Pranic energy held today

Another amazing day of practice. What a difference in the energy level of the practice it makes to breathe through the nose and not the mouth during practice. I don't remember being tired. I was sore but not tired. At least today it really was yoga chikitsa - healing yoga, since I feel strength and not pain after practice.

In Prasarita Paddotanasa A, Noah suggested I spread the legs more so I could get the head to the floor. I got the head to the floor. Coming back was a slow affair. I felt the outer muscles of the latisimus dorsi pinging as I brought the torso back up. "No fear", I reminded myself. In Supta Parsvasahita, he reminded me to keep the non-extended leg down, pressing it with one hand and pointing the toes. When I did Urdvha Mukha Paschimottanasana, I applied what I learned yesterday of holding the heels of the feet and pointing them. I was able to get the feet way up vertical and touch the chins with my head. In Bekasana I got a great adjustment that really made me feel like an El Coqui frog indeed. The illustration is from this source, Red Lion Stencils.

In Kapotasana, after doing it once by myself, Kimberly asked me to do it again so she could assist me. She instructed not to put the head to the floor when going back, because it does not give space to the arms to move back. She said to gaze at the tip of the nose, arch back, land the hands, push the hands, lifting the torso, walk the hands closer to the feet, push the hands again, walk the hands closer to the feet again, hold five breaths. In B you move the hands back from the feet, then extend them. At this point, as she was observing me, she instructed, "Don't collapse coming back up, don't do anything with the hands, let the strength of the thighs bring you up." Amazingly, the front of my thighs at that moment contracted and brought me up. Wow!

I wanted to thank people who responded to my question on dropping back. I also asked it of Kimberly, whether when I see the floor in dropping back is when I have to extend the arms to break the fall. Her response was great. She said that in reality, one should not be looking at the floor. Concentrate on the dristhe, which is the nose. People who are flexible can drop back with the hands fully extended in the air, but people who are less flexible tend to keep the hands close to the chest in prayer position. You start arching back; the legs are holding you, you are arching the chest, at this point it is okay to bend the legs a bit, but they are still holding you. The moment to extend the arms, and you do it quickly, is when your legs no longer can hold you. So you extend the arms at that point to break the fall. She then assisted me in a dropback in a way that let me feel this falling back. That was cool. She only tightened her hold when I was almost touching the floor, or actually when I touched the floor. I can't remember exactly, but the adjustment really gave me the feel of what I would feel if the teacher had not been there. Focusing on the dristhe of the nose had the effect of taking away the fear of falling.

When I was doing headstand, Noah instructed me to hold the position differently. I was placing the arms sort of in prayer position on the floor. He instructed to weave the fingers together, place the top of the head on the floor, and catch the cranium with the woven fingers. The thumbs help to close the grasp of the cranium. The shoulders need to get closer together. He said I would have to get accustomed to the new weight distribution, but that this way of doing the asana would remove tension forming in the neck.

I had so much fun and learned so much these last three days, that now I feel like a little kid who is sad to say goodbye when going away. Isn't that funny? When I get back from the holidays I might have 2 or 3 more days to practice with them before they leave San Francisco.

Astanga-animation by Jarko Tormanen

The brilliant astanga animation sequence created by Jarko Tormanen.
The embedded video link does not seem to be working, but here is another link.


Question on dropping back in Urdvha Danurasana

I'm putting a question here regarding dropping back by oneself to the floor to land in Urdvha Danurasana. The reason I'm asking the question is because I haven't yet dropped to the floor unassisted. When Kino was giving a workshop here, she said that the moment to extend your arms in an unassisted dropback is when you see the floor, because you just don't hurl yourself back, expecting to find the floor and land. My question is, does that mean that you extend your arms when you see your mat on the floor? In today's practice, we were all oriented in the same direction in the room. When I was arching back to attempt dropping back by myself, I could see the floor of the studio behind me. I don't think I saw my mat, though, which would mean that I need more arching in my thoracic spine. If anyone cares to comment, I'll appreciate it. Thanks. Happy Holidays, while we're at it. This is my aunt's tree last year. I'm looking forward to visiting my family this weekend.


This is my second day of practicing with Noah and Kimberly. Kimberly's instructions today on keeping the pranic energy in should be encapsulated. Many times during the practice she came over and said, "audible ujayi breathing", "breathing you can hear", "close your mouth and breathe through your nose", "when you open your mouth, you lose your prana, your energy." To Honest Abe afterwards she remarked that whenever one undertakes a new physical activity, such as yoga, it takes effort and energy. If you focus on the breath, (with mouth closed), you engage the bhanda action, such that doing the physical effort does not become a chore. If we don't breathe right, we get tired from the exertion, but by breathing correctly, we keep the energy flowing. Wow, that is powerful stuff!

I received an extra nice push while twisting in Marichyasana D. When I was doing Navasana, I received the most complete instruction I've ever received on coordinating the breath during the vinyasas in this position. Let me see, after you do five breaths with the legs extended, then exhale, bring the feet bent towards the torso, don't let the feet touch the floor, inhale, lift yourself, feet included, exhale extend the legs and hands. Keep the ujayi breath flowing. Repeat the asana and vinyasa four more times.

Blue Rose was practicing Third Series seemingly effortlessly in front of me. I acknowledged it mentally, but there was not allowance for distraction. In Urdvha Mukkha Pschimottanasana, I was afraid Teacher would notice that I tend to list to the left because one psoas muscle constrict. But instead she pointed out that I needed to grab the heels of the feet instead of the balls of the feet, then point the toes as you bring the feet to the head. This did have the effect of getting the feet closer to the head. In Pasasana, she told me to remember Marichyasana D when binding, to place one hand on the floor for support while getting the wrapping hand in a good position as in Mari D.

