Category Archives: cyber shala open threads

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!

yoga and aging, the wall of flesh, and the weekly yoga practice check-in open thread, please drop by and say hello

I’ve been thinking about easy-going yoga practices vs. those practices where you push against…actually I’m not sure what I’m pushing against.  Against what my body can easily do today, perhaps.  Against the line where a luxurious stretch becomes effort.  Against aging.

I mentioned it in a comment on the Friday check-ins a few weeks ago, I’ll quote my comment here: “…striving vs. maintaining, or possibly it is working hard in the practice (as in this post by Stacey Ingham about a recent David Garrigues workshop) vs. pleasure in the practice (as described by me in this post about the first David Williams workshop I went to).”  Who doesn’t want a pleasurable practice?  Why wouldn’t we just do easy, relaxing practices?  I mean, duh.

But it’s like this wall of flesh is advancing on me.  That’s the big bad boss in one of my kid’s games, “The Wall of Flesh,” I love that, haha.  But look, if I push against it, this relentless advancing wall, I CAN gain ground.  I CAN get stronger, more flexible, more able.  On the other hand, if I do an easy practice, if I don’t push against that wall very hard, or at all, then IT advances.  Just a little on any given day, but it does, and before I know it I’m back to pushing again, just to maintain, or I have to make my easy practice even easier, to maintain the feeling of ease.

Pushing practices are harder (obviously) and it’s much more of a challenge to get myself out of bed to push.  Easier to get myself out of bed for something I think will pleasurable.  Yoga as tai chi feels delicious.  And it does maintain, and even advance (if you do it every damn day), although slowly (but safely, fewer injuries on this route).  But that wall of flesh gets more powerful every year and the ground I’m standing on is turning to sand.  I find I have to throw some hard-work practices into the mix on a regular basis just to keep where I’m at.  Tai-chi yoga isn’t enough.


Joe Friel is a world class cycling coach and has written the bible on Cycling Past 50.  In it he looks at studies on older athletes, either that keep up a ‘good enough’ training schedule as they age (they drastically slow the deterioration that comes with aging) vs. the ones that keep pushing hard.  The pushers are just as good, or even better (faster, greater maxVO2 values, etc) than they were in their 20s!  Bottom line: use it or lose it.  (Friel has a new book coming out soon that I’m interested to read that looks at fitness and triathletes after 50, called Faster After 50, check it out if you like lots of science with your exercise reading.)

As Pamela says in the comments of that above post: aging body is real. We’re more tired just doing the same old things.  Injuries happen more easily and take forever to heal.  Everything is harder.  I want to rest.  It seems…kind…to honor that.  I want to be kind to myself.

On the other hand: “Don’t give aging an inch!” says Gillian Lynne, and 87 year old choreographer in this terrific interview, part of the documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, about older women who are killing it with style and grace.  Two parts here: the first couple of minutes (first vid) introduces her and her work (and her husband who is 27 years younger):

And in the next couple of minutes she talks about her morning yoga/stretching practice and about pitting herself against the aging process, very inspiring.

Each day, each practice, each asana in a practice, I look at the question of how much to push, how easy to let it be.  Sometimes ease is what’s needed just to show up at all.  Sometimes I have to buckle in for some pushing—and I’m not talking about  crazy, I get injured too quickly.  But there is a continuum isn’t there, from going through the motions of practice like tai chi, through some effort, through wringing myself out.  I almost never wring myself out.  I’m lazy!  And afraid of hurting myself—it takes SO LONG to heal….  I want some of Gillian’s verve and energy to keep up the fight.  Actually I don’t want to fight at all.  But it seems unavoidable.  The war of attrition.  Maybe there is a different way to frame it?  Maybe engage, instead of fight…?

My weekly check-in is in the comments.   Fridays are open-thread days to drop in, say hello, talk about your practice, what you did, what you didn’t do, commiserate, ask questions.  Home practitioners especially need some community time and the Cyber Shala can offer that.  Please join in!