Wednesday, October 29, 2008
When: noon to about 1:30.
Who: solo show, as always. Speaking of which, let's talk Kapo for a minute. I have been doing 5 breaths in my deepest A (trying to walk hands to feet) and then 5 breaths in my deepest B (arms straight as possible) and then trying (and failing) to come up. Does anyone out there have a solo regimen for Kapo they'd recommend?
How: some tension throughout the outer hips, from sun salutations up to the Janu Sirsasanas. Every Virabhadrasana, every Updog, every Utkatasana. A little som'n-som'n in the outer hips. Familiar; unsuprising. The first two vinyasas (from Paschimo and Purvottanasana) were tough, really hard in the triceps and deltoids. But the rest were full of suprising bandha magic: it was like "inhale, up, exhale, jump back!" Suprising ease. Even with foot scraping a few times, and more in the Mari's, still suprising ease. I didn't have to think about it; the breath just RAN the vinyasa, and I like that.
Janu A remains, with the knee back and the foot turned up, AMAZING in the glutes and the quadratus lumborum. WOW, what a stretch, SO intense. I took ten breaths per side in it.
Not an ideal Ustrasana-Laghu-Kapo today. A lot of action in the outer hips, to the point that I took a big side bend in each direction between Laghu and Kapo, and couldn't really put the up-from-Laghu in the front thighs. Kapo also felt not as deep as it might have been, and I'm not sure how. Oh well. Practice. Later, practice again. It's not like my enlightenment depends on this.
Five wheels, still happening in the low, low abs, actually in the "barf" muscles, by which I mean the abs which get very tense when you toss your cookies. This cracked me up when I realized it. Also, in the right armpit, in the right outer hip, and in both sets of quads (MAJORS!).
Three standing half-bends (ten breaths per) and two to the wall: I'm dropping back about navel high. This isn't as low as I got during the night practice on Monday, but duh, night more flexy than morning/noonish. Also, night room WARMER than 64 degrees in the Y near a basketball court and a track.
It is still good. Regular practice good.
Monday, October 27, 2008
A guy I know (the same dedicated student who did a Primary to Mari D on Sunday in my one remaining yoga class in town) had Facebooked me with the comment, "*led Intermediate* cough cough*" and I laughed it off.
But it was me, him, and the teacher/student who teaches the class directly prior to this one, and the three of us are, for this town, fairly advanced, quite willing, and very chill practitioners.
So we did it. Tea lights galore, because the tall electric light was broken, and so a candle light, space heater practice, while the outside temperature dropped through the 40s, headed apparently for our first frost of the season.
5 A's, 4 B's, standing through Ardha Baddha Padma Padottanasana, and then a sort of "Ashtanga Playground" which really quite resembled a full Intermediate series. I didn't lead it, but practiced along. A triad. I gave quick instructions as to vinyasa entries and exits and demonstrated poses which were foreign (Hi, Mayurasana/Nakrasana/Vatayanasana/SUPV). I've not been taught Ashtanga Gomukhasana and so I don't know if I "got it right" and I owned that. I do, however, from a combination of experience, David Swenson's book, Matthew Sweeney's book, and reading detailed "how-to's" from certain practitioners in the online shala, have a good grip, I think, on how most of Intermediate should be entered and exited and how the poses work. Whatever I flubbed or made up or got wrong, I own, and none of us cared too much; we did a sequence, we had marvelous energy, we enjoyed it.
I gave options to modify everything from Bakasana B to Eka and Dwi Pada to Karandavasana, but this duo was hardcore, doing the closest to full expressions that they could, so I did too. We tried on everything, including the seven deadlies. We tried it all, and we either got the poses or didn't, or fell over, or didn't, and it was sweaty energetic fun.
No, it wasn't by any means an "official" led Intermediate; it would be silly to pretend that.
Intermediate feels GOOD in my body when I'm practicing pretty regularly, even though this afternoon, even the baby backbends of it, handed me my butt. I really believe that those poses clean out my stress; Primary, as is its reputation, grounds and stabilizes. Intermediate introduces some serious flight, and it sort of floods the nadis, that's my experience of it so far, washes them out, clears whatever is stuck in there, but one has to be careful, as Kafka put it, that the horse does not lose its head and neck while one is wishing to be a Red Indian.
Maybe my life post-divorce, with its massive pattern change, its nearly total change of pattern (in a way, like breaking a long decade of drug addiction), might be settling in to some new energetic arrangement. I LIKE my current research, a LOT. The job market feels promising. This totally absurdly excessive school semester, which is more than ANY one academic is EVER professionally asked to assume (four classes AND grading two AND research? UN FREAKIN HEARD OF), still seems to be sitting on a thick, stony base of natural strength.
