I’m writing the last chapter of current work-in-progress (I don’t even have a working title, not a good sign! *panics*). This is not as good news as it could be because I skipped over the final Big Scene (because I haven’t figured it out yet) and went straight for the denouement and the epilogue, Cheating For The Win! Let’s hurry to The End because by gawd, it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME. So, yeah, I’ll have to go back to that BIG FREAKING BLANK SPOT but other than that, I’m like this close.
There is just…GAH! there is something in the center of this book I haven’t figured out yet—and it’s driving me NUTFUCKING CRAZY. I keep whittling away at it, but something, something right in the center, is eluding capture. It’s maddening, I tell you. There is a hole in my book and the story keeps leaking out….
Nevertheless, soon, like, in the next couple of days, I’ll have typed The End, for the Very First Time (on this book) (there are usually a couple of times you type The End), and that will, indeed, be Something, at least. It will mean I have all the clay on the wheel. Time to make it into a pot.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all this extra, struggle-filled work meant that this will be an extra-gooder book? But no: there is no correlation between how hard a novel is to write and how good it finally will be. All the struggle might mean the damn thing is fundamentally and fatally flawed.
That would suck.
The only thing to do is to keep walking, keep working, one word after another. BUT (says the inner tyrant voice) I’m nine months and 60,000 words in and I haven’t even typed The End once yet! What the f is wrong with this book?!!? *pulls hair, gnashes teeth, moans*
However! I’m not listing to that crazy voice. I’m Staying Positive. So, my pretties, The End is coming soon, wait for it, wait for it—
In the meantime, I look at this photograph when I get stuck (re: all the time) and I find it helps me out. To me it’s Hazel, looking moody over Takeda’s violin. I imagine the ghost of her dead mother hovering somewhere over her shoulder….
And by cycling, I mean bicycling. And by bicycling, I mean pedaling my bike while it’s up in a trainer in my yurt. It’s a kind of meta-cycling, is what I’m getting at.
But back to the Not-Agony. Actually, my initial riding attempts of any longer duration than, say, ten minutes were not Not-Agony, they were just plain Agony. My heart rate loved it, my energy level loved it, but my wrists, my sit bones, and my lady parts were most definitely NOT loving anything about it.
Wrists turned out to be an easy fix by adding some handles that flange out, giving a wider pressure base than a typical round handle bar. Boom. Surprisingly comfy.
See how the whole palm has support here, instead of a circulation-destroying bar? It’s cool. I thought I would need aero bars or something, put the pressure on my elbows instead of my hands, but nope. This worked.
The Down There issues, however, took more tweaking. I’m talking about my bike seat. And by seat I mean saddle. And by saddle I mean, torture device designed by the devil himself. When did they start calling it a saddle, anyway?
Here is a picture of mine, the one that came with my bike:
They say you have to become “conditioned” to your bike saddle, so I tried toughing it out for a while, but f that. It was awful. So, in between icing my sit-bones, I hit the internet.
Here is an amazing blog post at Lovely Bicycle! with over 200 comments by women talking about the various damages and attempted solutions their bike saddles have visited upon them. Chaffing, bleeding, swelling, infections, numbness… The two standard fixes are gooping your works up with greasy lube called chamois cream and tipping, dipping, and angling the saddle, all with mixed results. Women cyclists everywhere are suffering.
Then there is getting a different saddle altogether.
Enter the inventors. There are a ton of saddles with these funny little cutouts that I find it difficult, nay, impossible not to mock. Here is the Team Estrogen—haha, love that name—page on bike saddles for women. There are a ton of them, from $20 to $200, from hard to soft, all with variations of The Cut-Out.
Bottom line, they look like a v-jay.
They even come in pink, emphasizing the effect.
Maybe we’re going for some kind of sympathetic magic in action. But seriously? This is what we’ve got? Where’s the injection molded, internet powered, anti-grav saddle? Come on, aren’t we living in the future? Cut-outs? This is the answer?
