6/30/08

Beautiful landscape architecture video

I came across this beautiful animated video that describes the development of design ideas for a winning entry to a landscape architecture design competition held in Singapore. I tried to embed the YouTube video here, but it may not be available for embedding. So if you have the curiousity to watch it and five minutes of your time, you can try this link and watch it. The presentation shows a lot a lot of creativity. The design is futuristic and optimistic and it was prepared by SquintOpera. I stumbled across it in the 3D CAD Illustration blog. There's something called a sky biodome, and eco apartments with gardens.

6/29/08

practiced, and the parade began

I practiced at YSSF with Seven Petal Lotus, near Snow White, Mona, The Cyclist, Bandman, Moustache Blanc, Periwinkle Petals and Quiet Strength. QE2 and Marin Man joined us later. I did my usual Sunday practice, half Primary, half Second. I stopped at Supta Vajrasana because my energy, honestly speaking, was spent. I don't have a cold anymore, but I still have some phlegm to leave my chest. So if this practice burns up the phlegm, it certainly helped to practice today. There were some items on sale at the shalas' store, so I bought a beautifully illustrated book of another Botisattva contemporary of the historical Budda. I have to go. The parade is about to begin...(by the way, NY ashtanga yoginis, The Cyclist is moving to NY. He may be single, available, around 38 and professional. Sounds like I'm passing him on to you. Where are the places to practice? Where does Christopher teach now, Greg, and the others?) Bye, the women on bikes are coming. Too much noise. Yikes, my camera memory card stopped working after the third picture, so no pictures. I will go to my office for some quiet. It's impossible to be in my apartment with a parade going on in front. Cheers and sorry for the, ahem, neurotic writing, San Francisco style.

Dhanurasana, dhanurasana and dhanurasana

Yesterday afternoon I went to a Bikram's studio to use the bathroom. I'm sure that story is nor original. I'm not the first cybershalamate to have written about going into a Bikram's studio to use the bathroom. Then I went to another studio for a led hatha class I had been invited to, led by an anusaran. Their keys to the bathroom were missing. Yes I received a hug. Two in fact. One at the beginning of class and one at the end. I can see you're yeallous. The class was interesting. I think we broke down what needs to happen for Hanumanasana to happen. That's a lot of "h's" in a sentence. Things like the thighs have to be scissoring towards each other; it's okay to have the leg behind have the toes curled to give extra pushing direction. The teacher demonstrated. Of course, he's a gummy bear so he went right into the highest expression of the asana. Except he said that on his left side he was higher up. Well from my Hanumanasana perch I could not tell he wasn't on the floor.

OK. Then the other practices we did were mainly chest opening ones. We took turns spotting each other in Pincha Mayurasana. All I can remember is being aloft and being fascinated by the raised dots on my mat. It seems that was the only thing I was seeing. And they seemed black, not purple, from the upside down position. But that is not important. I'm sore from the Urdvha Dhanurasanas. Since we weren't aiming to come to standing, I made an effort to really push high on high. Is high on high a term? I may be inventing it. I pressed the feet a lot and pushed the chest towards the arms. I think this is good form.

Aha. So. What else? Oh, yea. The most important thing, and I'm really rambling out of place. The Dhanurasana practice got me the highest Dhanurasana in the history of Market St for this shy monk. What? Never mind. We tootsie rolled a blanket, placed it on the pelvis, laid on it, then kept the chest on the floor while lifting the legs way up. Then we placed the roll on the belly under the belly button. That's a lot of "b's" in a sentence. At this point in the lift, the knees stayed on the floor and the chest came way up when lifting. The final version was sans candy - the sugar free version - no tootsie roll. The brain had processed what needed to lift and how high, so naturally and without props, the feet and legs went way up. I felt I was in a Ventikesh video. I probably misspelled his name, but you know the one that Elise posted a few weeks back. The one where the teacher seemed to be corralling a cabrito with ropes in a rodeo when assisting a student in Dhanurasana? Ring a bell? No? Never mind. OK now I'm off to Seven Petal Lotus' room in SF because Springy Sitarist is out of town in Berkeley. Happy Sunday. (And thanks to Susananda for reminding me indirectly of the correct spelling of bow pose, Dhanurasana, by using it correctly in a sentence. Doesn't a joke start that way? "OK students, today I want you to use the word Dhanurasana in a sentence...")

6/28/08

frog drum metronome

My morning was so alive. I quieted monkey mind with Zazen meditation at Zen Center. When I coughed two minutes before the end of the meditation period, I gave myself permission to go to the music instrument store in Haight Ashbury, instead of going to the Dharma lecture. After all, I reasoned, I just recovered from a cold - I can't do everything. I want to get a metronome. The Dharma is the Word. It's important, like meditation, like being in community (sangha). That is why we say, "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha." But I"m conflicted and I want to get a metronome so I can play it during yoga practice to see if I can keep a steady pace. I think I would start with 40 beats per minute. The cough strengthened my resolve. Going to the seat of hippiedom in the city is the right Dharmic thing to do, I reasoned.
It was an amusement park ride from there to now. The attendants at the store, and it's clients, hip and fun. I was in percussion heaven - bongos, conga, timbales, castanets. I bought the little frog drum you see here. Next time the neighbor puts the music too loud, I'll start chanting accompanied by a rhythmic beat on this drum. Mambo will follow, if necessary. I bought this Korg metronome. I'll report on whether my experiment works during the week.
My reports on the bus riders the rest of the morning are too lengthy to describe - swarms of hipsters wearing T shirts that declared they were participating in a city wide hunt game. Some where cool, others were frantic. Many where using the GPS on their phones. It seemed you have to be an avid TV watcher to figure out the clues, since they stemmed from various TV programs. A bus driver regaled a couple visiting from Seattle with stories of San Francisco after the earthquake. The Pride Festival has started in Civic Center. I saw a woman in the arms of another woman who was dressed as an attractive young man. Hmm. Yes. It's going to feel like a long weekend. This is what makes city living so alive. I'll have my camera ready tomorrow. I can't wait for the noisy start of the parade by two hundred women on motor bikes, followed by about an equal number of men named Mike foot pedalling on bikes.

6/27/08

Aaaaaahhhhh - Uohgh!!!

My father always admired Perez Prado, a Cuban-Mexican band leader of his era who, when playing a mambo, at the appropriate time when the music would stop, would scream, "Aaaaaahhhh -Uuoghh!". He felt that was done with such skill. So much effect with such little effort. My father has always known how to make us laugh, Puerto Rican style. He says that when you live long enough in a place, you become goonerised, accustomed to staying put like the black footed albatross birds known as goonie birds that don't leave the Falkland Islands. They don't like to move out of the way when a plane lands there. The image is from a wikepedia article on them. My mom has a sense of humor too, but that is another story, for another day.


