Category Archives: yoga

ashtanga yoga after 45…lessons learned after seven years of near daily home practice. PART 1

I started my home Ashtanga practice when I was 38, seven years ago, holy balls, how did that happen.  I’ve practiced nearly every day for most of that time, five or six days a week for the first few years, then fourish practices a week, then a break last year for several months (buried under life stress) then back to three or four practices a week since. I started asking myself the other day, what have I learned from all this home Ashtanga practice as an increasingly middle-aged *cough* woman?  Anything I might pass along?

Well, the biggest lesson that informs my practice these days is probably that yoga is a long game.  You have to stick with it over heaps of time to reap the real rewards.  Look, when I first started, my yoga goals were fun, exciting, short term things like, “do a backbend!” “Achieve lotus!” “Impress the hell out of my self!” Back then, I pursued fancy poses like a BOSS.  Which is fine.  But I soon came to realize there was only so far the fancy poses could take me.  In other words, asana has a marginal utility.


Look at my badass chart. #proud

If you can’t sit on the floor with your kids because your hips are too tight or your back is too weak, doing dandasana every day will give you a massive happiness spike in the graph of Actual Life Improvement.  Adding some baddha konasana and maybe even a half-lotus, and it’ll change your life.  Suddenly you’re sitting on blankets at a music festivals, sitting on the ground around camp fires, your body isn’t stopping you from having adventures.  It’s awesome.  But once you hit full lotus in the progression of hip-opening-asana-difficulty, you really aren’t going to get much additional value in your life from going further.  Leg-behind-head poses don’t really add anything to your day (except maybe some of the edgier pages of the karma sutra?).  That happiness/utility line, after spiking up, flattens out.  It even starts going down, because the probability of injury goes UP in extreme asana.  And injury stops your practice, cold.

As William Vanderbilt said at the end of his life (then worth two hundred milllion dollars and the richest man in America), “I have had no real gratification of enjoyment of any sort more than my neighbour on the next block who is worth only half a million.”  Asana is the same.

Listen, I have hit some of the difficult poses. Marichyasana D for example, with a full wrist bind even, and here is what I learned:  there is nothing there.  Getting the wrists really isn’t that different from grasping the fingers, or using a strap, or just holding onto my knee.  The initial work (the steep part of the happiness curve) of just being able to have one leg in half-lotus and twist till my eyes roll back with pleasure—that is where 90% of the goodies of that pose are.  The “full expression of the pose” didn’t really give me anything.  Maybe it gets a little more relaxed—but you can have “relaxed” by just backing off. Maybe because I practice at home, I didn’t even get the competitive dopamine hit of being the bendiest yogi in the room (well, I mean, I’m always the bendiest in the room, because I’m, um, the only yogi in the room…).  Maybe if I’d had a teacher, I’d know what the fuss about the “furthest expression of the pose” is.  Maybe if I had just gone further, my third eye would have opened up and I would have seen god.  It’s possible.  But it’s risky for my 45 year old (and counting) body.

Too risky.

And note, I talk about injury prevention as someone who fucked up my left hamstring attachment early on in my practice, proud of myself for flattening my forehead to my shins in foreward bends.  I Could do it, so I thought I SHould do it.  Dumb.  Wish I could go back in time and tell myself to cut it out.  So. Not. Worth. It.  Because that injury has remained a weak link, ready to go out if I push it, all these years later, and it will probably never be right again.  Now I practice forward bends with my hands on ankles, arms straight, just to be safe.  And here’s the secret that doing that taught me: straight arm forward bends are just as fun, just as useful, and give 90% of the goodies that forehead to the shin bends do.  In other words: I’m not missing anything.

Is this yoga maturity?

But fancy poses look so cooool!  I will not lie: it was sad to let the fantasy of achieving some of them go.

But then I started to think how amazing it would be if I could do a respectable primary at, say, 70.

If, at 70, I still had hips that could sit in lotus, arm strength to do a bunch of chaturangas, and a spine flexible enough to do a decent backbend…well, I’d be a very rare 70 year old!  I’d have my vitality intact.  That would be INCREDIBLE.  That would be a gift to blow anything any advanced asana can offer me out of the freaking water.  A hell of a lot more incredible than doing kapotasana or whatever for a few seconds a couple times a week.  I’d be mobile.  I’d be independent.  I’d have my life.

