Writing and editing

Stuck for gifts for the Ashtangi in your life? I compiled a short list for y’all

1. Toe skin: I remember seeing the tape around Sharath’s big toes in Goa and wondering if it was some sort of elaborate prop. Nope, I soon learned, your toe skin just peels off in large chunks and makes you bleed toe blood on your manduka when you jump back. You will wrap your toe in scotch tape, popsicle wrappers, anything, to stop the pain before going back in and jumping back on your bloody toe over and over again. And guess what? They don’t really ever heal. Or when they do , you get a short respite before you feel something one day catch on your sock and a shiver of pain goes up your leg and you realize your goddamn toe is splitting again. One day, David was teaching me the headstands in intermediate and I watched, as I slammed my feet down 7 fucking times, the trail of blood on my purple rug get thicker and thicker. Did I stop? No way! I was learning the end of intermediate – you wouldn’t stop either. Do you think this toe bleeding might be an alignment issue? Save it sister. Just get the Ashtangi on your list some baby soft lovely new toe skin to fuck up.

2. A night where everyone eats at 4.30 and then goes to bed at 8: Ahh, bliss! A big meal as the kids are getting out of school and then to bed while it is still light out. Perhaps a romantic night in a senior’s residence would fill the same criteria.

3. Coconut water IV drip: Ashtangis have been loving coconut water since before Madge got her sinewy hands around a VitaCoco. Maybe even from before Madge played a yoga teacher in that movie and did poses from Advanced A. In Mysore, the residents give major side-eye to the yoga students who sit and flirt at the coconut water stand all day because they think there is something nefarious going on. I am not saying there isn’t, all I know for sure is that you sort of NEED a coconut after practice. Last week I had a stomach flu that went through me quickly for one day. The next day I was excited because it gave me an excuse to buy a very large container of coconut water and drink it all myself. If you could somehow figure out how to put coconut water into an iv drip, that would be the best yogi present ever.

4. A life: Sometimes when you hang out with a group of Ashtangis they start to wistfully reminisce about when they had a “life”. Which I guess means the time in your life when you could eat or drink whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it and you stayed up late and slept in until noon. I think that is also part of not being 17 anymore, but what do I know?  On the flip side of senior’s residence night, you could take the Ashtangi you love for an all out full moon bender! Chances are he or she will be in bed by 8, but it is exciting to try.

5. Anything from this man:

YouTube Preview Image

He is wicked funny and is an awesome teacher. He is also hot and when you buy his shit it keeps Mama Stan in bling (or in a small house on the edge of Scarborough) so I can write more super informative posts about Ashtanga. Win/win baby!

Alright. Ho Ho Ho! Don’t say I never gave you nuttin.

I like having pregnant people in my class. I like that they have to break all the rules. They get to bring water in, and I always shuffle students around so that they get the cool spot by the door. Often the cold wind created by leaving the door open in the middle of winter makes the room unbearably cold for everyone else – but no one says shit. And I think that is sort of funny and great. I like that they modify and skip poses, and the people beside them are extra paranoid about bumping into them. I also sort of love that the pregnant people breeze through this luxury like it has been that way for them.

Just to be clear, and this is not intended to be a story about how I walked five miles to school everyday in my bare feet, Sharath never gave me a good spot in the room when I was pregnant in Mysore. It vexed me to NO END. Like, WHY are you punishing me by giving me a spot right next to the swinging/baby smashing door of the men’s stinky bathroom? I never asked, but I am sure I rolled my eyes as I waddled over in a huff.

The other day, I was driving on a busy, fast-moving road and a pregnant woman started to jaywalk. She walked slowly, with her eyes fixed on the other side. As she approached the left lane of cars whizzing by, she held out her hand. She held out her hand in a “talk to the hand” fashion. The cars immediately stopped. And she made her way across.

When women tell me that they have 100 children, I sort of understand. I would also like to direct traffic with the wave of my hand, so I know why you would want to have that power over and over again. I suppose the swollen feet, the weird poos and the (yikes) baby you get at the end of it are not as enticing to me. But the ability to shut down rush hour traffic and still be a bit of a huff? Awesome.

