Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ladies' holiday...

...but now I'm back to doing yoga, finally, even if it was on a full moon. Practice was somewhat weak; my right knee is still incredibly uncooperative. It got stronger towards the end; the energy 'bridge' in Purvattanasana and Setu Bandhasana was much stronger. Almost cried in closing. Standing up from backbends I had a blood-rushing-to-head-can't-breathe panic for a minute and sat down to try and center up. Must have looked a lot worse than it felt, because walking past Miyagi tapped my head and said, "You all right, Daniel-san?"
It's been a long week.
Earlier this weekend, I had a long conversation with Miyagi in which there was much philosophic frustration (I believe it ended in, "Well, what's REAL, anyway?!") and half-shouting. My head's still spinning from all that, and it was two days ago; we'll see if it makes sense later. Directly after that conversation I spent fifteen minutes attempting my first seated meditation, which was a carnival ride. Today I read the Bhagavad Gita. Still mulling.

The Sunrise Ruby

In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.
She asks, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”
He says, “There’s nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight.”
This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!
The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.


Sunday, December 23, 2012


“One becomes firmly established in practice only after attending to it for a long time, without interruption and with an attitude of devotion.”
 - Yoga Sutra I.14

Better, worse, or weirder...

Practice has been sporadic again recently - Thanksgiving, finals, impending Christmas doings. But I practiced in the 12:30 room today: only five of us, all self-practice. Today practice and I had a fight; practice was vicious and I was angry. Funny, that language. "It's out to get me!" My body didn't cooperate, mostly; unstable, no core strength. My right hip gave some, which was interesting, but not consistent. We're working further into my hip, further back.
I could get up into handstand but couldn't stay up; I fell over in headstand and fell dropping back. Miyagi says Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana are coming, though I can't tell; he says he can see it and I believe him. Marichyasana A had weird hip stuff today.
I really didn't want a crack-me-open practice, not today, but it just kept hammering away. I got to Baddha Konasana and was pushing hard, purposefully, bulling my way into the pain with a sort of, "I hope you get hurt, you stupid body, it would serve you right," sort of feeling - I observed this, realized what was happening, and stopped right there. None of that - not here, not today. Catharsis, sure. Intentional harm no. Went straight to backbends and closing series.
I feel like I'm in a holding pattern right now, the edge of an opening. A year in (maybe a little less?). I can do every pose in primary, at least in a modified fashion. On a really phenomenal day I can sail through everything but the Kurmasanas, no problem. Most days, practice is a mess - not neat, not clean, not pretty, not fun, and doesn't always feel good. More recently there's been a lot of anger and some hardened-up tears. Weird bodily sensations. "Yoga gets better, worse, or weirder," Miyagi says.
The thing, I think, has been that practice and I have established our own relationship. A thing that we do, a place and time, a history. There's lineage, of course, the teacher-student connection; Miyagi has become a friend as well as a teacher - but the real relationship is between me and practice. There's love and devotion there. A home.


[From late November.]

Tuesday was a moon day, and I was glad.
Wednesday was not a moon day. I did almost half of primary, and practice kinda sucked.
Thursday I woke up, looked at my alarm clock,  thought for a minute, and rolled over and went back to sleep.
Yesterday I went to practice, and it was hard. My concentration was pretty much nonexistent, my body was stiff and grumbly (although I did get the first pushed-deeper adjustment in Prasarita Padottasana c in a week or so - and didn't die! Yay!) , and for the first time I can remember I got mad during practice. Not frustrated-I-can't-get-this-pose-today mad - actually angry. I'm still trying to process this.
I have a muscle deep in the rear part of my hip (we think it's my piriformis) that aches almost constantly. It was really acting up yesterday, and a deep lotus is one of the few things that can get into it. So, even though I'm trying to be careful of my knees, I was putting myself into a full lotus for Garbha Pindasana. It was taking a minute and Miyagi looked over and said, "Bad lady, why forcing lotus?"
At the same time, I finally got my foot over my shin and into the lotus, and said, "Ha!" in satisfaction. He laughed a little and shook his head and said somewhat reprovingly, "You're one of those people who thinks you get points."
I was mad. 
I wasn't trying to get points.
("Am I the kind of person who tries to get points?")
I was trying to get my butt to stop hurting.
My feelings were kind of hurt.
But mostly I was just quietly pissed.
And there I found focus - zooming tightlipped through postures, razor-gazed on a point in the distance. I got to Savasana.  And then I started thinking, and I almost started to cry. It wasn't the reprimand, and the anger wasn't even really about the reprimand.
Just sad and angry. 

