I spent the entire past week indoors, in a hoodie and sweatpants, eating food that did not need preparation and was mostly white in color. The only thing I omitted from this spiral was booze because I did not have any and did not want to go outside to get some. I did some variations of 10 to 15 minute asanas every day, but only so I would feel that I was still part of a yoga community and I could comment on shit online without being a hypocrite. Sometimes a human gets slightly depressed, in the same way one can catch a cold, a skin rash, or a yeast infection. It passes, you feel better, and you get on with it. So I am going out early tomorrow to partake of communal practice. Kind of bloated, kind of stiff, but less frowny, less pouty, and way less despondent. Looking forward to feeling positively giddy about any old thing, which I must admit is a tall order during this ridiculous time of year. One thing I do look forward to every year is early led morning practice on Thanksgiving day, it never get old. Speaking about community, I also could not help notice through out this week that most Ashtanga practitioners and teachers who I admire and respect seldom get drawn into the back and forth that occurs during recurring bursts of online Ashtanga ranting/bashing. They seem to never take the bait ( and I do mean bait) to join the fray. That silence speaks in calm, steady, easy volumes to me.
For the last four practices my final pose is Purvattanasana, where I inexplicably start blubbering and then choke on my own snot during the vinyasa. So it is then when with embarrassing relief that I say to myself that this is as far as I go today, and go home. It is like a mini break without feeling like a bum, and yes that is how my mind works. I as I said, kind of embarrassing that being sad makes you glad because it shortens your practice for a coupe of days. I also attended the lectures by Professor Rao at the shala last week. Very engaging and enjoyable, but I would have wanted more depth and I don’t even know what I am asking for here. Maybe I have workshop burnout? And speaking of workshops, I read yesterday over at the Confluence Countdown blog that Eddie is moving the venue of his MLK weekend workshop to Brooklyn. I was about to start a yearly tradition of splurging on a mini NYC Soho vacay by booking a nice room at the Mondrian with the husband, I’d walk 2 blocks to the Broom St. temple, Ray would watch football (we don’t have reception at home) and I would have early dinners with my yoga buddies who would also come or be in the city. Well scratch that. I am not going to pay for a hotel and then schlep to Fort Greene which would involve a 4 or a 5, then a switch to the G that never comes, or a long walk from Metrotech on Fulton to the venue, at the crack of dawn in the middle of winter.
Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are to communicate with people who don’t even know that you are reading what they write in a comment to someone else with whom you share an online relationship with. Many of you probably read a widely shared post that included the very entertaining word “Ashtangorexia” along with many other circumstances that can go badly if we squeeze any physical or spiritual practice so hard that we choke it to death. In a response to one of those shares, a wise commenter brought up that during the many years of maintaining a consistent six day a week practice, she counts as practice the times when she is only able to do more or less 20 minutes of sun salutations and maybe some standing. This comment has helped me over the last few days. I was traveling over the weekend, and missed Friday practice, when I read this comment. I later saw a related comment from my travel warrior ashtangi friend K who mentioned that practice can happen when we decide the conditions are perfect as they are, so that helped me do a respectable little practice on the hotel rug that Sunday morning, a travel day filled with heartbreak and emotional pain. I went to the shala yesterday, and as expected I started leaking on and off during a hip opening sort of workshop led session. Today, I am still leaking without any warning while pumping gas and also after passing my husband’s childhood home after voting, So I practiced at home, while leaking, just standing and closing, gently. You can’t catch Ashtangorexia if you’ve got challenges that cannot be solved even while having lots of time, food, or money.
By two things: First, teacher told me yesterday that we would start working on the next step in my path towards Sirsasana. How weird that I overslept and did not go to the shala today. Hmmmm. overslept because I got riled up about the video below before bed. Not the video but the blowback online from people who are outraged about her daring to feel uncomfortable and complain about the cat calls. Specially about the “coded” ones like God bless You which really means god bless your tits and that fine ass. Or Smile, which really means be grateful bitch that I am paying attention to your appearance.
This morning I post it on facebook and receive a comment from one of my young nieces who without an ounce of irony says that this happens to the woman on the video because she is not a savvy new yorker and stupidly walks without headphones and tunnel vision. She is seriously proud of having to use armor and attitude to earn the right to walk the streets with the same entitlement as if she owned her own penis.
Then I get a PM from a young nephew who feels wrongly accused and bunched up with the crowd of cat callers and compares them (the cat callers, that took me a minute to grasp) to the beggars who know that someone is going to drop a coin and these men just know some girl will eventually relent. WHAT. I had to disagree explaining that the manner displayed by these men is more like a demand, and yes some beggars are demanding and that is precisely why it is sort of scary. It was like don’t feed the pigeons which is a step away from you should really wear that burkha. This is a sweet 20 year old kid, and his cousin is a recent college grad excited about her city job, but this is what the culture has told them to internalize. My head is on fire.
I did mention to my nephew why I might be “oversensitve” to this issue. When I was 17 in Medellin, I liked to sometimes go downtown using public transportation to shop or to meet friends for a movie or teatime. Always during the day and during office hours in the part of of the city full of nice stores and office buildings. If you have traveled abroad you know that in certain countries what you hear hurled at you is pretty filthy and intended to embarrass and make you cower. I got it on two fronts; One, I was a girl of means who was driven places instead of walking to them and they had access to me that they otherwise did not have and two, they could make me feel responsible for “arousing” them and making me feel I was the innapropiate one. I made the mistake of talking back one day to a boy much younger than I was. He in turn grabbed my breasts, slapped my face and called his friends who came and touched me everywhere. Two older men defended me but not without reprimanding me first for walking by myself. My parents reprimanded me as well for refusing to use the driver. So yeah, It could be that I am oversensitive. Or like my nephew said: That it’s terrible that this happened to me but this is different. Yeah.
This post is not about asana. No asana today because we celebrated Mag’s birthday last night and I still smell of all the Cabernet I drank. Yesterday I also planted all my tulip bulbs which is hard on the knees and on the lower back. I also decided sprinkle a thick coat of cayenne pepper over all the spots and the pots I planted bulbs in to discourage the squirrels. Now I am worried that I am going to blind a squirrel. Why would she have so much cayenne you ask? I live 10 minutes away from Pennzey’s spices, and It is cheaper to buy the big bags.
If you have been around yoga for a bit, you have probably heard the term “energetic opening”. It loosely means that something that originally was sore/tight/tender/injured or all of those bundled up, ends up disappearing while leaving you with capacities you did not posses beforehand. This is a polarizing subject and I have not had too many of these energetic instances (just two really) to write about it with authority. All I have to report is that I had a shoulder/neck somewhere there painful tangle for an entire month (maybe more) where I could only do closing scooting my ass against a wall. Well today, after a seven hour drive the day before, closing and back bending felt like I had new body parts. Not just no pain, but actual progress. I am not claiming that injury recovery works like this every single time like in a lab experiment, but I can now count this episode to add to another one way way back when a hamstring injury healed itself into head on the floor in Prasarita A. I would like to emphasize that I am not known for reaching for my edge, I am rather known for avoidance of all edges, and that is why I probably only have to energetic openings to share. What I’m saying is please do not consider this a one paragraph manifesto for pain is gain. I am saying that pain can be one just one, indication of change in your range of motion.