3/31/08

Legacy Rose, right livelyhood

When I arrived to practice, Legacy Rose was in the studio. She had returned from a long vacation in Asia. It's nice to have her back. I had a fairly strong practice of Second series to Tittibasana B today. The Kapotasana has improved a lot thanks to all of the instructions from my teachers. Teacher mentioned something while I was in Urdha Danurasana that was useful. She said to push the shoulders inwards (or upwards) so that they were not popping down and there was a nice uninterrupted upward curve to the shape I made. She emphasized her point by pressing up on the shoulders. It actually took out the pressure off the shoulders that I feel in this asana, and the focus went to the energizing the feet. That makes a lot of sense.

Yesterday the Ven. Robina Curtin spoke about right livelihood, one of the 8 fold paths to enlightenment. A tenement of Buddhism is that when you're by yourself, you watch your mind; when you're with others, you watch your mouth. The components of right livelihood are like a finishing school set of rules so you can graduate to higher levels. They're pretty basic, such as, do not steal. Another way of putting that is, do not take what is not given to you. I kind of applied that principle in the shala today. Rather than doing something different in my routine, I asked permission from Teacher to do it.

Robina also talked about not giving false speech, not saying negative things about others. She mentioned that in her convent, if people have disagreements about something, they talk about it and work it out, but never talk ill about one another behind their back. The implication of talking behind the back is terrible, creating great ill will. It's hard to apply that in the work world; it's so much easier to complain about someone being difficult, a fellow consultant in a team, a client, a coworker, etc. But we should not speak ill of them. You don't know their mind, you don't know their circumstance. Today I applied this. There was more Robina covered, but I remember applying those two principles right away.

3/30/08

Alfia, Berkeley, brunch

This morning I met Alfia and her husband at their hotel in Financial District, and we walked to the Transbay Terminal for an adventurous trek to practice ashtanga in Berkeley. Alfia has good breath concentration and is bendy. Springy Sitarist helped her in some poses that she wanted assistance, such as Supta Kurmasana. Teacher assisted both of us in Badda Konasana. He was telling me to pay attention to how the pelvis should be on the floor, then with the bandhas engaged, the belly goes forward first, then the chest, then the chin towards the feet in A. For B, you go back up, then put your chin in jalabhara bhanda, then in the same order of belly button, chest then head, move towards the feet, bringing the head to the feet. For C you push the chest outward and make the chin go down in jalabhara bhanda.

Teacher remarked that I should not flip the feet any more when transitioning out of upward dog, but slowly fold back over the toes to the right position. (Did I say that clearly? I hope I'm carrying the message. I tend to flip the feet. No can do anymore.)

Although I typically do half Primary and half Second on Sundays, I felt I should do Primary to Kapotasana this week because the busy-ness of my week kept me away from practice. The Pasasana adjustment was really helpful. In Kapotasana, he pointed out to the strength that needs to remain in the legs through the entire asana. Then, think of having a block in between the legs as you lift the chest. That give one a lifting motion. Keep the head looking forward first, while lifting the chest. Then, Kino-style, he had me keep the arms glued together, elbows touching as they where in prayer position over the head. I was arching upwards, but not dropping, hovering. Eventually, after more hovering with good upward arch, I reached the floor, keeping the hands as outstretched as possible. Teacher helped me walk them towards the feet. I was a bit inflexible today, but it felt good.

Teacher helped me to come up to standing in my last UD. He helped in a lot of assisted dropbacks. When doing Paschimottansana, he said the same order as in Badda Konasana should be observed, belly first, then chest, then chin as one folds forward. At that point, because of the intensity of the backbends, the breath is a little heavy, so one has to slow it down. To do that you have to sometimes slow the out breath.

After practice we went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant called Fellini's. The food was super tasty. I had a vegan tofu omelette with pesto sauce and potatoes that was superb. Alfia and V. had different kinds of omelettes. Their visit was a lot of fun. We were able to talk a lot about our practice, our teachers, our fellow practitioners, our community of ashtangi bloggers and yoga philosophy. I learned a lot also about their country of origin, Kazakhstan, which has experienced a lot of development due oil resources.

I must say this was an adventure for us, because it's two buses going, a train coming back to get to the studio in Berkeley at that time on a weekend. Alfia might join us for practice at Yoga Studio SF tomorrow morning, if her conference schedule allows it. That is an easy bus ride from her hotel. Both Alfia and her husband are really kind and interesting. The image is from this source.

3/29/08

Things remembered

if you thought this might be a literary composition, sorry, it's just another one of my laundry soaps entries. it's just that i can sometimes come up with titles such as "a return to normalcy" or "back in the saddle" which sound so promising literary-wise.
there's nothing like doing taxes to tell you where your mind was in the past year. i mean the body was there too, but i'm not sure. here is a sampling of the receipts i had to sort through. i explained to a neighbor who saw me on the floor outside the laundry with papers spread everywhere that it was tax time. "oooh, nasty pile there," was his reaction. it's amazing to see the stuff that was interspersed with receipts. for example this card with a photograph by Kate Kerrrigan, whose photography i've blabbed about previously.
  • a photograph of me in 1979 with huge tortoise shell schoolboy glasses. remember the polaroid cameras? before digital cameras that's how we took these instant photos of ourselves. (ABY I must be really showing what generation i'm from.) i was going to have lunch with a colleague of my graduating class and brought some photos so we could chuckle. i guess the photo ended in the tax receipts pile because i have the receipt for the lunch there. i may not keep this photo online too long. at least i had a nice smile (thanks to my parents and our family orthodontist.) is that a hair dryer coming out of my ear? we did wear longer hair in those days.
  • my accountant's card (of course, where else would i find it except at this time?)
  • 4 cards of my Chinese massage therapist. no comment.
  • a receipt for a book on architect Geoffrey Bawa and one on ashtanga yoga. actually, those two things are not so far removed. Bawa practiced in Sri Lanka, and our yoga stems from nearby India.
  • countless receipts for vegan cookies from Segafredos. that company must know i think their vegan pecan cookies are the bomb. the other day i went to get one and if i remember correctly there was a sign posted next to them that said, "healthy choice, lower in saturated fat". they must know there is a health-nut calorie-restricting blogger in town who thinks highly of their product.
  • a mailing from a local organization called SPUR asking me, "Do you love San Francisco?" Of course. "Then help shape our city's future." yes, thank you. i have been doing that. and your organization is great.
  • a receipt for a stay at a 4-star hotel in San Diego for $93.45, thanks to purchasing it through Priceline. gotta like that online service.
  • a receipt for 4" exercise balls. they're helping my SI-joint area.
  • a card focusing on a painting by Gustav Klimt, which i bought for a dear cousin. (notice the wrapper?) she and her husband got married one July the 4th and because of its date it's the one anniversary in the family that i remember. except i forgot to send the card last year. note to self to send it this year.
  • among the receipts are countless grocery lists, or notes of importance, such as this one, "Brahmins don't eat onions or garlic as they inflame the base instincts." ok dokey. i'll still sneak it in powdered form into my soups once in a while, since they're healthy.
  • i know what Dove dark chocolates are, as well as Tide Ultra. but what is PLST Basket? I don't think i want to know. and why did i buy an $8.63 steamer? what is that?
  • there are several articles i thought i should preserve, such as one for office chairs and one on how to prevent airlines miles from vanishing. HA! who sold us on airline mileage? it's like green stamps. but that is another story for somebody else to blab about.
  • a yellow sticky note reminding me to schedule the colonoscopy. oh, yeah, i can't wait. actually, that note, and the name and phone number of the doctor i need to call has shown up in my tax receipts the second year in a row. my primary care physician must be a patient person :)
  • one adult trolley ride receipt. there are many adult labeled receipts - all "g" rated - and related to transportation.
  • an invitation to my friend Phillip Wade's art exhibit. it's amazing to see how his style in painting changes over the years. with the card came a story. the man in the painting accumulated too many things in his apartment; one day he lost his balance and got stuck among his possesions. it took him six hours to extricate himself. Phillip said the lesson learned from that is that we should not hoard things.