Monday, November 12, 2012


I think that's what the universe has decided on for my next lesson.
My family is entering the leanest month of our year. I just found out that I'm going to have to withdraw from a college class if I don't want an unacceptably low grade. I spent a class falling out of postures during practice tonight in the room of a teacher I'm not terribly comfortable with.
I'm not so good with failure.
I was thinking about this during practice tonight - how I feel so much less secure in this teacher's space, how I feel almost arrogantly certain in Miyagi's. How I feel secure in my status. And then I was's a fucking yoga room. My status? What status? We don't do that here. No points.
Something to work on. I was disappointed in myself when I realized that I probably seem like I'm shooting new people dirty looks and ignoring other practitioners. I don't mean to come off like that but I think sometimes I do. It's not supposed to be like that.
Every time I think I'm getting somewhere, I get a reality check. Sure I'm becoming more and more competent at poses. So what. If it doesn't take me on the mental journey, who cares? I'm not doing this in order to be able to put my foot behind my head. I'm doing it because of what getting to the point of being able to put my foot behind my head will teach me.

(Practice tonight was mostly this. Moon day tommorrow. Lack of solidity and groundedness today -  it was weird, feeling weightless and indistinct. Practice, day to day. I think primary's getting faster - not that it really matters, but it is convenient. Getting through it feels so good now, no matter when/how/how long I do it. The mat is truly beginning to feel like home.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Out of Body

I didn't practice on Saturday, as prescribed, but I did today. I don't have a whole lot to say about it - it was one of those gorgeous, glorious practices where it slips past, breath to breath, and all you can say about it after is, "Stuff happened." Including another out-of-body Savasana where I wasn't asleep but I sure as hell wasn't in the practice room.
It was good.
I've been thinking about these lyrics from Epica in We Will Take You With Us - I'm not sure how they relate (as J. D. Salinger said, "I'm not sure what I mean, but I mean it,") but they seemed attached to practice today.

religious inventions
to give their lives a glimmer of hope
and to ease their fear
of dying. 

I think it's partially that I've heard people ask, 'what's the point of yoga, enlightenment?' as if sneering. For me, yoga has been learning to sit with things without fear - simply allowing them to exist, and myself to exist, and all to be still. I always want to turn to the people who ask that question and say, No. The point of yoga is to be able to sit with the fact that some day you will die - that everyone and everything you love will one day be gone, and if you remain at all, you will be alone. It is learning to sit with that knowledge without dissolving in mindless fear. I don't know if that's what it really is, at least in a larger sense, but for me, that's part of it. Yoga is about learning to face things with quiet courage and, moment to moment, push in deeper. Ha: I can end with yet another Dune nugget.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over and through me.
And when it has gone I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing...
only I will remain.

This is yoga.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Six-Day Practice.

I made notes yesterday, but I never got them posted. So. Two days at once!

November 8, 2012

I only got in about 45 minutes today - suryas and closing series. I got up late. So I mostly focused on working the breath aspect. I'm getting into the groove faster and faster as I move through suryas - my body is way more supple than it used to be. A year ago I never would have thought I could just haul my legs into Padmasana mostly cold, and not have it hurt. But that happened this morning. All things are possible. Speaking of Padmasana, in the first of the final three poses, I got the strangest sensation - kind of like the feeling you get from giggling hysterically, but bubbling out of my hips. I sat there and breathed through it and just let it come, but it was weird.
I'm teaching a lit class and found some quotes that reminded me of things I've been reading in the different yoga texts that Miyagi's been giving me.