I like this energetic pattern. If it were to come with a professional income (you know, to the point where I could open a savings account again, for the first time in twelve years), and access to a Mysore-style room, who the hell knows, emotionally-physically, where my yoga practice will end up.
All of this camelling has, I must finally admit, built up a gigantic base of pure force in me, a wall that cannot be beaten down by student loans, by cheap pay for excessive labor, by loneliness of practice, by job market stress.
This Lion-worshipper bows to the Camel, realizing why it's here too. Namaste, sucker. Indeed.
I did a great, big, shameless Mangala Mantra chant when the class was over. We sat in silence and candlelight for a while. The affection and health and ease in the room was tangible. Silent love fest. Mmm mmm good.
Job applications have a certain similarity to adolescent awkwardness: for some jobs, I feel a bit of a crush (location, skill set, other aspects) and for other jobs, I feel a certain repellance (again, location, skill set, other aspects) but I have to apply evenly in both cases. Both letters must look alike. In some cases I practice restraint, and in others, I fake enthusiasm.
One hour to practice, between job application delivery and teaching a film class: home was the only option, out in the living room. 59 degrees in the house. I put on sweats and went for it. 5 and 4 sun salutations, cranking the ujjayi/driste and tristana as hard as I could, really holding the gaze through every up and down dog.
Standing was strong; sweat was actually dripping off my head in the Prasaritas. Tapas!! Good balance through Utthita Hasta and Ardha Baddha Padma. Vinyasa down, jump up for Pasasana.
I don't care for modifying Primary for time: if I'm pressed for time, I usually either do a fragment of Intermediate or else a MS Krama. So, Pasasana it was.
Immediate fairly drastic release in the outer hips; pulling open, and enervating release of stressed fascia, as if the whole morning was processing out of my body.
Less than full Krounchasana; hip release and enervation continued through the backbends. Shalabhasana was squeezing energy out of the low back; Bhekasana cranked it out of the mid-back. Dhanurasana got all in the low abs, and Parsva Dhanurasana (which is usually pretty intense for me anyway) turned into science fiction.
Let me make that make sense.
In Parsva D, MS told me to look straight "up" between my shoulders; no tilt to the head. Look straight back, even if, in the pose, this head position ITSELF is crooked. This management of the gaze, along with pointing the feet and pushing up as for Dhanurasana itself, cranks some special stretch deep into the hip flexors. Almost every time, I feel a deep vertical stripe of muscle pull open, and it's incredibly intense, and further, this sensation usually stays with me through Ustrasana, which is then revisited in Kapotasana. It's all one thing.
Today, the sensation was so deep and so intense that I couldn't really stand it. It wasn't pain and it wasn't unpleasant, but it was too much; it was of a magnitude I couldn't cognitively handle. I call it science fiction because it's like the various "sun worshippers" in the Danny Boyle film SUNSHINE. Various astronauts take on different kinds of worship of the light; certain infinities and godhead-like states are striven for. Perhaps one of them makes it to such a state permanently. It's an interesting film; worth a look. I didn't care much for it on first view, but it keeps cropping up in my head, so it's obviously on to something.
I think that I got a psoas stretch out of Parsva D, and I wish it wasn't 3 hours ago that I had this sensation, because now I can't really reproduce it to break it down, but the stretch was deep, DEEP, in the front hip, and also intense in the low back, but all muscular, not bone, not nerves, not electric like that, and not painful. Just unbelievable intense. It reduced me to spontaneous laughter, completely out of control. No more asana was possible.
Later, preparing to come to school, I would hear Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" in my head, and YES, that is the theme song for such a stretch, for such an experience. Psychedelic space travel.
Thank you, backbends.
So, I think that I may have touched the source, and I think it's emotional (job stress) as much as physical (backbends). Check this; this is as close as I got to it: the stretch was deeper than sexual sensation AND more intense. Now remember how "core" Western culture thinks sexuality is (read your Foucault). There is something well underneath all that.
Don't they call the psoas the seat of the soul? It's a trip if that's what I got in contact with this afternoon. Yee-hawww.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
DVD return, a tire going flat that I couldn't inflate, job application documents emailed so that I could, at school, print them off on fancy paper, and only after all that, landing in a studio with about 75 minutes to spare before my class and then the one I was subbing.
Primary in 75 minutes; it's not really hard anymore to do it in that time space.
Solo show, with a Jai Uttal DVD; some extra breaths here and there, but the hardest bits were the twists and Navasana (basically anything that involves hip flexors).
Five wheels, and three 10-breath halfbends. REALLY brilliant half-bends, so delicious. Abdominals sore, rather than back sore, which is just what Sweeney recommends. Good, good stuff. I could almost, but not quite, see the mat. If this keeps up, if I can ACTUALLY HOLD myself to regular practice, I will recover my drops back.
