Thursday, December 04, 2003


Even though the official first day of spring isn’t till next week, it sure feels like spring today. As if, all of a sudden, the charcoal snow remains that have languished on curbs and street corners for weeks, months, it seems, are really gone. The light has a different quality to it, adopting the brightness of early summer to replace the wan attempts to break through the winter gloom we’ve seen.

Very good practice today. Despite heaviness from Saturday night excess, the weather, turned finally milder, helped. Have developed great feelings of fondness for Peter, feel like he’s a fantastic complement to Eddie, a sure and commanding hand, strong adjustments, and the warmth you’d hope to see in any teacher. Eddie helped me bind Mari B for the first time in a while, and told me “now do C”. I know something is up, as I comply and do C quickly, starting to vinyasa up to stand and leave the practice room. He catches me. “Sit down. Do D a little bit today”. No! I say. But with a smile. Got some instruction on the half lotus side. First side is unspectacular but, most vitally, not painful in the least. Actually felt kinda good. Second side I relaxed into much more, gets me to bind fairly easily. “Good. Speck-tack-kewl-lar.” Again, the best part about it was not so much that I even managed an approximation of the pose (which in itself blows my mind!), but that it felt good, or “yummy”, like I said at the time. Who knew? Just like C, which had only ever been unpleasant before Eddie made it- and kept it- delicious, D always loomed a terrifying force, especially after I managed to pop something in the half lotus ankle last fall. Not so, now, it seems.

The right words at the right time. Sunday, went to painting party at the school; spent a glorious sun-kissed afternoon painting the altar doors a gorgeous shade of peachy orange. Nice to have Eddie around, talk a little, have a laugh, meet some shala-mates. The best afternoon I’ve had, in recent memory. So I’m still trying to figure out the hows and whens in getting to Vermont for a three-day workshop with Iyengari Kevin Gardiner and the logistics are just not really working out, but I’m still pushing to make it happen. After practice today, asked Eddie if I could crash tomorrow’s class in the rotation, since I will likely be away Friday and Sunday. He asks, “Yoga workshop”? I concede that yes. “With whom?” I tell him. To my surprise, Eddie launches into the longest I’ve heard him speak about one thing in the three and a half months that I’ve been studying with him.

How we are working to let the prana move more freely. How I learned something [in practice earlier] today, that I need to soften and let things happen more, rather than trying to MAKE them happen. How when I go on this retreat, I will learn new things and they may conflict with some of the things I am doing now. How we find something that works, that makes us happy for a while. How, in a relationship, not necessarily [but yes] with him, not necessarily [but yes] with the practice now, or [but yes] with someone in life, I will not want to keep looking for different, for more. And some other stuff that exactly touch on and address my issues, current as well as ongoing, concerning the practice, but not only. And echoing word-for-word Richard’s “yoga is about relationship”. Guess they know something.

He was right. Every single thing he touched on, picked up on, addressed, he is right. I held back tears that stayed lodged at the base of my throat long after I left the practice room, while at the same time a feeling of immeasurable lightness and relief swept over me. The right words at the right time. Suddenly, the complicated remarkably simple, the heavy, light. I will save my money and energy. Not dig another shallow well, embark on another relationship just as I am finally building the foundations in this one. Not be like one of those buildings you see in Greece or in India that are for all intents and purposes completed, but you still see construction and metal piping and such on the roof, left to accommodate building on top of what is already there, if need be, unto perpetuity.

I want a roof garden instead. Since I’ve secured Friday off work, I will make a(nother) new beginning and attend the puja for the beautiful new room downstairs, emerging from the soot and ashes of the winter fire. Hopefully, I will do the same, and emerge from this endless winter with vibrant colors and clean walls.