3/28/08

Squirrels

For Laksmi, of Yoga Squirrel Cage fame. April pointed out in her blog that Mary blogged about the squirrels around her house, and linked to a video of one which is not calorie restricted. (Since I wrote that, laksmi has created a new, lite version of her blog. She's put her squirrels on a diet.)
Oh, and Krista is on her way for an extended stay in Mysore, so stay tuned for upcoming interesting blog entries. In other news, I have to do my taxes. Waaaah! (I'm beginning to understand why cats meow and dogs bark. It's the universal greediness for love and attention, or maybe it's just plain hunger.)

What is anger?

Ven. Robina Courtin is speaking at our Sangha this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it. She is really energetic and inspiring. When she talks, it feels as if she discussed with the Buddha the previous day what she was going to present, and it's presented clearly with his approval. This is an excerpt on the subject of anger from an article in Mandala, which my wise friend Albert sent me.

What is Anger?

A perfect question. And the perfect answer, which I heard from a lama, is: "Anger is the response when attachment doesn't get what it wants."

But how to get to the bottom of this? How to go beyond its being a cute saying? Lama Yeshe is not kidding when he says that we need to be our own psychologists. You could argue that we're
not really Buddhists until we work on our minds.

This is logical. In the second of the Four Noble Truths, Buddha asserts that the two main causes of our suffering are our past negative actions and our deluded states of mind. These two subsume into one, the delusions. Because of these negative states of mind, we act inappropriately by harming others, thus sowing the seeds of our future suffering.

Given, as Buddha points out in the third Noble Truth, that we can be free of suffering - thank goodness! - we need to cut this cycle of madness. In relation to the two main causes, there are two main practices to be done.

The most urgent, as Lama Zopa Rinpoche points out, relates to the delusions: Initially, at the very least, don't respond with negativity. (The second is to stop the seeds we've already planted from ripening as suffering; this is called purification.) But the real practice begins when we learn to identify the neuroses and remove them.

All states of mind fall into three categories: positive, negative, and neutral, but how to distinguish them? It's not easy.

First of all, we're not educated to look into our minds.

Second, we only notice we're angry when the words vomit out of the mouth; or that we’re depressed when we can't get out of bed one morning.

Third, even if we do look at our feelings, often we can't tell the difference between the positive and the negative: they're mixed together in a big soup of emotions - and a puréed soup at that.

Fourth, we don't think we can change them: they're so concrete, so real; we even think they’re physical.

And anyway, fifth, who wants to look into their mind? It's not my fault, is it? I didn't ask to get born! This is how we all are! What am I supposed to do about it? Everything conspires against our doing this job that Buddha recommends...

Ven. Robina Courtin

yin practice the morning after

Sorry that my practice notes haven't been that interesting this week. I did yin yoga poses this morning for an hour at home. I had to attend a function last night led by a consortium of Italian furniture manufacturers who are interested that a group of designers from the Bay area and from Miami visit the furniture manufacturers' plants north of Milan in a month. It was a pleasant event held in a hotel, but staying up late eating mozzarella and tomato salad, and cannoli late at night didn't help with getting up at my usual time. There was a lot more food in the buffet, but we CRONies prefer to stop eating earlier in the day, and the vegetarian choices were mostly pastas. Alfia and her husband are visiting SF this weekend and we plan to practice together on Sunday. I was hoping to have a strong practice week, but life intervened. I'm not sure I will be doing my usual half-primary, half-second Sunday routine, since my body is not as pliable this week. Cheers.

3/27/08

Home practice with Egypt on my mind

I practiced yoga one hour at home, doing the essential standing asanas and the closing sequence. It's all I could get to today. I received the postcard with the image shown here; it is too charming not to blab about it. It is for an offer by Architecture Studies for fourteen days of travel-study in Egypt to visit the Pyramids at Giza, The Temples at Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel, the tomb of Tutankhamen, the Valley of the Kings, Islamic Cairo Mosques, Djozer Stepped Pyramid, sail the River Nile and witness authentic Middle Eastern dancing. I guess the dancing has to be authentic if you're witnessing it at the place, with local dancers. Sounds fantabulous. Here's the website. I want to go to all of the other places mentioned in the website too. Waaaaaah!

3/26/08

Wazzup?

I've been super busy with deadlines this week, so I've been unable to practice two days in a row. I hope to return to practice tomorrow. My sister in law sent these pictures. She and my brother are visiting for the second year in a row a nature preserve in Southern Argentina where they can see wild animals up close.

3/24/08

breath, soreness, floaty

i went to practice today and did primary series. Seven Petal Lotus asked me to make my breath more audible while assisting me in Triang Mukka. Yes, I really needed to manifest that ujayi breath. Newbie Girl practiced on my right and said that she hurt all over (shoulders, back, neck) and might begin crying, but that it was all in her head. i asked her if she practiced yesterday. she had not. i said that i practiced yesterday and i was sore myself but i was practicing anyway. she managed to practice pretty well, in my observance. she's bendy and can get her head to the floor in the Prasarittas. i wished i could have offered more advice. our practice can be challenging at times. Chairman Green practiced nearby in a mat that goes from here to eternity. you can't predict when it's going to be all of a sudden packed. we seemed to have some wisitors and most regulars coming to practice today.

Teacher assisted in dropbacks, reminding me to land with arms straight; if i bend them when dropping back, she warns, i'm going to land on my head. yikes. my handstand was floaty for the first time.

3/23/08

bunny, practice, chocolate

the birds don't seem to accompany me any more on the bus to Berkeley on Sundays. it was quiet in the bus. as i boarded the second bus, a woman dressed in an enormous gold colored mumu, with a flowing jacket in a contrasting color, carrying a huge basket with green crepe paper in it, and wearing a humongous wrapping of fuscia tulle fabric as a headdress stepped out of the bus. i'm sure i just witnessed the Easter bunny.

i practiced half primary, half second to Dwi Pada. i practiced next to Mountain Biker, whose practice is strong, and breath is always really focused. in Pasasana, it is easier to start by not crouching all the way to the floor, so the feet touch the ground. feet together, heels down, release the stress from the arm that is going to wrap, bring it way down towards the floor then behind the knees, wrap, lift the sitting bones up as you twist back. those were Springy Sitarist's instructions. In Salabasana, he pressed the feet together as i was lifting them up. he helped a lot in Kapotasana. i was remembering Bindifry's suggestion to keep the front of the feet firmly on the ground. i had set up the feet about shoulder's width apart, or so i thought. teacher suggested trying placing the feet closer together. that was really interesting. again, i remembered Bindi's suggestion to not worry so much about pushing the pelvis forward, but lift the chest up and arch back. Teacher was saying the same: lift the chest, relax the neck (the thoracic spine), relax the back. he helped keep me somewhat high off the ground, so that i could walk the hands closer to the feet at the same time. then he instructed to straighten the arms a lot. when coming up, he instructed "knees together" - which i think relates to the inward rotation you need in the thighs so that they will bring you back up. In Supta Vajrasana, he adjusted by standing on my knees. i was able to go up and down without any trouble in keeping the bind.

