Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tortoise's Revenge

Half tortoise is a pose that has never gotten much love from me.

I've always had the suspicion that I'm doing something wrong in half tortoise, because I can almost never get my forehead to touch the floor before my hands (tight shoulders?), and then when I'm in the pose it doesn't seem like there's much happening.  Most teachers don't even notice that I can't do the pose right, but when they do notice, they think it's pretty hilarious that someone with my practice can't do a good half tortoise pose, so I've been given all kinds of grief over this.  (And I agree - it is funny.)

So I don't feel like I'm good at the pose, I don't even feel like I understand the pose particularly well, and then in January I wrote this popular post that concluded with the punchline, "FUCK TURTLES."  (Spoiler alert.)  I just haven't been a good friend to this pose.

Soooo... this morning I was down in LA for some yoga.  (Today was the last Monday at the La Cienega studio, by the way!)  I'd meant to take the 9am class to warm up for the noon advanced, but I got caught in traffic and didn't get to the studio until 9:20, so I got some iced tea and then decided to hang out in my car studying until the next class at 10:30.  So I put my keys in the ignition, sat in the passenger seat with my snacks, and turned on the car (not the engine) so that I could use the CD player and review half tortoise.  I spent a good 30 minutes reviewing the posture over and over and over, then decided it was time to go in for class.  Got out of the car with all my stuff, locked the (manual) car locks... and oh, wait. Shit.  Car keys.  In the ignition.  Still.

I have NEVER locked my keys in the car.  Never!  I always double-check before I lock the doors.  But I forgot this time, because all I was thinking about was that fucking half tortoise!  My brain was full of "come to the middle of the towel, sit down Japanese style, knees and feet together, feet flat on the floor," and I completely forgot what I was doing.

The tortoise has taken its revenge!!  (Dun dun DUUUN...)

So after I finished my 3+ hours of yoga, I spent a while milling around awkwardly and recruiting people to try to car-jack my car.  Actually, some people were very helpful, and a couple of Mexican (?) guys from the garage ended up getting supplies and putting in a good effort, but without success.  (Good news... my car is very secure!)  I do know exactly where the spare key is to the car - my sister has it - but I was 100 miles away from my house.  The only way we could have unlocked the car ourselves was via BRICK, and I did fleetingly wonder, "what's cheaper, a locksmith or a new window?"  But eventually, I remembered that although I don't have triple-A, I do have a long-forgotten warranty policy on my car that covers roadside assistance, and I did have the foresight to put the policy card in my wallet, so I gave them a call and they got my car unlocked within an hour.  Happy ending, hooray!!

But seriously, don't fuck with the turtles.  They'll fuck up your car.

I'm pretty sure that every time I look at that page of the dialogue from now on, I will remember this day...


Just to clear up all confusion (or possibly create a little more, depending on your point of view), the fabulous Beth from Australia (miss Best Dialogue Fall 2009, if she doesn't mind me saying so) has weighed in on the topic of half tortoise pose, and I think her information is great.

She says:  "It's actually "arms and head together" - straining your neck to get your forehead down first does nothing but, er, strain your neck...  We asked Bikram about this at training and he was like "WTF? Why would you try to get your forehead to the floor first?" He said you can't say everything all at once, sometimes one thing just comes before the other, but the main thing is to come down arms and head together. And in fact, on the cd, Bikram actually says fingers touch before forehead so there you go. "

And there you have it!  See??  I do not know everything (yet).  How great!  I love learning new things.  :)  (Of course, I'm kicking myself slightly for not realizing the answer on my own, but sometimes that's what other people are for!  Thanks Beth.  And Hannah, who was also on the right track.  You guys rock.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dialogue Daze - I broke my brain...

I suspect that I am going to be considered something of a dialogue freak at training.  Which is fine.  For one thing, I like the dialogue.  For another thing, I am actually a freak when it comes to memorization.  I have a strange tape-recorder-like memory.  I can remember the words to a song that I learned in ONE music lesson in second grade.  I know all the words to all my music.  I can bust out literary passages that I memorized "for fun" when I was in my teens.  Not just short things - things like all of Hamlet's soliloquy.  I don't just learn information, I retain it for an indefinite length of time, as far as I can tell.  (Insert anal-retentive joke of your choice here.)  I was pretty delighted when I realized that the Bikram yoga teacher training involved memorizing pages of text, verbatim.  I think my exact reaction was something along the lines of: "OH!  Well, I can do THAT!!"

