Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Wine Theory

Today we revisit my list of why the yoga world (hence forth referred to as YW) is far superior to the real world (RW). For those of you just dropping in, a quick re-cap: The Real World is warped. I have decided the Yoga World is much more pleasant and I intend to stay here. There, that should be all you need to know to continue.

Reason #2: The Wine Theory

At my current age, 32, the RW considers me past my prime. From this day forth I can expect a slow but steady morphing from the fine red wine of my youth to vinegar. With my best years behind me, I had better hope that either I did all the man-chasing I needed already, or that I am seriously loaded so I can afford to take off a few inches of neck waddle every few years.

While I am not bothered by my age, I do get a wee perturbed at the notion that I have to spend increasing amounts of wealth on creams to prevent wrinkles which I earned. I have what the cosmetic industry disrespectfully refers to as, "crow's feet" at the corners of my eyes at the ripe age of 32. It's because I smile so darned much. My hands are skinny with melon-sized knuckles installed in the fingers. Large veins lace the backs of those same hands giving the impression I have somehow robbed an old woman's corpse of its mitts. These are my hands. Years of dipping those hands into turpentine to clean paint brushes contributed to those granny hands of mine. While I agree that I would prefer my eyes or hands to be covered in taught flesh, I feel pretty confident that the current state of my flesh is not an indicator of my impending doom.

I do not appreciate the world telling me that people my age should look like 20-somethings.* My twenties were like a second hormone-infused manic puberty. I wouldn't want to go through that again, nor do I want to look like the reckless near-adult I was. Yeah, the pictures looked great, but I know what porridge was behind those flawlessly-painted cats' eyes.

RW: I can only await further decline. My only struggle left is to maintain dignity as I transform into a toothless pile of pock-marked flesh.

In the YW every day is a new improvement. No matter what your age, regular attendance insures steadily increasing strength, flexibility and precision of mind. I have multiple yogis I aspire to who are many years my senior. As I have stated previously, my eventual goal is tiger scorpion. I think it is the most beautiful pose I have ever seen and I want it with a zealousness that could choke small mammals. I know I will get there, it will just take time. A long time. I tell my friend, only half joking, that it may take until I am 90. I look forward to being the only one in the old-folks home that can stand on their head, supported by their forearms.

 YW: I will always be improving. Wine never past its prime, we can develop character, depth and grace for our whole lives...and the ability to touch our heads to our butts, (which is way-impressive in the retirement community).
* Yes, I realize I am only two years into my thirties. Keep in mind we are talking here about what the world has decided a 20-something looks like, which is what I looked like from 21-25.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You May Say I'm a Dreamer

Many of us yogis live in our own little world. Things are nice here. There are many nice people and the few bad people, in theory, slowly morph into good people. Hard work is rewarded with a long, healthy life. In this lifetime too; not some yet-to-be-seen afterlife crap. This may seem like a flighty worldview. I don't care. It's nice in my world and I am not coming out to join you in your broken one. Let me give you a few examples of why realism can take a hike. When you are ready, feel free to join me in my happy yoga bubble.

Today I will share reason #1: Less Mature Attitudes Toward Attire

In the real world finding yourself at a gathering in the same outfit as another woman is considered embarrassing. Unless you have brought a spare outfit in the car, this can make for an entire evening of uncomfortable encounters. These can range from, "Haha. You (or, 'she') certainly have (or 'has') good taste." (repeated about 50 times) to the behind your back exchange, "That b*tch is wearing my dress!" "It's okay, Kitty, she looks like a 10-cent whore. You wear it with such panache!" 

As a child it was my duty to repeatedly make the argument that school uniforms would stunt creativity and individualism, a foundation of our shared American heritage.* Now I long for the freedom of every man, woman and child, be he laborer or executive, donning the same unflattering but comfy slacks and polo. I would proudly proclaim, "Why, yes, I DID wear this yesterday!" I will admit though, it's not to avoid the above scenario, I simply think it would give me an extra 15 minutes in bed every morning. 

R.W. (Real World)

In my yoga world, the repeating of an outfit is welcomed. It is celebrated with the same enthusiasm that just about everything is in the yoga world. I revert to my twittering 12 year old self, screaming, "OHMYGOD! We're TWINS!" despite dissimilar backgrounds, hair or eye color or being born on opposite sides of the globe.