I believe a low-end-of-the-difficulty-continuum Ashtanga practice—that is, a modest Primary—regularly practiced, can give me this.

Partly I believe this because I’ve met one of the original American ashtangis, David Williams, who now practices Primary and looks like a trim 50 year old (at 65!).  Partly I believe it because I’m forty-five now and after putting in only seven years of primaries, my doc says I have the mobility and health markers of someone 15 years younger.

That’s not trivial.

That’s worth the investment of an hour a day! And if I keep doing primaries, I’ll keep that lead, as long as I practice gently, consistently, and without injury.  Which means this: focus on a conservative practice.  Unless they come to you unasked for, unworked for (the way some asana do, you just suddenly, without having been “working on it” can do a pose you never thought you’d be able to, it happens that way sometimes!), let the asana envy and asana ambition GO.  Never work in a pose, never struggle.  Instead, do variations that feel fantastic for you and your body TODAY.  I really believe that 90% of the return on investment can be had in a conservative, safe, enjoyable practice done LONG TERM.

And I’m just leaving that remaining 10%, the fanciest poses, the second hundred million dollars, the fullest expression of the asanas, out because maybe more advanced yogi’s know something I don’t.  That seems probable, doesn’t it?  Maybe they can levitate, maybe they’re omnipotent, they look so powerful in those lovely photos.  I dunno.  I do know, that, in some asana, I’ve been the yogi in those photos, done the fancy pose in its fullest expression, and, for me anyway, there was nothing there.

So, first major lesson learned in my seven years.  Enjoy your practice where it is and don’t quit. Which means don’t get injured (which makes you quit).  Stay the course.  Because the really real good stuff comes later and you can’t get to later if you have to quit.  Keep at it for decades.  The compound interest I’ve received so far is fantastic.  The bennies I hope to get in the future: VAST.

And whoops, I started this post as a list, but number one got too long!  So I decided I’d break it up into a few posts.  Look for part two, coming soon.

David Swenson’s new dvds are terrific!

For various reasons I ended up taking a few months off of yoga this fall.  I never quit entirely–a practice a week or every other week.  I watched my backbend go, then my lotus, then my forward bend.  Pretty scary how fast it happened.

I came back with just surys, gave myself permission to quit at any time once I’d done those, started adding standing.  I’m doing about 4ish half-primaries a week now, so I’m back.  It’s hard, even after a short break, when you are 44!  More reason never to take breaks, I guess.

Swenson Digipak 6 Panel (Half Series)But thinking I could use a boost, I started poking around a was stoked to discover that David Swenson, one of the old school Ashtangis, has put out two new dvds!  One is a full primary, the other a 1:08 (108 being an auspicious number in yoga, the number of beads on a mala, among other things), that is 1 hour 8 minute HALF PRIMARY.  Oh, hell yeah!  Here, take my money, David!

David’s older Primary dvd (the one with the crazy purple tank and the mood furniture) was one I cut my teeth on six years ago as a baby ashtangi (along with his book) for one, beautiful reason: VARIATIONS.  He’s so supportive and friendly, do what you can do today, try these variations and find one that works for you right now, no worries, enjoy your practice.  No judgment, no competition, no stinginess, just do what you can do today.  He’s the best.

I actually made a slide show on my ipod, back in the day, from pics I took of the variation I needed for each primary series asana, from the photos in David’s book.  I used that back when I was brand new and needed a cheat sheet to help me remember what to do next. And his dvd was great, full of options that let me get through a practice when so much of it seemed impossible.  I feel I owe him a lot.

His new dvds have plenty more of this generosity!  Only now with inset vids for variations, and a separate variation section for more detailed explanations.  They also have a streamlined aesthetic (black on white), high production quality, multiple camera angles, and David’s clean, effortless-looking practice.  There isn’t a count, but he talks you into each pose, easily giving a few bits of info about each asana, while still leaving some silence and space.  His personality comes through the most in the variations section (especially the vinyasa section with a half-dozen options to choose from, a great section), funny and warm.  He has such a great sense of humor and you don’t get that in the clean main practice section, so I was glad to see it show up somewhere.

