for the second year in a row i didn't pass a certification exam by one point. sometimes i ask if i should give up my time for yoga during the two months period of studying leading to these certification exams. this would add an extra hour and a half of study per day to the studying i do at night. some nights i study mandarin, other nights i study for the certification. yoga keeps me mentally balanced and keeps my body healthy, so this is not a good idea. it's dissapointing that there are these metrics and that by just one point one is short of a certification that is important. i think i know what i have to do. if it took two and a half months to study this year and last year, study three and a half months next time. giving up the yoga slot is going to make sense. people who have passed these certifications while at the same time raising a family, doing so with limited amount to study. one lady passed while raising three young daughters. another person with family gave himself three months to study, since he only had time on saturdays to study. i am not raising kids. so i will need to study longer prior to taking it again. i understand how the brown tree in the picture feels. photo by Leo Yu.
did i mention today, Sunday, is a regular day of work? it's done so everyone can take seven days in a row off. it still feels a bit funny. so i need to work and still study for my exam of tomorrow. i hope to post the pictures of my colleague's visit to Huangshan last October before i go on my own trip to the mountains. here is one of his pictures. singing,
Climb every mountain, search high and low
Follow every byway, every path you know.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!
A dream that will need
all the love you can give,
Every day of your life
for as long as you live.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!
i have a greenbuilding certification test coming up on monday so i have been studying up the wazoo. then i head out to the mountains in the western part of the country. so i'm wondering how to keep my clothes clean while traveling. i will be at a hotel on two contiguous nights only at the beginning of the trip. the remaining days i'm sleeping in a different room each night. i have to travel light, so i won't be taking the heavy laptop, which is more a movable workstation than a laptop. i need to carry as few things as possible as if i was camping, because that is what it will be like. i am planning to take an electric blanket, because i have experienced cold hotels in China and now that it's winter in the mountains, i should expect the same. if it's not too heavy, i might even pack a small electric portable heater, to use mainly in the bathroom. (probably i will skip doing that.) so i'm thinking that as far as clothes i will carry the ones i use to fly to Chengdu and back to Shanghai. then the remaining time i will use a pair of extreme cold weather pants used for mountain hiking, two sets of thermal underwear, an extreme weather winter coat, snow boots, t-shirts and sweater. i imagine that i can alternate the thermal underwear; i can wash them occasionally and put in a plastic bag when they did not dry overnight, putting it to dry the next night. when i check into a hotel it will be probably rather late to ask if they could wash my clothes to have them ready by early morning. so i can't depend on that service. hopefully the cold weather pants are of a material that you can wash at night and wear in the morning. but if they don't dry, i would not be able to use them the next day. it may not be practical to be washing clothes daily. my friends who bycicled from Chengdu to Tibet used to wash clothes and shower daily at the beginning of the trip, then did so less frequently when it was more difficult to do so. i guess i have to build some flexibility into what to wear and when. anyhoo, those are my musings.
the friend i traveled with extensively in the past, who is not accompanying me on this trip, said i should plan carefully everything i plan to do, since i'm slow in communicating. luckily, i arranged for two trips organized by a Chinese travel tour company. it won't be bilingual, but usually young people study English and they are quick to help in situations when one gets hung up. also after two years in the country i think i have studied the language sufficiently to be able to function for simple things.
A Mexican colleague of mine and I were demonstrating to our Chinese colleagues body expressions that are particular to Latin Americans. We do a snap of fingers that involves relaxing the index finger and swinging it against the middle finger rapidly. Our local colleagues where not able to replicate the motion. I then demonstrated the double jointing of my thumbs. This reminded my colleague that we yoga practitioners do what he calls "lizard pushups." That's what he's calling upward facing dog. Image from this source.
This morning I had a vivid dream that I came to standing from Urdva Danurasana, then did a dropback to the floor by myself and came back up. I must have relived Skippetty's account in a dream. My reality is far different.
