Writing and editing

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!”

Spring:

Spring happened in Toronto in the last couple of weeks. The leafless, grey and brown in between lasted all of April and I felt so lushy rewarded in May. I love the first mutable colours of spring. How can bright pink look green and yellow? I lay down on my porch and looked up at the tree in my back yard. The first reddish oak leaves have begun to bud. Often I look up at that tree and think, “This is MY tree.” And then I feel foolish. The oak is 100 years old and just happens to be within the made-up boundaries of my yard. The tree experts say it will live another 100.. It was there well before I was born, and inshallah, it will be there after I die. Like spring, I suppose I am just passing through.

Primary Series:

After my trip to Mysore in September, I stayed with my Mysore practice – primary up to kapotasana for a couple of months. I slowly added poses on and only just recently dropped primary. This week, David added Karandavasana – the pose I was on in August, my last pose. I didn’t have a big injury or anything, my shoulder hurt a bit. I did feel like I had no stability in my practice. I felt I couldn’t push myself anymore without breaking and I needed to ground. After a month in Mysore I felt so much better, that I decided to keep primary for a while.

Here is a little demo of Karandavasana by David:

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And one by Sharath:

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This is a picture of me doing it:

In August, I couldn’t lotus up legs without support. After a week of trying now, I can lotus them, and although I fall loudly and obnoxiously, I can feel my legs brush my upper arms as I come down. I feel like this is possible, but in August after months of practice it was not even remotely close. All this to say, I think primary series is amazing. It is restorative, and also strengthening. It is a game changer. I love you primary!

Ralph

My son is quite friendly. Friendly and very sensitive. He says “hello” and “Whacha doing?” to every child he meets. Most kids, because they are kids, just stare at him and continue doing what they were doing. And then Holden stands there for a good five minutes “Hello, whacha doing? whacha doing? whacha doing?” Often I start to feel a little embarrassed for him and so I answer for the kids. Which is a little like when people ask your dog a question.

The other day, David and I were talking about the upcoming changes to Holden’s daycare.

David: Does he have friends at daycare?

Stan: The kids seem to like him. He doesn’t hit and he doesn’t get in your face or anything. He is so friendly with everyone, but

David: Is it reciprocated?

Stan: Well, maybe not. But that might be the age.

David. Is he like that boy on the Simpsons?

Stan: “My cat’s breath smells like cat food”

David starts to type away at the computer.

David: Oh god, Stan. You have to see this.

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Oh god, my son might be Ralph Wiggum.

I am happy he is friendly, I would rather he was friendly than he just stared at people who greeted him. And I know enough kids that you often don’t get to choose whether your kid says Hi automatically or stares blankly – at least for the first little while. I worry in the future that he won’t have any friends. But then I worry that my anxiety and worry will crush him and he won’t have any friends because he is all twisted. So, I try not to worry and believe that he is strong enough to have bad days and pick himself back up. And then I worry that I am not worrying enough about this whole thing.

If you are thinking about having kids. don’t.

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: Ashtanga yoga
tags: ,

Waiting in the vestibule at the shala, is really part of the practice. I guess the 4.30 kids don’t have to wait there, I’ve never practiced here at 4.30 – but I hear that lots of people have a spot, and sometimes folks can get a bit territorial about it.  Whatever, that is mostly funny, and I’m sure if I had to get up at 3a I would also be huffy about getting a nice spot.

Over my four visits to Mysore, I have let go of the elbow macaroni business going to led. It is a bit like giving birth. There is this big mass (in this case of yoga students) and a very small opening (the little shala door) and a overwhelming urge on everyone’s part to speed things along. Once everyone is through the door, it is fine. Waiting until everyone is through means I practice in the bathroom, but there is a lot of room in the bathroom! It would be even better if everyone turned off their cell phone, but I can hear Sharath and that is all that matters.

Back to the vestibule. There is something about waiting for your turn, that produces anxiety. I think because I am from Canada and there in no discernible line up – just a group of people sitting and waiting – your position in the queue becomes more riddled with fear and panic. Another thing is you are watching everyone practice, and you have time to obsess. As students are called in, “One More!”, everyone moves forward an inch to be that much closer to the doorway for when their turn comes. If you haven’t grabbed all of your belongings, shot up to standing and raced through the doorway by the time Sharath is finished calling you, you get

“Why fear? Come friend!” Which is actually a nice thing to say, but at the time the panic level has risen so high that he could be telling you that you will be bffs for life and you will still feel flustered.

