Thursday, November 11, 2010

Confession: Overindulgence!

I will now proceed to embarrass myself and quote Grey's Anatomy.

""The fantasy is simple. Pleasure is good, and twice as much pleasure is better. But the reality is that pain is there to tell us something, and there's only so much pleasure we can take without getting a stomach ache.”

That's right, I watch that silly soap opera. But here's what, that quote is so true. Let's back it up to last Thursday. My husband, who clearly needs a good nick name, let's call him Big B for now, was free for the first evening in a really long time. I don't think we had shared a meal together in something like 5 days. So what were we to do but go out and celebrate? Enter our favorite local restaurant with amazing Italian food and really reasonable prices. This was actually only a moderately indulgent meal, at least as far as volume and unhealthy food goes. We both got the lobster tail, which was grilled rather than drowned in butter. We split a salad with beets and goat cheese, split a plate of broccolli rabe as big as my head, split a bottle of wine. Ahhh, there's where the indulgence comes in. I thought I felt fine, but no, must have been looped because I ate four squares of dark chocolate, fell asleep almost before reaching the bed and woke up feeling wonky.

Ok, so this wouldn't have been too big a deal, one mildly indulgent meal. BUT...

We went away last weekend, first to Woodstock, then to MA to visit family. We took my brother in law with us and made him an indulgent birthday dinner Friday night. Fortunately or unfortunately I left most of the drinking to them (they were both hung over for many hours the next day), but instead indulged in too much dinner. All good things (I think coconut sorbet is a good thing!), but still way way way too much.

AND STILL, this would have been ok, but my Mother in Law was in Beverly waiting for us! And she is Greek! Food is most certainly love. Now, I did ok with the meal. Lovely huge salad. A little fish, a little rice, all good. But when she brought out the homemade apple pie I was D.O.N.E. Seriously, had a piece as big as the plate itself. I mean, I NEEDED it. It was apples! And that amazing bottle of Truchard Pinot Noir probably hadn't affected my willpower or anything...right?

Now, the Sunday morning yoga was heavy and painful for sure. But even then I felt great when I was done. Nothing like a sweaty (modified for foot) ashtanga practice to clear out the remains of last night's dinner and drinks. Not that I recommend behaving this way on purpose! But it does happen, and then the practice will help the renewal process.

Alas, my Dad was waiting at home that evening to have his sweet and nurturing Italian girlfriend cook dinner. Pasta. Prosecco. Cheese. Chocolate. Now normally I avoid all the "white" stuff as much as possible. Allowing it in for rare occasions when it's truly excellent and I'm feeling physically great. But really, I'm going to let Big B's Mom nurture me, but refuse my Dad? I don't think so! Plus, yes, it was really good. All garlicky. And with bubbly prosecco to toast each other's health, what was I to do??

Needless to say, Monday was a yoga free day. And, like any good Ashtangi, I felt some indulger's remorse. Although I think wine and dessert and pasta can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, I don't think they're great for days in a row. But life happens. Husbands and Fathers and Brothers and Mothers-in-Law are to be enjoyed and celebrated. So, after the "too much pleasure" and the resultant bellyache, what's a yogi to do?

GET ON THE MAT. Which I did. And get clean. Which I'm doing. Not in a "cleansey", drink only lemon water for a week kind of way, but hopefully in a slow steady way that will make me feel better by the weekend. Green is the key here, but in a wholesome way. I wake up and have my warm lemon water each day, but then I move on. Yup, I still drink coffee, but not so much, and lemon water first! Then a green juice or a green smoothie. And salads and cooked greens at every meal. Ok, there's still room for little treats. I had those amazing raw ginger snaps from One Lucky Duck for dessert last night! But slightly less indulgent indulgences.

Now, maybe next time I'll have a half-sized slice of pie, or resist the wine one of the nights, or simply tell my Dad to make fish and salad. Or maybe I won't. But fortunately, there's a yoga mat, a green juice and a beautiful salad around every corner.