He also has a little “five elements” sections talking about vinyasa, gaze, breath, etc.  Actually, breath is a huge theme he returns to repeatedly, not alignment (he does some of that), not perfection in poses, but breath.  “Think of your practice as one big breathing exercise.”  He talks about the “inner practice” (breath, your mind, bandhas, the invisible things) being where the goodies are, not the outer-practice of asana.  It all feels very grounded and doable, without a bunch of ego.

I highly recommend these videos to anyone who wants to learn the practice, or who, like me, would like a led practice every now and then, with not-too-much talking.  Excellent videos, really good.  Don’t hesitate.

Oh, but here’s one nitpick: I couldn’t decide between the two, so when I saw that there was a discount if you got both, I did that.  I was disappointed, however, when I realized the 1:08 vid is exactly the same as the full primary, minus the second half of seated and the applicable variations.  Said another way, getting the Full Primary disk gives you all the content and you can just fast forward from navasana to backbending. The 1:08 is a repeat.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to just ride through without fiddling with fast-forward, the 1:08 vid is great.  It’s the one I’m using right now (actually I ripped it and put it on my ipad, but same thing).  I just would have liked to have known more clearly that they were the same.

On the OTHER, other hand, is the second half of seated (and its variations) worth an extra $14 bucks?  Well, absolutely.  David is a master and this is a top-notch production.  So yeah.  Get’em both.  Get the Primary because, duh. And get the 1:08 if you like half primaries sometimes (or haven’t worked up to the full primary yet) and for the convenience.

Thank you, David Swenson!

And here is one my favorite videos of David demoing Intermediate series as performance art, or possibly stand-up comedy.  If you ever come to North Carolina again, David, I’m there.


in which i meditate with an EEG machine, the Muse Brain Sensing Headband, and fail to become immediately enlightened, dangit

I’ve tried to get into meditation for decades and generally failed to enjoy or stick with it because…well, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m a novelist and am just generally fascinated by my own thoughts (or maybe I’m a novelist BECAUSE I’m fascinated by my own thoughts…) but yeah.  Meditation has failed to become a part of me.  I get bored.  I want the bennies but I just can’t put in the time on the meditation cushion to get them.

But!  I’ve had a chance to play around with a borrowed Muse Brain Sensing Headband for about a month now and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty cool.  It might be something that could get me to meditate regularly.  At least, I’ve been at it for a month now and still enjoying the experience.  So…go Muse!

muse meditation 1

So what is it?  It’s basically a portable, home, EEG machine. The narrow strip with the sensors goes on your forehead and the flappies go behind your ears.  Surprising that such a tiny, non-wired (it uses bluetooth to send data and probably some form of magic to read your thoughts) senses your brainwaves and gives you real time feedback via audio cues about whether you are focusing on your breath or wandering off and thinking about a million other things.  That’s right, it cues you when your mind wanders. Like, “YO, MAYA!  You’re drifting off again!  Get back on the breath already!  Sheesh…”

Okay, it doesn’t shout.  Actually it makes stormy weather sounds and my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to calm that weather down by focusing. Biofeedback with your brain.  Gamification of meditation.  Mindfulness training wheels. If focusing your brain on one thing is mindfulness.  (Is it?  Any longtime meditators want to comment on that?)

Anyway, after your session, you can look at a graph to see how well you did.  The goal is to keep your wavy line down in the “calm” zone, something like this:

muse meditation 2 Look at me meditate!  Here we have seven minutes of my brain being super chill.   I actually have no idea how I did it that day because this is more typical for me: muse meditation 3Some up, some down.  Some all around town.

It feels oddly revealing to show the world these wavy lines!  As if I’m a little more naked now….  Don’t judge my brain!

The Muse fits around my head easily, makes contact with all its sensors in a couple of seconds, and has given me zero problems.  You have to do this little calibrating thing at first where you think of various things (fruit, tv shows, colors, etc) as prompted by the app, for maybe a minute, then you’re good to go.  I’ve been quite impressed with the hardwear end of things.

