Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too Much Yoga II

For only the second time ever I think I'm yoga'd out.

Got up this morning and about 2/3 of of the way through my asana routine my daughter called. It was early, and she'd just got up and was on her way to the place where she coffees up.

Then, after a quick shower, it was off to Edmonds and working for an hour with the old guy who has Parkinson's and also suffered a couple of strokes. Poor guy. It's not yoga exactly, but it is exhausting.

Then it was the drive home, a quick lunch, and time to saddle up and head for Greenwood where I taught an hour-and-a-quarter class to four lovely ladies. It was a terrific class, but when you work with an older crew they like you to demo everything. By the end of it I was over yoga for the rest of the day, and right now I'm sitting in the Green Bean decompressing. The sun is out, it's after five, and the day is winding down. I just need to caffeinate, and find the energy to pedal home.

I'll be up early tomorrow, as usual. I've got class at 9:30 (as a participant, not an instructor).


Monday, July 26, 2010

simple moves

I did my daily routine at Whole Life today where Sheryl led us through asana practice, and it was great. I've noticed that when yoga movements are left purposively simple and uncluttered, when there are not overly many of them and each is explored thoroughly, and the instructor moves through the sequence slowly and gracefully, with due deliberation, that it's much easier to tie one's breath to each movement, which is one of the main objectives of this discipline.

It begins with a complete preparation of breath and mind; the depth and frequency of breathing during movement is established before movement begins, and the mind cleared of extraneous clutter. The exercise of the asana sequence then becomes more like a formal dance than calisthenics, and the transition to pranayama, during which movement ceases and all attention becomes centered in the breath, is seamless. Following that, the stillness and internal focus of pranayama leads naturally into the deep interiority opened up during meditation.

I've done little more than scratch the surface of this discipline for the body, breath, and mind. Still, that exploration, which grows gradually deeper with time, has made a tremendous difference in my life, especially enhancing the ability to see clearly. Some of the time I feel as if this vision is transmitted by an interior eye.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

james alley blues

Times ain't now nothing like they used to be;
No, times ain't now nothing like they used to be;
And I'm telling you all the truth -- Oh take it for me.

I done seen better days but I'm puttin' up with these;
I done seen better days but I'm puttin' up with these;
I'd have a much better time if these girls now weren't so hard to please.

'Cause I was born in the country you think I'm easy to rule;
'Cause I was born in the country she thinks I'm easy to rule;
She try ta hitch me to her wagon, she want to drive me like a mule.

You know I bought the groceries, and I pay the rent;
Yeah, I buy the groceries, and I pay the rent;
She tried to make me wash her clothes, but I got good common sense.

I said, If you don't want me why don't you tell me so?
You know it? If you don't want me, why don't you tell me so?
Because I ain't like a man that ain't got nowhere to go.

I b'lieve I'll give you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt.
I'll give you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt,
And if you can't get along with me, well it's your own fault.

How you want me to love you, and you treat me mean?
How do you want me to love you? You keep a-treatin' me mean.
You're my daily thought, and my nightly dream.

Sometime I think that you're too sweet to die;
Sometime I think that you're too sweet to die;
And another time I think you ought to be buried alive.

--Richard "Rabbit" Brown, b. 1880.

Rabbit Brown lived in the toughest part of New Orleans, and resided on James Alley. This is his most famous song.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

teaching yoga

Today was a milestone of sorts. I've been teaching here and there and struggling with it, mainly because so many of the people I deal with in my classes struggle with it. Most of them have serious limitations of one kind or another caused by arthritis, or high blood pressure, or Parkinson's Disease, or dementia, or a combination of two or more of those things. It's very difficult to find movements that people suffering such conditions are able to do that are also helpful for them, and that address their physical and mental irregularities. And imagine for a moment trying to get someone who's both hearing impaired and disoriented to follow simple instructions such as, "Sweep your right arm overhead as you inhale."

This morning I actually got some participants for my Thursday class up north (third time's a charm; I had nobody show up for the first two classes scheduled), a family. The wife didn't practice, but helped him through the moves. The granddaughter was an experienced yogini; what I was doing was too easy for her. But what're you gonna do?

I helped him as much as I could for about an hour. It was difficult and uneven, and I left the place wondering if I can help anyone, really. I was not looking forward to subbing a class back in town in the afternoon, because I pictured another challenge -- and I hate challenges. I had never been to this place before, I was subbing for a well-established teacher in a senior center, and I imagined an indifferent bunch of the usual older crew, with lots of problems and other issues. I ate a quick lunch at home, got on my bike, and apprehensively pedaled down there.

But they were warm and friendly, and though a mature group, seemed young. All were in fairly good shape, and for the first time in my short career I was able to run through a standard floor routine after beginning with a few minutes in chairs. It was the longest class I've taught so far, but I had no trouble filling the time, which was something I was concerned about beforehand. At the end of the hour and a quarter I filled up with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and gratitude.

