There should be some interesting reading this summer. Krista is back in Mysore for the summer and blogging, in case y'all want to read... Isn't Elise headed there? Krista reported that Guruji and Saraswati made it back to Mysore safely from Florida by Thursday.
Is it my perception, or are the blogs of our yoga community becoming funnier? It seems that since Laksmi is taking a break, everyone is pitching in to help. I think I laughed in the home of at least 6 people's blogs in the last 18 hours. Thank you. One tries to make laugh the people one loves.
Tomorrow I plan to practice early at home, not at the shala. A colleague invited me to go tour Frank Lloyd Wright's historical Hanna House, also known as Honeycomb House because of its geometric patterns. I have to be at the train station super early because there is only one tour and it's in the morning.
The images are from this source no longer online. (edit) My godfather was an architect. He was inspired in his residential architecture by Antonin Nechodoma, an architect that trained with Frank Lloyd Wright, then migrated to Puerto Rico, where he created a tropical version of the Prairie Style of architecture. My godfather designed our family's home in a style reminiscent of this minus the fireplace, of course.
Tomorrow is the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico. In the small nucleus of my family one parent is voting for Obama, the other for Hillary. If Hillary wins in PR, her delegate count support will increase. Isn't it strange that Puerto Ricans can vote in the primaries, but do not have the right to vote in November during the presidential campaign? Such is life.
I saw a 7'2" tall man walking on Stockton Street today.
In other news, OSHA, which provides safety guidelines for construction employees, is now issuing yoga instructor safety guidelines, according to that denizen of all things yoga, YogaDawg. Here is the all important report, written by John Sixpack.
I'm glad YD clarified the levels for me. Now I know I'm in the ascetic category and that I correctly labeled a teacher a Bodhisattva earlier this week.
I practiced half of Primary today, with good breath and good intention. I wonder if I should take out my warm up poses that take up 20 minutes prior to practice, so that I can get more of the sequence in. I've become somewhat attached to the warm up exercises. It also makes me wonder if it would be a good investment to get some sort of metronome to listen to the speed of my breaths, so that I can concentrate on more flow through the practice. I gave a go to using a strap over the elbows to keep the hands in when doing Urdvha Danurasana. But I felt it was too constraining. The strap tends to get stuck in my chin. I get a good lift if I gather my feet really close to my thighs prior to lifting. And so far the arms are not splaying too much outward.
A little birdie said that Messieur LeFlanq used a sand bag as eye pillow during savasana yesterday. That must have caused a deep relaxation. An Iyengar teacher once told me that sand filled eye pillows, when used in savasana, because of the pressure the weight cause over the eyeballs result in a deep relaxation. A sand bag for an eye pillow, because of its weight, must send any ashtangi to the deepest reaches of relaxation, IMO :) Eye pillows make my eyes blurry though, so a towel is enough for me.
Today was not such a good CRON day. I went out with a coleague and had sushi, which by the way I can't find on Cron-0-Meter, but no matter. That got me somewhat hungry and it was a bit of a slippery side (there were cookies, cheeze and toffee involved). I need to make my lunches this coming weekend in advance of the week so I can stay on course.
Mice are our friends in studies on longevity and calorie restriction. So I'm fond of them, as I am of frogs. There is a cute video of a rare desert mouse with long ears in BBC today. Here is the link. You have to listen to a short commercial on the BBC, which, really, is OK, considering the great news they provide daily. (Didn't you all love that story last week of the lost parrot who told the veterinarian whom he was taken to his name and address; he was safely returned to his family.)
In any case, I should be writing about peanut butter and summarize the recent discussion in the CR list about it. The short version of the discussion is that I was concerned that the ratio of Proteins to Carbs to Fats in my diet are typically 20 40 40, which means that I'm on a calorie restricted "zoned" diet. So at times I wonder if I'd be healthier with a diet with a ratio where the fat is lower. The good thing is that I don't consume saturated fat. The source of the fat in my diet is the 1/3 cup of nuts in the morning, the tahini in my vegetarian pates, and about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter daily.
The ensuing discussion was that it is necessary to avoid commercially prepared peanut butters that have hydrogenated fats. There are some simple ones containing only roasted peanuts and salt and those are a good choice. The oils are separated, which gives you the option of taking the oil out, or stirring it in. If you refrigerate it after stirring it, the oil does not separate afterwards. I was consuming peanut butter from the hopper that you press a button and it grinds it instantly. Apparently, this source may have been reported to have high levels of aflatoxin, whereas the packaged ones containing no hydrogenated oils supposedly do not.
To diminish my consumption of peanut butter, I have been mixing it with diced tomatoes and eating the resulting spread as a snack with carrots, or just by itself, three teaspoons at snack time. I do not know if my practice of yoga makes me gravitate to feeling confortable with the ratio of fat in my diet. At least the overall calories are low. I think when I complete The CR Way book, I may gain a different opinion, since I think Meredith and Paul opt for lower ratio of fats in the diet.