Because I write this blog and I teach, and  – well – I have waddled next to the men’s bathroom in Mysore and busted out a practice, I often get asked about what a woman should do in her practice when she gets pregnant. Here is my top three suggestions:

1. Sleep: Oh I know it isn’t a bank that you can just deposit in for a month and then withdraw everything and leave it empty for two (twenty) years. But do you really want to be thinking about how you COULD have slept and didn’t?  I am saying this like I am going to really change a first time mom’s mind about how little she will sleep. But whatever, that is why you have another kid. So you can really sleep less and think about what an idiot you are.

2. Eat Out: Have you ever taken a 6 week-old child to dinner. It is easy! They just sleep. If you made the mistake of not going out to eat while pregnant you have a couple months to do that before you pick your restaurants based on the play area, or for us, whether or not they have a fish tank.

3. Talk on the phone with someone other than your mother: When the phone rings, my son says, “Grandma!” Yup. It be like that.

I have other suggestions, but you will have to come to class. Or read the book I am co-writing – which should be out in umm…. 2060.

Sometimes I feel the urge to say to pregnant ladies, “just you wait.”  But then I remember people saying that to me and wanting to show them the pregnant traffic-halting hand of doom.

Stan: I am so tired!

Some mom: Just you wait. You are going to be so tired.

or

Stan: Practice is hard when you are pregnant,

Some other mom: Just wait until you have a baby. That is really hard.

or

Stan: I can’t believe how little time I have.

Another mom: Just wait, you won’t have any time for the next fifty years!

You know what? I did wait. And you know what else? All you bitches were right. But I am going to do my best to not utter those words. No one wants to hear how much it is going to suck. And really, it mostly doesn’t suck at all. Mothers, I am asking you to bite your tongue when those “just wait’ words come bubbling up. Let’s enjoy how the pregnant people part traffic and students with a wave of their arms.  Smile as they sip water while we have to bind in Marychasana D.

When the baby comes out we will get to say, “Enjoy every minute!”

One moon day, David, Vanessa and I had time so we went to a class downtown. It was a beautiful day and the studio was gorgeous and well-designed. The class was great and the teacher was wonderful and if years of Mysore style practice hadn’t turned me into a OCD crazed lunatic, then the whole experience would have been entirely unblog-worthy.

But, alas. I am a total nut job, and even though I am a yoga teacher I can’t just GO to a yoga class and be okay with it like a normal person. I need hours of shivering deconstruction after 75 minutes of asana. David and I went to a class four years ago called “Eye of the Tiger” and we STILL talk about it. But it was called “Eye of the Tiger”, so we are compelled. Part of the problem is the style I practice doesn’t change in very fundamental ways. So, I think I am a bit of a dinosaur in the yoga community. I didn’t know there was a whole playlist creation neurosis for yoga teachers. Because I don’t practice with music ever it threw me off so much that I spent the whole class thinking about how John Mayer dated Jessica Simpson.

Mostly,  I hate the thing where you have to show up at exactly the right time. Appointments are for dentists!  I know for most people when you practice in Mysore, India you have to show up at the exact time minus 15 minutes. But I will let you in on a little secret – if you give birth you can come any damn time you please in Mysore. I know! Reason enough!

Actually, another little secret: when I was pregnant, Sharath told me to come to an earlier led class. But I didn’t want to get up at 4a and waddle down a dark street. Fuck that! So, I just came at the time I wanted to come at. I am pretty sure I would have been yelled at if I wasn’t pregnant. I wagered a guess that he wouldn’t yell – “You! Masala Dosa! What is your time? Your time is 4.30” at the pregnant lady – and the wager paid off. Since then the timings part of my KPJAYI card is left blank.

Dads, just so you know, David gets a time. But he likes it like that.

This year because we are Canadian and Ashtangis and we like to follow rules exactly, we put in our applications too late to go to study with Sharath and it was full and we couldn’t go. We were suddenly looking at the month of November – wide open. And so , we decided to go to Florida.