But just for the record, I have recently, for the first time ever, started to lose patience with this dialogue thingie.  I've been working on finishing up the floor series, and at some point around locust pose I started asking myself, "Who the %#@ wrote this *$#??"  

The line that really drove me over the edge was "Come up please, everybody go up, come up, everybody come up."  Remember that I am trying to learn this stuff verbatim.  I just looked at that line and said, WHAT?  Then I managed to learn it really well, mainly because I complained about it to my roommate so many times that I inadvertently said it over and over.  But then I turned the page and found "Chest up, chest up, chest up, look up, body up, chest up, come up, more up, go up, exhale breathing, come up one more time."  Okay, WHAT??  Augh!!  They're trying to kill me!  (I don't know who "they" are.  This is the paranoid use of the word "they," as in the sense of "they're out to get me, I just know it!")  I learn by repetition, but also by comprehension, which means that I rely on structure and logic.  I do not see the structure in "body up, chest up, come up, more up, go up."

So this is good for me, because now I think I can better relate to all the people who have been driven batshit crazy by the dialogue since page one!

By the end of full locust, I was pretty sure that my brain was melted.  Oops, I broke my brain.  Dammit!  I hate when that happens!  Last time this happened to me, I think I was cramming for a statistical thermodynamics final exam or something like that.  Oh well.  Usually a few nights' good sleep can put everything back in order, so I'm confident that my brain will repair itself pretty soon.  And fortunately for me, full locust is followed by two pieces of dialogue that I really like, bow pose and fixed firm pose.  Both are extremely sequential, which makes them easy for me to remember.  Onward!!  Come to the middle of the towel, sit down Japanese style, kneel down position!  

I hope I'm not going to lose my mind before this training even starts.

I do realize that I could quit memorizing for the next three weeks and still be fine at training.  But now that I am so close to the end, I just have to finish it off!  It's like when you're eating a great dinner, and you eat until you're full, but there's still some food left on your plate, so you end up just eating it anyway because it's there and you don't want it to feel left out.  (Shut up.  My food totally has emotions and wants to be eaten.  I get so mad when people throw out perfectly good food.  I bitch at my roommate about this all the time.)  Anyway, that's exactly how I feel about the dialogue right now - can't throw away the last 5 bites of the chocolate cake!  Must finish it!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Oh! Thank you!"

Here's an interesting little question: how important is praise?  Do we really need it?  And if so, when?

Sometimes I like to visit Yoga Soup for some yoga of the non-Bikram variety.  Bikram's my go-to practice, but as far as I'm concerned, these kinds of classes are a fun extra thing to do sometimes, just like going hiking or salsa dancing.  I like taking class with the owner, Eddie, because he says a lot of true things.  I go to his class cause I like to hear him talk.  It's like being at church or something, except there's no God stuff, there's music, and I get to move around into yoga shapes while I listen.  (Actually, except for the last bit, this is not too different from the church that I actually went to as a kid.)  Anyway, sometimes Eddie talks about how addicted we are to getting compliments from other people.  We feel like we need someone else to tell us that we're good enough, and we're always holding our breath and waiting for it to happen, which is a mistake.  Instead, he says, we should come to a place where the breath fills the body and we feel our own worth from the inside.  I like this.  (I even wrote something similar on Bikram 101 last week.)  Needless to say, Eddie doesn't single anyone out for compliments in his classes, as this would undermine his message, but the class itself does make you feel good.

I was in a Friday evening class of Eddie's recently, which happened sort of by accident, and it really hit the spot for me that day.  I felt relaxed and rejuvenated afterwards.  I thanked him on the way out, saying, "I feel so relaxed, it's like I've just gotten a full night sleep!"  He smiled gently at me and said, "Excellent, that's the perfect way to practice."  It was a lovely compliment.

On one hand, we know that we shouldn't rely on other people's praise for our confidence.  On the other hand, positive feedback can be incredibly valuable.  Without it, how would we know when we were doing something right?  Praise tells us, "Good, that's right, that's something that you should keep doing!"  We figure out a lot about ourselves through praise, even trivial things like "I look good in turquoise" or slightly more important things like "It's good for me to bring my body down in standing bow pulling pose."  When it comes to teaching - or giving any kind of feedback - I like the "Oreo" method: compliment, then critique, then compliment.  Three layers, like an Oreo cookie.  "Good posture J, now upper body lean back 2 more inches, yes, that's it!"  I think that positive reinforcement for good behavior is key, plus it creates a more empowering environment overall.