Short practice today. During my practice this morning, monkey mind distracted me with too much planning... the weekend, doing a favor for a friend, upcoming lunches with colleagues, projects... Part of practice last night and this morning was cleaning the apartment since today someone is visiting at noon to help me with a computer printing issue. The place is sparkly, organized and nice-smelling. This flybaby went and shined the sink!
After two consecutive days of good ashtanga practice over the weekend, I let myself sleep in yesterday, having spent Memorial Day on the computer doing a favor for a friend. This morning I slept in again, but this time accidentally. I forgot to put the alarm to wake me up. My biological alarm does not naturally wake me up at 4:00am for yoga practice. The friendly trolley, with its ra ta ta ta rolling and screech brakes woke me up at 6:00am. Aw shucks, I'm slacking. I need to get my routine of home practice going smoothly again. Today I can only burn some incense, do some hand waving and pretend I practiced. Or maybe I could do an abbreviated bona fide short practice, such as finger yoga, as described by my favorite scientist, Tim T. That shouldn't take too long, should it?
I went to practice in Seven Petal Lotus' room. At first it was just Smiling Jim and I, so I moved to the end of the room to practice near him. Slowly people trickled in, Roy Rogers, Surfer Guy, The Cyclist, Periwinkle Petals, Mona, M's third cousin; I really haven't named them all. Surfer Guy is back from spending a week in Miami, practicing with Kino and Tim, and with Tim Miller during his gig at their studio. Fabulous. The progress of the Cyclist's practice never ceases to amaze me. Even his body is changing. Lucky Eeyore is practicing with the devotees in Islamorada. OK those are the snippets of news in our little world.
I did only primary, but with good effort. The advantage of being in Teacher's room is that there always are subtle improvements to every asana - an extra stretch, a higher reach, a deeper bind, etc. I'm amazed how far my binds in Marichyasana C and D are, given that I am 4 1/2 pounds heavier than I prefer to be. I jumped from Bujapidasana to Garbha Pindsana and did not notice until I was at Upavistha Konasana, so I went back and did Kurmasana and repeated the following poses. I have not reason to explain forgetting the sequence, but I can excuse myself citing Bindifry's discussion, which I read this morning, about Eric Shiffman saying in a workshop that one should do freedom yoga, doing what one wants. (Actually, that is just a mental construct to give me a reason to cite it, since it does not explain why I unintentionally forgot Kurmasana.)
Teacher was happy to see me, as was I. Although I'm paid through the end of the week, I had stopped going for over 2 1/2 weeks, getting used to practicing at home. There is a lot of drama in getting there on the morning from where I live. I like my quiet, meditative home practices, although I enjoy practicing in the shala as well.
The kind bus driver got us to Berkeley on time so that I did not miss the connecting bus to the shala this time. The 600lb young man that I've seen board previously is now walking with a cane. How sad that a man in his 20s is crippled by being overweight. The driver of the second bus found a friend among the passengers, resulting in non- stop talking that made her miss a stop and made me get up before my stop, otherwise she was going to miss mine. We were regaled to stories of how much cheese she allows her daughter to eat and how she expects her neighbor to treat her. Bus drivers might get lonely and welcome seeing a friend. But I don't think talking that animatedly while driving a bus is a safe practice.
I practiced near Mountain Biker and Motorcycle Diarist. Teacher reminded me today that when moving in forward bends, you engage moola banda, udiyana banda, lift the stomach muscles, then lift the chest as you deposit it down and lower the rest of the body. In Marichyasana C and D, he emphasized that it's like Pasasana. You need to relax the legs in general. It's good to not engage the legs, the bent one and the one you are wrapping around. In general, he emphasized relaxing the muscles in the set up, to allow flexibility to occur. Then once bound, focusing on lifting the chest up, and slowing the breathing. In Marichyasana C I got deeper today in the motion of grabbing the wrist and resting the hand on the thigh, a la David Swenson.
Teacher reminded me of all these wrapping preparations again at Pasasana. Since he helped squish a bit on Bekasana and lifting in Danurasana, I was really ready for the dropback motions of Kapotasana and Urdvha Danurasana today. I think he helped me get really really close to the feet in Kapo today. I practiced dropbacks a lot, and when he assisted with the dropback, I was so bendy that he only assisted with a small strap held loose. I think I really had the feel of what it is to fall on the floor by myself, with his help. Also I was on sync with respect to exhaling going down, inhaling coming back up. Later I noticed that my hips really got a workout today from all of the lifting of the spine that they did.
