Friday, July 29, 2011

Thunderstorms and Leeches

There's nothing like a week in the North Woods (Boundary Waters in Minnesota, to be exact) to give one a nice sense of perspective. A sense of the Sublime, to get all art historical about it--meaning that witnessing the majesty of nature (or a worthy reproduction) can give one a sense of awe or a sort of pleasurable terror at the beauty and power of it all.

In other words, sitting through a nighttime thunderstorm in a tent. It didn't help that the island across from ours had been burnt to a cinder from a lightening strike in the spring. There I lay, listening to the thunder roll and echo across the neighboring lakes like flopping sheets of metal while the tent lit up with green-white flashes, wondering where you go if a forest fire starts around you--into the lake? into a canoe on the lake? how much time do you have, anyway?

And at the same time these survivalist thoughts rattled around, I sort of enjoyed the immensity of the sound. Unmuffled and continuous. It was a feeling of awe or pleasurable terror, if you will.

In the morning, with the sun glistening on everything, I marveled at the loveliness. None of it had anything to do with me and was not arranged for my enjoyment, but it gave me a nice feeling of connectedness. Just another little mammal who made it through the storm. Later that day I had to pluck a leech off the toe of another little mammal--Son #2--an activity that also required a bit of detachment so as not to have an unseemly gross-out, or take the blood-sucking personally.

Yoga in the forest, right? This is why I like camping and geology and astronomy--because it reminds that me most stuff is pretty fleeting and not all that important. That I'm at the mercy of forces far bigger and more powerful than I (...realizing that, in this case, I am very lucky that I can marvel at these wonders, rather that suffer their results).

Terrible and Sublime. Beauty and Awe. Namaste and, well, Namaste.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Things that Yoga has Ruined...

Let me start by saying there are a lot of things that yoga has NOT ruined: yoga has not ruined my ability to focus and calm myself down; it has not ruined my sense of well-being or self-esteem (can't say that about yoga advertising, but never mind); it has not ruined my flexibility or strength; it has not ruined my sense of humor or love of irony. But there are several things that it has completely fouled up:

1. My need to keep the feet covered. Get 'em out of the shoes, get 'em out of the shoes! I realized this during class last month, when I had a new student with flat feet who wanted to keep her sneakers on because bare footed was painful with her fallen arches. I was so distracted by her shoes (not aesthetically), because I couldn't conceive of a well-balanced Trikonasana in shoes. She was fine--and has continued coming to class--but it made me feel so unsteady that I realized that I'm undone by the idea of something coming between my foot and the mat. (Take that toesox)

2. My interest in racquet sports. A few years ago I spent a month or two meeting a friend for introductory racquetball. It was fun, but I soon realized how frustrating it was to only be working one arm. One shoulder was warm and glowing, but the other seemed limp and useless. Same thing after soccer or catch with son #1. One leg/arm felt strong and flush, the other--underutilized. I'm so used to doing everything on both sides, that activities giving one limb preference over the other seem cock-eyed. (Not that I'm going to stop backyard sports, but I'm working on my left-hand throw which, surprisingly, is much better when playing football).

3. Heels. Yes, they're sexy and very appropriate with some outfits, but when I try on a pair of high heels and go tottering down the hall I feel like a 13-yr-old getting ready for her first dance. I can't handle all that weight on the balls of my feet and the tightness in my calves. My toes resent getting squished and my knees knock. A mess, to be sure. So I've adopted the kitten heel, which is an attractive silhouette and doesn't throw my alignment off. (When I actually get dressed up, which is probably two times a month, max)

4. Slouching. It's not that I had such rotten posture before yoga, but it ruined draping myself across my favorite chair and watching a movie. I'm super-aware of unsupported parts of the body (lower back, knees) and now have a whole routine with pillows and rolled blankets to support the drape. Very conscious of shoulders when knitting in front of the boob tube--which is probably a good thing, but makes that activity something of a production. Plus, it annoys cats who are trying to snooze on the aforementioned blankets. Popcorn is often spilled. Spouse is crowded.

5. Ignoring discomfort. Sometimes it's easier to pretend you don't notice something that's bugging you, but I can't do that anymore. Why does that shoulder hurt? Where exactly is the pinch? How does that relate to arm position/posture/angle of head/etc? Do I need to do homework in a different chair (see #4)? Can I take an Advil, or is that just delaying the inevitable? What pose helps? Heat or ice? I've never done well with discomfort and now it becomes the source of a great investigation--discoveries filed away for later pedagogical use. It would save time to just grit my teeth and bear it.

And so on. I try to keep my fussing to myself and not force these issues on others (altho it takes great restraint to walk past poorly-executed stretches at the Y or ignore ill-fitting sandals). Some folks just haven't had the pleasure of being ruined by Yoga...