I went through an interesting period where I'd opened up enough that I could give praise very easily, but it was hard for me to receive it.  Maybe this is a common thing.  We deflect praise, almost without thinking about it.  Someone says "You look great today," and you say, "Oh no, I haven't slept much/ I didn't do my hair/ I'm totally bloated" or something silly like that.  Is this a female thing?  I'm not sure.  But I used to be guilty of it all the time.  It was one of my yoga teachers who taught me how to accept a compliment gracefully.  We talked about it over bowls of pho in Chinatown after advanced class.  She told me that if someone wants to give me a compliment, that is a gift from them to me, and I should just accept it and say "Thank you!"  This took a little practice, but I think I've gotten the hang of it now.  It's completely sincere and it's much better than deflecting!

I was surprised by a great compliment last week.  I took class in LA with a teacher who I'd never met before, a woman who'd been practicing with Bikram for 30+ years.  After class she told me, "You have a beautiful practice!"  It caught me off guard, and I just said, "Oh!  Thank you!" with a big smile.  Then, instead of commenting on my flexibility or my body, she said that it was so nice to see someone really trying hard "the right way" in every posture.  In my book, that's the highest form of praise.  It was so nice to hear.  I hadn't heard those words in a while, and I was surprised at how grateful I was to hear them again.  Sometimes you just need to hear someone tell you, "Yes, you're doing it right."

I think that what I'm really looking for is not just praise, but honesty.  Because I want to hear the bad stuff, too!  I want the teacher who could tell me, "good alignment," "hurry up, what are you doing?" "nice stretch," "use your damn muscles," and "that's gorgeous," all in one class.  (That was my class this morning, by the way.  Emmy is finally remembering my name these days, which means that I get yelled at twice as often now.  Love it.)  In other words, I want truth!

If we are all like little "flower petals blooming" - please excuse the cheesy dialogue jokes, I have dialogue spilling out of my ears right now - then we all need to be cared for properly.  Maybe the praise is like our water.  With too little water, a plant gets all dried out and wilted.  With too much water, things are just as bad.  But with the right balance of water (positive feedback) and sun (constructive criticism), the plant grows up to be big and happy.

Give praise generously, receive praise easily, and do remember that your most important teacher is still you!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The sound of your own wheels

Here is the music that was the soundtrack of my life yesterday - the Eagles!  

"We may lose and we may win,
Though we will never be here again.
So open up, I'm climbin' in
And take it easy..."

I had song this on repeat (along with some other great tunes) while I was driving to, from, and around LA on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It puts me in a great mood, even when I'm stuck in traffic in the middle of the night!

I like how it's kind of about going with the motion.  I mean, yes, I realize it's about a lot of other things, too.  ;-)  But the main point that I kept hearing in the song lyrics was that you'll always be moving along and rolling forward, but you shouldn't let that freak you out.  Perfect for me!  Time keeps on rolling forward at this crazy pace, and there's nothing to do except to sit back and enjoy the ride.  I'm in this great limbo right now - just watching the days fly by, getting ready to start a totally new chapter of my life - and I'm never going to be in this place again.  It will never again be one-month-til-teacher-training, so I'd better enjoy this day while it's here!

I had "take it easy" running through my head the whole time I was dying in advanced class, too.  Emmy was finally back from Europe!  It was good to see her again.  I've been getting bolder in advanced classes and trying more new things, and I actually got a little bit of praise, which was unexpected and nice.  After class, I mentioned to Emmy and my friend Cheryl that I'd had "take it easy" in my head all morning, and Emmy laughed and said, "you know, that is basically the opposite of Bikram yoga."  But I stood by my position - "but that's the dichotomy..." (yes, I said "dichotomy") "... that is so interesting about Bikram yoga!  It's always kill yourself AND take it easy, sweetheart."  Cheryl took my point and we really got into it.  "Kill yourself and take it easy, at the same time!"  "Kill yourself with your smiling happy face!"  "Completely relax, then completely kill yourself!"  Emmy was just like, "Alright.  *shrug* "  Haha.  She isn't impressed by much.