Nobel talks about legs behind the head poses making him hungry. They don't have the same effect on me, but make me want to do backbends more.
I had a lot of faffing in today's practice but at least I practiced. I'm expecting a distracted day - work, dentist visit, work, banking, meetings, mandaring class, more work.
After Tadasana of VK and a few of standing I did Urdvha Kukkutasana A, where, as usual, when I lift the head off the ground, I feel I'm going to tumble over. It was a slippery slope after that, with a long Savasana to the rescue. My left foot's plantar issues were bothering me anyway and to my view, the left foot looked swollen in comparison to the right. I'm not sure why some days there is no problem and others there is. I wonder if my diet, which is changing to more Chinese, which contains more salt and vinegar, might contribute to the foot bother. One night this week I ate only fruit at dinner. My foot was fine in the morning. Yesterday I prepared spinach and sprouts, and tofu and mushrooms, with sauces, and I woke up to the pain. Anyhow, I'm grateful for Arjuna's site, to which I refer for the correct entry of the Third Series asanas, and to Grimmly for his new VK sheets. I need to take those to print on A3 and laminate them.
Loo asked for a picture, but you see, I haven't figured out taking pictures inside the yoga tent yet - there is not a lot of space to place the camera sufficiently far away. I plan to get a wide angle lens, but won't have it for a few weeks. Today after the Tadasana sequence, I did the Suryas Namaskars and Skandasana, with modifications. I am happy to be able to be binding fully in Badha Padmasana when closing. My thoughts are with Globie, hoping his body responds to the treatment they are giving him.
This morning I added more Tadasana sequences from VK prior to doing some Third Series poses. These last ones were legs behind the head ones at the beginning. I am making sure to do Urdva Danurasanas during closing, not so much to come to standing as to keep the spine supple and young. (Edit: I removed some comments that I don't think add anything significant to things being heavily discussed in the blogosphere in the last few days. I live in a place where yoga is really low key, not where you can discuss the subtleties of the variety of ways you can practice yoga.)
clothes might not make the man but they sure help. with the help of hands behind the head asanas, such as Gomukasana, or the Tadasana sequences in VK, i can zip myself into the silver surfer outfit. i enjoyed the practice in it, doing the first four of Third Series after Surya Namaskars. The sleekness of the fabric helped me get into Kasayapasana easier; it also helped to get out of easier, with the legs kicking out of it - jiong! what an intense stretch! Chakorasana was modified - i could not hold the leg behind the head sufficiently long to lift the other leg up. The outfit also made me feel warm while practicing, something I haven't experienced recently. This is the outfit, photographed last year.
I need to get my initials correct. I have been incorporating poses from the VY book by Ramaswami. right now it's those in the Tadasana section. They help.
While in standing poses with monkey mind distractions, I practiced on what should be the Chinese version of my name, Wei A Tu. I was given Wei Tao in 2010 but I don't think it's as close to my real name and simple at the same time as Wei A Tu. That's 卫阿图.
My monkey mind wanted coffee from Starbucks and a scone. Hmm, maybe for an afternoon break. I have to study greenbuilding. In the meantime, this guy has dog mind. Reblogged from yogadudes (via Lulemon). I thought of Li Ashtangini when I saw that.
Karen talking about leggings helping her get the legs behind the head easier made me realise that my long Prana pants today made it possible for me to slip the feet past each other in the lotus of Urvha Padmasana. I was able to to that and Pindasana correctly. I even was able to bind in Baddha Padmasana today for the same reason, something I had not done in maybe one month. So, I remembered that last year I had a Silver Surfer suit made for a yoga demonstration. I'm thinking I might use it for my yoga practice now during the cold months.