After doing Kapotasana by myself, Noah asked me to do it again in order to help me. I wish I didn't grunt when being helped in it. I don't want to grunt. It reminds me that when Springy Sitarist in Berkeley helps me in Kapotasana, he tells me "no suffering". It also reminds me that Elise wrote while she was in Mysore that Sharath says a lot, "no fear". She mused to herself, "this guy needs new material" because he was always saying "no fear", but she came to realize that it was important to say that. My mind again plays tricks with me and says, "no drama", but that is because I like to laugh. I'm going to remember "no fear" tomorrow, and remember to breathe an audible ujayi breath.


Practice at AYSF today

Getting to AYSF wasn't so difficult after all. The earliest I can get there with public transportation is 6:08am, but that is okay. Getting back was a breeze on Haight, with lots of buses to chose from. This was my first visit to the new studio and it really rocks. I love the practice floor with radiant heating. It not only gives you a warm surface on which to practice, but the room is quiet because it does not need mechanical air. I bet the electrical costs are kept low with this way of heating. I practiced next to a picture of Guruji doing Pincha Mayurasana when he was a boy. What a good symbolism for the youthful energy of our practice.

Noah and Kimberly Williams are teaching here for a month while J. and H. are in Mysore. This was my first time practicing with them. My first Mysore teacher, Reinaldo, moved to Los Angeles when I moved to San Francisco 3 years ago and practiced at Yoga East, where he really enjoyed learning from Noah and Kimberly. They are really kind and nice teachers.

I was greeted by Noah at the door. Soon afterwards, another yogi showed up. It was eeyeore! He recognized me first. It was nice to meet him after all this time. He's a wonderful person. In the room, Honest Abe was practicing. He wrote to me by email yesterday that he was enjoying practicing there this week, although he was a bit sore.

Since this is meant to be a personal journal, here is what happened. I recall another blogger writing about visiting John Scott's shala and asking him, "Should I show you my practice?", to which he replied, "Don't show me your practice. Do your practice." So I decided that I would do my practice, which on a Tuesday would typically be Second Series. I did the full standing sequence. Then I started on Pasasana. I'm getting better at it, but my feet are not exactly fully flat on the floor. I know I was being observed and my mind played a game with me. It became happy when the doorbell rang and Noah had to leave the room to open it. At least one of my sides on Pasasana would not be observed. Frankly, it should not have mattered to be observed. In Krounshasana, he said to press my chin to the lifted leg. I can almost do that on the left side; on the right side my chin is about 3 inches from the leg and my leg bends, thinking it has to jump or something.

I did Kapotasana by myself. Of course, I'm not by myself touching the toes yet with my hands. He asked me to do kapo again so he could assist me. As he was getting my hands closer to the feet, my lower back seemed to be tensing. I relaxed the psoas as much as I could to get a lift. Since he kept helping me get closer, saying I was 3 inches from the toes, I had to verbalize a grumble by saying "it's okay". My spine didn't seem to be bending more today. He instructed me to rest my head on the floor. Then he was able to get my hands within one half inch of the toes. OK, here comes the difficult part. I started setting up for Supta Vajrasana, but he instructed instead to move on to backbends. He said that I should do primary up to Kapotasana until I can by myself touch the toes, and with help of the teacher, touch the heels of the feet. He predicted that it might take me two more years to get my hands to my toes by myself.

I will do as he says in his room. I'm not going to argue with a teacher. This is where one enters that fine line of being a yoga crim if one does not take a certain instruction to the letter in every day practice. I did not know the implications of what he instructed, so as I was getting ready to close the practice, I asked him what I should do the remaining days during my visit to the shala. Should I do half of primary, half of second to kapotasana? He asked me how many years I had been practicing Primary Series. Five years, I responded. He instructed to do all of primary and second to Kapotasana. He added that unless I can get to my toes by myself in Kapotasana, the remainder of second series becomes too difficult. Hmm. OK. Yes, but we know that we don't need to get Kapotasana perfectly to do Mayurasana, or the seven headstands. Kapotasana is a life time project for certain body types. In any case, all of his instruction was given with care, compassion and laughter. He is a great teacher. Since writing is devoid of emotion, I want to verbalize that I am not writing this with resentment. I'm just observing and reporting. Later on he assisted me in dropbacks, which were oodles of fun. He suggested that I hold the forward bend after dropbacks 20 breaths, because of the great amount of backbending I did.

So now, if I may take after Dr. A's wording, I have a variety of practices to suit my complicated life. With one teacher I do half primary followed by half second to Dwi Pada, with another standing sequence followed by second series to Nakrasana, and now today I'm asked to do all of primary and second up to Kapotasana. I agreed to it, as time allows. I suspect that when one is working with a teacher over a long time, for example I've been working with Seven Pointed Lotus about three years, the teacher might allow some variances from the method to allow one to develop a practice that suits one's needs. People who sit in front of a computer all day need to do chest opening asanas to be well. I was really getting sick musculo-skeletally speaking when I was only doing primary, at least in my opinion based on the pain I experienced. It would be interesting to know whether our teachers at AYRI are observing this. When my main teacher allowed me to separate the practice, I was greatly relieved. Another point, and this is a pragmatic consideration, many of us do this practice and then go to work in our careers. I'm going to try doing primary tomorrow and second up to Kapotasana the remainder of the week. But logistically, I need to shower, get on a bus, have some breakfast, and be at the office by 9:00am. Those considerations have an impact on how many asanas you can do starting at 6:08 am. (laugh)

After I took rest in the adjoining room, I showered. As I was getting ready to leave, Kimberly greeted me. She remembered me from we met while waiting in life for a workshop when Guruji was last in San Francisco. I was standing by my former teacher and their former student Reinaldo. I gave her a hug.

