Friday, May 30, 2008

This is how real yogis die...

I was watching one of the episodes of "Bones", when they showed this crime scene:

The saddest part of it was that we never found out why this person died in a nice upward-facing bow. The story got sidetracked somehow. But it takes place in DC! I want to know if one of us died a noble death, practicing...


Yay, it is Friday! The week is almost over. It was different. After my botched Monday practice, I did not do yoga at all. I still woke up at 4:15 and all of sudden found myself with lots of time before work. It was kind of nice. First I tried to do some other exercises that would not involve trunk and quickly discovered that there are none. Everything hurts. So I gave up, and just enjoyed my mornings. Worked on the pictures, caught up with e-mails, did some cleaning and planning. I should've done some meditation practice, but I didn't. I also watched a lot of Tivo'ed shows. Today, for example, I watched 2 hours of the Season Finale of Lost. Isn't it amazing how much time one gets by giving up yoga? Hmmm.... :D

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I want my yoga back!

Saw a doctor yesterday. She asked a million of questions, probed and poked me, and then said helpfully: "I think it is skeleto-muscular" in a tone "you will live". Thank you! Suggested to prescribe stronger pain killers, which I declined. It was not a total waste of time, though, because I got a referral to the lab to have all my CRON bench markers done.
Things are getting slowly better. I slept through the night, there was no stabbing pain every time I moved. Breathing is painless, though sneezing is not. I wonder how I am going to teach two classes tomorrow and one on Sunday. It is time to learn how to teach without demoing, I think. I miss my morning practice!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I am sad today. First of all we said our good-byes to Rayna and Aliya yesterday, who went to India for 3 months. I am going to miss them!
Second, I I think I cracked one of my ribs yesterday. I had an unsettled feeling in the right side of my ribcage for some time now, it started right after Kino's workshop. It was easy to ignore for a week, then pain grew stronger and started to move around, so I could not decide, whether it was hurting on my back or front. And I knew the practice was not good for this injury, because I felt good in the morning, but the practice made it worse, so I was somewhat in pain when I came to work. And then yesterday, I assumed a triangle pose, stretched up towards the ceiling, and there was an audible "crack" in my back, under the shoulder blade, close to the spine. I still did a couple of poses afterwards and then the pain became very strong, and I gave up. Now I feel really stupid. It is obvious with a hindsight that I was in denial, not wanting to admit I was injured. Payback time - I do not think I will be able to practice at all for some time. I did make an appointment with a doctor, but honestly I do not think anything can be done at the moment, but lots of rest and avoiding any poses that would cause any pain. I am actually quoting David here, who said that the first rule of the trauma management is "You can't heal anything by irritating it".
On the brighter news, I saw Cranky yesterday! I waited for her and other ladies to finish the practice, and then we had a nice breakfast at Whole Foods. It was hurting to laugh, but I do not mind this cause of pain. :) I can't wait until she moves to DC. Which unfortunately will also coincide with the departure of Karen, whom I just started to get to know. See, I am sad again.
Anyway, boys and girls, please do not be as brainless as your Auntie Alfia, and take good care of your injuries, even if they seem small. It just hurts too much to be an idiot...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pilates, acroyoga and beautiful Karen

I subbed two Pilates classes yesterday. The funny ting about it is that I have never actually been to a Pilates class before. But our Pilates teacher could not find a sub for her classes and she sounded very desperate, so I volunteered. I just had yoga ab and back exercises done in a gym rep regime and voila - Pilates class! Well, I do not know whether it was in any way close to Pilates, but the students did not complain too much.

In the afternoon I ended up in an Acroyoga workshop. I am not sure why it is called acro-yoga, in my opinion it was a partner yoga. But it was lovely. First we did a guided Thai massage on each other, then - partner yoga poses, and in the end - attempted "flying". I loved Thai massage! I think I might go and get some training in that. Felt delicious! My partner was Conny, my classmate from the Teacher Training Program; we were well-matched in the size and flexibility. So the second part felt very good, too. Having a partner really allows one to get much deeper into a pose, than when doing it alone.

