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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Migrating Blog

Hello friends and fellow blog readers.

I am migrating this blog to wordpress.  Not all of the bells and whistles are functioning yet, but here is the link to the new "Beauty of Everyday Things."

Thanks for following!   I couldn't control the graphics the way I wanted here and my friends had trouble commenting which could explain why I got a lot of hits but no comments. See you at!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Power of Words

  The goal of right speech is very hard.  The other night after I yelled at my kids for the enormous pile of toys on the train table that in many ways is really my fault because I haven't consistently and realistically taught them how to keep their toys organized and put away, I realized that this type of outburst leads to a bout of self derision.  Even as I chastised them for taking off their clothes and leaving them on the floor, after the words left my mouth I remembered that I have always been just like that, and although I no longer leave my clothes on the floor, I tend to pile them on a chair, the couch, the top of my dresser. Even at work last night by closing time as people suddenly had questions needing answers when I was ready to go home, my speech, my whole demeanor begins to close up like a turtle.  Not rude, not mean, but less than helpful, certainly less than enthusiastic.  And yet I know what power all those words and non-verbal messages have.  My interaction with another person can change their day, could, under the right circumstances, change their life.

So here is another powerful idea, not my own, but it's floating out their in the ether these days.  There are times that I don't want to do this work, this work of continually trying to be a better person, of trying to reign in my temper and my eating habits and all the ways small and large that I am not kind. In my darker moments I think that I am not worth it.  Who am I to think that I could be a good person?  That I could make a difference?  But you don't do this work for yourself to be some kind of a saint.  You do this work for the benefit of all beings, to make the world a better place.  You do this work because your words and actions can affect someone's day, and that can have a ripple effect on a whole bunch of other people/beings as well.  So when I come back to that place, that dark place where I don't think I'm strong enough or worth it, I need to remember that it's not all about me, even if it has to start with me since that's all I can really change.

The meaning of yoga is to yoke.  So the work is not just to get onto my mat, which I need to do momentarily, but also to yoke, to reign in my smaller, petty self, and refrain from harm.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

No Coffee, No Prana

It is almost time to get on the mat.  I am drinking a cup of coffee as part of my pre-practice ritual.  I mean to experiment to see if coffee before practice really helps with the prana.  Sharath Rangaswamy from India says "no coffee, no prana."  Here's hoping he's right.

But I wonder if it is truly an aid.  Certainly it seems to help wake up the body faster, although 5 surya namaskar A followed by 5 rounds of surya namaskar B does a pretty good job of that as well.  I notice my mind skitters around more with the caffeine and it's a bit harder to focus.  But I like it and Sharath says it's okay so.....  to heck with the herbal tea!

But it brings me to the subject of addiction, and addictive behaviors.  There's a lot of addiction in my family and it has exacted a toll. Someone very close to me suffers and struggles with drug addiction and it is very hard to watch someone continually throw their life down the toilet as if it were worth nothing, as if they didn't matter to anyone.  I can't solve that, but when I look to myself I find plenty of evidence of addictive behavior.  Start with the coffee.  The number one thing my friends who suffer from insomnia really don't want to hear is that reducing their caffeine intake is the first step to a better night's sleep.  They look at me in disbelief.  Their eyes glaze over and it's like my children who are beginning to hear me less and less the more I go on.  They don't want to believe it, and yet I can say that when I'm not sleeping at night, when I start waking up at 2AM thinking all those useless circular thoughts, the only thing that helps is reducing the caffeine intake.  And I reduce slowly, by 4 ounces a day, to avoid the migraines that come from abrupt cessation of caffeine intake.  It's certainly worth a try if you're a coffee drinker who suffers from insomnia.  

But that's not all.  I'm an emotional eater, and I've struggled with my weight all my life.  I recently found Claudia's blog (thank you Nobel!) and she wrote an article about losing 30 pounds through yoga (and keeping it off), and she writes about the verbal messages we give ourselves.  She writes that:

When somebody wants to manifest something positive, keeping the vocabulary clean (no curse words, no negativity), is key. It surprises me to no end to see, even in yoga circles, a tremendous denial of the power of the word. There is a reason why I call it “weight release” (except perhaps in the title of this post), and that is because phrasing it that way is more powerful, since when we “lose” something, we usually try to find it again.