C-O-M crunch

This is what happens when one gives in to eating those things the grateful consultants send to the office. My fat ratio yesterday was 47% of calories. That puts me up there with the high fat diet of the Inuks of Alaska, except they don't get the fat in their diets from brownies and cakes. For a westener like me, such a diet cannot be sustained without risk of cardiovascular disease. It does not matter that my total calorie consumption was low. Most of my calories came from eating gak.


Practice on Sunday

Practice in Berkeley today went well. It was nice to see Springy Sitarist before going off on holiday. I did the half primary half second practice. I was surprised at my flexibility since my practice had been spotty this week. But speaking about flexibility, when doing Arda Pada Paschimattanasana, as I was getting the front of my head to the chin, my stomach muscles started contracting. I have no idea why the muscles of the stomach would have to contract in a deep forward bend. It was comical, like a charlie horse reaction in the body, so I patted the area and told the muscles to relax. Maybe the spasm took place because of my spotty practice.

When in Paschassana, by know I've learned so many details from Teacher, that I can set up rather well. He was there to keep me from falling, once from falling forward, once from falling backward, and to help in deepening the twist.

I did Bekhasana and he requested I do it again, during which time he helped deepen the pose. You can feel this pose a lot in the shoulders. The shoulders need to either be flexible or strong, I'm not sure of which, but you surely feel it there. Springy Sitarist comment was to widen my heels while in the pose. After he left, I touched my heels, so as to make a mental connection as to what part of my feet he was talking about. Sometimes you have to internalize this stuff.

I did Kapo by myself rather well. I can't wait until I can touch my feet. It will come after I get more bending in the upper thoracic and cervical spine. Cranky's spine bent beautifully in Kapo, the way it's supposed to, in a video she posted. After assisting in Supta Vajrasana, Teacher asked how my hips were doing after my S-I joint injury. Frankly I felt no pain today at all. I attempted to get into Dwi Pada three times by myself today, each time rolling back to the floor. But on each attempt, I could feel what needed to happen for my body to stay up. My head and chest need to lift, the legs need to be soft and not engaged. The left hand in front helps for balance, the right hand helps to bring the right back behind the left. I think I may be close to getting this position by myself without assistance.

Assisted dropbacks were oodles of fun. Frankly I had not done assisted dropbacks for several weeks since the slight injury. I can't wait to when I can come up to standing by myself. That's a goal for 2008. I wished Teacher happy holidays and won't be back in his shala until January 6th. After the yoga I ate a banana - bran muffin and coffee at the Bread Workshop, located near the shala.


Ashtanga practice and challenges it brings

Perhaps I'm being a bit presumptuous in linking to Alan Little's blog at the side bar of my blog. But isn't he the one to first start blogging on ashtanga? So he's the father of those of us who blog on yoga. With a bow, Alan.

Why, in our ashtanga yoga community, don't people write more about dating and the conflicts with our practice? Is it because some people started their yoga journey already coupled and their spouses became supportive? A lot of fellow writers mention their significant others, husbands, people they are dating, girlfriends, etc. Some people who blog practice with their significant others. What I'm curious about is the difficulties that our practice brings to dating.

I had not given it thought previously because I have not dated in six years. I've focused on career, yoga and meditation. But recently I've become open to dating and find that I'm so rigorous with my work and yoga schedule that it takes an understanding person to put up with me. A date has to finish early. As Boodi says, 8:30pm is already late for an ashtangi. Even people already married or in relationships have to date each other, making time for one another. For those with young children it's even worse, I suppose - too many responsibilities.

I mean, this is not a negative post. An ashtangi shared in a get together that his partner appreciated him more due to his becoming calmer because of yoga. The same would be said of me. I used to display a bundle of nervous energy prior to practicing yoga (read: worry wart.) Now things don't bother me as much. So doing yoga makes you a better partner, husband, wife, girlfriend, significant other, whatever.

Another weird thing about this practice, and maybe this is just tied to being human, is how do you explain that there are people I practice with that I love, others that I adore? There is no sexual implication in this and it does not matter the gender of the person. There are some people that the moment our paths cross my heart seems to expand. Again, this is not about sex or about seeking a relationship in a practice room. Far from that because the practice is spiritual. It may be about finding people with whom you share a lot in common, sort of like family. What do I do when I find myself in front of a loved family member? I drop everything, give a hug as my heart expands. It's sort of like that. Maybe it's just being human. Do dolphins smile at each other and get warm fuzzies when they swim around together in their schools? They are mammals after all. If so, are ashtangis like dolphins?

Another topic of quandary is the whole topic of going to India for extended periods of time, and the toll it takes in relationships and marriages. But this is a whole topic in itself, beyond the scope of this post. I'm talking more about simple day to day living stresses that our practice might bring and how people cope with that.

A unusual thing about me is that if I travel alone, I'll try to find a place where I can practice in the morning and do sightseeing the rest of the day. That might limit the amount of time I have for sightseeing, but I'm the only person I'm impacting. Since I'm an architect, I prefer that the city is one with good architecture. A remote island in Crete would just not do it for me. If I'm traveling with someone, and to a place without a mysore program, I might practice early on my own so that the remainder of the day can be given to joint activities.