And here is the "flying" part. We suspended our partners on the extended legs, and allowed them to relax and elongate through the spine. Turns out a person can "fly" a much, much heavier partner without any problems:

We had a blast! :)

After the workshop, Karen and I started our session. She is amazing! I am afraid I did not do her justice, after all. And I absolutely hate having my picture with hers in the same post. But nevertheless, here are some of them :

And this one is my favorite:

I think she is one of those rare people who are as beautiful outside as they are beautiful inside.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Let us all survive till tomorrow

Boy, oh boy. I was not entirely alive this morning at practice. I made it there just because I knew that Aliya was teaching and I did not want to miss his last class before he goes to India. But goodness, I felt bad!
First of all - I did not get enough sleep. I had to sub a class yesterday from 8 to 9:30, came home at 10, was too wired up to fall asleep before 11. Slept poorly, and got a pain in my right shoulder blade in the morning. I was hoping yoga will make it go away, but no, no such luck. Rolling in lotus was excruciating. Every chaturanga was painful. Going down from setu bandhasana - ouch! Coming up into a headstand and holding utplutih -same. Overall, I decided to be proud of myself practicing in the face of adversity. Unless I get crippled by the end of the day, then I will be mad at myself for being stupid. I guess I will not be indifferent to my own persona in any case. :)
Tomorrow morining I sub two Pilates classes, then need to do grocery shopping. In the afternoon Karen and I have a photosession. I am so excited! She is such a lovely person and an amazing yogini. I hope I will be able to do her justice with my amateurish photography. Well, but first we need to make it to tomorrow, don't we? I am going to start working on that.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Science of yoga and weak hip flexors

The Science of yoga talk by Timothy McCall was interesting. The auditorimum was full, most of the people there practiced yoga. I did not know there are so many yoga practitioners at NIH. Well, NIH is a rather large organization. Anyway, the talk. He told stories about Swami Rama and the scientific research he subjected himself to (without mentioning the controversy surrounding Swami Rama, or course). He also said the yoga completely changed his own life in a way that he actually dedicated his life to bring yoga and science together. His major point was that it is very hard to "measure" the effectiveness of yoga as therapy using the conventional methods of evidence-based medicine, such as randomized clinical trials. Yoga did very well in the majority of these trials. It is in fact, surprising, according to the speaker, because these trials required a standard scheme, by which all of the patients are treated, while yoga by nature is very custom-made (not Ashtanga, though - a.). It is also impossible to have a decent placebo group, which would think they do yoga, while in fact they don't. His appeal to the NIH audience was that we should probably re-think whether we should apply the same standards of evindentiary support for yoga and pharmaceutical drugs, which makes a lot of sense to me. In the end he made the audience hum in pranayama and explore the effects of raising and lowering the eyebrows with fingers.
Today was a typical Thursday-low-energy practice, which felt good afterwards nevertheless. David made me do an interesting thing today, when I was doing my UD stand-ups from the bench. He made me lower down into laghu vajrasana, only without the help of hands and my head down to the bench instead of the floor. It was a rather tight pose, with hips close to vertical position. And then I was supposed to lift up from it. OMG! My calves seized immediately, but I kind of realised where my major weakness was. I either have weak hip flexors or I do not use them properly in my stand-ups. Very interesting! This pose is easy to practice at home, so I will explore it further. I have the feeling that David nailed the reason for my inability to stand up. He is good! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New meditation and yoga week

Practice was not spectacular, but better than yesterday. I met a very lovely girl at shala; she told me how she dealt with the standing up from UD issue. She visualized herself standing up, not only while attempting it, but also while driving, working and so on. She said she would just picture herself standing up, light as a feather, all day long. With my level of obsessiveness I can do it with no problem! I guess for now this is going to be my meditation practice.

It is a yoga week at NIH and I have not attended a single event yet. Oh, well, I might be able to make it to the talk "The Science of Yoga" by Timothy Mccall this morning. Should be interesting!

The sun is shining outside. I hope everyone has a very beautiful Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We do need rain, right?

I went to shala yesterday and had a great practice, moon day or no. Today, on the other hand, I stayed home and had the most uninspired, lazy practice I have ever done. I did not even bother with the vinyasas between the sides, and just wanted it to be over. What is up with that? I went to bed early yesterday, I ate well, no particular strain or stress at the moment. I do not understand how it works.
We are having a miserable day today. It is cold and rainy, the traffic is bad, my commute took twice as long as usual. But people at work seem to be cheerful, and my mood picked up a little. I think I will chalk off this morning's practice as an aberration, rather than age-related decline and will start over tomorrow.
Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tomtom and David's party.

