L.O.S. Weeks 8 through, um, 15 it looks like: Under Construction

Poses added since the last time I wrote about this which was ages ago:  Urdhva Prasarita Padasana a.k.a. abs, Paripurna Navasana and Ardha Navasana.  Jatara Parivartanasana*.  Padanguthasana, Padahastasana and Uttanasana.  Salamba Sirsasana.  Makrasana/Salabasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana.  And all kinds of spice on the Sarvangasana form:  Supta Konasana, Parsva Halasana, and Eka Pada Sarvangasana, most of which I don’t get to cause either I lose my alignment or the kids need something.  Mahamudra, Janu Sirsasana, Dandasana and Paschimottanasana.

This is very bad science because I’ve also been adding OTHER things to my physical practice, notably Crossfit, which has been tremendous in its power, simplicity and punishing intensity.  Of course I’m doing like the training-wheels/water-wings forms of everything, whereas normal looking people walk in while I’m purple and panting and do what I’m doing times a million, but there it is; I’ve never done most of this stuff before and quite frankly it’s good for your soul to be taught, sometimes.  So it’s hard to know how much of my recent wellness is due to B.K. or due to his energetic inheritance by way of CF [there are dowels!  but not for whacking].  But I didn’t quit!  It’s just not having the dramatic intensity of growth it did at the beginning, because, well, that’s nature and math for you.

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What The Twins Eat

In descending order of likeitude:

This was some challenging laundry

1.  Bananas

2.  Yams [roasted whole and pureed]

3.  Peas

4.  Broccoli

5.  Tofu

6.  Those Baby Mum-Mum biscuits than turn into ineradicatable mucilage the minute they come within 6 inches of an infant, which makes me wonder whose bright idea they were, but so anyways.  And also, why do they come in individually foil wrapped packs of two AND THEN ALSO in a big plastic pack?  The packs of two make sense, the additional plastic pack not so much.  Just saying.

7.  Hippie Krisps.  That’s what I call those organic rice krispies and that’s how they are labelled in my iPhone grocery autocomplete list.  A First World triumph.

8.  Hippie Os [see above]

9.  Carrots

9a)  They had bacon and eggs this morning.  Bacon and eggs!  Well, just R had bacon.  He sucked it translucent and bloodless and looked at me like “Why have you been holding out on me all this time, woman?”  He then held it in his cheek pocket like a lardon and used it to flavour the remainder of his meal.  I hate eggs, at least the yolks, so I was interested to see what the result would be [result:  totally fine]

10.  Apple

11.  Pear

12.  Butternut squash [another one of M’s epic roasting projects, scooping out bits for the kids]

13.  Kale

13a)  Quinoa.  This is just them macking on my lunch, if you must know, and you’ve read down this far so clearly you must.

14.  Blueberries

15.  Zucchini.  Was epic fail the first time and then has been acculturated in.  When R is reticent about food I dip my finger in some BBQ sauce and give it to him, and then shmear the BBQ sauce in the rest of his puree and he’ll worry it down no matter how unpleasant, truly his father’s son and his uncle’s nephew.

Bruce Lee shirt!

16.  Rolled oats

17.  Pork ribs [just R, hence the BBQ sauce above.  He’s got 4 teeth to H’s zero, so he’s a bit more of a carnivore and parentvore]

18.  Brown rice

19.  Plain yogurt [H gave me this face like “Srsly?  Srsly” and that was the end of that]

20.  Green beans.  Still the all-time low, the St. Louis Rams of baby food.

An old draft that I’m defibrillating and posting even though it might no longer be relevant

Previous title: “Gang of three” or “The scale of modern practice”

*insert appropriate pithy epigram here*

Another great Teacher Intensive weekend has come and gone and, as all fruitful studies should, it answered some questions and then asked a whole host of others. One of the portions I found the most powerful was our round-table discussion on when and if political material should ever be included in class. As expected, the responses ran the gamut from “good Lord, no, are you kidding? that’s the most inappopriate soapboxing/proselytizing misuse of your teaching energy, ever” to “I love hearing it in class and it connects me to the higher purposes of practice”. And also as expected, the responses to teaching technique have a great deal to do with the context of the class and studentship. I mean, the C word is the one that just keeps deluging me lately: it’s like an even shorter of that excellent Facebook bit that started showing up and going viral a few years ago: “Everything is changing. Everything is connected. Pay attention”.