I spotted a person eating at the table next to mine at Whole Foods with a dubious combination of food. Would you like some carbohydrates with your carbohydrates? This person was eating a heavily crusted piece of quiche, accompanied by a bisquit, with butter slathered on it, and dessert of a generous piece of carrot cake. OK, I observed that my mind was judging. I ate some mediterranean items - 1 falafel, tabouli, sweet potato and carrot salad, two dollops of guacamole, and dessert of a butter cookie and a wholewheat cookie. I'm no saint. But after 20 minutes of staring in disbelief in the direction of the other table, I noticed that another person in the opposite side of the room was doing the same thing, observing that table and its mindless occupant. That diet probably explains the person's size 45 pants. When I got to the bus stop, a woman asked me, with pain in her face, if I would open her bag of crackers because she had no nails. It was a single serving of crackers that she seemed to receive at the homeless shelter. I opened the package, looked away and pulled $4 from my wallet, intending to give it to her, but she was not asking for money, so I did not offer it. My eyes welled up with tears, and I thought about the contrast to the carbo-loading person I had just seen. The homeless person had more hardship, but was eating more sensibly.


Practice today

I practiced primary to kukkutasana today. It was the last day before Seven Pointed Lotus leaves for India, so it was nice to practice with her as a way of bidding her a good trip. I think I have avoided dropbacks for a week. My concentration was not as strong as it could be. And I may have gained 2 lbs, which makes it more difficult to bind in twists. Today our office's holiday lunch which was a very happy occasion. For some reason, I turned out to be the only one bringing a camera, so it was fun taking pictures of groups of coworkers.


Frosty the Snowman

My talented nephew is studying design. Here is a claymation project he just completed in time for the season. It took 1,500 pictures to make it. Enjoy!

Holiday noshing

This interchange took place in the snack room, were a five gallon tub of holiday popcorn is located today, gift of a consultant. I'm eating my usual 3:00pm snack of 5 carrot sticks and two tablespoons of peanut butter, which tend to end as three tablespoonfuls. A1 is naturally thin. A2 isn't. I work at being thin. This interchange took place with the tone of voices in jest.

A1 to A2: "That's the fifth time I've seen you in here, digging into the popcorn"
A2 to A1: "Yes, but I'm only grabbing half fists-fulls at a time. At least I'm not standing here pretending to be healthy while shoveling peanut butter into my body."
A2 and A1 look in my direction. A1 adds, "He makes it appear healthy because of the carrots."

Yesterday A2 saw me pasting together the print of Matt's CR lab results and thought that, maybe, I was health conscious. Today he's expressing his doubts about my healthy habits. A2 may be right to question my eating habits; he may be a secret boddisatva trying to help me. I would prefer to kick the peanut butter habit. It makes my daily consumption of fat too high, regardless that my total caloric intake is low. Perhaps kicking the peanut butter habit needs to be a goal for 2008.

Schedule upset

My yoga schedule is really affected this week by such a range of circumstances. I intended to go practice today, but in the middle of the night, I was awakenend by the shaking of my apartment's walls and bed. I thought it was a bigger earthquake than the small one of the previous night, which occured while I was blogging. I eventually discovered that the source of the shaking was loud music being played by a neighbor one floor down and one apartment over. I knocked loudly on the door and the dwelller turned the music off. I left a message with security at that time, and this morning prepared written messages to the dweller, with copy to the manager and security person, pasting them on their respective doors. I overslept because I had trouble getting back to sleep after this awakening, hence I missed going to yoga. I will do some stretching here at home.


Medical checkup day

Patrick has an interesting meme in his blog, titled Authorized/Certified Maybe- meme.

Today I didn't practice because I had to fast for my medical checkup. I didn't want to overexert myself and then pass out from practicing. I went to see my doctor armed with Matt's lab tests results. My doctor's jaw dropped at how organized Matt is. It really helped to open a discussion about tests that I should be getting, to establish a base. I didn't have any major health problems to report. But when I explained to my doctor that I hurt my S-I joint in back on my right side doing Yoginidrasana, she asked me to explain the position. I got into dead bug pose on the examining table, then began to get my legs behind the head in order to explain, which resulted in a riotous laughter from her. Actually, I got a similar reaction when I showed a picture of Arjuna doing Yoginidrasana to my coworker to explain the pose. It's a combination of disbelief and laughter. The doctor then shared a funny experience she had in a partner yoga class, where her partner in the class was enjoying savasana so much that she asked her to put her in a box and send her home. She said in response that as far as adjustments for herself, she had experienced enough in the class already. I take it she didn't want to experience the "being sent home in a box" thing.

And now a pretty picture of Ross doing Danurasana.



On the moon day last Sunday I practiced yin yoga. It appears that in Mountainview they are learning a yin yoga version of our practice that is appropriate for a moon day, so I invented one of my own more or less following Paul Grilley's book. Although I've been doing second series practice, today it seemed like a good idea to do primary, because this is a jumbled up week. Before everyone goes on holiday, clients want to button up the progress on their projects, so we're quite busy. We have late deadlines, early morning meetings, etc.

I have been holding bridge before Urdvha Danurasana for about 25 breaths. I like to start bridge with something Kino taught, of holding your sitting bones with your hands. Seven Pointed Lotus had some pointers to make this a better position. Lay on the back, feet bent. Point the toes. Bring the pelvis up into bridge. Bring the hands under the buttocks to support the sitting bones. Pull the arms together underneath. Push the chest towards the head, and the head towards the chest in jalabara bhanda. The scapula of the shoulders should be on the mat, but most of the cervical spine, upwards from the upper thoracic spine should be lifted off the mat, as it should be on shoulder stand and padmasana. It's really a comfortable position. Later on I held UD for about 25 breadths as well and closed my practice.

Maybe my fellow practitioners are wondering what names I came up with for them. (laugh). OK, how about QE2, Marin Man and Bendy Guy? I didn't invent this last name. Another fellow blogger in another city uses it also. I used to refer to A. as Ralph Bender, but he's moved to New York. And now we have the new Orange Blossom, because the previous Orange Blossom wilted away. This is getting silly. Thanks for your tolerance! Really I don't write about other people's practice, unless someone did something unusual that makes me reflect on where I am with the same asana. It may be that I want to do it with as much grace as another person does it, or that I need to recognize that someone was inspired and with a flowing practice one day.