Self-practice this morning, for the first time worked Mari D on my own. First side is just under three miles from even beginning to bind. Pushed through B, letting go of the fact that I ain’t binding unassisted just yet. When the hip opens, left side, it’s coming. Ashtangis are not a particularly loquacious bunch, post-practice- at least not the constant chitter-chatter one is accustomed to. Did a chai run with some people after class, and enjoyed longish pauses in between smalltalking. No need for too much filler talk, just companionship and togetherness. Determined to not get sucked into going to work; took and, most vitally, kept the day off. None of that “I-take-the-day-off-but-still-come-in-for-a-few-hours-anyway” stuff we saw a couple of months ago. Good work, this morning. Did some cleaning in the newly-refloored practice room- it felt really good. Eddie treated us to lunch. Looking forward to the puja tonight, except I’m pretty tired. Nothing a powernap can’t help, one thinks. It’s good. Then I have the whole weekend to do stuff like laundry and cleaning at my own place, which is in dire need of some attention, also.

Peter put me in Mari D today- different approach from Eddie, but veeery interesting; first/tough side, had me put my half-lotus knee on his leg, instead of having it suspended about seven feet from the floor, which gave us a strong foundation to let me soften into it, taking three, four breaths to fully pull the wrapping arm out and over, slowly-slowly. Boom! We managed to bind! Which of course was extremely nice. Pret-ty cool. Still shocked by how fondly I view working it- none of the terror and apprehension it inspired not too long ago. Actually feels kinda nice when I’m in it. Who knew? When the student is ready, and all that, I guess! I think D is a pretty major milestone in the Series. Best part, so far, last few days, is: no knee pain. Have been exceedingly careful not to push in finishing, to let go if it’s not happening. Snuck out of binding Mari B today. It’s important for me to not push, wouldn’t be surprised if some of the damage done back in December/earlydays was due to “too much research”, in addition to scary-looking foot-torque-ing padmasanastuff.

The weekend went by too quickly. Amazing how much Mari D is affected, more than I ever imagined, by what I eat and whether it’s been processed. This morning was a constipated one, and in the past, I could’ve still eked out an ok, if not entirely comfortable practice. D just drags it all out into the open, all that is or is not there. Was it just yesterday we bound (binded?) both sides? Today we got neither!! I like Peter’s approach; he goes really slow, really careful, does not push and as a result I push less. Learning to accept that it’s ok if today is not all I’d like it to be. Such good lifelessons. But this bides interestingly for gastrointestinal stuff; if I was pretty aware of how and what was going on when I worked through to C, like it or not, every weight fluctuation or carbs-laden meal or constipated morning will now be in my face, every day I practice. No more mucking about, it seems. Not when it can have such a dramatic effect on whether to what extent I bind… Just not worth it.

So nice to be back to a six-days a week schedule. Today being only the third consecutive day of practice, let’s see how we’re faring by Friday! After yesterday’s showdown with the surplus gut, had a more fiber-friendly food-day and lo and behold, binded both sides in D! This is just one of those asanas that I have trouble seeing myself ever swinging unassisted. The feeling of having a loong way to go is much more familiar and, as such, easy to accept. Much more so than being THIS close to binding in mari B- which I am. Just not enough rotation in the right arm to take it all the way. Then, with the tiniest of taps from Eddie or Peter, it’s all there, with plenty of room to spare.

Totally spent, and it’s barely eight in the morning. Totally sated, also. School was crowded today. Not as exhausted as I’d anticipated on this, the fourth day of consecutive practice days. Feel like I’m censoring myself today. I do know that these post-practice subway entries are hugely useful, both as a purging tool (I rarely go around harping to unsuspecting folks about practicedays, anymore) and as a learning tool (so that’s where I was at then…).