Savasana today was a half hour long, something only possible on Sundays. Thanks, Savasanaaddict for inspiring that. haha.
it's been an interesting social day. it's saturday. i made lunch, making sure to make enough for two, so i could share it with one of my flatmates. he doesn't mind eating vegetarian food. actually he enjoys it. he helped me with a phone call in mandarin to a travel agent, so i could establish a contact for traveling to far out mountain locations while in Chengdu in two weeks. after establishing what was available, i started texting with the mobile phone to the travel agency, while at the same time emailing them. through the convenience of online translators, i was able to communicate with them my intents, make reservations for two mountain trips. i didn't know that paying a deposit for a trip was so easy. the travel agency gave me their account information, with the same bank that i bank with. they probably have accounts in many banks, so as to better serve their clients. i went to the bank and quickly made a deposit. all of the information was sent via text on the phone. i'm grateful for my iPhone phone with conveniences that make communication possible.
on the way home, my other flatmate told me by texting that he was cooking and asked me if i wanted to join him for dinner. he didn't know i was vegetarian. however, he was making pasta with tomato sauce and steaks. i made a spinach salad. so we shared the dinner. i'll make sure to have salad materials handy from now on for these impromptu pleasant get togethers.
On Tuesday I did the Seven Headstands and the poses around it. Today I did some asanas from VK and Third Series. Yesterday I did not practice because of the late evening out to dinner with colleagues. I feel the effects of not practicing in that I feel mildly paranoid when I don't. It's one reason that keeps me practicing - doing any practice- good or bad. Yesterday I woke up with symptoms of plantar fascitiis. I didn't know what it was but felt that was the condition. After reading about it in the Internet (including one site that I reached by googling "plantar fascitiis and yoga" I came to understand that the cause was probably that the heavy blankets I use when sleeping to stay warm lay heavy on the feet. If they keep dorsiflexed all night, it causes strain on the tendons in the heel. Since I'm flat footed, the situation could be exacerbated. There are some warm up exercises you can do when waking up to not disturb the foot. In my case it's my glorious stubborn left foot that's talking.
Chinese New Year is upon us, so we had a team dinner at a beautiful Indonesian restaurant Bali Bali - one of those in an old Shangainese alley homes with small winding stairs - lots of character. I don't usually drink except at such ocassions. The glass of wine was filled to its location low on the glass often, which made it seem one wasn't drinking at all. It was good Spanish wine. The food was spicy and tasty. I sticked to the vegetarian offerings. My favorite dish was a mushroom soup in coconut milk with fresh ginger and cilantro. My colleagues called me a guru when they found out I have been practicing yoga about 8 years. I said I'm a yogi. Guru is a high title. We all talked about our various plans for the upcoming holiday. Someone is going to the Ice Sculpture festival in Harbin, way up in the north east part of the country. I may be in as cold a place myself, if I get to the mountain park I'm planning to visit. Anyhow, under the circumstances, no practice tomorrow morning. Isn't it a moon day anyhow? Yea that gives me the excuse for the day off practice, but not an excuse for a day off work, haha.
Claudia was the one to ask about nutation the other day. Ray Long who with Chris Macivor produce the great books with anatomical illustrations of what happens to the body while doing yoga asanas, discuss nutation in their site. Now, I can't remember if it's counter nutation or nutation that helps in backbends. I think it's counter nutation, since nutation, a "nod" of the pelvic bone, helps in forward bends, according to Ray.
maybe because my muscles are cold, after the first squat for meditation, the tendons in the left leg make a loud noise. it's like the noise of muscles you exert after you have not exercised in a long time, except in my case it's only been a day. then in any binding pose, there is a lesser noise plus some shifting of tendons in the legs. anyhow, i did the last poses in Intermediate as the meat of my asana sandwich today (standing = bread, seated = meat, closing = bread). oh, and i did tadasana from VK's book. i think i'll try one pose from the book each day.
I did yin yoga today and did not change into yoga clothes. The temperature in the morning is 12 degrees below freezing outside. It's not that much warmer in the common areas of the apartment. To go to the kitchen I wear socks, shoes, sleeping jammies under jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, parka, wool scarf, and hat with ear protectors. Then I have breakfast. Afterwards, I go to the bathroom to shower. I take a portable heater there, and there are some heat lamps over the shower unit. My flatmate says I wear too many things. I disagree. Luckily, the weather gets warmer outside during the day with the warmth of the sun.