Not going to Mysore has this funny feeling around it. Like weirdly disconnected and jangly. I am more then happy not to make the flight, or to try to figure out what to do with a tomato, rice and cucumbers every night for dinner. But the longer the time stretches out between trips to India the more out of touch I feel with the international Ashtanga family. I think it is worse for my husband who has already started locking me down for months to go in 2015.

When we go in 2015, what will have changed while were were here in our little cold corner of the world? Somehow, I doubt John Mayer will be played from the Sharath’s office.  If the practice doesn’t change, then why do we go year after year? Why wouldn’t we just go one year, get the jist of it and then save ourselves some money and go to Florida and sit on the beach instead?

I think, every year I go, I have stood on my mat in that shala a different person. The first year I went, I didn’t have a daily practice. The second time I was pregnant and so brave. The third time, I had a little baby, I was sleep deprived and unhappy. The last time, I felt fulfilled and I wanted to teach. In 2015 – who am I going to be? How could the same technique taught by the same teacher have seen me through such dramatic shifts in my life? I often don’t want to go to India because I think it takes too much time. But that might why I should be going. I think practicing creates time and space in my life – at least some reaction time. The shala in India gives me time, whether I take it or not, to listen, breathe, reconnect with my teacher and my family.

Sometimes I think I am the constant, the steady the metronome. But, maybe I am actually very nebulous. And I am here to watch my breath so that I don’t waste it all in the time that it takes to listen to a pop song.

“The family weakens by the lengths we travel.”

categories: Ashtanga yoga, AYCT, baby, Mysore
tags:

This week for the first time I experienced car barfing.

Just to give a little background:

1. My car is a mess. Okay, a certain kind of mess. Like once, I had a friend from university that I met in Vermont and she drove up in her car and it was FILLED with stuff. She used her trunk as a drawer for her clothing. I am pretty sure she had a home or at least that is what she told me at the time. Regardless, my car isn’t my clothing drawer but it is covered in dog hair and dust and crumbs and straw wrappers and tiny rocks that my son collects and leaves from 2010. I started apologizing about the state of my car maybe a year ago. When I apologize, my friends don’t say “Oh! It isn’t that bad!” they say, “Oh, don’t worry – you have a kid, you must be busy.” So, you can tell that it must be fucking gross.

2. At Holden’s  daycare you need a doctor’s note for everything. The other day, I had to get a doctor’s note for diaper rash that was – no joke –  about the size of your pinky fingernail. It takes a month to get an appointment with my doctor, so I have to go to a walk-in and I don’t trust walk-in doctors because if you went to med school why would you work at a walk-in? I am pretty sure most walk-ins are portals to hell. My hatred and fear of walk-ins often lead me to act irrationally (read: like a bad mother).

So, barf in the car.

I picked Holden up. He was eating oranges. We walked outside and I popped him in the car seat. I was just about to buckle him in when he said, “Oh, sorry mommy!” And then he barfed everywhere. The seat in front of him, his clothes, his car seat, the boot mat below him. It was orange. “Oh, sorry mommy!” he said again. And then barfed again and again and again. Each time, I held out my hand to catch the vomit.

Let’s take a moment here to reflect. What on earth is the instinct that causes us to put out our hands to catch our child’s vomit? I can’t actually catch all of it. It runs through my fingers. Why do I do that? On the same note I have also found myself fishing poo out of the bathtub with my hands. What is that all about?

Anyway, a good mother would have marched back in to the daycare, washed everything off and gotten a new batch of clothes. But I knew I would have to take him to a walk-in clinic. And even though I would catch his poo and barf in my hands, I will not go to the plague-ridden walk-in.

I had five wipes. i took off Holden’s clothes and stripped the car seat. The vomit has soaked through and was in the styrofoam. I popped him in the back seat and buckled him in – which is illegal and extremely naughty of me. I used four wipes for his face and hands, one for my hands and I drove home. Well, not before texting Mercedes and asking her to bring every cleaning product and utensil we had in the house and put it on the lawn so I could clean the car.