Tomorrow is my annual checkup. It will be interesting to analyze the blood results against the last two years while practicing CR. It's been difficult to be consistent with calorie restriction. There are too many temptations - chocolates and nuts sent by grateful consultants, holiday get togethers that involve eating. L.N. mentioned at our get together on Sunday that she sat at three full square meals one day because each involved meeting people. She is used to eating very lightly, as we ashtangis need to. Peg mentioned last Saturday something along the lines that when you practice CR, it's difficult to eat out if you are accustomed to preparing your own meals. And socializing revolves around eating. Some fellow CRONie bloggers figure out how to eat sensibly in a restaurant. I tend to make mistakes from the point of view of limiting calories when eating out.


Yogamum's meme

Yogamum's meme (and Cranky's, and Laksmi's, and Vanessa's and so on)
1. What were you afraid of as a child?
Becoming morbidly obese.
2. When have you been most courageous?
When I completed a very difficult project.
3. What sound most disturbs you?
Ambulance sireens.
4. What is the greatest amount of physical pain you’ve been in?
Wisdom teeth removal.
5. What’s your biggest fear for your children?
Don't have any.
6. What is the hardest physical challenge you’ve achieved?
Becoming thin.
7. Which do you prefer: mountains or oceans/big water?
I like both, particulary mountains by the ocean.
8. What is the one thing you do for yourself that helps you keep everything together?
Yoga and preparing my own meals.
9. Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer?
10. What are the things your friends count on you for?
Warmth and support.
11. What is the best part of being in a committed relationship?
12. What is the hardest part of being in a committed relationship?
Making time for it.
13. Winter or summer ? Why?
Spring. I grew up in a land of eternal summer.
14. Have you ever been in a school-yard fight? Why and what happened?
Yes. I was being harrassed. My dad suggested I fight back and I did, never to be bothered again by bullies.
15. Why blog?
To learn.
16. Did you learn about sex, and/or sex safety from your parents?
No. My big brother took care of discussing sex. Safe sex information was dispensed by the media in my 30s.
17. How do you plan to talk to your kids about sex and/or sex safety?
Don't have any.
18. What are you most thankful for this year?
My work, yoga, my spiritual life, my family and friends.


Mysorian holiday get-together

Our group of Mysorians at YogaStudio San Francisco got together today for brunch at Samovar Tea Lounge. I posted some pictures to Flickr. The light was wonderful. That's the first time I have posted pictures in Flickr, so we'll see what I learn from doing so. The get-together served as a send off for Seven Pointed Lotus, who is going to Mysore next week until the beginning of February. L.N. and SPL advised Honest Abe regarding his trip to Mysore next February. It seems the group now knows I'm blogging. Teacher thinks the name I came up with is a good rendition. All right. Another fellow practitioner was joking that I would be referring to him as "smelly guy in the corner". He he. Not really. I aim to be kind when coming up with names.

It was nice to discuss with Alpine Hiker, who assists in our classes, regarding my slight injury to the S-I joint in Yoginidrasana a week ago, because she says it has happened to her too. One's back is so rounded in that position, she says, that it is vulnerable when one is trying to lift the chest by pushing down on the legs.

L.N. talked about the time she was at the teacher training with Tim Miller in San Diego and found out about ashtanga bloggers who were talking about their experiences at the workshop. She and another attendee tuned in and found the discussion funny and fascinating. I discussed the benefits to blogging about this practice of ours. Alpine Hiker says that unless we had a gathering like the one today we would rarely have an opportunity to discuss our practice, so she saw the benefit to people discussing what they have learned in their blogs.

By the way, I love Kino MacGreggor and Tim Feldman and I came across this image from a poster for a workshop they gave in Puerto Rico at It's Yoga PR. It's too beautiful not to share. During my visit for the holidays I hope to do yoga a couple of times at that shala in San Juan.

Lunch with fellow CRONie

Yesterday I took the ferry to Sausalito, where I met fellow Calorie Restriction Society member Peg D. for lunch. What a wonderful time we had. We enjoyed a lively conversation, shared laughs and discussed health and nutrition issues. We have been corresponding for three years over the internet, so it was special to meet her in person. Deborah said that I was lucky to be having lunch with another CRONie. One thing about being a member of the CR lists so long is that we recognize that we have a community of interesting and diverse people - a little bit of everything - brilliant, interesting, hard working people, great scientific minds. We rattled off the names of people that we correspond with in the lists. We shared about our families, siblings, parents, her children, her husband, spirituality, Ken Wilber, Vipassana meditation, nutrition, enzymes to consume to aid digestion, where the winds are blowing in the list with respect to cancers, supplementation, foods admitted for certain conditions, foods avoided for other conditions, how to measure blood glucose and its importance as measure of health. Peg also shared a fascinating story about her son's wedding in a traditional Buddhist ceremony in Thailand. You could make a Bollywood film of her description of that wedding. Peg shared how she found the lists through a program that was stating that some Indians eat less and attain longer lives by eating moderately. That led her to find the various calorie restriction lists. Appropriately, we ate at Gaylord India Restaurant, which was right on the water and had the skyline of San Francisco in the distance. It was a bit of a long walk from the location of the ferry, but it was a nice stroll. We shared spinach sag paneer and yellow lentil curry. Two of the pictures shown here are from the restaurant. Peg has a beautiful complexion. She feels she's overweight, but she does not look it.We were appreciative of the people in the list who have helped us in the past both onlist and offlist. We were also grateful for the life-saving articles that are shared there. We found out that we both on occasion share some of the studies posted in the lists with other people. Sometimes we have ended up educating our personal medical doctors. One funny observation Peg shared was how her children, who are my age, observe that they are amazed at the amount of knowledge she has acquired after she raised them. If you've lived 80 years on this globe, she says, you are likely to have been exposed to some information and sometimes some of it sticks. I agree that as I get older my knowledge increases as well. The pictures posted give a bit of a travelogue of the visit.