Since I seem to have garnered the reputation for being so political, even though my own political studies are ham-handed and infantile at best, I thought I’d use this post as a way of explaining why I’ve been drawn to political concepts in recent years and how, if at all, they might harmonize with practice.

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L.O.S. – Weeks 3 through 7

No, I didn’t quit [winky face]. I just had trouble blogging, ’cause TWINSMAS. I’m on Week 8 now which is throwing me some curve balls but in the meantime here are the notes from the last month of the project:

Weeks 3 and 4: Is This As Boring As It Seems

Utthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Virabhadrasana I and II, Parvritta Trikonasana, Parsvottanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana I, Salamba Sarvangasana I, Halasana, Savasana

Is this boring? Is it as boring as it sometimes seems? I can’t believe how much I would NOT have wanted to do this even a year ago and how rad it has turned out to be, is why. I have boundary issues with this, like I’m always trying to teach My Old Self from my early twenties, when in fact I occupied a very specific and not altogether savoury energetic and intellectual space at that time that I expect only a small minority of students currently occupy.

No vinyasas, no variations, no linking poses together. If I’m not interrupted by twin related mayhem [which has really ceased to be an interruption and more of a natural extension of the work itself], just jumping legs wide and together [itself a bit of a sore spot for me, since I’ve always found jumping to be jubbly and undignified] and moving on to the next one. At some point in these two weeks practicing the poses above I realized something very significant was happening inside which was the opposite of boring. Parvritta Trikonasana in particular appears to be functioning at this stage as scoliosis therapy, and as one has nothing more exciting to draw one’s attention away from small asymetries, they take on their own fascination. The anatomical specificity of Weeks 1 and 2 continues, only now with like pop-ups attached, like they’re links on blogs:

…vastus lateralis + gluteus medius [popup: lateral proximal part of foot]…

&c.

Breastfeeding has made Salabasana impossible but I’ve got it waiting in the wings.

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L.O.S. – Weeks 1 and 2 – The Colouring Book

Tadasana, Vrksasana, Utthita Trikonasana, Parsva Konasana, Virabhadrasana I, Virabhadrasana II, Parsvottanasana, Salamba Sarvangasana I, Halasana, Savasana

This is outing myself even further, but what the hell: I’ve never really felt I *had* to practice alignment. I was in various forms of discomfort, all of which felt pretty much under my control, either physical or energetic, and I could basically dial them up or down at will. If I got a little zany, some repeated stuff would come up, and I’d feel it happen and sort of stupidly decide in any given moment to go into the repeated stuff or dodge it, usually go into it, and then deal with the aftermath in my own perverse way. And the alignment certainly helped with some discomfort, and it made my poses improve, and it gave me some stuff to think about. It helped me start to see things in other bodies and see more within. But I never really HAD to think about it if I didn’t want to. I could do a crappy pose and the worse thing that would happen is I might have to crack my SI joint like a knuckle and all would be well.

Not so post-partum, which has removed pretty much all the spontaneous joy from yoga for me. It no longer feels good and free to

move. Which is cool because Mr Iyengar has made it clear that he doesn’t want me to feel good OR free, he just wants me to work hard and take care of business. So, henceforth he and I are in agreement: I picture him berating me and whacking me across the

How many hours have I spent in front of this thing?

flank with a stick. The consequence of not moving intelligently is devastating pain that lasts for days and could previously only be alleviated either by not doing any sort of movement endeavour [which was making me big and slow] or bodywork [which, while delightful, was starting to be a bit of a cash-flow issue] so I suppose I have my own internal stick with which to whack myself. Again, I’ve never felt anything like this before: such a joyless squashing of the creativity I had come to associate with the practice: but after like the 50th time I assed myself up pretending things were OK I finally, reluctantly, learned.

The practice above is not any practice that I would either sequence for my students or come up with for my home practice. In fact, it used to look so Goddamn tedious I didn’t take it seriously on any level whatsoever. In the last two weeks it has come to be as comfortable and healing as one of those old Epsom salt footbaths in your Grandma’s bathroom.. I read the accompanying material and terse and sometimes elliptical alignment instructions [for example, M and I had to Google what was intended by “firm loins”]. I read the therapeutic applications, and marvel at the difference between what Mr Iyengar thinks these poses are good for and what my other teachers have said they were good for, and how they felt to me. Then I do the pose for the recommended amount of breaths/time, and let it go. I’ve only had to miss two days due to flu in the last two weeks. That’s not bad with twins. [Mr Iyengar was silent on the calibre of a seeker with twins.]

