Mat Manners



By now, you all have probably noticed that practicing at home has its pros and cons. For me, not having to pack up all of my work clothes, lunch, and other items needed for the rest of the day, coupled with not having to navigate the morning commute, is a HUGE plus. Accountability and discipline are a must to keep me coming to my mat day after day. I don’t always feel it, but I do it anyway. When it is all said and done, I am ALWAYS glad that I did.

Connecting to my community via zoom helps as well. After the laptop incident, I don’t dare use my laptop for the connection. Instead, I use my phone. I can’t see everyone at once, but I can hear the breath, voices, and comments while I am on my mat. It’s not the same as being in the room with them, but similar in a way. What I mean is, you aren’t supposed to be looking around, listening in on everyone else’s practice – but knowing you all are in it together in the collective flow is really powerful.

Then, there is my new puppy…

Kobe has been with us for five weeks now. From Day 1, I have made an effort to let him be with me during my practice. To be honest (or frank), I don’t really have a choice. In the beginning, he woke rather early, and had already gotten some rigorous play time before I rolled out my mat. So, usually, he fell back to sleep shortly after my standing poses were complete. Now that he is sleeping through the night, he wakes at the start of Mysore and is fully charged from a full night of sleep. And he wants to PLAY!

Monday being a moon day, I incorporated puppy play into my mini practice. In hind sight, this may have been a mistake. For on Tuesday, he repeatedly brought me the toy I had played tug-o-war with during practice the day before. Only NOW, I didn’t want to play. He and his toy were repeatedly put in my practice space only to be ignored. Young Kobe persisted, tugging on my ponytail, licking my face when I was in the most vulnerable of poses (i.e. kapotasana, supta vajrasana). I struggled, feeling guilty for ignoring him while desperate to not lose my practice.

On Wednesday, I begin again. I am determined to teach my pup some mat manners. He climbs on my mat as soon as I roll it out. “No. No.” I say, picking him up and moving him.

Off the mat.”

It quickly becomes a game. I try to hold both my composure and my ground. A part of me wishes that I wasn’t on zoom for all to see my struggle. The other part of me doesn’t care, confident that my peeps (who are both my peers and my students) don’t care. The practice continues. I use the gate intermittently to create some physical separation (hoping to better illustrate the command). The familiar potty whine comes. We take it outdoors. Then go back inside only to find that Simba (our 9 year old dog) has joined the party.

I am on the verge of tears and just about ready to throw in the towel, when Kobe lies down for a nap. I finish up my practice to get ready for my first meeting of the day…thankful for having not gave up.

the dog ate my…



When I was a kid, we used to joke at the foolish sounding excuse “the dog ate my homework” – until we were in a place where that was our only excuse. Come on, be honest, at one time or another you too were probably in a situation where your dog ruined your ability to turn in an assignment. For me, I believe my dog actually pee’d on my notebook. For my youngest son, well our dog actually chewed up the textbook. I hadn’t actually thought about the dog excuse until last week when…

My dog ate my laptop.”

Okay, okay. I am exaggerating; he barely put an indent on the glass screen. But, within minutes of the incident, my entire screen went black.

Until COVID-19, I never would have imagined leaving my laptop computer on the floor and look away for even a second – especially with a new puppy around. Yet, practicing yoga via zoom has been the new norm for 4 months now. Young Kobe has been in the room with me and my computer for 3+ weeks with incidents only of another nature.

I’m a fool, I guess. For I somehow pictured being able to have my pup and practice too. I didn’t foresee my oldest son (the other earlier riser in the family) suddenly feeling independent enough to move out. It’s all good but my practice has changed considerably.

If you catch a glimpse or two of my yoga practice these days, I hope that you are not too distracted by it all.  If you wonder why I even bother to practice while my puppy is in the room with me, it is because it is my only option. As to why I join the zoom, the reason will vary depending on when you ask me. On some days, I will tell you that in doing so I am still held accountable to at least try to maintain some sort of yoga practice. Other days, I may tell you that I am doing it to support my fellow teachers and community or it is an attempt to show the pup the routine – with the hopes that he will co-exist with it in time (hopefully not TOO much time).

Anyway, suffice to say that my world has turned upside down once again. Nonetheless, I still hope to eek out some videos now and again for you. In fact, I recorded and posted one just before the laptop incident – even though I am headless for much of the standing portion. There is another (post-incident) video on my phone which will be processed in uploaded once I have my laptop back from repairs.

 

modifications



My asana practice feels like it is getting eaten up by tiny but sharp little teeth. And my home is in danger of the same. Sleep? Well, that falls into the same category.

We woke just after 5 am. This was a nice change from the pattern we have been on this past week. However, the shift in Kobe’s sleep-wake cycle means his naps shift as well. So, I did my surya namaskars and half of the standing poses in the backyard while he did his morning elimination and outdoor exploration. The stakes were raised in utthita hasta padangusthasana, which has never easy for me, as he curled up beside my standing leg. We did primary series today as I feel the need for more grounding these days. Although, I did add in some intermediate when I thought I could get away with a little more practice time (now on zoom with my sangha).

Tummy down backbends around a sharp-toothed canine (no matter how small) are risky business. It seems that Kobe is less interested in the sounds coming from the computer now that he is used to the routine. As a result, the excitement of my fingers and toes finally being at mouth level is rather exciting to this young fellow. I navigate carefully, and take it outside at the start of the all-to-familiar whine at the screen door.