Actually, I love prepping for teacher training.  I haven't been doing much to prepare myself lately, other than memorizing new postures "when I feel like it," but I've been having a great time preparing other people!  For all the Balwan fans out there - he is doing GREAT.  I'm so proud.  He is up to standing head to knee already!  I also had him do half moon for me yesterday, to see if he was retaining this stuff in his long term memory, and he gave the best half moon delivery EVER.  Seriously, it was one of the best half moons I've ever heard.  He put so much energy and feeling into it, and he barely hesitated at all!  He said that he was feeling "very frustrated" (for some reason).  I need to find a way to get him to deliver like that ALL the time, cause it sounded really good!  Any ideas on how I can piss him off right before he gets up to recite the posture for Bikram?

I'm going to go sit in the sun for a few minutes and see if I can make locust pose stick in my brain, and then I'm off to work at the yoga studio!  It's a lovely sunny day.  I think summer has really arrived.

"Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy..."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just Levitate

A child

places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,
& drives across a city of sand. She knows

the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn

that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall

until he notices his mistake.

~ From "Cartoon Physics, part 1" by Nick Flynn

This poem about cartoon physics (full text here) has always stuck in my mind.  It's so evocative.  We can easily see ourselves as the cartoon roadrunner, just off the edge of the cliff, feet still pedaling, not yet realizing that he is suspended in mid-air.  Then in a puff of smoke, he plummets to the ground, landing in a mangled heap, but somehow unharmed.

But what would have happened if the roadrunner never looked down?

Sometimes "confidence" is just the trick of forgetting that you can't do something.

What's impossible, really?  It's just a word.  It reminds me of the punchline to The Phantom Tollbooth, a great book that I read as a kid.  The hero of the book, a kid named Milo, goes through all these crazy trials to complete a quest, and he finally succeeds.  Then the people who gave him this task in the first place say, "Well, now we can tell you something that we couldn't tell you before.  This task was impossible.  Completely impossible."  It was a good thing they didn't tell him so from the beginning, because he never would have made it out the front door!

This is one of the things that I like about the "just do it" mentality in Bikram yoga.  The instructor tells you what to do, and you do it.  You aren't given a million different options.  You don't stop to think, "Well, am I going to be able to do this?  Is this for me?"  When your teacher speaks, your body reacts on its own, and you find yourself actually doing the posture.  If you stopped to think about it first, then nobody would ever do standing head to knee pose!  When "impossible" is taken off the table, you find that you can do all kinds of things.

The power of the mind is really staggering.  I'm not talking about any new age "power of positive thinking" stuff, either.  I'm talking about the power of thinking, period.  Here's some interesting data.  I was flipping though Blink the other day, which is a great book by Malcom Gladwell about our subconscious, light-speed decision making processes.  There's one section in this book which describes how we unconsciously react to messages about ourselves.  In one (alarming) study, two groups of people who identified themselves as "black" were asked to take a sample 20-question GRE (graduate school admission) test.     Group A simply took the test.  Group B was first given a survey which asked them to identify their race ("black"), and then they took the test.  This was the only difference between the groups.  On average, the members of Group B got half as many correct answers as the members of Group A.  Holy crap.  And when questioned about their performance, not one of these test-takers identified the survey as a source of trouble.  They all just said things along the lines of, "I guess I'm just not cut out for this," or "I guess I'm just not smart enough."  As a matter of fact, they were smart enough.  But when they were reminded of their race, they subconsciously remembered all the negative stereotypes and stories that go along with being "black," and that cut their success rate in half.

This story has many implications which I will not delve into here!  But let's think about how this same principle applies to us, in our daily lives, in our yoga practices.  Based on this study, what do you think would happen if I taught a yoga class to two average groups of people, but I made one group take a survey beforehand asking about age and weight.  Just two little numbers.  Would you think that writing down, "I am 43 years old and I weight 170 lbs" would have an effect on someone's yoga practice?  I think based on scientific study, the answer is YES, it would absolutely make a difference!

The trick, then, is to forget all these "facts" we know about ourselves and all the stories that go along with them.  Forget that you want to lose weight.  Forget that you are getting older.  Forget that you struggled yesterday.  Forget all that bullshit.  Stop telling yourself false stories about who you are and what you are capable of.