My notes: Vrksasana is great for improving blood flow and fat/fluid removal from post-partum inner thighs. The innervation seems stronger there now, even though it’s pretty painful in a skin-tightening sort of way when you’re in it [i.e. not joint or muscle pain, just that irritating asana pain about which nothing can be done]. It’s nice to practice Vira I again, it’s always so nostalgic, and is a nice stretch for the lateral gastrocnemius and soleus provided the heel is correctly rooted. A five-minute shoulderstand is really an ass-kicker. I am not yet strong enough to do it for the full time every time but luckily [?] it repeats for what looks like several more weeks. I did enjoy his aside about how Shoulderstand is the “mother” now that I’m a mother: taking care of all the systems, keeping the household/body in tandem and smooth working order. It’s SOMEWHAT less misogynist than his other asides.

But what’s been especially rad about this first small foray on a multi-year endeavour is that, due to the specificity of the work and the pain of misaligning, my whole body is lighting up like the Anatomy Colouring Book, and each practice colours in a bit more. At some point in e.g. Trikonasana, I will be doing my level best to firm my loins &c., and across my consciousness will float:

“…left side quadratus femoris…”

or

“…top fibres of right oblique…”

and the electricity of my studies colours in the fibres of the newly contracting muscle in e.g. bright blue [it’s usually blue]. The names are always in italic, bold Garamond, and they always have those little ellipses around them.

Now, I’m not an anatomy pro; I’m not a doctor, although I do play one on TV. Assisting Chris got my head in the game and I’ve been doing my best ever since. This is a new level of synthesis, of study/awareness/sensation/ healing. It’s pretty awesome. The pain has given me one of those packs of rainbow-coloured felt-tip markers, and as long as I don’t quit, I’ll just keep filling everything in.

Light on Sjanz – A Project

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you’ll *learn* more when *teaching* an event, much more than anticipated. The Teacher Intensives have basically blown out my cerebral cortex every weekend, not just because I’m co-teaching in such excellent company but the teachers who attend have been extremely high-calibre; and while I’m always very pleased and proud to offer whatever’s been rattling around in the ol’ brain-pan, I definitely walk away with what I offered plus interest.

This series is a takeaway from Shelley Tomczyk, who spoke so highly and devotedly of a text I’ve always had little to no time for: BKS Iyengar’s tendentious classic Light on Yoga, an ubiquitous dusty offering on many yogi’s bookshelves. My copy, after reading the following [parentheses and italics mine]:

“The feeble seekers are those who lack enthusiasm, criticise their teachers [d’oh], are rapacious, inclined to bad action [yipes!], eat much [that’ll leave a mark], are in the power of women [SCREW YOU!!], unstable [see above], cowardly, ill, dependent, speak harshly [why I oughtta…], have weak characters, and lack virility [*&!ing patriarchy].”

remained fairly untouched, and only consulted in moments of examination or under duress. He doesn’t like me, I thought to myself, and I don’t like him: by any metric I would have failed him long ago, and frankly I’m not really in the mood to be hit with

Photo courtesy of Still Yoga, stillyoga.com

dowels or verbally abused which is sort of how he rolls so the whole thing left me cold. But Shelley’s copy was dogeared and falling apart, and we did a little exercise using it, and there was something about the stern, no-nonsense fluffless approach that landed a little deeper this time around. The only hands-on experience I had with Iyengar Yoga was a clinic taught at my old yoga stomping grounds, at which time I was a dillentantish Ashtangi with no idea whatsoever what the hell was going on, so needless to say a 3 minute supported headstand had no attraction to me, much less a supine Warrior II held for what seemed to be a cortex-flattening amount of boring time. Whattaya want, I was like 22.

So, and I realize I am outing myself in a big way here and hope you, gentle reader, will help hold me accountable, I am committing to undertaking Iyengar’s 300-week course of study, and am just closing in on the end of week 2. I can already tell this is going to take longer than the 300 weeks; if all goes as expected, the twins will be about 7 when I’m done.

NOTE: Yes, I’m aware that I’d be better served doing this under the tutelage of an Iyengar teacher; but for reasons of funding and time management I’m just going to rely on my many years of practice, however low-grade, and my [koff, koff] thousand hours of study.