When I first started looking into upgrading my saddle, I thought for sure I was going for the Comfy-Bun, something with a fuck-ton of padding, like, strapping a bed pillow to my bike. I mean, when if feels like you’re sitting on a rock, padding definitely sounds good. But everyone says no, no, padding is bad. To which I whined, are you sure?
Because I was mashing my labia so much I tended to ride with my pelvis scooped forward to reduce the pressure, which put my neck in a stretched out position and gave me shoulder pain. My seat—I mean saddle—was giving me a pain in my neck. Not to mention the terrible pain my sitbones were in…it felt like two circles of bruised, mashed meat where the bones were taking most of my weight. Ride the bike and then sit on the ice-pack. When does that get fun?
Fine, fine, said I. I decided to try one of the vagina shaped seats. With the cut-out. Mock, mock, mock.
I got this one because it was on super sale at Performance, $20, and my budget is, like, negative 4 bucks. Heck. I was desperate.
The Forte Contour XFS. The fellow at Performance who helpfully led me to the saddle section was super professional, and charmingly managed to find just the right mix of practical advice delivered with delicate language…all the while his ears and neck were a brilliant, and I mean brilliant, red. We were talking about my genitals after all. It’s not something that comes up in conversation with strangers very often.
And why is that anyway? It’s bizarre if you think about it. Half of humanity has a vagina, and a large percentage of the other half spend a decent amount of time in contact with one, it’s not like its a secret or anything. Why would we wipe a body part from existence and pretend like it doesn’t exist? What, are we Barbies? Imagine if we did that with ears? Or knee-caps?
Anyway, I got the seat, stuck it on my bike and…well, hand to heart, no longer will I mock the cut-out. Those cut-outs are fucking brilliant. No pressure on the squishy bits, which is fantastic, a revelation, hey, it doesn’t have to hurt! And no pressure means no humping my lower back, which means no shoulder pain. Winning!
Well, maybe I’m going to mock a little. How about a vibrating seat attachment? You could power it with the peddling action of cycling, faster for stronger vibrations, slower for a gentle buzz. You could have orgasms while you get your exercise and never struggle with motivation to get on your bike again. I’m just saying.
Here’s a seat that has taken the cut-out to new levels, the Infinity seat, not specific to women, that recently scored nearly $200,000 on a Kickstarter.
So, the cut-out is a big win. That’s half the problem. But the sit bone issue….with the new seat the sit bone pain is better, for sure. But not great. This is Not-Agony, remember. It isn’t Bliss. I can ride about 30 minutes before my sit bone start aching, which is an improvement—telling you how bad the other seat was. But since I rarely ride for longer than 45, it’s doable. For Price-to-Relief-Ratio, I’m going to give the Forte Contour a thumbs up. It is light years better than my previous seat. But it isn’t rocking my world. It doesn’t vibrate or anything.
Honestly, I don’t know how the gals going out on four+ hour rides are surviving. I could not do that. Just thinking it makes me weep. No wonder there were 200+ confessional comments on that blog post.
Doesn’t this seem like a shocking oversite? How could there be this amazing, designed-out-the-wazoo, device, the bicycle, and the best we can go for is Not-Agony? I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Here we have the yurt site, nine years ago, a tiny Sophie (who just turned 10 last week) and my uncle, who put a huge amount of work into helping us raise the yurt.
My typical morning coffee lately: boat-sized mug, spoon (it stirs AND is a great bookmark), manga in both English and Japanese, ipod with Japanese dictionary app—I like Midori (1)—plus the notes I make. A bout with Wani Kani (2) for kanji and vocab finishes out my breakfast.
I’ve been studying ye ole Nihongo for about thirteen months now and with a kid manga like Yotsuba (3) (LOVE) I find that I can read about 33%, I can look up and quickly figure out about 33%, and with the remaining 33%, I have no fucking clue.
I kind of thought I’d be further along by now, but there you go. Japanese is freaking hard.
(The little numbers go to notes at the end of this post, isn’t that fun?)
