What I read this weekend (illustrated)

I took Friday off as a vacation day so I could have another long weekend. First off, on Friday morning, I read about bourbon.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to get my dad for Christmas. I thought maybe I would get him some kind of audio equipment, like an MP3 player, speakers and possibly headphones.

I’m not sure he’d really be down with the MP3 player, and he’s also getting pretty deaf so that makes the speakers not seem like such a great idea. And I just know that if I get him headphones, it’ll drive my mom crazy, because she doesn’t like to be left out of *anything* — including anyone else’s musical experience.

So I was kinda stymied. Then The Cop told me I should read this month’s Esquire, because there are a couple of articles in it that I would find interesting. I didn’t ask him which articles he meant because I like a nice surprise. What would he think I’d find interesting?

Before I got to any of the articles, I ran into a review of bourbon. Specifically, Knob Creek small batch bourbon. Hmmmm. That might be a good idea for my dad. My dad was always a smoker and a drinker and a gun shooter — a guy’s guy. About 10 years ago, he developed throat cancer. He was treated for cancer, and it’s never recurred. Obviously, when he was diagnosed, he gave up smoking. I was surprised when he told me recently that if he were to be given six months to live, the first thing he would do is go buy some cigarettes.

Still, he has a drink every night before dinner. And two drinks on holidays. Bourbon with water.

Now, my dad is a salt of the earth kind of guy. There’s no way he’d go out and spend money on luxury bourbon. I think he might actually consider it effete to even research bourbon. The rule is you don’t drink rotgut, and you stick to what you know. Which means Wild Turkey. Or Jack (though Jack Daniels is actually Tennessee sour mash whiskey and not bourbon, but I didn’t really know that until I started my research).

So here’s the deal:

All bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon.

For a whiskey to qualify as bourbon, the law–by international agreement–stipulates that it must be made in the USA. It must be made from at least 51% and no more than 79% Indian corn, and aged for at least two years. (Most bourbon is aged for four years or more.) The barrels for aging can be made of any kind of new oak, charred on the inside. It must be distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume). Nothing can be added at bottling to enhance flavor or sweetness or alter color. The other grains used to make bourbon, though not stipulated by law, are malted barley and either rye or wheat. Some Kentucky bourbon makers claim that the same limestone spring water that makes thoroughbred horses’ bones strong gives bourbon whiskey its distinctive flavor.

Only the state of Kentucky can produce bourbon with its name on the label.

I spent a good bit of time at the website Straight Bourbon.

And there I found out about single barrel and small batch bourbons. The site is a trip — it has FAQs and a discussion forum and “tasting notes.” (Oh, and you have to sign in with your birthdate, because you’re not allowed on the site if you’re under drinking age, and goodness knows, no one under the age of 21 would be willing to claim a false birthdate on an internet site.)

I decided to track down a couple of small batch bourbons, which means the bourbon is made from mixing a number of particularly good barrels. Single barrel is bourbon from one barrel, usually an especially good barrel. Single barrel bourbon can be very idiosyncratic, while small batch gives the distiller an opportunity to make a more consistent product.

I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to find a single barrel bourbon for my dad before Christmas, but I did manage to find a couple small batch bourbons.

The other thing my dad likes is Jack Daniels (we share that affinity!), and I learned that Jack Daniels is different from bourbon because Jack Daniels is filtered through maple charcoal, while bourbon is not filtered at all.

In the event that he hates the bourbons I got for him, I also picked up a bottle of Gentleman Jack, which is the new premium product from Jack Daniels. Apparently it’s filtered twice, and supposedly much smoother–I can help my dad check that out on Christmas Eve.


Picture time!

I’m pretty much all in on the Intermediate Express at this point. That’s where my Ashtanga energy is going. One of the things it’s been really interesting to discover is how much more articulated backbends are – much more so than I ever imagined.

Here is my picture of what primary does to your body.


All about contracting the hip flexors. Yes, this is qualitative data.