There is SO try

So I sez to Morgan, I sez, it has always bothered me that Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try” in Star Wars Episode V, because it has always seemed to me that there is TOTALLY SO try.  I mean, the Bhagavad Gita says that one should work without anticipation of reward, not for the fruits but for the actions themselves, which would actually seem to me that try is the most important bit, and that no effort is wasted, which I interpret to mean that “try” is some sort of accruing currency that actually increases every time one tries.

w00t w0000t

I also have this bit that I teach, especially to beginners, where I point out that they are just at the start of their journey and there’s no point getting all het up about not executing e.g. Bakasana to their satisfaction on the first attempt because life is long and keep coming to class &c, and Yoda sort of undermines that whole spiel, because if their options are at the point just “do not” i.e. there is no try, then they won’t come back to class again because “do not” is sort of a bummer [unnecessarily harsh and discouraging] and inaccurate besides, because the preparatory actions of a pose are very helpful and therapeutic even if you don’t get your feet off the ground in Bakasana as above, or whatever pose you’re sharpening yourself against…[ellipsis…]

And you know it’s kind of a bummer to try to do something and then not actually be able to do it, viz. certification [see below] because you’re all like, dude, if there’s no “try” then what in the world have I spent the last however-long doing?  I seem to remember some trying.  And some doing not, I suppose.  But mostly TRYING!  And the complex intersecting layers of how much one wants to try vs. how much benefit one might obtain from doing, or not doing, or trying…it’s all a rich tapestry…I explained about the nexus of tattvas, that is, experiential layers of the universe, where concept,will and execution intersect on an absolute level, and that this in fact is the generative power of the universe [icca, jnana and kriya], which appears to effectively demonstrate the UNIVERSE IS MADE OF TRY:  that every cell of your body is pure try:  that without “trying” there is no BEING, much less doing or not doing, and that the synthesis of spiritual endeavour consisted primarily of the essence of Try, in that no result was expected, demanded or desired and yet the path presents itself, over and tedious over again, pursuing Light in the most occluded and cystlike environments, attempting the impossible triple-axel Sight of Light in spaces where no light should by all rights be and simply by virtue of the pure-hearted attempt GENERATING light in this sclerotic places…By gum, trying makes the world go round, three cheers for try, how can this geriatric little Muppet even dare to sully the good name of Try with his tortured syntax and burlap robes, and I became quite aerated about the whole prospect; I even cultivated a slight bloom of rhetorical sweat on my upper lip.  I may also have been changing Hannah at the time, I can’t quite remember.

M said, “He’s referring to telekinesis”.

I thought for a second.

I said, “Oh, well, that’s true then.”

Service

Since I had such a sweet pregnancy and practiced throughout with very little pain or discomfort it’s been a real ass-kicker not to be able to move as freely as I once was able now that the twins are born.  I know, I know:  what a surprise:  and of course intellectually and empathetically I had heard tales from the post-partum crypt more than I can count.  It’s challenging to operate on levels like, here’s my spirit and here’s my brain and my brain wants to serve spirit and here’s how I do it, I get up at this time and I move my body in this way and that feels good, does it feel good to you too?  It does?  Great, let’s keep doing that and O SNAPS WAIT UP SOME PEOPLE CAME OUT OF ME.  Body totally different=fried.  Brain still wanting to serve, heart still wanting to serve.  Students and community constantly distracted, chatting about diet and buying habits and Ayurveda and raw macaroons and The Core™ and assorted other miscellany that seem to have about as much to do with the twin-raising project as, say, a doodled outline of your own thumb on a message pad has to do with a lunar probe.  Me: not coming up with any even halfway decent answers, mostly cause I’m a bit ashamed of having been SO SURE about yoga asana and Anusara and now I’m not just unsure, I think I’m kind of over it.  So is my spiritual practice consistent?  Yes.  Here’s why.

You can't balance what you can't see

My body is already being used in intense devotional service every single moment of every day.  The very cells I occupy are redolent with life’s purpose by way of estrogen, fat and sleep deprivation.  I am making food with my body instead of poses and directly serving those who cannot serve themselves.  I am remembering God as I do so.  So while I can appreciate that you are finding deep significance in e.g. Tibetan throat singing or Scorpion pose, it all seems PROFOUNDLY beside the point at this stage in my development.  *warning – gender essentialism ahead* Sometimes I think dudes came up with yoga cause they were all jealous of how much women’s bodies are in service by nature.  Regardless of their sexuality or procreative decisions, there is still a pulse that is always serving life.  Maybe dudes just wanted to keep themselves busy playing the sacred flute or some such s**t.  So just as the Vipassana gong rang at 4 am and I got up to sit whether I wanted to or not, so Robert’s fussing keeps me in touch with the relentless divine whether I want to or not.  That’s where my discipline is channelled.