I did the feet-up vinyasa from Upavistha Konasana, which actually I was only shown a couple weeks ago in Austin. Janu A remains incredibly sweet and intense, now that I have learned (again in Austin) to turn the foot up and really get the knee back. That action in the glutes is practically orgasmic. No, I'm not really kidding.
Then I (mostly) watched my one most dedicated Ashtanga student do the series Mysore-style through Marichyasana D, and then I taught what was largely the Simha Krama (with detours and modifications and things left out all over) to four vinyasa students.
And now it's 4 pm. Umm, tea time?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
My favorite move (and one I can't pull yet) from the advanced Simha Krama is a kneeling dropback to a tiptoe Kapo, only as a transition to rolling ONTO the hands, into Urdhva Dhanurasana and thence even to standing up. I think that is freakin WILD.
So I did the advanced SK up to Kapo variations and then called it a practice. There was leg-behind-head prep stuff and inversions and twists, but MS recommends doing only sections of the SK anyway, so that's what I did.
Standing backbends and salutations, standing poses, lunges, a beautiful pigeon sphinx twist (mmmmmmmm), the deep feet-apart cobras (so intense, so yummy), lotus vinyasa, simhasana itself (mmmm, yummy), various backbends.
I cannot do anything more in Kapo than Kapo (for example, no one-leg Bhekasana, no one-leg Ardha Badda Padma), so in those variations, I dropped back into Kapo (four times, total) and then played with arm straightening, thigh engaging, shoulder-blades-down-backing and other bits and pieces of the backbends. Experiments.
Pressing one arm straight as possible, with the other one on the calf, in Kapo, was very fun for learning about the relationship between front body, lumbar spine, and armpit/tricep/shoulder. Sort of an Ardha Kapotasana B, maybe.
Kapotasana itself (I dropped into it, walked in twice, took five breaths in my modified A and then pressed upward (but not up) and took five more in a modified B) remains an earthquake for me, but that's par for the course, and to improve with practice. Less fear, the more I do it. Duh.
I wanted actual Urdhva Dhanurasana but after four Kapo's I just didn't have it in me and that was fine.
How long, again (remind me) have I had these SUPER CRANKY hip flexors? Since before July, I know. Every day, they are cranky. Morning, evening, you name it. So be it, I'm practically used to it. They help me want to practice (actually they only help me want to backbend; some days I have to FORCE Primary in order to get to my bit of Intermediate).
I realized today that I am, schedule-wise, teaching four academic classes, grading two large (~90 people each) lecture classes, doing research, and writing apps for the academic job market. I am also handling my student loan debt without too much panic. It's a lesson in how the long patience-building of dissertation and then of teaching-under-financial-strain has radically increased my inner strength. This workload would have crushed me without ANY question at ALL, three years ago.
They say that ashtanga yoga confronts one with one's fear. It's always seemed a bit of a refuge to me, a sort of chance to confront my power, to sort of "climb hard" on the yoga mat. This is probably because I started ashtanga around the time I was committing to dissertate, and at least for me, the dissertation was far spookier, more painful and more fear-chocked than any physical practice could ever POSSIBLY be. So ashtanga is really not confrontation for me--there's some patience in it, some stoking of desire to get on the mat now and then (that's more solitude than any aspect of the practice; when I'm in a community, I am THERE on the mat as much as I can be), but aside from specific fear like that of dropping back from standing, this is not where I "do" confrontation.
Because Indianapolis is a vinyasa town, its yoga focuses more on "being present" and flowing, and doing it "your way" than it does about the long-term "developing the pose" that ashtanga regularly demands. There is no comparison to be inferred here; it's simply that "working on one's yoga" here means being present, not trying to get the arms through in Garbha Pindasana (lotus, hands through, roll hither and yon).
I find in classes here that I have this truly uncommon reservoir of strength and flexibility and that I have for some time had the rep of being the guy who can pull any move in the room. This isn't native talent, people; it's not like I have a gymnast's or dancer's background, and I'm not a born contortionist. It's training. Ashtanga yoga; it's good for you.
I don't even think it's that I have greater tapas or anything like that; there are plenty of people here who are very hardcore about what they do. My partner likes to differentiate it by saying that for folks here, "working on the yoga" is not a big priority, and I think that's a fair way to put it. The whole idea of "you'll work on that pose" isn't really a major element here, whereas in Ashtanga (classically anyway) it's one of the primary (no pun intended) pieces. This isn't to say that there's less challenge here; it's simply of a different stripe.
So questions about my arm balances or my long hamstrings always, for me, go back to, pretty much, "having worked on the yoga." All of it: backbends, forward bends, whether I can bind a standing pose or not, all of that. It's all "having worked on the yoga." Jumping back and through. All of my dedication to Ashtanga in the early days was about wanting to know whether there would be some big spiritual breakthrough if I could just "do it right," could learn the full sequence, could smooth out the bumpy places. "Everywhere you look, you see God," Pattabhi Jois had said. Was it true? Can I, to paraphrase Ruben Carter, "make my body into a lens?" Long hamstrings are easy to acquire if you think they might crack your head open to the divine.