Surprisingly, it isn’t the kanji that messes me up. It’s the pile of of extra little hiragana bits (particles! how I am confused by thee!) that seem randomly shoveled into every sentence. And why can’t they separate the words with spaces, what is up with that??? No, they have to let all the words run together into one big pile of tofu and I can’t figure out what’s a word and what’s not, or what’s just been tacked on for emphasis. To, Yo, Bai, Ne, Na, just sprinkled in helter skelter (for emphasis!), not to mention the whole Wa/Ga disaster. I think I have No figured out, and possibly Mo, but that’s it.
But see? A kanji is a freaking relief in all this mess, because hey, at least you know you’re at the beginning of a word. Plus there are, like, fifty words that sound the same for every sound (shyo, I’m looking at you, and ryu, don’t get me started) so just because you’ve gotten the beginning and end of a word figured out, good luck knowing what it means. A kanji nails some of that shit down. Love me some kanji! But then they skip the kanji on a bunch of stuff and I’m lost again in kana soup.
This might be the point at which the new and shiny has worn off the “learn Japanese” project, and the size of the undertaking is starting to become apparent. This could take a decade. Am I really up for that?
Despite my complaining, I enjoy studying Japanese. The beautiful characters, the weird ass sentence structures, the SRS (4). But honestly I wonder if my interest in Japanese might be some sort of disease, a mental illness with its own DSM-IV entry, because, I mean look: me studying Japanese makes no sense. I’m probably never going to go to Japan, and if I do, it will probably be a short trip. I don’t know any Japanese people. Yeah, I love manga, but learning Japanese is years and years of effort. Is reading raw manga really worth that? Could I possibly be more happy and fulfilled as a person if I spent that odd hour a day doing something else?
Well, let’s see. Doing an extra hour of housework each day would make the yurt a shit-load more tidy, but screw that. Life is too short. An extra hour of marketing and publishing work for my books would make me more money, but GOD that stuff is boring. Okay, an extra hour of walking the dog would make Henry super happy but…oh yeah, I tend to study Japanese while walking Henry already, so not much change there. My husband just helpfully suggested an extra hour a day blowing him and…okay, I can see the advantages from his point of view but, honestly, my jaw hurts just thinking about it.
What about yoga? If I’d spent an extra hour a day doing yoga this last year, maybe I’d be some Cirque d’Soleil badass by now, or possibly enlightened, and yeah, that sounds pretty good. Maybe I should do that in 2014?
Or how about an extra hour a day of freaking WRITING THE NEXT NOVEL, HELLO?
Except, it isn’t really a solid hour, more like fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there…Japanese fits into the cracks of my day. They all add up to an hour, maybe a max of two hours if I take on a project on like a Lang-8 (5) post or a chapter of Genki (6). But I can’t do that bits and pieces thing with writing. I need 45 minutes at least to really work.
But maybe fifteen minutes of yoga here and there throughout the day? If I would do it. But I can study Japanese while sitting down on my cushy bum, drinking coffee. Hard to compete with that.
What about an extra hour of reading novels in English? No learning curve! Or an extra hour of learning a language I might actually use in a vocational sense, like, say, JAVA? Or playing guitar? I could be in a rock band by now.
The hardest part of learning Japanese is the feeling like I am wasting my time, and the guilt that I ought to be using that time for something more productive. Something that makes sense.
My first sentences—after a year of study—SUCKED. I can’t say anything! It’s freaking embarrassing. The equivalent of My name is Maya, I am American, I have a dog, His name is Henry, He doesn’t like the cold. I mean, sheesh. They’re great over at Lang-8, just correcting your shit, no shame, moving right along. But so much work just to write a couple of puny little sentences with funny-shaped letters. I can write NOVELS in English, why go back to See Spot run in some other language I’ll probably never use?
While another part of me is thinking, the only good reason to do anything is because it’s there.
Plus none of my best ideas have ever made sense.
I enjoy the process. Quite a bit, actually. And people do crossword puzzles and sudoku over breakfast with no greater goal beyond a bit of intellectual stimulation. Maybe learning Japanese is like that for me. Do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself? Yeah, a little bit.
For now I’m still in it. I’m going for year number 2. What will my percentages be for Yotsuba on my 44th birthday? Will I make it that far? Tune in next year to find out.
