Here is a short video of the view from the rim of the Grand Canyon. Hmmm. If I can do this it means I could take a video of my Urdvha Danurasanas to get comments from cybershalamates. Hmmm.
(PS I learned from Donuts to name a post with words that signify the main topics discussed in the entry. The result today would imply I am reading my second meditation book, but that is not the case. Books are numberless. I vow to read them. Dharma gates are boundless. I vow to enter them. Delusions are inexhaustible. I vow to end them. Go with the flow bro.)
We started with doing Samastitihi while lying on the floor on our mats, pressing the feet against the wall, pelvis against the floor. The purpose was to understand that there are two domes in the chest. One dome occurs when your pelvis goes downward, the other when the outer shoulders go down, which happens when the outer elbows are close to the body. As we were in this position, C&M asked us raise the arms and arched them back. They asked us to find a neutral pelvis, firm the upper arms and and not life the lower middle part of the body. When you lift your arms to go back, the motion means tipping the thoracic down. This action is not about the flexibility of the arms.
(I am transcribing these notes while waiting for jury duty selection. I fulfilled my jury duty service without having to claim having the condition of Kapotasana as a reason to be excused from serving in a jury.)
We held our inner elbows together, arms on the side. The inside of the thighs, or groin doesn't lift to the ceiling but presses inwards. The upper thighs go to the ground.
Next we did a kneeling toe yoga. hips were over the knees, heels and balls of the feet on the wall, toes curled under on the floor. We lengthened the lumbar to neutral. We checked the pelvis - the frontal lumbar and pelvis need to be in place. We lifted into the downward dog with the feet against the wall.
M. says that everything that you need for dropbacks lives in Virabadrasana A. The arms and legs are energized and strengthened by this pose. After placing the back foot, pointing 45 degrees forward, rotate the hips forward, rotating the buttocks. The top of the thighs of the back leg pushes back. When bending the leg, you don't want wobbling in the ankle. To avoid the wobbling, your shin bone has to go back, which firms the leg down. The back leg is doing downward dog (?!) You're doing Samastithi with the legs. Your kneecaps lift, upper thighs press downward, arms lifting. The back ribs are lifting. Front ribs are lifting. Elongate the buttocks down, which means tuck the bottom in. Keep lifting the back ribs, with arms raised. Press the arms towards the ears.
M. says that actions are more important than movements. Actions require extension and understanding. For example, firming the upper arms in downward dog is an action. Actions are like bhandas. They protect us. Movement can get you into trouble if you're not thinking about your actions. In yoga you have to tap into strength from all of the body. You need to protect your body. Don't focus on just the movement.
We did a cobra pose practice, again remembering that we have two domes in the shoulders. Then we did an upward dog practice with two blocks on the floor under the arms. The chest goes forward and up, the inner thighs move up. We repeated upward dog without blocks under the arms, but one block placed between the feet. All ten toes, particularly the small toes need to be on the floor. Buttocks to the floor, thighs to the ceiling, shoulder goes down. Coil the chest open. Coiling means a wheel action. It's the forward movement of the chest. It's not leaning, it's not hinging. It's coiling. Understand the action; don't force the movement. This action applied to all backbending asanas and dropbacks - coiling, coiling, coiling, not hinging. Don't bend back. Coil.
What happens when you tighten your buttocks? You send a braking motion to the heels. Your body does not use just the external buttock muscles to make the buttocks straight. you may need to rotate the legs inwards to get the buttocks to spread. Firm the sides in.
When setting up for Ustrasana, Laghu Vajrasana and Kapotasana, spread all toes on the mat. if you curl your toes, the energy goes to the sacrum wrongly. If you don't curl them, the energy flows correctly. Think of the foundation of the legs as being in Samastitihi. In these last backbends mentioned, back ribs down equals front ribs up. Elbows in, widen the buttocks. Coil, coil, coil, don't lean. Create the domes in the chest, lift the frontal chest, drop the outer shoulder blade muscles down.
In bridge (and I imagine likewise in Urdvha Danurasana keep the three points of the feet down - the the knees. The legs are parallel. Don't say "rotate the thighs" but think of them rotating downwards.
Calling these asanas discussed here backbends is technically not correct becasue they are really chest opening poses. The first chest opening pose of Primary Series is Purvottanasana ( in which we coil the chest upward, put the hands in reverse namaste and bend forward.)