Interestingly, Eddie’s approach today was different than it’s been, different from last time he worked D with me, dare I say, somewhat similar to how Peter’s been tackling it. Only, he was more tentative, I less assertive and relaxed. There’s always tomorrow is the lesson du jour. That and, per Eddie, I need to start bringing in a t-shirt or something for the slip-y knee we’re binding since I slipped out of the somewhat tenuous bind in first side and struggled to not pop out (“keep it!”) of second side. Lesson number two: time to stop messing around with the virasana knee in tiriang mukha, no longer allowed to have it way out to the side. Eddie spotted the gap between knee and extended leg and moved it almost to touch other leg- no more license to be doing that, as my hips slowly open, it seems. Oh, and “just for fun, take your wrist” in Mari C, which I did, and it was. Fun’n’yummy. Amazingly, no pain in left knee. Consumed by how careful I am and it’s a constant battle not to push, but the war looks like it’s in my favor.

Definitely feeling it today. Shoulders, arms, legs, a little sore. Had a good practice though. More depth to the vinyasa, it seemed like. It feels great to have so much to work with, to work on. Jumping through (“stray-yit[ish legs]!”), jumping back without sound (or at least without making the floorboards shake), opening, deepening, exploring. And breathing. Eddie kept me in D for many-many breaths today. I joke, breathe!, since my breath was less than deep and slow. Eddie jokes back, “that’s what the counting is for”. I tell him what daddyZym said yesterday, about how he counts like Guruji in that video and he lowers his blood pressure, so cute, and Eddie counters with, “you should do the same.” Ha-Hhah!

Pulling sensation on outside of knee comes and goes, I need to be more careful. Have been doing a few minutes of stretching post-savasana, this week. Just sitting crossed-legged for a bit, doing the perennial fave of tight-hipped people since time immemorial, the “pigeon pose”. It feels good, and I’ve convinced myself that it’s helping. I’m so screwed. Mari D is se-heerious bid-ness! It’s feeling like, ok you’ve had time to play around and mess around and be a tad dilettante-ish about this, but now it’s time for the real work to start. I can’t imagine practicing this every day and having a big pasta dinner, or even a late dinner at that. I’m sure I’ll ease up soon enough, though.

All week I’ve had slow commutes, ju-ust missing either or both trains and having to wai-hate for the next one(s), which means I get to class after Eddie’s been doing opening at six sharp. Today, got an earlier start and got to the school just before six. Eerily quiet for that time of the day; where it’s usually full or close-to, the room was at half-capacity, if that. Both Eddie and Peter were still practicing. Friday, the great leveller, where even Eddie practices Primary. I find such solace and reassurance in the fact that this is something that I (will) can have for a lifetime, just for me, that no matter where my practice goes (assuming I’ll even finish this first series in this go-around), I will always revisit and come back to this primary practice.

Soo, I figure ok, Eddie got a late start, and he and/or Peter will take rest and be down to teach shortly. Take a looong, slowww practice, taking a few extra breaths going into- and staying in- some of the ardha-padmastuff. Get to Mari B tough side, and whoops! No-one’s around to help with that extra half-inch. How can I go to D if I don’t bind B? I resolutely go for it like I mean it, rather than “oh-I’m-just-prepping/binding-time till I get put into it…” . I’m so close. Take another breath. Try to ease up on tensing up. Exhaling, I can feel my fingers almost touching. Relaxing. Exhaling, I can touch. Touch. CLASP! Beaming, I bend forward, fully-bound, five quick breaths of relief and release and movin’ on!! Now I feel like I’ve earned D, well and truly. Interesting to note how my working-D-alone approach has shifted a little from last week’s: I actually worked on getting the wrapping armpit around the knee, rather than just sitting there like a dodo twisting a bit and letting the half-lotus leg release down a bit. All of this week I’ve worked on doing some hip openers during the day and am convinced it’s working. Everything is just much less scary-looking than it’s been in a long time, if ever. I can’t believe I got B on my own!! I don’t even remember (ok, yes I do- I was NOT) if I was binding back in earlydays at the shala. I don’t think I ever managed that! Somehow this is more of a celebration-worthy breakthrough than being given D. Especially since it was kind of a statement of self-sufficiency, after fears of Eddie-dependency. I’ve suspected for a while that not doing B “properly” has been because I won’t, not ‘cause I can’t. There’s plenty of room there, it’s just a matter of superceding the barrier- and I made leaps towards that today.