Buddha's enlightment ceremony

Buddha's enlightenment ceremony was beautiful this morning at Zen Center. I was the last one to enter the Buddha Hall. Writing in my blog this morning made me a bit late getting there :0 I had a little bit of beginner's mind, remembering the first time I went to a service at Zen Center. Back then I kept wondering why everyone was quiet for such a long period of time, why the monks were so serious in their black robes, and what the heck were they saying in those unintelligible chants. Today I wondered at the humor in the abbot holding what looked like Barbie's head with long blond hair mounted on a stick, and what did it mean when he swished it around. The group then started snaking around the temple, conga like, chanting a sutra that we typically chant weekly, except that today it was accompanied by the beating of a giant drum on opposite sides by two monks. Blanche Hartman said in the Dharma talk last Sunday in our sangha that her eyes start tearing when she hears the drums beating in this ceremony. I didn't want to miss the occasion. Several monks had baskets of flower petals and were tossing them the air and at each other, accompanied by occasional bursts of laughter. Maybe Barbie's swished hair was an energy flow generator. After the officiating priests exited the hall, there was more beating of drums and tambourine-sounding instruments, plus clapping from the group.

Yes it's interesting to live in San Francisco. Witness this interchange. While I was eating a ginger biscuit at Whole Foods, a woman left her purse dangling on a chair. I alerted the calorie restricting man sitting next to me. He went around looking for her, but didn't find her. I took the purse, went into the elevator, where a young man with his five year old son looked at me twice to understand why I was carrying a purse, while I asked him why he was returning to the store, since he had finished shopping. I left the purse at the front desk. When I returned to the seating area, the man in the neighboring table said in reference to the lady who forgot her purse, "It's a moon weekend. I can feel the craziness. It's made her be forgetful." Being compassionate, I said, "Yes, I know it's a moon day tomorrow. I do yoga and we don't practice on moon days."

Name that person and that pose

My experiment with made up names for my teachers has run its course. It may have brought some giggles, mostly to a party of one. I may go back to referring to "Teacher Catherine" and "Teacher Vance" when I need to be clear, and just say "Teacher" the rest of the time in a post.

Teacher's advice for this week was not to overdo twists. I didn't bind in Marychyasana D yesterday. The S-I joint area bothered me a bit when rolling to the floor from Upvavistha Konasana. The illustration is of a practitioner in Mountainview. In Baddha Konasana A & B, Teacher suggested I extend the neck and relax the shoulders.

Humangrowth Hormone (HH) practiced with us today again. There's a youthful enthusiasm in his practice. He's also of the body type that does not have to engage in calorie restriction to be slender. When preparing for Bhujapidasana from downward dog, he jumped into Tittibasana, lowered the feet, hooking them as he did the forward tilt that he held for 5 breadths. Then he exited by Tittibasana-Bakasana-jumpback. I noticed the entry because he intented it twice. By the second try I was noticing what all the dramatic jumping was about. Most probably this is the correct way of transitioning into the asana, a la David Swenson in his book.

I asked myself if I could jump into Tittibasana with open wide Konasana legs to land on my elbows. Part of me wants to try it. Part of me wants to file it under the Tim Miller advice that as he grows older he tells himself to not worry about the younger guys. I set up for Bhudjapidasana in the same way as for Tittibasana, getting my shoulders under my legs. I usually do not get enough lift and my feet get stuck on the floor as I try to tilt forward. This jumping into Tittibasana looks like a yahooing cowboy spreading the legs wide while jumping over a horse's back - except the horse in question here is his set of elbows! If I have challenges with jumping into Bakasana B to land on the elbows, I can imagine that landing as HH does would be a challenge for me.

OK, I should be talking about myself but there is one more thing I observed and it's funny. Last week, after the Prasarita Paddotanasanas, HH was doing Hanumanasana on the floor, then did something I'll call squashed bug pose. If I were to make up a sanskrit name for it, Supta Mukha Baddaha Konasana comes to mind. He laid down with the chest on the floor, hand extended forward, feet bent as in badha konasana but against the floor. Ouch. I'm sure it's in some yoga book. I don't think he wore prana shorts, but since it's my brand of choice, I'm calling it out in the illustration.
This morning I plan to attend meditation and Buddha's enlightenment ceremony at Zen Center, where there will be two drums beating during the service. This weekend will be a rollercoater ride of getting together with people.


Joy in Kapotasana

Putting the heart into my yoga practice made today's more meditative and better flowing. Writing a comment on a fellow ashtangi's blog made me a bit late going out of the house, so I forgot to shave. It made me feel funny. When Snow White took a break from her practice I went out to ask her how far to put the sandbags in the Kapotasana modification. About a hand's distance from the feet works well, she said. I tried it and was able to push up the thoracic up comfortably. Then I did the asana without the sandbags and was able to get a good arch back including arching the neck. Seven Pointed Lotus helped me at my second try and said my Kapotasana was improving. (If I did a word analysis on my blog, I suspect that Kapotasana would rank high in number of times mentioned.) I felt joyful today in that asana and in the practice in general.

I was able to do Supta Vajrasana completely today. SPL adviced later to keep both sitting bones grounded on the floor when doing Ardha Matsyendrasana. When doing Balasana (child's pose) after Sirsasana (headstand) she said that Guruji currently teaches that one can leave the hands extended forward in this one. I was putting the hands back towards the feet.