I would say that this workshop had a lot of very useful information. The challenge is that perhaps the information is handled a bit Yyengar style in terms of breaking things down kinesthetically and mechanically. That is something Yyengar is great at. You have to put it together in your practice. Patabhi Jois' approach might be a bit different in that his adjustments are physical, not involving a lot of verbal instruction. Jois' approach might be to help the student learn by adjusting physically so there is an imprint occurring mentally. In ashtanga one is concentrating with intention on the flow of the practice and it's difficult then to keep track of all of the component parts of what is happening mechanically. It is interesting to study the mechanical motions as in this workshop and these are senior and certified ashtanga teachers, so I'm not judging, just sharing my observations.
In architecture there are architect's architects - people like Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhas, Thom Mayne, IM Pei and others, who inspire our practice. Yes, architecture, like yoga is a practice. In ashtanga there are teacher's teachers and you could say that C & M are among them.
I had corresponded over the years with Lisa Walford, yoga teacher and co-author of The Longevity Diet. She had mentioned C & M often because she developed the yoga teacher training at Yoga Works in Santa Monica in collaboration with them. By the way two of the architects I mentioned in the previous paragraph have their offices in Santa Monica. Unusual coincidence, no?
In any case, I was reflecting that a lot of people practicing in the room where teachers. Despite the length of one's practice, there is a lot of humility to be felt when in the simplest of things you can improve your actions. I received adjustment in how I place the hands on the mat in downward dog. Rotate the arms inwards; point the index finger; gain more distance between feet and hands. In reverse triangle M. requested I use a block to do some research. The back foot was rotated pointing 45 degrees forward, the hips squared, the arm that lifts lifting, the chest rotating opening a lot to the ceiling. That felt good.
I continued with Primary, followed by Second to Kapotasana. Surfer Guy, who gave me a ride in the morning, since the trains don't run that early to the East Bay, was practicing nearby. His practice is really strong. C. spent a good ten minutes with him discussing the minutiae of what happens anatomically in the body to do Padangustasana correctly - shoulders down, pelvis rooted, samastitihi on your mind. Surfer Guy did a variation of Pasasana that M. must have given him. He sat on the tall end of a block to get enough lift so that the feet remained flat on the floor as he bound the hands. I need to try that. In Tittibasana B, his walk was so strong he could have continued walking out of the room bound as he was, and his Titti C was just as strong.
There was a lot of emphasis during the practice about finding the root of each asana, and on focusing on the ujayi breath, breath that is reaching, conquering, upward lifting. Going to the workshop meant the sacrifice of not being able to do laundry at my building. Instead I had to pull my heavy bag 4 blocks to the beautiful laundrette, where you have to nurse your clothes through the washing and drying cycles, or you walk back home with a lighter load, aided by cunning thieves. At the front of the store they have unusual ice creams. Despite being lactose intolerant, I sampled taro root and avocado ice creams. I paid for it later in stomach grumbling and flatulence, or maybe that was abated by what my father says, that ice cream has enough other things in it such that even a person with lactose intolerance can consume it without discomfort. Hmm, we can rationalize ourselves out of something when it tastes good.
In the afternoon I returned for a backbending workshop. I took notes and can post them later. Now I have to run over the entire bay area for a busy day - yoga, cycling, and sutra reading. Princess Laksmi Nivamalanda plans to join me for yoga with Springy Sitarist. Maybe we'll have a photo shoot with PDiver and PCarl.
Thanks to lgr for pointing to this article on ashtanga yoga that appeared on the WSJ online. Apparently hedge fund managers are taking to ashtanga. I would not mind some financial advice in return for the common interest in yoga.
Since we work adjacent to Union Square, colleagues where abuzz yesterday at noon at having spotted NYC's Nk Cowboy belting out some tunes on his guitar in his trademark attire, or lack of it. You can catch a flickr of it if you google. I'll spare you the link since I need to run a respectable site but that was newsworthy.
Royalty is visiting Cali from up north, from a city near Canadia. I'll have to brush up on my protocol savvy. I'll ask Her Highness to grant a 24 hour lurker amnesty to readers of this blog. He he. Maybe I'll get to meet PDiver and PCarl.
I mentioned last week the energy bars I was planning to take on my trip. In my opinion, the one labeled "Organic Food Bar", which I obtained in cranberry flavor, was the most delicious, followed by the Larabar. The Larabar consists of nuts held together with a date paste. During my work week, that feels too sweet to consume. The "Raw Organic Food Bar" was bland and did not hold up well in the backpack. The "Think Thin" bar may be nutritious from the standpoint of providing protein, but it tastes and feels like engineered fake food.
I am fascinated by Patrick's and Karen's accounts of their recent training with MS. Reading Patrick's descriptions of his Kapotasana practice makes me feel that I too can get to those toes when dropping back, something I haven't done by myself yet. Karen's dropbacks on the wall, MS style, are beautiful. She is getting a lot of arch there. I'm still not caught up with reading the blogs.