"To understand how this came about, you must first understand the enormous single-mindedness, the innocence with which he approached any problem. He was not naive, he merely permitted himself no distractions. He wasn't brave; he merely had that singlemindedness and caution. ...It became apparent to them that he was not a madman totally, just mad enough to be holy."

"When will we solve this? [they] asked. When will we see [this place] as a paradise?
In the manner of a teacher answering a child who has asked the sum of two plus two [he] told them, 'From three to five hundred years.' 
A lesser fold might have howled in dismay. But they had learned patience...  It was a bit longer than they had anticipated, but they could all see that the day was coming. They tightened their sashes and went back to work." 

There's even yoga in Dune. 

November 9, 2012

I slept in today and went to the second class at ten. Practiced for an hour plus; got up through Garbha Pindasana to ..the one right after it, whose name I have forgotten. So much is happening in my hips. They're opening up, stretching, flattening almost -as if rolling outwards. So much feeling.
I'm sore through my hips - there's been a deep opening beginning, and Miyagi's helping it along ("Bad lady, no escaping!" *SQUISH*) - and the muscle we think is my piriformis is really hurting me tonight. RAWR. It's not sharp-pain, it's achy and grumbly and makes me want to never leave the tub. Rotten muscles.
I've switched almost exclusively to a vegetarian diet (which really means mostly all I've eaten is apples, peanut butter, nuts, broccoli, cheese, ice cream and pumpkin bread) and I'm having all sorts of weird cravings. Like, seriously, guys, I haven't had barley since I was eight. Why am I craving it like it's candy? And while I've never actively disliked rice I don't crave it. WTF?
Also, though less omnipresent, I'm craving dairy foods (the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that this is a thing?).  And I'm having a hard time eating raw food without something to buffer it. Every time I drink soda I get ridiculous bubbly burps for half an hour, that's weird and new. Where my appetite is has changed, too. I'm starving in the morning after practice - I want to eat ALL THE THINGS. Around lunch the same sort of thing happens, and then I get somewhat munchy around 6, give or take. And then nothing (which is strange, because I'm used to eating at 10, 2, and 11 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner respectively. It's like five days of practice suddenly inverted my appetite and reset my sleeping schedule - I hit 7 at night and CRASH. I can sometimes nap and then manage til 12, but at 9 or 10 I'm wilting again. My body clock is far stronger and a great deal more regular.
Also: I don't know if this is yoga-related, but my senses of smell and taste are extremely keen this week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Like a computer...

I was reading some notes transcribed by this lady from a conference with Sharath, and found this quote. It made me smile.

"Yoga is a very powerful tool – we  need to know how to use it then many things can happen. Like with an Apple computer, if you know how to use it then you can do miracles; if you don’t know how to use it then you can blow up the  computer. Yoga is also like that."

Deepening the Practice

I've always processed things through words.

My teacher (hereafter referred to as Miyagi, for reasons that will later be explained) is always telling me to write things down when I discover them, to keep a record. Ashtanga is a life practice.

A few months ago my yoga studio determined that we had a large enough Ashtanga community to begin offering a self-practice room five days a week from six to eight each morning, in addition to the weekend led classes. I had said I would be interested, but life happened and I only made it to morning classes a few times. A combination of reading material, body grumblings, teacher scolding, and daylight savings time made me decide to commit to the jump - a six-day practice. So, with the help of an ungodly amount of hot chocolate, I started getting up at six last week, and although I missed Monday this week I got up (swith the help of hot chocolate, of course) and practiced yesterday and today. And I've noticed so many small things even just comparing two days in a row.
So, in the interest of deepening my practice, I'm going to write practice notes - hopefully daily - and blog them.