The chapter in Matthew Sweeney's Ashtanga Yoga As it Is on injuries is very helpful. For back pain where the hamstrings join the femur, my current area of sensitivity, he talks about rubbing flaxseed oil on the area. I will have to look for that oil in Whole Foods this weekend. Usually I see it being sold for food preparation, I had not seen it offered as something to apply to the body. Won't my body smell unusual?

I carried my practice from the mat to my work today. I asked myself if it was possible to put my heart into my work. Yes it is, but if I focus on my heart, I'm in for an emotional roller coaster ride. I may be entertaining these thoughts in anticipation of reading our next installment in the reading group, City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos, by Arthur Jeon.

My weekend may turn out most unusual. I may meet fellow CRONie Peg for lunch on Saturday, a friend for a walk later on that day, and our fellow Mysore practitioners for brunch on Sunday morning for a Holiday get-together. The most unusual possibility is that my first Mysore style yoga teacher from Florida, R., has been working on a project in Silicon Valley and may be able to join us at the brunch. He recently went to Mysore for a month. I am thankful for the early knowledge of the practice that he imparted to me - and he did not teach only asanas. He also talked about nutrition, the number of days to practice, the time of the day to practice, etc. I was probably 12 pounds heavier then, four years ago, and imagine the effort he must have expended in helping me get into Karandavasana.



Calling Out to Him
Originally uploaded by govindakai

Sharath in Tokyo, November 07

Govinda's pictures at Sharath's training in Tokyo

Here are some beautiful pictures taken by Govinda Kai at Sharath's training in Tokyo. The photos are located here. I'm posting a few asanas with which I have trouble reaching this level of expression.
Garbha Pindsasana
Bujhapidasana (my feet usually get stuck on the floor before I can get this far forward.)
Janu Sirsanana C (I have to modify because the foot does not bend as much, hence I don't currently grab the toes of the other foot in this one.)
He's starting early in life! Wonderful.

Using the heart to make the practice flow

My body is allowing me to do the second series with less and less modifications. However, I took the getting into and out of poses very slowly. That seems to help so as to not have any jerky motions that could make the S-I joint muscles hurt. I kept in mind something I read in CJ's blog yesterday. She paraphrased something Iyengar said in respect to practice: "when you use the head it's forced, when you use the heart it flows". So I gave it a try feeling the practice in my heart. It actually made me not focus on the current body discomfort in the back and brought joy to the practice.

There's nothing to report on the asanas. I did them the best I could. I did get some extra instruction from Seven Pointed Lotus (SPL) on bakasana (crow pose). I need to get the knees to press against the shoulders as much as possible when setting up. Then when I have lifted, I need to straighten the arms as much as possible and not lose the position of the knee with respect to the shoulders.

I wrote more, but it was silly, so I erased it. Hope everyone is having a good day.


Modified practice Tuesday

When Snow White came into the room to practice I mentioned that I thought I had overstretched the muscles in my back last week when doing Yoginidrasana, when I pushed the legs down with the elbows. I said I didn't know if I should go back to practicing primary, or continue with second series. My practice has been gingerly. She's a physical therapist. She asked me if I had mentioned it to Seven Pointed Lotus (SPL). I said I had mentioned the problem to her in an email. She suggested that I continue practicing and avoid the asanas that cause pain,and modify the asanas wherever I need to do so. Her advice is to continue, but do a modified practice.

After completing the standing poses, it was near the time for SPL to arrive, so I sat outside in order to mention to her personally what was going on in my body. I explained what I thought happened last Thursday. She said that it could be that I overstretched the S-I joint (the sacroiliac joint), the muscles that hold the femur in the socket. It happens to her sometimes and she finds in those circumstances dropbacks help a lot. She added that it's unfortunate when we're excited to have progressed with the practice but then the body needs to adjust. She suggested that I continue with my second series practice, but avoid the leg behind the head poses (Eka Pada, Dwi Pada, Yogidrasana) until those feel right. Later on she helped me in Kapotasana. For Pincha Mayurasana I did dolphin pose, staying on the ground. Maybe I'll do Pincha Mayurasana to its full expression tomorrow, but I did not want to push it this morning.

The rest of the day I felt pretty well, except that in periods of sitting at my desk, the bending forward caused some soreness in the area. Getting up and moving around once every hour helped. That should be a good practice on any regular day anyway, because sitting down without giving the body a circulation break is not good.

Moving on to the subject of being able to laugh at situations life presents us, I've found it funny how some bus drivers like to flush you out of their buses. On Sunday early morning, I was one of two passengers on the bus in Berkeley. The driver must have been anxious to get to his break stop because he was driving very fast. After signaling my stop and standing to gather my yoga mat and bag, I noticed that the door was open as we were still moving to arrive at the stop. I jumped out and then laughed at how I felt expediently flushed out by the driver. Today a driver in SF was in a hurry to get to the next stop, so I turned to the passenger next to me and said, "It looks like he's trying to flush out." We had a good laugh over that.


My secret alias

So I'm going to experiment with new names for my teachers this week. Springy Sitarist led an ashtanga class this morning in Berkeley. Before class I mentioned that last Thursday I did Yoginidrasana lop sided and heard some noise in my lower back on the right side and have been sore in that area. He said it was I probably affected my sacroiliac muscles. I asked him to repeat that name so that I would remember, since I didn't have anything to write the name down. The mind needs a hook with which to remember something, so I called it my "secret alias." He said the sacroiliac muscles are connected to the hamstrings. So it makes sense to me that when I did Yoginidrasana lopsided and pressed the elbows down to lift my chest, I must have pushed down on the hamstrings, which pulled on the sacroiliac ligaments. These are connective tissues linking the bones to each other and stabilizing the joints while at the same time allowing functional movement. So he suggested that I practice as much as I could and when I felt pain, to bow my head and close my practice.