Notes! Here’s what I’m using in my Japanese studies at the moment….
(1) Midori. It means green and is also the name of one of my favorite violinists, but in this case I’m referring to a Japanese dictionary on the ipod. I like it because they have example sentences and everything is clickable. I go on long click-click-click journeys through Midori all the time. It also has handwriting recognition for looking up kanji, which is cool.
(2) Wani Kani. A terrific kanji and vocabulary learning SRS site by the makers of Tofugu. Paid but cheap ($5/mo I think). 50 levels, mnemonics, readings, the works.
(3) Yotsuba. Really terrific manga series about a hilarious, adorable, green-haired girl. The kids and I have read all the English versions, super sweet and FUNNY. Very re-readable. Good place to start with reading Japanese.
(4) SRS. Spaced Repition Software. Flashcards on crack. Very cool. See Anki (7).
(5) Lang-8. Crowd source your language learning needs with this terrific site where you can post anything you’ve written, a sentence, an essay, whatever, in your target language, and native speakers will correct it for you. In turn, you correct their posts in your native language. Boom. Language learning happens. You are not alone, with your Anki (7) and your Imabi (8) you are in a sea of language learners all helping each other out. Getting past the embarrassment of being stupid in your target language is the hardest part.
(6) Genki. Most popular Japanese textbook. I picked up a copy used when I realized I knew a bunch of words but couldn’t string a sentence together—it’s pricy, but accessible and comes with audio, which I like.
(7) Anki. Really good SRS. FREE (unless you get the iOS version which is totally worth it). Lots of shared card packs for Japanese, like a Genki deck, or a Yotsuba deck etc etc. Or make your own. Indispensable for memorizing anything.
(8) Imabi. Astonishing labor of love, all of Japanese grammar on one website, FREE, and the guy that does it is super nice. I’ve spent some serious time over there. Harder to get into in some ways than Genki, but much more in depth.
(9) Japanesepod101. Free podcast, fun for listening to while walking Henry.
You might think that post-title is odd, but seriously, we only get snow every few years here, and an actual storm comes once a decade or something. Plus, I’ve lived hear twenty-five years and it has never been this cold. I asked my great aunt if she ever remembered a winter like this and she said, “Yep! In 1976.” So, there you go. I’ll be a great aunt one day and my nephew’s kids will ask me about some crazy ass weather we’ll be having and I’ll say, “yep, we had some snow like this once, Back in 2014.”
It all started last Wednesday when the kids were out at a park, playing with aforementioned great aunt, when the first flakes started coming down. I gave her a call, all low-key, “Hey, I should probably come get the kids now.” “Okay, sure, see you in a bit…” The picture of nonchalance. Because hey, when it snows here it almost never sticks and when it does, takes at least an overnight to amount to anything. Plenty of time, no sweat. I did up a mug of hot tea, found my wallet, and headed for the car.
By the time I was on the road, it was already slippery. Fifteen minutes later the roads were covered. Meeting up we were all, “Shit, shit, we made a mistake!” The normally fifteen minute ride home took me an HOUR, my hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel. We passed NINE cars in ditches in that ten mile drive, people out standing by their hopelessly stuck cars, waiting on help. Terrifying to this Southern Girl, let me tell you. I had to bold that mofo sentence just to convey the horror. I mean, only a half hour earlier it had been black asphalt! What the hell, Weather?
But we made it. I was SHAKING by the time we pulled into our driveway. Seriously, I turned off the car and my hands were flapping so hard I couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. Look, 1) no one in North Carolina—at least not the natives—knows how to drive in this stuff, 2) there’s like, one plow for the entire county, and 3) no one has snow tires of any kind. I don’t even know what snow tires are. They’re bigger or something, right? See, we’re hopless. And then comes some obnoxious Yankee transplant, driving along in his four wheel drive, actually passing me as I inched along the roads with my kids in the back seat and my slow deep breathing to keep myself from a full-blown panic attack….I’ve never been so glad to park my car in my LIFE.
