Thursday, July 19, 2018

In 5 years time...

I maintained this blog during grad school and a consistent Ashtanga practice. I left off over 5 years ago having ended a significant relationship and with a monstrous dissertation to finish. After 'stagnating' in primary for 4 years, I was also gaining postures in the second series during my final year in Florida.

Since then:

I finished the PhD, got a postdoc in the Pacific Northwest (2014-2017), did extensive fieldwork, met my husband and got married (2017), started a tenure track professor position in a small midwestern town (2017), had a difficult miscarriage (2017), and am now 20 weeks pregnant with my first child (2018). 

My relationship to my practiced was significantly challenged without a yoga community. I turned to home practice, but it whittled down to primary series, or parts of it, when I had the time. Sometimes during fieldwork, I would go for several weeks without practicing. My life readjusted not to depend on it as much, the Ashtanga guilt lessened, but over time other habits crept back in, too. Struggles with anxiety and depression resurfaced-- granted, there were significant personal challenges, but I didn't have a grounding ritual to fall back on. 


Basically, I miss the practice as I had it. I miss the structure and support it gave my life. Several things came together to reawaken the spark. For one, I managed to plug into a local yoga scene here in South Dakota of all places, AND one of the instructors has an Ashtanga practice. She began by offering 2 led half primary classes per week and eventually opened one Mysore class per week. I've watched a small but curious group of practitioners become introduced to the practice, and I hope this is the humble beginnings of one of the first Mysore programs in this area. It is inspiring and exciting to witness.
Another major factor, of course, is working my way through a pregnancy. The intense anxiety of a pregnancy following a miscarriage should not be underestimated. This left me highly cautious of everything-- food, coffee, movement-- but I did have a strong desire to reconnect with my body through breath as a way of helping my mental state. I returned to a gentle modified primary series when the sickness and fatigue would allow and have now been practicing more vigorously, more regularly now that I'm feeling better. I find that I'm falling in love with it all over again! Predictably, this led to several searches on Ashtanga pregnancy resources and a reintroduction to internet-land.

So, hello again.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


This blog has been silent for awhile.

- I experienced sort of a relationship roller coaster during the Fall while sorting out life stuff. I hoped that some years of practice would help me see my thought patterns for what they were, but I did a great deal of wallowing and giving into them. Same as with any other breakup-makeup cycle. I think it's cool when people can be so refreshingly honest on their blogs, but I'm not sure if I'm one of those people. Best to just shut up and keep practicing sometimes.

- Reality check: this PhD isn't going to finish itself. Holy shit! Time to get a move on, seriously. I'm applying for jobs, making connections, and trying to put myself out there. It can be exhausting.

- Practice has not been all that dramatic, so I don't feel the desperation to have a blog outlet anymore. The persistent shoulder thing (injury?) remains, so any notion of improvement has been slow. This is fine. Focusing on asana progress feels silly now anyway.

So there you have it. 

I revisited some blogs this week for the first time in awhile and I found myself missing all of you, wondering how you were doing. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

those three little words

"welcome to second." 

I've been given Pasasana. 

The grapes are actually not as sour as I'd imagined...

Friday, August 10, 2012

quiet summertime

I have been quiet. I've gone through phases where I would check the blogs daily, would post my own thoughts more frequently, and watch asana porn on youtube to figure out what pieces of jump backs-backbends-hip openers I'm missing. All of this has lessened over the past few months and I don't feel the need to retreat to the internet to find connection. This is good maybe … less theory, more quiet enjoyment in the practice, and connection with my immediate Gainesville yoga family. We just finished our Week of Mysore with David Keil, the teacher of my teacher, and I am reminded again how grateful I am to be a part of a small, but dedicated and supportive community of practitioners and friends.

Practice has been my personal version of Groundhog Day. Everyday I take practice, but there have been no major breakthroughs during these hot and humid months. No major setbacks either, aside from a shoulder tweak here and there. David has a great article in The Elephant Journal about being stuck in the primary series, which certainly resonated with me. I have not received a new posture in almost 2 years. The article explains why: 
"The primary series is the training ground for all of these elements. Not just the asana by itself. Not just the breathing, or the bandhas or dristhi, but it is the integration of these elements. Primary is the place where we plant the seeds of tristana and water them so that they blossom into an integrated practice."
Major sticking points remain, particularly the ability to get my right hip to relax enough to  cross it over my head in Supta K, and also the continuous drop back saga. It is not enough to be able to pull off the asana, but to cultivate a certain steadiness with it. The integration will take time. Second series is full of backbends and leg behind head stuff. Diving into it without having a proper foundation would not be wise.  

The practice is never boring though! I'd been experimenting with breath during the early part of the summer. The Confluence Countdown's post "No Dinking Around!" described Nancy Gilgoff's philosophy of speed and efficiency. I decided to try and pick up the pace and be more mindful of the vinyasa count. Some days, this worked well… other days, not so much. Central Florida can feel insufferably hot and humid, and sometimes that rapid breath would melt me into a puddle on my mat before closing. And having a body on the stiffer end of the spectrum sometimes necessitates breaths to ease into things. Different day, different breath… and my experience of the practice will change.

A friend was taking videos during David's workshop and recorded my drop back adjustment. It took me a full 11 seconds, using multiple breaths and with David's support, to get me to the floor in a controlled fashion. And that was on my most open day of the week! So, there are many different philosophies out there. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

I was in Haiti. Post #2

Everyday the women would spend long hours cooking for us over a charcoal stove, delivering us our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfasts were often greasy noodles and coffee, a Haitian favorite. Somedays we had eggs. One day, it was fried goat's blood. Lunch, the largest meal of the day, consisted of rice, beans, beets, fried starchy things, with either goat or fish. Dinner was a light, sweet labouye banane (Porridge. Make it and thank me for the link later). I tried almost everything, including the non-vegetarian items, although I made every effort to avoid organ meat. The food was good, carefully prepared, and I was grateful that we didn't have to worry about cooking for ourselves and the students as we tried to complete our project. My digestive system was not so appreciative upon return. 

