Moon Day, spider bite, futon

Missed led primary yesterday. The dog was up all night, drinking buckets of water and peeing in the backyard. I actually just propped open the door that leads from the bedroom into the back yard and went to sleep. Didn’t want to have to get up every time she asked to go out. So she was back and forth all night — pacing, pacing, pacing. I called the vet in the morning and they said I could bring her and just wait to get squeezed into their schedule. Best case scenario is that it’s a urinary tract infection, less-best cases would be kidney problems or diabetes.

The dog loves people, but is a little sketchy about other animals. So I drove to the vet’s, checked in at the desk, and told them the dog and I would be waiting out in the car. Where we sat for 2 hours. I was a little hyped about getting her over there and examined in time to make practice, but it became clear pretty quickly that class wasn’t going to happen. Okay, fine.

After 2 hours in the car, we were called to sit in an exam room for another half hour. Then a checkup, a blood draw, some antibiotics, and we were on our way. The diagnosis is UTI, and they took blood, too, to check her kidney function since she is such an old girl. She is a pit bull, so vet assistants tend to approach her rather gingerly. It’s very funny to watch, because she is the gentlest, most human-loving creature ever — and within a minute, the initially cautious assistants are loving on her and getting kisses and giving her treats. When we were leaving, the assistants were all waving goodbye to her.

I had been planning to take today off, in honor of the Moon Day, so missing yesterday’s practice kind of threw me. I decided to go ahead and take the Moon Day anyhow because I realized that I haven’t had two days off in a week since I got back from surgery. So it’s been 3 months. I think it’s a healthy idea to rest. I tend to incorporate routine very easily — I have to reel it in a bit and break the pattern of practice-practice-practice. I always wonder if my (seemingly) correct practice routine isn’t a bit lacking in mindfulness. I don’t want to introduce the habit of thinking about whether I want to practice each day — that’s just too much additional thinking, but every few months, I need to reassess my energy. If it’s all focused into a singleminded practice habit, I need to try to push it off those rails a teeny bit, to bring it back to a gentler place.

To reinforce my plan not to practice Ashtanga today, the universe sent me a spider. Which bit me on my eyelid. I woke up with a hugely swollen left eye. Okay, vanity will keep me out of the shala, if nothing else. The Cop, getting back from the nightshift, was appalled at the bite. Not the swollen eyelid so much as the idea that there’s a rogue spider roaming the bed.

Speaking of the bed, I think our bed is done. I got this idea last night, as I tossed and turned and ended up finding a comfy spot right smack in the middle of the mattress. It was a great bed, but it’s more than 10 years old now, and I think it’s been slept-on to death. I had some nostalgia for futons, as I drifted in and out of sleep on the crappy mattress last night, but when I uttered the word “futon” this morning, The Cop blanched. Guess we’ll be looking for a new mattress. I don’t care whether it’s a futon or a mattress, I just need a harder surface to sleep on. Preferably sans arachnids.

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Note for Suzie, weird clothing ideas, nausea

Hey Suzie C, if you are reading this, I wanted to give you slightly more detailed info re: finding the shala. I know you have good enough directions to get to the strip mall, but here’s some more info. The center of the mall is ProTan. If you are standing at the bottom of the stairs that lead to ProTan, look down and to your right. You’ll see a wig store called…oh heck, I can’t remember. They have a huge sign that says, “Hair Something Something,” and then there’s a little sign next to that that says, “DFC.” We’re in there. If you get there early, you’ll see VBG standing at the front desk looking at the AZ Republic while everyone wanders in. If you come in once the majority of folks have shown up, the front desk area may be empty. Just go past the desk and then take a left. At the end of the hallway, take a right and you’ll see us in the back room.

My office has summer hours, which is great. The place closes up at 2PM. The downside is that Fridays are madhouses, as everyone tries to get stuff done before close of business. Usually I end up there past 2, which is kind of cool, because it’s quiet and the air-conditioning goes off, which is a lovely change of pace because the office is generally kept at refrigerator temperature. Today, though, I left on time because I wanted to go to the mall and find some new pants. Now that I have clogs, my pants, which I got for flat shoes, are too short. And while I may be willing to be a dork who wears clogs, I am NOT willing to be a dork who wears clogs with pants that are too short.