But I have, of course, been experimenting.  I mean, when I first tried it I was all, “how the heck do I know it’s doing anything?  That wavy line could be the stock price of ice cream in Mongolia.”  So I tried messing with it.  For example, I’d try to be “calm” for five minutes and then I’d THINK REALLY HARD for a minute.  Or I’d have the kids sneak up on me at a predetermined moment and shout at me.  Or I wear it walking around and talking, or holding my breath, or watching Fail Videos.  I want to try Musing while sleeping, but that will need an assistant and some planning, just haven’t gotten to it yet.  But I will.

Turns out I can predictably make that wavy line jump like a mofo.  Look:

muse meditation 4

See the sharp spike into the “active” zone at about the five minute mark?  That’s me doing math problems.  See the three or four peaks in the “active” zone around the 15 minute mark?  That’s Luc asking me for some breakfast.  (See how I didn’t finish out the 20 minutes?  That’s me going to make said breakfast.)  More on that middle bumpy section in a minute

But WTF?  What goes on in the black box of my skull is supposed to be private. Yet somehow this science fiction-looking device KNOWS.  It knows.

If I get arrested any time soon, you’ll know why.

After a while of reliably popping up spikes in the line, I started trying different meditation techniques.  Three, actually: the classic count-the-breath to ten then repeat,  keeping awareness on the breath (no counting), and focusing on a mantra.  (Anyone have others I should try?)

Subjectively, pre-Muse, I have  preferred the mantra approach because it feels somehow more free, less yoked.  The focus-on-the-breath thing (either counting or awareness) feels more like my brain is shackled down, more effortful. Counting the breath will even give me this focused intensity in my forehead, as if I’m drawing my eyebrows together to focus harder (I’m not actually moving my face).  Maybe I’m trying too hard?  Mantra-focus doesn’t do any of that.  Plus my breath is freaking boring.

But check it:  the Muse could totally pick up on all this.  Look at that last graph.  The first six or seven minutes I was doing count-the-breath (except for the bit where I was doing math) and my friend, the Wavy Line, stays mostly down in the “calm” and lower half of “neutral”.  Then from about seven minutes to twelve minutes I was doing mantra meditation and the line is mostly in “neutral” with some dips into “calm” and some into “active”.  Then I went back to count-the-breath  for a minute or two (before Luc showed up) and the line dropped to noticeably more “calm” again.  Mantra meditation produced more “calm” than just freewheeling thinking, but clearly it IS less “yoked” than breath-counting, just as I’d experienced, if by “yoked” I mean “calm” or vice-versus.  It’s all right there on the graph.

Does this mean mantra meditation is less effective?  Or does it just mean it’s less effective at whatever the Muse is reporting?  Is that focused, effortful feeling the goal?  Or would that effort-feeling pass, possibly, as I got better at it?  If so, could I get to the same “goal” with the mantra method, only slower?  Or something?  It’s all very interesting.

I love doing experiments like this!  Totally takes the boring out of meditation for me.  I loves me some graphs!  Give me some data, I’m all happy camper.  Give me a private black box and yeah, I’m off to the races, but it ain’t meditation.

It only takes a second of drifting off for the Muse’s aural “weather” to respond and get rough.  I can look at these graphs afterwards and pin point, that bumpy stretch was where I was thinking about Agents of SHIELD, and that spike was when the dog jumped on the bed, and that calm bit was when I dropped out of the world for five whole seconds.

The Muse people claim that continued practice will result in measurable improvement.  I’ve only been at it for a month and no noticeable improvement yet, as far as increasing % “calm” but I’m still at it.  I wouldn’t really expect “results” after only a month.  Maybe six months?  I feel like I have to say “results” in quotes because I’m not really sure what the “result” of keeping the line in the “calm” section will be.  Do really seasoned meditators put on the Muse and just flatline that puppy?  Or is there something else going on here?

I wish I knew more about what the line actually is.  There is this write-up at the Muse site.  And this TED talk by the founder of the company, Ariel Garten.  It seems like they came up with this portable, wearable EEG machine and then tried to think of a way to turn it into a product…and decided the meditation angle was the way to go (in the talk she mentions video games, turning on/off lights and appliances, and a levitating chair, I want to see the levitating chair!).  I’m down with that, monetizing is the way of the world, but there’s this vagueness about what meditation is (there are many kinds, of course, with different goals, but still) and what the Muse is telling me with its graph.  It definitely picks up on when I’m 1) thinking, startled, open-eyed and talking, doing math, remembering the plot to Age of Ultron, versus when I’m 2) counting my breaths, or being aware of my breath, or silently reciting a mantra.  I don’t know, I just want to know more from their materials.  More detail, less fluff, less marketing-speak.

