Little lessons

The puppy was adorable. Wiley. Akita/lab mix. God, there is nothing The Cop loves more than a puppy.


This morning’s practice was, as I promised myself yesterday, about softness. What a challenging concept for me. It reeeeeaaally feels good, though. I stayed right in each breath and kept “soft, soft, soft” as my mantra, and it was quite pleasant.

The Cop mentioned that he was noticing that when he gets to the edge of a pose, the tension moves into his neck.

“Can you use your breath to move it out of there?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “It moves here [slaps his chest] and yells ‘fuck you!'”


At ardha baddha padmottanasana, he asks, “Will my knee eventually stop hurting?”

“Yes,” I say.

He looks relieved.

“Unless you screw it up enough that it hurts forever.”

Ah, the subtleties of Ashtanga.


Urdhva dhanurasana has all kinds of new challenges now that my neck is not longer the limiting factor. It is very interesting to be in the pose and kind of “thinking around” in it. I check my neck, my hands and feet, my hipbones. I am thrilled just to be able to be conscious in the pose. Up ’til now, it’s been kind of a blind faith and persistence that kept me going.

There is distinct pain in my left shoulder now that I am pushing up through the arms more effectively. Remnant of the rotator cuff tear. I look forward to resolving it.

The sternum “opening” continues. It doesn’t really hurt — it’s an emotional resistance. I’ve learned enough to want to push further into it. The resolutions of these kinds of things have been overwhelmingly positive, even though they seem sketchy at first.

And then The Cop calls my attention to his uth pluthi. He’s got a lotus going on.



Sunday Puppy

Blech. Well, not entirely.

Practice was fine and then I did my urdhva dhanurasanas, and perhaps pushed too much. (Who, me?) Got that weird nauseated feeling I used to get back at the shala when I first started doing the intermediate backbends. I recognize it as the nauseated feeling I got after lifting too heavy or hiking too long in the desert, or however Ive chosen to overtax my nervous system in the past.

It kind of feels like where I’m at right now is breaking my tummy open. Wasn’t it supposed to be my heart? Oh well. My sternum had a workout and it all felt like something new, which is always nice.

Tomorrow I’ll focus on softness. Damn, why do I always forget about softness? I need to just do yoga and meditate 24 hours a day. I think that would help me stay focused.


After practice I did a bunch of cooking: kale, turnips, and brown rice for the week’s lunches, and blueberry turnovers for The Cop, and lasagna noodles because he wants to make lasagna this week. And angel hair with the leftover pasta dough.

I do notice that when I cook more, I clean less. My Gift would suggest this is healthy. She calls me “Monica,” after Monica the obsessive-compulsive on “Friends.”

This afternoon, The Cop and I will visit my parents’ house. My sister and her girlfriend are visiting from San Diego with their new puppy.

New puppy! Squee!

UD, cookery, desert dreaming

I was all harried yesterday with work, but between home practice and insanity in the office, I decided to post and ask you all for pictures of UD. Part of me felt dorky for asking, but I decided to just go with it.

I’m so happy I did! I got some really helpful pictures via links and emails. Thanks, you guys! I am a visual learner and seeing your different pictures is quite instructive.

And reading the different explanations people sent is also instructive.

And reading everyone’s comments was wonderful. Thanks for your humor and your insights and just your general community. And now I know what manties are.

I’m an instructional designer by trade, and part of our process is to analyze the input of a number of SMEs (subject matter experts) in order to extract general principles as they apply to a specific learning audience. In this case, you all are the SMEs, and I am the very specific audience.


My list of things to do today is short and very pleasant and included some cooking and some shopping.


  • Whole wheat artisan bread dough
  • Turnover dough for Sunday turnovers
  • Shopping

  • Salt or sugar scrub
  • As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the definition of vata. So I have really dry skin. It’s been pretty flaky lately, so I wanted to get some body scrub. Without any chemicals. A little online research to decide if I wanted salt or sugar scrub came up with no criteria for rating one over the other, but I did come across some recipes for homemade scrubs.

    Well, duh, right? What could be easier? It’s just sugar or salt in an oil suspension. The reason you buy it at the store is so you can get a nice package and some extra chemicals or fragrances.

    I decided to make my own. Both salt AND sugar versions.

    Salt Scrub

    1 cup sea salt (I mixed large and small crystal salt)
    Organic extra virgin coconut oil (enough to bind it all together in a paste)

    Sugar Scrub

    1 cup brown sugar
    Organic extra virgin coconut oil (enough to bind it all together in a paste)

    Okay, that was easy. It smells terrific, costs pennies, and I didn’t even have to leave the house. And the dog licked the sugar scrub mixing spoon and thought it quite yummy.

    Then she licked my feet where I tried out the salt scrub. Seemed to think that was quite good, too.

    I will have smooth skin and be tasty to dogs. What more can I ask for?


    Before dough mixing, I’m off to read my “Residential Landscape Revitalization Workbook” which I downloaded from the city of Scottsdale website. The dirt yard will slowly be transformed. But not until I’ve done my “Analysis of Existing Conditions,” and chosen a design scheme (“Nativescape” is looking like a winner).

    I love this booklet! Step 5 is “Implement the Landscape Plan,” and includes sections on “Order of Installation,” and “Maintaining Your Vision.” It’s a really well-designed booklet.

    In the end, I hope to have a back yard that looks like undeveloped desert.