For a long time I thought I wore a size 4. Actually, back in the bodybuilding days, I did wear a 4. I also weighed about 15 pounds more than I do now. So I gave up the lifting and started practicing and somehow I just couldn’t quite figure out why my size 4 clothes were too big. I didn’t want to wear a 2, because it seemed… I don’t know, unseemly, I guess. Not mature. I don’t mind wearing small jeans, but I feel dopey wearing teeny business clothes. Anyhow, I did finally break down and buy size 2 business clothes. Except, yes, you know what I’m going to say: they are kind of big, too. I went to Express today and tried some slacks, size 2. No go. So I gave the 0s a whirl and they fit. I really didn’t want to buy them, though, in the weird reverse of the I-don’t-want-to-buy-shoes-bigger-than-7 1/2 rule. So I went to The Gap and found some 1s. I know I’m supposed to be happy about this, but mostly it makes me feel uncomfortable.

In my last post, I wrote about how I’m not feeling nauseated or breaking out in cold sweats during backbends anymore. gartenfische asked whether I used to get nauseated because backbends are hard, or whether it was an emotional thing. That’s a really interesting question. And I don’t really know the answer. I do know that the first time I had that reaction (intense nausea and cold sweats) was when I was learning to do free squats with pretty heavy weights. My brother, who was my trainer, explained that it was a reaction from stressing my nervous system. So I always chalked that reaction up as a physical thing, but then I had it happen a few times on really scary climbs. I chalked those nausea-episodes up to an emotional reaction. Looking back, though, I see that the weightlifting wasn’t just about physical stress; I was also scared about crashing and burning under a pile of heavy weights. And the climbing nausea wasn’t just about being emotional about finding myself clinging to a high cliff; it was also because I was exhausted from hiking to the climbing spot (often a 2-3 hour ordeal… in the desert… in the summer) and at least mildly dehydrated from the climb. So my reaction to backbends, I imagine, was both physical (I’m not a natural backbender and don’t tend to use my body that way) and also emotional (I can get anxious when I’m trying new things). Since (0v0) is away in NYC, and likely not reading blogs, I won’t taunt her by adding a spiritual interpretation of my malady. 😉

Heart, shoulder, paperclip

“Keep this,” VBG said this morning, pressing his hand between my shoulderblades after the last prasarita. I pulled my shoulderblades together even more tightly, and he said, “Don’t stress it that much.” So I backed off a bit but kept the “shoulders engaged” energy.

And I stayed with it throughout practice. All I could think was that it felt like I was pushing my heart more to the center of my body. From the back. Aw, I can’t explain it well. Suffice it to say, it was a different kind of core awareness, a heart core.

I think I was heart-sensitive because I was worrying about My Gift. Apparently she slipped on the stairs at work on Wednesday, and caught herself using her right arm, wrenching her shoulder. Back when she was 16 and had a bout with lupus, there was some damage to her right shoulder. So the little accident at work has left her very sore. And me rather worried. It’s funny how when your kid is sick, it helps immensely just to go look at them. Now that she’s out of the house, I don’t have that option. I’m sure I would have peeked into her room this morning before practice, just to see if she was sleeping well. Not that I would have been able to tell anything about her injury just by looking, but somehow it settles your mind.

During primary these days, I think about a paperclip. That’s what my back feels like, going from the forward bends into the up and down dog vinyasa, over and over. Just like one huge preparation for kapotasana. 😉 The back and forth bending of my back makes me think of how you can bend a paperclip back and forth, loosening it up. It’s very funny, how primary feels nice and soothing — I am at a point now where I don’t feel panicky about the upcoming intermediate poses. I lull myself with the primary and then just make a point not to think / freak myself out during the intermediate poses and dropbacks. One thing I noticed this morning (and am VERY grateful for): I no longer get the nauseous, cold sweats feeling I used to get during all the backbends.

Lately my little morning aches are simply about feet, shins and forearms. Weird, huh? I have no idea what I’m doing to stress my shins and forearms, but there you have it. I can not (and will not!) complain. I still remember the year of practicing with horribly inflamed hamstring inserts. I still marvel, too: what kept me going through all of that pain?

Clogs, video day, literature review

Yes, the clogs are here! Woohoo! I love them. I imagined them to be hugely dorky, but as it turns out, they are quite subtle when paired with pants. Has the design changed over the past thirty years (last time I had a pair)? They seem pared down, design-wise. Or maybe I am just older and have a higher tolerance for dorkiness. Along with the clogs, my buying frenzy included these pants, which I tried out yesterday at practice. They are now my official very-favorite practice pants. Is Prana as evil as, say, Nike? I hope not. I think I need one of their little logos tattooed on me, I like Prana stuff so much.

