Monday, August 26, 2013


Today it finally happened for the first time ever in the history of my practice.

I fell asleep during Savasana.

Our instructor rang a deep gong to signal the end of rest and I was so startled I literally jumped a foot off my mat.  I had no idea where I was and I thought the gong was a fire alarm of some kind!  Geesh.

The irony of the timing is not lost on me.  Figures I'd spend hundreds of minutes each and every night while in London doing everything I could possibly think of to get even a flicker of sleep.  And this was in a nice hotel room with a soft, comfy bed.  No dice.  Then I come home and promptly doze off on the floor surrounded by room full of strangers.

I guess when it's time, it's time.

Have any of you ever snoozed during Savasana?

Friday, August 23, 2013

This Week in Practice

So let's recap...

This week began on the heels of Kino's 3-day intensive workshop in London.  By Monday, five nights of serious sleep deprivation combined with all-out physical exertion had taken their toll.  Exhausted and utterly depleted, I opted to skip practice on Monday and instead spent the day flitting about the city.  It was lovely - relaxed and carefree with only my whims to guide me.

On Tuesday I went to Leah Kim's 7:30 am Vinyasa Flow class at Triyoga in Soho.  (She's fantastic, by the way.  I make it a point to get to her classes every time I'm in London.)  Then it was back to the hotel for a shower and to finish packing before making my way to Heathrow Airport.  Tuesday was a LONG day, punctuated by a L-O-N-G 11 1/2 hour flight.  I've never been so happy to see my husband or my bed.

Thankfully, at long last, I slept straight through the night.  Come Wednesday I was still fighting that on-again, off-again sore throat though and opted to take it easy for another day.  I skipped practice and stayed close to home, just enjoying time spent with Bentley and Theodore.

After another BLISSFULLY sound night's sleep, I decided I was ready to resume my normal routine on Thursday and drove down to Larchmont for Ashtanga.  For those of you who don't know, going to Mysore for me entails an hour drive each way.  By the time I got there and found parking, I was seriously doubting the intelligence of practice that day.  As I walked the three blocks to the studio, my thoughts became my enemy:  "I feel like crap.  I bet my practice will be crap, too.  I want to go home.  There are so many cute restaurants around here, maybe I could just treat myself to lunch and then leave?  No one would even notice." etc. etc.  But somehow I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I arrived at the shala and up the steps I went to check in.

As I settled my mind and body at the top of my mat, the first Surya Namaskara unfolded without incident.  And then the next, and the next.  Before I knew it, I was through both A's and B's and was gathering steam.  Dare I say I felt surprisingly good?  Then what happened next was nothing short of astounding.  It was seriously the BEST practice I've ever had.  I've never been more open.  Things have never seemed more clean, if that makes any sense?

For example, I got my bottom hand nearly flat to the floor on both sides of Parivrtta Parsvakonasana.  My balance was strong and steady in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and my fold forward was deeper than it's ever been.  I managed to get my shoulders substantially further under my legs in Supta Kurmasana and I got my chin to the floor for the first time in Baddha Konasana.  I'm gaining strength in Setu Bandhasana and practiced it for a moment without any hands for support, as Kino instructed. Oh, and remember how I've been telling you that I need to work on Chakrasana?  Well, I just did it - right there in the middle of practice, like I'd been doing it my whole life.  WTF?

When it came time for my new pose, Jodi helped me with Pasasana.  She had mentioned we would introduce it soon so I don't think it was a surprise for her.  Then my backbends were filled with S-P-A-C-E and ease.  After backbends, Jodi has me work on lifting up into handstand with both feet together and then she spots me while I tip over into a backbend.  This series of events is usually quite chaotic and the "lift" part is a bit misleading because it's more like a jump and throw.  However, on Thursday my jumps into handstand were controlled and beautiful.  Jodi couldn't believe my progress and frankly, neither could I.  I kept thinking to myself, "Who are you!?!?"

It was SUCH a terrific practice and I left floating on cloud nine.  And to think, I almost dumped that in lieu of lunch.  But WHY was that practice so stunning?  (I mean, let me clarify - it wasn't stunning in an I-look-just-like-Kino sort of way.  Not at all.  But it was stunning, relatively speaking, for ME.)  Anyway, I pondered this all night long and I think it comes down to this:  I worked really, really hard for those three days I spent with Kino.  While in London, there weren't many huge breakthroughs.  But despite feeling tired and rundown, I showed up, did the work, and kept myself open to absorbing as much as I possibly could.  I think these sorts of experiences are sort of like a fine wine.  You open the wine and you have to let it breathe for a little while.  You pour it into your glass and wait, perhaps swirling it around before allowing it to settle.  Then and only then, will all of the best parts of the wine be ready to consume.  I think the workshops are like that.  It takes a few days for all of that to settle in the best possible way into our being.  It was only after I had a chance to let the weekend's teachings marinate that I was able to finally let them come forth in the most beneficial way for me, personally.