At some point, it feels like it is time to wrap it up: like I am either risking full destruction of my home-sweet-home OR being a bad puppy owner. Neither are true; I am just worn out already. So I move to the closing part of the practice and then, it seems, Kobe does too. He is still in savasana on my mat.

I am making modifications, trying to let go of the attachment to my normal routine, and enjoying moments like this — when this little biting whirlwind of a cutie is quietly resting. I guess this is why puppies are so cute.

Breath and Privilege



Like so many others, I am wrestling with everything that has been going on in the world today. This post is meant as a means to open up a dialogue and, hopefully, improve upon the SILENCE

Each morning, I wake up and (since we are still distancing from one another) make my way to my yoga mat for my morning yoga practice. While I have always been aware that it is privilege to practice yoga, and to teach it, I have never been so acutely aware of just how much privilege I am blessed with until now.

I am not alone when I say that the breath has always been at the heart of the practice. In yoga, we cue the breath, “ekam. inhale…”, listen to it, move to it, and watch it. It’s not just important; it is essential. 

This post isn’t about yoga. It is about racism, injustice, murder, anger, and no longer accepting the way things are. But, I am still learning. On one hand, I feel that my voice is not the voice that needs to be heard right now. Now, it is my turn to listen, read, re-post, and help amplify the voices that support the Black Lives Matter movement and work to put an end to racism. Yet, silence isn’t the answer either.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr

If I am being honest, as I do the work of trying to educate myself on concepts such as white supremacy and white privilege, I struggle in placing myself as “white.” Like an elaborate recipe, I have a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Growing up, I quickly learned that a pinch “don’t mean sh!t.” At least, according to the hispanic girl who followed me around in middle school threatening to kill me. Instead the widespread inclusion that I envisioned, the result of my genetic melting-pot was a widespread othering. But that was in the 70s, and times have changed — for some that is.

In a statement following the harrowing death of George Floyd, Michelle Obama notes how race and racism has been a reality that so many of us grew up learning to “just deal with.”

But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it. It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”

It is now 2020 and I am a grown woman recognizing that I have indeed been given the privilege of a white middle-class woman….and I can use this privilege to be an ally to support the end to the injustice, inequality, and hate. You can too! 

Please know that I am still navigating this myself. Just begin the process with whatever calls to you. Use whatever talents you have in support of change, like this amazing artist I recently discovered on Instagram. Sign petitions, donate to organizations that support any aspect of change that resonates with you, attend a protest, make a sign for your window, post to social media, support black owned businesses, VOTE… 

$#!^ Happens



A couple of weeks ago, I attended a weekend of yoga workshops. Of course, as is the case over the past few months of SIP, my attendance was virtual via ZOOM. The teacher of this workshop series was more of a traditionalist, following the “rules” of advancement in the practice with much more rigor than my teacher (or any of the teachers I have practiced with). To be frank, I don’t know if I would still be practicing ashtanga yoga if he were my teacher. That said, I did take his “encouragement” to heart where my lack of persistence in mastering (in the truer sense) all of the poses that I have been given has resulted in a longer list of IOUs than I would care to admit. In fact, the process of recording my practice for my YouTube channel has highlighted these less-than-perfect transitions (namely the jump-backs and jump-throughs).

When I asked him about the specific muscle engagement/firing required to lift my leg to my outstretched hand in poses such as utthita hasta padangusthasana and vishyamitrasana, I didn’t hear the answer I was looking for. Earlier in the week, my chiropractor and I had discussed the differences in muscle activation required to access movement in the various zones of a particular movement such as this. In my case, I can lift from the floor to level with my pelvis. I lack the necessary muscle activation to create movement from pelvis to face. Yet, I have some activation from the face upward. Then boundaries in my range of motion, within this region, being the limiting factor in this zone.

While the yoga teacher’s reminder to try harder and with more consistently was taken to heart, I know that this doesn’t work for every situation or person. This was also discussed at length with my chiropractor with whom I have conversations such as this with because, as a trained nurse, we can speak the same language more or less. In my case, my struggle with balancing on one leg limits my ability to work on this as much as I would have liked over the years. My teachers always focused on the fact that utthita hasta padangusthasana is meant to be a balance pose. Therefore, I never worried so much about my inability to lift my leg higher. Although, I’d be lying if I said that it never bothered me.

Nevertheless, I stepped up my efforts in my practice and also added some additional exercises on leg lifting that I found on a few YouTube sites on dance and on mobility. The resulting proximal hamstring tendinopathy (read: pain in the butt) was not the outcome I was pursuing. And now my practice mandates that I take care not to make bad things worse. This means bending my knees in forward folds, using a block in the many of the standing poses so that I can still activate my quadriceps muscles without having to fold deeper into the pose. Fortunately, my experience with practicing with injuries has taught me to listen when the body talks: feel, move, assess, modify, feel, [repeat]…BREATHING throughout of course. As for learning to lift my leg higher than my pelvis, it will come…in time.

In the meantime, I can work on paying back another one of my other IOUs. This weekend, I am signed up for a workshop on jump backs and jump throughs. I am excited to revive my efforts in this endevour. I sort of gave up trying when a different teacher, after seeing my attempt, shook his head and muttered, “I don’t know what to do with that. Good luck.” This was during a time when I was full on working on the cultivating the strength and effort for this transition but in need of some mechanical understanding. Sadly, even he couldn’t advise me. Today, I am hopeful that things will be different this time around. Even if I don’t magically get it, I want to have tools to rework it and find a new enthusiasm for doing the work.

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