Staying With the Moment

May 18, 2006 at 1:58 am (Ashtanga Yoga)

I skipped yoga yesterday. My body was so tired to the point where it felt like gravity was pulling me down with double its usual force. I decided it'd be worth the while to spend an extra two hours in bed.

Then came Wednesday morning, bright and early at 5 AM; I was back in my element again, excited to return to my morning yoga routine, determined to stay with my breath and really work on my asanas.

But what on earth happened? My body just would NOT stay in balance. I was falling all over the studio floor — lucky for them, none of the other students showed up. I tried in vain to stay with my breath, and I got as far as the standing asanas (with a BIG help from my yoga teacher). I did manage to do my very first hand stand — with a GINORMOUS help from my yoga teacher. Then, I faltered. I simply could not keep focus after falling on my hands so many times.

So my yoga teacher and I occupied the time with one of our Big Talks. It always amazes me to talk to him this way. I learn as much as, if not more than, the physical practice of yoga itself.

Highlights of our Big Talk:

The physical practice of Ashtanga Yoga reveals mental impurities. In my case, my teacher sees that my mind wanders off far too often and far too far. And he's absolutely right!! That's been my problem in life all along — that's why I kept switching majors in college/grad school, can't finish one task without starting on another in the meantime, can't concentrate on reading one book, can't stick to a habit or hobby for too long. He was so absolutely right, it shocked me.

I learned a new concept in yoga — core strength, prana, chi 気 . To increase my core strength, I simply have to continue coming to Mysore Ashtanga yoga in the coming weeks, months, years.

I have to radically change my diet. I have no strength in my body. I need more minerals and vitamins — in other words, I'll need to ask my own body what I would like to eat, and if I really need ice cream, my body will say so. This means also that I move into my new apartment ASAP so that I can start cooking.

Love is masked by Fear.
Fear is masked by Anger.
Anger is masked by Depression.

When you're depressed, you hate everything and everyone. When you're in love, you are grateful for being where you are now, and kind towards others. 

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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

May 6, 2006 at 11:48 pm (Progress Report)

So let’s not talk about physical fitness. How am I faring mentally as a yoga practitioner? The Eight Limbs of Yoga spell out what yogis and yoginis need to mind daily. The following is a diagnostic report of how my Eight Limbs are doing.

1. Yama – Social Disciplines

Ahimsa (Non Violence): A. I hate hurting, torturing, or otherwise inflicting pain or death upon anything that constitutes life — bugs, plants, leaves even. BUT, there was one recent instance when I snatched a few violets from the wayside to give to a friend. It was rude of me to steal the flowers from a public domain, and also rude of me to steal the violets’ right to live on a public domain and lead its full flowering life. So, not A+ but an A.

Satya – Truth: B-. I am truthful about 85% of the time. One recent lie: I kept quiet about my athelete’s foot to my fiance. He eventually did find out, and has been keeping a certain distance from me ever since.

Asteya – Non-Stealing: A-. I swear I haven’t stolen anything these past few years!! ..Oh, oops, the violets.

Brahmacharya – Self Control: D-. Not hopeless, but there’s a lot to hope for. I live according to my basest instincts, and you can definitely find the Seven Sins sitting at the wheel regularly. Pride, lust, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and envy — I’ve got them all! Especially sloth and pride. Talk to my fiance, and he will tell you stories for 1001 nights.

Aparigraha – Non-Hoarding: B+. Please forgive me for buying 100 packs of drip-on coffee for my personal use at the office. And for checking out the library’s only copy of Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry collection until June.

2. Niyama – Personal Disciplines

Saucha – Cleanliness: D. Please see last entry about athelete’s foot and lice.

Santosha – Contentment: A. I’m lucky to be with the people I am with now, and am happy with my current job, happy about living in Tokyo, etc. My only problem is that sometimes I forget how happy and lucky I am.

Tapas – Great Effort: C-. I do make efforts, just too late and too little. I have to work on not procrastinating, and cultivating the will power to continue working on something I started with.
Svadhyaya – Introspection: A-. I often think reflexively and introspectively, but am lacking in balance and objectivity. I tip over to either superiority- or inferiority-complex.