Maybe I'll learn something.

Today I did full primary in about an hour and a half - pretty standard for me. Miyagi popped up a couple times to give me adjustments: "Hey, do you need help? Psst!....DANIEL-SAN!"

My shoulders are sore from Supta Kurmasana, which I've only really started delving in to over the past week or so, so the soreness has kinda been ongoing recently. Beginning stiffness was so much less today than it has been in the past; by my second Surya A I was moving easily. I couldn't do standing-hand-to-big-toe to save my life today, but that's all right. Not sure whether it was because fellow practitioners had weird spots in practice or because I had subsurface stuff going on but I had to ground a lot more than usual. I also didn't get my head down as far as usual in the four wide-legged forward folds in standing series but when I got to the seated equivalent in the late half of practice my hips felt incredibly stretchy -bouncy, almost. So I got down really, really far. It felt fantastic. My back wasn't super flexible today, so I pushed up but didn't drop back. I got really weird feelings in Savasana today, of the hovering-six-inches-above-your-body variety. Could work my eyes but not my hands when I was ready to come out of it so I had to blink and then get my mouth working and then finally could get my hands to move before I could get up. That sort of ' do I get back up?!' feeling hasn't happened in a while. So yeah - it was good. I can't wait to go back tomorrow. I want my hips to stop grouching at me.

As Guruji was known to say, yoga is 99% practice - 1% theory. You cannot wait for your practice to arrive. You must go to it. With delight, or for comfort; for answers to the questions, or  for the questions themselves. Practice is not (entirely) something you do. Practice is a place at which you arrive. And to get there, you have to show up.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Why fear you?"

I've been working on a couple fear-intensive poses in my yoga practice recently: jumping into handstands by myself, dropping back into a backbend from standing. It's a funny feeling to intellectually know the ground is only six or seven inches away, and if you would just reach out and put your hands down, you could touch. But fear is a visceral thing. Your body starts freaking out, setting off red lights and screaming, "You're going to fall on your head! YOUR HEAD IS IMPORTANT STOP NOW."
I'm not going to fall on my head, of course. And even if I did fall on my head - it's not that bad. I've done it before and my skull isn't any worse for the wear. I am physically capable of dropping over backwards and putting my hands on the ground.
But I almost never do.
I wait til a teacher will come, stand, and pretend to anchor me so my head can justify diving over backwards.
I never realized before how much our heads could get in the way of things we're perfectly capable of doing. Think before you act isn't always the best policy. Periodically, my teacher will call across the room, "You! Do [crazy thing that I've never tried before] there!"
There are two reactions to this: one, which is what usually happens, is that I stop, try and process what he's saying intellectually, and wind up going, "..Huh?" and completely miss the point. Two: I don't try and understand what he's saying, and I trust he can see what my body is capable of and just do it. Almost always, with this second approach, I end up doing something I never expected myself to be capable of. Like Nike says - just do it.
My yoga teacher is a pretty wise guy. He asks good questions. And the one I keep getting lately, especially when I pop back up from a more-than-adequate hang back without touching the floor, is:

  "Why fear you?" 
 (He talks like Yoda when dispensing wisdom.) 

It applies to more than yoga.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Just twelve seconds.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

- Pablo Neruda

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gary Snyder - What You Should Know To Be A Poet

all you can about animals as persons.
the names of trees and flowers and weeds.
names of stars, and the movements of the planets
                        and the moon.

your own six senses, with a watchful and elegant mind.

at least one kind of traditional magic:
divination, astrology, the book of changes, the tarot;

the illusory demons and illusory shining gods;

kiss the ass of the devil and eat shit;
fuck his horny barbed cock,
fuck the hag,
and all the celestial angels
                              and maidens perfum'd and golden–

& then love the human: wives     husbands     and friends.

children's games, comic books, bubble-gum,
the weirdness of television and advertising.

work, long dry hours of dull work swallowed and accepted
and livd with and finally lovd. exhaustion,
                              hunger, rest.

the wild freedom of the dance, extasy
silent solitary illumination, entasy

real danger.     gambles.     and the edge of death.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And little Sir John and the nut-brown bowl proved the strongest man at last...