After class, Teacher mentioned that practicing at home, where you internalize the practice, can be healing for the body. It's nice to practice in community. Sometimes it's not always possible to find Mysore practice groups around the world, so there are moments one has to practice by oneself. Other times, you find ashtangis who can practice with you in the least expected places.
Chapter 15 of Thich Nhat Hanh's Opening the Heart of the Cosmos is dedicated to Merit. The author says that merit, when rendered in Chinese, has two meanings, "daily practice or daily work" and "virtuous conduct".
"Merit is a kind of spiritual energy that can be accumulated when we maintain a steady practice. This energy protects us and brings us joy and insight. Our practice helps us see, hear and understand things clearly and we can be present in a very deep way. We can maintain our mindfulness and deep presence, we are able to touch the ultimate dimension. And when we get in touch with the ultimate, we know we are already in nirvana. This is the merit of the practice."
That certainly applies to my work, architecture, which is referred to as the practice of architecture. It also applies to all of my other practices, yoga, calorie restriction with optimal nutrition, meditation, mindfulness. We reach merit by maintaining daily practice, daily work, with virtuous conduct.
To reach Buddhahood, do I need to learn to love my socks? Waa?, you ask. You see, it's laundry time, the time for philosophical introspection chez moi. As I gather, match and fold my socks, I find that I don't love them. Except for the ones pictured here, which my SIL sent me, which are sold as fundraisers for breast cancer awareness. I'm talking about the black and blue everyday socks. I'm feeling black and blue about them at the moment. I love my pants (thanks, Banana Republic) and my shirts (thanks, Nordstrom for your tailored shirts) and even some of my underwear, but I don't love my socks. They don't wear well, they sag on my feet, they unravel after a few wears. If people have some brands they love, please, do share.
So how does learning to love the socks make you arrive to Buddhahood? I'm reading Thich Nhat Hanh's excellent book of insights on the Lotus Sutra, and in one chapter he talks about how Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, revealed that there were many Buddhas before him. He was asked by the devotees to illustrate how this was possible. He went into meditation and light shone through a crystal through him in ten directions, revealing many Buddhas and the Buddha of Many Jewels, also referred to as the Buddha of the ultimate dimension. The devotees saw that there was no difference between Shakyamuni and the ultimate Buddha, that there were many other Buddhas and that Buddha was transformed throughout the cosmos. (OK, so my Western theologically trained mind was going, how reminiscent this is to the Trinity in Christianity, the unity of the Father and the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.) If you saw this non-dually you would see that Buddha was one with the ultimate Buddha. If you thought dually, you would separate the two.
Non-duality, a principle in Buddhism and in Patanjali's sutras. I think that is in in part what Steve Dwelley was talking about in his excellent post referring to yoga mind. I sent the link to my sutra teacher, in the hopes that he can expound on its meaning. I can't reach the heights Steve reaches in his writing. In Buddhist terms, he's a Boddhisatva, while I'm a humble practitioner doing the laundry. Which is why I come back to the socks. I should reconcile myself with them and regard them non-dually. It should not be, "the socks are there and my feet are here", but, "the socks and feet are one." There is no distinction between the socks and me. In fact, I am my socks. I have attained samadhi, if only for three minutes. Of course, there will be some of you that will say, "Dude, let's go shopping."
By the way, this reminds me of a story. Around 1994, when I lived in San Antonio, Texas, a restaurant opened near my sister's house called Sock's Restaurant. It was opened by someone named, well, Mr. Sock. My sister's MIL commented, "That restaurant won't stay open long. People could say, 'I don't like your food. It smells like your s___s.'" She was right. The restaurant did not stay open, at least not with that name.
IT (Sat Guru) suggested practicing the 2nd half of 2nd Series. From the first essential five standing poses I went to Bakasana. I managed to get Dwi Pada by myself with the help of the wall. It's really Yoginidrasana, the following pose, while seated. I just have to get used to not having the crutch of a wall. I practiced balancing in Pincha Mayurasana. The difficulty with this pose and Karandavasana is that it's a balance on the arms; there is no assistance from a third point such as the head. Karandavasana was from a 3 point headstand. The seven headstands make me feel upper body strength, equanimity and relaxation. In fact, I think the seven headstands may be therapy for my right arm, which sometimes is really sore. I notice the soreness usually in Bekasana. But at the moment because of the headstands I don't feel discomfort there.
Whatever noise making nighttime street crews worked the previous night moved farther last night, so I slept well. I enjoyed 2 hours of practice this morning, doing Second Series to Dwi Pada. In this asana, my left foot is so stubborn that it's hard to let go of the foot with the hand. I need to have the right hand free to secure the right foot behind the left. I was almost there today, not quite. The practice left me with a lot of energy. The nadis are excitedly talking to each other.