Now, where did I hide that chocolate????

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shakti and Tough Love.

Hooray hooray hooray! I made it to class. Today I finally made myself wake up and get dressed right away like a normal person and immediately drag my cast and crutch to midtown to visit a longtime teacher of mine. Yippeeee! I have been focused on this moment for the past month. Ever since I broke my foot I have been waiting for the minute I could get back into the yoga room. And it was great. Really great. Having 10 people practicing alongside me, all serious and focused and sweaty, with a teacher watching to see what I'd do and when to help, all of this made me really focus and work extra hard. The Shakti was flowing!

But a funny thing, it really wasn't all that different than my self practices. He had only a couple of new poses to suggest, and while I got a few really nice feel-good adjustments, there really wasn't a lot he could do for me. I have kind of figured it out myself apparently. At least as far as the different series are concerned and what is ok for the foot.

On the other hand, at the end he came up and suggested a way to work on my upper body strength and sort of suggested I'm not pushing hard enough at the things that are tough for me. And this from the teacher who more often works my strengths than weaknesses! Crap! I mean, I've been doing lots of pushups, as I know I've mentioned, but Mr. Tough Love said "that's only half your body weight." He wants me to do lift ups with my legs straight out in front of me. Like a Dandasana lift up for those of you who practice. That's like taking a normal "pick it up" and making it 8 times harder! I don't even get close to that!

But oh boy, he's right. And here's the funny thing, my non-yoga practicing manly other half (in other words, the husband) has been harping on that for two week! Now, I keep telling the both of them I can't do it. And really, I'm nowhere with it. Almost don't even know how to "try" appropriately. But it's amusing to me that they both mentioned it, and the husband may have actually been right on.

So, my first reaction was defensive. As in "you're a man, that's easy for you! How do I do it?" His answer: "You have four weeks to figure it out!" And I got all pissed off. But really, I got up at 6 AM, drove to midtown, paid to park, paid an exorbitant drop in fee all to be defensive and pout like a child? No. That doesn't sound right. So project "pick it up" has begun. I don't know how to work on it really, but the new focus of my practice will be to add as many of these in as possible. I think I have to start by lifting up with crossed legs then trying to straighten them and hold a bit before landing. Then later maybe I'll be able to go for straight legs to begin. But in any case, if I'm serious about holding steady during this incredibly frustrating time, then I'm going to have to work at what's hard, and do it a new way.

Just don't tell the better half he was right!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Very Un-Ashtanga Position

No, I'm not talking about an asana that's outside the Ashtanga series. I'm talking about being in a position to say "what do I do next" all the time, with regards to practice. I was on the mat with friends upstate the other day when one of them said, "that's a very un-ashtanga position you find yourself in," as I sat on the mat thinking, "now what?" and looking at my toenails.

One of the most frustrating and wonderful aspects of Ashtanga is that you always know what to do. What order the poses go in. What series to do on which day. When to take a day off. Even with my little bit of a rebellious spirit I like the routine. At least I know what to rebel against!

But now, with the broken foot ruling my life, the Ashtanga rules no longer really apply. And so I'm always left to think "now what?"

As in, do I get on the mat today, or does the foot need a break? Should I do more poses, and if so, what?

And an interesting thing has happened. I have found maybe a little MORE focus during my practice. Sometimes I'll lose steam partway through, as is my general way, but because I have all those years of the framework behind me, I have a resource I can mine for a new routine. This week I've managed to get on the mat every day, but still only every other day feels like a "real" practice, and so I continue to feel my way. It's a little bit like the twilight zone.

So, the details. How does an ashtangi practice without being able to stand, and almost no way to do a vinyasa? Well, she follows the series of course. I felt, early on, that I should come up with my own routine, but every time I tried to be creative, I just came up with a load of nothing. However, when I got on the mat and just went through my three series, doing only the really safe poses, I found I had focus, and everything flowed easily.