Sometimes, you get all ready to go – mat clenched in your sweaty little hands – you hear “One More!” and as you are standing up to go in either:

a. Some guy who has just walked in, strolls in and leaves you with this total grade school “He budded!” feeling. Which passes in the three seconds when you get called in.

b. Sharath stops and says, “No, one more Australian!” or “No, one more, Japanese” or “No, one more Masala Dosa!” And since you aren’t Australian or Japanese and you hope and pray with all of your heart that you aren’t masala dosa, you have to wait again.

Currently, I am falling into latter category – I think because I procreated – and I get called in pretty quickly. By my name, thankfully.

Once I am in the shala I wait like a vulture over the poor person who is just trying to have a nice forward bend after dropbacks, once that person leaves I  slap down my mat. Only your mat, rug and a small towel are allowed in the room. Yoga clothes are waaaay too racy to be wearing around town, so I have a little bag with me for clothes, water, and toilet paper (there is no toilet paper at the shala and  if I am just peeing I can’t get behind the hose business).

Invariably, as I pull my rug out of the bag, the roll of toilet paper and my bra cascade down at Sharath’s feet. I pick them up quickly and try to pretend like I didn’t just show my underwear to 50 strangers and proceed to the change room cheeks burning.

I tiptoe into the bathroom because the floor is always wet and it is gross in there. I put my bum down on the damp toilet seat and try to think nice thoughts about yoga students and hepatitis A. Then out to wash my hands, take a small sip of water from the bottle I brought and I’m out the door and headed to my mat.

I get to my mat, plant my feet, check the picture of Guruji and it hits me. I am so fucking tired.

Vande gurunam caranaravinde


We found the park!

We were there early, and there were no other children in the park so we ended up being mobbed for photographs. We had to leave at a certain point because Holden couldn’t go down the slide because he was being held mid-slide by a group of 15 adults vying for a picture. But we found the park.

And I went to conference!

Conferences have changed a little. At first, there would be very long pauses, and then a series of shorter pauses in between each topic. I liked those pauses, they were so awkward. We stared at Sharath. He stared at us. No one spoke. And then, almost as if startled from a reverie, Sharath would  begin to chant. The pauses are still there, but they are less pregnant.

David noted he is speaking louder, his tone is a bit more forceful. He sits in a chair now, and not on the corner of the stage. The questions today too, were less provocative, more sincere – which is nice. As you can imagine, with all us crazy know-it-alls, there is almost always someone who needs to monopolize the conference in the most tedious way. But right now, thankfully, no one seems to be up for the challenge.

He still flits from topic to topic. Saying some very poignant things that just kind of breeze by you and as you try to unpack one statement, another one, seemingly unrelated,comes floating up away form you. Other stuff, I feel like I have heard every single conference – but like the practice – I can keep hearing them in new ways. Today when he spoke about Japa meditation, it reminded me of the first conference I went to in Goa when he talked about it. I wasn’t sleeping and I used that technique every single night for the rest of the trip to help me sleep.

This afternoon’s new/old insight, creating steadiness in our minds and bodies with vinyasa and in turn using this steadiness to create a calm mind. He spoke later about learning how to manage ourselves and our thoughts and I immediately thought of my emotional and overwrought reaction to Holden’s school. I wonder if sometimes I am just used to feeling rather stable with this practice, that when I am clearly not stable – I imagine something is dreadfully, horribly wrong. I mean, the school was nice, it isn’t Syria or anything – just not the right fit perhaps – no reason to feel totally victimized. It is interesting how easily I can be thrown off track. I still have a long way to go, which is fine.

The complete conference notes from a competent person who doesn’t make everything about themselves are here.

categories: baby, Mysore
tags: , , ,

Today we went to the Mall of Mysore. It is a mall. In Mysore. Not a guy with a bunch of buckets on a cart. A mall. With no one in it. But we got a booster chair for Holden so he can see what he is eating at the table. And I rode the escalator up and down, up and down, up and down. We spent an hour and a half riding the escalators with Holden. I ride an escalator with Holden every day in Toronto to get to work, but I guess the Indian ones are different. He had fun – which means I was relieved, but run off my feet.

Then it was noodle soup and off to see Sharath for conference. Conference was great – here are some notes (I’m a bit jetlagged so I hope I’m not missing anything):

There was a banana and half a granola bar in my purse. Then Franklin the turtle had a homework assignment and he couldn’t figure out what his favourite place in his neighbourhood was – I won’t spoil the ending. A couple dogs walked by. Some rocks are  small. Those are baby rocks. And some rocks are too big to carry around. Shoes came off, shoes were put back on. Dogs. Rocks. Monkeys? Monkeys? No monkeys.

Ok really, I think I heard something about handstands before Holden booted out the door and I spent the next hour chasing him up and down the street.

