She who loves herbal tea

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This is a gelatin print I made using a photograph that Peg Mulqueen was kind enough to send me.  It is part of a series of prints and multi-media pieces I’m making using the backbends of the 2nd series of Ashtanga Yoga.  Peg is an amazing yogi, a fearless leader in her local Ashtanga community in Washington D.C., and an excellent writer as well with a funny and searingly honest blog that you should read if you don’t already.

It was a good practice week.  I’m able to work with 2nd series more, although it seems quite a stretch to think that I’ll ever be able to hop around like a crocodile, much less bind up that noose posture thing someone meanly put right at the beginning of the series.  But it is feeling more fluid, and I’m learning how to handle the emotional energy it seems to generate.  I have a friend to work with, and we practice together at her house once a week, which is wonderful.  We practiced last week and although I had to cut my practice short to get my daughter to an early rehearsal, I had this moment of extreme gratitude for this practice as it is right now, this place and these people to practice with.  Perfect.

Here is a story that helped me, perhaps it will help you.  In the past, I thought of myself as a person very attached to her coffee.  Addicted.  Not just one cup.  Not just any coffee, but freshly ground dark roasted beans   lovingly bathed in scalding water in my French press.  I have a friend who was the same, the kind of guy who would bite your head off if you got between him and his morning coffee.  Recently he came over and I made him a cup.  

Oh sure, I’ll have a cup.  Usually I just drink tea.

Really?  But you were always such a coffee person.

Oh no, sometimes I don’t have coffee at all.  I’ve been drinking this herbal tea that is nice…

And it’s stunning, because it’s as if the fellow imbiber of a daily cuppa no longer exists, he doesn’t even seem to recall that he was just like me.

He changed his mind.

Oh, he changed his mind!  And that is what you have to do, change your mind, and as a result, change the language you use to describe yourself.  If you’re sitting there not drinking a cup of coffee, and still thinking that you are hopelessly attached to that cup you’re not having, then it’s not going to take long for the smell of your husband’s coffee to overwhelm your senses.

So I have become she who loves herbal tea.  I am changing my mind and the language I use with myself.  I have long known that I’ve been overdoing the coffee and it’s not doing me any favors.  It is a primary suspect for morning anxiety.  As some of us age we become more sensitive to caffeine, and I am one of those.  Can’t drink it after noon or I might not sleep at night.  It makes me wonder how many people take anti-anxiety medication, when cutting their caffeine intake might make everything manageable without medication.  

Lest you think I’m some sort of saint, I still have morning cup, but only one, before my practice.  When I start to moon over that second cup, I remind myself that I am she who loves herbal tea, and put on a pot of water, place a teabag in a cup.  Ginger tea with a spot of honey while driving the kids to school is actually quite nice.  

Yogi tea with leaf

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Ashtanga Report & Candles of Joy and Sorrow

On Sunday mornings I practice Ashtanga 2nd series, sometimes called Nadi Shodhana or nerve cleansing.   I began this in September.  Some people will be offended or annoyed by this because I don’t have a teacher to teach me 2nd series, since there are no mysore classes less than an hour away from me.  Others will think I shouldn’t be doing 2nd series because I can’t bind in certain key “gateway poses,”  like Marichyasana D and Supta Kurmasana.  True enough.  But I can stand up from a backbend, so I made the decision to add this series once a week for now to see how things progress.

So I have been plodding along carefully yet steadily, doing what I can and not doing what I can’t.  A few things are not possible right now, so I omit them.  Such as the pose where you put 2 feet behind your head.  But using David Swenson’s book and Kino MacGregor’s video, and I can usually find some way to approach a pose and still say safe.

And there are these wow moments.  I posted a month or so ago that Lotus had been taken away by the god of knee injuries, but Pinca Mayurasana was given to me in its place.  A small miracle, as I’ve been working on it for years.  Years!  And then yesterday, suddenly I was there and it felt great and I thought what would happen if….  What would happen if my feet bent down toward my head and my back arched.  Oh my god.  OMG!  And I repeated it too so it wasn’t a total fluke.  My feet didn’t touch my head (don’t get that excited) but scorpion pose was definitely happening.

So just when I think this crazy series is not for me and I have no business being here, there are poses that invite me in and allow me to linger.  I love the headstands.  All 7 of the glorious things.  Too much fun.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love a teacher, if a teacher moved to my neck of the woods and set up shop I’d be there.  I’d be waiting at the door.  Friday I will be traveling to a new teacher for a mysore class.  But it’s not something I can do regularly as it’s an hour plus drive and only on Friday mornings when my husband works.  There is a mysore studio in Boston, but again, that’s over an hour away.  And I hear that they are super traditional and now I have this problem with driving for an hour and getting stopped in Marichyasana D.  Ah the dangers of self practice.  I do go to led primary classes whenever I can, and I love them.

So that’s the Ashtanga report.  On to what I’m starting to think of as Creative Vinyasa.  I teach a power vinyasa class on Sunday afternoons.  Sometimes I go in with a plan and sometimes I wing it a little and yesterday was one of those days.  We arrived at Shavasana and I hadn’t decided what to do yet.  I was wishing that I had prepared with a quote or a reading.  I led my students through a closing routine and asked them to lie down.  I was getting ready to lead them through a guided shavasana (a savayatra exercise) when suddenly I noticed the music.  Wade Imre Morisette was singing Om Mane Padme Om and it was particularly lovely.  So I stayed quiet and let the music play.  Held the space, as David and Shelly put it.  Then I remembered church this morning, how we light candles of joy and sorrow.  So as my students rolled over I had them light an imaginary candle of joy or sorrow in their heart for someone, and to dedicate the benefit of their practice to someone important in their lives, reminding them that what we do for ourselves is of benefit to others as well.  That sometimes you have to put on your own oxygen mask first.

Sometimes it’s good not to have a plan.