The routine:

The Chant! It's not Ashtanga without the opening chant.
Pushups. That's right, not yoga at all, but I need something to warm me up and get me breathing.
Ardha Badda Padma Paschimottanasana
5. Janu Sirsasana A
6. Maricyasana A and C
7. Navasana and many long lift ups
8. Kurmasana
9. Supta Kurmasana, but with my broken foot on a pillow and the right leg behind my head. Hope to get you a picture of this one, it's pretty funny!
10. Upavishta Konasana
11. Supta Padangustasana with Trivikramasana interplation

Second Series

1. Richard Freeman's Pashasana variation on knees
2. Krounchasana
3. Salabasana A and B
4. Dhanurasana A, twice, LONG
5. Ustrasana and Kapotasana. I have to put my left foot on a pillow for this and put no weight on that side. I fear I'm going lopsided because of it, but Kapotasana is the only really deep backbend I can do right now, and it's so delicious. I do it twice as well.
6. Baradvajasana
7. Ardha Matsyandrasana
8. Eka Pada Sirsasana. I do it very intensely on the right, where the foot is ok, and sometimes go back to Kashyapasana too. On the left side I do it but it makes me nervous. My hips are open enough that I don't really put pressure on the foot, but then, because I know the doctor would yell at me, I sometimes just hold the leg back there and not quite in position and do a shorter version. See, I AM cautious!
9. Titibasana A.
10. Parigasana--LOVE THIS ONE. It always feels good.
11. Gomukasana, the Manju way with feet wide and hips on floor


1. Kashyabasana
2. Hanumanasan with kraukachasana variation.

Then full finishing, ashtanga style, with long long shoulder and headstands.

In between things I do random sets of pushups, either on my knees (yes, I'm a little bit of a wimp, but building) or with one straight leg and the broken one crossed behind at the ankle. As many as I can do, which is not so many. Plus a few modified one-legged vinyasas. Gotta stay warm somehow!

Anyway, this post has become a long list, rather than an explanation of how things work. But it's nice to have a record officially written down here so I can both remember what I've done and later explain how it worked for me. I hope soon to have a friend take some pictures to show what I can and can't do, and how I modify. Groundbreaking? Maybe not. But for me at least it's a huge relief to find I can go through the series and still find myself there.

For now, I am finally feeling awake and able early in the morning, and I am off to visit a teacher for the first time in a month! Stay tuned for updates on the routine!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Practice, Patience, and Pumpkins

One more day gone. One more day closer to a whole and healthy foot, or at least I hope so!

Today felt like a banner day. I felt so grateful just to be in the company of fellow practitioners, and to be able to move at all, that it felt like a stellar practice. It is truly amazing how much we take for granted most of our lives. I can remember many a practice when I might have done full 2nd or 3rd series but been disappointed with myself because every entrance and exit wasn't perfect, or some of my binds were difficult. Today I was thrilled to breathe with a group and do the few asanas I could without tweaking the foot. And I was reminded how great yoga makes me feel, regardless of the details. I woke up feeling like i was fighting a cold (and losing) and finished feeling like a million bucks. That is why I continue to practice, despite all the ups and downs.

I was also reminded today to have patience. And this time I don't mean about the foot. Maybe patience isn't the word I'm looking for. I think I was just reminded to pause and breathe in the moment, and it felt like a lesson learned from injury. As the foot heals, I have no recourse other than to wait and be in the moment. In life, it sometimes feels like there is something to be gained by pushing, but very often it's not the case. Today I took the yoga into the world, and at brought a little more peace and ease into my own day than I might have had even a month ago. Vague? You bettcha! I'm still getting used to baring my soul here in cyber space, but I wanted to share the thought.

And, now for the fun part! Pumpkins! I'm addicted to em. My three fave new things are Pumpkin Pie Smoothies, Pumpkin Spiced frothy drinks and Pumpkin Chia pudding. Today I indulged in the chia pudding. Creamy, spicy, and completely satisfying, it's a bowl of superfood with a seasonal twist.

