Where I Work

Sometimes people will ask me where I work.  There is something about the word “work” that makes me recoil. “I don’t really work.” I’ll say, “I teach yoga.”  But lately I’ve been thinking about that and it seems to me that I do “work” only it’s not work in the “Omg, it’s Monday and I have to go back to work!” kind of work.

But I do work. I put in lots of hours. I plan and I do computer-y things and I answer emails and a million other kinds of little jobs.  But I thought I would devote this post to showing you where I really work.  This is my lab. This is where I work out my sequences that I will teach; this is where I go deep; this is where I do hundreds of rounds of pranayam and many hours of meditation.  This is where I consult anatomy books and then try experiments on my own body. This is where I do the Yoganand workouts and the Yoga Today workouts. This is where I work.

I teach at a studio, but this little spare bedroom in my house is where I work.

This is my mat:

yoga mat

I practice on a Manduka Pro in Black Cherry. On top of it, I have a Gaiam full-length yoga towel because my practice gets really sweaty and I need the extra grip. I love this towel because it has grippers on the underside and will not slip.

mat

This is the mat from another angle. Another prop that I am totally in love with is my Hasta Pada strap. If you are still using a regular yoga strap, and you use a strap a lot in your practice, definitely get this one.  It will change your practice. It will make your life so much easier.

mirror

I recently got a mirror for my studio after getting one for my home studio. I don’t use it very much, but when I need to check my alignment it really comes in handy. All yoga rooms should have a full length mirror.

prop basket

This is my prop basket. It has blocks, hair bands, mat wash and an assortment of stretchy bands. I recently bought those 2 cork blocks you see in the front and I love them. I use foam blocks at the studio and they are fine, but these cork ones are heavy and solid and support me so much better. Those 2 pink ones in the basket? Pieces of shit. You want them?  Hate them. They have cut outs for your fingers and I thought they would be great but they are not. Live and learn. Beyond the basket, you will notice 2 bolsters under my weight bench. I am using them to try to stretch my quads by lying back over them. They too, are a Manduka product and I love them.

That folded up thing is the poncho I wear during meditation.

yoga journal

This is my yoga journal and all the stuff I am working on at the moment: bakasana prep poses, astavakrasana prep poses, anatomy books, I am always writing things down, consulting books and magazines and just working it out.

altar

I don’t have an altar at the studio but I do have one here at home. Sometimes I light incense, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I light the candle, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I pick a flower and put it in the ikebana bowl, sometimes I don’t. But I like my Buddha statue and the card that says:

altar close

This is where I work. I love my work. I love my warm little space where I can close the door every morning and do what I need to do.

buddha

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.

 

The First Post of the New Year

It’s been a slow day. Kind of introspective. Spent a lot of time going back through archives just to see what I was resolving to do this time last year.

This is the day of resolutions and I like resolutions, but I always wind up not doing them. I don’t feel bad about that mostly, because I end up doing other wonderful things instead.

Who can know in January, how things will be in June? So I am getting more relaxed about resolutions and goals, thanks in large part to reading Zen Habits and really resonating with Leo.

But to briefly recap: The two things I am happiest about this year are my ongoing and unbroken streaks: 400 days without a miss in 750 words, and nearing 100 consecutive days of personal yoga practice, not teaching yoga.

I just got back from a 5 Day training at Kripalu with Yoganand, and the training and the timing could not have been more perfect. I left the day after Christmas and returned the day before New Year’s Eve.

I now feel de-toxed from all the butter cookies and other holiday indulgences, and am happily back to my usual diet of kale, brown rice and lemon water.

I have decided not to make resolutions this year, but instead, try to envision the psycho-spiritual place I would like to be in next year and figure out the steps and behaviors it would take for me to get there.

Here’s what I have come up with thusfar:

  • I want to continue to deepen my yoga practice and add a consistent meditation practice to it.
  • I want to continue with 750 words and also with the writing in my Scrivener Project
  • I want to read at least 12 books and write about them here.
  • I want to finally learn my camera and take more, and hopefully better, pictures.
  • I want to gradually change the focus of this blog so that it reflects more accurately, and vividly, my real life. In line with this, I also want to post more regularly, but keep the posts to 200 words or less, (but include more pictures, and maybe even video.)

That seems like plenty, given the hours in the day.

Care to share what you have up your sleeve for this year?

Yet Another Post About Streaking

I am currently nursing along a little baby yoga streak.  As of today, it’s 18 days old. (It could have been 23 days old except that on Day 5, I skipped a day and had to start over, according to The (My) Rules.)

I am going up to my home yoga room every day and practicing on my own.  On Mondays  I use Yoganand’s Meditative Posture Flow CD and on Fridays I go to the studio and do Yoganand’s Yoga Workout CD.  Last week Fred and Timbo joined me for that sweat-fest.

On all the other days, I am alone with my own body, my own needs, my own thoughts. I spend a lot of time doing pranayam, and the postures I do are determined by what my body is calling for, or needs, on that particular day.