I've spent three hours catching up on email. I imagine if I went on vacation a week I would end up wanting to delete most emails, since I would not have the time for all of them. A large part of my work is hotel design related, so I'm amused by this toungue-in-cheek story in the BBC of a Sand Hotel. Cheers.
OK doky, I removed all widgets but two from this blog. (One is an invisible, statutory counter, ha-ha.) I read a blurb in the help page of my service provider that one widget which shall remain nameless, but whose name was inpired by the movie Braveheart, is known for loading malware, adware and popups when it is in your blog. Nyaah! Phweet! Go away, nasty popups. I ain't selln'g no poptarts.
Frankly the architectural experience that I enjoyed in Las Vegas was the retail portion of the Venetian. It has a beautiful ceiling. The facades are all consistent and controlled, making the experience of walking in this retail establishment very pleasant. In most of the hotels I visited, the experience of the spaces was too jarring, opulent, and like imitation of history on steroids.
At FAO Schwartz I found this fuzzy cat to represent Donutszenmom along with Owl, Springy Sitarist and Seven Petal Lotus on the perch over my practice space. It will take me a few days to catch up on DZM's descriptions of her MS training.
The Colorado River at the base of the Canyon, with one of the footbridges beyond. This natural wonder attracts people from all over the world. We met Europeans from Norway, Holland, the UK, Russia, Italy, France, the Ukraine, and Germany. And those were the ones we personally chatted with. There were many Asians visiting as well. It was like being in the United Nations.
Today as my blog was opening on a different computer I noticed, as I read the text at the bottom of the screen, that the last thing to load up is a program called add/clicksor.com. This is software that seems to have attached itself to my blog, not software that I placed there. Blogging is a free service and we are encouraged to blog, thanks to the generosity of our service provider. Unfortunately, things like this happen. I have read the help pages to address the problem and have followed different steps, which I've already mentioned in past blog entries. I have yet to try another step that looks for malware that embeds itself in our computers. I'm not sure how that would help the blog, which is not hosted in my computer. I'm not a programmer, but an architect. Since the word architect is used these days not just to identify people in the building design field, but by software programmers, I clarify that I'm an architect in the building design field. Without knowing too much about programming, I have looked at the HTML code of my blog and have not seen this adware mentioned there. It could be invisible code. It's possible it's in one of the widgets on the side bar. I don't think it's in the sites I reference in my entries, because I checked back to January, when the problem started. Anyhow, I've noticed that the way this malware activates is if one moves the cursor rapidly. So even when I read my own blog, I move the cursor gingerly, hoping not to awaken the marketing machine that wants me to buy something.
Since writing this I searched for help on dealing with popups. I removed all widgets but one from this blog. This may take care of the problem. We will see...
All varieties of Organic Food Bars
Whey protein smooshed with fruits and nuts - nothing else:Elev8Me! by ProSnack
Whey protein, peanut butter and a few other things:
"Greens & Whey" or "Raw Foods & Whey" by BioChem
Except for the organic food bars, I didn't find any of the others locally. I found some raw bars, pictured here. ThinkThin are high protein bars. I also find that Luna bars, not pictured here, are good for hiking. They are lower in calories than regular bars. What you need, though is a good source of sodium because you sweat a lot when hiking in the summer and you need to not loose too many fluids. As a general rule, I would not make a habit of eating these on a daily basis, but occasionally if you need a healthy snack, or when expending a lot of energy such as when biking or hiking.
The frog picture below is of a Grand Canyon tree frog, which really doesn't hang on trees, but likes to perch in the sun. I had to use a different computer to upload this to this site. My site advisor has an aversion to the color pink or anything resembling flesh, so it overwrites an uploaded picture with it's stamp of disapproval. Who writes this software, and for whom is being written? In this case, the frog matches the colors of its surroundings in the desert. What puzzles me is that we have the same software in our office machines, but it doesn't highjack our internet viewing experience as it does in my home installation.
I can manage to get into several LBH poses on the left side, as in this, lets call it, Chakorasana preparation. The leg didn't go up further as it should. I was trying to remember Karen's advice to Susananda the other day, about engaging the outer thigh of the leg that is lifting. How am I doing? Still climbing the stairs and ironing my practice. Pun intended. On my attempt to do Chakorasana on the left side I only managed to do Eka Pada Sirsasana. Ha! At least. In general, my neck and head need to relax in these LBH poses, not look like I'm afraid something is going to hit me from the ceiling. "Relax the face", Teacher would call out if in the room.