I get that this is all rather esoteric, but I find myself continually intrigued by the practice of Ashtanga.  It's one of the things I love most about it.  You never know what adventure lies before you each day on the mat until you show up and begin.  Some days you think you feel great and then quickly realize your body doesn't have much to give.  Other days, it's the opposite.  And then every once in a while, there's a day that comes along unlike any other that makes you feel so grateful for your own strength and grace that you want to weep.  I guess that's what Thursday was.  And it's days like that - the chance at grabbing another one of those - that keep me showing up.

This morning was a lovely Vinyasa Flow class with one of my favorite teachers, Ashley.  We highlighted backbends, so you know I was in heaven!  Tomorrow and Sunday I'm back in Teacher Training - filled with gratitude - to be home, for this practice, and for my life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kino - Day Three

Can you see Mr. Ganesha peeking through the leaves?

Yesterday started with another sleepless night.  I swear I don't understand how I've managed to stave off a cold or something worse this long.  I thought my morning Mysore practice would be rotten, but it was just the opposite.  It felt steady and strong as I plodded along.  I accomplished all of the binds I usually get and then struggled with those that are usually a challenge.  Kino helped me bind Mari D, which is always a bit like torture, but it worked.

I carried on and she had me do Setu Bandhasana for the first time ever with no hands underneath my shoulders to steady me.  That's one I'll need to work on because it was quite precarious.  Then Kino gave me the first pose of Second Series!!!  I was so excited!  What a milestone and how meaningful to have it happen here, with her, as Kino was really my very first inspiration along this Ashtangic path.  And if that weren't enough, after assisting me with drop-backs following backbends, Kino had me first walk, then crawl my hands further in.  Guess what?!?!  I nearly touched the backs of my ankles!  OMG what an awesome feeling that practice left me with.  I can't tell you how badly I needed that as I've been feeling rather dejected lately.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience, but I'm not surprised because Kino's workshops always are.  This is quite possibly the WORST picture I've ever taken, but I try to be as real as I can be here - so you get the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But wait!  Just when you (and I) thought it couldn't get any worse, this picture shows me not only looking disheveled, sweaty, and exhausted but also slightly stunned?  Whatever.  I had to post it anyway because it's the only one I have of me and my friend Kevin.  We spent most of the day together and it was a treat to do so because Kevin lives in the UK and we never get to spend "real life" time with one another.  Kevin will be doing an intensive week with Kino in Copenhagen in a few weeks and I'm eager to read about his experience there.  See? It's not that crazy that I travel to London for a workshop when Kevin travels to Copenhagen.  I guess it's the allure of combining an awesome yoga experience with a trip.

I am ready to go home though.  For starters, I need to figure out if this no-sleeping thing is related to the jet lag or if my Hashimito's Disease is flaring up.  (Insomnia is a major symptom.). Then I have teacher training again next weekend and I have to get prepped for that.  Plus, most importantly,  I miss my husband dearly as well as Bentley and Theodore.  At least we have face time though.  Do any of you face time your pets when you're away, or is it just me?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kino - Day Two

Our morning class yesterday was Led Primary.  At home when I practice Led on Sundays, it takes Maria 1 hour, 30 minutes to get us through from start to finish.  Kino's Led - for the exact same sequence - takes a solid 2 hours.  As you can imagine, those holds seemed REALLY long!  I think it's good to mix things up every now and then though.

Our afternoon class was Intro. to Second Series.  Foolishly, I thought Kino would pick out a few key poses and we'd spend the majority of our time breaking those down.  Nope!  We plodded straight through - vinyasas and all!

We got through the twists in the center section before she mercifully called us into Savasana.  It was a long day.

Kino - Day One

Yesterday's first class was entitled "Ashtanga Immersion" and was largely billed for teachers and others wanting to deepen their practice.  I almost didn't sign up for this one because I committed long before my YogaWorks teacher training program came to be.  Boy, am I glad I took a chance though!

The entire day felt like a YW teacher training day back home.  There was lecture time, followed by space to experience various poses within our own bodies, then finally a wealth of opportunities to practice assisting on each other.  We broke down all of the movements of Surya A & B and went over them with a fine tooth comb.  So much - if not all - of the rest of the practice is built upon those first sun salutations.

Every time we practiced giving adjustments, Kino instructed us to find a new partner.  That was a terrific plan because it gave us the opportunity to work with a lot of different bodies and abilities.  I'm so grateful to have had this day to devote toward my teaching progress.