Y.W. (Yoga World)

More, possibly more pertinent, examples of why my yoga world rocks harder than the real world will follow in subsequent posts.

*Not that non-Americans don't value independence. This was the argument of a grade-school student who knew darned well that anytime you say something is an "American value" it becomes harder for the teacher to disagree. This same tactic is used by some adults. It is because of these adults that the phrase "American values" now makes my skin crawl.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Practical Yoga (A Continuing Segment)

Today, I would like to announce a new chapter in our continuing segment, "Practical Yoga." This handy guide is here to explain the benefits that yoga can provide to your everyday life. In an effort to appeal to the segment of our population preferring a logical approach, this no-nonsense guide will not be touching on the more 'foofy' aspects of yoga; instead focusing on hard, practical fact. We will not discuss calmness, increased energy or karma. We will eschew words like, "prana." Here, we will outline stale facts  indisputable proof of yoga's daily benefits. Let's begin:

Practical Yoga #2:
In this installment of Practical Yoga we will review one of the many merits to eagle pose. Also known as garudasana. 

I am sure many of you have shirked in your attempts to contort yourself into the perfect eagle pose; preferring to save your energy for the impressive standing bow. Well, NO MORE! Just as before I revealed the bona fide benefits of awkward pose ( I will now do the same for the oft ignored eagle. 

The scenario: 
You are jogging along a wooded path when you happen by a grizzly bear. This mamma bear takes issue with you and tries to attack. 

Fig #1: Irrationally Angry Bear

You mount the nearest tree and wrap yourself around it in eagle. Don't worry about your hands lining up today  you are being chased by a bear.

Fig #1: Eagle in Tree

As much as the bear pulls at the little tree, knocks it with her body, and tries to get at you she can not shake you from your tree!

Fig #3: Maybe Choose a Bigger Tree

So there you have it folks. Your reason for doing eagle. Bear attacks. Sound unlikely? Possibly. Impossible NO! A North Carolina resident, Ruth McNair braved this mamma bear armed only with eagle. And it worked!* So here is your proven effective patented** step-by-step Ruth McNair Bear Survival guide. You're welcome. 

* The article has been archived but you can access it from here:

** Not really.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Message Received

This is for real. Everything happened exactly as it is reported except for the last panel. I only thought those words in my head. What I actually said was, "Here, in the toilet." After opening a stall and pointing to the commode, of course. I hope that was enough instruction.

Really, I think the universe could have been more subtle about telling me I have it easy. Sending an elderly African woman seems awfully complex. In fact:

Dear Universe,

I get it. My life is incomprehensibly easy. Sometimes, could you please just let me grumble in peace anyway?  I promise not to take advantage and become a sniveling wimp.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mommy is in Savasana

My first introduction to yoga was very young. My mother was an avid follower of Lilias Folan, a woman who made a bunch of VHS tapes for you to follow along at home.* This allowed my poor mother to practice yoga despite the many demands of an over-achieving house wife of the 1980's. I am fairly certain her yoga practice saved my life. I have two siblings, one older and one younger. The eldest has been 30 since she could walk. While I adorned myself with a flowered bonnet, a costume gold and blue cheerleader skirt and bright yellow sparkly pac-man shirt (mother would pin notes into my back inscribed, "Kathryn dressed herself this morning" to avoid inquiries from Child Protective Services) my sister insisted on three-piece suits. Mother would shuffle the eldest to cello, Hebrew and violin classes while I taught the youngest the benefits of not using recipes when making baked goods. Maybe I will write about the vinegar cake at some point.** While eldest was learning the capitals of all the countries of South America, I was being shocked at how red my mother could get at such a little thing as creating a hole in the hallway carpet to hide money in. I have no doubts that, had my mother not owned those VHS cassettes, my life would have been a short one. 

Had I understood the delicate balance between downward facing dog and my fingers all remaining attached to my palms I might have been more respectful. As it was, I was a curious kid who thought joining mother was great fun. I would throw myself under her downward dog, much in the way my cat does to me now, laughing hysterically. I would encourage my brother to do the same. We would have great fun playing the "I'm not touching you" game with her while she was in savasana. At some point my mother decided to explain that when she put on her leotard and plugged in that little video with the nice lady doing funny poses, my brother and I were to leave her alone. 