No wonder those urdhva dhanurasanas at closing are so tough.


So this is your body on primary.


And here’s my picture of the backbending portion of intermediate. Stretching the hip flexors, stretching the chest, stretching the shoulder/collarbone area. First up: dhanurasana. Followed by the big UD.





So that’s what I’ve been up to.

Interestingly, I also started reading The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Reality. How can you lose with a title like that?

One of the things that the authors talk about are what they call “body retinaculae” — bands or straps that run horizontally on the body, almost like retaining belts.

The straps are similar in function to the armor of an armadillo. The segmentation of the armor holds each part rigid with respect to its neighboring section, while nevertheless permitting some movement. Similarly, in the human body, the straps preserve external structure, preventing too deep an infolding as the body bends. To some degree, this is probably an effective way of shoring ourselves up. It is a pattern we see in all human beings.


Hmmmm. Familiar.


9 Responses

  1. Hi Karen

    I love the creative way you’re describing what is happening in the body during the practice. It explains things well. Hmm, I’m telling myself to get my derriere out of the apartment and over to the shala, so I better get going.

    Nice video of Tyle and the Cop, too.


  2. Yes, I like the paper model!

    That’s great you are reading The Endless Web! One of my top 3 anatomy books (not that I’ve read a lot, but I read good ones).. along with Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains and Ida Rolf’s Rolfing (it isn’t really just about rolfing, it’s about the body). Anatomy Trains describes the vertical and horizontal lines through the body as the Endless Web does with the horizontal straps.

    Next, I want to get the Trail Guide to the Human Body….

  3. Whoops, I meant AT describes the vertical and SPIRAL lines…. not horizontal.

  4. I had never thought about it this way–in pictures–at all. Thanks for this. It’s great!!

    Also, “body retinaculae”? I had no idea. I’m going to see if I can feel these as independent little structures….

  5. I like to illustrate my naive science with naive art.

    I picked up Endless Web after reading one of your blog entries, Susan. I’ve really been enjoying the recent postings. I have Anatomy Trains on my Amazon wish list.

    As far as the retinaculae, Owl — I am highly aware of the band around the collarbone area. It tormented me when I was learning supta kurmasana, and now it is apparent again, though from a different direction, as I try to work deeper into backbends. And it’s easy for me to imagine the hip flexor stuff working horizontally across my body, as well as vertically.

    Hmmmm. And SPIRAL lines? Are we going to end up at Anusara? 🙂

  6. I’ve been thinking of your supta k experiences, actually. I’ve been finding so much happiness in little massages of the collarbone (where you located supta k stress). I thought the scalenes were just working extra hard. But maybe it’s a phantom retinacula.

    Does this count as fascia, I wonder? Helps the idea of fascia become suddenly possible to pin down, for a moment.

  7. According to wikipedia, fascia is pretty all-encompassing:

    “It interpenetrates and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures. Fascia is an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior.”

    I love it! Fascia is the theory of everything!

  8. YES, it’s fasica! Fascia IS the theory of everything!

    Chemically it is interesting stuff too, all detailed in these books, which have helped my practice and teaching SO MUCH.

    Spiral line, lol…. in my case we end up with a tight right hip and tight left shoulder. Sound familiar, anyone? Trust me, the spiral line’s a good one.

    Glad to have other anatomy geeks around… thanks : )

  9. Karen – I think that you can find backbending all throughout primary if you look for it. Every single down dog can open the chest – especially if you allow your elbows to bend and push the chest out. The twists can open the chest too. All the forward bends are initiated with an inhale that can open the chest before exhaling down. And you can play with rounding the spine in the forward bends in a way that adds flexibility to the spine.

    I am not sure what the issue is with Supta K – I haven’t been reading consistently (not anyone’s blogs, even my own), but I am definitely having a problem putting myself into Supta K. I can be put into it easily, but the better my backbends get, the worse my ability to put myself into Supta K seems to get.

    Similar problems for you?

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