I guess I'm still on that trip, even as life events build my inner patience differently from how the yoga does. Dissertation was still harder than Kapo is, and also more rewarding. But I will have Kapo; I'm interested in doing a sequence which has Kapo in it (be it Intermediate or Simha Krama, which actually does NOT have classical Kapo in it).
And Kapo is the door, pretty much, in Intermediate. Sure, I can't pull a Dwi Pada by myself until I do it three times, and sure, I've never yet lowered in Karandavasana, nor have I done the classical exits from the seven deadly headstands, but those will come. I'm so, SO close to Dwi Pada-ing by myself, and Karanda is just a matter of proprioception. The seven deadlies are just a matter of confronting fear; I have plenty of strength for those.
So Kapo is the door, to whatever else awaits. It is a virtual certainty that I shake hands with Sthira Bhaga if I can do Kapo. That can come whenever; I'm willing to sit back here with my cup of Kapo for a while before knocking on that door. But it's there.
So be it. Saturday morning I return to the vinyasa show. I wonder what kind of stunts I'll pull there.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
10 sun salutations, Trikonasanas, Parsvakonasanas, 3 progressive bridges into 4 wheels, forward bend, vinyasa, shoulderstand series to Matsyasana, call it a practice. Some seated breathing (what MS calls "kevala kumbhaka") and then up and out and back here.
Perhaps I will throw down some Simha Krama moves later on today.
The wheels were not full-size but they were quite nice and I have no pain or displeasure from them.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Where? The local Y, in a corner under the stairs near the track. About 64 degrees.
When? About 11:30-1 pm.
Who? Solo show, with runners and walkers nearby which helps, because human energy cranks me up.
How was it? Really? It was brilliant, even with another "defeat" in Kapo. That's fine. Much, much better hangbacks today; three standing, able to see the floor, then two "wall-backs". Still very intense and not as easy or deep as the summer full dropbacks, but that is coming.
Tristana is the union of breath, movement and gaze (dristi). It WORKS; it is NOT just rhetoric or esoteric yoga-ese. I kept the gaze focused at a point extending about maybe 18 inches from the tip of the nose; just far away enough not to get cross-eyed, and kept the gaze there for focus whenever I needed it (hi, Navasana). My breath tends to get ragged in the Bhuja-to-Baddha K sequence, and so I reined the inhale in to the gaze, and locked it there, cranked up the tristana and breathed, moved, did the sequence. Much smoother.
Also, in vinyasa, I watched the gaze sort of make a large, rounded arc. Jump back; gaze lowers, "pushing" the floor, and then extends up, forward, as I land in chaturanga. Up, up, up, rounding, to the ceiling, in upward facing dog, and then down, down, rounding in, to the mat, the feet, the navel, in downward facing dog. Then up, up, rounding, jump through, look UP, land seated. Gaze forward, inhale up, exhale next pose. This not so much quiets the mind, as directs it. Literally, one-pointed focus. VERY cool.
Better, lighter vinyasa today, and better backbends all around. I was able to press some toward the hands in my 5 wheels, and even walk in on the fifth one, rather than simply surviving them as I did yesterday.
I still think of myself as doing "my backbending sequence" rather than 10 poses of Intermediate. 10 poses of Intermediate sounds HARD, while simply "doing my backbending" sounds like I'm in charge; it sounds easier and elective. I do the poses anyway, but it's how I sell them to myself that matters.
Somehow I have turned classical ashtangi again; no frills, no thrills, no modifications, a few extra breaths here and there, particularly in the Janus and the twists, where I love to feel the stretch happening, but no changes in anything. 25 breaths in each closing inversion. I think a Krama break now and then is good for me; shakes up the yoga bottle, mixes the dressing. Then I can do some nice chewy regular Ashtanga yoga and it feels fantastic, even when the hip flexors are lighting up like overheated vacuum tubes in an amp being supercranked by Eddie van Halen.
Still, my back is not sore; this means the method is good. As Matthew Sweeney put it, "it'll feel good or it'll feel bad; do more, or do less, depending on how it feels." So be it.
Monday, October 20, 2008
You are The Sun
Happiness, Content, Joy.
The meanings for the Sun are fairly simple and consistent.
Young, healthy, new, fresh. The brain is working, things that were muddled come clear, everything falls into place, and everything seems to go your way.
The Sun is ruled by the Sun, of course. This is the light that comes after the long dark night, Apollo to the Moon's Diana. A positive card, it promises you your day in the sun. Glory, gain, triumph, pleasure, truth, success. As the moon symbolized inspiration from the unconscious, from dreams, this card symbolizes discoveries made fully consciousness and wide awake. You have an understanding and enjoyment of science and math, beautifully constructed music, carefully reasoned philosophy. It is a card of intellect, clarity of mind, and feelings of youthful energy.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
What? Primary plus ten (to Kapo), with one hang-back, and closing.