Don't you just love YouTube? I mean I was trying to figure out how to find a clip of something by Perez Prado, and here someone posted an entire song. Listen, it's not very long and you'll get the sense of what my father referred to by just listening a little. Perez Prado seems to direct, do his guttural screams, and in the middle sing 3 lines, returning to his screams. It's wonderful, if you don't mind being transported back to 1950. (I hope my mom drags my dad to the computer to watch the clip.)
Here is another funny story of my dad's. In 1982, he still was driving his Mercury Grand Marquis. His was the widest model Ford Mercury ever made. The steering wheel was so loose that he named the boat "la yola" (the sloop) because it steered like a boat in the ocean. We were attending a concert by Texan musicians at the Pablo Casals Museum, at the top of the narrow historic Calle Del Cristo in Old San Juan, with some of the performers. Someone driving an enormous van injudiciously parked it on the historic street. (The actual spot was about one block north of the spot in the accompanying picture, which belongs to this webposter.) My dad asked us to step out of the car and walk to the plaza while he went to park. Somehow, he managed to pass through the obstruction and join us. Later one of the musicians in the concert asked him how passed through the blockage created by the van. He said, "I drove right through the street. " "Did you scratch it?", asked my musician friend. "Yes, I scratched it, Puerto Rican style" my dad replied as he flashed his pearlies. You can't drive a car without getting a scratch or dent in that small Island, after all.

inspired and encouraged by cybershalamates

Inspired by Boodiba and encouraged by Alfia, I dedicated my entire practice today to Urdvha Danurasanas and dropbacks. Well I dedicated my practice to all of the teachers that have passed the lamp from generation to generation, but that is another song.

So after the first five essential asanas, I started with bridge, followed by three sets of two Urdvha Danurasanas. My intent was to see how close I could come to standing from UD. I'll keep you guessing. I got up by pulling my body up from a squat, reaching for the book case and the end of the closet. Then I practiced dropbacks. I did them:

  • Kino style
  • Lino style
  • Limbo style
  • Sweeney style

My internal dialog went like, "feet parallel, legs bent, tailbone down, pelvis forward, chest lifting, keep lifting, arms in prayer, arms over head...". At other times it was, "feet apart, pointing outwards, bend the feet a lot, lift the chest, reach the hands to the calves, can you see the folded brown towel at the edge of the mat?"

After 8 of those, I went back for another three set of two Urdvha Danurasanas on the floor. Inhale up. Hold five breaths in the wheel. (I forgot, I could have attempted walking the hands towards the feet - must remember that next time.) I remembered Anna saying to coordinate the breath. You have to be inhaling when you're going to come up. So I exhaled, pushed the chest up and back towards the wall, inhaled and pushed forward towards the front in a rocking motion. I did the rocking motion six times. The lower back felt warm and good. The arms felt tired. The breath was strong, focused and steady.

I got up by pulling myself up from a squat with the edge of the bookcase and the closet. Hey, I'm working on it...I went for another round of dropback practice. I felt a bit dizzy. I moved to closing, holding Paschimottanasana 20 breaths and doing the remaining closing poses.

When I sat down to the computer, my left knee bothered me a bit. I don't think this practice was that different than the same movements at the end of my usual yoga sequence. It just had a different emphasis. My thighs feel stronger this morning, since they seemed to get the preparation they needed to help me in coming up to standing. My back feels lubricated by the motions. Would I repeat the exact practice of today every day for a week? No. It was just a mini-workshop.

6/26/08

The stadium display - a dream sequence

Today I practiced Primary to Supta Kurmasana. It's been comforting to practice this sequence while regaining one's usual stamina. I don't think there is a deep meaning to the following dream. It seems to put together things I had been working on throughout the previous day - designing meandering spaces around plazas, thinking about the practice, etc.
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I dreamt that Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati opened a new shala in the US in a historical Frank Lloyd Wright building. They took out all of the furniture to allow for practice space. During a rest time after practice, Guruji was giving advice freely, telling jokes and smiling a lot. The family was inviting people to eat at a restaurant in the premises started by someone in their nucleus. They talked about taking out some walls in the space to make for a bigger practice room, but I thought that it would be difficult to get permit for that, since most FLW buildings were historical and protected from being changed too much. It was a time of the year where there where some spectacles going on in town at a new arena that curved around a plaza. Every yoga practitioner, including myself, was expected to climb out of a window in the highest level of an arena gallery, do an asana on a high bleacher, receive applause from the audience, then climb back and out through the window. Then you would go and pay respects to the Family at the new shala. When it came time for my performance, the bleacher appeared at 10 feet below the window and I requested assistance in being lowered to the platform, either by being given a ladder to reach it, or by being lowered down. I did my asana and somehow sprung out of there and went to the shala.

6/25/08

Inspiring yoga photos

Here are some inspiring yoga photos. Now, don't you think this rendition of Vasisthasana is an inspiring celebration of life? I mean, I think the dristhe there went right to heaven.
The Chakorasana is superb. Personally, I wouldn't want to fall off the rock into the precipice, though. The teacher is Chad Stose, and here is his website, where there are more photos. He specializes in Anusara. Let me see, from our cybershalamates I learned that Anusarans hug a lot. If I remember correctly Donut's Gift worked for an Anusaran couple and always received a daily hug. And someone mentioned that if you wanted to get over the fear of handstands and learn arm balances, go to an Anusaran training. OK. G'nite and hugs!

If something looks too good to be true...

...it probably is. On the way home for lunch, I stumbled upon a pair who frequent the bus lines that are most heavily traveled by tourists, the ones that go to the beach, the universities, or the museums. One of them holds a cardboard on which he's playing a game with three balls and three cups, saying, "sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, round and round the ball she goes..." He asks people to place a bet and he'll match the amount if the person guesses where the ball of a certain color goes after he shuffles the cups. A counterpart looks with great interest and laughs loudly from a distance, pretending he just stumbled upon a fun game. He entreats people by saying, "the middle one, pick the middle one." Initially, someone, possibly one familiar with the group, places a large bet, such as $10, and is given $20 back, after choosing what the counterpart said to choose. It appears like a way to make easy money. Inevitably someone will have the curiosity to risk a few dollars and see if they double it. Once in a while, people are not in the mood to be taken for a ride and will ignore these entertainers. But today there were a lot of people wishing to be distracted, so the group was having a ball. This is what happens on a journey in public transportation, you are not in control of the surroundings.

How long is your primary practice?

I have a technical question. What is the optimal length of the Primary practice? Lino once said he only takes about 45 minutes for his. People who have Sharath's DVD says the breath count is about 3, not 5. One teacher told me that on a day of Second Series practice, I could do the Primary sequence faster. I've been so ingrained to holding the count for 5 breaths that it's difficult to envision shortening it. My practice even probably slowed down a bit when I moved to San Francisco, while I perfected the sequence. In my home practice, inefficiencies arise from going to the restroom, checking the length of my finger nails or toe nails, monkeymind doing planning, or taking notes while practicing (uh oh, ... busted.) Maybe I should get a chronometer and check how long I really take to do the sequence. The warm up is about 10 minutes long. The practice takes about an hour and a half. Sometimes I concentrate an ten minutes on Urdvha Danurasanas and dropbacks.