I researched whether my habit of burning incense was potentially carcinogenic. Dr Weill seems to conclude that as long as one's space is ventilated, a stick or two a day won't be harmful. This is a link to what he wrote. A study conducted earlier in Taiwan that concluded that there were potential carcinogenic elements in the incense burned at a temple was conducted in a poorly ventilated place where massive amounts of incense were used. This morning I used only two small sticks that last 20 minutes during my practice rather than a long coil that lasts 2 hours.
Here's another picture from last week's trip to Boston, one of the historic buildings in Harvard Yard, with the word Philosophy engraved over the entrance.
Practice notes. On Monday I didn't practice because of having arrived home past midnight Sunday night. On Tuesday I practiced an hour and a half of Second Series to Kapotasana. I stopped in the closing sequence at bridge, not doing Urdhva Danurasana. Actually, it was a bad idea not to do dropbacks. My lower back felt sore during the morning, and the solution to overcome it, at lunch, was to do some dropbacks against the wall. That balanced my back and the discomfort went away.
I had the intentions of a good practice time today, but construction by the city's street crews intervened. Between 12:00am and 1:30am I heard noises that my ears filled with earplugs and covered with noise cancellation headphones could not abate. It wasn't the friendly rattle of a trolley, or the screech of a sireen, which passes in a few seconds. Nor was it a motorcycle driven at night, the noise of which can wake up an entire city in its path.
No, it wasn't any of those types of noises. It was the going back and forth of tractors moving dirt. The vibrations made my bed shake. At first I thought it was a neighbor that was playing music with a lot of bass. So I rattled a few pans and prepared the liquids of my guar gum pudding in the osterizer set on high. But since the noise did not abate, I realized that the same San Francisco Public Works Department that repaved and modified curbs at Taylor and Market streets last month during the same mid night hours was probably working on another segment of the street. I suppose they get away with this because of the commercial zoning of this area. There may be people living here, but their buildings may be zoned as commercial, with living allowed. When I lived in a more strictly residential part of the city I don't recall this type of construction going on. I overslept in the morning in compensation for losing 2 hours of sleep in the middle of the night.
I don't want to bitch. But we sacrifice ourselves, living in the city so that we don't have to have a long commute to our jobs. Then the city punishes us with street power washing and street construction when we are trying to sleep.
It makes me wonder how people's lives are affected in other countries, where construction crews work on high rise construction 24 hours a day. Those buildings may be at some distance from the main residential communities in their cities. But many of them being constructed are residential towers. Once they start filling them with residents, the construction during night time will need to abate. Who wants to hear a baby crying from being woken up? Waaaah! Am I being a baby? Come to think of it, babies probably sleep through anything unless they are hungry. I'm showing my age.
I seem to have developed some defense mechanisms for eating while at conferences or traveling. I didn't gain weight while away in Boston for 4 days, despite a hectic schedule. The first morning there I bought CRON friendly supplies at Whole Foods, which was on the same street as my Inn. I prepared my lunches and kept on hand some single serving soups in aseptic packages, plus fruits and nuts - things not requiring refrigeration. Breakfast was typically fruit, nuts and herbal tea. My lunches typically consisted of hummus, carrots, celery sticks, two small rounds of whole wheat baguette, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and dark chocolate for dessert. Dinner was typically soup and two small pieces from the whole wheat baguette. The Inn I stayed in let me put the veggies and hummus in a refrigerator located in the guest lounge area. I gave in to one cookie with a soymilk latte daily, or a scone. But because of the energy expended, it did not throw me off balance.
I could not resist requesting a picture next my maskot, the frog, at a booth of the Architectural Precast Association. I was told this frog sculpture traveled all the way from California to the AIA conference in Boston. So did I. Ribbit.
For Alfia, flowers similar to those on the banner in her blog, here with the backdrop of a precast panelled building in Boston. This could have been photographed in D.C. as well, since the architecture is similar to that in the capital.
Moving around Boston last week was super easy with the city's great subway system. Although at times the subway cars were crowded, they were not as crowded as the ones depicted in this video from Japan. I had heard of the gloved people "helping" you get into the cars in Japan. Ahem. Thanks, Nick for sending that link.
I'm writing while still on the road. The lounge at the Inn had internet access, so here I be. Last night I noticed my printout of Back Bay Yoga's schedule had cut out Sunday's Mysore time. It was important to know because I could not remember if it started at 6:00 or at 8:00am. There was no sign posted at their door. So I called my Mom, who checked on the internet for me. The start time of 8:00 gave me 2 hours of additional sleep time. That was nice, as a contrast to the crazy schedule of the last 4 days. I showed up at the shala at 8:00 and shortly Cody Pomeray arrived. I recognized the famous (he might enjoy the plug) voice, and now was getting familiarized with the rest of his appearance. He introduced me to his teacher K. I gave her a hug. I mentioned my teachers in SF, Springy Sitarist and Seven Petal Lotus, although not by those names. She met SPL in Mysore this past February. K. is sweet, stern, knowledgeable and strong. She helped me with my UHP, with many minute adjustments indicating how the chest needed to be, the strength in the standing leg, the shoulders relaxed and moving back, the chest filling up with air, the breath strong. With all of the recent discussion here on UHP, this was wonderful (thanks Alfia, Carl and others for your comments on UHP. I have to go back and reread them.) I think I totally forgot what my kurma nadi was doing during the asana, but no matter, the asana rendition, with help, was great.