i felt a little self conscious in that he was observing my Bakasana B, so i was really hoping not to miss landing correctly. yesterday i read that acorn did Bakasana B last week one day 10 times so he could get the landing correctly. ouch. i'm not sure i would have had the same energy today. the instruction i head from Teacher was that after landing, the heels of the feet should touch.

my Eka Pada Sirsasana on the left side was it's usual stubborn self. there was some instruction in setting up that is interesting. the foot of the extended leg should be flexed, while the foot of the leg that you are going to bring behind the head should be pointed. i think once the leg is behind the head, whether it's in the single leg or double leg version, the foot does not have to be flexed any longer. you do a backbend motion with the chest and neck, arching backward once the leg is behind the head. i had pretty good balance in setting up for Dwi Pada, but needed assistance in getting the right foot behind the left foot, once it was about 12 inches away from my head. that is about my current self capability on this pose. once in the pose with Teacher's assistance, he instructed to do a backbend, bringing the chest out and the neck back. he instructed to listen to the breath, to keep the breath really intense. i think that is what i remembered most of what he instructed, because my nervous system was running a bit high. he also let me balance by myself a little bit with the hands in angeli mudra before i transitioned out of the pose.

in assisted dropbacks, Teacher has a way of assisting where you almost feel he's not there and you're doing it by yourself. he suggested landing on the fingers. again, chest pulling up, feet firmly planted. toes in, heels out, exhale going back, inhale coming back up. after some dropbacks, short ones with the arms closed, it was dropback again, waiting five breaths, rest on the head, lift, walk the hands in, straight arms, legs rotating inward, coming up. today i floated up. during Paschimottanasana, he instructed to slow down the breath, paying attention to the in breath and out breath and slowing it down.

it's easter. these days i'm more apt to celebrate Buddha's enlightenment, than the Lord Jesus' resurrection. but hey, Jesus and Buddha are friends. i enjoyed a gooey fudgey chocolaty brownie with coffee after practice. i will resume my CRON afterwards.

3/22/08

dreams, ecstasy, laundry

it would have been nice to join the monks for meditation at Zen Center this morning but too many commitments today made me decide to meditate while doing laundry. So it was not "after the ecstasy, the laundry" (in the words of Jack Kornfield) - but an attempt to meditate while putting clothes in the washer, transferring them to the dryer, taking out the ling from the machines and sitting and waiting, meditating. there must be a cliche in there somewhere. Eeyore could come up with loads of them...

speaking of lint, Alfia dreamed two nights ago of being accused of being a lint owner. i hope she finds coins among the lint, or a folded $100 bill. which brings me to my dream last night. i dreamt I was in a seaside place with white sandy beaches where there were majestic pools of deep blue water. i was enjoying taking dips in various lagoons. but in the beach there was an unruly homeless person, taking things and screaming. i had to get out of the water to subdue him by tying him to a beach lounge chair with a rope. i was careful not to choke him, as he was giving a lot of resistance. i waited by his side for the authorities to arrive.
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the pools and vistas in the dream are opportunities i see. the bum is myself- the unruly part of me that needs to be disciplined so that others and myself can enjoy the peaceful place. (in this context it could mean doing my taxes, self training in software, finishing making recommendations to a friend who asked me to review a vacation house someone else designed for him - stuff that distracts me from my day to day agendas. ) The first image is from the fossils site mentioned earlier. The last image is from Socotra, l'isola incantata, e un vero Paradiso.

3/21/08

local cast members of CYT

i didn't observe the moon day. my practice had been sporadic recently and i needed to practice. teacher provided great adjustments, helping me get to the fullest expressions of some asanas, where just a little push will get me deeper in a pose. i felt really bouncy when walking out of the shala.

my mind kept racing during practice with thoughts about what i wanted to write. i kept saying to myself, "oh, that's a planning thought." but the brain continued. so i wanted to dedicate this post to the local cast members of CYT - those fellow practitioners with whom i practice here in the Bay Area and who I have named in the blog. (shout out to my cybershala mates - i love you as well.)

while my mind was coming up with the story, Moustache Blanc slipped in a jump through, kind of thumping and sitting quickly on the floor. he looked flustered as teacher asked him what happened. i could not help but giggle and teacher was making light of it as well. i myself was a clown a few times. when jumping through, if i don't lift correctly, i will drag my mat so that it will roll up halfway on the floor. i apologized to Moustache Blanc later for giggling at him, but he hadn't noticed. he said he was missing his core strength in finishing poses.

so here's the list. practitioners that i've named and are still practicing with us: Quiet Strength, Surfer Guy, The Writer, The Cyclist, El Crucero, Flakita, SnowWhite, QE2, Tommy Telomere, Smiling Jim, Roy Rogers, Dale Carnegie, Humangrowth Hormone, The Agent, Periwinkle Petals, Banda Girl, Marin Man and Pink Tulip.

practicing at other shalas, for varying reasons: Honest Abe, Horseback Rider, The Skier, La Margarita, Motorcycle Diarist and Eeyore. Moved to another city: Ralph Bender, Mark. haven't seen in a while: Windmill Captain, Legacy Rose, La Espanola, Fluid Motion and Yellow Canary. possibly practicing at home: Ironman, who has taken up swimming lately, and Kool Keds. whereabouts unknown: Flowering Willow and Orange Blossom.

who do I miss most and why? Ironman, because of his awsome strong practice - it energized us all; Honest Abe because of his strong, inspiring, dedicated practice, Legacy Rose, because her Prasaritas rock and I just love the name Legacy Rose; Horseback Rider, because of his fearlessness in pushing for poses we haven't tried yet.

note: Laksmi came up with the name Flakita; I just borrowed it because there is one here too. i haven't found the need to call anyone Michelin Man, thank goodness. And I hope Carl LeFlanc (is that his Goddess-given name?) doesn't find the need to refer to me as Jules, the Cruise Director. really, i'm shy - i don't know that many people.

Anna's meme, Patrick's meme, etc.