6/24/08

yoga flogs

I got up earlier so I could get some asana practice today, a sign that I'm over the hump. Looking at Bindi's latest doll creation of a frog had me searching for flogs in Japan sites. This led me to find this study in today's BBC about how skin fungus of tree frogs in Costa Rica explains why the amphibian population is decreasing world wide. (That is the source of the image.) I also came across a flog museum site in Japan, with unusual things, such as this one that Armani might find amusing, because they seem like frog hello kittys. Now that is a stretch.
But I digress. I practiced about an hour. I held kurmasana and supta kurmasana 20 breaths each, to create warmth in the chest area and help burn some of the phlegm there resulting from the cold. I'm getting my groove baaack.

6/22/08

Marches okay but mambo better

OK, so I'm managing to fall asleep without coughing (a sign I'm getting better) but the neighbor is playing the same drumming music that inspired to write my conga piece this morning. So I waited patiently for the computer to be available (11 minutes, I think I counted), went to this site on John Phillip Sousa, and sampled a few marches. But that was boring. So I found a site with Celia Cruz music. Now that was style. I found some fabulous mambos, with names such as Mambo Loco, that had me swaying quickly. I cranked up the volume as high as I could. If the neighbor didn't get the message, at least I enjoyed exhilarating classic mambo. I can't tell if the neighbor got the message. But my next ploy is to put a pan with lid at the top of my bookshelf and somehow tip it. This feels so weird, since I have just read the chapters of Thich Nhat Hanh's Insights into the Lotus Sutra about how hatred begets hatred. My justification is that TNH talked about how we have to be like Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva, who becomes what is appropriate for the circumstance to help people, whether a gentle loving person, a fierce guardian, a rule enforcing police, a gang member, whatever needed to infiltrate a situation and relieve suffering. So I became a DJ entertainer for a few moments. I'm trying to get a message across without hammering on the walls or ceiling, since frankly I don't know which of two neighbors, the one above or the one next to me, is the perpetrator... (Celia's image is from this source.) I'm sure you'd rather I talk about my practice, yes? Well Monday's will be a meditation one, hopefully Tuesday I can resume asana practice.

Drumming and chanting on my mind

No practice today. I overslept from the effect of nyquil. I took it when the neighbor was keeping me up with thumping music around 1:00am and my nose was stuffed up. I got up to put some music in my computer, such as a rousing John Phillip Sousa march, but the new virusprotecter slowed that possibility. It now takes about 12 minutes before I can do anything in the computer, while zee inspector checks for baddies. In that time frame, maybe the neighbor heard me coughing and shuffling and turned the music down. I'm thinking of investing in some used bongos (image from that site). That would get instant results and I might learn some rythms if I accompany the neighbor's music. Or, more in keeping with the Zen way, I could buy a Japanese Taiko drum such as those used to accompany Zen chanting. That will bring some awareness to all of us. I could chant the Shosaimio Kichijo Darani chant for removing hindrance. Each of the following words gets a drum beat: No mo san man da, moto nan, oha ra, koto sha sono nan to ji to en gya gya gya ki gya ki un nun shifu ra shifu ra hara shifu ra, chisu sa chuisu sa, chisu ri chisu ri soha ya soha ja sen chi gya shiri ei so mo ko.
I went to get coffee and a vegan pecan cookie at the mall. I looked at a packaged slice of carrot cake at Bristol Farms. For the first time, nutritional information was given in the label. If I'm not mistaken, one slice is 1020 calories, and, again, if I'm not mistaken, one package is two servings. I've given in to one of these packages once or twice in the year, as for example on my birthday. I did not know that I was consuming 2040 calories in one sitting. Wow, I'm glad to be warned so that I can make a better choice in what I eat. And that was the only cake in that section that had nutritional information. No information was provided on the decadent chocolate cakes.

6/21/08

soupy observations

This is not a rant, just some observations on a good product out there. I like Dr. McDougall's soups. They are vegetarian, low fat and vegan. If you missed preparing a meal, one of them is easy to prepare by adding water. What I'm observing, though, is that the original product has been enlarged in size. Someone must have complained that they enjoyed a soup, found it tasty, but it stayed in one tooth. Ahem. So they macsized it. So before the Black Bean & Lime soup, my favorite, would set me back 170 calories. But now a package, with the same nutrition facts, is adjusted to say that there are two servings per container.

Now, who is going to throw out part of a tasty soup after prepared because it was packaged for two? Why doesn't the manufacturer give buyers the choice of buying the low calorie, one serving portion, or the higher calorie, two serving portion? Maybe the manufacturer does that, but my local suppliers only buy the larger size. I don't know. But you have to be careful, because the sodium content is doubled. I would not suggest eating one of these every day; it's better to prepare fresh foods. But in a pinch it can be a good choice. Also, you can take it with you when you go on board a plane and just ask for hot water, so it could serve as a good meal when traveling. You can find buy them online from the Amazon River or also from healthek, where the image is from.

My other favorite is Split Pea. I'm not a nutritionist like Jeff, who could explain all this better. There is a link to his blog on my blog roll under CRONies. I am not sure on the impact on glucose if soup is in powdered form prior to preparation. When legumes are overly cooked, they impact blood glucose higher. I don't have an idea as to whether if the legumes have been reduced to powdered form, it has the same effect on the body as if they had been overcooked. Methinks they might.

sympathy cold pride

I think I got a small cold out of sympathy for Alfia and Boodiba. So I'm not sure if I'll be able to practice on Sunday or go to the Sutra reading. If I go to the shala on Sunday I should only do Primary Series. Someone sent these studio animal pictures, which probably make the rounds of emails in the net. I don't know who the credits belong to.
This is Pride week in SF. The parade passes right in front of my apartment, next Sunday the 29th. It is an extremely noisy hoot. I don't know if I should go away from my apartment for a few hours to get rest, or just go with the flow of the crazyness. (You can guess which one I'm going to do.) Below is one picture from last year.
On the way back from groceries this morning, I was treated to riding in one of the topless trolleys that is shaped like a boat. The city looks very beautiful when you are riding in a vehicle without a top. Have a nice weekend everyone.

6/20/08

updated virus protection software questions yoga pics

My updated virus protection seems to investigate any page I visit. I am glad for the protection, however, yesterday afternoon and evening, with all the talking back the software does to some central location through the net, my internet connection slowed to a crawl. I wonder if the programmers of this software also serve the networks of more restrictive societies, where researching on counties such as Middlesex or Sussex is strictly forbidden. (Hi Jayne!) I wonder about that because I was searching for an image of Teacher Petri for something I wanted to describe, came accross a beautiful set of pictures of yoga in Finland in his website, and the following two pictures were prohibited. I had to override controls to view them. That is funny. Yogap___n? Ha! I love the picture of people doing headstand, warrior pose and others outside in front of a beautiful barn. It's beautiful architecture in many ways! I guess pictures of people digging for clams are out of the question for this virus protecter? Forget Yoginidrasana. Heavens!
Ursula, the software thinks you're so beautiful that you have to be shielded from view (see below). Well, I agree with the beautiful part (apologies to the BF). Many yoginis in the blogosphere are more beautiful, as Eeyore would say, than Rainbeau Mars. But I don't agree with the shielding part. I have to figure out what I can do, or I will miss seeing pictures of my fave people.

