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!