I am not sure how my mother explained this, but knowing how rambunctious I was, I am fairly certain a wide variety of threats were necessary. I imagine water-boarding must have been involved. Possibly the water-boarding of my My Little Ponies as well. Having made the necessary impression, my mother continued her practice with one alteration. Rather than children in the room with her, we sat on the dividing line between the living room and hallway.  I like to think now that I improved her focus because I can think of nothing more distracting than my brother and I loudly whispering, "SHHH! It's mommy's time now. We have to be REALLLLY quiet!"

We sat and watched while mom ran through the routine, our beady little eyes fixed on her. Plank, downward dog, plank, cat pose... the routine followed its course ending in final savasana. My brother and I watched intently for at least 10 seconds before I decided something must be wrong. I loudly hissed a whisper to my brother, "How would we know if she was hurt?"

My brother conceded that we had no way of knowing. I offered, in the same not hushed at all tone, that she could have hit her head for all we knew. We had been watching the whole time but that did not deter me. "Do you see any blood?!" I hissed at my brother. He did not. I decided we should check, just in case. We crept into the forbidden room. My brother put his face about an inch from her nose, examining her for movement. I took the important job of checking for seepage from a possible head wound. I pressed one cheek to the floor to get an eye level view of the back of her head, I hissed, "I don't see any, but....."

Suddenly my mother's eyes popped open, with red crackles around the rims, "MOMMY IS IN SAVASANA!!!"

Oh joy! Mom is alive!...Oh dookie... run!

"Mommy, we just wanted to make sure you were okay, it was for you!" my voice trailed behind me as I barreled down the hall.

I would suggest looking into Lilias Yoga and You, it must have been some good stuff to prevent my demise.


**The logic was sound; the bottle was very large and so it stood to reason that copious amounts would be used in a wide variety of things, including cake.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Yogis!

This week's entry will be brief. I have a lot of doing nothing to get to. Don't worry, next week's entry will be wonderful to make up for my lack of ingenuity this week (See what I did there? Now you will have to come back next week despite the disappointment of this week!). In the meantime, I will entertain you with a brief description of my non-Turkey Day weekend plans. Let's start with a brief flashback (twinkly music plays). 

Last year, as many years prior, I drove down to my home base #3, St. Louis, to spend a festive holiday with a massive number of relatives crammed into a small condo. It is my very favorite way to spend a weekend. My sister, mother and I can reach decibels that can be used for sonic strip-mining. This can get very wearing on The Boy who is oh so thankful when I leave once a day for yoga in my St. Louis studio. When I am gone there are only two banshees howling. Two is infinitely easier to hide from than three. Sadly, on Thanksgiving itself, the studio in St. Louis was closed so I had to take the day off. To avoid shaking down the house with my jerky leg (sitting a whole day wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't spent that time pumping myself full of coffee and sugar) I jogged around the complex. When we settled down for the evening I reviewed facebook and found that my Chicago studio had posted a few pictures of the Thanksgiving Day class they had. I sighed longingly at reading that the class had reached capacity at 70* people. I then passed the photo around the room the same way one would a lover's photo when separated on a special day.** 

That was last year. This year, because of my sister gave birth to twins, we have postponed our Thanksgiving a week for cheaper airfare so we can all gather in D.C. (home-base studio #4) and see the newbies. This means I will be at my home base #1 for Thanksgiving! I am super excited as they are offering two classes on Turkey Day, one at 8am and one at 10am. I am aiming for the 10am because my further plans for the day consist of Chinese food and eating Mallomars. I'm afraid if I get up too early I won't have the energy I need to eat all those waxy chocolates. 

Earlier today, I was discussing the excitement of Thanksgiving day yoga with some fellow yogis and the owner of our studio on facebook. It happened to come up that the studio owner herself was missing out on her family celebration to spend the day at the studio. I am not sure if she is teaching one, both or just staying here to help at the studio, but whatever the reason, she is missing her dear mother's coconut cream pie so we can have class. Bless her.