To Do:

Mix 2 tablespoons chia seeds with 3/4 cup water. Stir or shake vigorously, let sit, then repeat. This should take five to ten minutes.

Put in a blender with:

1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1-2 medjool dates and stevia to taste

Blend blend blend away! I Let it go a long time, pausing to scrape the sides a few times. It turned a light orange when it was finally ready, and none of the crunchy seeds were visible.

Sorry folks I didn't take a picture. I was so hungry! But rest assured it was beautiful. I served it in a wine goblet topped with Lydia's raw granola and a few slices of banana. I bet molasses would be great as a drizzle too!

Yum, my new favorite healthy thing

Now on to the pumpkin carving...

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Another Confession

I am an asana junkie. I am. I always say yoga is more than asana, it is more than just physical, it is not just a workout. And it's true. It's more than all of these things to me. But apparently I am STILL not grown up in my practice. Without the asana I just have a hard time.

For one thing, my energy is different. I never quite get my energy going. I can't fall asleep. I'm not sure when to eat sometimes. I mean, if I don't have to do pashasana Sunday morning, does it matter if dinner doesn't happen till 9 PM? Well, it does, I feel better living a certain way. But without the asana "check in" there is just a little more leeway.

And, I keep saying I will start pranayama, all on my own. But I never do it. I mean, I know WHAT to do, but this is the proof that I am such an ashtangi at heart, I feel I need a teacher to "prescribe" it, to check in with me from time to time, to expect me to do it.

Meditation too. I have mantras of various sorts, but have I used them lately? No, I have not.

But here's what, I need the yoga, I need the pranayama, I need to take care of myself. I just can't go back to sleep the way I was before. And if I know what I should do, and what I need, and then don't do it, then I just feel bad! That's gotta be the definition of insanity. Doing something you know doesn't work, and yet continuing to do it anyway.

So, I've set up a little routine for myself. A milder one than if my foot were not broken (and not just as to poses), but a routine nonetheless. And when I really pay attention, I can almost feel as good as I do when I'm really rocking the asana in the prescribed ashtangi way.

For now, I am practicing every other day. Or, sometimes more, but at least every other day. If I get up, have coffee, and get on the mat, it happens. If I wait and pretend I'll do it later, the day just never materializes, even in other ways. And, each day I add a little something in. A little breath and bandha work before or after. A little philosophical reading. A little extra chanting. A few more modified vinyasas, a posture or two, also modified. And I listen. I don't do anything that hurts the foot. I don't neglect the rest of life for the time on the mat (hence the every other day, as everything takes so much more effort right now). And I take days of early to-bed, early-to-rise sometimes, alternating with late-dinner evenings and movies on the sofa with the night-owl husband.

Whoa, don't tell me this is the balance I always search for! No, I don't think it's likely to last COMPLETELY beyond the broken foot time. But maybe it will help me feel a little more detachment even when I'm back to the normal routine. I mean, I haven't fallen completely apart while being separated from my daily practice, so maybe one day when I'm back to the grind and suddenly have to miss practice to meet some house repair person or go to a job interview I will just get on the mat by myself at home, or let it go without letting it ruin my day.

Well, I don't know, I'm likely to have a hard time when I begin the process of regaining my physical practice, but I am hopeful that by noticing the now, and writing it down here, I will be able to retain some spark of self-knowledge and a teeny bit of detachment along the way.

Of course, all this only comes to me on a day when I actually did get on the mat! Ha.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Brain on Ashtanga

It's a funny thing, ashtanga. It seems to be both good and bad for me at the same time. Like, it makes me feel proud of my body for what it can do, strong, flexible and accomplished. But then, it stirs up my body issues, points out when I haven't treated myself absolutely perfectly, and often makes me feel bad about myself. It helps me treat myself better, as in, if I really want to enjoy my practice I might be more inspired to eat lightly at night, and not overindulge in treats and alcohol. But on the other hand, sometimes indulgence is a good thing, just part of life, and then if I do indulge, and get on the mat anyway, I might be so unhappy that the practice will be miserable, and maybe the entire day. Completely not yogic!