It was a very nice Saturday! I slept extra couple of hours, and felt immensely better afterwards. Went shopping for groceries at H-mart, it was fun, as always. Used my freshly bought GPS. I love it! The best cure for directionally challenged people, like me. I especially liked the fact that if I did not use the directions it suggested, it immediately re-calculated the path and gave me new direction without any added attitude. Lovely!
Yesterday was also an annual party at David's house. His parties are always so much fun! It is amazing how many people his tiny house can accommodate, plus a live band and at least three rather large dogs. It was interesting to observe all these yogis in a non-yoga environment. I could barely recognize some of them. Instead of sweat - beautiful, well-groomed faces, elegant hairstyles and nice clothes. What a difference a smudge of makeup does! I also noticed that there is a definite difference in how a crowd of yogis and non-yogis look. Yogis have much better postures! It is not all that surprising for a person or two; but when there is a crowd and everyone has a great posture - that is quite a view.
Have a great Sunday, everyone! :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cats and irises

Some pictures, for a change. This iris was growing next to the building where I had my training. It was not dying as it may seem, the actual colors of the flower were brown, white and purple. It was much prettier in life:

My younger cat. She is fat:

My older cat (the one that nearly died recently). She seems to be feeling fine now:

Time for bed. Good night, everyone! :)

No more classes, please!

Today was the last day of my training at work. I feel a little brain-dead, but otherwise happy. The brains are overrated, anyway. I have access to internet again, which is more important!
My practice this week was unexpectedly good. I did skip Monday, but not a day after that. My ribs hurt a little on the back (I guess I pulled one of the ubiquitous intercostal muscles at the workshop), but it is not too bad. I am now standing up from UD (using a bench) steadily, and feel that my UD is overall better. I did not have any energy left for the home (read - crim) practice, but I attribute this more to the training at work, not my yoga practice.
Since I did not practice at home, I watched a lot of movies. 27 dresses (stupid), Juno (good), Stargate - the Arch of Truth (felt like an episode of the show, not like a movie), and Golden Compass (so-so). It felt like in my childhood, when I could watch 4-5 movies in a row. Good times! Now the delinquent adolescent in me asks to go and see the Chronicles of Narnia new installment, but I think my adult self will prevail and wait for the DVD.
Tomorrow is Friday!!! Where did the week go? Stupid training... :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kino's workshop

I was out of blogosphere for too long. I missed you all!

Anyway, I had 13.5 hours of yoga this weekend. First, Kino's workshop, and then my vinyasa class. Let me tell you, that much yoga during the ladies holiday is not good. I am on a day four of above mentioned holiday, and it is not letting go. What if it decides to stay forever?

Kino's workshop was great. She is such a lovely person. When she was telling us stories about Guruji, she imitated his accent, but with so much love and admiration, that it was very funny and heart-warming at the same time.
First workshop was a lead class. I am not sure how much variation one can get from lead Ashtanga classes; I guess the difference is mostly in adjustments. Aliya was funny when he said that if he adjusted a down dog the way she was doing, he would be immediately sued. She was leaning with her whole body against the back of the student, pushing pretty hard. In my case, she came from behind, inserted her hands between my thighs and pulled them, simultaneously rotating them outwards. Interesting feeling.
In Mysore on Sunday we've got more adjustments. In supta kurmasana she told me to hold my head firmly up, pressing down with my chin. My instinct before that were keeping my head down, on the forehead. With head up it was much easier to hold the leg knot behind my neck.

In the "Yes you can" workshop she was concentrating on the jump through - jump back preps and their connection to the handstand. She had an interesting partner work activity, where we helped each other to get into a handstand. In all these preps she had us tuck the tailbone in, round the upper back and spread the shoulder blades. In jump through and a handstand the idea was not to jump up, but to drive the sacrum forward as far as possible. Of course I was too scared to drive my sacrum far enough for the legs to lift, but I got the idea. I will need to try it at home. I need to fall down several times to get rid of this particular fear, and then I can try in all earnest.
The other interesting thing I remember she said was about the difference between "I am tired" our mind says and " "I am tired" our muscles say. She said that mind gives up invariably earlier than the true limit of muscle endurance is achieved. She had an example of utpluthi. She said the true limit is achieved if we are still pushing and working hard, but the butt nevertheless hits the floor.

The backbending workshop was very interesting, too. She gave us a sequence of checkpoints to run before going into any backbend. First, to pull in the low ab muscle, pretty much the same way we do, trying to zip jeans that are too tight. Then tuck the tailbone in as much as possible. Expand the lower ribs with inhalation, then exhale but leave the ribs where were. Do it several times, every time ribs stay up higher and higher. Bring hands in a prayer position at the level of eyebrows and start leaning back with exhalation. Move down, periodically checking the abs, the tailbone, the ribs and the breathing. I was trying so hard that my ribs are still achy! We also worked a little on standing up from UD, but by that time I was already pooped, so my attempts were not quite wholehearted.