I practiced Intermediate today. I could not do the full expression of Yoginidrasana today. The temperature is 11 degrees below freezing outside. Maybe those two things are related? I was going to reblog a picture of yoginidrasana from yogadudes where the practitioner looked like the statue of a fervent ardhat hanging on a wall, from the way it was posted, but alas, it disappeared. Maybe it was too unusual an angle for the picture? I loved the picture.
I started practice with 4 layers of clothes on and as I warmed up I peeled some off. I can't run all of the heaters in my igloo (what my mom calls my yoga tent) or the power in the apartment trips. My other flatmates run little heaters in their rooms too.
Is seems I'll be able to do Pincha Mayurasana without a wall nearby soon. For the time being I like having a wall so I can touch it once before straightening the inverted assembly. My dresser serves as the "wall". Karandavasana from a three point headstand was interesting; not perfect, but interesting and painless.
So my practice today included the first five essential standing asanas, Yoginidrasana, Tittibasana A, B & C, Pincha Mayurasana, Karandavasana, Mayurasana, Nakrasana and the supine closing asanas. Tomorrow I'll pick up at Mayurasana.
A giant statue I may be seeing soon while on holiday for Chinese New Year. Image from this blog. I'd like to post pictures of some other things but I'm studying. It seems studying doesn't stop when you graduate from college. It's a lifelong happening.
Practiced Intermediate around the leg-behind-the-head poses. Tomorrow the temperature is expected to drop 15 degrees. Good thing it's a Saturday here. I practiced in cotton longjohns today and that felt comfortable.
I have been practicing poses from Intermediate. I'm somewhat distracted by making plans for travel during Chinese New Year, studying Mandarin and studying for green certification, while working long hours. It's all good. It's the first time I'm traveling so far within the country all by myself and making all the arrangements by myself. I'm also being exposed to the requirements of some of the online services for making reservations. For example, yesterday I was asked to photocopy the front and back of my foreign credit card and send it with an email along with my picture and a letter with my signature stating I authorized the charges. This makes me want to get a local credit card, for which they don't ask this information. Imagine if there were a dishonest employee who had the credit card information...
瑜伽 or in pinyin, yújiā, are the Chinese characters for yoga. In order to remember characters, I often make up stories about them. Here is a breakdown of the parts that make up the characters.
瑜 Yú - This character contains five others within it: wang, ren, yi, yue, and dao. That means - king, people, one, month, knife
伽 jiā - This character contains three others within it: ren, li, kou. That means - person, strength, mouth
So in order to remember the character, I make up a story, such as: "The king, a person, in one month cuts one like a knife. This person's strength is in the mouth." Hmm, you could philosophize about that with respect to yoga teachers, eh? The teacher is like a king, who in one month cuts things from your life. Remember the invocation thanking Patanjali for the "jungle doctor curing you"? The teacher's strength is in the mouth because he or she communicates instructions and advice with it. Well in reality they pass through the knowledge silently through adjustments as well, but the mouth symbolizes communication. A month of study with a teacher can have life changing effects.
People who grow up learning Chinese probably don't make those associations. They learn the characters by rote without giving a lot of thought to their meaning. Those of us who learn the language late in life find it useful to make up stories so that we can remember the characters and their meaning.
Moving on to something else, now Acro Yoga has frequent flyer programs as well. See this. I'm mesmerized by this picture from their website.
I'm not sure where to book a holiday for Chinese New Year.
I could go to Chengdu. There I could visit a nearby mountain that is a Taoist religious site, with a lot of buildings hidden in the forest. There was damage in the may earthquake, so the top of the mountain is closed off for repair. In Chengdu, there are temples, the Panda Zoo and good spicy Sezchuan food. I could go to the park 8 hours away with the beautiful colored water. But it may be really foggy and super cold at this time.