The New York Times made a cool video about Eddie Stern that I watched a few months ago. Eddie is so cool, I want to call him a hipster, but he is way cooler than that. And he lives in New York that is so cool, and his studio is cool and his temple is cool. Sigh. One the many cool things he talks about is nurturing independence with the Ashtanga technique.

I have been thinking about that a lot with my teaching and with my own practice. Where do I demand attention? When do I relinquish responsibility for my practice and say it is difficult because of an adjustment or the room or the time of day or my body type? How can I transmit the responsibility that Sharath makes me accept to the students who come to my class? This has been one of the hardest lessons for me in Ashtanga because I am quite fearful.

The longer I am a parent, the easier (although still totally challenging) that part of the practice becomes. I love those practices when I go all the way through without speaking to anyone. It doesn’t happen often because I love saying stupid shit to my teachers when they come to help me with backbending or whatever. With parenting that independence can be way spookier because you are the last stop on the responsibility train. But taking that responsibility can be so liberating. The panic I felt holding puke on the street faded in a few short minutes and that night the car was cleaned, the laundry folded and the child bathed by his big sister and asleep. I think it is important to remind ourselves of the many small and magical victories of self reliance and independence we achieve every day. on the mat and off.

And just so you know, that night Holden threw up three more times. Each time I put my hand out.

categories: Ashtanga yoga, Mysore
tags:

Y’all can line up to touch my damn feet. I am the authority.

Actually, I’m a white girl from Canada who knows nothing. But I am so grateful for this practice and the Jois family for teaching me.

Time to pack up and go! The journey to Bangalore was fraught with anxiety and craziness. This picture is just a small indication of what the rest of the day was like. But I had a hot shower and there is a cold beer beside me. Everything is going to be okay.

See you on the other side!

Two practices to go, before the marathon home starts. Going home is usually a bit easier because you have been camping in Mysore for the last month and are used to cramped quarters and a natural suspicion of any food you are given. Today was led primary for me, but I rush out atfter urdhva danurasana so that David can make it in time for practice. I had a weird sideways spot in the room that was hot with the occasional blast of cold stinky air from the bathroom – so my practice was a bit ridiculous. But I still like practicing to Sharath’s count.

My cold that turned into a sinus infection that ebbed back into a head cold has now evolved into a bronchial hacking cough that actors use in movies to indicate their characters are dying soon. I’m sad to leave my practice here, but if I don’t eat something green soon, I might actually perish.

Holden’s Walk for Farm Animals was a success. We took a rickshaw out to Chamundi HIll and we made it up – okay maybe 50 steps. We didn’t see any monkeys at first, which was totally disconcerting, because usually they are all up in your shit there. Instead the steps were occupied by goat families. When we got down we saw some monkeys hopping around and eating the bugs off each other.  Holden was only groped by one person, before David pushed them off – which is an improvement on our other experiences of tourist destinations in Mysore. Holden also raised almost $1400 for charity, which is awesome, and can be mostly attributed to the greatness of his hair

Last night while reading No Roses For Harry.


Holden: There? (points to a picture of a man in a store)

Stan: That is a man going shopping.

H: There?

S: That is a family going shopping.

H: Shopping. There?

S: That is a lady going shopping.

H: There?

S: I think everyone on the street is doing a bit of shopping.

H: (points to cats) Cat.

S: What do you think the cats are doing?

H: Shopping.

S: What do the cats need to buy at the store?

H: Brushes.

True say, Holdy, true say.

category: Mysore
tags: , ,

Some Mysore conversations:

1. Bedtime

David: I can’t believe it is bedtime again already. Feels like we were just in bed.

Stan: I guess it is only 8p.

D And we napped until 3 today. We were just in bed! That’s good.

2. On stirke. Kind of. Not really.

Teacher: There is no school today.

Stan: Oh! I didn’t know.

T: There is a holiday, all the schools are off.

S: Oh, so no children today?

T: There is a strike.

S: A strike?

T: The government is trying to raise the price of petrol so the schools are out.

S: (Am I crossing a picket line?) Okay.

T: But he can come for daycare.

They are big on the idea of bureaucracy here, and so are we in Canada. In both places, sometimes the execution of said bureaucracy is person specific. This exchange  felt comfortable to me as a Canadian, even if I felt like a dummy for having to later google the strike.