Of course, once we were home, it was soooo pretty, just a big adventure, whoopee!
Our big creek looked gorgeous! And note the plastic bags on the sneakers, because we have no snow gear.
The next day it looked like this:
You know what came next. Snow ball fights.
Good times! Plus, we were super lucky that our power didn’t go out. Being snowed in is lots more fun with hot water and wifi.
But check this: today, only five days later, it’s 65 degrees out! The kids are out playing in the remaining snow in short sleeves! Freaking daffodils are coming up. I’m so confused.
It’s weird, I tell you. Weird.
Of course, I was talking to my good friend in upstate New York yesterday and she said, “Oh, yeah, it’s been crazy. We got 23 inches of snow just yesterday.” TWENTY-THREE INCHES.
Forget that. Snow is pretty, but I prefer it to be an amusing couple-of-days house guest, one that knows when it’s time to leave. Snow should not be a way of life, thank you very much.
Is this the back side of global warming?
So, I’m writing this novel and it’s been eight months and I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s just like this sometimes. I go and think I’ve got some skills, I’ve written a bunch of novels already, surely there’s one more in there somewhere, but no. There’s not. Or maybe there is but I’m going to have to saw off my own head and dump out the contents on the floor if I want to find it.
It’s just that the story and characters keep running together like melted wax, and I wake up at night from dreams where the characters are all having sex with each other, or are eating strange meals with me, but still, I keep at it. I’m pounding out 1000ish words a day, maybe 800 or 600 NET words, you know, three steps forward two steps back, and yeah the words, they are accruing, but into what? Compound interest? Or a giant stinking pile of dirty laundry?
I wish I knew.
Meanwhile this happened:
I’m standing in our bathhouse with my pants around my knees, busily inserting a menstrual cup. Note: if you are a menstruating woman who doesn’t know about these, you totally should try them out, they are awesome. /public service announcement. Anyway, I’m fingers-deep, doing my business, when Sophie throws open the door and catches me at it, because we have no privacy in this yurt of ours, it’s a fact. I say, “um, you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment.” “Ah,” she says, and leaves.
Okay! So, finishing up, I head back over to the yurt (it’s two steps under an awning from the bathhouse to the yurt’s door) and throw open the door—only to find Sophie, fingers-deep in the Nutella jar. “Um,” she says, chocolate smeared all over her mouth, “you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment.”
SPIT TAKE! These kids, they just grow a sense of humor out of thin air, poof, and thank goodness, because humor, you can’t teach that. But you really, really need it if you are going to have any hope whatsoever at a decent life. What would I do without my kids???
But, I keep working on the novel and maybe one day it will turn into something, the way my kids have turned into these super cool people. That’s probably setting the bar too high. But still, I get up early and stick my head into my computer and after an hour or two the kids wake up and try to extract me and I want to say, “you’ve caught me at a kind of sensitive moment–” but then I’m laughing too hard.
There are nearly 50,000 words now in this, Draft The Third, of my as of yet untitled ninth (NINTH) novel. A Japanese violinist, a teen-aged girl mourning her mother, and an ex-drug dealing short-order cook, plus three ghosts, are all tangled up together in a weird game of relationship twister. Or something. Sounds like the start to a joke right? A violinist, a girl, and a cook, all walk into a bar….
My goal is to finish this draft, beginning to end, by April 1.
OR DIE TRYING.
[uplifting music here.]
Okay, this has probably already been everywhere, but I just saw it…
“You know how people buy drinks for girls in bars? Why can’t people do that in book stores? Like if I’m looking at a novel in Barnes & Noble and some person walks up to me, strikes up a conversation and offers to buy the book for me, there is a lot better chance that will work out in their favor….”
Okay. True story:
Twenty years ago I was wandering through the SciFi section at the now-long-gone Walden Books when I happened upon a middle aged man, leaning against the shelves, wanking his willy in the back corner of the store. Seriously! He was JERKING OFF right in the Walden Books. What. The. Fuck. Was he so hard up for cash he couldn’t buy his own porn, he had to jack his meat right there in the store? Or maybe doing it in bookstore was part of the turn on? Was getting caught be an unsuspecting twenty year old the climactic moment in this little scenario?