I could go to Kunming to see the Stone Forest, then travel bus to Dali, which is near scenic mountains, then by train to Lijiang, a World Unesco Site. A friend was taken aback by the beauty in all of these areas to the point of saying he'd like to retire there. hmm. Dali could be cold, though.
I could go to Yellow Mountain and stay in one of the hotels in the mountain, not expensive at this time. They say you can hike in winter. "They" are the promoters of the mountain and you can read about it here. But I'm reminded of Laruga's experience with being advised to go hiking by cheery hikers hyper-prepared for it in Iceland. Despite her layers, she was freezing. If there is an ice storm, it won't be possible to climb. If the weather is clear, despite some light snow, it's possible, but the climate can be 10 degrees below 0 celcius. However, If I do this trip, I could just curl up with a book in the hotel for a long stay, sleep and eat - as long as I bring along my electric blanket and extension cord. Chinese hoteliers advertise: "come on over, don't worry, we have warm beds" - but their idea of a warm room is not the same as mine. I say that as I write from my meditation hut within the room of my apartment - two heaters and an electric blanket on.
Whaddaya say, have it Kunming and leave the other mountain treats for warmer weather? I have to decide today. Chinese New Year is in two weeks. (Edit: I opted for Chengdu. There were no flights available for the return from Lijiang to Shanghai. Huangshan would be beautiful but I might spend the time inside a hotel room because of the cold weather.)
Yesterday I improved the yoga tent inside my room. I obtained two more blankets to make the roof. Then I lucked out that the bamboo pole vendor made his rounds of the alley in which I live. People buy the poles to hang clothes from. I bought six poles to create legs at the corners and lift the assembly one foot heigher.
For the roof, I decided to put the red color facing the inside. It gives a warm glow to the room. I haven't figure out the lighting yet but I am experimenting with some fluorescent.
A bonus of using poles is that I have been able to include the desk area into the space. So now the warm space encloses my study, meditation and yoga practice areas; it's my yoga temple. I think it is brilliant that the study area can be included. It makes studying/working there comfortable as well.
This is a composite picture of the corner.
This is a detail of the assembly on the outside, showing the poles and the curtain rods. They are tied together with rope. The assembly has been speeded up because the blankets came with the holes on the perimeter. Maybe I should invest in a smoke detector and make sure that I don't burn any candles in the area, since all of this might be flamable.
Another bonus of the assembly is that the heater for the room located in the wall, which is undersized for the room, now only needs to heat a smaller area. Bordered by a curtain, with a small heater it is possible to maintain this side comfortable when sleeping at night as well. Inside the tent, the temperature can be maintained warm with two small area heaters. The temperature differential between the yoga space and the apartment feels to be about 15 degrees.
As I concluded my creation yesterday, I slipped on a bamboo pole on the floor. As I fell I hit my head on the side of the desk. I received a bump from it and a veritable headache. This morning I feel fine. It's time to practice.
Today I experimented with covering the other opening in the tent to make a nearly full roof. It kept the temperature better in the space. So I am planning to purchase two more blankets and make a roof over the weekend. That should make the space toasty while it's freezing outside. The temperature difference between the practice space and my room around it feels like 10 degrees.
For some reason, the front muscles of the body are stronger or tighter today. I haven't done much different other than doing the udiyana bandha very strongly, lifting the torso and compressing the abdomen, and letting gravity help me reach the head closer to the floor in Prasarita Padotanasana A. The strong bandhas made the jump throughs in vinyasas stronger.
Doing yoga was pleasant again this morning. The breath was good. Focus was good. It feels important to have a room for practice where I can control the temperature. I started with Primary, with the intent of progressing through Intermediate and Third in the coming week, then maybe dable in the Moon Sequence of VK.
The makeshift space for yoga practice is set up. My body was asking for practice. I was getting spasms in my back from not practicing a few days in a row. Rather than waiting until everything was perfect, I decided to start setting up the space, starting with the poles spanning the wardrobe and bookcase. The area of the room with the desk looks messy, I know. The decals on the wardrobe are not mine and I will need to figure out how to take them out.