The room was warm. The day was bright. I liked how the windows were wide open; you could see the silhouette of the city beyond. I had not been in the studio in 5 years. I love their floor. Cody practiced with great concentration and breath. I forgot to do Upa Visthsta Konasana. This may be because when I practice at home, I can't do this one, since landing will surely get my feet landing on the wall, a bookcase, the side or the refrigerator, or some other object. I think K. noticed I forgot UVK, so I went back to it and then started going forward again. I did not want to do my usual Sunday practice of half primary, half second. I think in part it's because it's easier to do Primary if you are in someones room for the first time; otherwise you have to explain that your teacher has you on this routine, which I think a teacher in a city you visit would respect. In any case, I didn't think I had the energy for Second Series today, after the hectic week.
K. saw me practicing dropping back. The exercises Lino gave me are getting me to where I can see the floor, so I think I can extend the hands now and break the fall. Or maybe that is my hands writing this blog and my heart wishing it was true I was that close to the floor already. (Hi (0v0), whenever, I digress into esoteric ideas I think of you. hugs!) OK, so where was I. Oh yes, K. offered to help me in assisted dropbacks. Exhale down, inhale up three times. I did pretty well, except she mentioned I forgot to put strength in the hips as I came up. Wow, that was a great observation. I mean, I could do this by myself already, if I transferred enough power there already. Yes, I know, the drama of UD and dropbacks. Next!
Afterwards, Cody and I walked and chatted on Newberry Street up to the Public Garden, where we served as backdrop for a movie being filmed. Cody, with your advertising connections, did you set that up? Just kidding. "And, action!" I hear the camera man say. As two movie stars crossed the bridge overlooking the swan boats, we were behind them, talking, leaning on the rail. Cody looked really active, pointing out to a building in a distance. Actually, I learned a lot from him about the history of the Back Bay area during our walk. And, instead of going to Starbucks, he suggested getting the local flavor by going to a local expresso cafe. Anyway, it was great meeting him, practicing in his shala and meeting his teacher. It was also great to discuss that there are a group of us ashtangis that practice at home during the week and then go to the shala on Sundays. We shared a lot of insights about how our home practices were going, what helped, what didn't, what challenges we faced. That should be a whole topic for discussion in our blogs; I'm sure it would be of help to other practitioners.
Om Shanti. My mom asked me what Om Shanti means when she was doing the favor of looking up BackBayYoga's schedule online last night. Om is the universal sound denoting meditation. Shanti means peace. So in the context of a farewell, it would mean the affirmation, "Yes, Peace."
Friday at the conference was hectic and tiring. I had heard one of the presenters who talked on Building Information Management software at previous conferences. It seems that this year the architect's association told the speakers to speak more on how to overcome legal problems with implementing this method of design. So I didn't see too many wiz bang graphics of designs presented. One sensitive presentation was on the design of the new AgaKahn University in Karachi, Pakistan.
There is a bit of disconnect between some of my colleague's expectations and what we're seeing at the conference. A colleague is a small practitioner and she found no presentations that addressed work from her perspective. We also did not bump into any of our fellow graduates from our years in Philadelphia at the alumni reunion, which was ironic because there is the greatest number of them living in the Boston area. I guess for them going to the conference would not be interesting since it was in their city.
A highlight was the tour of the new Institute for Contemporary Art. Unfortunately, no one associated with the design of the building was available to give the tour, so we did not get a lot of insight about its design. However, the docent's tour of the art was super interesting. There was a work of an Indian artist that interpreted, in sculpture, the experience of sneezing caused by bright sunlight. One piece of art was very Buddhist, depicting a tradition in South Africa when in the new year people throw out the window things they don't want, and people receive the benefits of their largess. The receiver became greedy for more objects and became crushed when someone threw a car down the window. I'm talking drawings, people. But greed is bad.
We were escorted to the ICA by a principal from a very famous architectural firm, which recently moved its offices to a building they designed right across from the museum. This energetic lady very generously offered us to see her office. I gladly took her offer and was wowed by the beautiful offices they occupy on two floors, with a library that was fabulous, and 360 degree view of Boston and its harbor. The interconnecting stair was fabulous. I know I'm using that word fabulous too much.