1. What is your occupation?
Architect yogi philosopher businessman
2. What color are your socks right now?
None, i'm at home
3. What are you listening to right now?
Muni buses, the ocassional trolley, and a fan circulating
4. What was the last thing that you ate?
Pumkin seeds
5. Can you drive a stick shift?
Yes
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Red
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
My friend ana
8. What's your favorite yoga pose?
Headstand
9. How old are you today?
51 1/2, but i'll be 52 soon.
10. Favorite drink?
V8
11. What is your favorite sport to watch?
As Patrick said, do yoga videos on YouTube count?
12. Have you ever dyed your hair? If so what color?
I may have experimented with one of those do it yourself kits once years ago.
13. Pets?
On my screen, a hamster.
14. Favorite cake?
Carrot cake, of course
15. Last movie you saw?
Elizabeth, the Golden Years
16. Favorite day of the year?
December 25.
17. What do you do to vent anger?
Do yoga.
18. What was your favorite toy as a child?
Scale models of construction tracktors
19. What is your favorite, fall or spring?
Spring
20. Hugs or kisses?
First hugs, then kisses.
21. Cherry or Blueberry?
Cheery and blueberry.
22. Do you want your friends to respond?
If they have time.
23. Who is most likely to respond?
Oh, you mean to this meme?
24. Who is least likely to respond?
Oh, you mean to this meme?
25. Living arrangements?
Apartment in SF
26. When was the last time you cried?
When somebody died.
27. What is on the floor of your closet?
Shoes.
28. Who is the friend you have had the longest?
An artist in Texas and someone who develops houses in Colorado.
30. Favorite smell?
Sandalwood
31. What/who inspires you?
Talent/I.M. Pei
32. What are you afraid of?
-
33. Hamburgers?
No.
34. Favorite car?
Mini Cooper
36. Number of keys on your key ring?
8
37. How many years at your current job?
2 1/2 years
38. Favorite day of the week?
Sundays
39. How many states have you lived in?
6, plus the Island I'm from.
40. What’s your dream job?
I work at work, dream when asleep.

3/20/08

primary practice good

i practiced at the shala today, primary practice. breathing and focus was good. Seven Petal Lotus observed that in marichyasana B it's better to get the feet wide, the bent knee open to the side to get a better reach to the mat with the head. she helped me get to a fuller supta padangustasana today.

i think it's best not to worry if my sleep is interrupted. it does not mean i'm not getting rest. worrying about being awake is worse than actually being awake. also, it's not an excuse to not get up to go to yoga.

SPL adjusted Snow White for Supta Vajrasana by only placing one food on her bound feet. Snow White had enough counter balance to go up and down. It was my only non-dristhe moment today.

3/19/08

disruptions of different kinds

i practiced 45 minutes at home - standing sequence and closing sequence. at least that is what SKPJ recommends should be the minimum. wrote an email to teacher explaining my absence from the shala this week. i would like to get my yoga groove back. sniff! any suggestions from cyber shala mates for getting the groove back are welcome.

after reading alfia's blog, i see that other people experience difficulties with sleep. noises abound where i live and they tend to interrupt the deep part of my sleep. then when it's time to get up, i go back to sleep. frankly there is no excuse for me, since i've been at this place almost a year and during that year was disciplined in getting to the shala. i respond much better to my regular work obligations when i have practiced well. when i don't practice well, i feel like mr. cranky and might explode in anger at least once over something at work. funny, right? because i'm really even keeled most of the time.

there are demonstrations all over the city on the 5th anniversary of the war. it's disrupting public transportation and there are busloads of police being dispatched to demonstration sites. the media and the police were notified in advance that there would be demonstrations. however, since no permits were issued, they are considered acts of civil disobedience. the image is from this wonderful site on discovering fossils.
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these are the Buddha's keys to right speech, which were presented to us last Sunday: "Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five? It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."

3/18/08

Answer to a readers email

Alert! This blog entry is longer than 3 paragraphs. Skip if prone to head collapse from over-reading. I'm having trouble with steadiness with my yoga practice, although not with my practice of calorie restriction, or, at least, with meditation. so i dedicated my practice time this morning to answering the following email from a reader.
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"I was wondering if you could do a post that summarizes what your CR eating lifestyle is. Like, a typical day, then a typical week, including the types of things that trip you up. I am intrigued by this lifestyle, and could never see myself doing it because I assume that it involves an all or nothing mentality. Or I did assume that until I started reading your blog. Now, reading your blog, I start to wonder if one could be CR on a partial or even a part-time basis. I wonder if that is what my lifestyle is, to some extent! I try to eat as few calories with as much nutrition as possible. But I do pop the occasional chocolate. I will occasionally eat a bowl of popcorn or a handful of cookies ... I hope at some point you are inspired to explain what your CR lifestyle is and means to you."
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hi, i thought i'd answer that email by posting an excerpt from it. at least you're not asking my CR history, which i think i've written about already, but what my typical day or week is like and what CR means to me. CR means to me choosing better, more nutritious foods to eat. recently i have observed that i'll get an urge to eat, maybe stemming from hunger, or just have appetite in the middle of the day. in the past i might grab a cookie. these days i ask myself, could i just have two tablespoons of peanut butter and a small V8 juice? when i do this i find that i satisfy the desire to eat and do not ingest empty calories. if i eat the cookie, which i sometimes do, my weight will fluctuate in the morning.

on a typical week day, i start the day eating some fruit and nuts. then i go to yoga practice. when i return i prepare a guar gum pudding with 1 1/3 cups of liquids (kefir, pomegranate juice, oat milk and water), 1 teaspoon cocoa and 2 teaspoons whey protein. the guar gum mix is one teaspoon guar and 4 teaspoons micronized fiber.

in the middle of the morning i might snack on half a banana, or two tablespoons of peanut butter and a small V8. i usually drink one big cup of coffee in the morning. at lunch i consume about 200g of my own healthy raw vegan pate. right now it's a kitchen sink pate that has yellow pepper, artichokes, black eye peas, carrot, sweet potato, tahini, nayonaise and spices. i add two tablespoons of commercially prepared hummus and sprinkle green cracker crumbs on top. I got into sprinkling the crumbs because the crackers, which are from Lydia's Organics, are expensive, but the same company offers crumbs as a seasoning, and they are a little less expensive. the crumbs contain dehydrated onions, celery, carrots and salt. dessert is another guar gum pudding.

in the afternoon i might snack on some additional peanut butter and have some tea. dinner is almost always soup. when i don't have a lot of time i prepare a simple soup of one can of pumpkin puree and one cup of vegetable broth, with lime and garlic powder and onion powder. recently i got into making a cauliflower soup, where i also add tomato sauce, carrots, peppers, lime juice and vinegar to make it sweet and sour.

i basically am fine with repeating my eating style for 4 or 5 days a week. some people can't do that. if you're going to repeat what you eat, then your staples need to be highly nutritious foods. after many years of reading the nutrition lists, i'm now familiar with foods that are highly nutritious, so i try to include those weekly.

on weekends i might substitute for lunch a bowl of rice (half white and half brown rice - because this mix is faster to cook that all brown rice.) to that i add two tablespoons of hummus and pumpkin seeds. when i shop for groceries on Saturdays i usually have two cookies from whole foods - a vegan whole wheat one and a butter thumbprint. I also might have a brownie or Starbucks oatmeal cookie that day with coffee. on Sundays after yoga practice i have a muffin with coffee. the remainder of my diet is similar on both days. what i'm saying is that i might consume more carbohydrates on weekends. and if i get together with friends, i might eat out, consuming something vegetarian. but basically my diet is usually a variation of the diet during the week. i sometimes like to make a meal out of 6 low fat mozzarella string cheese sticks.

what trips me up? drinking wine make me lose control. if i get emotionally bent out of shape for some reason, i will go take it out on a piece of carrot cake. unfortunately, one package of Bristol Farms cake serves two people, and that might be what i eat. luckily i don't do that too often. or i might take it out on three cookies. my favorite ones are vegan pecan shortbread cookies from Segafredos and a vegan chocolate cookie, also from Segafredos. another thing that trips me up is not preparing my foods on Sundays or at the latest on Monday evening. then i will end up substituting the rice bowl at one of the meals until i can get my soups and pate ready.