This is precisely how yoga started for me many years ago.  No teacher. No class. Just a book and a beach towel.  And I learned so much.  I am remembering all those old lessons: how to be alone; how to listen inside; how to watch my mind; how to push beyond (perceived) limits within myself with no teacher making or urging me to make a bigger effort.  I am learning to pull this effort out of myself. Again.

I think in the best of all worlds, it would be ideal to have a class to go to once a week (or more) but a class should only bolster a strong private home practice.

The home practice is the holy one, the inviolate one, the sacred one. The teacher-led class should feed the home practice, boost it, inspire it, give it fresh insight, new ways of working, but not substitute for it.

The student should use the teacher as a resource, as someone to ask questions about issues that come up in the home practice, or to get advice, or insights, or tips.

The teacher should know which of her students are working daily, at home, and what is going on for those students at home.

I have a wonderful and inspiring teacher, but I do not see him regularly. I wish I had a teacher close by to discuss my home practice with sometimes.  I would talk to that teacher about how I am trying to open up my low back and get loose and relieve that pain that’s been plaguing me.

I would talk to that teacher about my hips and the best ways  to open them, and how I am trying to deepen my back bends and stretch out my quads with little luck.  I would talk to that teacher about how I am using the stretchy band to open up the front of my chest so I can revolve properly in upavista when I stretch out over one leg.  It would be good to get some insights and tips about this stuff.

Instead, I will have to trust the wisdom of the body.

My current streak is only a measly 18 days old, but already I am starting to wonder: Who I will be when this streak reaches 180 days, or even 1800 days?

Yeah. Imagine that: Eighteen hundred days.  That’s almost 5 years.  Think I can keep this streak going that long?

We shall see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 in Yoganand’s Playground

It’s fun, but exhausting.  As expected, we attempted all kinds of  impossible postures today, and it was really quite amusing (and somewhat alarming) to see what is actually possible.  I partnered with Kim for the morning and we had a blast doing (or approximating) Mariachyasana and Locust and Supta Baddha Konasana.

It’s very playful, this yoga training. It reminds me a lot of being a kid out on a playground, doing crazy contortions and asking your friends, “Hey, watch. Can you do THIS??”

And they go, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, but watch this!!”

And you go, “That’s DISGUSTING, dude!  How did you get your arm to bend like that??”

And they go, “I dunno, it just…goes like that. Here.  I’ll help you.” (and this, in yoga, is called an “assist.”)

And then you try to do it, with their help, and you end up dislocating your shoulder and your mother calls your friend’s mother and you’re not allowed to play with that friend anymore.

Except, here,  in Yoga Teacher Training, most of our mothers don’t even know we’re here!

(bwahhahahaha!)

And then we have lunch and come back and put all the crazy postures together in a practice that has most of us slipping off our mat because of the sweat, and begging for mercy, or death, or our mothers to rescue us. (There were many moments when I was going, “Holy mother, is there no end to this??” under my Ujayii breath.)

And then suddenly, bam, the day is over and we all walk out into the glorious sunshine, and say, “See you tomorrow!”

Kim told me about this great Whole Foods nearby (relatively nearby) and I was going to wait until after rush hour to go, but I bonked on my bed, and just now got up, so I guess the playground got the best of me.  Tomorrow morning I may head there, if I go to bed right now and get up early.  Tomorrow we don’t start until 11:30, which is sweet!

Oh, and another sweet thing?  I got into Emily’s March Madness Pool!  And last I checked, I was in 2nd place.  (She’s probably really sorry that she went to all that trouble.)

But hey, there’s a lot of b-ball left.

(But, Go Dukies!)

Yoganand

This time tomorrow I will be just finishing up the first session of the 5-Day Yoga Teacher Training down in Philly.  I am so looking forward to it.  This will be my 4th class in the 10 class series of Pranakriya (500 Hr) Yoga.  This one is called “Advanced Asana 3,” but really, it’s just Yoganand blowing us all out of the water for 5 days, with some advanced asana thrown in, for good measure.

As I have been packing and cleaning today, I’ve been thinking about Yoganand: how inspiring he is, how floaty I feel after being guided through a practice by him, how his description of what yoga is, and does, clarifies everything for me: my yoga, my teaching, my life path, my dreams, my aspirations, even my core values.

In the last 10 years I have had some wonderful yoga teachers, but none of them have come close to the caliber of Yoganand.

I think that learning yoga is a lot like learning about life on the moon.  You can study about the moon with top-notch astro-physicists who know everything there is to know about the moon: its composition, weather and even how to get there. And I’ve studied with some of these “astro-physicists of yoga”and they are incredible.

And then you can learn about the moon from someone who has been there, an astronaut, if you will, someone who has actually walked on the moon, touched it, lived there for a while. That’s Yoganand. The man knows his way around the moon! He doesn’t actually practice yoga, he lives yoga.  He knows every little neighborhood of yoga, and is fluent in all the dialects.