Anyway, I was so shocked I high tailed it out of there, blushing as if I was the one with my private parts hanging out. Later, I couldn’t figure out why I had run. Was I afraid he was going to come after me or something? Why did I feel embarrassed? I have no idea.
Okay. Fast-forward twenty years. Sophie and I like to make the drive to Barnes and Nobel and riffle through the manga section and last month we were doing just that. A girl’s day out for Girls Who Like Books. Anyway, we were hip deep in manga appreciation when I became aware of a middle aged man spanking his monkey down at the end of the aisle.
You know, come to think of it, the only other time I have been exposed to public masturbation was also a middle aged man, this time in a library. Are these guys stalking me? Why middle aged men? I’d have guessed teenagers or people with limited privacy, but middle aged men? Don’t they have places they can go to do this?
Anyway, there I am, stunned, part of me thinking, that guy has been here for several minutes (you know how you can be vaguely aware of other shoppers but mostly ignoring them?), how long has he been at it? Was he here before we got here? I can’t remember. And, of course, really? Right here in Barnes and fucking Nobel? Flogging his log while eyeing me and my NINE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER? (And possibly also the big bozooms on some of the manga covers….)
You can not imagine the bolts of indignant rage that poured off of me in that moment. I grabbed Sophie (who had yet to notice anything) and pulled her behind me in this instinctive protectprotect move and I said, in my most shaming, and incensed voice, “SIR. THIS IS NOT THE PLACE FOR THAT.”
I called him sir! It’s so…formal, don’t you think? Surprisingly polite, even, given the circumstances. I find this hilarious.
The guy fumbled at his pants, and stuttered out, “I wasn’t, I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t—”
Well. This shocked me about as much as what he was up to. What, was he six? Had my righteous anger reduced his mental age by several decades? OBVIOUSLY he was doing EXACTLY what we both knew he was going. Sir, yes, you with your dick in you hand, who do you think you are kidding?
Sidebar: I’ve got nothing, nothing against masturbation. I’m all for it. Indeed, I have an array of lovely toys and techniques in my own self-pleasuring arsenal that I make liberal use of, a topic for another post, I’m sure. But you don’t subject non-consenting people to your scene, yo. You just don’t. Especially not my nine-year-old daughter. Not if you don’t want me to tear off your balls and feed them to you. Metaphorically, of course.
As I mentioned, I had been reading manga, which meant I had my glasses down on my nose so I could peer over them—yes, I’m getting old enough that I’m having issues with seeing up close, har har, isn’t aging amusing. Anyway, Mr. Pathetic Exhibitionist stuttered out his unbelievably lame denial and I was so surprised that I just glared at him with such withering condescension, right over the tops of those glasses, that he shrank back against the shelf. I felt like the Ur-Librarian with +10 Scorn equipped and laser beams coming out of my eyes with the power to shrivel even the manliest of member and a mere glance. I was FURIOUS.
Remember my responses were all so instant, so instinctive, they were as much a surprise to me as to him. Keep that in mind for what I did next….
I pointed towards the front of the store and I said, “Go on!”
HAHAHAHA!!!!! As if to dismiss him, as if to say, go home and do your business there! With a bit of get out of my sight added in for good measure
“Go on!” is the harshest thing I say to my DOG. Like when Henry is begging, desperately, at the table, or jumping up on me, and I really want him to stop. I say, “Go on!” as in, go away from me now! And Henry immediately slinks off, tail between his legs. (I often feel a bit guilty when he does that. I want to call him back, apologize….)
But, it turns out, “Go on!” totally works on pervs! Tosser immediately slunk away, spine curved over, shame-faced. He scurried to the exit not unlike those ghostly crabs you see on the beach, running for their hole in the sand.
I felt like I had banished some pitiful hungry-ghost demon, sending it back from whence it came. BEGONE WITH YOU! Go on!
THAT is the difference between 20 years old and 40.
Later, I felt some pity for the guy. Later.