Ishwara Pranidhana – Faith in God: N/A. I’m not an atheist, and I consider myself a very spiritual person, but I don’t know which God (or gods) to revere. Does yoga need god? Does life?

3. Asana – Postures: D.

4. Pranayama – Breath Control: D.

5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of Senses: N/A. Not nearly up to that level yet!

6. Dharana – Concentration: D-. Not very good at all at concentrating on my asanas or breath — I keep minding my neighbors, half to check out what they’re capable of, but also to check out their perfect bods. Gawd, the other girls at my yoga studio are so beautiful!! While I admire their perfectly toned bodies, I completely lose my focus.

7. Dhyana – Meditation: N/A. Haven’t joined a single meditation class to date. Maybe tomorrow might change that.

8. Samadhi – Union: N/A. If I can ever reach this zenith, I won’t be fretting over anything else on this page!!

—————————-

Forsaking Limbs 3~8 for later scrutiny since they partially deal with physical aspects of yoga, my overall mental fitness for yoga is C-.

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Sadness at the Skin Doctor’s

May 1, 2006 at 3:50 pm (Personal Hygiene)

I have to confess: I have athlete's foot.
Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.
Get away from me!!!

I used to taunt my father thus, and never shared his slippers with bare feet — but now I have the germs. It must have come from all those boot wearing I did this winter.

I carried the germs in secret, though, and decided that a little trip down to the local drug store would buy me the perfect cure. After a few of my polite but incessant questions, the young, obese, slightly off-put attendant at the drug store recommended a certain ointment to be applied daily. I tried for a week and a half, until my left foot became a tattered bleeding rag.

So I went to the dermatologist, and was told that my foot became a broken skin bag precisely because of the ointment. It was just too strong for my skin, and while it killed off the germs, it was killing my skin, too. The skin doctor prescribed me a tube of skin-healing hormones, and that was that. Then I decided to consult him about my second fear.

My second confession: I fear I might have lice.
Hell!!???
How filthy could I be!!??

You see, I work in an environment chock full of kids, and little kids put together is like a department store full of germs. Somehow, from the crooks and crannies of this cement jungle we call Tokyo, they manage to pick up lice, flu germs, dead mice, you name it. We have had an especially bad season with lice this year, and ever since our curly heads were diagnosed with bugs in their hair, I had secretly feared I had some in my hair, too.

I tried Raid. I tried, courageously, asking a friend to check my scalp a few times — fortunately, none of these paranoiac actions led to a discovery of louse or nit or egg. But my scalp still felt very itchy at any mention of the word lice (scritch, scratch), and I just had to know. Medically.

Then sadness was delivered unto me by these words: "Hmm…(Examining my scalp)… no, you don't have lice… but you do have very clogged pores on your scalp. Do you lead a disasterous sleeping pattern?"

In fact, I lead a very messed-up life, with sleep averaging 3-5 hours on weekdays, crappy meals (if cheetos and diet coke count as being a meal), no exercise for the past 3 weeks, filthy room, filthy bed, a mountain of clothes that either need to be ironed, dry-cleaned, folded, or simply thrown away — god, I'm so lousy I can't believe I pass myself off as a girl. Even a frat boy's more clean.

So of course my pores are clogged, and the dermatologist starts telling me about all these normal, sensible ways to unclog my pores and detox my life. Yes, I KNOW. I know, and a great sadness hits: I am a slacker. Knowledge leads me nowhere — I just have to do it.

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Back to Zero

April 29, 2006 at 10:11 am (Thoughts)

Two days turned into two weeks. It's been two whole weeks since I stopped going to yoga classes in the morning. I've been working on my articles non-stop in the meantime — I would like to believe that my non-attendance was purely because I didn't have the time. All the writing assignments required of me have been submitted as of last night. I am free to return to my practice now, *IF* there remains any semblance of the routine I've built in the past month, and that's a big IF! Basically, I think I'm back to zero again.