Wine drinking (one glass) threw my nutrition self control off. Also extreme tiredness. This must be why it's easy to be overweight when you're in college - from the demands placed on you by crazy deadlines and not having time to eat properly. Ahem.
I did spot famous architects. Several of them where in the AIA bookstore area of the conference. Others, whose work was published, pulled up to the Image Books booth, thanking the publishers, who were there. I bought two books at half price, because the publishers did not want to lug them back to Australia. I hope I'm not rambling too much here.
Thanks to all for your comments while I'm away from the computer. I'll have to comment back next week. I just have a short moment between presentations to check on my email and stuff. I'm staying near the Back Bay yoga studio, but practicing on my own, given that some of the presentations start at 7:00am at this conference. On Sunday I will have time off and be able to go to Mysore practice. The Inn is on the same street as a Whole Foods market, so that is heavenly. I've prepared my healthy lunches of hummus, whole wheat grain bread, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, celery, carrot sticks, and Dagoba dark chocolate. Some presentations at this AIA conference have been inspiring, others prepared as if the audience were college students. Public transportation in Boston is incredibly developed and convenient, with the new tunnels that connect the airport to the convention center. I connected with a mentor from my previous company, sharing a lot of insights into what we were learning. He and I plan to walk the terminals at the airport, one of which we worked on as members of the design team. I also met with a colleague from work and shared insights on new design technologies and the legal ramifications of their implementation. Today there is an alumni get-together. I wonder why I'm crabby, despite practicing and meditating. But the reason could be we are stressed from being asked to be at certain places exactly on time... I have to go ask a young lady to forgive me for being curt this morning when asking for directions. I didn't know I could be so bossy and unpleasant : )
By the practice of samyama on the tortoise-shaped subtle channel below the throat's cavity motionless is gained.
or another translation,
Sanyama on the kurma nerve in the trachea brings steadiness.
Samyama here means attention to, or practice of. During our Sutra reading group on Sunday, I raised the question to Teacher as to whether this would help gain steadiness in uttita hasta padangustasana, and the discussion seem to indicate that yes, it does. The location of this nadi is somewhere near where the skull meets the spine, and it is somewhat tortoise-shaped. Snow White mentioned that when she does UHP, she found steadiness by doing jalabara bandha. If you think about it, doing this banda focuses the attention on the area mentioned in the Sutra.
The image is of Arjuna doing UHP, from his website.
I'm getting ready to go back East to Boston for a conference midweek. Therefore I'm working very long hours to finish a task before going. Blogging will be sporadic, since I don't know if I'll have access to Internet while away. I plan to practice in Cody Pomeray's shala, Back Bay Yoga while there, for sure for Mysore practice on Sunday. It will be nice to meet him. That's a picture of my uncle kayaking also back East, except in the deep South East of Florida.
The bus driver to Berkeley was kind, but had so many information requests that he went slow and I missed my bus connection. I got to the shala 20 minutes later than I usually do. Practice was good, except as Spring Sitarist noted, I was stiff, particularly in the upper body chest area. His instruction today emphasized that the body needed to be soft. He assisted in Uttita Hasta Padangustasana, helping me get the extended foot really straight. In Prasarita Padottasanasana C he pulled on the hands slightly, which made me aware of the tension. I released the tension so I could get further to the floor. In Pasanana, he asked that I sit for a while with the feet flat on the floor, then getting to the wrapping part, then lifting the wrapping arm really high, then pointing with the elbow to the floor and getting the arm hooked way over the thigh and knee. That was great instruction. I've always noticed that the best Pasasaners hook the elbow low to the ground prior to wrapping. Then it was wrapping, bending the arm, grabbing with the other. In Krounchasana, I also received instruction to straighten the leg that is extended and raised. I did Kapotasana twice, again emphasis on softening the body while lifting and arching. I've been going really slow and dangling there while getting opening in the thoracic. I really could hover a longer period of time and get a better arch. With Teacher's help on the second Kapo, I think I got within a few inches from the feet. In Supta Vajrasana, he emphasized softening the grabbing arms. I think I demonstrated tension when coming up and my energy level was peaked at that point, so he suggested that I close the practice there today, moving to Urdvha Danurasanas. I'm getting a super duper lift these days in my UD. Coming up to standing is coming. I can feel the weight shifting to the legs.
I mentioned to Teacher that perhaps I'm stiffer today because I'm practicing at home during the week, not in the shala; that for the most part I practice about an hour and a half to two hours, except some days when the demands of work have me practicing a shorter time. He advises that when one is practicing in the quiet of one's own space, away from the energy of a shala, one should listen to one's body, to figure out how our energy level is manifesting during the practice. It's not necessary then to stick to a regimen of number of poses; if your sense tells you that you should stop because you might be low in energy, it's OK to do closing sequence at that point. That is good advice. Hopefully that same internal guide can sense when you're full of energy and it's OK to continue going and "research" more yoga poses : ) (Yes, I know, thank you, that is a greedy thought... greed, anger and delusion, the three impediments.)
