Writing and editing

Here at Miss Stan dot com, I like to keep it light. My forays into darkness (exhibit A – hey don’t judge I just gave birth!) are met with a bit of reader brow-furrowing. And really they should be. I didn’t want this blog to be about how crappy or hard my practice is. I wanted it to be about how the practice has helped me lead a positive, healthy life. I am a lucky girl. I do think that you make a small piece of your own luck and this blog is all about the small part of my luck that I work for every morning.

I was reading Kapo is My Bitch last night and it prompted a discussion between David and I this morning about tradition. There are some old school teachers who teach the Ashtanga technique how it was taught to them in the 70s and 80s. When we use that word, “tradition”, that is exactly what comes to mind. A practice that was originally taught and handed down from generation to generation. I guess like most traditions, Ashtanga has changed, many times, even within this generation. And while it might make sense initially to follow whatever was taught 30 years ago and carry on that tradition, it was the Guru himself who modified it.

I can see if you learned a technique at a pivotal moment in your life, and that technique changed everything for you – it would make sense to want to replicate that experience in teaching others. I would argue that it isn’t the sequence of poses, although very elegantly and intelligently stacked, that changes us in Ashtanga Yoga – but accepting and trusting a teacher.

David says you wouldn’t go see a doctor who only used medical information she learned thirty years ago because it was empirical knowledge then and therefore must be empirical knowledge now. I think tradition is a clumsy word in this case, maybe technique or method is better suited because the whole thing is so mutable. I’m pretty sure that is how Sharath describes it. I’m not sure if I have ever heard him say it is “Traditional Ashtanga”. And yet we seem to use that word all the time to describe what we do.

Coincidentally, there was an article about Sofia Coppola’s new film in the paper today. She used camera lenses from her father’s film Rumblefish to shoot her movie. She talked about loving the warmth and soft quality of film. But she also mentioned that her father is really into HD, and won’t shoot on film anymore – although he does think it is cute that his daughter is so fond of it.

I have listened to different yoga teachers speak about yoga like it is an art form. And from that point of view, I think I understand. You have a story to tell or an idea to express and using a traditional process can add meaning and texture. A friend of mine shot the cover of her book on a pinhole camera. It is gorgeous, but the murky-sepia tone of the photo also adds a layer of meaning to the narrative. Maybe more so then the same shot taken with a digital camera.

I guess I can’t get my head around the whole yoga as art thing. I just don’t see it as a dance or creative expression. I don’t really understand when people describe a vinyasa sequence as artful either. I mean, you would only put a series of poses together because they complement each other in your body, not because it looks cool in front of the mirror or whatever. It is interesting to me how different bodies “express” a pose, but that seems more like anatomical geometry.

But maybe I am missing something. I know this isn’t Sister Wives, but if you have an opinion – please share it!

Next post: Don’t EVER let your kid get a cold. Unless you hate sleeping.

PeaceLoveYoga reminded me today of Guruji’s birthday. The rain last night cooled off the heavy damp heat from yesterday. This morning there are slim shafts of lemon light poking through the clouds. Nice day to think about Mysore, KPJAYI and Guruji. Big up.

Last week, my little milk jumkie got in the bad habit of eating every 20 minutes. Ok. I’m totally the enabler, but everyone kept telling me feed on demand. Then, I realized – I’m the dealer – I call the shots. ┬áSo, now I am cutting off his frequency. Yesterday was every two hours, today is every 2.5 hours. Eventually, I’m working up to 3 by the end of the week. David bought me a breast pump, so that I could leave Mr. Owl to run an errand but we couldn’t figure out when pumping would make sense because he is such a snacker. As my sister wisely told me, “It is a level of higher math you aren’t capable of on two hours sleep.” He is pretty good about the new wait, but there is some clockwatching around 15 minutes before he gets his next fix.

The whole thing reminds me of the Velvet Underground song, Waiting for My Man: “He’s never early, he’s always late/ First thing you learn is you always have to wait.”

Last year, David and I were walking down our street and on the corner, I noticed an addict punching numbers into a pay phone furiously and with a perplexed look on her face. I thought, “Funny, how you can see a crack addiction on someone’s face. The lines, the hardness has a uniformity to it.”

She looked up at me and stopped banging on the number pad. “What? You never seen a crackhead before?” She yelled.

Embarrassed, I looked away. Quietly and to David, I said “Well, I live in this neighbourhood – so yes I have.”

But a little self-awareness, even if it comes out of nowhere, is always welcome.

Happy moon day, happy birthday Guruji. Back on the game tomorrow.

When I came up from my third urdhva dhanurasana, I paused. I usually do so I can catch my breath before going back again. I was dead centre in the room. An arms length behind me, a picture of Krishnamacharya and in front of me, a huge picture of Pattabhi Jois.