Yesterday was one of VBG’s famous Picture Days. He brought the still camera, and I brought along my little mini camcorder. Took a clip of each person doing their dropbacks. It’s quite instructive to see your dropbacks. Instructive as in devastating. LOL! Sanskrit Scholar said, “I didn’t realize how much space there was between my hands and my feet.” Uh, yeah — that’s kind of the downside of the visual evidence; the upside is a chance to really look at your form. I like to review the evidence, practice not being attached to any perceived lack, and then set it aside to be compared to a later piece of evidence. It’s been slow going for me, backbend-improvement-wise, but the photos and video clips I’ve gathered suggest I am moving in the right direction. Ah, reversing the karma. Just like backing a truck out of the mud. 😉

I am immersed in the literature review we’ve been putting together for the board of directors. Predictions about the future of the world and the future of the profession. *Heavy sigh.* It is lovely to work on a project that requires actual thinking, but I will be happy to see the end of it, because thinking takes up time, and that really seems to interfere with what I have to get done at work. In that sentence resides the reason I could win the lottery and walk away from working life with no regrets.

There are three people on the lit review team: a market/economist guy, a subject matter expert, and me. I’m there to think and to write. We’ve been reading and documenting and discussing for months. Now I have to take that big pile of stuff and turn it into a coherent explanation of what we did, and squeeze out a compelling vision of the future. Yesterday was a writing day, so I worked from home. 8AM ’til 5PM, cranking away at the keyboard. Writing concentration is a fascinating thing: very deep and very focused. All-consuming. You really have to give yourself over to it, much like a tough asana practice or a day of zazen. You can’t start talking to yourself about where you are / how it’s going / what you’re doing — in other words, no meta-view of the process. Any internal monolog will bring the whole thing crashing down. Kind of cool. Honestly (and frighteningly), though, I am out of practice for this kind of intellectual concentration. I suspect that may be true of 99.9% of all so-called knowledge workers. Business moves too fast for people to do any kind of serious thinking. Time is money. There’s a good chance your career will progress more successfully if you just learn how to talk out of your ass and go with that. Thinking? Why bother? Yes, I know that sounds cynical. I am pretty sad, though, to see how contemplation’s been chucked out the window.

Thursday is home practice day. Time to get on with it…

The improv class that wasn’t

Two people showed up today: The Other Dave and me. Volleyball Guy told us to practice Mysore style. Okay. At first I was all discombobulated and wondered if I should do a full practice of all of primary and my part of second. It seemed like the right thing to do, since I would do that if I were doing my practice at home. But the sudden change to what I had been expecting to do (improv) kind of threw me. I wasn’t planning on doing my own practice. Blah blah blah. Why is that even an issue, I wondered to myself. Then I just began.

Well, what happened was a good practice. I was distracted by a new top. The material is great — very soft and it feels really good, and basically the top is so comfy that I was afraid I was gonna flash someone without even knowing about it. Turns out it just required an occasional adjustment to keep everything in order.

Volleyball Guy decided to torment me once I got to the intermediate poses: handstands after ustrasana, laghu vajrasana, and kapotasana. But not just one laghu vajrasana. After the first one, he said, “Handstand.” Then, “Good — laghu vajrasana again.” Followed by, “Handstand.” Followed by, “Again, laghu vajrasana.” And, of course, “Handstand.”

As I was setting up for kapotasana, I said, “Can’t we just talk for a while?” He laughed and said, “This isn’t Anusara.” So kapotasana and then another handstand. I totally expected to face plant, but was okay in the end. Thank God there are usually other people to distract him during practice.

I asked about my fast breath, and again he told me I was fine. As long as the breath syncs with the movements and it feels smooth, I am okay.

***

The Cop is grabbing some sleep and then we’re going to go see “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Then we’ll pick up my folks and take them out to dinner at P.F. Chang’s. They just discovered P.F. Chang’s and think it’s great. I think they may be under the impression that it is a Mom and Pop restaurant. This is amusing, because it’s a chain restaurant and there are a bazillion of them, including in Boston and Florida, where they lived before Arizona. The Cop is not a fan, but he’s agreed to pretend he is so everyone can feel like this is very special. It’s not like it’ll matter much anyhow: he always eats too much popcorn at movies, so whatever he eats for dinner isn’t gonna be very important.