Yesterday a Hispanic man was taking begging to new lows. It seemed to be his turn to take care of his 4 year old daughter, his wife probably at work, so he thought it smart to teach her the business of begging. They plopped themselves next to Virgin Records on Stockton and Market Streets to beg. What kind of example was she giving the child, who was smiling as she held out her little hand? I've also noticed the demographics of beggars changing, with younger, better dressed, more able people asking for money - not mentally disabled beggars. Really.
I figured out who was using the toilet without lifting the seat and not flushing afterwards in my building. So I left a curt note on his door requesting lifting of the seat and flushing afterwards. Drunkenness or sleepiness is not an excuse for lack of consideration of others. Really.
As I returned from doing laundry, a very sullen and angry young man was sitting outside an apartment. Later there seemed to be a quarrel going on in the corridor about lost keys, lost cell phone and having to sleep in the stairway like a homeless person. I asked the group to take their fight outside or I would call the manager. They said they were not fighting, but talking as friends. Really.
Last weekend, as I returned from my uplifting day meditating, I stopped by a corner store to purchase some string cheese. The person in front of me, about age 24, bought about 6 lottery tickets. He also ordered a piece of cheesecake. As he was waiting for change, he snorted cocaine. Around the counter was his friend, who was about the same age, looking at him with a stupid face of admiration. What was there to admire of this brazen behavior in front of the shop keeper and customers? Really.
Sorry if this is a negative post. I'll go meditate now. Ohmm.
Someone asked Lino, "Ashtanga. Is that a yoga for young people?"
"Yes!" he responded, "for people like us!"
I love that quote. You're as young as your spine. Oh, that's another one. Good reason to practice. Speaking of which, I did Second Series to Supta Vajrasana. I noticed, and maybe I'm repeating myself, when you do Supta Vajrasana by yourself, you emphasize the pushing down of the lotus bound feet to the floor. This is supposed to happen, and when you're being assisted, it's part of the reason a person is there to assist you, to exert some downward pressure to ground you so you can come back up. I notice that self practice of this asana is a bit stressful on my knees, something I don't otherwise experience. Maybe I'm exerting extra effort to do the pose.
I again gave a lot of concentration to UD and dropbacks. There were a few moments my mind wondered to planning during my practice, but I was still able to have a decent go at it.
I recently started reading a wonderful and funny blog written by Jayne, a contemporary of mine whose husband has a construction firm in the UAE. Here is her blog. I noticed the cute widget for adopting a pet and tried doing one in my blog. However, it appears to be a bit out of the boundary given it, so I may have to remove it. In my case I adopted a hamster. If they had frogs, I would have adopted one. But I love hamsters as well.
This frog had some challenges to his practice this week. Yesterday, lifting the bicycle to get it out of the way for practice, I did some strange movement in the back. It was the second time it happened. It got me to have a talk with myself about how I must not be lifting the bike again and find some other space in the apartment for it during practice, one in which I can roll the bike into. Practice that day consisted of extended child's pose. Extended as in, hold it a long time. Advil came to the rescue later. Today I don't feel any back pain at all. However, my practice was short because of a deadline. I'm getting ready to go to an architectural conference in Boston next week, so I need to hurry up a project. I did as much as I could cram into an hour of practice: standing poses, seated up to Janus Sirsasana A, jump to Marichyasana C, Urdvha Danurasana and closing sequence. I paid attention to how many breaths I took in between poses, trying to limit them to two, so I could keep the flow.
Last nite I went to a led class I go to once a month. It leaves me feeling stretchy. I thought that would make my practice snappy this morning. Instead in my two hours I got as far as Marichyasana B. I did give about 15 minutes of earnest work on Urdvha Danurasanas and dropbacks. I set up a crash pad consisting of tatami mat, zafu floor cushion, three blankets, and to top it off, for good measure, a Scottish wool tartan shawl I inherited from my aunt (It had the original tag from when she bought it eons ago. Since I'm a guy I was told I could use it to drape it over a chair. But I find it useful for wrapping myself in it when I meditate.) It turns out for today I didn't need the crash pad. I got rather low on my own, but since I could not see the landing pad, I did not fall back. Maybe I should hurl myself. But I don't want to be like a tree falling in the forest just for the sake of hurling myself back unassisted.