When, where? About noon-1:30, in my sunny living room, at 67 degrees.
Who? Just me. Solo show, but with fabulous live Santana CD. Mmm mmm good.
How was it?
Well, balance was mediocre in standing, but successful; vinyasa was not spot-on, but fine; Janu A remains a whole new pose since my Austin adjustment; it is REALLY about the glutes now (ahh!), and twists remain really intense in getting into the outer and lateral hips (that's STILL crankiness from backbending developments).
Baddha Konasana remains intense, but flattish, and Supta Padangusthasana is like this marvelous break from the oven that otherwise is Primary; I can't say that this is a restorative sequence yet; it still has challenges, taken in toto, even though I can "do" every pose in it.
Intense openings in the front thighs and hip flexors began in the Janus, developed in the late updogs, and really came to life in Bhekasana, the Dhanurasanas and particularly in Ustrasana/Laghu/Kapo. Laghuvajrasana remains fine; it has returned. Kapo is slowly, SLOWLY, re-developing; there is SO. MUCH. INTENSITY. There. Every part of it from the hands-over, the hang, the drop, the walk-in, every single part of it is mad intense. I pressed up today into a sort of Kapo B and called it a pose instead of trying to walk in further toward Kapo A.
Five rounds of the wheel, four of them with eyes closed (that helps me focus on breathing and de-focus on achievement). The one hang-back was so intense in the hip flexors that after six breaths, without even being able to see the FLOOR, I cracked open one of those cathartic laughing-crying emotional releases and that was enough. Usually in a hangback I can easily see the floor and it's just a matter of guiding the thighs in and tailbone down and ribs up until I can see the mat. Not today!!
25 breaths in each closing inversion, and then mellowness and ease. Ahhh. Good good stuff. Practice makes everything better; it even makes music sound better.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Actually, I think this came from modeling a backbend in one of yesterday's classes when not all warmed up, but this morning it is SET OFF; no practice for me until it eases up, which will make teaching 3 hours of yoga today ummmm....interesting, let's just call it.
I'll teach in sweatshirt to keep the back muscles warm and try to demo as little as possible. The electric pain comes in a horizontal bar, directly under the shoulder blades, which is exactly where my backbends either advance or retreat.
That is all! I guess I'm saving my usual philosophy, metaphysics and obscure references for next post!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
On Sunday I will teach my 12:30 ashtanga or vinyasa or mysore thing (it varies totally, depending on who shows up) and then ALSO sub a 2 pm vinyasa class. I am apparently the sub of choice. This is good stuff.
I'm only teaching, these days, at the one studio downtown, and Sunday is my only class. The spa out west shut down, and I needed to prioritize school teaching over yoga teaching, so I don't teach in the north end either. It's Sunday afternoon; that is the one.
Something has the idea of "the pose I/you/he/she hates to do" in my head. I haven't hated a pose for a long time. I remember that question being asked when I was in TT in San Francisco, and I said, "No, really, I don't hate that pose anymore, I don't think I hate any of them," and it was true. Not the endurance test that Sun B used to be, not the knee-tweaking Janu C, not Kurmasana's demands for flexy hamstrings, not the seeming impossibility of Garbha Pindasana, not the ever retreating backbends, not any of it.
I don't hate anything in Intermediate either; that reaction doesn't even describe from a distance, any of those poses.
I have some fear and anxiety about Kapo, but that's what it is. I have some confusion about how the freakin' hell I hold my toes in a full Supta Vajrasana, but that's what that is. I have some curiosity as to how in the world I'm ever going to get the proprioception to make lotus in Pincha Mayurasana, but again, that's what that is.
Those are my sticky points in Intermediate. Every other pose in it, including Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana (the final over-the-arm rollup) has at one point or another, behaved (SUPV usually doesn't). Seven headstands included. I do them every once in a while in the 8 am power yoga class.
Perhaps it's that I'm a guy, but I can hit Mayurasana virtually any time I want. Cold, sweaty, backbent, early on, later on, anytime. Only wrist pain has ever prevented me from that pose, and currently my wrists are in pretty good shape.
Things that I find fascinating/difficult/curious/other:
Full Natarajasana. Wow. I can't even get that toe grab in a BOW POSE.
Real, live, comfortable, easy Chakra Dhanurasana (dropback-standups). I can imagine it, and I've seen people do it, but wow.
That wacko arm balance that Ana Forrest calls "Dragonfly" which is really a variation on Yoga Dandasana. How TF do you get the foot on the back of the upper arm?