Had a hell of a time getting to practice today. Got an early start, determined to get there on time, for a change. Sprinted to the subway, ran to the transfer train, shot to the shala. Got there just in time for the 6am start. Was really feeling yesterday’s missed practice; the victim of Tibetan hospitality where drinks were served for three hours and dinner at 10, by the time I got to bed a little before 2am I didn’t even set the alarm. Nice to be back. Had a bran-new person directly to my right and. With Eddie counting the vinyasa for the same stuff I was doing, through to parsvakonasana, it was hard to get in the groove and find my own rhythm. It kind of set the tone there, for a practice that had more pushing and struggle than need be, more than usual.

Did not have a joyful practice today, something I regret. When I got to Mari B, was all tense and ready to tackle it on my own and maybe see if I could bind unassisted again. Instead, I see Peter approach as I get to it. One second, I mumble as he purposefully strides up to me, but I guess he didn’t pick up on it since he just plop-popped me into it anyway. There’s always next time. I didn’t realize how tense and shallow my breathing was until Eddie came over, second side once I was in it, and laid his hands on me. I softened somewhat under his touch, but was still strung way up there. Is this all from the backbending vinyasa class I took yesterday afternoon? Apprehension at the start of another workweek? Whatever the case may be, had to be told to soften, relax, as we worked D. Informed Eddie, pushing today! He said, “Good. Better today.” But later. I’ll take his word for it, since I am certainly not feeling it. Did about 20 minutes of so-called hip-openers, pre-savasana. Am extremely bummed tomorrow’s a newmoonday. This was going to be a shortened practiceweek for me anyway, and now tomorrow’s been wrenched away also. Waaah!

Ai-yai-yai. Late, carb-heavy dinner = heavy, tough-to-bind practice. Made an early start and got to class just in time for 6am start. Alas, was emerging from bathroom as Eddie led the opening chant. Was happy to have Peter come over for Mari D. Late dinner, I apologize, as he slowly and patiently allows for several exhales to get my arm in a wrappable position. Even on this most-bloated of bloated days, it’s still easier to approach than it was a week ago. Less pleasant, certainly. Five quick breaths and I fly out of it, relieved to be able to breathe unobstructed. “Good”, he says, and even though I beg to differ, I like hearing it. Yesterday’s Moonday excesses coming back to bite me in the butt. Learning. Pledging to show more (some) moderation next time. On this, the shortest of short weeks where I skip practice Sunday, have a Tuesday Moonday and self-practice on Friday, I need to watch what I eat today. Every day, but today in particular. Also need to get over mentality that I need to do well with an asana at any given time.

Concede that there’s always tomorrow, accept that there’s no such thing as a wasted practice day. Today, for example, Eddie gave me a major adjustment in trikonasana, which of course here I am thinking my form is reasonably good in. So, there ya go. There’s always stuff to work on. Did no padmasanastuff in closing today. Wasn’t up for it, don’t want to push. Needless to say, didn’t QUITE manage Mari B on my own. I love that Peter keeps an eye out and magically appears at just the right moment for that extra nudge I cannot seem to conjure up on my own. I hope the-day-I-managed-to-bind-alone at self-practice does not become some mythical one-time thing…

4/3 /03
It’s been crowded, last couple of days. People returning in droves now that we’re back on a regular schedule? The smell of spring inspiring people to practice? Got there at six on the dot and there was not a single spot left in the practice room. Was not alone starting upstairs. Happy to say, nor was I resentful- just did. Managed Mari B on my own, just as Eddie was on my mat to help.