For 15 years Yoganand lived at Kripalu as a renunciate monk, doing all the advanced (read: scary, weird) practices–the practices  only the monks could do because they didn’t have families or loved ones or jobs to attend to, so they could devote 15 hours a day to pranayama if they wanted, and be out of their minds for weeks and months on end, and no one would much notice, or care.

These days though, Yoganand lives like a normal man, a householder, with a wife and a business and a crazy travel schedule. But he still visits  the moon regularly.  He teaches in his school in South Carolina, and he travels around and teaches teachers, because he wants everyone to experience at least a little bit more of what it means to be a full human being.  He understands, because he’s been there,that we are not even coming close to what we are capable of as human beings in terms of energy, awareness and love.

So tomorrow I will be transported to another world.  I will get a little taste of what it might feel like to live on the moon.  I’ll have to leave the training room every night and go back to my hotel room, which will involve negotiating a car through complex, heavy traffic, then locating my room key, and finding my bed.  I won’t be able to stay on this moon-ride for more than a few hours a day, and after 5 days I’ll have to get off completely and come home.

But that’s okay, because even being close to the moon for a little while makes life here on earth seem just a little bit more magical, or maybe it’s just that it feels a little bit more real.

At The Gym, With Tim

I still feel a bit sore in my body today because last Friday I did a weight workout with Tim.

I resist resistance training.  I don’t like weights. They smell funny and they’re heavy and I hate the counting and the shaking and the grunting and the dropping.  It feels like slavery.  It feels like I should be wearing a striped jumpsuit and have a ball and chain attached to my ankle.

There is something about this whole weight training scene that is a total turn-off.  And this is what I told Tim.

Yet, I know there is the potential for realizing new things about myself in this activity.  I just need “a way in.”

A door.

An introduction.

Weight lifting and I have gotten off on the wrong foot.

We’ve met under less than ideal circumstances.

In a Dr.’s office.

The Dr. said: “Hey, your bone density test shows you have osteopenia.  Your bones are becoming porous.

The Dr. said: “I want you to take X,Y and Z drugs.”

I said (nicely), “No.”

(I did not say, “Go to hell,”which is what I wanted to say.)

Instead, I said, “I’ll just do more weight bearing exercises and try to build my bones up that way.”

The Dr. said, “Suit yourself. I have said my piece.”

“Fine,” I said.

“Fine,” she said.

So I picked up the weights.  They were heavy and they smelled like a cross between the dentist and high school shop class and it was hate at first sight.  I hated the look of them, the smell of them but mostly the heaviness of them.

They reminded me of burdens. All burdens.  They represented to me every psychological and physical burden I have ever tried to carry.  And most of all they reminded me that I was betraying my life’s central mantra, which is:

“If it’s not fun, it’s not done.”

These weights were calling me out.  They were saying, in effect: “Hey, whatever happened to your mantra?  Did you forget?  Don’t you subscribe to that anymore?  Are you going back to that old Catholic “penance” paradigm?  Don’t tell me we have to do that trip again!  I’m so tired of penance!  Enough.  Put down those weights and go do some vinyasa flow yoga.  This penance shit isn’t your scene anymore.”

So I did.  I put down the weights and went back to the familiar and the known and the safe.

But all the while I knew that I had to challenge myself, or “churn” as Yoganand, my yoga teacher always says.

Yoganand says this:

“Because the universe is vibrating way up here (he holds his hand way above his head) and we vibrate way down here (hand practically on the floor), if we want to live fully alive (you do want that, right? I nod) then you’ve got to churn.  You’ve got to break out of your comfy (slow) energy pattern and boost yourself into a new energy level.  Like a rocket has to boost itself out of the atmosphere into the stratosphere and beyond.  And to do that you’ve got to challenge your edge, banish your inertia.  You’ve got to churn yourself.

There’s a yogic way to do that, of course. (You hold difficult postures for a long time and breathe like a mother.)

And then there are ways that involve lifting heavy things and moving them around: logs, pianos, beds, topsoil, your grandmother. Or, weights at the gym.  It’s not penance, it’s “a challenge.”

So that’s what brought me to the gym with Tim. Because he’s so happy and he smiles all the time and he thinks feeling strong is a kick, and fun.  And he likes to play.  He’s lighthearted and he’s not into penance.  He’s into fun.

So we played with the weights.  We played follow the leader (with barbells on our shoulders).  We jumped up and down and twirled around in between.  During that part I remembered old jump rope rhymes and started chanting them.

We sweated. We laughed. I said “Oh my god, you’ve got to be kidding me!” a lot (mostly to myself).

He said: “I want you to be able to do 30 push-ups in a minute by the end of a month.”  (I can now do one whole push-up in a minute.)

So, needless to say, it’s gonna be a challenge for me.  I’m gonna churn.  But, surprisingly, I’m actually looking forward to it.  It kinda feels a little bit like fun.