    I’m looking for a picture of one (or many) of the cybershalamates in urdhva dhanurasana. Ideally, how about a 5’4″ gal on a Manduka mat? I’m trying to get a visual of hand/foot placement…

    Paper, rock… heart

    Generally, I prefer to be the rock, emotionally.

    As it turns out, though, this business about thinking about whether I want to blow open the heart chakra seems to be out of my control.

    Great practice this morning. No pain. At least, body-wise. My heart, on the other hand, was all scrunched up again with missing Scotty. He was my morning yoga buddy — not a participant, but always with one eye open as he watched from the top of the easy chair, or peered into the yoga room from the top of the couch. I really miss him.


    The Cop and I are taking a vacation in mid-April. He has a notion to drive to Montana and look around.


    Urdhva dhanurasana this morning. Duh! I realized I shouldn’t be cranking my neck to look at the ground. I guess there was some idea that the crank helped the curved of the upper spine, but that’s a dopey idea! All it did was push all the tension into my neck/traps.

    So this morning, I tried it with my neck in neutral. Whoa! All of the stress/opening transferred right into my pecs. Which is what needs to open. Duh, again! And my arms can go straighter.

    And it’s a hell of a lot more pleasurable to feel the stress in the pecs instead of having it explode my neck.

    Still need to push more into the legs, but hey, one nice discovery per day is good by me.

    So, check it out: Older picture, with cranked neck:


    Today’s uncranked neck:


    The value of motifs and variants

    It’s ok with the second series.

    A smart yogi (we’ll call her “Smargi”) was chatting with me a bit about my post yesterday. About what’s supposed to happen in second series: sensitized nerves, freed shoulders, blown-open heart chakra. Okay, I’m fine with the nerve thing. Being vata, I’m accustomed to wiredness and spaciness and general nervous system chaos. The freed shoulders? Rock on. If second series can pry these shoulders loose and make ’em free, I’m ALL for it! But the blown-open heart? Yeah. I’m gonna need to do some thinking on that one.

    I mean, think about it: I spend a good portion of my day in a corporate environment. Heart-openness is not the quality of choice. It’s about bullet-point thinking and smart, logical decision-making. Oh, I’m not really getting away with the charade: they’ve noticed my hippie nature. At last year’s performance review, my boss said, in relation to my management style: “You have a gift. You really seem to LIKE people.” Hilarious, when you stop and think about it. Being human is now a skill set.

    But what about when your heart is all open and you get super smooshy compassionate and everything has *emotional* stickiness all over it? Gah! It makes me feel like I’m smothering!

    That’s just one reaction, of course. Letting my heart be open won’t give me the experience I “expect.” Even pretending I get to decide to “let” it be open is a weird illusion. I wonder if, underneath it all, I am worried that I’ve held my cards so close to the vest for so long that maybe my HEART is the illusion.

    Ah, no matter.


    Practice this morning was good. Quite good. I didn’t have a meeting until 8, and I took it here from the house, so I could practice without thinking about moving along and getting on to the next thing. Beside me, The Cop practiced in his manties. He tried shorts a couple of times this week, but I protested. The uniform of male home practitioners is unders, and that’s just the way it is.

    It’s getting nice and warm again here in the desert, and the morning grows light earlier, so all in all, it’s quite pleasant. Does chakrasana still torment me? Indeed, it does. At this point, it is all about my being too literal, too much thinking, too much tryyyyyyying. It’s hilarious when it isn’t busy humiliating me. In the end, though, isn’t it good to be bad at something?


    Got a pasta roller tool set for the KitchenAid. Struggled with it last night, because I couldn’t wait to play with it. Made some angel hair… finally. Spent a good bit of time overthinking and overhandling and just generally “not getting it” first. I am not good in the evening — tired, hungry, easily frustrated. In the end, though, I suddenly saw that there was a lighter-touch, more graceful way to handle the dough and use the tools. Which suddenly turned into delicate instruments of artistry.

    So interesting, that transition.

    Well worth trusting.

    Definitive. Except, not.

    Yup. Rick and Vanessa are both right (comments in previous post). Intermediate makes you crazy. Crazy happy, crazy sad, crazy scared, crazy whatever.

    I tend to be quite even-keeled by nature, with no huge ups and downs. So Intermediate, infinitely adjustable, seems to be coming after my own personal weakness: blind discipline.

    Yes, people always say, “How can you practice every day?” In the past it was how could I: sit zazen every day, go to the gym every day, practice tae kwon do every day, climb every day, lift weights every day, write every day, draw every day, study every day… You can see the pattern. There are lots of things that I do every day. Things other people call disciplines, but which I just… well, I just do.

    And as per usual, I always do my practice. But there is something at the core of it, the something is that gets me all wondering what the HELL I’m supposed to be doing (primary only? first third of second? pasasana only?), that is all about unravelling my blind discipline.

    Vanessa suggested that there is a level of discomfort that one needs to endure when working through Intermediate. And she went on to say that perhaps the difficulty for a home practitioner is to gauge the correct “speed” at which to progress through the sequence.

    No doubt about that! I was given a big hunk of Intermediate all in one fell swoop, and I am having trouble digesting it. I don’t mind having a pose or two that need work at the end of practice, but quite honestly, I feel like the whole pack of Intermediate poses are quite lame. Like I’m trying to chew too big a bite.

    So to anyone who thinks yoga is about blind discipline, I can unequivocally say: it’s not. Trust me, if anyone could make it so, I could. But I can’t. So there’s a piece of definitive research to add to the archives.