Half-lotus toe-stand. It's a Bikram pose, so I hear, and holy cow is it hard, yet it feels and looks like it shouldn't be.
Real, live, power handstands. Not the hurling-it-up ballistic ones, nor the "I'm lucky I balanced" ones, but the real things, the standing forward bend liftoff bandha rocket handstands.
Bhairavasana. Mmmmm. Side plank with foot behind head. You sexy beast of a pose, you.
And that about does it: some curiosity, even some sort of "asana crushes" but nothing in the hate category. I think on a certain level this is about indifference rather than about mellowing (although that's there too). Yesterday I had a fabulous Primary-plus-ten in the grass on the last day of Indian Summer before it officially became fall (yesterday, high in the low 80s; today, high in the low 60s).
Life is, actually, quite good. Hectic as all get out, and full of panic sometimes about the job market, but oddly, quite good. I feel like there is strength everywhere.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today I went, again, to the local Y and did my actual recommended Ashtanga practice, no deviations, no Kramafications, no alterations. Primary plus ten (to Kapo), Urdhva Dhanurasana, half-bends and wall-backs and then closing. About 100 minutes in all.
It seems that the Y is always kept somewhere in the temperature range of 64-67 degrees. I can tell, from pose retreatings, that it's merely the time to become adjusted to fall/winter practice. Marichyasana D is tough again; Kurmasana is not heels-up; glutes are too tight for a comfortable foot-behind-head. This will all change by probably mid-November as I adjust to it.
Kapo, from not steady enough practice, has again retreated to basically a Kapo-prep pose and a Supta Virasana exit. Practice, practice, all is coming. I WAS, however, able to to two standing and two wall-half-bends, and I can feel fascia re-cracking open ALL OVER the front and lateral hips, which is a good sign.
So, Austin Texas, the story:
I went there for a conference on 1968, and it was good. I gave a paper at 8:30 on Saturday morning and found that I had digested my dissertation into about five pages. Now THAT is some mastery of one's material.
So I landed in Austin at about 11 am on Friday and left my hotel at 4 am on Sunday; it was totally a "surgical strike" of a trip. I got to the conference late, and didn't hit any Friday sessions, so went right out to a Led Primary where I finally met Liz.
The Liz-shala is awesome; small, intimate, totally a community, very good vibes. Liz and I were across from each other, directly, so in Kurmasana we were pretty much nose-to-nose. Liz is good energy and, like Cody, is very much like her blog, just in person. That is to say, many of us here in blogland, myself very much included, write very much as we are in everyday life. These, with some segregation, are my everyday topics, and this is totally my everyday English. The Academy this is not.
So yes, go to Austin and see a sort of weird combination of city, college town, non-stop music festival, and Hollywood western with an international cast. I'll give you an example: the campus has undergrads, which are the same everywhere, but also a KILLER Thai vegetarian place where I had some of the best fried tofu in spicy brown sauce EVER, and the decor of that place was stuck in the 1970s, down to vinyl and muted light greens; then I crossed the street and it was all longhorn skull decor and beautiful if somewhat International-style campus buildings and guys in hats (mine included) and tanning places and families on rented bicycles touring around and a series of silent-until-dusk neon-lit bars including what I think is the original "Coyote Ugly" and languages and accents of every kind, on the street. I saw two well-tattooed guys in that Thai place, and I expected to hear drawl or twang, but they were speaking in freakin' Cockney accents! Cockney! In South freakin' TEXAS! Of course, there are also thousands of longhaired bohemian Richard-Linklater-film lookalikes there, and the required t-shirts which now seem to read, "Keep Austin Batty."
It is good there, and I saw all of the old locales from my 2002 trip, which was also for a conference.
Additionally, I saw RELIGULOUS at the Alamo Drafthouse (yes, it's on the hip-and/or-tired Sixth Street). Not to throw down a full review, but the film was MORE complicated than a simple atheist-versus-believer battle, but LESS complicated than a real full-on discussion, say, BETWEEN believers, would have been. Overall I recommend it, even though the closing pyrotechnically-edited propaganda (and I mean that objectively) is a little too over the top EVEN FOR ME. The message of the film is largely that nuclear weapons and millenarian religion (that is, religion which understands the world to end in violence) do and should not mix, and I agree fully with that.
Austin is good times, and it was stone beautiful down there, high-80s during the day and 60s at night, and even though my hotel window looked out onto the tower of a parking garage, which is about the world's LAMEST view, the city is good and I shall return.
There has been some chitchat about adjustments of late in the blogosphere, and I want to say for the record that I got the most adjustments in the Liz-shala that I've gotten in Primary in probably 2 years.
Janu Sirsasana A: Move the knee further BACK, open the angle. The foot sort of opens UPWARD, like in Baddha Konasana. This REALLY intensifies the stretch in the side body and, perhaps oddly, LATERALLY through the gluteus max, where as my faithful readers, you know that I, as they say, "love me some stretch" in the glutes.