But in the car home I asked Sophie what she had gotten from the whole thing, wondering what she had seen, but also not wanting to put a bunch of stuff in her head if she had been innocently oblivious. She answered, “He had his hands in his pants. I don’t want to know.”
Oh god, am I now going to feature in this guy’s fantasies, his terrifying, shaming, librarian fantasies?
FULL STOP. NONONO. Sophie is right! I do not want to know.
I’d much rather have some guy hitting on me by trying to buy me a book.
I would say no. But still.
I wonder what it would be like to come across a middle aged woman rubbing one out in the bookstore aisles? It’s hard to imagine, downright impossible, actually.
Hmmm….I should TOTALLY WRITE THAT SCENE!
This is idiotic, really, but after four and a half hears of doing primary series (and some intermediate), I’ve never practiced with a focus on strength. I’ve practiced with an eye to flexibility, or an eye on bandhas and breath, or an eye to pleasure, or just freaking showing up every day. But strength? Nope.
It’s clearly a blind spot. I’m kind of lazy, you see, and strength work is hard. So I’ve probably (okay, definitely) avoided it, as in, avoided acknowledging it exists. Probably if I worked with a teacher this wouldn’t have taken me so long to twig to, but, oh well. I’ve gotten here eventually.
It started with this lovely video of Meghan Currie doing yoga in what looks like her apartment, just playing with it, having a great time….
She is SO STRONG. Flexible, yes, but STRONG . I would be a shaking mass of jelly just trying a couple of those asana, let alone everything she does here, for fun. Which made me pause. Strength gives one the ability to express more joy.
Which reminded me of Brendan Brazier, pro-Ironman-triathalon-dude, describing his realization of [bad paraphrase from my shitty memory:] how much just being fit gave to his everyday life that the non-fit people around him didn’t have, primarily the energy to do what he wanted to do. To which I thought, yeah, like, the energy to get off the sofa and walk across the yurt. (“Want some tea?” “Yes. But it’s too far.”)
Sidebar: Okay, that’s a hilarious line from a terrible movie, Idle Hands, don’t watch it, seriously. But Seth Green is funny in it as a stoner who becomes an undead-ghost-person, and, describing how he got in this situation, he says, “There was this big, bright, white light at the end of a long tunnel.” Friend: “So what happened?” Seth: “Dude. We were like, forget that man. Too far.”
Anyway, Grimmly made a comment to me—I was whinging about something, I’m sure—hey, try practicing for strength. I laughed it off. Yeah, right. But later (much later), I thought, hmmm, yeah, practicing for strength…that’s a thing. What if I could be like Brendan and have the energy to do what I want to do? That would be cool.
I mean, I’ve always thought about going further in a pose as being more bendy. But obviously this is not all that is required. DUH. What can I say. I’m slow. And weak.
Anyway, for the last month, I’ve been practicing for strength. It’s interesting, totally different. In strength building poses like the Warriors, or Navasana (my nemesis), or Chaturanga, I just stay in it longer. Long enough that my muscles start to tremor and quake. Then, just as they start to give out, I lessen the intensity, for example by putting my knees down in Chaturanga so that there is less weight…which allows me to hold it even longer….
I’ve also sprinkled in a few more strength builders, mostly in the Surys. Plank, High Plank (as Kino calls it, see vid below), Side Plank, and that lifted lunge position (plank with one knee drawn up to the belly), all with the stomach sucked in hard, or an “activated core” as they like to say. (Doesn’t that sound radioactive? Like I’m going to explode or melt-down? Well, it does feel like that.)
Holding these for a breath or five seriously increases the intensity of practice. This is embarrassingly obvious, now that I’m doing it.
Here is a great Kino video on strength that has these planks, lunge-thingy, navasana variations, etc….I don’t (read: can’t) do this whole thing at once, but I’ve been taking bits and salting my regular practice with them, wherever they fit in nicely…
She’s amazing, this adorable little thing…that can crack walnuts with her biceps.