Perhaps towards that end, I’m reading a couple of books on the neuroscience of meditation. Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, and Waking, Dreaming Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy by Evan Thompson.  Although I’m wary of the desire of many authors to grasp new science and graft its terminology onto existing new age paradigms to try to give them legitimacy.  I’m not saying these books do that, just…I’m a bit loath to jump on anyone’s bandwagon.  But anyway, I started reading these books, we’ll see how far I get.  My attention span is shit.

Maybe the Muse can help me with that!  If I can just keep yoking my brain to my boring breath for 20 minutes a day, maybe the Almighty Wavy Line will take pity on me and start drifting downward, like a graceful feather, to land in the lake of calm and samadhi promised by so many mediators.  We shall see.

tribal belly dance + standing desk = killer abs

Short version: Hell yeah, the title says it all, doesn’t it?

Long version: back in my twenties I used to take this Tribal Belly Dance class based on Fat Chance Belly Dance troupe, which was just getting going over in San Fran at the time.  It was terrific, full of muscle locks and precision movements that resulted in a sweat soaked but very fun workout. Tribal is not flowing, floaty belly dance with chiffon scarves; it is muscle isolation and drills and yeah, it kicked my butt, but in that good way that lets you know you’re alive.  Not that I was ever any good at it, but who cares.

Fast forward twenty *cough* years [faints] and I’m, okay, well, I’m old.  And I’ve been having some trouble with wrist pain from Too Much Typing, so I made a standing desk with ergonomic keyboard, yada yada.  I’m standing here typing on it right now, this very post.  Anyway, as I result, I spend a lot more time standing now, doing my thang….

And it’s boring.  I mean, seriously.  My body gets bored.  I guess when I’m sitting, I just forget my body altogether, but standing, it stays…activated.   It starts moving around, shifting this way or that, pelvis this way, that way, scoop, slide, stretch…and suddenly I find I’m doing long forgotten tribal belly dance moves, like, unconsciously, while I type.  Figure eights, hip slides, scoops, belly rolls, up eights, down eights, clockwise, counter clockwise, locks, shimmies.  And yeah, I look like a flaming idiot.

BUT.  After a couple of months of this, my abs are freaking CUT.

TOTALLY UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT.  I had no plan whatsoever to get a six-pack at my standing desk.  But how cool is that?  Accidental Abs.

Unexpected Bummer to go with it: apparently having cut abs does not in any way mean that my jumpback will be improved.  And while I do notice an improvement in my posture, I notice no observable change in actual abdominal strength during my yoga practice. In other words: I still totally suck at navasana.  And I can’t do a decent jump back to save my life.  I am ashamed.

Is it the c-section—my secret theory—that keeps me forever from attaining this ashtanga basic, the all-mighty jumpback?  Have I just not poured enough sweat in (even after 5+ years of working it)?  It is physically impossible for me VS. am I lazy: these are the two basic options, with a possible side dish of “give it time” but I’ve done that and nada.  Humph.

I’m okay with this, usually.  I’ve come to peace with my smear-back and my walk-through.  But man, I would have thought carving your core would have translated into freaking LEVITATION.


I think I have that affliction where stated goals are never attained, but you get all this other great stuff along the way.

Most days, I’m okay with that.

No, there will be no photo of my new amazing abs on the internet.  So forget about it.  I support you in the process of feeling your loss.  There, there.  But if you want some abs of your own, I highly recommend an hour or two of tribal belly dance every day while you use your computer.  Shockingly effective.