3. Sick

I have been quite sick with a sinus infection, and evil evil things are coming out of my nose.

Stan: (blows nose)

Holden: (wrinkles nose and blows)

S: I know, I’m stuffy.

H: I’m Holden

In practice today, I felt all lightheaded and airy again. I added on my poses dutifully. I felt so breezy I came up from laghu like a spring – as though I was 50 lbs lighter. Which I most certainly am not. Kapo was fine, but also giddy and fast. I did my closing quickly and got out of there as fast as I could. I thought I might float away.

And of course, just when you feel completely ungrounded – India is right there to ratchet up the weird a notch. I left the shala and turned a corner, and right in front of me was a cow that had been dressed in colourful blankets with an ornate headdress complete with bells.. A man stood beside the cow playing a drum. The cow was slowly moving his head to the beat. I also heard a horn and it took me a few moments to realize where the sound was coming from. The cow was standing on the man playing the horn. No one seemed that astounded by it. I guess it is a thing. I googled “cow standing on man with horn” when I got home – and sure enough:

It is totally a thing. No biggie – one in every town. I felt so strange looking at his legs in kind of a yoga position – I hurried past in case I totally spun out. When I got home I didn’t mention the cow on the man’s legs for a couple of hours, until after I had some food in my belly and I knew where I stood in the world again.

Ganesh Chaturthi is tomorrow. Holden got the day off school today so that his teachers could prepare for the celebrations. They painted him a picture of Ganesh to hang in his room and gave him a bag of sweets that David was told were very good for him. Today we watched dragonflies at the pool, tomorrow maybe we will get to see the huge Ganesh statues and possibly more cows dancing on human legs.

category: Mysore
tags: , ,

Today, David and I have been married for five years. it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but when I think back to the person I was five years ago -it does seem very far away. My life is so much richer now.

These past couple days have been quiet. Going for walks to the lake and visiting he pool.

Holden got mobbed by a bunch of girls from the slum in Gokulum. They kissed his cheeks and played with his rubber snakes.  A man called out to them and told them to behave. They shouted right back at him. They are all limbs, fearless with toothy energy. Next to them, Holden looks so fat and coddled.

The nice thing about being here is the slower you go, the more people will take a step back and slow right down with you. You get the feeling like if you were to stop altogether India might just swallow you up.

I was initially annoyed that Sharath moved the moon day, but now I am thankful. We can put off worrying about led class until tomorrow. In the meantime, the day stretches out like a dreamy field in front of us. We can run across or just sit and watch. It is up to us.

I played it safe and stuck to 3 poses, but then afterwards I decided I should look more like a fool and so asked Sharath when he was leaving for the day.

Stan: Umm, Hi! Uhhh. Sorry to disturb you – uhhh I was confused yesterday, should I stop at Ustrasana?

Sharath: No, I told you 2 poses. Laghu.

Stan: Yes, thank you (sooooo confused)

Sharath: Kapotasana next week. Hahahahaha!

Stan: ha, uh.

Okay, I’m not going to throw shade all over that because I am happy to get laghu. I don’t like having a month long break from that pose because it always kills my legs to get back into it. After having Holden I had to learn how to do it all over again and it sucked. For me, there is always a couple days right before it comes when I can’t walk up or down stairs properly. Kapo makes me feel ill and scared but I can do it.

The big issue beyond being a complete weirdo around Sharath, is that I am TIRED. I have been working on pincha and split for over a year now at home and my practice is short, short, short. If I am in a rush I can bust it out in 50 minutes or less. Now suddenly, my practice is long long long. I recognize that it can only get longer. Here I spend my afternoons watching Holden run circles around me as I trudge towards bedtime. This blog, actually, is often cruelly in between me and bed. So, no more asking Sharath. No more blubbering, no more ashtanga math. I’m hiding for the next 3 weeks.

We went to the park today with some friends. Holden stayed in the same position for about 30 minutes while his friend played around him like a normal child.

He did come down briefly to pick up a turd.