That brings us to this current moment. I am typing away while a ball of pie-crust dough chills in the refrigerator. I have never made a coconut cream pie before but Im taking a stab at it this evening to bring in as the best substitute for mom's Thanksgiving I can provide. Mind you, this might end up looking very much like when a child brings a mud pie into their mom because I have never made a cream pie before. 

I love making fruit pies because they are as easy to make as well...pie, but need some serious assistance for this concoction. Thankfully, I found a recipe by Emeril. Emeril is my favorite crutch for new cooking projects. Cooking a dish for the first time can be rather like assembling a bike without knowing what a bike looks like. You have some parts and some instructions but there isn't a good way to know if you are heading the right direction (Scald the milk? Doesn't scald mean 'burn?'). Emeril has talked me through fiddleheads, savory crepes, latkes and various other potential disasters. Emeril, please don't fail me now. 

Excuse me a moment, the dinger just rang, I have to go check on a pie crust ball. 

I'm back. So far so good....but we haven't gotten to the scalded milk yet. At any rate, what I am trying to say, with my ridiculous pie and post is that I have an awful lot to be thankful for. My caring studio owner, the loving staff, my great yogi friends, my many homes,  my family as loud as me, The Boy that will endure three large banshees and two tiny banshees in a confined space for multiple days, and most certainly, my readers. I never thought anyone would care to read what I spewed out on here, but I have been thrilled to see that people DO read my nonsense. I have also met people here and across my other homes whom I may not have met through any other means. I really appreciate you all and I am so glad to have you in my life, whatever form that presence takes. Much love, happiness and good will to each of you today and always. Now, I am off to go see what scalded milk looks like. Emiril, please guide my hand true. 

Update: The pie is not solidifying. I have made coconut soup in a shell. Hope I don't spill the "pie" on the way to the studio.

*More or less. Frankly, I don't remember if it was just over or just under and I can't be bothered to fact-check; it would disturb the cat sleeping on my lap.
**On a side-note, my mom had never seen what an actual Bikram class looked like before and commented on how diverse the room was. Young, old, thin, thick, men women. "Well, I just thought they would all look just like you." she said. I thought of a class full of me and shuddered. "No. Thank g*d, no." I responded. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Yelp is aptly named. It sounds like onomatopoeia for when one of those yappy dust-mop dogs is frightened by a falling leaf. 

I have a strategy for Yelp so I don't leave the site feeling like I had doo-doo flung at me by strangers; I only read the good and average reviews. More often than not, the negative reviews are some yahoo that may or may not have stepped into the reviewed establishment one time where they suffered some grievance that can rage from stubbing their toe to being served "unripe peaches." 

The latter grievance is in a review for one of my favorite brunch establishments, Marmalade. Marmalade does not serve peaches, it garnishes its plates with mangos. Yes, this bright crayon was not only rating his meal a one star because he could not correctly identify a mango but the mango is a free garnish, not part of his meal. The mango should be a, "Wow, what is this delicious bit of color on my plate that I did not pay for? A peach? Hmm. Tastes odd. Oh well, I did not ask for a peach so I will not complain about its lack of peachy-ness." Instead, it was a several paragraph diatribe about how offensive this "unripe peach" was to this man's fine palate. Fine my left cheek; he couldn't identify a mango.

Knowing such odd grievances abound, after I reviewed my yoga studio (after a year of attendance and visiting multiple other studios both in and out of my area for comparison) I had no intentions of visiting its Yelp page again. That changed when one of my yogi friends sent me a review she figured out was about me. The gripe: "The first time I went, someone was menstruating and leaking all over their white towel." Everyone with me, "EWwww! Gross!"

Exhibit A: The Review

Now, let's examine this comment. 
  1. The goal of the class is to remain focused on self. I have to assume this was a real gusher in order to distract this poor yogi. So, what is the likelihood that a woman was having a full-out waterfall and not doing anything about it? 
  2. It is not the studio's fault if one of the students is menstruating. 
  3. It wasn't menstruation. I can, fairly confidently, confide that my yogi friend was most likely correct that I was the offending yogi and therefore assure you all it was not blood of any form.