6/19/08

Research today

So today I researched some yoga poses. If memory serves me right, to set up for Viswamitrasana, you're supposed to lunge, crouch your shoulder under the leg that you are going to lift, the lift and straighten the foot that is aloft. It's difficult to get that flying foot to extend well. The exit is supposed to be a balancing act that brings the foot around and back. That exit might be difficult in my little space.

Kasyapasana sounds like a Scandinavian furniture name, which is sort of the way my body feels while in it, like a Le Corbusier lounge chair. But it's really like Yoginidrasana with one leg and the other leg in a split. It's easier to do than Dwi Pada. Chakorasana is difficult to do correctly.

In general the leg behind the head poses made my back feel good, as if I had received a massage. They also make my body feel when I'm walking around the city hours after practice, as if I had gone horseback riding for a few hours in the morning.

(The image is from accent-home-furniture.com. LeCorbusier's chair is a classic of early 20th century modernist design. The other image is of Arjuna doing Kashyabasana, from his website.)

Musings on my home practice

I feel I need to revisit how I describe what I'm doing in my home practice. Let's say at home, my intuition is my teacher, the sat guru. When I go to my teacher's room in the city, I practice the asanas that I'm allowed in my practice in the traditional ashtanga sequence. At home, I might research a pose that I find difficult or challenging, to have an internal dialogue with my body as to whether it can open up and allow the movement to happen. It is still yoga. I derive the benefits of the practice - calmness and steadiness of mind, focus, equanimity and a spiritual well being. And I get there regardless of whether I'm doing a perfectly (or imperfectly) executed primary series or half of second series in a shala, or whether I'm struggling to do Dwi Pada or Karandavasana or Bhariavasasana at home in a practice that varies from the sequence. I would not re-enact my home practice in the shala since it would appear that I was jumping poses.


The important thing is the honesty of one's intent. I am not a teacher. A person starting this ashtanga practice should find a teacher and follow their recommendations. After years of practice, one needs to be able to do practice on one's own as well. Is the traditional sequence is absolute? It keeps changing. So there is no sacredness to a particular order in which one practices the asanas at home in my opinion. As I have learned from my intelligent cybershalamates, one should stick to the order when practicing in community because that creates flow in the room, shows order and respect for the teacher. (Thank you, cybershalamates.) At home, it's a different story. I'm a householder and a professional architect, who juggles a career while doing yoga for health, happiness and spiritual benefit. Maybe I would like to write an entry such as the latest by Karen that focuses on one asana, that way the sequence in which I'm practicing doesn't come to bear.

6/18/08

Reflecting your moon-ness with no popups!

With respect to our practice, I don't like moondays. Just when you're building momentum, they come to spoil the fun :-{ I used the time to update the virus protection on my computer, which should take care of mallware trying to attach itself to this blog. Maybe next time you visit this blog and leave a comment, you won't get the "San Francisco experience" of being besotted with panhandling sites asking you to buy something. So on this moonday, my wise friend Albert sent this quote from Chogyam Trungpa

Being open means being free to do whatever is called for in a given situation. Because you do not want anything from the situation, you are free to act in the way genuinely appropriate to it. And similarly, if other people want something from you, that may be their problem. You do not have to try to ingratiate yourself with anyone. Openness means "being what you are." If you are comfortable being yourself, then an environment of openness and communication arises automatically and naturally.

It is like the idea of the moon shining on one hundred bowls of water, so that there are one hundred moons, one in each bowl. This is not the moon's design nor was it designed by anyone else. But for some strange reason there happen to be one hundred moons reflected in one hundred bowls of water. Openness means this kind of absolute trust and self-confidence. If the bowls are there, they will reflect your "moon-ness." If they are not there, they will not. Or if they are only half there, then they will reflect only half a moon. It is up to them. You are just there, the moon, open, and the bowls may reflect you or not. You neither care nor do you not care. You are just there.

Chogyam Trungpa, in "The Open Way," in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

And speaking about dealing with materialism as a yogi, yoga teacher Rusty Wells had this to say. That's his picture in Vrischikasasana, from the same article. He would probably be in favor of the stopping of those Bed Bath and Beyondze 20% off flyers that flood one's mailbox monthly.

6/17/08

Second to headstands

Today I practiced the second half of Second Series, Bakasana to the Seven Headstands. I can't remember the time when I would be experiencing nervous excited anticipation before doing yoga, except when I started practicing in earnest six years ago. Ha! And the benefits, besides physical, have been spiritual as well, so I think the stuff that is supposed to be happening as a result of the practice is there.

I read in iYogaClub today that David Williams said, “An asana is like a jar of honey. The further you have to go to reach its end, the more honey there is in the jar. The most important thing is the honey, the effort, the awareness, the realisation and the joy of practice”.

One practice note today is that I need to venture to get away from the wall as a crutch for Dwi Pada and do it in the middle of the practice space. That is so that I can transition correctly out of the asana by moving to Tittibasana and Bakasana exit. Next I need to plan the time more accurately to allow sufficient time to dropback practice.

As I was working at my desk yesterday, a coworker walked by saying, "cronyogitect, cronyogitect, what does CRON mean?" as another colleague laughed in the background. I must have had a dumbfounded look that said, is my personal world intersecting my professional world? He had been googling images of a particular project and my blog turned up. I think he remembered I blogged so he walked by with the question. I explained CRON means calorie restriction with optimal nutrition. hehe. No, I'm not like a parrot. But they are beautiful birds.

6/16/08

yin practice, funny article

It was yin yoga this morning, an hour and a quarter of seated poses held 20 breaths, with no vinyasas in between. Usually I'm sore on Mondays and end up skipping practice then. Today I wasn't sore, except for some neck stiffness, but this practice felt right.

I found this article funny. The Japanese government goes around to measure people's waistlines. If a man's waistlines exceeds 33.5, he is admonished and given 3 months or so to bring it down. If he does not comply, he will be forced to partake in health education. Wouldn't it be interesting if something similar was tried here in our obesogenic society?

6/15/08

strong sutra chest opening

It's a bit of a hike for me going to practice in Berkeley on Sundays - 3 buses going, two trains returning. This morning a new potential difficulty appeared- a new transbay bus driver that wants to stick to some mandated schedule which makes me lose the connecting bus to the shala. He stopped to "rest" three times. At the third time, one block from where the connecting bus appears, I said to him that I was going to miss my connection. He said, yes, but he was on time and could not get ahead of himself. As we spoke, the connecting bus appeared in front of us. I guess he felt sorry for me, hurried up and miraculously, a red light held the connecting bus and I ran to the place where I could catch the connecting one. All that while half asleep. If I miss that bus, well, it would be time to do as Tich Naht Hahn suggests and practice meditation while waiting. But if I miss that bus, it means I would have to cut short my practice at the shala because I would not be able to get everything in.

Practice was really strong. I had a good yoga week, so I was not tired. My mind was present in the moment, not planning for the day, not thinking about breakfast afterwards. I was patient in setting up in difficult poses. Since I spent a lot of time on 2nd series last week, my feet were popping out in Marichyasana D. In Pasasana, a few additional subtle pointers Springy Sitarist gave me: while the feet are fully planted on the floor, bring the arm that is going to bind way up, bend the elbow, and point it to a spot to the right of the feet, bring the elbow as far down as possible, relax there for a minute with your breath, don't tense the arm as you bring it back to bind, bring the arm behind the legs to bind, lift the chest up, look back. The main new point was the pointing of the elbow. I find this useful to do when preparing in all binding poses.