Had such a NY-moment after practice yesterday: bought a tea set and kitsch-y tinned teas for my Columbus host at Pearl River Mart in Chinatown, then walked four blocks to the best pastry shop in Little Italy for canolis and a luscious creme-filled sugar-topped phyllo-type thing they call a lobster tail, which I duly inhaled as I watched the tourists walk by. Needless to say, aforementioned activity did little to enhance this morning’s practice experience. I love working with Peter, who kept telling me to “slow down… breathe… rela-ax…”all of which I do need to be reminded of as we work Mari D. Needless to say, I had no room whatsoever and could barely bind the first side. A lesson in moderation for next time?

Guess the good stuff emerges when you don’t expect it, sometimes. Late undigested dinner and damp snowy cold conspired to give me a later than usual start and uneasy anticipation for a heavy practice. Started slow and, failing to build much heat towards the last couple of Surya Namaskar B, picked up the pace a fair amount. Peter once told me that Guruji recommends a faster pace when it’s cold. Did little to get the ardha badha padmastuff and stop myself from insisting, from pushing. Instead of attempting and re-attempting to get the half-lotus heel in just so, try to let go of the fact that it’s not quite happening today and move on. Get help in Mari A from Eddie, who declared second side “better”. I respond with, not better- different. “Semantics”, he says. I do try not to judge. Cheat a little for Mari B, managing to bind first side, albeit only just, but staying in it for less-than-five-long breaths. More like, three quick’n’shallow ones.

So Eddie comes over for D. I preface it with not so good today… “Yes, it’s cold out- snowed yesterday.” Haha. Launches into how it’s ok for things to be good or bad rather than putting everything on one experiential level because hey, some things ARE good and some things, well, suck. It’s how we react to things that’s important (my paraphrasing). Yeah, I interject, like the fact that I had canoli for dinner last night. “you’ll feel it the next day.” I didn’t actually have the canoli last night, it was two days ago, but it was a good vehicle for my analogy and also my excuse: that’s just why I ain’t gonna be binding this baby deeply anytime soon, 'kay? Find myself constantly struggling (and, recently, rebelling by overeating) with the abrupt mandates doing D has imposed, or is trying to impose, on what goes into my stomach. Every day, still. Wonder if it’ll ever become easier, or at least less evidently unpleasant and contingent on what’s been ingested and digested.

Slow start saw me at the school at 6:20 and, as has been the case recently, started upstairs. I don’t want to play that game anymore, where I try to catch trains and run from home to train and get bummed and emotional and run from train to school and check the time and get disappointed if I don’t make it in time for 6am start. I just don’t want to do that to myself anymore. So, did some gentle “hip openers” and before I knew it, half an hour later, was called down. Started brisk sun salute (Guruji was counting today) followed by a muuuch faster than usual practice. Felt kinda nice, to not dwell, to move on, there’s something wonderfully organic to that also. But it was also almost too exciting, with little of that yummy calming effect I look for in every asana- something I was reminded of when Eddie let me softendeepen into paschimottanasana. Swiftly, I’m at the Maris and feeling OK. As an experiment, yesterday was a day of limited gastronomical excesses. B was a little more accessible, although I none-too gracefully toppled out of it at “Fo-ho-or!”. Pain from knee almost entirely absent, and I’m working first not-good side of D on my own as Peter comes by. “Goo-hood”, he purrs, “goo-hood.” Got a raised eyebrow on both sides. Yup, food intake the day prior makes a huge difference. Only one more day of practice, and then it’ll be all about the workshop for a while.

Traces of sadness, as I say goodbye to Eddie, students, and school, for a week. Have long day and evening ahead of me (travel day) so it will be my day of “rest”; especially being that we’re practicing Saturday and on next week’s moonday. School very busy again today, several newbies, and people returning from Mysore or wherever they went for their earlyspring tans. It’s not sunk in that in just over 24 hours I’ll be flying over the country, landing in the middle of the Midwest and staying there for five days. Will really miss cat and practice and Eddie and shalafolks, although I’m pretty sure that once I get there I’ll be happy to be there and learn and rest like I need to.

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