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No Yoga, No Life?

April 21, 2006 at 12:30 am (Ashtanga Yoga, Flower Power, Incense)

I haven't gotten my regular dose of Mysore yoga for two mornings straight.

The reason is simple and severe: I have NO time. Writing is taking up too much of my life this week. But I'm definitely NOT complaining here: Writing is to me the greatest passion, and I feel really fortunate working for an established music magazine here in Tokyo. It's great — I get to interview fascinating artists, receive promotional CDs, and attend free gigs. This week alone I interviewed three musicians and saw two gigs!

However, maintaining a balance between my writing, my *real* work (read: day job), and my personal life proved especially challenging this week. It came down to a grueling task of subtractions: Given 24 hours in a day, subtracting the inexpendable hours (day job = 8 hours, sleep = at least 5 hours, eating, commuting, etc. etc. = 5 hours…) and then dividing up the rest of the hours into the following activities:

A) Working on my articles
B) Being lovey-dovey with my fiance
C) Going to yoga.

I chose work, guy, and yoga in that order, but work pretty much hijacked all my spare time and managed to eat into my sleep time too. So: no yoga for the past two days.

And how do I feel? Ginormous. Enervated.

I sort of realize though, now that my body is lacking yoga, that I have been changed so much already by doing yoga daily. It's not just a matter of how much muscle I've developed (not a lot, to be sure) or how much more flexible I've grown; I feel stronger with yoga, more sure about myself. I can walk through the crowds with unruffled feathers, knowing that I am trying my best to become the best I can be through yoga.

I needed to put a positive spin to my energy, so on my way home from my third interviewing stint this week I bought a single stem of beautiful purple peony. I LOVE peonies! It's almost hard to believe that nature has invested so much beauty and delicacy into this one plant. The blossom is still partially hidden beneath layers and layers of luscious petals, and it's currently perched in front of my desk, spreading its green wings graciously. I've got my lotus flower incense cone going too, and it couldn't have been a better Thursday night. Tomorrow morning I will practice some Suryanamaskara routines before I run off to work. Om at home!

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The Unbearable Flabbiness of Being

April 10, 2006 at 11:43 pm (Ashtanga Yoga, Toxic Thoughts)

I feel huge.

I feel like one of them unsightly sea lions lazying about the docks in Pier 39 in San Francisco — ginormous belchers with the stinkiest breath in the maritime world.

My nascent yogic soul is currently trapped inside an inflexible, flabby, heavy body. I'm 5'2" and 117 pounds. Medically-speaking I'm just about the right mass, but yoga-wise I feel 5kg too heavy. 5kg less flab from my tummy will probably make it a heck of a lot easier for me to do forward bends.

Other dark fears about the unfitness of my body for yoga:

1) Are my breaths too long to perform the Primary series in an appropriate, energizing manner?

2) Are my arms too short for Uttpluthi lifts??

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Back to Tokyo Again

April 6, 2006 at 8:00 pm (Ashtanga Yoga, Thoughts)

I spent 10 dreamy days in San Francisco (albeit shrowded in mist, rain, and unseasonably chilly air). Now I return to Tokyo with a renewed zest for life, and this time it's for the long haul.

I returned late Monday afternoon, so I could have gone back to my morning yoga routine as early as Tuesday. Two yoga-less mornings lapsed, however. I didn't have the heart to leave my fiance behind. I am a sucker for yoga, but I dote on a certain guy even more.

The first thing I notice on Thursdsay morning as I amble past my usual bus stop: the timetable has been revamped. The bus that takes me from yoga to work leaves not at 7:32 AM, but 7:38 AM! These 6 minutes mean the world to me. I can stay in Mysore yoga for roughly 10 more minutes!

They say that when musicians abandon their instruments for two weeks, it takes them at least two months to regain their deterity. And we're talking seasoned musicians here, not a novice yogi who, with reckless abandon, started inviting herself to Mysore yoga classes only a month prior?

