A Blind Date With Yoga

If you practice yoga, do you remember how you met? Was it love at first sight, or did you start off as “just friends.?”

If you have ever practiced yoga but don’t anymore, do you know why? Did you have a fight and break up? Or did you just grow apart?

If you still practice yoga,  has your relationship grown and evolved? Or are you still doing it the same way you were introduced to?

If you still practice, is your yoga still meeting your needs? Challenging you? Surprising you?

If you still practice, can you ever imagine not practicing? Can you ever imagine “falling out of love” with yoga? Leaving it for some other body/mind practice? (Tai chi? Akido? Karate? Kung Fu?)

The reason I am asking all these questions is that today I introduced a friend of mine to yoga for the first time.

He had never tried it, and wanted to, because he and his business partner are dedicated to Trying Everything.

They make a snack chip called Try Chips, but the “chip” part  is just a part of a larger, deeper business mission. Tim and Jerry (the owners) want to get people to live, to risk, to TRY new things. They want us all to live with gusto and enthusiasm and passion.

Jerry had never tried yoga, so as part of their business mission to “Try Everything” he and Tim and Tim’s wife, Jackie, came up to the studio and I gave Jerry a private lesson. (Tim and Jackie are seasoned yoga practitioners.)

I felt nervous because I know that whether or not Jerry ever does another yoga pose, this will be the day that will become “the story” of how he and yoga first met.

I introduced them, and it’s a big responsibility. I think he thought yoga was nice (but a bit of a challenge, certainly not “easy.”) I will be interested to see if anything comes of this.

I *crossing fingers here* hope so.

But even if Jerry leaves yoga for another practice I, for one,  had a great time on this first “blind date.”

(Thanks Jerry! I had a blast! You are truly, Numero Uno!)



Back in December I made a reading list for myself. One book a month.  Thanks to Leap Day tomorrow, I will be on track.

My January book was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This was not on my original list. Somebody handed me this 900 page tome in early January, and I thought: Aw, Shit!  I am such a sucker for a long novel, and this was going have to be added to the list. There were no novels on my original list, so, “Here you go!” the universe seemed to be saying.

I totally fell in love with Haruki Murakami and fell down the rabbit hole of this books for weeks.  It’s one of the best novels I have read and I recommend it highly.  I just found this interview with him, and this is what he said about his work habits:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Love this.

This is sort of what I am trying to do with all of my daily “fundamentals” and especially with my meditation practice.

My February book is helping me immensely with this.  My February book is Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram and is changing everything I have ever thought about meditation.

I am now, thanks to the clear instructions in this book, training in concentration practice.  No more sitting there wondering, “Is this what I should be doing??”

Nope. Now, thanks to this generous, sane, often hilarious, book, I know how to work on the cushion.

Good times.

The Water Habit

52 ounces of water

You see that water? You know how much water is in that carafe? There’s 52 ounces in that puppy.

Know how I know? Cause I measured it. I did the calculation and that’s how much water I need to drink every day.  (your weight in pounds, divided by 2, equals your minimum required ounces a day._

You know how much water I actually drink every day? A cup. Maybe.

I don’t like water. It makes me pee. I hate to pee. But I know that if I force myself to drink this 52 ounce carafe of water every day, and I PERSIST with it, the chronic peeing eventually stops and I do feel a lot better.

I go through these “water jags” where I am all over this water-drinking shit: squeezing fresh lemon juice into it and everything, and then for some inexplicable reason, I just stop. Because it’s not a habit, so I revert back into camel- in-the-desert-mode.

Today I came across this website called 21 Habits. It has a paid version and a free version and it works like this:

You sign up and state the habit you want to cultivate for the next 21 days. If you use the free version, you just log in every day and fess up. Did you do it? Or not?  If you want to do the “commited” version, you pay $21 dollars, and if you do what you pledged you’d do, you keep your money. Every day you “miss” they subtract one dollar from your account and give it to charity.

Pretty cool, no?  Yeah, I thought so. So I joined today. I am going to see if I can choke down those 52 ounces every day.

Cat Toy

Today I was in PetSmart looking for a toy for LuLu.

LuLu (up close)

Do you know how many cat toys are shaped like mice? A lot. Tons of little gray life-like mice made out of felt, filled with cat nip. They also sell a wide assortment of bigger,very life-like mice, which verge on being rats. Some have squeekers, which is disgusting.

I can’t do mice, even if they are cat toys. I am so afraid of mice. They give me the willies. My mouse aversion verges on the phobic. When I was a kid, a few months after my father died, I heard a scritching noise from my closet one night. When I told my mother about it in the morning she said it was probably a mouse, and she set a trap.

The next day we checked, and sure enough there was a mouse in the trap but it wasn’t dead. It was still moving around. My mother freaked out. She armed herself with oven mitts and one of my dead father’s shoes that was fitted with lifts because he was short. We called them his “elevator shoes.” They were big and black and heavy as hell.