This was actually taken during conference – so it can give you a bit of texture when you are reading a decent Mysore blog.

I almost don’t want to write about this in case I jinks myself horribly, but Holden is sleeping. He went to bed last night at the usual time – but 10.5 hours ahead in India – and he slept until 8a this morning. He had a nice nap at the usual time and I put him to bed at the regular time tonight. Soooo, he got over jetlag in one afternoon. I am considering writing a book. Although I suppose I should hold off until he actually sleeps through the night tonight.

Stan: I don’t know if people are too interested in my New York post

David: Well there isn’t anything about yoga in it. They probably don’t know what to say.

Stan: Well, there’s the baby…

David: You should post the family picture with Sharath. That will put New York in context for everyone.

The Lead up to the Family Sharath Portrait:

Here is a picture that Tova took for us. We handed Sharath The Baby and he started crying (baby not Sharath). You can see the look of fear and distrust on Holden’s face.  The picture before that, which I won’t post because I think I look stupid in it, has Sharath holding the crying baby while the rest of us, oblivious, are smiling at the camera. Sharath has this look, that he actually often gets, like – “How did I get here?”

Mercedes’ arm is in this picture, but not the rest of her. This is not because of Tova’s photography skillz, which are quite good. I just didn’t think she would like that picture being posted. Alice has a nice picture that she took of David, Mercedes, Sharath and Shraddha here.

My yoga practice has been chugging along. I reached a point, post-pardum, where it didn’t hugely suck to relearn everything again. It was funny, because I was totally convinced that I would have to quit Ashtanga. Mostly because it is too hard. But I came home from New York and turned a corner. My body just started to “get” things again. Every practice seems like a treat – which will not last – but I am enjoying it. Yesterday I got a pose past where I was pre-pregnancy. Woot! Except that the pose is tittibhasana, so that sucks a little. Anyway, I’m back and it is awesome.

Hi!

I took a little break from blogging because I sold my house and bought a new one. I  know, I know, we are moving how am I going to regale you with tales of my neighbours? Obviously, I am going to miss, “Get me a beer, faggot!” But luckily we aren’t moving until after the Canada Day long weekend – so we will certainly get our fix before we leave.

Also, I have been putting off writing this entry before I did all the things that needed doing. I was catching up in Ashtanga-blog world and some folks have gone private, some are missing, and I read some stuff that totally bummed me out and made me not feel like blogging for a while. Sadly, I even did my taxes before I wrote this. My 2009 taxes.

Anyway, I know lots of my peeps think the politics of yoga and particularly of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga are boring, and I sort of get it. 99% and all that, why all the blah blah blah. Personally, I like to think about it. I think we are at an interesting time in this practice. When we were in New York studying with Sharath, it felt quiet – certainly much more quiet than with Guruji. Sharath certainly has a student base that come to Mysore – but it struck me that he is still building his student base in the West.

I have friends who study different disciplines – Capoeira and Tae Kwon Do – and we talk about traditional practices, splits and changes to the system and how they chose the path they are on. Time, exposure and a bit of fiscal motivation seem to reveal the differences. Opinions happen. Some voices get louder than others, things change. Completely sane and rational people decide to choose a different path, and other equally sane folks stay the course. They choose their path based on what they need.

Funny, how all the interweb strife – that has nothing do to do with me really –  made me feel very reactive. It was a good lesson for me, because it reminded me of one of the big reasons I need this practice. Without it, i am a crazy reacting-machine. That is just my own personal journey and many people have told me that painting, sudoku, and gardening elicits the same feeling of liberation. I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard skydivers talk about the meditative qualities of falling thousands of feet. I’m glad I don’t have to jump out of a plane.

I used to study vinyasa, and truly I owe a debt of gratitude to my past vinyasa teachers for introducing me to self-practice and getting me stoked on yoga. I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that traditional teachers are strict autocrats intent on hurting their students and robbing them of their true destinies, just like I don’t think vinyasa teachers are watering the work down to appease students. If you are interested in money or power – you just would never go into teaching yoga.  There are a handful of self-practice programs and two traditional mysore options here in Toronto. I think I know everyone who teaches these programs and they are all very serious and thoughtful about their craft. I think to say or imply otherwise, is unfair.

There is this part in the great Canadian movie, Hard Core Logo. It is the band’s last show, the guitarist and the lead singer have just had a fist fight, and the bassist, off his meds, walks up to the microphone and repeats:

“In the end, its love.”

You should see it if you haven’t.