Baddha Konasana: a little press-down on the thighs. Mmmmmhmmmmmm.
Mathsyasana: "Relax" and then I was carried up by the ribcage, directly to the top of my head. Ahhhh.
It was pretty freakin' delicious.
I told Liz that I might take some time Saturday to "break it out" on the grass somewhere on the UT campus, and true to life, that happened. Here's the practice:
(AT THIS POINT, WE JUMP UP TO THE 15th; I will now transcribe my Krama-ish practice):
4 Moon salutations from the Simha Krama (standing backbends, crescent lunges)
4 Sun A's and 4 Sun B's
Standing poses from the Baddha Krama (lots of Parsvakonasana, bound variations, standing Bird of Paradise, bound-hands Ardha Chandrasana, that sort of thing, and then the whole sequence with Parivrtta Parsvakonasana inserted for Parsvakonasana)
More standing poses from the Baddha Krama: "pistols," which are Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana squats. Pavel Tsatsouline likes these.
Rocket Utkatasana sequence: Utkatasana to Ardha Utkatasana to Bakasana, jump back.
Prasarita Padottanasana sequence from Simha Krama: revolved, twisted, and other variations on Prasaritas A and C, and also a reverse namaste variation.
Cobras from Simha Krama: first reclining cobras with various hand positions, then arms-straight cobras with twists, first tops-of-feet-down, then sides-of-feet-down, then in sort of downward-facing-baddha-konasana. I LOVE, LOVE the twisting cobras.
Downdog to "wild thing": basically a 3/4 dropover from Dog to Wheel.
Baddha Krama lunges: low lunges and Anjaneyasana variations, including arms overhead, reaching for back foot, and something like Ustrasana in low lunge (both hands to back ankle). Super fun and stretchy.
Baddha Krama continued: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variations, including "sphinxing" up, reclining forward, and twists, with elbow outside front knee, hands in namaste. Best....twist....ever!!! Gets all OVER the glutes. Mmmm mmmm good.
Baddha Krama continued: This isn't quite how MS does it, but I stepped back from the pigeon series, extended up and back in downdog and then stepped all the way through into Hanumanasana, hands bound around front foot. These were some of my biggest front splits; I was able to touch the ground with the, er, mula bandha, but not to settle it down comfortably there.
Uddi Krama move: Hanumanasana, rolling over to Supta Trivikrmasana, letting the foot go, and Chakrasana to the second side. If you've never done this, you HAVE to check out the energetics of all this hamstring-stretching-rolling. It is FABULOUS.
Intermediate from Shalabhasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana (basically, backbends, Bakasana, and twists).
Simha Krama: Surya Yantrasana variations, including bound compass pose. Eka Pada Sirsasana felt like it would be too intense, so I did this instead.
Urdhva Dhanurasana x5 and a classical Closing sequence.
That was it, and it was fantastic. The sun came out and everything. I noticed some definite tightness in the glutes, which seemed to determine a lot of the moves in this sequence. I also really like that it combines five, count them FIVE, different series of poses which I have either memorized or learned in pieces.
And now, to write more job applications and collect papers for more grading!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It's sunny today, and I have accomplished many house errands in the two hours I've been up. Now it's all about finishing this paper, packing for Austin, getting down there tomorrow morning, staying until the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, coming back, teaching a yoga class if anyone shows, then putting the week together.
Really, this paper should be the end of about three-four weeks of sustained deadline stress. Maybe it'll get better. Or, maybe it'll be replaced by the twelve, count them TWELVE, job applications which are due in the vicinity of November 1.
Flying to San Francisco for the big hiring (??) conference at the end of December is going to cost, at least, six hundred bucks. That's without hotel or food. Come on someone, you can hire me if I'm going to put out that kind of cash just in CASE I get an interview and just in CASE it amounts to anything.
How existentially barren IS the universe? One finds out in the academic job market.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
This is an exercise in pure depression. Let me give an example.
The woman who was hired for a position for which I was interviewed last year bears the following statistics:
1) She's not getting a PhD until THIS MONTH. She was hired while ABD (all but dissertation).
2) She's published things in three separate journals. WHILE ABD. I have now two publications, and perhaps a third in the works, and ALL of them have appeared (or will) in the now 18 MONTHS since I got PhD'd.
3) She works on tasty, tasty things like queer theory and cultural studies.
Her marketability and academic "hipness" outdoes mine by about three miles.
Last year almost every job got over 100 applications; some got well over 200.
How, HOW, in the freakin' COSMOS, am I supposed to pull an academic job down with these odds and with, potentially, THAT kind of competition? Well-heeled people from far out Western or Eastern universities, who KNOW they want academic jobs and have SET THEMSELVES TO THIS for years?