i don't think this is an all or nothing eating style. it's making better choices. it's picking yourself up when you've tripped up and starting again. chocolate is healthy - dark chocolate that is. when you add milk to chocolate, you inhibit getting the nutrition that you could get from the chocolate. you can get the benefits from cocoa, which does not have sugar added. popcorn is also not bad for you, except if it is overly buttered and too salty. however, don't expect a lot of nutrition from it. i know of someone who had a gastric bypass operation and tends to eat a lot of popcorn. she's been occasionally anemic from lack of proper nutrition. and cookies? well, you know how i feel about them already.

on a typical day my caloric intake is 1500 calories. i keep track of it with nutrition software. you can google Cron-o-meter and download it for free. there are other software packages out there. i've used Fitday, Nutribase and others. if i slip, i enter what i ate into the software as well. it helps develop an awareness of what happens to your body or to how you feel when you have overeaten junky food. then you can redirect the next day. since i'm vegetarian, i supplement, although not daily. the current thought is that you should get your nutrition from the foods you eat. vegetarians need to supplement B12, zinc, iron and others, so i supplement those a few days a week.

what does my CR practice mean to me? it's just another practice, like yoga, like meditation, like work. you do it, it helps you and it helps others.

3/17/08

home practice, yin poses, mrs antioxidant

i practiced at home this morning, doing passive stretches, the standing sequence, seated yin poses and the closing sequence. that's an improvement from my tendency lately to not practice on Mondays at all. i try to understand myself and my practice at times. why do i sometimes skip? other times i just go with the flow. my mom, in response to my recent post about she and my dad signed an email, "Mrs. Antioxidant." hehe.

at our Buddhist sangha yesterday, the speaker, a nun in the Tibetan tradition, spoke on right speech. the gist of it was that what we say has to be useful and has to be true. she gave a lot of examples of what would be considered right speech given circumstances (for example raising your voice so that children can pay attention) and wrong speech (being gossipy, speaking in a hurtful manner.) Friends of Squirrels and Frogs sent the attached image.

3/16/08

berkeley assisted sleep

i practiced in berkeley today. since i missed practice on friday, i decided to have a strong practice with the full primary and second series to Kapotasana. teacher was out of town; E. substituted. she does a wonderful assist of Triang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimattanasana. she assisted in a few others and in dropbacks, where she commented that when coming back i need to lead with the chest and make the head come up last. the trees are flowering outside the shala. i fell asleep on the BART ride back.

3/15/08

Nuts! - their antioxidant properties

A recent study analyzed the health benefits of nuts (PMID: 17125534) (people will have to forgive my editorial interventions in this summary.) antioxidants have a role in protecting our cells. diets rich in fruits, vegetables and unrefined cereals have a role in protecting us from cardiovascular disease. nuts are among the plants that are rich in antioxidants and are most nutrition-dense. tree nuts such as walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest amount of antioxidants. peanuts (a legume) also contribute to dietary antioxidants. most nuts contain fat (pecan 70%, macadamia 66%, Brazil nuts 65%, walnuts 60%, almonds 55%, peanut butter 55%.) most have good protein in the 10-30% range. the image is from this nut health website.

oxidative stress is the accumulation of damage to molecules that threaten their normal function. it contributes to all inflammatory diseases, ischemic diseases, cancer, neurological diseases, alcoholism, smoking related diseases and others. basically nuts act as antioxidant defense in our nutrition. they prevent radical formation, removing radicals before damage occurs. they contain detoxifying enzymes with complicated names like catalase, glutathione, peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, quinone reductase. i feel like stopping there, but wait! there's more!

plants that induce detoxification include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, ale, cauliflower, carrots, onions, tomatoes, spinach and garlic. (so why do some yogis avoid onions and garlic? hmpf!) it appears that all their antioxidant properties and vitamins are due to the "quenching of excited molecules that may be formed during photosynthesis." boy, i'm bowled over already about eating food that have excited molecules. i want to stop there. but wait! there's more!

there are phenolic compounds, and flavonoids, lignans and lignins. yumm! wine has some of those. plant phenols are antioxidants because they have hydrogen donating capabilities. seriously, i want to hug a cauliflower when i go to Whole Foods today. muah! i know the produce people will understand. i have to stop here. but wait! there's more. i'm hyperventilating.

there is an antioxidant network! OMG, these cells get together and recharge neighboring antioxidants. "Hey pal, how are you? Let me help you out there. I'll take your flavonoid and synergize it with my vitamin C and E." (isn't that why yogis practice together? we're cells in the universe.)

The study says that, "The human body, its tissues and organs, cells and macromolecules, consists of phases with a range of physical variables, anatomical subdivisions, and water- and lipid-soluble phases. Within these phases, and at interfaces between phases, there are numerous chemical variables, such as pH, ionic strength, osmolality, electrical charge and chemical concentration. These variables influence the ability of the phases to act as solvents for lipid- and water-soluble antioxidants. "

hello? hello? are you there? i only get the gist of what that means, but it's kind of fun to think of our bodies as consisting of "phases of variables" i love these complicated word constructs. these scientists are capable of inspired writing. they're saying we're in constant change. we learn that in Buddhism, and it relates to architecture, physics, etc.

OK, there are like 8 more pages to this study and i'm getting dizzy from excitement. (not entirely, i have to wait for the clothes to dry.) go read the study yourself at PubMed. in the meantime, besides nuts, other foods rich in antioxidants include, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, dark chocolate, red grapes, orange, red wine, filtered black coffee, green tea and black tea. gee, a lot of these are already in my diet!

go snack on some nuts on me. don't worry about the fat content. those fatty acid profiles have a role in protecting your heart. Jenna, (0v0), Karen and all my other friends, if i haven't lost you already, here's my loving kindness prayer for you:

may you be happy
may you be healthy
may you be normalipemic
hugs!

3/13/08

A love as enduring as Lipton Tea

in yesterday's mail there was what seemed to be a card from my mom. hmm, it's not my birthday yet, what could this be, i thought. I opened it and there was a side of a Lipton tea cardboard box, claiming "approved bestlife" with "protective antioxidants". behind it was a picture of my parents at the party that celebrated their engagement in the summer of 1946. it's such a candid snapshot that it is really endearing. my mom must have been 21 and my dad 22 when the picture was taken. they were introduced to each other when they were 16 and 17 by my aunts; my father's sisters were close friends of my mom's sister. (one of my father's sisters and her hubby are in the background, my mom's mother on her left. since first writing this, i found out an aunt took the picture.) If there ever is a medal for "bestlife", my parents would deserve one, and their love for each other certainly has the quality of "protective antioxidants".
my parents won't mind my sense of humor. i got it from both of them. it's kind of a dry sense of humor, you know, the kind you need to add water to for the full effect? below is a recent picture of them. how cute, they're matched in red. also, my mom is serving vegetable snacks - full of antioxidants. and my father seems to be holding a tool, about to fix things.