Kino spoke about the world needing more beginning level Ashtanga instructors.  She talked about her experience at the beginning of her Ashtanga life.  Random acquaintances became extremely interested in her yoga and many of them requested that she teach them.  She didn't feel ready and tried to guide those folks elsewhere, but they didn't want to go.  They didn't feel comfortable with an advanced teacher.  A wise friend counseled Kino that if it was going to be her or nothing, then she had a responsibility to teach them what she could.  Some yoga was better than none.  And so her teaching began.

Another point Kino made that I found personally relevant was with regard to hyper-extension of the elbows and knees in poses like Downward-Facing Dog.  I hyper-extend and I've always been told to micro-bend my joints in order to activate the muscles and not sit in the integrity of the joint.  Kino said the slight bend was actually causing a disruption in the pathway the energy would normally flow through you.  She suggested to instead externally rotate the shoulders while pressing down into the mounds of the index fingers and to internally rotate the legs while pressing down into the mounds of the big toes.  This would cause the muscles to pull your limbs into straight without needing to introduce the bend.  It's a subtle difference, I'm sure, but one I'm eager to try.  

I'm sorry to report that I just couldn't make it to Kino's evening class.  It didn't even start until 7:45 pm and was scheduled to run two hours.  My jet lag has been HORRIBLE and it's been a challenge to fall asleep by 2:30 am every night.  I feel as if I'm fighting off a cold, too, and I just didn't think it would be in my best interest to push myself that hard.  I'm sad the circumstances weren't different, but I feel good knowing that I listened to my body and my needs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hello, London!

The trip across the pond couldn't have been smoother.

Here's the lovely view from my room...

And you can just see Big Ben peeking out behind that building...

Sleeping, on the other hand, is a different story.  Despite my best efforts, I can't for the life of me doze off before 2:30 am.  Frustrating.  I'm loading up on vitamin C and echinacea though - trying to prevent a cold coming on, which usually happens when I'm exhausted and run down.  

I did go to a great flow class at Triyoga yesterday morning though...

And I'm determined not to let the grey skies and tiredness get me down.

Kino's first workshop starts this morning at 10:00!


Monday, August 12, 2013

London, Here I Come!

Tomorrow I board the plane for London.  
Kino's workshop starts Friday.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

This Week in Practice

I had a good week of practice.  No major breakthroughs but things felt consistently solid and strong.  That's a good place to be when staring down an intensive three days with Kino.  Have I mentioned I can't wait?!?!

I'm getting so close to balancing in Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand).  I think once I'm able to do that then balance in Handstand will follow.  I know I need to move away from the wall, but I haven't yet made the shift.  I have such a fear of falling over into a backbend, which is sort of ironic considering backbends are among my favorite poses.  The fear, I know, comes from an early attempt about a year ago to balance in the middle of the room.  I was using a strap around my arms at the time and when I felt myself going over, I sort of bailed out sideways.  The problem was that the strap prevented my arms from rotating with me and I managed to wrench my shoulder really badly.  I no longer practice with a strap but the fear persists.  Maybe I'll give it a go outside.  Something about the soft green grass feels more comforting if I should fall.

The other pose I continue to work on is Chakrasana (rolling back somersault).  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I manage a version of Chakrasana by bending my neck to the side while I roll over the opposite shoulder.  I've done it the correct way from sitting but I know I'm not using enough of my arm strength to get me up and over.  Without arm strength, the neck definitely bears too much weight and that's not a good thing.  The other difficulty with Chakrasana is that it's hard to break it down and do in slow-motion.  Again, maybe the lawn is my answer while I work out the specifics.

I found this video from Kino about building up to the full pose.  I'll be darned if her model doesn't make it look effortless in slow-motion.  Why are my attempts nowhere near that?

Alas, I'll keep trying.  All things worth having are worth working for.  I'll be immersed in Teacher Training all day today and tomorrow.  This weekend's focus is Inversions.  Yay!  It should be a fun...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Breast Healthy Deodorant

So after my breast cancer scare (which I touched on here), I resolved to find myself an all-natural deodorant.  This was something I'd been meaning to do for a while.  I mean, what good is it to roll on all of those chemicals day after day so close to the lymph nodes?  And even though they work well, antiperspirants do nothing but block the body's ability to release toxins through sweat.  Still, it wasn't until my health was at risk that I was really motivated to act.

So in search of another option, I stopped at Whole Foods and bought a few different candidates to try.  I wasn't expecting a miracle... my standards were really low.  I wanted something natural and without aluminum or parabens and that would work roughly half as well as my Secret solid.

The two I tried were terrible!  Not only did they not keep me smelling fresh, both were sticky and stayed that way all day long.  I couldn't bear it and I didn't want to waste any more money.  Reluctantly, I went back to Secret.