Back to the subject of gravity.  In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the late and great Douglas Adams, there's a chapter on flying lessons.  Apparently, the trick to flying is very simple.  All you have to do is fall, but get someone to jump out at you and be incredibly distracting at the moment when you are still flying through the air.  (This was an entire industry, by the way - people who were extremely disfigured or unusual looking made a lot of money by getting hired to distract would-be fliers.)  The secret was that, if you could get distracted enough at the crucial moment, you would forget to fall and find yourself floating in mid-air.

So forget about gravity.  Just levitate, already!

On a completely unrelated note, my Mom now has a blog of her own and she would like you to read it!  It is here: Cup Half Full.  It's not bad.  ;-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dialogue Daze - Breathing matters!

Here is a dispatch from the wonderful world of Bikram yoga dialogue studying...

First of all, I am a geek.  Big time.  I love studying the dialogue, especially with other people.  My Monday routine right now goes like this: 9am class in LA, then spend about an hour helping Balwan with his dialogue (who is improving SO much! I am so proud!), then 12:15 advanced class, and then an hour or two working on MY dialogue.  I've also been learning floor series postures from audio in the car.  I learned all of spine twist on Sunday night between Santa Barbara and LA.  (I am working backwards now, for some reason.  This is basically because I don't feel like studying wind removing pose, so I decided to attack from the other direction.)

But anyway, this past Monday afternoon I met up with a teacher and another spring trainee to go over half moon after advanced class.  Being the super-patient and mature person that I am, I'm kind of thinking, "UUGGH I don't need to work on half moon, I know this one in my SLEEP!"  (I can, literally, say it in my sleep.  I learned this posture on the sly a couple years ago, when I was alone in the Boston Chinatown studio doing some late night work-study vacuuming.  Vacuum in one hand, studio dialogue in the other hand.  Already knew I was gonna need it some day.)  So I have no trouble with the actual words to half moon, and I'd rather be practicing something tricky like spine twisting posture or the second side of triangle.  (Quick, right arm stretch up, you're going to touch the ceiling pretty soon!!)  However... half moon pose is the one posture that everyone gets to say in front of Bikram and all the other trainees, during the first week (and a half) of training.  (Yes, this is a process that takes a long time.)  So if you're going to perfect ONE page of dialogue before training, this is the page to work on.

And guess what!  I learned a whole bunch!  I learned that, for now at least, I should stand with my feet apart instead of fidgeting all the heck over the place.  (I get over-excited.)  It's ok if I talk with my hands (hooray!), but I shouldn't clasp them behind my back like I am reciting the daily specials back at Houston's (because it makes me look like I am a bored waitress reciting the daily specials and trying not to talk with her hands at work).

AND... here's my favorite one... I learned that I should try to BREATHE.  What a radical concept!  You mean I DON'T have to say every paragraph in just one breath?!  Again, I think I get sort of overexcited, like, "Ooh, look at me, I totally know this one, let me tell you all of it all at once!"  Whoops!  No good.  (I'm sure those of you who have met me in person have no trouble picturing how this could happen.)

When I delivered the posture a second time, I focused about 90% of my mental energy on breathing between lines and pausing between paragraphs.  When I got to the last line, I realized, "Whoops, I forgot all about inflection!  I didn't think about dynamics at all!"  But then my teacher said, "That was much better, J!  You used a lot more inflection and dynamics!"  Huh.  Whaddaya know.  Remember to breathe, and the rest just follows.  (Does this remind us of anything else?  Like this advice that *I* wrote less than a week ago for yoga practice!?  Too funny.)

I shared this new insight with the owner of my local studio yesterday morning, and she said, "Oh, yeah, that's a good one.  Just wait 'til you learn to breathe through your NOSE while teaching."  Hah!  What a concept.  I am not that advanced yet.  I feel like I am breathing through my mouth like a fish in between lines - it's the only way I can remember to do it!  Clearly, I have plenty of things to practice.  But I had the opportunity to go through all of my dialogue (and then some) with a couple of other teachers after class yesterday, and I think that the breathing made a big difference!  This teaching stuff is feeling better every day.

39 days til teacher training!  (Holy shit.)