And I wonder about this.  Her number one point was about self love.  Combine the two together and you have all the verbal messages and thoughts you tell yourself everyday.  Perhaps it begins before you get out of bed in the morning.  Controlling these messages, the negative thoughts that fill our head space, could be a huge key in controlling our behavior.

So it's back to the mat, and to set an intention this week to focus on right speech, on saying the kind thing, the true (but not hurtful) thing, and avoid the gossip, negative self talk, and above all the less than kind impatient things I say to my family.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Old Friends and Hot Yoga

I saw my friend Sandi at the gymnastics studio last night. We used to have a 5:30 am yoga class at her house in which a few friends allowed a new yoga teacher (me) to test her wings. We got up very early, got a good work out, and had fun too. It was exceedingly kind of her to allow me to practice my newbie skills on her unsuspecting body and friends, but we did okay and noone got hurt. But life takes people in different directions and I knew she'd gotten pretty serious about Bikram Yoga, and I've been delving more and more into Ashtanga, so it was fun to see her and reconnect and talk to someone who really knows what its like to have a daily practice. And boy is she seriously thin! On that alone I would run not walk to a Bikram class if I hadn't heard so many other things that I didn't like the sound of. But since I haven't actually tried a Bikram class, I won't say much on that here.

Bikram and Ashtanga have a lot in common and one of those things is that beginners do the same sequence every day for a long time. This seems to fly in the face of modern exercise theory, and some very good teachers I know are putting theories of periodization and others to use in their sequences. David Magone in particular recommends focusing on different areas on different days, backbending one day, forward bends and hip openers another, so as not to overtrain. I know a little about this from training for Sprint distance triathlons a few years ago. So what is the benefit of doing the same sequence and working the same muscles every day?

Sandi and I don't have a scientific answer for that question, but for her the Bikram sequence makes her feel great, and she looks to be in tip top shape. For me, ashtanga just rocks my world right now and a good class leaves me feeling wrung out and mellow. Just last night a young man mentioned that after class he catches himself driving 55 mph on the highway. I mean, who actually drives that slow on the highway? That is seriously relaxed. I would love to be able to design a sequence that made people feel that good afterwards.

At least in Ashtanga you get one day off, more if you're traditional and don't practice on moon days and ladies holidays. Sandi says she practices every day and has for over a year. Pass the Bikram juice anyone??

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Not the other knee!

Oh dear. Sundays are for 2nd series these days, and everything was going fine until the first lotus, the one where you reach behind to clasp your toes (next year), and drop back. Anyway, when I went to pull my right foot toward my left hip crease, my beautiful steady lotus folding right knee went creak, crick, ack! Not good. Not good! This is my good side and things were just getting so much better.

But I'm not going to panic. Not much anyway. I went through the rest of the practice as best I could, beginning to have grave doubts as to whether I have any business practicing 2nd series anyway. Although the left foot is beginning to move behind the head... I could really use a teacher here but there's no one around here teaching 2nd series.

By the way, have you noticed that Kino's voice is very annoying when she tells you to drop back at 7am? Dropping back is not very pleasant so early, and suddenly her voice is just.... not what I want to hear. At least watching her do tictacs is amusing, because it's not like I'm attempting THAT at 7am.

Okay, so this is a very selfish post in a way, because I'm whining. Which reminds me of my post on time, in which I was also whining. Later it occurred to me that I'm like a kid with a dollar in a candy shop, crying because there are so many choices and I can't have them all. Make your choice, and thoroughly enjoy it. That is lesson enough for today.

So here's hoping that the right knee thing is a fluke, and that the very fact that I felt it means that it's not injured as deeply as the left knee, which I didn't feel at all until it was too late. There was never a sense of injuring the knee, only a sense of noticing later that it had been injured.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Painting Uttanasana

Unbelievably, not only did my son want to paint this morning, but he let me paint and draw. Suddenly I'm making progress toward my artistic goals. It has been too long. This drawing of uttanasana is done with kids' tempera paints. Fun! I thought I would be more rusty, but it feels as if the knowledge of the poses from the inside helps draw them on the outside. Practice this morning was too short, but I made it to the mat and have plans to get back there this afternoon, but that will be to work on plans for my class this Sunday, not ashtanga. I think that I'll revisit a PranaVayu sequence I was working on over the summer. PranaVayu is a style of yoga founded by David Magone in 2001, and that's what I learned for my 200 hour teacher training. David just redesigned his website and it is totally gorgeous!