Answer: Creakiness. Inbalance. Weakness of limbs, general wobbly-hobbly-horribleness. It was like re-learning yoga all over again. But it felt temendously good anyway. I felt the surge of heat-energy rising within my body again, felt the intense joy of the moment sweeping over me like fleeting clouds in an azure sky.

And it was great to be greeted back by my wonderful teacher Cameron. He made a curious comment about the uncanny state of high energy we are experiencing at present, which would go on for another three weeks or so (due to a curious alignment of certain celestial bodies, or something like that). This energy hyper-activates our bodies, and so we are easily fatigued and can't rest properly. Through the fatigue and nights of fretful sleeps, this energy is supposedly teaching us that it's time to get rid of the unnecessary things in life.

Maybe this energy is having an effect on me. For lately I have begun to think that I need not care so much about what people think of me. I worry too much about how others judge me, precisely because I judge them with an unkind heart. I have a hard enough time loving the few people in my life that deserve love — why not concentrate on them?

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The First Two Weeks

March 17, 2006 at 2:10 am (Ashtanga Yoga)

The alarm clock played a trick on me this morning — it lent itself an hour extension and didn't ring until 6 AM. I missed my usual 5:31 AM train to Shibuya, which meant I had to miss Mysore yoga, which meant I had to resort to doing simple Suryanamaskara A and B within the limited confines of my bedroom.

It was probably better to take it easy, though. My body still aches a little from Tuesday's half-primary led class. How can I build the basic strength in my body to execute the perfect chaturanga? Slowly, over time, I guess.

I found the following words very encouraging, from Holistic Online:

In some cases you may feel worse for up to two weeks after starting the asanas. This is because the yoga exercises cause the body to eliminate toxins, which spend some time in the blood before being eliminated. After this initial period of body cleaning, you will start to feel much better. The more toxins you have, worse you will feel in the beginning.

Some of the symptoms you may experience are a slight increase in your usual aches and pains, and a little stiffness. Your body may become slightly bloated and you may feel a bit drowsy during the day. You may feel sore in the back, neck and shoulder muscles for a couple of weeks. To minimize any soreness, start gently and don't overdo it. Above all, never give up. Any discomfort will only be temporary and you will start to feel much better in a relatively short time.

This Sunday marks exactly two weeks since starting yoga. Nope, I won't give up!

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Nasty

March 16, 2006 at 1:19 am (Incense, Toxic Thoughts)

I was wrong. I haven’t gotten kinder and gentler at all. I still despise random people on city streets and trains for their rudeness, but in truth I’m the rudest. I am so harsh on others, but that only invites others to be harsh on me — a vicious, vicious cycle. I am so vain because I have no self-confidence, and yoga alone cannot teach me a way of out this.

It’s true I’m tired and stressed out. It’s the middle of an especially hectic work week, and I’ve been feeling guilty for not being able to submit an article (not required, but I had promised nevertheless). I have to talk with my editor/mentor.

Hoping to calm my nerves somewhat, I bought a lovely incense burner and incense cones named “Poppy.” Possibly named after narcotics? But it smells great. Here’s to hoping that tomorrow morning’s Ashtanga session won’t be a drag…

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Week 2

March 13, 2006 at 11:11 am (Ashtanga Yoga)

My body is hopelessly excited about yoga this morning, so much so that it refused to sleep at all. I lay awake in bed all night with lurid visions and thoughts — formative pieces of dreams that never took flight because my sleep wasn’t deep enough. This was the way I started off two Sundays ago: I went to my very first yoga class with virtually no sleep.

But my body has changed slightly since then — not very much — but little by little I am running further, my steps are lighter, my legs more firm. My mood has become slightly more optimistic too, although I still have to work on being on time. I am finally putting my body to good, wholesome use. My body is honest, and reacts gladly, spontaneously, merrily. My mind is following my body’s example and is growing more supple — I have more patience, more tolerance towards others. Victoria told me that yoga has changed her life. and I absolutely believe her words.

I only need to be careful not to fall madly in and out of love with yoga. To continue is to gain the admirable flow in movement and energy I observe in others. I can’t easily give up on this one!

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