Second, UD, deranged man

i practiced Second Series to Eka Pada Sirsasana today. because it had been two weeks since my last confession, wait, two weeks since the last time i did Second Series, i was amazed that i did it fairly well. not having practiced it in a while made me pay more attention to form, dristhe and breath. at Bekasana teacher remarked that i arched the arms correctly and strongly. in Kapotasana, with her help i got close to the feet, plus also i concentrating in pushing the hips forward, to get more lift. teacher assisted on Eka Pada Sirsasana on the left, my usual tight side. during Urdhva Danurasana, i started putting into effect Elise's suggestions for coming up that she wrote in Elaina's blog. i told teacher that i was coordinating the breath with the rocking motion, as i prepared to come up to standing. she assisted in the lifting up to standing, where she said i really needed to engage the quads. mine were kind of soft there. then i gave attention to the quads, and to weighing down the feet and ankles as i dropped back with her help.

on the bus ride back there was a deranged man spitting at us in the back while chanting hatred rap. it was directed to a specific group of people, but soon his hatred words spread to the entire city. he almost engaged in a fight with a man who told him to stand back. i called MUNI to report a problem on the bus, while another person called 911. in his schizophrenia, the deranged man chanted, with insults, that one of us was calling 911. that brought some self realization of what was happening, and he sat down and after some time quieted down. when i moved from his line of spitting, the person i sat next to asked me two question, whether this happens often in San Francisco buses. Not too often, I replied, I saw this behavior once. He also asked me whether I thought he was going to work. that lightened my mood. i still was a bit shaken because you cannot predict the outcome of these things.


the beautiful picture of a frog is from the flickr account of Gregory, who heads a wonderful foundation to assist children at risk. here is the link to his page.

portable yoga architecture

My Third Eye Itches - A Yoga Guide: Yoga Shopping - The PatanjaliYoga Portable Yoga Studio

In this day and age where pre-fab is all the rage, it was only a matter of time that an enterprising person would find a way to offer a pret-a-porter yoga studio in a box. I should order one and demonstrate it at our sutra reading group, where we can determine if it was designed in compliance with the latest translations of Patanjali's yoga sutra codes.

3/12/08

Quiet practice, SI joint exercises

it was a quiet practice today of primary series. i stopped at uppavhista konasana because i needed to leave early to get to the office for a meeting. now that i feel i've regained my strength, i can start practicing second series again. i practiced in between The Writer and Moustache Blanc. I noticed The Writer was doing some of the pelvic exercises recommended by Eric Franklin, so i did some also. it's nice to have space to do them correctly in a shala. yesterday someone in my office asked my advice because he hurt himself in the lower back using a rowing machine at the gym. during a break i gave him some of these exercises and others that help relieve stress in the S-I joint area.

3/11/08

bujapidasana, motorcycle dreams

i must be on the mend, since i was able to get up at my usual time and get to the shala. i had a bit of discussion with my Dharma friend about how i find the daylongs at Zen Center exhausting sometimes, because i need to get home to do my chores. she suggested finding half day sittings or those called "gentle sittings". i was suggesting going to the daylongs at the zendo at Hartford Street, which appear to have less activities crammed into the schedule. the problem is the half day sittings at Zen Center occur on Sundays, a big practice day for my yoga. we'll see.

Tova had a perfect bujapidasana video on her blog. i was unsure of the exit, but even that was perfect. given that it's not my best pose, i thought i'd ask Seven Petal Lotus about the asana today. i tend to not jump right into it, but go as if into tittibasana A, getting the head as far under the legs, then bending and crossing the legs and dangling. usually the feet get stuck on the floor. my recollection was that when The Family was here two years ago, their emphasis was on getting the head down. but L. commented when she saw my practice that i should concentrate on getting the balancing first before trying to get the head or chin to the floor. that's the premise.

SPL said that if one goes to a master teacher and gets an instruction based on one observation, one should not hold on to it in comparison to an observation by a teacher observing your day to day practice. even a master teacher would notice over time in observing your practice that you're not progressing in something, and it's time to try a different approach. so we tried breaking bujapidasana in two. aware that one has to not worry so much about the outcome (this is key in the Patanjali yoga sutras) i decided to just jump into it and see if i can quickly dangle and get the feet crossed without all of the tittibasana preparation. "We'll I'll be." I managed that. SPL told me to hold five breaths there, round the back and pull the feet inwards. after those breaths, then she instructed to move the feet back, keep the inward lift and move the head or chin to the floor. i did manage that okay, except, ker plunk!, perhaps too rapidly. SPL says that bujapidasana is an opportunity to prepare for Karandavasana, because it's a pose in the Primary that requires this rounding of the back, lifting up of the legs into the belly. it's not necessary to transition through bakasana in the exit (something i was unsure of.)

a neighbor sometimes falls asleep (or maybe isn't asleep) with loud music of unknown origin but with bass that makes the party walls resonate. last night it made me dream of driving around in motorcycles. whenever the music would be going to a crescendo, i seemed to be revving up the motorcycle in the dream. then when i was up and puttering around, it seems to wake the neighbor into the sense that maybe he fell asleep with his music too loud, and he turned it off. then it was peaceful, but i was already moving around and awake. i am not sure which neighbor is the guilty party. i went around to different floors and could not identify the source. i think it's my next door neighbor, who usually uses headphones, but he must have goofed last night.

after writing that, i talked with the neighbor. he has trouble sleeping at night because from his perspective, i'm noisy, so he decided to unplug his headphones last night to block out any noise coming from my apartment, (or from others, since there are apartments all around.) i plan to be more concious of noise in my apartment. i'm an early riser. sometimes i trip into something and it falls to the floor. i will be more conciencious. this reminds me of the story of the woman who started complaining about the car alarm going off until she realized that it was her car that was making the noise.

3/10/08

monday, links

No practice this morning. i don't know if it's because i tend to not practice on Mondays. I'm feeling fine and sleeping well. we'll see how my cooperation with my usual schedule is tomorrow. i put a few new links on the side bar of my blog. One is to Dr. McNeel's site on how to live disease free to 100. I had blabbed about it before and it kept coming up in Google searches, so I put the link there now. Another is to a site set up by a fellow CRONie, Josh, called Healthful Aging. It's chock full of good information and Josh shares my interest in yoga. Then I linked to Tim Tyler's website, under CRONies- Tim. His many sites are fascinating. I linked to Alfia's blog. I also linked to Govinda Kai's site. I love his photography and passion for yoga. The expressions that he captures of people in his photography explains what practice does to you.

3/9/08

overslept, practiced, artwork

i overslept this morning, so i missed waking up in time to get to Berkeley for practice this morning. it was one of the first nights i slept without difficulty. so i must be nearing the end of this cold. i decided to go to my weekly shala in SF and not worry about the outcome of how much time i would have for practice. just getting to the shala was part of the practice. i did primary up to marichyasana D. it was the first time i had been in the shala in a week and a half. i coughed a little bit, and was concerned about spreading my germs to QE2, who was practicing nearby. i noticed that The Cyclist is now dropping by himself to the floor (and not hitting his head). he has really good upward bend in his arch. he struggled with coming back up to standing, but it seems he should be able to get that part soon. it's amazing to see the progress in people's practices. i asked Seven Petal Lotus if i should practice primary all week, since i've practiced slightly this past week. she suggested i try two days of primary and check how i feel and go from there.

last year, i had contracted two eBay retailers to assist me in selling objects of arts, collectibles and paintings i had collected when i had a large house in texas. they helped me move a lot of things. the retailers recently decided to move back east and have been returning unsold items to their clients. when i saw the truck arrive in front of my apartment, i asked one of them, "all that crap is mine? this is depressing." LOL. i have to find the way to stack all of these boxes and painting in my already crammed storage space and sell this stuff over a year by myself on craigslist. the frog print is from this site where you can buy frog prints from another lover of frogs. (i wish i was sold out of my artwork.)