Therefore I have run out of steam pursuing the Holy Grail of Certification, and not only steam, money.  The longer this process takes the more expensive it is and therefore only the comfortable or the very ascetic will attain the position without severe debt and stress.  I am fairly comfortable but not enough for additional $500 mentoring programs after already shelling out (mumble) benjamins at this late stage of the game, and I’m not ascetic at all.  Also, my whole thing with Certification was “I wasn’t doing anything more important” and now I am.  So I’m in the penalty box after my last video [submitted 2 weeks before giving birth btw] didn’t pass, and as my year in the dunce corner whiles away the whole thing is becoming ever more baroque and complicated, and costly, and frankly it’s all I can do to make sure everybody’s set up with some stewed pears and organic milled brown rice cereal if ya feels me.

Okay, so.  Anusara may fall away.  Asana may fall away.  Formal seated practice has been wobbly right out of the gate.  I don’t tend towards formal devotional practices, although I admire those who hold them down, as I’ve always associated the representative forms of God to be just that, tokens, the same way Monopoly money is associated with real money and then the way real money is associated with value and worth.  But I still feel God every day, and I actually kind of dig this new iconoclastic by-any-means-necessary practice, where spirit *has to* be tethered to every action.  The only real suffering I have in this new space is that of loneliness; I was craving companionship both through Anusara and through yoga in general and ironically my commitment to the former seems to have further disconnected and splintered me away from the latter.  It’s lonely to have failed, and it’s lonely to be the gelatinous pie-eyed chronic pain sufferer in the back of the room, but hell, at least it’s real.   Also, my babies are cute, which helps a lot.

Get your back up off the wall

Hi everybody!  The following is a public service announcement.  It is almost impossible to stay in a bad mood when listening to either The Jackson Five or Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It“.   You can try to scowl but you just end up looking silly.

How you gonna do it if you really don't wanna dance?

If that little tip wasn’t a sufficient energy-adjuster, this weekend Christine Price Clark’s magnificent workshop “In Good Company” is at the West Vancouver Community Centre, hosted by Yogapod.  Having hung out with Christine a time or two I know you will bask in her warm presence and insightful teaching.  Coming up quick, sign up today!

Any of my readers who are also teachers, of any style, I am super excited to announce the Teacher Intensives that I’m co-teaching with Christine and Shelley Tomczyk.  We’ve been brainstorming these for ages:  a high level venue of companionship, mentorship and study for those wishing to hone their offerings to a Ginsu-knife clarity.  So much yoga in Vancouver has been expanding to the point where the seams are stretched and teachers can feel solitary and suffer burnout or lack of inspiration:  this is the cure:  an increased depth of service, understanding, and precision.  Plus the poster is ra-ha-ha-had.  Contact Inner Space to enrol.

Lastly, I’m back to Penticton and Kelowna for a long weekend mini-tour, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the growing strong community there.  Penticton Nov 3+4, Kelowna Nov. 5+6, we’re packin’ the twins and boogieing to the Interior.  If you have friends or folks out there, let them know!  From side bending-twisting-flow to an intermediate/advanced practice to therapeutics, it’s all happening; there’ll be something in there for you.

I really wish I could blog more, but the twins are five months old and generally if I have to actually do any sort of work on the computer that’s more intense than just reading, the sleep deprivation kicks in and the pixels start to dissolve and swim in front of my eyes, so I acknowledge the sporadic and somewhat self-serving nature of this announcement post, and just use it as a hook to say if ya miss me I’ll see you at these events, heh.

Heavy Metta Review – Friday Night Lights

If you are using Heavy Metta as a new media review outlet you, good sir or madam, will always be sorely disappointed, cause I’m generally crap at getting on top of good shows or viral links or hot new albums until well after they have risen, peaked and faded. The reason for this is simply that when somebody says “Check out this show/book/site/band/teacher, you’ll love them”‘ I BELIEVE THEM: as somebody who obsessively listens to one song for weeks and generates an entire worldview and lexicon around the lyrics and becomes firmly convinced of said songs’ portentious message for me in the coming years, an almost oracular faith in this song…I cannot afford, do you hear me, cannot afford to click on that link or check out your downloaded .flac album…if it’s as good as you say it is I will go deep into the rabbit hole and spend mammoth amounts of time and energy loving and processing and ruminating on this art. And so it is with Friday Night Lights.

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