I'm an accident in academic jobs. I'm an "oh...crap...better finish dissertation...what? job market? What job market?" character.
How will this happen? And if it doesn't? What the HELL do I do then for the fourteen thousand dollars a year with which I MUST come up, every year?
Office work? Start in somebody's mailroom? At 38??
Do you see why it is never, NEVER good to look at who got what job?
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I made a statement which read something to the tune of: "home practice makes for easier negotiation with THE TRADITION" (that's not what I said, but it's the spirit)
to which Cody appropriately asked, "But if you have any idea of 'yoga criminal,' doesn't that just play into the whole power game?" (again, not precisely what he said, but the spirit of it)
Yes, in a word.
If I do, say, the Simha Krama, which is an Ashtanga-flavored sequence but not traditional Ashtanga, I may well be a "yoga criminal" in some eyes, and maybe some days even in my own eyes. Then, indeed, HOW am I relating to the YOGA? It really points the question.
For example, just last night I was wondering how to negotiate my now-and-then catch-as-catch-can practice schedule, where I only do a traditional Ashtanga practice once or twice a week if I'm lucky. "What's happening to my practice?" And this question was very much in the spirit of, "Am I still going to have my MEMBERSHIP in the CLUB?" It's quite silly on a certain level and quite serious on another.
For one, I'd like not to believe at ALL in "yoga criminals," that's a divisive idea, but I know I still use it, particularly for online and other "ashtangas" that aren't the real thing. Heck yeah I have the pretention, you know it.
But for another, my body craves backbends these days; all this driving, sitting, grading, all this freakin' forward folding? I CRAVE backwardsbends. But how to warm up? Just some standing poses randomly, some bridges, build it to the wheel? Try on Intermediate series? Try on Primary plus ten (my "traditional" practice)? Try the delicious, hip-flexor-stretching Simha Krama, which also takes less time than a Primary? Is that "crim"? See how it all goes?
So yes, double yes, there is certainly some negotiation to be done with the tradition, no matter HOW far one is from it.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Coming up on two weeks ago now, I graded 180 7-page 100-level art tests, wrote a formal version of a 6-page online article draft and got it accepted, put together a 9-page draft of my work on New French cinema, and taught four classes along with doing review and then proctoring for 3 hours two mornings a week, which one day a week, means I'm at school for 12 hours solid. It was a week of conquests, even if I had to wake up one morning at 3:30 am and grade, prep, teach and then grade, for TWENTY HOURS STRAIGHT. That kind of insomnia used to wash right off me; now, it takes four days of steady sleeping to get it over with. The stress was giving me dramatic morning vertigo; go to get up and then BOY HOWDY, sit right back down. It's WEIRD when you can feel stress harming you psycho-physically.
Anyway: yay me for surviving all of that.
Twice more this semester, I will have weeks which are something like that.
I now have my full courseload: afternoon classes M-R, with night classes for three hours each, on T and F. Occasional sitting in, proctoring or reviewing, is called for about once a month, for three hours, TR mornings. That's four classes to teach, 180 students to grade (again, once a month or so), AND research AND the academic job market.
This coming weekend I am in Austin, Texas, to give a paper about 1968, and to meet Liz the purse-making ashtangi! That'll be cool.
Practice has been sporadic, as it has since the start of the semester, but powerful when it happens. I have Simha Krama virtually memorized, or at least memorized so well that I can toss variations into it and also toss bits of it into vinyasa classes.
Speaking of which:
Now I know I set off OPERATION MINNEAPOLIS last year with a post like this one, but a studio in Durham called Triangle Yoga has posted Matthew's 2009 schedule, which includes one week in Minneapolis (July 10-16; the studio up there also has this posted) and a week and a HALF in the Durham area, which concludes with a weekend of VINYASA KRAMA workshops, including Chandra, Simha and UDDI. Uddi Krama!!!!! Dude, if you've not seen the Uddi Krama, it is freakin' WILD. Down-dog dropovers into the Wheel, Manda-freakin-lasana, handstand splits into full Hanumanasana. That's just some teasers. Holy cow is it cool.
There are no specifics yet for the exact workshops in MN in 2009, but the US locales seem to be largely the same: Durham, Minneapolis, Encinitas. There are also mentions of Kansas (??) and Texas (??). I am pulling all of this from Triangle Yoga.
Right now I couldn't buy a summer workshop if I wanted to, largely because I don't know where the hell I'll be living by July. It is my wildest hope that the job market will pay off this year (knock knock, goes the wood!) or else I run out of money IN TOTO in January 2010 and won't know WTF to do then. Life gets messy, really really messy, if the job market does not pay off and I have to get an office job to afford myself, while I run it again in the 2009-10 year.
The point being, I can't buy a summer workshop yet. Ask me again in, say, February.
And now, grading! For Monday, and for Tuesday! Ahhh fall semester....