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On Mother’s Day we walked through the Necropolis – one of Toronto’s oldest cemetaries. On the older graves, names and dates had been rubbed away. Many of them, we could only read the person’s place in their family: Mother, Father, Daughter. Looking at those graves, for the first time, I wanted to be buried when I die.

In the meantime, I do want to be a better person. I want to be a better friend, and I want to work harder at giving more to my community and at the causes to which my heart responds.

i’m not sure my yoga practice really matters all that much. What does seem to last and matter are the people left at the end of the day that want to belong to me. Our names and stations in life fade pretty quickly. Our practices, our jobs – they are make-work projects for the bigger picture of what we are to the people who follow us.

and in the end, its love

and in the end, its love

and in the end, its love

pax.

Tomorrow is led primary and I won’t be able to go. The first two classes were squished together into an even earlier 4:15 time slot with led intermediate following at 5:45. Since shala time is mysteriously 15 minutes fast – my class actually starts at 4a, and that is just crazy talk with a baby. But it still stresses me out a little that I can’t/won’t go. I hadn’t totally prepared for Friday to be my last practice at the shala.

I will miss the Practice, capital P here.  Even the things that drive me up the wall: the waiting in the vestibule, the filthy shala toilets, and the bumpy rug. It is healing to be here and focus on meditation. It is strange to be here in a time of transition with the assistants, but it makes it exciting too. I am interested to see how the training works out in the future for authorized students. I got a “bonus 3 poses” this week from Sharath, which was fun.

We leave for Bangalore Sunday afternoon and fly out on Monday morning. I feel quite ambivalent about going. I have been dreaming of flight catastrophe and the week at home of dealing with baby jet lag makes me hate the trip a little. But the sun, and the attention to practice plus lots to family time has been awfully sweet.

Speaking of sweet, I am going to need to go into sugar rehab when I get home. The food is fresh but has basically no nutritional value and sugar and caffeine seem to supplement what you can’t get from white rice, chapati and thin tomato soup. I can’t figure out which came first here: did the caffeine and sugar addiction produce the crazed traffic, non-stop working, constant stimulation or the other way around. Check this out on a package of rice cereal that I had to pick up for the flight.

Awesome that you add sugar to your baby’s food to taste. Ah, maybe not.

The majority of Indians are obsessed with chubby babies and therefore in love with Holden. I feel like I have been more accepted in the culture with a baby.

I am not looking forward to the cold, or to listening to the neighbours play Jessie’s Girl over and over again, but it will be amazing to see my family and friends. I am also happy to be back home where we don’t clean the floor with a toxic nerve gas that may cause facial ticks. It might also be nice to blow my nose and not see black.

I will miss coconuts with Mr. Coconut Head.

Best Mysore Conversation:

Stan: I think The Baby is teething again. It says here (points to interweb) that there are four more teeth due at 8 months.

David: If he is teething again, I’m going to write a letter.

Stan: Who would you write a letter to?

David:…..evolution.

(Darwin be forewarned).

Here is a hot shit poll in honour of all the students at KPJAYI!

So, back on track. I held uth pluthi in led class on Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Saraswathi in her nightgown. I was expecting Sharath to do the chant and then disappear into his office to load up on tiger videos, but he stayed and, of course, taught a great class.

In conference yesterday, Sharath spoke about bandhas. Particularly, about holding mula bandha all the time – walking, resting, eating. “Contracting your anus.” he called it. When I am hauling the baby around, I catch myself arching my lower back and sticking out my belly. I have to work on remembering to hold mula bandha – I actually think it is a really important technique in order to protect your back in parenthood. I think I lift my pelvic floor rather than contract my anus, so clearly I have some work to do.

There was lots of anus talk at conference and it made everyone giggle, which is kinda grade 7 and funny. Someone asked if mula bandha was located beside the anus.

Sharath: No, contract the anus.

Someone asked if it was different for women.

Sharath: It is all anus.

Yeah, and I suppose being pre-occupied with contracting your anus would keep you out of trouble.

For me, it is all digestion. Ultimately that has a lot to do with anuses, but I am pretty obsessed with good digestion. Not that I always have it. But I believe it leads to happiness or at the very least contentment. That is inner peace for me. This trip, my digestion has been (knock on wood) pretty rad because we never really eat out. Eating out is so tempting here because the food is quite incredible, it cost a dollar for a full meal, and the set up for making food at home is similar to a college dorm. There are two pots, two burners,  three forks and a couple of spoons. My kitchen screams Kraft Dinner. Anyway, I have muddled through (minus the Kraft Dinner).

Speaking of eating, I’m not sure if everyone caught Adrienne’s link a couple blogs ago:

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Return of the slow loris!