I did not practice today, trying to mollify my raging ladies holiday. But already by midday I was regretting the skipped practice, because this whole week I am in training, which means sitting, sitting and sitting some more. Lectures all day long, very few breaks, no internet either. I should stop being a student, I think. I should start teaching instead…

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thursday crash prevention.

Yesterday I fulfilled my plan for a Thursday crash - I went to bed 30 min earlier, and right before I took an Epsom salt bath. I slept like a baby, and this morning practice was wonderful. But then again, Monday was a moon day, therefore my planned crash might have moved to tomorrow. But I know what to do, and I will try my bath/early to bed manoeuvre again tonight.

My UD standing up from the bench is back, though I acquired a habit of leading with one arm somehow. When I tried to use both arms at the same time, I could not stand up at all. Oh, well. At least some progress.

I am enjoying my girlypalooza so much! Sephora package arrived and now I am spending at least 30 minutes of my valuable work time applying bare minerals with different brushes, drawing my eyebrows and shining my lips. Everybody is complimenting me on my hair and the general way I am looking. Yay! I will try not to sink back into the "natural" looks again.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Feeling girly

I love moon days mostly because of how I feel next day during the practice. I feel light and wonderful! I walked too much this weekend, so my legs were a little sore. Stretching was particularly delicious today. Standing up from UD (assisted) felt a little lighter, but I might be imagining it just because I feel great overall. After practice, I styled my hair with a blow dryer and a mousse , so my new haircut looks nice and fresh. I even applied a little of makeup, so I am feeling very feminine and flirty. Spring is in the air! :)
I am very excited about the upcoming Kino's workshop this weekend. It is going to be somewhat brutal though - 4.5 hours on Saturday, 6 hours on Sunday, plus I will need to drive really fast afterwards to make it to my own vinyasa class that I teach. I think I will try not to push too much this week, just to preserve my energy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


On Friday I did not have a minute to sit: Mysore in the morning, free class at work to teach and all levels class in Sun and Moon in the evening. In between - a million things to do at work. I am not sure I like Fridays all that much anymore.
On Saturday - no yoga, but lots of walking. My husband and I went to Georgetown; I had a haircut, we browsed books in Barnes and Noble, shopped a little and then together cooked a nice dinner. Lovely day! Beautiful weather, too!
I really liked my haircut. When we came home, I decided that this new image required new makeup, so I drowned on Sephora website and spent an indecent amount of money there. Aaaah, can't wait when the stuff comes. Shopping is very therapeutic for me, it made a beautiful day completely perfect and I went to bed a happy woman.
I am not going to shala this morning. I will do my home practice with concentration on my weaknesses; then I will prepare for my vinyasa class for tonight, which will give me more practice. The rest of the day I will clean the house, which also has a nice, calming effect on me; prepare food and make plans for the week ahead. Life is good!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May day and Thursday slump

It is a May day! It used to be a holiday back in USSR. When I was a small girl, we went to demonstrations on the first of May. We we dressed nicely, many people were holding flowers or little flags, and some were trusted to carry slogans. The idea was that we were demonstrating a) our solidarity with the oppressed laborers of the world and b) our full support and happiness with the Soviet power. The Soviet power was demonstrated a little later with a military parade, which followed the civilian demonstration. I just remember my silk dress, black and white, of which I was very proud, a heavy sweater on top of it, because it was chilly; I was sitting on my father's shoulders in the sea of live and fake flowers, slogans, balloons and peoples heads. The loudspeaker was yelling something like "Glory to the amazing achievements of the free and and peaceful republic of Uzbekistan" or some such. In addition to the loudspeaker there was deafening military orchestra playing patriotic music. This sea of people was slowly moving through the major streets of the city, and the culmination of the event occurred when we reached the main plaza, and moved next the the platforms with the Communist Party leaders, who standing there, perpetually smiling and waving to the crowds. After we passed the plaza, the crowds dispersed very quickly, leaving behind on the streets colorful bits of paper and dying flowers. That was my first recollection of the first of May demonstration. I was probably 3 or 4 at that time. All the other firsts of May fused in my memory into a blob of boredom and annoyance of the necessity to spend half of a perfectly wonderful day off on the streets instead of doing something worthwhile, like reading a book.
Here is an example of how it was. It is 1983, but over the years of soviet time the first of May demonstration was absolutely constant.

I skipped the practice today. I skipped it last Thursday, too, because of my birthday. I wonder now, is it something my body needs? Or am I being lazy? It is hard to distinguish between the two these day. I think I will go with the former for now, and contemplate it a little longer when I have time.
Happy Thursday, everyone!


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