3/8/08

artificial sweeteners

This is an attempt to summarize numerous discussions in the calorie restriction lists on artificial sweeteners. the discussion centers on their safety. the purpose of using artificial sweeteners is to formulate sweet tasting foods that are lower in caloric content. sweeteners act as appetite stimulants, the exact reverse of what one tries to achieve when reducing calories. some studies show that people consume greater calories when consuming artificial sweeteners, if they are not paying attention to calories. but many healthful foods are difficult to consume without the assistance of sweeteners, for example cocoa, coffee and tea. some of the artificial sweeteners available include aspartame (NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet'N Low), sucralose (Splenda), polyols or sugar alcohols, neotame and stevia.

neotame. warren taylor supplies this sweetener. he claims that as opposed to sweeteners that stimulate the appetite, with neotame once you've been exposed to the initial sweetness you do not experience incremental exposure to it. he summarizes that aspartame is 200 x sweeter than sugar, sucralose is 600 x sweeter than sugar, and neoteame is 8000 x sweeter than sugar. the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPNET) approves neotame but disapproves stevia. neotame is chemically related to aspartame, but the difference confers greater chemical stability, enabling the new sweetener to be used in baked foods.

stevia is marketed in the US as an herbal supplement, because it has not been tested widely as a sweetener. Coca Cola is reportedly studying its use as a drink sweetener. it has been used in Japan for many years and in South America, apparently without any risks.

Here is what CSPNET has to say about stevia: "Here’s what troubles toxicologists:
Reproductive problems. Stevioside 'seems to affect the male reproductive organ system,' European scientists concluded last year. When male rats were fed high doses of stevioside for 22 months, sperm production was reduced, the weight of seminal vesicles (which produce seminal fluid) declined, and there was an increase in cell proliferation in their testicles, which could cause infertility or other problems...
Cancer. In the laboratory, steviol can be converted into a mutagenic compound, which may promote cancer by causing mutations in the cells’ genetic material (DNA). “We don’t know if the conversion of stevioside to steviol to a mutagen happens in humans,” says Huxtable. “It’s probably a minor issue, but it clearly needs to be resolved.”
Energy metabolism. Very large amounts of stevioside can interfere with the absorption of carbohydrates in animals and disrupt the conversion of food into energy within cells.
The bottom line: If you use stevia sparingly (once or twice a day in a cup of tea, for example), it isn’t a great threat to you. But if stevia were marketed widely and used in diet sodas, it would be consumed by millions of people. And that might pose a public health threat." For a link to the full article, you can find it here.

saccharin and sugar alcohols. concerns of a connection to cancer with cyclamates and saccharin were raised in the 1960s and 1970s and seem to have been resolved. cyclamates are not approved for use in the US, but saccharin is. polyols are sugar alcohols (lactitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol). they are accepted for food in the US but there are issues with them, such as that they are not completely digested and cause gastrointestinal discomfort with excessive use.

aspartame. it appears that US and European food safety authorities declare it acceptable to have a daily intake of 40 to 50mg of aspartame daily. in measured controlled studies no association between cancer and aspartame was found. in larger doses it can be toxic. the problem is that many of the studies have been funded or reviewed by manufacturers of aspartame. you should spend a minute reading an eye opening opinion by Mike Adams, who points out that aspartame is an excitotoxin, a substance that harms and kills nerve cells. He adds, "there are literally hundreds of thousands of accounts of people suffering blindness, seizures, blurred vision, migraine headaches and other neurological problems associated with aspartame consumption."
You can find the full referenced article here.

my favorite scientist, tim tyler, asks, "is quantity really relevant? is there some rule that says that small doses of arbitrary substances are not toxic? what about arsenic, mercury, LSD?" he suggests there should be a long history of independent safety testing. you might enjoy visiting tim's website. there is a link on the side bar of my blog under CRONies.

so what about natural sweetners? agave syrup claims to be low on the glycemic index. i checked a bottle of it today. a teaspoon of it has the same calories as a spoon of sugar. that's not good. honey has good health properties, but it boils down to being sugar and water.

some less dependent on the sweet taste in the nutrition group say things like, "who needs sweeteners, i never use them...", pointing out that cocoa powder can be mixed with beans to make a Mexican mole sauce, and bitter fruit can be steamed with vegetables. another person added, "yea, chuck'em. you won't miss them in a month." that's okay if it works for them. i like sweet tasting hot beverages and low calorie puddings. i plan to avoid using aspartame, and plan to continue using saccharin, sucralose and stevia moderately. i have to thank warren taylor for some of the wording of my post here, for supplying me with guar gum pudding mixes for three years, and for always being encouraging about calorie restriction. The image is from this source, which also discusses some of the topics mentioned in this post. After i posted this, i received an offblog email that linked me to a page within CSPINET where you can read about additives in the foods we consume. It is important to check that article out, because it offers good advice.

Ashtanga Yoga - Agni Vinyasa Yoga - Garudananda - Asana - Mykonos Greece 2007


Ashtanga Yoga - Agni Vinyasa Yoga - Garudananda - Asana - Mykonos Greece 2007
Originally uploaded by garudananda

3/7/08

nasya oil

i have been on a chase for nasya oil for a few days, given the limited time i have after work hours. it was recommended by an annonymous reader so that i can use it at night and not use any nasal sprays. that would a welcome relief. the image is from dr. chopra's website, which carries it. i won't order it online, or it will arrive here too late. i went to Whole Foods two days ago and did not find it and instead bought something called, "Outdoor Allergy" homeopathic nasal spray. it's nice, but hasn't worked totally. today i went to the other health store - Rainbow Market, and to my surprise, they did not have any. the kind person there sent me to Bombay Bazaar in the Mission, where the owner told me i should go to Berkeley and check out Bazaar of India, which carries these things. i may not have found what i was looking for, but at least i found my favorite tea, PG Tips, and bought some to take to the office. the walk to Bombay Bazaar was pleasant. the area of 16th street and valencia is quite lively on a friday evening, with many people walking and the restaurants and shops quite busy. i was entertained by a Mexican trio at the bart station on my return. while figuring out how to get to Bazaar of India tomorrow, i remembered the new Elephant Pharmacy. it has one side for natural homeopathic remedies, and another side for traditional Rx medicines. i called them up and after being transferred to the right department, i was able to locate the super nasya oil product. who-hoo. I will have to go there tomorrow.

update: i went to the berkeley store and obtained some, as well as some EPA-DHA supplements. i really like this nasya oil. thanks to all who recommended it. i don't understand why i could not locate some in the city of SF.