I moved to a corner of the room, practicing behind Motorcycle Diarist, with whom I practiced at Open Door on Sundays for a long time. He's a few years older than me and has been practicing many years. His practice flows impeccably. My practice today was similar to when I was beginning to do ashtanga. Over the years, I've grown more flexible, since it is a conditioning of the practice. But today I practiced gingerly and when flexibility was there, I allowed it, when it wasn't, I moved slowly. By the time we reached Kukkutasana, I was too distracted to continue.

I admit that I was a bit greedy with Prasarita Padottanasanas A through D last week, wanting to get my head as close to the floor. The hamstrings and gluteus maximum need to be loose to allow this. My practice was to get the head to the flat end of a block. But even in just doing that I was being a bit pushy with myself. I guess it will come with time.

Costcoization of shopping

I'm seeing a trend in grocery stores and pharmacies. You don't see price reductions as much. Instead you have what seems like a Costoization of shopping. Buy more at a reduced price. For example, a unit of Oat Milk yesterday at Big American Grocery Store read, buy 2 for $4, regular price $2.79. I don't think this comes from good will. If you decide to buy just one, which is probably what you need, you will have to pay the full price. At first I was falling for this ruse. For example, for small items such as blackberry tubs, I did not mind buying two tubs and eating more blackberries that week. But what happened to just offering buyers a discount for an item, rather than for "buying in bulk"? This is just another example of supersizing in America. I now have my overstuffed shelves filled with extra packages of nuts and canned soups because of this. I repeat myself, I'm not going to fall for this ruse.

Oh, and by the way, here is an example of why Jeff Novick says to never pay attention to the nutrition claims printed in bold on packages. One of the nut packages I bought says, "0 transfats". The may not have been fried in hydrogenated oils prior to packaging, but they are foods that are high in fat.



This cartoon appeared in the Wall Street Journal Editorial page on November 7, 2007. It reminds me of recent discussions by (0v0) and Cody. I hope it's okay to post it here, since it's a cartoon about yoga and...

Moods, questions and observations

The last post may have alerted you that I'm in a bit of a strange mood today. Concerns about my aching back made me forget the details of my weekend routines - such as taking a wallet with me when going grocery shopping, buying all the ingredients I may need for my recipes, getting quarters for doing the laundry. I spent many hours fixing the problems my absent mind caused today. Don't worry, it's not time to call the family for a seance about what to do with me. I'm still healthy and well, if a bit distracted by my discomfort.

On another subject, I would like to state that while I don't put my teachers on a pedestal because they are human and doing so would make them go crazy, I respect them and acknowledge the energy they have. It irradiates when they walk. Which brings up a question regarding a comment by Carl. He says that blogging etiquette dictates that you don't mention a teacher's name in a post. At first, I always wrote, "Teacher said," or "Teacher assisted with" and let people inquire if they wished too know who I was talking about. I go to two shalas not because I'm a difficult person. It evolved like that because two years ago there was a diaspora in our ashtanga community. The big studio where I practiced on Sundays closed. Students moved around following teachers. My teacher went to India for several months. I started going to Berkeley on Sundays. Slowly, several shalas opened with ashtanga programs and I started practicing in a shala during the week, not just on Sundays. But I didn't want to stop going to Berkeley on Sundays. Notice, I haven't mentioned Teacher's names.

If I kept saying in my posts, "Teacher said" you would have to figure out that if it's Tuesday, it must be ______, while if it's Sunday, it must be ________. So then I migrated recently to mentioning the name of the teacher once in the post. Does that sound like a good compromise? I could use initials, I suppose, as in Teacher V. and Teacher C. It would get more complicated such as when we have visiting teachers. Two of mine share the initials L.N. I'm not kidding. (Laugh). And what about when we have certified Teachers visiting?

I don't want my teachers to feel uncomfortable. I don't do yoga for ego enhancement. I do it for health and wellness and for spiritual development. I think my teachers share those values. I blog about the subjects important in my life. My first love, despite that I write more about yoga, is architecture, followed by yoga and nutrition. Vanessa mentioned that blogging helped her development because it helped her to know that other people are going through the same challenges with their practices. So it helps to write about our practice and to read about how others have dealt with their problems. The first yoga blog I ever read was Karen's.

The highlight of my day was a two hour meeting with fellow Buddhists. Among them were people who have dedicated their entire lives to helping others with their spiritual development. I was in august company and you could see the goodness emanating from them - their deep rooted kindness, the great values they espouse.

On a bright physical note, I wrote this entry while waiting for my laundry to wash and dry, reclining on a mat in Cobra pose. That actually shifted some of the body's energy to the upper thoracic and away from the lower right back, where the discomfort is. Thank you mat, thank you floor, thank you teachers, thank you yogis for helping me heal myself.

Pema Chodron says, " 'If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.' If we can practice when we're jealous, resentful, scornful, when we hate ourselves, then we are well trained."

Tittibasana A?

OK, we do Tittibasana many times a week, here beautifully rendered by Nick Beyeler, a famous gymnast and aerobics champion. His website is located here. These three images are from his website. Wouldn't it be a challenge if we also had to do Tittibasana in the air weekly?
Well, I wouldn't want to give our teachers any ideas, or we could be next asked to do something more complicated, such as this "I don't know what you would call it" asana. In his website, under practicing backstage I found examples of Parighasana, Koundiyasana and Trivikramasana, but you could check it out. Amazing strength and flexibility. It reminds me of the Chinese acrobats that can do Vrschikasana while perched atop 17 tables, one on top of each other, on a stage. So maybe these people do yoga as part of their training and have amazing teachers as well.
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