SO, having an injury like a broken foot, one that can't be "muscled through" is an interesting challenge, vacation, and a good time for a little self analysis and "noticing."

Lets start with the good! I am no Polyanna, and believe me I am still all upset about this, but because it can't be helped, I'll start on the positive side.

1. I get to sleep late! Since I have no deadlines, no practice or early teaching to get to, I can just let myself wake up whenever I wake up. Mostly this is about 7:30, but sometimes it's been 8 or 8:30, and really, is that so aweful? Yes, I have a harder time falling asleep when I wake up later and have less activity, but that brings me to point number 2...

2. I can go to bed whenever! This give me the leeway to eat a late meal with the husband, not worry about how it will affect my pashasana or purnamatseyandrasana or lift ups or what have you. And also, if I'm going to bed later, I can eat later and still not have digestion ruin my sleep. My husband loves this! He's a night owl. So just as a side effect, breaking my foot has given me more quality time with the husband. And yes, watching movies on netflix can qualify as "quality time" if normally you'd be snapping at him to turn down the volume so you can sleep. This is better husband time than that.

3. Taking a break from the norm gives me a chance to look at things from a distance. I can see how much I miss it and love it, while also noticing that I am slightly easier on myself when I'm not a slave to the dogma of the practice (as in, I judge myself pretty harshly if I can't do karandavasana, and if I ate too much the night before, I would surely blame it on the celebratory meal with my husband, but if I don't have to do karandavasana at all, who's to judge whether I had too much fun, or whether I was just reasonable?).

4. I have to focus on other parts of the practice. This is a biggie. The breath! The little practice I do is all about the breath. And, without vinyasa to warm me up, I have to really work my ujayii. And bandhas. And gaze. I have to be so so focused and steady just to make it feel like practice at all! This will be great to use when I get back to the regular routine.

5. And finally, it helps me focus on what I CAN do. Every time I get on the mat I think "What can I actually do today?" Rather than, "I'm no good at this. I can't do that. This teacher won't let me...." It starts the practice on a positive note, even though in general I feel bad I can't do the "regular". I am so happy to be beyond the first couple of weeks' trauma and be able to do ANY yoga.

Whoa, I think I just forgot the cons. I guess that'll have to be a separate post. Maybe I'll turn into a Polyanna after all?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Practice and Progress!

Today was my first day practicing again with the Woodstock group! Woo hoo! I wanted to go a week ago, but it was just foolish. I wasn't ready, and neither was my foot. Still, it was great to do it finally today. I did a whole hour, every pose that wouldn't put pressure on the foot from both first and second series, plus a couple of third, a few restorative poses, some inversions and savasana. This may not sound very exciting, but trust me, it was. I even did Kapotasana! I put a pillow under the ankle of the injured leg and just dropped right back. Who knew I could do that with the cast??? Sometimes all it takes is a little ingenuity and a leap of faith. Now if only I could bring that to the rest of my life!

I got home to Brooklyn and was immediately overwhelmed by how much I can't do, how much there is to be done, and how tired I am. I didn't sleep well last night and got up early early for the first time in two weeks. Well, I guess every day has its ups and downs.

I guess one lesson from the weekend is that sometimes doing nothing is the right thing to do. Sometimes I should just sit down and be still for a while. Whatever I'm trying to figure out will not come clear from "rattling around" like I do. Maybe that's the broken-foot lesson from today. I waited for a while and then was finally able to do some yoga. And If I'd waited a while yesterday before trying to make my day "happen" it might just have come together perfectly on its own.

Do you ever psych yourself out? Second guess your decisions? What techniques work for you to help things "come clear"?