Then I happened to read a blog post by Megan of Damn Good Yoga.  She suggested the Crystal Stick (pictured above).  Both Megan and several of her commentors swear by it.  I wrote to ask Megan if it was at all sticky and she promised it was not, so back to Whole Foods I went to give it a try.

I'm telling you this stick thing is like some sort of miracle!  You moisten the stone (which sounds weird, but that's what they call it and that's what it feels like) and then apply it to your underarms.  It takes a little longer to dry than if it were just water but it does dry and it's not sticky in the slightest.  Great.  One test down.  Now how does it work?  I'll tell you... 

I used the Crystal Stick yesterday morning and then went to a REALLY sweaty Vinyasa Flow class at 4:30 that evening.  It was like I had just stepped out of the pool, I was so soaked.  Steve and I had an hour drive home and then a lot of chores and stuff to get done that evening.  Before I knew it, the time was past 10 pm and I tumbled into bed, too exhausted to shower.  (I know - TMI, perhaps, but I'm making a point and I don't do this often.)  Anyway, I got up this morning and had another million things to do.  I applied the stick again and then went racing off at 8:30 am to a second 1 1/2 hour sweaty flow practice.  Wanting to test this deodorant, I took a BIG whiff of my underarms when I got home and what do you think I smelled?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Not even a hint of bad odor.  That's something Secret couldn't even deliver!

I am now 100% beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt SOLD on the Crystal Stick.  I guess it works by neutralizing the bacteria that cause the body odors.  But whatever, I'm never going back.  Sorry Secret.  I love it when something is the best solution AND is good for you, at the same time!  Yay!  I'm so excited, I just had to share.  Let me know if you try it and give Megan a shout out, too, from me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Day at the Beach

I took a break from practice on Sunday
in order to give Bentley a day at the beach...

It was well worth the time spent off the mat.

Steve and I decided to go earlier in the day,
which meant we had the entire beach to ourselves save for a few fishermen.

As you can see, the coastal fog hadn't yet burned off
but we didn't mind one iota.

The closest beach that allows dogs off-leash is near Santa Barbara, so it's quite a trek from our house.  Hour-and-a-half-drive notwithstanding, it brings me such joy to give Bentley a day like this.  He's getting older now - 11 1/2 - and he's slowing down some, but I could tell his exuberance was all puppy.

 These are the moments that make life matter, don't you think?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bits of This and That

This summer seems to be slipping through my fingers.  Can it truly be that the last time I posted was July 19?  Now we are firmly into August.  Where did the rest of that month go?

Part of it, I know, went to Teacher Training.  Our last intensive weekend focused on Surya Namaskara.  Thanks to Ashtanga, SNA and SNB are two sequences I feel infinitely comfortable with.  Surya Namaskara C, on the other hand, is a whole different monkey.  I'm still not sure what to make of it.  Just now I tried to do a quick search to find something worthy to link to with regard to C, but I'm not finding anything that suits me.  There are a few that get the gist of it, but I'm not finding many that explain the knees-chest-chin component that well.  Nor the return through that to Downward-Facing Dog.  I'll keep looking and get back to you. 

I also had a birthday during the later part of July and I think that usurped some of my sense of "time as plentiful", too.  43 now, thank you very much.  I'm really proud that I am still making gains every day in my practice.  I've heard other yogis and yoginis talk about the 40's and 50's as being too old to start.  WTF?  Glad I'm too old to believe them.  They're probably all 20-year-olds anyway, so what do they know.

I'm feeling sassy today, can you tell?

I swear, I've started a million blog posts in my head and I just haven't had the moments I need to sit down and hammer them out on the computer.  I plan to do better though.  This post is sort of all over the place, but you'll forgive me for that, I know.

I was working on my TT reading homework yesterday, "Light on Yoga" by Iyengar.  In the introduction, he claims the Siva Samhita breaks down yoga pupils into four classes:  feeble, average, superior, and the supreme one.  If I classify myself as a feeble seeker, Iyengar claims I can reach enlightenment in 12 years.  Cool.  And who knows?  Maybe I'm even "average"?  He doesn't give a time limit for the average peeps but he does say the superior ones can get there in 6 years.  So (giving myself a little credit) maybe if I'm average, I could hope for 9 years or so.? Thanks.  Glad we cleared that up.  I like well-defined goals when I strive for samadhi.

I think that's enough for a Saturday afternoon.  Tomorrow I'm taking the day off from practice and we're treating Bentley to a day at the beach.  I'll take pictures.  And it couldn't come at a better time, either.  I've been practicing for about a week and a half straight and I'm starting to feel achey.  My joints need the break.

Oh!  Good news, too!  I'm going to be traveling to London soon to take a series of workshops with Kino at TriYoga.  I cannot wait!  For sure I'll be posting about that, so stay tuned.