Better with age, ugly shoes, guns

Last night, before The Cop went to work, we watched “Mississippi Burning.” A harrowing movie. He ordered it from Netflix and said he was amazed I hadn’t already ordered it, since my movie list is “all Willem Dafoe, all the time.” I defended the Dafoe viewing thusly: “No matter what role he’s playing, I think to myself, ‘He can do chakra bandhasana!'” It’s a game I never tire of. Particularly amusing while watching “Last Temptation of Christ.”

Damn. I can’t find a picture of chakra bandhasana on the web… Wanted to link one. Perhaps I am search-exhausted after my shoe shopping this morning (more on that in a moment).

Anyhow, I prefer Dafoe in later movies, because he is one of those people who looks better and better with age.

***

This morning I got up and aside from all the current first-thing-in-the-morning achy spots (abs, shoulders, sacrum), I had to admit, finally, that my freaking feet are killing me. This happens every summer. Many years ago, I screwed up my feet running (particularly the left one), and while they don’t bother me like they used to, they do act up. The reason for the current issues: flip flops. I LOVE flip flops. It is one of the advantages of living in Arizona. You can pretty much wear ’em year round. I have a selection of formal, high heeled ones with different configurations of thin straps, and I have funky flat ones of various casual materials. All of them entirely unsupportive and guaranteed to wreck my feet even more.

So I got online and swore I’d find some shoes with support. One requirement is that my shoes not have a back, because I kick them off as soon as I get into my office. And in meetings, I need to be able to slip out of my shoes during the course of the meeting, then slip them back on upon exiting the conference room.

I looked at Birkenstocks. I looked for a long time. I looked at podiatry sites. I saw that Birkenstocks are celebrated by podiatrists. I looked at every possible style. Sigh. I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t buy them. Shades of hippies in Harvard Square.

In the end, I did something perhaps even weirder than buy Birkenstocks. I bought some Dansko clogs. I am really hoping that with black pants, they will mostly look like boots. I am accustomed to buying shoes according to visual cues. High heels, delicate cut, pretty materials, etc. This morning I listened to my aching feet. I used to have clogs. Uh, pretty much back when Sweden first exported them to the US. So a LONG time ago. I liked them quite a bit. They definitely look great with jeans. How they’ll look with regular black pants, I’m not sure. But a little better than Birkenstocks.

***

Meanwhile, as I tried to determine what criteria one uses to buy sensible shoes (since none of them even remotely overlap the criteria I usually use when purchasing shoes), The Cop was working late. Usually he’s home by 6:30 AM. Today, though, 8 AM rolled around. Finally he showed up, with tales of a crazy night. All the usual public drunkenness and fighting. With the added excitement of pulling over and arresting a guy with a felony warrant. And a gun in the car with him. Everyone in Arizona carries a gun, which makes The Cop’s job rather difficult. (Okay, not everyone carries a gun, but way more than in normal states that aren’t into the Wild West thing.)

Anyhow, the general public often takes offense at The Cop’s attitude, which is that all situations are potentially dangerous. People think he should be able to look at them and see that they are law-abiding citizens that he needn’t be vigilant about. Of course, he doesn’t ever know that about anyone, and it would be very foolish for him to make assumptions. 99% of the time, everyone is a-okay; but he has to be vigilant 100% of the time, in order not to be caught out by surprise. It’s nothing personal. Most of the time, he pulls people over and they are just speeding. Sometimes, though, they have warrants and guns.

Killer abs

When I started practicing yoga, I was rock climbing 4 days a week and going to the gym a lot. When I ditched everything else for yoga, one of the things I was willing to give up was nice abs. Well, not exactly willing, but I figured it was just part of the deal. If you don’t do leg lifts or crunches every day, or routinely hang on to handholds in order to haul your legs up a rock face, well, sculpted abs are a thing of the past.

I was past that, though, once the Ashtanga bug really took hold. The physical concerns were taking a back seat (where they probably always should have been, but oh well…) Anyhow, the past couple of years of practice have not taxed my abs. My hips have been realigned, my shoulders are still in process, my head is God only knows where (and no idea where it’s due to come out) but my abs, well, they’ve been left alone. Yes, there’s navasana, but that was never an issue.

So why are my abs killing me this week? I’m guessing it’s from deeper backbending, and from coming up from dropbacks. My upper abs, in particular, are really quite tender. From stretching? I guess that must be it. Now that I think of it, dropbacks involve a contracting of the lower abs, while the upper ones stretch like crazy. That’s kind of a new combo. Maybe that’s what’s doing it.

Or maybe some bandhas are being installed. That would be a nice surprise.