I did Kapotasana twice. Teacher assisted at the second time. I asked him afterwards how close I was to the feet. I was about a hand's distance. It appears that most of the things that make this position happen are there: the thighs engaged, tailbone down, chest lifting, arms going back, close to the body, chest lifting, dangling the body in the air, keeping the elbows in as you extend the hands towards the feet. This last part is the one most challenging currently - keeping the elbows in. But the set up reminds me of what David Swenson recommends these days of having the hands over the head, close to the body, rather than coming to the floor to then walk them in. It's also what Kino does in her videos.

In assisted drobpacks Teacher reminded me (again - me bad man) to extend the hands way out when falling to, I mean reaching, the floor. If I don't do that I'm going to hit my coco on the floor one of these days in my self practice at home. Teachers are patient. I coordinated the breath in the short ones, exhaling going down, inhaling coming up, paying attention to the legs to engage them and making them bring me up. I coordinated the breath regardless of how fast my heart was racing. I learned that in swimming.

Patanjali Sutra 3:51 (Shearer translation)
"We should not respond with pleasure or pride to the alluring invitations of celestial beings, because this will obstruct progress and it is always possible to fall."

I'm remembering that Sutra because after practice, when I was having coffee and a pumpkin muffin at the cafe nearby, two people who practiced with me at the shala waved hello. At first I didn't recognize them, because without my glasses, I can barely figure who the people in my immediate vicinity are. Today I practiced next to SweetPea and in front of The Agent. Anyway, I introduced myself. One of the practitioners said my ustrasana, laguvajrasana and kapotasana were impressive. I waved my hand in protest. I remembered the Sutra. It's nice to get a compliment, but you can't let it get to your head. Maybe in terms of where he is in his practice mine looks advanced. Anyway, I took the moment to give him some pointers of passive stretches he can do at home in the morning to open up the thoracic spine, starting by draping the back over a small exercise ball of about 15" diameter, then draping the spine over two blocks, the first one placed on its tall edge in the same direction as the spine, and the second one flat on the floor for resting the head. This is what Seven Petal Lotus taught me to do to help open the spine.

6/14/08

Do vegan yogis enjoy better cardiometabolic health?

There was an article posted in the nutrition lists yesterday that in my opinion relates to ashtanga yoga practice. Many of us practitioners are veg(etari)ans. Our practice is intense, lasting typically 1 1/2 to 2 hours daily and repeating about 5 to 6 days a week. This could be considered similar to to endurance type of exercises, such as running, cycling and swimming, carried at low to medium intensities over long periods of time.

Dr. Luigi Fontana, a calorie restriction researcher at Washington University School of Medicine recently contributed the results of a study titled, "Long-term low-calorie low-protein vegan diet and endurance exercise are associated with low cardiometabolic risk." In my opinion this spells good health prospects for many of us ashtangis. Basically we can expect lower body mass index, better blood pressure, glucose levels, and blood lipids that protect us from cardiovascular disease.

Here is an excerpt from this study, with some information snipped:

BACKGROUND: Western diets, which typically contain large amounts of energy-dense processed foods, together with a sedentary lifestyle are associated with increased cardiometabolic risk. We evaluated the long-term effects of consuming a low-calorie low-protein vegan diet or performing regular endurance exercise on cardiometabolic risk factors.

METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, cardiometabolic risk factors were evaluated in 21 sedentary subjects, who had been on a low-calorie low-protein raw vegan diet for 4.4 +/- 2.8 years, (mean age, 53.1 +/- 11 yrs), 21 body mass index (BMI)-matched endurance runners consuming western diets, and 21 age- and gender-matched sedentary subjects,
consuming Western diets.

RESULTS: BMI was lower in the low-calorie low-protein vegan diet (21.3+/- 3.1 kg/m(2)) and endurance runner (21.1 +/- 1.6 kg/m(2)) groups than in the sedentary Western diet group (26.5 +/- 2.7 kg/m(2)) (snip). Plasma concentrations of lipids, lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein, blood pressure (BP), and carotid artery intima-media thickness were lower in the low-calorie low-protein vegan diet and runner groups than in the Western diet group (snip). Both systolic and diastolic BP were lower in the low-calorie low-protein vegan diet group (104 +/- 15 and 62 +/- 11 mm Hg) than in BMI-matched endurance runners (122 +/- 13 and 72 +/- 9 mmHg) and Western diet group (132 +/- 14 and 79 +/- 8 mm Hg) (p < 0.001); BP values were directly associated with sodium intake and inversely associated with potassium
and fiber intake.

CONCLUSIONS: Long-term consumption of a low-calorie low-protein vegan diet or regular endurance exercise training is associated with low cardiometabolic risk. Moreover, our data suggest that specific components of a low-calorie low-protein vegan diet provide additional
beneficial effects on blood pressure.

6/13/08

Second laugh third potency?

I may end up answering my own question. But does practicing the seven head stands in Second Series make a male feel, well, sexier? Either that or goofy. Definitely puts you in a good mood. I've been laughing like 10 times per hour (not loudly, otherwise you'd be thinking I should be on medication) since yesterday morning. Everything seems to make me laugh. I think when I first started practicing Second Series I reported to people that I felt like everything seemed joyous around me. I know it causes cleansing of the nadis, and opening of the heart, increased courage. Bla bla. But does it increase libido in males? Or is that Third Series?

Shake shake shake

I only needed to look at Matthew Sweeney's book to answer my question of yesterday regarding the vinyasas in the 7 headstands in Second Series. There is a vinyasa after the first three and after the next 4, as I thought. I like how he illustrates that the feet come down in between the headstands for a moment. That helps for setting up, particularly for challenging ones like the third and seventh ones.

I was shaking my booty in a little dance of excitement last night, while looking at the section on advanced vinyasa, in anticipation of letting myself do ashtanga improvization today.

Shake, shake, shake.
Shake, shake, shake.
Shake your booty.
Shake your booty, yeah.
(KC & The Sunshine Band)

I might attempt to do as many of 3rd series as I can do. It's been maybe a year and a half since I did this in my home practice. I'm pretty sure I can do up to Durvasasana without too much difficulty. My renditions may not be purhdy. My first ashtanga teacher went to a Nancy Gilgoff training once at Yoga Vermont. Upon returning, while standing talking to us before we started our Mysore practice, he put one leg behind his head, getting into Durvasana. Now, he is someone that is challenged by binding asanas that don't typically challenge me as much. If he did Durvasasana, I could too. Yeah. I know it will be difficult.

I love the balancing of Astavakrasana. The legs just dangles there on the armature of your crouched body. It won't be easy to get into it from the three point headstand, though. The ashtanga aristos will tell me that this is crim activity and that the method is to add one each week or month to the end of Second Series practice. Yes, thank you. I'm just ashtanga riff-raff trying to sneak by and advance. I wouldn't do this in front of Teacher unless allowed to. This is my home practice. I'm going to go contemplate on the power of Avalokiteshvara Boddhisattva, and she'll make it possible. :))

Hmm. It's easier to talk about these plans than actually carrying them out. So if for some reason I poop out, I promise myself that within a week I will carry this practice out. If I change the subject in my next few posts, then you can intuit what happened.