In this preparation for dropbacks, I'm supposed to get to the thighs. I can do it. It's probably fear that held me back from going deeper today. Well, the photographs are a learning tool to check and see where I am in the practice. I do feel the practice goes better when I'm experiencing vairagya, or detachment, from even how well I'm doing.
Bla bla. What about practice? In coming up from my Prassaritas, D. said I did not need to bend the legs. I could come back up lifting the chest and keeping the kneecaps lifting. I received a wonderful squishy assist in Supta Kurmasana. When I got to dropback practice, she reminded me that I needed to pretend there was a beach ball way high up behind my back, to keep lifting the spine up and back as I arched back. She mimicked what happens if I don't do that, where my back just collapses like a tree falling. She is a good teacher. I didn't see Horseback Rider, who practices there now, but saw a few familiar faces. Maybe he was practicing with L.N. in Mountainview, during her visit there. These where my first teachers in San Francisco.
I'm getting Pincha Mayurasana. That might be another photographic exercise. I warm up for the venture by doing what Surfer Guy does, and which Seven Petal Lotus told us to do - kneel on the floor in front of a chair, place the elbows on the edge of the chair in prayer position (it's good to say a little prayer then too) then press down on the arms. It's a good strengthener for the triceps. I did Karandavasana from a 3 point headstand, getting the feet in lotus and lowering the assembly, then lifting it back up. I attempted to do it regular, unmodified, as well. Mayurasana is better but could use improvement. Threatening to photograph it made me get the balance act to happen pretty well. (Ha! future incentive. Maybe this is the reason I started photographing my practice this week.)
And now, I give you, the 7, scratch that, the 6 headstands. Yes, that is a ladder in the corner in the back, and an ironing board. You could say I'm climbing the asana stairs and ironing out the kinks in my practice. Here's number 1:
Something happened on the way to number 6. In this one lately I tend to become confused with where the head needs to be because the hands go in the Pincha Mayurasana form, and the head, which is suspended in Pincha, feels like it is in the way in this headstand. Today I lost the balance, kicking forward, then back, hitting the candle holder, sending hot wax flying to the wall and over the mat. Oi. Since the picture was ready to happen, it captured me here. That is me with natural, home grown anger, not faked, holding the candle projectile. (I'm changing it to line art to soften the emotional impact of the photo.) Now I have to figure out how to get hot wax from a wall. Luckily it was only the candle stand I kicked and not the bucket. No, I didn't kick the bucket, despite the nickname for these asanas of the seven deadlies.
Sorry for the edginess of my pictures. I've learned to set the self photography timer to 30 seconds. There is something called a manual. 30 seconds is enough time to set up for a pose. That doesn't mean I'll get the pose perfectly, though. Although you would be surprised how hurriedly you get into the finest expression of a pose if you're in a hurry to have it photographed :)
At the heading is this morning's Prasaritta Paddotanasana A. I can get my head to the floor, which usually certified teachers request, but for my body that means widening the stance a lot, resulting in pain to the inner thigh muscles. Bendy people seem to get the head to the floor without going to extremes in the stance, so I'm trying to work with my body - with the bhandas, making space, asking the kneecaps to lift, the hamstrings to relax, the feet to stay grounded, and the back not to tip over.
From Springy Sitarist I've learned to relax the upper shoulders when reaching over in Prasaritta Paddotanasana C, but this is how far I got today. I shake the body a bit to relax it to see how far I can bring the hands down to the floor. Ay Bendito! I want to get the head to the floor and it looks like it's about 5 1/2" away from it.So today I was able to set up to capture Urdvha Danurasana. I feel as if looks like a tree fallen in the forest. Timberrr! Well maybe it's not that bad. Feel free to comment. The feet are splayed, yes. The arms could get closer together. Maybe I should analyze what the hands are doing by photographing from a different angle. After the picture, I was able to lift a bit higher and did not feel any tension in the feet, which are supposed to bring me up, when they learn to do it. Today I went to a fascinating presentation on how to design facades of buildings to reduce energy costs. A colleague who is 21 years younger than I asked me if I had a voice recorder. Funny, I had blabbed about my sister's reel to reel recorder of when we were kids. I had a voice recorder. But it is 10 year old technology - a mini reel to reel recorder. My colleague borrowed it for the presentation and later asked me how he would download it to use the recording. He grew up in the digital age, so he was expecting I would have a credit card sized digital voice recorder that later you can download to an MP3. I haven't had a need for one, so I didn't have one. I find the interchange amusing and also felt compelled to throw the recorder, after blessing it, in the trash. Particularly when he played back something for me, which came out in slow motion as in a spooky movie. A pause button provided that entertainment.