The Not-So-Incredible Human PEZ Dispenser

Earlier this week my teacher stopped me in Kapotasana. After handing me a yoga block to place between my upper legs, she asked me to internally rotate my thighs so that the inner aspect of them moved back (posteriorly) and up (superiorly). If done correctly, the effect would transform me into a Human PEZ Dispenser.

I gave it a try and the block moved forward instead of back. She had me try again. [Nothing] She stood there and watched with disappointment on her face – or so it seemed. “Notice where you go, or what your mind is saying, when you get frustrated?”, she said. Oh, believe me, I was well aware of where my mind had taken me. I held back my tears and tried to come back to my breath…and the task-at-hand.

Over the next couple of days, I tried to turn “I CAN’T” into “I CAN” by visualizing myself as The Human PEZ Dispenser. Although I didn’t notice if I was dispensing anything, I did not have any trouble noticing that my backbends were lacking their usual bend-ability. Nonetheless, I kept up my efforts and am definitely noticing something happening. Yes, indeed… I AM SORE!!

I am pretty sure something will come of this. Something good even. And before long, there will be yet another opportunity to work through the energy and frustration of trying to overcome some other seemingly impossible task. It’s good.

Because that’s a lot like what life is like lately.

Never say NEVER

The thing about “never” is that the letter “n” often falls away and gets lost. I remember looking over at someone working on Kapotasana (an intense backbend from the second series of the ashtanga practice) and thought “I’ll never do that pose. NEVER.”

And that’s how it was for a while.

Until one day, NEVER became EVER…and I began working on the pose day after day. I’m still doing the work to master the pose. In the meantime, I’ve been given other poses to work on.

IMG_3753Most recently, I’ve been trying to sit up straight after putting one leg behind my head in a pose called Eka Pada Sirsasana. Some days, I can it’s all I can do to bring my foot to my ear. Other times, I can manage something about like this. It’s come a long way but it still feels next to impossible to pull the entire pose off. My back needs to be straighter and I think my knee should be pointing more to the side rather than back.

I am supposed to fold forward and grasp the foot on my outstretched leg after this, hold that for 5 breaths, sit back up straight, then place both hands down by my stiffness, inhale to lift the extended leg up towards the sky, and exit out by swinging both legs down and to the side into a sort of side crow like hover before landing in plank.

It’s hard work and different every day. I love it and I hate it. And I feel like I am NEVER going to nail it. But…I am also looking forward to the day when the “N” finally takes a hike and the pose happens more often than not. Until then… I just practice.


This morning, I was awakened by my eldest son’s alarm clock at 3:30 am. Unfortunately, my neck and shoulder were rather unhappy with my sleeping pattern; the discomfort made it impossible to return to sleep. I finally gave in, went downstairs for my shot of espresso, and returned to the warmth of my bed to sit and sip for a while. By 4:15am, I was wide away and retreated to the hot shower with hopes that the heat would relax my body a bit. I was on my mat a short time later.

Other than the random give-my-body-what-it-wants flow, it’s been a long while since I’ve had to do my daily Ashtanga practice completely on my own. I never would have guessed that having a room full of other yogis practicing at their own pace would be so motivating, but it is!

Of course, I wasn’t completely alone. Our dog, Simba camped out along side my mat for the entire 110 minutes. Being the wildly energetic dog that he is, it’s funny to see him lying there so sedate, patiently waiting for me to finish my practice.

I completed most of my regular practice but did not feel ready to take on kapotasana or eka pada sirsasana today so I stopped there and moved to backbends and closing. I finished just as my youngest alarm was nudging him to get out of bed. All and all, not too bad a for a Friday morning.

I may be seriously tired by the end of today but I am so happy that I didn’t forego my practice for more sleep. Tomorrow, I can rest…a little. 

samskaras, blocks and sweaty washcloths

I have often likened my mat as similar to the square of carpet my pre-school aged son worked his “jobs” during his Montessori-style education. Sitting on the floor with carpets side by side, the preschoolers learned in a kinesthetic way by manipulating beans, beads, little colored blocks and the latter to workout their problems within the confines of their little carpeted square. They weren’t just learning math and language skills; they were learning about personal space.

I do the same sort of exercise on my mat each morning. I roll out my mat in a straight line with the others, not too close and not to far away, and perfectly lined up with the grain of the wood floor beneath me. I line up my props along the front or back edge of my mat (not both) so as not to take up too much space. I am careful to keep my extremities within the confines of my designated space, and I am cautious to keep my moans, groans, and thoughts to myself as much as I am able. Cognizant of others so as not to collide in the empty space between the mats during transitions. I try.

All good. Right?

Well, here’s the rub. I expect the same of others — without ever telling them. I just expect them to know. Like the preschoolers, I expect that everyone is operating under the same rules. Which might make sense, except these are my rules (not the rules of the room).

When my one of my peers has placed their block off their mat so that it doesn’t interfere with their asana, yet it now interferes with mine, I’m a little annoyed. It’s that space in between, where arms reach around to bind in the Maris or clasped hands extend towards the floor in Prasarita Padottanasana C that were talking about. One might think of the space as unused space but is really a shared space that requires negotiation via staggering or timed entry and exit.

Of course, these are my guidelines — not theirs.  Put another way: these are my samskaras. Therefore they are mine to work out, just like the rest of my practice is mine to work through.

And supposing these spacial samskaras stem from a bad case of middle-child-syndrome woe’d with hand-me-downs, the top-bunk, leftovers, and never being heard. That too is my problem; not my fellow ashtangis. If anything, it all adds texture to the exercise of me working through it. Every block in, sweat-soaked wash cloth, and foot in my way is a gift for me to work through it. For this, I should be grateful.

Moon Day Pampering

Since last March, I’ve been trying to attend to my body’s needs in the way of regular massages. In doing this, I have been able to see the chiropractor a lot less.

FullSizeRenderJana, my amazing body worker has been away since December cooking amazing ayuvedic specialties to a bunch of her lovelies in Hawaii, then off to lead a retreat and attend to her own needs in Bali.

Thrilled to have her back in town, I nabbed the first spot I could get for some much needed moon day pampering.

It was a sweet surprise to climb up onto the heated table, put my head into the cradle and see this special little nicety that she left under the massage table.

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