During our relatively easy tasks, the men were outside constructing a building addition out of concrete in the hot sun, without having eaten anything all day. They were painfully thin. The arrangement was that they could have any of the leftover food from our meal, and no one questioned this, or even seemed to mind. They would still wave to me cheerfully from the road below. 

The guilt is unavoidable, of course, as is the case when one is confronted with such crippling inequality. I have experienced it before in other places, but this felt more extreme to me. It is no secret that the 2010 earthquake was one of the largest natural disasters in recorded history, affecting a country that was already the poorest in the western hemisphere. The tent cities are still there and visible from our route away from the airport. So yes, as I lowered myself onto a $100 Manduka, wearing my $65 yoga pants, purchased solely because I liked the design on the back, in a country with a per capita gross national income of $450, I felt myself being called out on my own new agey bullshit. Time and time again. I don't even want to think about the amount I shelled out just to go to the Confluence…

There have been a couple of posts attempting to quantify the costs of an Ashtanga practice (from Claudia et al.)- which seem to be far lower than the Bloomberg "going all out" estimate of a whopping $10,779. It is true that Ashtanga can be done for next to nothing (say, practicing at home in non-fancy clothing), but the Bloomberg article tried to do something interesting: to tack on some of those other frivolous expenses we indulge in while promoting our own enlightenment, like herbal teas, lavender eye pillows, and Krishna Das concerts. I, too, found myself eyeing the clothing, books, and trinkets at the Confluence like the pretty new age eye candy that they were. It goes beyond practicality or even aesthetic pleasure, I'll admit on some level I try to subtly project this image of a healthy yogini. The mala beads, organic cotton dresses, comparing which fair trade scarf I want to buy online, walking around with organic juice, tea, and coconut water. It's so subtile that I don't I realize it's there most of the time. How much of my disposable income is spent on these other things not directly related to my yoga practice, but still insidiously interwoven with it? Hello, samskara. 

Another sort of related thought: 
If there are to be more Ashtanga Yoga Confluences, would people be willing to contribute money for a "scholarship" (say, the cost of registration) to help facilitate attendance by those without such disposable incomes?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I was in Haiti. Post #1

River #2 out of #3. The last one was deeper still.

It's hard to believe that it was just on Sunday when we had to face the reality that no cars were coming for us in the Haitian countryside. It had rained intensely the previous day and the rivers were swollen. There are no bridges here, and if the trucks can't cross, you need to wait. Except that we couldn't afford to wait… we had a flight out of Port-au-Prince later in the day and hard deadlines in FL to return to. So we walked miles over hills and through rivers, with the village lending us their donkeys, muscle, time, and encouragement. The equipment trunk weighed about 90 lbs. and I was nervous as I watched it being ferried across the river on someone's head. We almost lost it. We finally met our driver and completed the chaotic drive back to the city before our flight with enough time to change out of our wet clothing and have a couple of cold Prestige in the airport.  

I was in Haiti as part of an interdisciplinary project with an anthropologist to make an ethnobotanical collection in the rural southern peninsula, one of the greenest parts of the country. It involved a combination of hiking to various habitats collecting plants and conducting interviews with local farmers and the Vodou (voodoo)  priest to record Creole names and any medicinal uses the plants have. My collaborator was born and raised in Haiti and we were with 3 other Haitian American students, so I was able to muddle through without speaking Creole, although it's always takes some adjustment to not fully understanding your surroundings. I was told to communicate instead through my eyes and through my smile. A good frisbee throw helped, too, and I was able to have warm interactions with people. 

Practices were dusty, sweaty, and distracted, though they did occur. Some were at 4-5 am, because I couldn't sleep through the sounds of the roosters. Stiff. Others in the middle of the day were strangely open. Generally speaking, my Haitian yoga practice was not as focused for a number of reasons. 

I am grateful to be back home. I am grateful for my bed and to have clean hands again. My first return practice was gentle and restorative, as I picked up a bit a stomach bug as a departing souvenir. The flexibility is there, but my abdomen has been hurting and bandhas have been difficult. I'll ease into it and drink plenty of water with Emergen-c.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


My new book arrived today, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and I read the first chapter tonight (reviews here and here). It's about a solitary long distance hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (from what I can tell) as a vehicle to sort through the author's life in upheaval (specifically the loss of her mother from cancer and divorce from her husband). I was attracted to the book for obvious reasons- in a nutshell- I lost my mother from ovarian cancer when I was seventeen, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007 before starting grad school, and have since recovered from a broken engagement from my 7-year partner and thru-hiking companion. 

I had a hard 15 minute sob after I read the first chapter. It is difficult to express what it is like to care for someone who is dying from cancer, and I hadn't read anything that approximated my experience until tonight. The writing is raw and honest, without being loaded down by self-pity. It went beyond describing the deterioration of the physical body, but included those last desperate interactions, memories, and shared silences. The desire to share all of those stories before it is too late. Actually, I felt a pang of jealousy towards the author, she had a few years longer with her mom than I did with my own, and it seemed that they were able to share stories woman-to-woman. It is hard to share such 'loss of virginity' stories with one's mom when you are only seventeen. 

It's clear that I haven't fully dealt with this, given this strong reaction. Yes, there are moments I miss my mom terribly, but the pain of her absence gets quickly buried so that I can carry on with my life. I don't like dwelling on it, and in the process, I haven't allowed myself to fully grieve. 
MB wandering on the AT. Still a bit lost.