My mother picked up the trap in her mitted hands, and with the still live mouse dangling from it, she marched it to the bathroom, put it down on the porcelain tiled floor, and proceeded to bludgeon it to death with the elevator shoe.

When it was dead, she collapsed on that bathroom floor and wept. I don’t know if she was crying for the mouse, or because she was holding my father’s shoe, or because it suddenly hit her that she was alone and from now on she would be the one who would have to slay all the mice.
So instead of a mouse, I bought LuLu a bird. Not really a bird, but a thing that has bird components: feathers, mainly, oh, and it chirps when you wobble it.

Bird Toy

I love birds, and I don’t like it at all that I am baiting my cat with this bird-like thing, encouraging her to pounce and shred and de-feather them, but since she’s an indoor cat, the real birds are safe.
I never thought about what the dog would think about this thing when I bought it. When Boomer heard it, she wanted AT IT. So now I can’t even give it to LuLu because Boomer will pounce on it and chew it to shreds.
I tried.

Home Yoga Practice

When it comes to yoga, I’m a cranker, a churner, a go-hard-or-go-home-er. When I am led by my teacher, especially, I will hold onto my edges in a pose with my teeth and my toenails until I feel myself practically ripped apart.

When I practice alone, I can’t drive myself to quite that level of intensity, but my home practice is intense.  And it has always been this way for me with yoga.

I could never get into restorative yoga, and any classes labeled “gentle” are, for me, like the “pills that mother gives you, that don’t do anything at all.”  I want my yoga to take me down that rabbit hole; to change my experience, to put me in an altered state, to make me high. That’s why I do it.

But today I pre-heated the yoga room to the usual, cozy 75 degrees, put Yoganand’s Meditative Posture Flow on the IPod and chose to cruise rather than crank, to coast rather than churn, to be a homesteader rather than an edge-dweller, and for once, to take it easy rather than go full-on, full-out.

The wind blew hard and cold outside as I disregarded the instruction on the Ipod to go “right to the edge” in a pose.

And the space heater ticked comfortingly as I settled into savasana with my eye bag and  blanket.

Before I let my mind drift into nothingness, I thought of my students, especially the ones who are much wiser than I am, who know better than I do, that there is such a tender sweetness in a stable home, far away from the edge.


Feeling My Mettle

The other night I led Bakasana (Crow) prep poses, but when we got to the actual POSE, I really couldn’t hold it for very long. Two of my younger, more bendy students were rocking it though,  and even trying advanced variations.

I was trying to help them achieve some of these variations, but I couldn’t demo what I was trying to explain, and so as I walked home from class I found myself a little grouchy, a little sad, and  a little on edge.

I get very frustrated whenever I am not able to demo, or do, advanced asana in class. It makes me question my helpfulness as a teacher. I understand, in my mind, that some poses are simply not going to take shape in my particular body at this time, either because I am not strong enough, or because I lack sufficient openness in my hips, or simply because my bones won’t allow it.

But I also know that if I work towards these poses,  and if that work is performed patiently, with reverence, and for a long time, my body can probably express any shape I wish.

That’s because if there is one thing I do know how to do exceedingly well, it is practice. I know how to sit down on my mat and begin. I know how to dial-in quickly, and, without a lot of fanfare, stay dialed-in –on everything, including that endless running head-chatter about how impossible it all is.

When I enter my practice room these days, time slows waaay down, then it seems to stop completely.  An hour or so later I emerge and can hardly speak, or even remember what transpired.

As I am nearing the 5-month mark in my daily yoga streak, I am feeling really different, really  strong–not in my body, though there is some of that, but in what I am made of; I feel my “mettle,” so to speak.  I am feeling the results of 150 days of good, sustained practice, and it feels really, really good.

Crazy Town

This was the view this morning from Grant Science Center about 8 AM.

view from grant science

I was walking Boomer this morning, which I never do, because G usually walks Boo in the morning, but this morning she was boarding the bus to Crazy Town, so I found myself trotting the Corgi through the sleepy campus as the carillons banged out the first eight gongs of the day.

“Crazy Town” is what we call softball season/yoga challenge season because it is now that our fairly orderly, routinized, and ritualized lives start to go completely haywire, and continue wiring that hay until about mid-May when we both “come to,” scratch our heads and go: What the hell just happened? 

Every year we think: Nah, this year we have it. And every year, we lose it.

I lose it due to sleep deprivation. She loses it due to…pick one: weather, losses, player melt-downs, or some wild card event that no one could have predicted.

So as the carillons pealed out across the campus this morning and the Corgi found an old pizza crust and scarfed it down, and G was loading the bus with players and Gatorade, I took a picture of the sky.  Because the sky was quiet.

And I needed a picture of quiet today.