I’ll leave you with the amazing Rachel Brice, tribal belly dancer extraordinaire.  She is a GODDESS.  (Hey, I wonder if she has a standing desk?)

thanksgiving, updates, yoga practice (not)

So, we survived Thanksgiving.  Thank god that’s over.  A day devoted to gratitude is a fabulous idea, and I’m all for it, but really, it’s pretty hard to avoid the feeling that its a day set aside, not for giving thanks, but for gluttony.  And now the whole Black Friday thing has become even bigger than Thanksgiving itself, and what is Black Friday but just more gluttony.  It all grosses me out, really.

An acquaintance of mine cuts hair at a salon in a nearby mall and she told me they had decided to open the mall at 6pm on Thanksgiving itself this year (not wait until Friday morning as is typical).  She showed me a vid she made of the Unlocking of the Doors at 6pm and the flood of people rushing in to shop.  The people poured in, it went on and on, and everyone was in such a hurry, this mad dash to BUY.  I thought, it’s the same old mall that was there the day before, what’s the rush?  But these sales do a good job of creating a perceived scarcity/need that gets that brain-chemical-combo going, the one that makes it all seem so urgent and necessary.  It has the same gross feeling of watching people do ten minute shopping sprees where they just start grabbing shit and stuffing their cart, or when money gets dumped out of a window (only happens in movies) and people start shoving and scrambling for dollar bills.  Where’s the dignity people?  Where’s the generosity?

For Thanksgiving itself, we went to see my frail and nearly-gone Grandma, which was sweet and sad.  Too much driving, a nice meal with people I love, some crying.  I kind of hate it, it’s awful even though it is also good.  What can I say, life is confusing.  Then we had a second stay-at-home Thanksgiving the next day, with a big bowl of stuffing and all of us on the couch watching Winter Soldier and talking Marvel-Mythology theories.  Nothing like a nice geek-out over a bowl of carbs for family bonding.

I DID buy a present for SuperCoolHubby on sale on amazon on Black Friday.  So there, I guess I did my Duty as an American.  I hope he likes it.

Meanwhile, I have rewritten (again) the ending of my current novel and it is out (again) to my beta readers.  Who are awesome.  AWESOME.

Not much yoga this week, no fist bump for me.  I forgot about the whole holiday thing when I said I would practice lots.  One full primary and a primary-to-navasana and that was it.  LAME.  I’ll do better this week or DIE TRYING.

How was your yoga week?  I’d love to hear.


weekly yoga fist-bump check-in

It’s surprising to me how motivating a tiny agreement—with someone I only know over the internet—to virtually fist-bump if we met our week’s yoga goals has been.  But yeah, I totally shooed myself on the mat because of that agreement.  Can’t get to week’s end and have to say, sorry, can’t fist bump, I was lame.  So woot.  Go me.  I practiced five times this week, two primary’s to supta konasana, two to navasana, one standing only.  FIST BUMP.

Practice was good, not too stiff.  I can feel that twinge in my hamstring attachment complaining—I think the cold is giving it trouble.  God, I sound like an old woman.  Anyway.

How was your week?

in praise of the lowly Up Dog, plus friday cyber-shala open thread chat, please drop by and say hello!

There’s a reason I don’t currently practice Intermediate Series and it isn’t that I haven’t tried or don’t have a teacher (because when has that ever stopped me).  It’s because I’m freaked out by backbends.  It’s true.  I’m a backbending wuss.  I just…panic.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve talked about it before, I’ve used props and dvds to try to get over it, and I actually have practiced Intermediate at various times (for example, here)—David Swensen’s version from his book and David William’s version—but I always seem to give it up.  It’s all those backbends right out of the gate, hanging my big old heavy head back into space, the mild choking , the disorientation, my cement spine, the fear of falling or somehow…breaking.  I hate it.

Never the less, I have made some backbending progress over the five years of my conservative Ashtanga practice.  And although I have tried all the various things I just mentioned, I really think the main thing that has worked for me is Up Dog and it’s slightly easier cousin, Cobra.

Seriously.  Up Dog.  And lengthening the time I spend in Up Dog.  Three, four, five breaths in Up Dog (or putting the legs down on the floor in cobra) per vinyasa, for all those vinyasas, that adds up to a lot of backbending.

Plus, I like to press into the pose from different angles, try to find different vertebra and put more arch into different sections of my spine.  I play with it, a la Angela Farmer.  And I can’t explain why, but Up Dog and Cobra do not trigger my backbend panic.  So I love them.