First one side of curtains went up. The red side faced the sleeping area. Not a bad color to influence warmth.
The blue side faced the practice area.
A handy heavy book on master architect Louis Kahn put pressure on the tubes to hold them in place. Buddha, Guruji and the council of cybershalamates peer from their shelf.
The compartmentalization of areas with blankets made the temperature easier to control. The electric blanket warmed the practice mat and mysore rug. The warm air from the heater stayed in the enclosed area.
A tent would not feel complete without a roof. I tried half a roof.
My next refinements will be to purchase four bamboo poles to stabilize the corners and to lift the assembly one foot higher so that the curtains don't fold on the floor. Then with sheets I could create a full roof instead of half, and still have enough maneuvering space for asanas that lift the body high.
Today the little space felt full of dignity. I was able to practice in my skivies in the warm space and was able to actually look at the dristhe points. Hello bellybutton!
Although I woke up at 3:30am, I spent the morning organizing my room. The ayi, what we call the maid in China, helped me yesterday to move the furniture in my room around to create the arrangement that will permit curtain rods to be suspended. I'm going to hang the curtains for the practice space from them. Since I have myriads of small stuff, it all had to be piled into boxes, hidden away temporarily, to be sorted later. I don't have a lot of time for arranging things. Once I resume work it brings on its own requirements - project deadlines, trainings, resuming my Mandarin studies and resuming my pursuit of green architecture credentials. So I just have to place the things in the room in the best possible way that looks orderly and sort it out later.
My flatmate arrived from Switzerland. The other flatmate did not travel further than Taiwan during the holiday. He must be patient with those of us that are jet-lagged and waking up at weird hours. There are 12 hours of difference for me and 7 for the Swiss. With the Swiss being in his room, which is next to mine, it is easier to maintain a warmer temperature in my room. Before, my room was like an island surrounded by the cold exterior and the flatmate's unheated room. Now his warm room helps to keep mine warm. In my warmer room, I meditated on the cushion.
Tent material update: Thanks, Ursula, Grimmly and C.K. for your comments. I found a material at Ikea already cut with holes for use as curtains, blue on one side and red on the other. I could not find white. So if I'm feeling slow, I could enliven the rajaic side with red and if I need to be sattvic, I can turn to the blue side.
If my yoga practice hut where red, would that we weird? I'll aim to get beige fleece blankets for the walls, but if only red is available, would that weird out the yoga practice? Please advise on the color. I'm creating a yoga tent within my room to keep control of the temperature.
I just discovered Green Tea Ice Cream Oreo Cookies. I thought that was worthy of a blog post. Add that to the other flavors of Oreos found here - Chocolate, Strawberry, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and old style classic. It's not a CRON friendly product, but a dietary diversion. I don't remember seeing these flavors back in the US. Oops, you can see how many I ate. Dinner!
I have a feeling that my discussion about yoga this week is going to be about getting the room ready for practice. At Ikea, I started measuring curtain rods from which to hang blankets inside the room. I need to get a few of those and some blankets from Carrefours, hopefully light colored ones. In order to get the room ready I have to schlep a zillion things from one side to another - something that is like surgery given the amount of dongxi I have in in this little space.
After 30 hours of travel, I'm back in Shanghai. I don't seem to learn to travel lightly. It's possible my bags were heavy because I brought back some made-in-China, sold-in-America clothes. It's cheaper to buy Chinese made American clothes there. Then I brought enough zero calorie guar gum pudding mixes to last me a year. My room is freezing. Outside it's 0 centigrade. I currently wear several layers of clothes, socks, coat, muffler and hat in various parts of the apartment. I need to figure out where to buy some bamboo poles and blankets for a makeshift tent in which I can practice yoga. The snowman was assembled outside the apartment during the snowfall two weeks ago.
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).