I hate to admit that I'm being sloppy in my yoga practice two days in a row. I realize it's a moon day, but since I didn't practice yesterday, practicing today would seem the right thing to do. I only did passive yin stretches on both days. The ironic thing is that I walked all the way from my apartment to Chinatown yesterday, to replenish my stock of incense, which in my mind supports my yoga practice. The apartment smells of sandalwood, patchouli, lavender and jasmine. The image is from this purveyor of incence in the UK. Those coils, by the way, looks like the logo of Timbuk2, the San Francisco based creator of fabulous messenger bags and other types of bags. I used to think that logo meant that the people bought the bag at some purveyor of java coffee. I priced one yesterday during my walk, so a Timbuk2 bag is on my wish list. Before I spiral out of control, I'll return to my yoga practice tomorrow : )
A colleague lent me a copy of Herman Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund. This would have been the perfect book for me to read in my literature classes at Notre Dame, when I was studying philosophy, prior to architecture. The author is a noble peace price winner. Yet, I cannot remember what book of his I might have read. This one in particular would have been apropos for that time in my life, since it coincided with when I thought I would join a monastery and it is set in medieval times, depicting the story of two monks. Now I serve the world by being an architect. I'm glad that I found Buddhism. It is a practical way to live in the world and still have a spiritual life.
I went to a daylong meditation. On the way over I was thinking, how do I have time to do this, with all the stuff I have to do? But the purpose of these is to reorganize the mind. I learned a lot. During the first meditation session, my mind was doing a lot of planning of creative things I need to do in the coming weeks. At one point, the priest who led the retreat said, "open the eyes and stay awake to this moment." Later on, during his lesson, he said that sometimes the mind goes into a planning mode when one is meditating. You can tell a person is going into that mode because the body leans forward, the posture looking a bit like Rodin's Thinker. Since he had been facing us practitioners while we were facing the wall during the meditation, I'm sure he caught me in a moment where I was leaning forward, thinking. It's not bad to be thinking and planning at that moment; the mind sometimes does that, but it's not what you come to the retreat for - you come to drop the body and mind, and be awake to the moment. I'm glad that he called our sitting meditation practice a yogic practice, because that ties it to my yoga asana practice. In Zen there is instruction on how to sit, sitting upright, chest arching slightly upwards, hands folded, one over the other, fingertips touching, the shoulders back, relaxed, the ears in line with the shoulders, the nose in line with the ears, the gaze with eyes half closed, looking slightly downward. In yoga, sitting in Padmasana with lotus bound feet prepares you for this.
The teacher gestured as if getting into jalabhara bhanda, and said it was not necessary to do this in order to get the alignment of the shoulder, head and ears correctly. (He must have seen me doing a few jalabhara bandas, ha!) The food today was fabulous. One is not supposed to judge, but it really wowed. Breakfast consisted of warm bread pudding, yogurt and fruit salad. Lunch was Penne pasta with pesto sauce, stirfried tofu and green salad. In the afternoon we had mint tea with a pecan shortbread cookie. In Zen we say some prayers prior to eating, praying the food nourish you and help you so that you don't suffer from greed. This food definitely did that and certainly nourished the spirit. The beautiful garden with fragant roses, honeysuckle, orchids, and other assorted flowering trees and bushes, also inspired. (Ovo) I'm in such a hurry - now running to a piano concert I was invited to that this blog entry had to write itself.
Practiced Second Series to Eka Pada Sirsasana. I woke up a bit later, otherwise I would have practiced longer. Snow White in discussing our practice on Sunday said that for Laghu Vajrasana the legs should be slightly wider (hips width apart) on the mat than for Ustrasana and Kapotasana. I tried that today and was able to spring back up after having touched the floor with the head. That's pretty subtle, but then self practice is like that. I noticed that I practice next to a tatami mat that has a zafu and blanket on top. I could put some more blankets and practice dropbacks, falling on it. I did not try it today because the bike was in the way. To get it out the the way requires herculean force to lift it over my head and move it to the side of the bed. I might do that on Monday. I received an email that Springy Sitarist and Rallito de Sol will be out of town on Sunday, so I won't be able to practice with them. Hence, I plan to practice with Seven Petal Lotus.
Today I practiced Primary. I thought I'd try practicing with earplugs, as Karen and Patrick have done. I liked it. The stray thoughts did not dominate; I was able to focus on the breath. It made me discover that I really was not tired during practice, particularly in Urdva Danurasana and dropbacks. The strength is there. The heart may beat a bit faster, and the breath be slightly quicker, but I'm not tired. I also realized that after asanas that require effort to get into, such as Marichyasana C or D, the breath returns to normal in and out pace, showing that the body returns to homeostasis of the central nervous system.
The image is from this site- northwestfrogfest.com, a forum for people who want to keep captive bred frogs. Maybe it might interest Half J., Laksmi.
I'm an architect, originally from Puerto Rico, living and working in Shanghai, China. I practice ashtanga yoga and Buddhist meditation. I also observe calorie restriction while seeking optimal nutrition (CRON).