Vinyasa jumpbacks also offer plenty of chances for taking a few extra strength-building breaths, for example just before lifting up, staying balanced on my butt with feet pulled in and hands outstretched, sucking in hard, one breath, two breaths…. Then lifting up and hovering for a few breaths—I have to do it with one toe down—then more of the same once the feet are through, I think that one is Lolasana—again, for me, one toe down.
Jesus, one can really turn a single jumpback into a torturous, strength-building process. I mean that in a good way.
Here is a sample from a video on jumpbacks with Maria Villel that shows some of what I’m talking about—the whole video is good, well broken down, well made. I think it’s 5 bucks? Worth it.
Are these gals crazy strong or WHAT?
Okay, in addition to all that, I’ve been throwing in some Sadie Nardini-style body-wave sort of transitions, more core work. My heartrate has never been higher during a primary. (Skip to 1:15 to get to the good bit.)
But wait. Does one really need to ADD anything to Primary to get stronger? I mean, JesusGod there’s plenty in there already, isn’t there?
Well, yes, but I’ve been on this plateau, see. I think it is a combination between the fact that 1) bodies are just super efficient at doing whatever you repeatedly ask them to do and quickly learn to do whatever it is with the minimum amount of energy, and 2) I am SUPER LAZY and have, apparently, figured out how to do a Primary without breaking a sweat. Literally. What I’m saying is that, after 4.5 years, I seem to have figured out the easiest way to do the whole thing, so that I can whip through it like tai chi and just….not work very hard.
Adding some stuff, shaking things up, might be just what I need.
I’m curious to see if I can keep this up as a semi-regular practice. And if so, what effect it will have after six months or so. I’m definitely sore the day after. Doing Primary with an eye to flexibility gives me a stretched out, almost unstable feeling, whereas a strength-focused practice gives me a tight, pumped sort of feeling, haha. Different.
Will I get cut? Will I be able to do a handstand or finally, finally, a proper jumpback? Or will I get tired and burn out and give up?
Will I be able to walk across the yurt for tea at a moment’s notice? Tune in to find out….
I recently discovered the #yogaeverydamnday instagram tag—people posting photos of themselves doing asana—and, as usual, I’m late to the party, but so what, I thought I’d pass it along, because its SO COOL. Yogaeverydamnday is also a tumblr tag, so if instagram ain’t your playing ground, hop over to tumblr for some yoga selfie goodness. Or this blog that is collecting some of the instagram pics. Or the same tag on Pinterest.
Apparently this whole business is a Thing—there are over a half MILLION pics on the instagram tag and a similar flood on the tumblr tag.
That is a lot of yoga.
I love looking at these! Especially the pics that are in somebody’s living room, or crappy apartment, because there is this feeling that yeah, we practice where we can, how we can, in the midst of our fucked up lives, and we do it everydamnday. Because it’s there.
There are lots of arm balances and fancy party poses (party pose, noun. showy asana you whip out at parties to impress your friends) because, hey if you’re going to post a selfie, you want it to look good, right? But there are all kinds of pics (some not so good, let’s be honest, makes you wonder what some of these people are thinking). Some are in amazing and gorgeous locales, lots are of astonishing asana, plenty are obviously Pro Photography shots, gorgeous, etc. There are big people, skinny dancer-types, muscular gods and goddesses, and lots and lots of us Mere Mortals and Regular Folk with mats rolled out in crowded bedrooms and kitchens and hallways.
It’s very inspiring! And keeping a home practice alive is ALL about staying inspired.
Makes me want to do yoga everydamnday, too. Gah, my life is so crammed, I don’t even know what with, the days just fly by….
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today's yoga practice
March 11, 2014 | 4:11 pm
Kino video on “core strength.” Just about killed me. Have discovered I have no core.
March 11, 2014 | 4:10 pm
Primary to navasana.
March 11, 2014 | 4:10 pm
Primary to supta konasana.
March 2, 2014 | 4:25 pm
Gah, hard stiff practice today. A slow half of primary, about an hour to Mari D. Like lifting bags of sticks.
February 11, 2014 | 1:33 pm
Full Primary, easy does it today. tai chi ashtanga.
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