6/12/08

Bakasana to the headstands and itch solution

I practiced Second Series today from Bakasana to the Seven Headstands. I was able to be the calmest in my self practice of Dwi Pada today. My tendency is to start setting up by getting the left leg behind the head really deeply as if in the previous asana, Eka Pada Sirsasana on the left side. Since this is my tight side, I get a lot of resistance from the leg. By the time I'm trying to set up the right leg behind the head, the left one has kicked out, or fought me. So today I just brought both feet up, without trying to get the left leg way behind first. Then I fiddled with getting them intertwined while making the best effort to get my head in front of them and then lifting the head and the chest upwards. I have seen practitioners do this in shala practice rooms. I didn't get a deep posture, but at least I got farther than before, remained balanced without need of the wall for support and stayed calmn. I experienced calmness again in Parigasana.

In the current way of practicing the Seven Headstands, does one get into one of the headstands, breathe five breaths, then move onto the next one without a vinyasa? I think that is the current way. There is a natural break for a vinyasa in between the first three (unsupported ones) and the remaining (supported ones). In some books, they recommend a vinyasa in between each headstand.

I'm finding relief from tinea cruris, jock itch, by spraying the area between the legs at night and when I wake up, with water with vinegar in it. This dries fast and provides cooling. If I don't do anything, I tend to scratch, which breaks the skin and later the area can get infected. That in turn requires using an antibacterial or hydrocortisone lotion. But using water with vinegar in it, a tip that Tony gave me, seems to resolve the problem. In my case it helps to wear loose cotton boxer shorts for underwear. It's really warm in SF, up to 76 degrees today. I'm also trying out witch-hazel, which is a good astringent. (Since writing this post this morning I added the wikepedia link because it contains good advice for this problem and offers good solutions.)

6/11/08

Practice with music and aromatherapy

I reverted back to my usual custom of eating some fruit and nuts, drinking a hot beverage, waiting two hours, then practicing. During the wait I did some self training on the computer. Practiced Second to Dwi Pada. Taking a cue from DZM, I put some devotional music. Yesterday I received my small aromatherapy diffuser. It functions like a ceramic coffee warmer. I put some lavender drops in some water and it permeated the air. I've hear it's a good idea to put some crystals in the little bowl, with just some water and the oils, so I may start looking for some crystals. I feel energized and humbled by the practice. Om shanti. The image is from an aptly named environmental consulting business called Leap. I feel I leaped today.

6/10/08

When commenting in other people's blogs...

...please don't do adhominem attacks.

This is a difficult subject to write about, but it relates to blog etiquette - ways we can behave online that help us build community. I began blogging over a year ago. I discovered other bloggers writing about similar subjects that interest me. By leaving comments in their blogs and receiving comments to mine, I have felt I have gotten to know some people and build community. There is one person who has attacked me about four times when I have left comments in other people's blogs.

I participate in nutrition forums, where I learned that when you don't agree with something written, whether by the original poster or by someone commenting, in a response, it is better to not attack the person. One can explain why one disagrees on what was expressed, but not judge or belittle the person. Blogging and commenting in people's blogs is a form of participating in a forum. So we should be civil here as if we were face to face in a meeting, or in an online discussion. We all have different backgrounds and experience and naturally will not agree on all matters. If a person reacts to someone's comment in another blog and attacks in the response, that is called an adhominem attack. That person is attacking the messenger, rather than addressing what was said. It's not cool to hide behind the anonymity of the net to behave that way. We know who these commenters are; they leave clues; our community is very small. Most probably we won't have to meet in person, and if we do, the pain duration of a hello will only take 90 seconds and you will move on. I say this because most probably, if we like people we meet online, we will like them when we meet them in person; the inverse is probably true.

Here is my suggestion. When visiting another person's blog, one is visiting their living room. It's not good manners to go to the bathroom in their living room. If I see that person that tends to attack me has left a comment, my mind will go, "Oh, I see so and so commented, check, I don't have to read it" and I move on. That way I keep the peace. We have friends in common. We have to maintain a sense of community. If you need to say something, please do so diplomatically. Don't attack the messenger. Read what you wrote and think before hitting the send button.

Fiddling

Short practice today. I'm still fiddling with my schedule. To eat or not to eat before practice? Wake up, eat fruit, nuts and herbal tea, wait two hours, then practice. That has been my routine for 2 years. Last Friday I gave a try to waking up, drinking coffee, eating 7 nuts, practicing within an hour. I thought it was a new resplendent routine. But it's not working. Tomorrow I'll try ye olde routine again - herbal tea and all. See, somewhere in there I need to have one hour for self training on the computer. Either before yoga practice or after yoga practice, but before work. Speaking of which, bye... A drop of lavender oil in the water spray bottle that I use to moisten the practice towel lent a nice aromatherapy note.

Lulemon yoga jelling

It's Lulemon, baby. I received this in an email. How nice that yoga keeps growing in Orlando, Florida, which now will have a Lulemon store. Were those puppies raised in Cali? Congratulations. I'd like to have a chair massage, and an aromatherapy hand massage, please? My ashtanga journey started jelling there in Winter Park. I didn't know Lulemon had clothing for guys until I just checked their website today. I'm going to have to get some shorts.

6/9/08

Ahimsa and practice

In a blog entry, Armani says that Matthew Sweeney said in his web page that, "regretting a missed practice is a form of ahimsa." I brought that up for discussion in our Sutra Reading group yesterday. Our teacher said, in sanskrit himsa means to harm or harming; a is the negation. What does non-harming mean here? If the regret that you missed a practice gets you into a foul mood so that you are feeling very negative with yourself and are irritable, that would not be constructive. The event already passed. You have to let it go. If the regret is of the kind that says, "I'm sorry I did that; I've got to change, here are the things I'm going to do to avoid the problem again..." then that line of thinking is constructive and non-harming.

6/8/08

Practice today

Practiced in Berkeley today, Primary to Kapotasana. After sitting in meditation many hours yesterday, I think my hips were open, so that with Teacher's help, my legs were flat on the floor in Baddha Konasana. I'm really, really understanding what has to happen in the different parts of the body to get Kapotasana. Springy Sitarist is great in reminding you when to lift the chest, when to engage the thighs, when to keep the tailbone down, when to open the thoracic spine, when to keep elbows in as you are dangling over the back. In his own practice he's able to land right on the feet. I'm trying to get to that.

Dropbacks are really improving a lot. I must have gone back five times with Teacher's assist, although I needed to be reminded to land with the hands extended. We also did the arms crossed one, exhaling down, inhaling coming back up, one time resting the head on the floor. I wasn't sure if I was going to have the energy for dropbacks but I went with the flow. He recommended extra strong shoulder stand and head stand as a counter to all of the energy expended.

There were a lot of beautiful practices in the room. I believe that The Agent, whose practice is strong and flows nicely, stayed about 2 months in Mysore a couple of years back. Besides studying with the Family, he also studied with Venkatesha (does he go by Venkti?) when the Family was out of town.