I'm a real yoga teacher, and it's great. I'm ready for a lot more of this. Where do I sign up?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

merderer with yellow eyes

Every once in a while you run across a short story that beautifully condenses the form down to the absolute essentials. This is such a story. It was written by a six-year-old in England some years ago.


Once there was a merderer with yellow eyes and his wife said to him if you merder me you will be hung. And he was hung on tuesday next.


Monday, July 12, 2010

atop the ridge

I went to the yoga studio for practice today instead of doing my regular home routine. I biked along the top of Phinney Ridge, mostly on Phinney Ave, and returned the same way.

It takes only about 15 minutes to cover the 25 blocks from my apartment down to 87th and Greenwood because it's a gentle declivity almost all the way, never steep, but you do almost all of it coasting and braking intermittently, unless you're a speed demon. Coming back is a little harder, of course, because a gentle declivity in reverse is a gentle incline, and that takes mostly first gear and about half an hour. So if you're going for yoga, this means you get a workout after your workout.

Practice was great today -- it was well-attended but not crowded; the routine Sheryl put us through was vigorous but not taxing (it is an over-fifties class, after all), and I got home with the muscles burning a bit as is appropriate to a post-exercise feeling, but having never broken a sweat, partly because the weather is much cooler today.

I think I'll finish lunch and take a nap. The beautiful life is by necessity simple and uncluttered. Tomorrow I have to do something complex and speedy, and drive the car 40 miles round trip to work. But until then I'll enjoy the pristine simplicity of today's hours.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

birthday practice

Today marks the beginning of my 66th year, and besides not expecting to live this long, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be in better shape than ever before. But so it goes, as the late Mr. Vonnegut often said, and besides enjoying excellent physical health, my mental and spiritual condition improve day by day.

You're a lucky guy, too, when you get birthday cards from two of your best friends who happen to be ex-wives. Interestingly enough, both sent Jacquie Lawson cards (though not the same one). I also got a greeting from my daughter, who called from the Netherlands just to wish the old man a happy birthday, and who reminded me once more of what wonderful things can happen when you combine two creative people and stir.

I just finished my daily practice -- so refreshing! I've gone back to my old practice because it contains almost all the elements I need every day. I'm thinking particularly of balance, always of prime importance in alleviating the effects of Parkinson's Disease, and inversion. Those headstands and/or shoulder stands reverse a lot more than just the flow of the body's vital juices; I'm convinced that to some extent they reverse aging as well.

It's a terrific day; the sun is shining and we're having a heat wave, which is fine with me, since where I recently migrated from we called weather like this a cold snap. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but in Desert Hot Springs, low 90's, even with humidity, is something of a relief this time of year. I picked up another temporary teaching assignment today and start next week, so everything is looking good. In fact, I can't think of anything I'd change. I suppose more money would be nice, but does anybody ever have enough money?


Monday, July 05, 2010

clearing in the west

I just finished doing an hour of yoga in a studio with an instructor, and it was great -- exactly what one needs to get a running start at the fat part of the day.

And what a day it's going to be! There's actual clearing in the west, and in an hour or two the sun will be out to stay for a good long time. Gone is the gloom and funk of a cancelled spring and counterfeit summer. Gone, the depressed and enervated apathy of dashed hopes and unrealized "what-if's." For when sunlight warms the weary earth, coaxing her into yielding up one more crop, anything is possible.

The bicycle stands patiently in the garage, letting me know I can ride it any time I want. It's time to put the car away for the summer, except for trips of ten miles or more. It's a brand-new day today, and there's a brand-new world for it to happen in, making this an appropriate time to begin to "clear away the wreckage of the past," as they say in AA.

So let's begin. There's a lot to do.

Photograph by Larryosan.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

inside out

As I was going through my morning practice early today it occurred to me that we get what we need.

Devo has a new compilation on the market, and it's a sign of the times. Older and fatter now, but as irreverent as ever, they've replaced the drummer Alan Myers with Josh Freese, a capable veteran of Nine Inch Nails and Axl Rose's band. Other than that the personnel -- Mark and Gerry and their brothers, both Bobs, are the same, and so is the sound. The message is pretty much the same too, only a little more urgent now and more appropriate to the times than ever.

It also occurs to me that even though there seems to be a disconnect between our internal lives and what's happening outside, in "the world," that's an illusion. The laws of causation rule everything, and what we choose to become is to a large degree a response to what's going on around us.

It's very quiet in here this morning -- inside the apartment and inside my head. Outside, the world of human over-reach and of humanity suffering the disasters born out of hubris roar like wounded buffalo. There's no situation so bad that it can't be made worse by selfishness, dishonesty, and corruption.

It's only natural to search for purity in a dissolute world. With 23 pure and clean breaths undertaken with intense concentration, I'm ready for anything. What I expect will happen today is that a few more of my fellow citizens will wake up to the horrible reality in which we all find ourselves, and respond appropriately.

"Sooner or later," says Mark Mothersbaugh in one of the tracks on the new album, "everybody finds out."