I had landed today in a spot I had been dreading for sometime now. The backrow marble spot. off the carpet and sort of psychologically out of the room. When we walked in this morning Sharath and Saraswathi were talking in the office. Shrutti, Sharath’s wife, has been learning the assisting ropes and she was looking after the room. Usually, when you walk in and there is a spot, any spot available, you get harangued by the mother/son team “You come! No fear! Come! One more! Go now!” until you are tripping over yourself to squeeze in to whatever spot has come up.

Shrutti looked at me, and said:”There is one spot in the back. Would you like it?” She pointed to the marble.

I paused.

“Maybe you want to wait for a spot on the carpet?”

Oh! Goddess Shrutti of Yoga Spots! I love her! Choosing your own spot – unheard of! Beautiful.

I waited for a few moments. But then I remembered: the rule of KPJAYI is if you pass on a spot you think is bad, you will inevitably end up with a much worse spot. So, I lumbered over to the marble. But the Goddess Shrutti abided, and it was a total Yummy Mummy spot.

And after finishing primary and my three backbends I came up to standing. I paused and took a large inhale. And then I stared at the picture of Pattabhi in front of me. It is decorated with a garland of flowers and is placed on his chair. I think Sharath took the picture, and I think it is this one – but I’m not sure.

The background has been photoshopped black, and there is a celestial quality to it. Those eyes. Those teeth. I stared and stared and stared. I’m not sure how long I was there. Slackjawed.

“Sten!”

I register something.

“Sten!” Sharath is looking at me shaking his head.

Am I getting a pose? Am I not supposed to do dropbacks anymore? Where am I?

“You finished?”

Oh, crap I’m standing here like an idiot staring into space. “Uhh. No, I have to do my three.” I say this as I travel back down.

“Hmmm.”

At AYCT, we look out on a cookie shop in a little elf-sized building that is nestled in the back alley. In wintertime, if you look out while it is snowing, you might think we live in gingerbread land.

Cookie shop / Large portrait of the guru: equally transfixing, for different reasons, but transfixing nonetheless.

Somehow, I think sweet-toothed Guruji would understand.

Last night I had a dream that Dolly was in my purse. I had to change around my plans because I realized I couldn’t bring her into a store. I pulled her out of my bag and gave her a pat on the head. I remembered every hair, every mark so distinctly. I hope I can keep her with me, so perfectly realized in my memory and that feeling of knowing her doesn’t fade like my dream when I woke up.

I had a happy led primary today, a change from the past few weeks. I think part of the problem is my shifting relationship with the vinyasa. Sharath spoke about vinyasa in conference and it reminded me of the struggles I have been having over the last month. He talked about trying to achieve correct vinyasa during mysore class, and correcting your mistakes during led primary. I find it is easier to fall into that meditative place during mysore when I  have connected with my breath and I feel very present. Led primary has always been harder, at least for me, because I am following the correct count of the teacher which inevitably will differ from my own practice mistakes. I can get pulled out of meditation easily in led class, as soon as I am pulled out of a breath and I start to follow a thought. I suppose the trick is to correct and then refocus quickly.

Now that I am pregnant, my vinyasa is too slow in places, too fast in others as I try to maintain a steady breath. I know my inhales and exhales are not evenly matched, particularly in seated. I find I need to take more breaths than I used to. I notice this when I am swimming – when I put my head underwater for just a few seconds – I resurface spluttering and coughing.

Sharath said that vinyasa and breathing are for mind control. I can see where I am losing my breath during led class and then letting cyclical thoughts take over turning me into a grumpy goose and elicting Yoga Spot Terror charts.

I searched today for the opposite of my Terrifying Cereal Yoga chart, and I tried to think of the most yogic breakfast cereal character. The Sugar Crisp bear is pretty calm, but he is so obsessive with his cereal. Definitely not the bird that is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, or Cap’n Crunch. Tony the Tiger is too competitve. Maybe Papa Smurf in Smurf Berry Crunch?

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They all seem pretty yogic and helpful. Well, except for poor old Grouchy Smurf with his hatred for cows.

Sharath told us he felt mind control from years of asana practice helped Guruji when he fell sick. He felt that Guruji was enlightened for the last days of his life. I wished he had talked more about it, or I had the nerve to ask a question. It is a huge statement. I wonder what those last days were like.

And I sat there, in the shala during conference, dripping sweat. I couldn’t sit still, I was so uncomfortable – fanning myself every few minutes. The baby was jumping inside me. All this new life, I’m just a little ship transporting it into the future. I’m so wrapped up in newness, it strangely makes me feel closer to death. I wonder if the people close to me and I will be afforded the same peaceful death that Guruji worked hard all his life for and that Dolly was given.

Certainly mysteries that cannot be revealed in conference. Back to learning my vinyasa krama.