Alfia's meme

(and Chitta Vritti and Susananda's...)

What were you doing five years ago?

I was living and working in Orlando, Florida,learning about the design of airports, learning to prepare raw food dishes, learning yoga.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

Yoga in Berkeley, groceries, ironing clothes, sutra reading, completing some drawings for a friend.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

Mild salsa with a bit of peanut butter in it, carrot sticks, apple, nuts, V8

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

Continue my education in architecture, be my own client, travel, buy a place in SF, establish an education foundation.

What are five of your bad habits?
Eating cookies, eating cakes on cake day, drinking wine after eating cake, eating cheese after eating cake and drinking wine on cake day, not avoiding doing these things.

What are five places where you have lived?
In reverse order, San Francisco, California; Orlando, Florida, Miami, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But wait, there's more...

What are five jobs you’ve had?
Project architect, designer, intern, CAD manager, Research Analyst

6/7/08

Zen meditation retreat

I went to a Zen daylong meditation retreat. I mentioned I was going to do so when colleagues where asking each other their weekend plans. I felt a bit self conscious mentioning my plans, but they though it was a cool thing to do. What follows is a compilation of my observations and what I learned.

First, some observations. I went to the same retreat, at the Hartford Street Zen Center a month ago. There is a bit of construction across the street in a house being divided into apartments. The workers, mainly Mexicans, make noise when screwing gypsum board onto partitions with automatic guns that from a distance sounds like bees humming. In the back another home is being renovated and added to. The construction workers are probably talented and crafty Mexicans, if the ranchera music they play is any giveaway. San Francisco is a city where real estate is so expensive that it's not uncommon for many homeowners to consult with professional architects on any home project, something that might not happen elsewhere.

The strange thing about these home expansions is that the architecture is not entirely consistent. Every one keeps a Victorian traditional facade, even in new architecture, but in the back it's all modern. If feels like women putting on make up to put on a face, but dispensing with the formality in private. The front and back of these houses experience a strange dichotomy.

Anyway, the garden last time was in full spring bloom, with lilacs, orchids, wisteria, and many other flowering trees. Now it is transitioning to summer. There are some flowers, but they are fading. Today there was a cactus in bloom. What is in bloom is the neighbor's garden, where giant rhododendrons are everywhere. The bees hover from blossom to blossom, reaching their centers. There is a symbiosis between insects and plants in the garden. The rose vines there are also full of flowers and they topple over the fence.

So I settled into my meditation in the Zendo, possibly cutting a funny picture. I wrap myself in a Scottish tartan to keep warm in the space, which is typically about 66 degrees Fahrenheit, to practice an eastern tradition that comes to us via Japan. Western tartan meets Eastern Japanese black robes. Had I traveled to India already I might be covered in some other robe, perhaps looking like a Sadhu.

What did I learn? Why do we go to these daylong meditation retreats? To understand our life. When we do sitting meditation our bodies become calm and we can observe the mind. When a lake is calm, it reflects the sky. If the water is disturbed, it won't reflect the sky clearly. If you imagine our minds to be the sky, when our bodies are calm, our thoughts can be reflected on them. Dogen, the founder of the Zoto School of Zen, said in a poem that meditation on the moon upon a clear cloudless sky, you can see the shadows cast by it.

In meditation we focus on the breath. In the course of inhaling and exhaling we (our bodies) are like a swinging door - allowing movement. The door is not important; it simply moves out of the way to allow passage of air in and out.

We remind ourselves of the proper posture for seated meditation. It's the way we can ground ourselves to be seated still for a period of time. It's not the time to shift the body in response to an itch. The feet are crossed, or in half or full lotus, the knees touch the ground , the thighs are thrust forward, the buttocks are pushed backwards, the spine is erect, the chest open, the shoulders are back and pushing down, the head is pressed back, the eyes are slightly closed, the gaze is 45 degrees downward. No thinking.

Meditation is a great way of not harming others. During the course of our every day life, when feelings of judgement, envy or hatred arise, one can return the mind to a meditative mode and let go of those poisons. It's why it's important to remember to breathe whenever one is tense or in a fearful moment. You create space with the breath.

I also learned at the retreat that there is a way of writing that is a connection between the mind and the action of writing. The writing is resolving issues in the mind as it flows on the paper (or computer). Writing becomes an expression of the mind. Technically it would be more correct to say that I re-learned that, because (OvO) had mentioned it and many in our community of bloggers show expressions of this.

Finally, Napoleon said that from the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step. I imagine he would agree that the inverse is true. From the silly to the sublime there is but one step. Am I complicated? I'm the same person that can be blabbing about funny happenings I observe on the way to work, get all cranked up about my diet, obsess about my yoga practice, report on architecture and also reflect a contemplative mind. Maybe I'm not complicated. It only seems so.

6/6/08

Ghirardelli Square

Went on a tour of Ghirardelli Square, where a new luxury hotel and condominiums will open this summer.
The buildings date from 1864.
Pictures from a model room
Detail of a partition screen
The views of San Francisco Bay are stunning. That is Alcatraz in the distance. Here is a link to Ghirardelli Square's website, where you can go on a virtual tour of the facility. Architecture by Hornberger + Worstell Architects; Interior Design by Sue Firestone & Associates. This graphic is from the history section of the Square's website. It gives you an idea of the buildings that make up the complex. The hotel and condominiums will occupy the Woolen Mill, Chocolate, Cocoa, Mustard and Clock Tower buildings.

Practice notes from today

These notes reflect that I'm trying to figure out what works for my practice at home. Today I did not use the earplugs. I sleep with earplugs on, so the last few days using them during practice reminded me of sleep and on a few occasions I went into child's pose and dose off.

I had a small area heater in one half of the room and another closer to me that I would turn on for short periods of time when the practice area became cooler.

I've been remembering Karen mentioning that Celeste emphasized keeping things soft in the practice when she went to Singapore. Springy Sitarist has been emphasizing this recently as well. So I played with how soft I could get my muscles while engaged in Prasarita Paddotanasana C. It helps to loosen the back muscles.

I'm also remembering Pema Chodron saying in Awakening Loving-Kindness that people sometimes want to wait until things are perfect, but it's better to "come as you are". Start where you are. Don't wait for things to be perfect. I have to take my body where it is at this moment in the practice.

As I practiced I reorganized the space around me to optimize its use. I freed up a wall of any obstacles so I can do Matthew Sweeney-type dropback practices.

Jump-throughs are happening. I'm not grazing the feet; not hurting the 5th metatarsals as I did before in jump-throughs. When thoughts flew, I returned to the breath. My heart rate when up in Supta Kurmasana

If anyone wants to share an opinion on whether I should cut out the 15 minutes of warmup prior to practice, feel free to do so. I do some thoracic spine opening by draping my back over a 18" ball, then over a block. Then I do pigeon pose. I do bhanda workouts that I learned from David Williams in one of his workshops, then pelvic exercises with a 3" ball. Then I start practice. The thing is that if I don't do these prior to practice, I would have to do them some other time, such as before going to bed. But that is a busy time that includes meditation as well. Regular asana practice takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Hmm.