P.S.  New header text... you guys like?!  (Or notice?)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Not just a number

I was lucky enough to go to a reading by the fantastic Neil Gaiman at UCSB last month.  (Slight digression - I love Neil!  His novel The Graveyard Book just won the Newbery medal and is absolutely amazing.  The rest of his stuff is great, too, especially Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, and the entire Sandman graphic novel series, which is sort of his magnum opus.  But anyway...)  Neil started off by telling us a little bit about his crazy year, which had been full of surprises.  The worst surprise was when he was riding in a cab, on the way to do a book signing, and got a phone call telling him that his dad had unexpectedly died.  He went ahead and did the book signing anyway, and he says that he think it's probably the best thing he could have done.  He just sat there for hours while sweet people came up to him and said, "I just love your writing," and he said, "thank you very much."  Oh Neil!

Then Neil talked a bit about why he loves book signings so much.  He said that, when you become a successful author, you start hearing all these number about how many people are reading your books.  You've sold this many copies!  That's great!  But after a while, these numbers are just statistics, nothing more.  He said that at the book signings, when people come up to him and say, "hello, I loved this book," the numbers turn back into people again.

I thought that was cool.

That's one of the things I like about writing a blog (as opposed to writing a newsletter or something).  People write back!  So when I look at my page, I'm not just seeing, "oh, 100-something people read my page today."  I'm seeing, "oh, awesome, Michelle read my page, and Mattie read my page, and Luyi and Duffy and Johan and Stephanie and Catherine and the other Juliana and Elisa and Cira and Mei and my mom..."  And that is much more interesting.

This has also started happening with my teacher training group, BIG TIME.  I've known all along that I was going to be at teacher training with about 300 other people.  Ok.  That's a pretty large number.  But now there are facebook messages and discussions and emails flying all over the place, and that number is starting to resolve itself into faces.  Instead of just "300 other people," I suddenly realize that I'm going to training with Mishi from Vienna, Kris from Italy (who has 2 guinea pigs), Anna from Hawaii, Chris from Brussels (who is German and seems to be just as gung ho for training as I am!), Kacie (who was a gymnastics coach), Russ (who writes awesome poetry), and TONS of other cool people.  (Sorry to everyone who I didn't list - I love you guys, too, but the list was getting too long!)  This is SO exciting.  I can't wait to meet all these people!  Three hundred other people, give or take, are going to come together for this common purpose of learning to teach Bikram yoga.  Everyone's taken a different path, everyone has a unique story, and all of these threads are about to converge.

It's also really crazy to think of how many people's lives have been touched and changed by this yoga.  We know that "hundreds and thousands" of people practice Bikram yoga, but it's just a number.  But imagine meeting all of them!  Imagine all those faces, and all the stories behind them!  I've spent more time than I care to admit browsing through testimonials and teacher bios on all the different studio websites, because it never gets old.  There are SO many amazing stories, and every one of them is unique.  And every one of them is exciting!  I never read a testimonal and say, "Oh blah, another person who lost 30 pounds."  I always say, "WOW!  She lost 30 pounds!"  "WOW!  He can touch the floor again!"  "WOW!  She fixed her back pain!"  Every story matters, so much.  One life changed is one life changed.  How amazing.

Six weeks from today 'til teacher training...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tricky tupperware tops

I have about half a dozen topics that I want to write about, but for some reason I was in and out and all over the place last week!  Oh well.

Here's a silly one.  A few days ago, out of the blue, I decided that the lids of difficult tupperware containers make a great metaphor for all kinds of situations.  Do you guys know what I'm talking about?  Those square plastic containers that you use to store your leftover food?  I think they are better designed these days, but I used to always end up with the containers that were freaking impossible to close.  Corner number one goes on, no problem.  Corner number two is easy, too.  Number three's not bad.  But then as soon as you try to press down that fourth corner, the first one pops off again.  Then when you get number one back down, number three pops up.  You get number three down, and number four pops up again.  This can go on for a long time...

This is almost exactly the same as my experience in standing separate leg head to knee pose, which is one of my least favorite postures ever.  (I had a long conversation with a teacher last Monday about the reasons why I dislike this posture.)  It seems like as soon as I get my forehead to my knee, my hip pops up.  Then I bring my hip down and try to straighten my front leg, and my chin magically pops away from my chest.  Then I get my chin back in (I hate "throat choked") and push my hands against the floor, and there goes the hips again.  I feel like I spend the whole posture chasing that one last corner on the tupperware lid, and it just keeps changing positions on me!  (Either that, or I slack.  Because I don't like this posture.  I never said I was perfect!)

This is how I feel about the series as a whole, too.  As soon as you get ONE thing down, something ELSE just pops right up!  When I start to get the hang of standing head to knee, my standing bow goes to shit.  When standing bow starts to get back on track, I can't remember how to do standing head to knee.  This isn't always true, but it's a pattern that I've noticed more than once!