3/6/08

practicing under the weather

in my practice at home i did 3 and 3 suryanamaskaras, followed by the standing sequence poses up to ardha padda paschimottanasana, followed by second series poses up to kapotasana. it is helpful to know that there are other cybershalamates, to use karen's term, practicing at home at the same time. that helps me keep to my practice.

to answer alfia's question of whether one can practice when one has a cold, well, yes, except you have to modify as required. if one has a fever, then it's not possible to practice. after the fever is gone, it is possible to practice, but it helps to be taking some medication that helps alleviate the sinus pressure or which at least leaves the breathing passages clear. i haven't found a deep ujahi breath in my practice this week. i also have not held the poses for five long breaths, it has been more like 4 rather short breaths. also, it's probably best to do a shorter practice. my practice has been about 15 minutes of passive warm-ups and an hour of regular asanas. the first kapotasana ended in reclining hero pose, since i didn't spring back up. on the second kapotasana i did spring back up. the usual intensity is not there, because if i open the mouth to breathe, that dispels the pranic energy that i usually build up when breathing only through the nose. but if you are going through a cold, you can't always breathe through the nose. so the asanas don't feel as strong as they do normally.

3/5/08

stronger home practice

my practice at home was stronger today. the feverish part of the cold is past me, so i have more energy. i did the first six standing asanas, plus some seated poses with limited number of vinyasas, then closing sequence. the image is of an australian kangaroo rat. i may not be jumping yet, but i'll get there : )

3/4/08

Excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh

i practiced at home today - doing the first five standing asanas, seated poses without vinyasas, and closing sequences. thanks to all for your well wishes. resting yesterday removed the fever portion of my cold, now i just have congestion to deal with this week. colds just have to run their course.

my wise friend Albert posted this in his Every Day Dharma today, an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love.

"May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free." Solid here refers to stability, which is one of the characteristics of Nirvana. If you are not solid, you will not be able to accomplish much. Each day you only need to take a few solid steps to remember your vow to devote your life to practicing the Dharma in order to bring joy and happiness to all beings. To realize your vow, you must study, practice, live within a Sangha, and take stable steps each along that path.

Every morning, you rededicate yourself to your path in order not to go astray. Before going to sleep at night, you take a few minutes to review the day. "Did I live in the direction of my ideals today?" If you see that you took two or three steps in that direction, that is good enough. If you did not, say to yourself, "I'll do better tomorrow." The next morning when you wake up, resolve to take solid steps in the direction of your ideals. Don't compare yourself with others. Just look to yourself to see whether you are going in the direction you cherish.

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Discussion
from the point of view of yoga practice, i suppose that those of us who practice with others find a sangha in the experience. some of us need to practice at home, but it is nice to practice with others when the opportunity is there. and those people who are coupled and can practice with their spouses/significant others can achieve that feeling of sangha as well.

3/3/08

Almonds protect agains cardiovascular diseases

i still am under the weather. i did not go to yoga practice. here is a summary of a study published in september of 2007 (PMID 17445351) entitled, "effect of chronic consumption of almonds on body weight in healthy humans." we vegetarians eat a lot of nuts, and these have a role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. they are rich in fiber, unsaturated fatty acids and nutrients. however, their fat content raises concerns that eating them will cause weight gain. during a 23 week study, participants were required to consume almonds for 10 weeks, without being told how to include them in the diet. for another 10 weeks, the participants followed their customary diet. ten weeks of daily almond consumption did not cause a change in body weight. this was in part from reduction of calories from other sources, but also because the energy in nuts is not entirely absorbed due to their density. a daily serving o f 1400 kJ of almonds is sufficient to provide cardiovascular risk factors without causing weight gain (about 1/3 cup daily or 335 calories.) the image of almonds is from this source, which also has good information on the health benefits of almonds.

3/2/08

Vegetarians should supplement with EPA and DHA

I overslept this morning, which happens if I take NyQuil for a cold. I missed practice. In an effort to be useful here, I thought I would summarize an article on vegetarian red blood cell and fish fats. An Austrian study published on February 28, 2008 titled, "Very Low n-3 Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Status in Austrian Vegetarians and Vegans" (PMID: 18305382)concludes that vegetarians may benefit from long-chain fatty acid supplementation. The scientists collected data on dietary fat intake of omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and semi-omnivores and its impact on n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. They measured body weight and height and measured the fatty acid pattern using gas chromatography. The results where that "the limited dietary sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in vegans and vegetarians" led to reductions in fatty acids compared with omnivores and semi-omnivores. The total content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids remained unchanged.

The conclusion is that the vegetarian diet with an average n-6/n-3 promotes biochemical n-3 tissue decline. To ensure physical, mental and neurological health vegetarians need additional intake of EPA and DHA regardless of age. A Google search on the dietary sources of EPA and DHA yields that it results from fatty fish and animal organ meats. Some sea vegetables have DHA and EPA, but the amount of fat in seaweed is low, so they are not reliable sources. Fish get their EPA and DHA from seaweed. (For a moment I confused DHEA with DHA, but DHEA has a role in muscle growth and is not the same as DHA.) There appear to be some vegetarian sources for these nutrients, so I plan to look for them.
KELP, SEA ALGAE, DEEP SEA FOOD FROM PLANTS

3/1/08

health, exercise, frogs

i have an underwhelming cold, brought to me courtesy of several coworkers who each entertained one in succession. i plan to go to a led level 1 yoga class this afternoon, so at least i may be bendy for tomorrow's demanding led ashtanga class in berkeley.

i received the small diameter (4") exercise balls made by Sportime and am practicing some of the pelvic floor exercises in franklin's book.

the picture is of frog's in mr. markies' pond. i hope to be happy like the frogs in the picture, practicing with other froggies in the shangha of our practice rooms this week.

What does yoga say about dreams?

a friend asked me what yoga says about dreams. i asked our sutra teacher D. the question and he referred me to I.10, which in my translation by Shearer says "sleep is the mental activity that has as its content the sense of nothingness." and to I.38, which says that the settled mind is established by, "witnessing the process of dreaming or dreamless sleep."

D.'s interpretation is that dreaming has a potential for dharma practice. during sleep, the will, the intellect, and limited belief systems do not dominate our experience. the mind makes random associations and a higher knowledge comes forth to allow us to glean information and perform duties. this extends our lucidity in daily life.

my friend said that was great, but what about things we call dreams but are really great plans that we want to put into action. I asked D. about this on another occasion and he said that my friend was asking about desire.

referring to I.5-12 in my translation by Shearer:
5. there are five types of mental activity. they may or may not cause suffering.
6. these five are understanding, misunderstanding, imagination, sleep and memory.
7. understanding is correct knowledge based on direct perception, inference, or the reliable testimony of others.
8. misunderstanding is the delusion that stems from a false impression of reality.
9. imagination is thought based on an image conjured up by words, and is without substance.
10. sleep is the mental activity that has as its content the sense of nothingness.
11. and memory is the returning to the mind of past experience.
12 these five types of mental activity are settled through the practice of yoga and the freedom it bestows.

D's interpretation as this relates to desire or plans, is that if you let go of the process in order to get it right, if you are open to change and flow with it, not attached to the outcome, you achieve freedom. the sanskrit word 12 uses is viragai, which some people translate as dispassion or numbness, but D. thinks a better interpretation is reaching freedom. if you let go of the outcome, you let go of separateness.

D. often teaches us to get out of the duality mode of mode of "I - it". if we see ourselves as different from our surroundings, the resulting duality is harming. in reality we're part of the whole. one-ness is better. when you see something beautiful - a view, a great work of architecture, a splendid tree - the best thing is to become one with it. don't be the observer and the observed. you are one with it. see things through universal eyes.
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