At Urdvha Danurasana time I told myself, " common, pretend you're going to come up to standing." I could feel the thighs engaging, which I guess it's what is supposed to happen. But at that time I usually give up, possibly thinking I'll be in pain if I continue. I don't know why it needs to be painful to have transferred the weight to the legs then springing up; but the mind perceives it as such, since without assistance I have not yet done it. I practiced a lot of dropbacks, on the mat and on the wall.

Mr. Energy came to town


Mr. Energy came to town and we practiced Primary Series, the full meal deal. I took copious notes, which I will have to share later during reflection (aka laundry) time. It took 15 minutes of warm up and 2 hours of practice. Thank you Buddha, thank you Mr. Coffee, thank you Boodi. Thank you cyber shalamates. It would be nice to find a cat seated in lotus with a donut as cushion, then I'd have a virtual Donutzenmom among my collection of plushie dolls teachers and fellow practitioners. Image from Mista Monsta Paw Paw Dancehall.

6/5/08

More tales from Stockton Street

I'm hoping my change in practice time, which is not a change in the time I wake up, will result in a nice practice tomorrow. If I have a nice practice tomorrow it will be the first nice practice of the week. Some vendor left a plate of cookies after lunch at the office. I was so good for five days in a row : [[

And now for your entertainment, more tales from Stockton Street. As I was returning to the office from lunch, on Stockton Street in front of Macys, an interesting pair was walking in front of me. She was a looker in a green dress, strawberry blond painted hair, sashaying body parts with a bit of trouble because her tall boots slipped as she walked. Her movement and appearance got a lot of attention from other passing men. Her companion was a tall, dark haired man dressed in a fancy suit. They talked slooowly.

She: "So! I saw you yesterday in the park... You were with Monica... "
He: "Uh - ooooohmm, we weren't doing anything..."
She: "Oooohoo..."

What was that? A yeallows girlfriend? A boyfriend concealing that he's dating other women, among her pool of friends? I don't know, but looking back at what I've written about in the past year, I've told many odd tales of what I've seen and heard around Union Square, so I've got to keep on reporting, because it's odd and entertaining at the same time...

Considering changing practice schedule

In Utthita Parsva Konasana, I had good dristhe focus and good lunge. Likewise in Parivrtta Parsva Konasana, where my setup is working well lately. In Prasarita Padottanasana C, I'm learning to relax the arms so that I can get further in the pose. In general I'm paying attention to what my hamstrings are doing in the Prasaritas because I haven't reached the floor with the head and when I get close to that, the legs start shaking. I've tried the approach of getting the feet a country mile apart and gotten the head to the floor, but that is stressful to the inner muscles of the thighs. So I set up like most bendy people do, with the legs wide, but not too wide. In Utthita Parsvottanasana, there is no pain in the arms when getting them to reverse namaste, if I really relax the arms.

In general, I paid attention to the flow during the standing sequence, listening to the breath and keeping breaths between poses to a maximum of about 3. The problem I'm having is losing energy early in the seated sequence and closing the practice. This is not normal for me. So I'm planning to change my schedule around. I have been for some years waking up at 4:00 am, eating some fruit and nuts and herbal tea, and then practicing from 6:00 to 8:00. This was to get some food in my body but still allow some time for the body to digest it, so the stomach is not full before practice. I'm going to experiment with something different, waking up and having some strong coffee and maybe seven almonds, then practicing from 4:30 to 6:30, having breakfast afterwards. As our Teacher might say in India, "Drink strong coffee before practice. Even dead man come alive."

The reason it's necessary to find a solution is that during the week I'm practicing at home presently. This is a different form of energy. You don't have the sangha of other yogis practicing with you. So you have to internalize your focus and motivation. That is why I do things around my space to motivate myself, such as lighting a candle, burning a stick of incense (which I am now planning to switch to an electric aromatic oils diffuser, in case incense is potentially carcinogenic), passing the dust mop, showering, heating the space with some area heaters and beginning with warmups. So I'm already setting up nicely to motivate myself to practice. Maybe I'm overheating the room, so I need to watch that. I could play some inspirational chanting music, but I would not do that if I'm using earplugs that day. Also, I'm concerned about playing music if it's going to bother the neighbors. But I have used music successfully in the past.

Calorie wise, I've cut out processed food, the bad sources of saturated fat that raise the glucose in my blood to unhealthy levels. The body has started a good ketosis mode, getting rid of two water pounds. I breathe better when sleeping. My blood pressure is lowering. It's in the normal range usually, but the diastolic is usually borderline hypertensive. Which brings me to a recent discussion about how some people where freaking out about buying peanut butter of the type that you press the button and out comes the peanut butter, from roasted, unsalted peanuts. They are concerned that it may have aflatoxins, which are found in peanuts. So I bought instead store brand peanut butter containing only roasted peanuts and salt. I've been taking Mary Robinson's idea of consuming salsa at snack time, doing a variation of putting three or 4 teaspoons into a jar of the salsa. This way I get my peanut butter taste but keep the calories low. The mix can be eaten alone or with baby carrots. But if the peanut butter has salt already, this is going to lead to water retention and possibly exceeding my daily RDA for sodium. So I'm considering buying the peanut butter from the hopper again. I have to chose my poison, sodium or aflatoxin. Which is worse, a potential cardiovascular event inducer or a potential carcinogenic? LOL.

6/4/08

Seeking...

I practiced, yes, standing sequence, partial Second Series, dropback practices on the wall, closing sequence. Maybe if I remind myself this is a moving meditation I'll keep the pace better tomorrow. I kept looking for Mr. Energy to come to town. Maybe he'll pay a visit tomorrow. I ordered an electric oils diffuser to get away from burning incense when seeking some aromatherapy.

6/3/08

Moondays happen

Woke up excited about doing yoga.
Found out reading websites and email that is it a moonday
Decided to be a good ashtangi and take rest (savasana preparation).
How come this is such an easy rule to comply with in our yoga system?

6/2/08

Views of Stanford University

This is a panoramic view of the main quad of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California., taken on June 1, 2008.
The picture was taken from the observation tower on the 14th floor of the Hoover observatory, pictured here.

At the foot of the observatory, you face this Memorial Hall, where movies are shown.
When you get up to the 14th level of the tower and look down, you get this interesting perspective view of the same hall.
You also see this unusual looking building, with rows of bicycles parked in front.
On the north side of the campus is the Clark Center, designed by Lord Norm Foster. I believe they do robotics research there.
All of the stairs are external in the building, and they are quite magnificent looking, such as this one. The guardrails are topped with wood.
The curves of the building make it a very dynamic structure.
After lunch we walked through downtown Palo Alto, where we saw this charming urban space, which is the entrance and cafe of Borders Bookstore.

Hanna House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hanna House from the side entrance, on June 1, 2008.
The plan, based on the octagon, from this site with a lot of good information on the house. The use of the octagon gives the house the Honeycomb House name.
The family room
A detail of the doorThe view from the living room towards the west
The bedrooms face the inner courtyard
Where you see the beautiful fountain, which yesterday unfortunately was turned off.
The roof has interesting forms - chimneys, clearstories, sloping roofs
And the house is nestled among trees that predate it, such as this magnificent oak.
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