Today is a holiday for us pagans - the festival of first fruits, the beginning of the harvest. This year it falls on a full moon. I've only recently begun building my own small rituals, and I'm not very good at them, to be honest. It's hard, sometimes - I always feel the need to be sure of my way. I don't know what I really think in terms of theology. I know that many things have the ring of truth to them, and I find real wisdom in the wheel of the year and the turn of the seasons. I don't always know what to think about higher beings, life and death, and how the world works. But my harvest, for this year - the fruits of all the seeds planted over the past months, especially this spring and summer - is learning to sit with things. I don't have to agree or disagree. The idea doesn't have to be right or wrong. I simply have to be able to sit with it and breathe until my sensations of fear or dislike disappear and I can simply see the thing for what it is, not my feelings and theories about it.
I don't have my theology all hammered out. I don't have the universe reconciled. I don't have my goals accomplished, my life laid out, my gods known, my paths straight ahead.
 But tonight I lit candles, made cornbread, and shared an apple with the listening silence and my garden. And that, my friends, is the richness of this religion - simplicity, strength, and the time-honored echoes of the worn way. You can feel your way along such a path. All you need is a belief in this world and the rhythms of this universe. All else follows from that.

Look - look at where you are.
The scent of mint and honey rises up from all the earth;
its sweetness drifts on the many pathways of light,
whispering: my beloved...
Who could put eternity between us and this ground?
I am dark, but lovely, says an old, old song;
and all the flowers are in bloom.
How can you believe this world is only a trial of the soul?
Awakening does not mean going away.
We are made of sacred earth -
and here, amidst the saffron and the lilies -
this is our paradise.
See what this is. 

(c) AME 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Yoga

"When we give something space we are practicing the physiology of kindness, offering the structure of compassion. [We are] giving respect to whatever the object is, and honoring the place this object has come out of. As we pay attention to something that is arising in this way, we create...a metaphorical burning, an awakening to what is really happening within the mind. There is often a sense of discomfort, a desire to squirm away from the situation because it is so authentic; it is as if the border of life is being eaten away by fire. ...It is important to remember that the process of yoga is the observation of what is, not the reduction of what is to our theory about it, or to our images of what we would like it to be."

- Richard Freeman

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Art of Magick

"Magic: a collection of rule-of-thumb techniques designed to get whichever [metaphysical] talents you possess to do more or less what you want them to do more often than not - you hope."
 - Isaac Bonewits

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. [Rainer Maria Rilke]


 It's been eighty or so for a couple weeks near me. And my seeds are either sprouting or getting ready to be planted. And I'm happy. I've been running around almost-barefoot. And I'm so excited about what I'm going to grow. Blue jade corn! Kaleidescope carrots! Fractal broccoli! (I've been driving everyone I know crazy rejoicing over this broccoli, which, by the way, is sprouting merrily as I speak.)
 And nasturtiums. Which might not otherwise be notable, but they're the first batch of seeds I'd ever saved, so they're special to me. (Awwwwww.)
This last month has been my favorite so far this year. I work as an apprentice gardener. Last fall I planted 350 bulbs, and I've been waiting impatiently all winter to see that amount to something. And guess what? NOW THERE ARE TULIPS EVERYWHERE. Red, fuschia, rose, peach, yellow, orange, orange and yellow, peach and yellow, white. It was definitely worth it. The magnolias have bloomed, and the million pounds of petals the one tree I have to clean up after dropped have been stowed away and begun rotting. The myrtle and mint are growing, and the yard is full of violets, dandelions and accidental hyacinths.
Spring is here.

In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
 ~ Margaret Atwood