Has it messed you up?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Reflections from an Old-Timer

A. Durer, St. Jerome in his Study, 1514

...well, not that old. But the combo of Carole's question last week about long-time blogging, coupled with my 44th birthday on the 3rd (officially in my mid-forties, whatever that means), I've been thinking about what I've learned over the last five years of GTTSB.

It seems there are two levels of change: macro and micro. Macro is the level of
sophistication in the process-both in the software and the bloggers themselves. Vlogs, audio, video, beautiful graphics, bold templates; everything looks and runs so professionally (remember how long it use to take to just get one dinky photo uploaded?). And the authors: marketing savvy, cross-platforming, multiple technologies. Tweet, tweet. People are much more skilled at drawing attention to their work and themselves (for good and bad). Reading blogs is much more of an event, and I like all the interaction across these platforms and the humor and wit that bubbles up to the surface. Writing them seems to be a lot more work, tho, to stay abreast of all the technology.

The micro is how I've changed. It's funny to look back at the oldest posts--so earnest and helpful. More didactic than personal. I thought this would be more of an infomation clearinghouse: sequences, explanations of poses, lists of resources...a place to refer students who were asking for suggestions. I got a chuckle out of a post from November '06, when I speculated about the possibility of yogis all over the world communicating on the internet. Who knew?

The first few months I pined away for comments from non-relatives (altho I was very grateful for relatives who were actually reading), and finally figured out how to hook up with statcounter to measure hits and see where people were coming from. I began writing for Yoga (Thank, Erica!), which was a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at some topics I'd written about and also interview various notables about said topics. This also increased readership and invited more commenting.

In March of '07, I started to include more links on the page (good ole' Yoga Dawg gets a mention), which encouraged me to interact more with other bloggers. Son #2 was born in August of '07, and this seems to have given me a more personal focus. Maybe I was tired of "teacher voice" and wanted to start using my own "writer voice."

By '08 the topics sound more like what we're all used to: teacher training, hot bods vs blissed-out bods, what's authentic, etc etc. I can't go back to my "old" blog rolls, but it would be interesting to see who was on the scene at that point and how that affected the conversation (Y. Dawg, Nadine Falwell and Linda S. all commented, so that crowd is very familiar). In February of '09, I joined seems wild that social networking wasn't really on the scene until three years after I started. I project all the back and forth onto earlier memories.

By the middle of '09 the conversations were just that--chatty, sharing experiences and ideas (I cracked up re-reading a discussion of some one's "problem student" who always ended up with an erection during savasana. Gracious!) By October of '09, we were venturing into more controversial territory and many of the same conundrums (conundra?) that face us today; more people were responding on their own blogs and it was nice to read carefully thought-out arguments. By 2010, it was all-out, perhaps culminating in l'affaire toesox.

So I like this new vein that we seem to be in--the evolution of yoga and how it serves us on an individual basis. Maybe we can finally put the "maybe you just need to do more yoga" suggestion for those who question hierarchies and tradition out to pasture. Waaay out. Do away with angry, ungrammatical commenting. We are thinkers who write (obviously) so of course we want to explore these ideals out loud. I'm all for it. Svadhyaya is its own niyama, after all, and even the ancients encouraged some self-reflection.

That's what I see from my perch of a half decade. But enough about me...what do the rest of you oldies have to say? What do you think is the biggest difference? The best improvement? Worst development? What's next? What have you learned during your tenure on the blog rolls?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Yogito Ergo Sum...

I like this. I like this very much.

As I emerge from my post-semester malaise (after a false start in May), having lost all my mo to math and science classes, I would like to give a giant shout out to my ever thinking, ever provocative Yogging (new moniker?) Catalysts: Carole, Roseanne, and Bob W.
Carole, of course, laid it out here and Roseanne blew back into the blogosphere here, and this all made me feel like I ought to step up and get back on the feed. It seems like a new energy is building and I'm really looking forward to their panel on yoga blogging in August at the Yoga Festival Toronto (transcripts? video feed? a crumb for your fans?).

During my state of blog-ennui, I missed the five-year anniversary of GTTSB. Dang, half a decade of this. And, truly, I can't imagine where my practice or teaching would be without it.
My writing is totally part of my routine (until last month) and all the svadhyaya it engenders completely informs the rest of my yoga.

This public--if you will--svadhyaya is what keeps me tuned into the online community: I'm not as interested in the discussion of yoga itself, as much as I am fascinated by how each individual writer processes the lessons of yoga through his/her own experience. Maybe it's the art historian in me, but I want to read how a creative person's back story informs the present story. What do you bring to the practice that is different from everyone else? How do you express that difference? Yoga through the political science/burlesque/prison workshop/curvy/ex-teacher/new teacher/tail-wagging lens.

And I can't emphasize enough how much I love good writing. And humor.

So, as Roseanne sez, here we are on the cutting edge. Awesome. Writing about a yoga of service and engaged living. Thrilling.

I can't wait to see what the summer holds....