The advanced series is even better, because there are so many different postures - so many "corners" to keep track of at once!  Lately, I've magically acquired the ability to get some decent height in lifting lotus and I can balance for a while in peacock in lotus, but I've lost all ability to get my shoulders to go behind my legs (I didn't have much of this ability to start with), so crane (which I used to kind of love) is a total joke and all the leg-behind-the-head stuff continues to elude me.

And if the postures behave this way, it's only because our bodies are always changing.  Two steps forward here, one step backward there.  We get stronger, but lose some flexibility.  We get more depth, but lose a little control.  Our minds are super-focused while our bodies are tired and achy, or else our mind wanders all the heck over the place while our bodies are in perfect condition.  Guess what!  That's life!

If I stretch this metaphor to the breaking point, I can even apply it to life.  We've all heard different variations on the "Work, socialize, sleep - pick two!" rule.  It's almost impossible to get everything in perfect order at the same time.  And that's fine.  We're not meant to be perfect.  There's always something that will slip out of place when everything else is going well, and that's to be expected.  Don't worry about it!

But DO try to actually close your tupperware containers all the way, or else you end up cleaning sticky leftovers off the bottom shelf in the fridge.

Monday, March 1, 2010

But who's counting?

Apparently it is now Day 60 of this 101 Day Yoga Challenge thingie.  Who knew?!  I've been mindlessly updating my little counter on the side of the page, but time has sort of been flying past me lately.

If I haven't been counting UP to the yoga challenge, maybe it's because I've finally started counting DOWN to teacher training.  Back in October, when I decided to go in the Spring, teacher training was just a blurry blob on the horizon, "about six months away."  Now the blur has started to take on a shape and an outline, and I woke up yesterday knowing that orientation was exactly seven weeks away.  I was in a cranky mood all morning, feeling totally pissed off about the existence of those seven unnecessary weeks, until I took myself out for brunch and read a hilarious book, which made me feel much better.

Today was the first day of March, which also means that teacher training is next month (and starts in six weeks and six days.)  Holy guacamole, Batman!

Today was also a nice, yoga-filled day.  I drove down to L.A. before 7am (go me!), took the 9am class, and spent an hour across the street at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf trying to help my friend Balwan learn his dialogue.  He's an awesome dude, and I'm really excited that we're going to the same training.  He's also going to be the absolute DEATH of me, but at least I'll die laughing.  We concluded today that he has trouble learning the dialogue because he is too LAZY.  He's also easily distracted; he'll stop me in the middle of a posture because he needs to ask me a question about the meaning of life.  Amazing.  Also, I think we are becoming the best source of Monday morning entertainment on La Cienega Blvd, since we've been doing our dialogue practice (complete with postures) right out in front of the Coffee Bean.  Today while Balwan was giving me the dialogue for backbending (or trying to), a man came out of the McDonald's and started asking us about what we were doing, because he'd been thinking about starting some kind of exercise program and liked the look of what we were doing.  We pointed at the big blue BIKRAM YOGA COLLEGE OF INDIA sign right across the street and told him the class schedule.  He was quite interested - he said that since his dad has gotten older and started walking with a cane, he's gotten more concerned about his own health.  I told him that many of the symptoms of aging are really just the results of physical inactivity, and that he should totally come to class!  I might as well walk about with a sign on my back that says, "Ask me about Bikram Yoga!'

We then went back across the street just in time for the 12:15 advanced class (not led by Emmy, since she's in Barcelona!), which was fast paced and fun.  I didn't impress myself, but it always feels good to roll through my full range of motion.  Must try to get back there more often!  According to my counter, I've made it to 5 advanced classes in the last 8 weeks, which is less frequent than I'd like, but a lot more frequent than last fall!  And then I met up with another friend who wanted to help me with my dialogue, and she was actually super helpful, because she basically said, "cool, you know the dialogue" (for standing series), and then helped me work on phrasing, tone, and breathing.  Sweet.

So today, I loved my life.  I drove for 4 hours (augh ow), practiced yoga for 3 hours (plus change), worked on dialogue for 3 hours (counting the practice I did in the car - multitasking!), and saw a seriously amazing pink and purple sunset on the drive home.

And there are 48 days left until teacher training...