Sidebar/ If you haven’t heard of Angela Farmer, she’s amazing.  She studied with Iyengar back before yoga was cool and then went on to do her own thing.  She’s one of the old timers in American yoga, for example, Angela invented the yoga mat!  The story goes that she was teaching a workshop on these slippery floors and just, spur of the moment, cut up some under-carpet-matting, that sticky, rubbery stuff they put under wall-to-wall carpet, and boom.  Yoga mats.  I haven’t seen all her offerings, just a few of the older ones, but she  had a huge impact on me as far as pleasure in the practice, joyful asana, moving in an asana, trusting your body’s sensations, etc.  Terrific stuff, highly recommended.  She is a MASTER and I do not say that lightly.

Here, just found this, one of her old ones, Feminine Unfolding (although, I don’t think it has anything to do with women/men, personally, that feels kind of dated in a way).  This video is a long one, but worth every minute. You will never do a stiff, stagnant asana again. Very inspiring!!  Rocked my yoga world when I first saw it.

Anyhoo, I was thinking today about how little love Up Dog gets, it’s barely mentioned as more than a transition asana sometimes, something that happens on the way to Down Dog.  But I’ve found lingering there, as well as working in plank/chaturunga, these are sometimes the most important parts of a given day’s Primary.  The asana inbetween become fun little side stretches to rest between the WORK of five breath planks, shaky arm chaturangas, and five breath up dogs/cobra (I switch to cobra when my wrists start hurting, another David William’s approach).  Up Dog is not as flashy as  kapotasana, FOR SURE, but still, if you do twenty+ of them in a practice, it adds up.

And they are panic free, at least for me.  WOOT.  I’m all about the Up Dog these days.

Bonus round!


Finally, Friday’s are yoga-chat open thread days! Please feel free to say hello, check-in, talk about your week’s practice, highs and lows, complain, crow, whatever. Past discussions have been great, aging and yoga, outside exercise and Ashtanga, etc. We’d love to hear from you!

friday open thread cyber shala, this week on saturday! because I’m late….

I went to the beach this week!  WOOT.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  Excuse for not posting here, and for not doing a damn bit of yoga.  I went whole hog and didn’t write (because the current novel is out to beta readers and I need a BREAK), didn’t do yoga, didn’t study kanji and Japanese, basically didn’t do anything but hang with the kids, walk on the beach, do a few canoe rides, and eat a ton of good food.

Just got back and it’s dive right into PARTY PREP for Luc’s NINE-YEARS-OLD birthday party, O.M.G.  I can not believe he is nine.  Nine is like, the last year of true childhood.  Don’t you think?  Ten is something else altogether, plus, double digits.  Nine is still a little boy….

In the last twenty-four hours I have cleaned the entire yurt (A-MAZING), made two giant pots of chilli, baked and frosted a cake, etc.  Sunday night I’m going to collapse with a big glass of wine.  Monday I’m returning to my life, writing, yoga, kanji, driving the kids to their various activities, blah blah.

SO.  This is the yoga thread where I DON’T TALK ABOUT YOGA.  Ha!  Except maybe how much I miss it.  I guess a break can be a good thing, if it makes you want to practice….

friday cyber shalla chat, please join us!

I noticed today that it felt good to get into padmasana.  I mean, I got to the end of finishing, those last three lotuses, and it was Ahhhhhh.  Not just for finishing, but for actually bending my legs into that ridiculous, upside down, shape.   You know, that good feeling like stretching first thing in the morning, like you’ve been waiting to do it, and you finally have, and it’s lovely.  That feeling.

“Really?” I asked myself.  “Seriously?”

Yes.  Seriously.  Instead of padmasana aching my hips, or being barely tolerable by my knees, or hurting the top of my left foot (it did that for years), it felt…good.

Just another of those minor asana miracles that happen if you stick with it.  Impossible body positions become old friends.   It’s freaking weird.

Please drop by and leave a comment about your practice this week.  Plus, if you’re new, you might want to look at some of the old Friday Open Thread chats, they’ve been great, lots of discussion of yoga after 40, sticking with it (or not), showing up (or not).  I’m delighted to keep hosting as long as there is interest!