You all may have noticed from my illustrations that I have a red strip of hair where bangs usually go. The first day or two after I have dyed my hair it can bleed. When I attend class after my dye job I notify the teacher that, "I am not bleeding from my head, my hair may drip today and promise to keep it on the towel."  In all my years, I had never even considered that this drip of color might be interpreted as a shunning of feminine products (although, possibly, the thought should have crossed my mind).

This review forced me to reconsider the evidence. Through most of the standing series, there is no contact with my head to the floor, or even a good clear shot from the hair to the ground so no spots appear. The first pose to mar my pristine white towel is comically perfect for the supposed 'period incident.' Standing-separate-leg-stretching pose (wow, is that a mouthful). For those not familiar, one separates their legs, stretches down and grabs their feet. The object of the pose is to get your head on the floor directly between your feet. Most days I can do that. My head hits the floor, directly in the center between my feet and stamps a red blotch there. We all come up together and, voilĂ !, The person behind me sees a period mark directly below my crotch.

Evidently, in this pose I look like Megan Fox. If you need me, I'll be in separate leg stretching.

The red spot will get progressively larger for the remainder of class; rabbit being the biggest spot-expander as I try to position my head on the floor, close to my knees, directly below my airborne buttocks. The precise nature of the series movements dictate that my butt will be on that red spot anytime we turn and lay in savasana, enforcing the impression that the spot may be coming from those quarters. 

My favorite part is the closing of this review. The review closes with, "Namaste." I was under the impression that namaste meant, "The lightness in me bows to the lightness in you." A beautiful phrase honoring and acknowledging that there is good in everyone. Evidently, I was wrong. Namaste is a proper closing for openly criticizing others in a semi-annonomous way when you say nothing nice at all. Well, joanne y., namaste.*

*Pretty sure I get -10 karma points for that one. Oh well. I'll get a kitten out of a tree later or something.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Drunken Yoga

I have taken class in less than desirable conditions, as we all have. Maybe we haven't drank enough water. Maybe we were out too late the night before enjoying libations. Maybe we were out just a few hours ago and the libations are still in our system making us just a little more than tipsy. Yeah. I've done that.

In my defense I did not know I was getting drunk. No, really, I had no idea. Okay, a little idea, but I was pretty sure I was in control of the situation. As in most instances where I think I am in control, I found out I was not.

The day was sunny and warm. The sort of day that people call in sick to take a walk and contemplate never going to work again. Fortunately, I am a freelance designer which means I can take a walk whenever I feel like it, as long as the work gets done. On this particular day, I had most of the day free and decided to knock off early and enjoy the sunshine. Walking through my neighborhood gave me that complete feeling that inspires one to eat nice things and maybe drink a beer. "Have a summer," I've heard it called.

That's exactly what I did. I stopped in at the corner book store, grabbed a novel comprised of essays I could easily drift in and out of without missing too much and proceeded to one of my favorite bars. I sat in the large front window watching the main-street scene in front of me. I grabbed a nearly black beer (of which I am more than a little fond) and munched on a salad with corn/thyme dressing (balance, right?). I polished both off and, not wanting the glorious day to end, turned and asked the nice man behind the bar for a non-alcoholic beer suggestion. The last yoga class of the day was in two hours and I was already feeling euphoric.*

I explained to the man behind the bar that I had a passion for dark beers but would settle for anything made from a hop with low or no alcohol. The nice man pulled out a small sample for me of some very black ooze. I realized that with over 100 beers to choose from, 25 on tap, I had come to the right place. A velvety beer with no alcohol! Jackpot! I loved it, yes, I would have a glass of that one!

I went back to reading my book with a tall non-alcoholic black hole of a beer to sip on. Euphoria sustained.

Half a glass later, I was enjoying my book even more. In fact, for a book detailing the fall of Russia, this was a hoot! Three-fourths of the pint through, my waitress ran up to me in a panic. "I don't know why you needed a non-alchoholic beer, but this isn't it! I am so sorry, you weren't talking to the bartender, that was a bus-boy." She went on to explain that I was drinking something called Nosferatu, the name itself hinting with a sledgehammer that this is not a beer to be trifled with. This beer's alcohol content is 8.0%, considerably higher than standard beers. Because of the high content, the bar usually pours this beer into a snifter, not a giant pint glass, like I had been pulling off of. My book's sudden hilarity made far more sense.

Being on a consecutive 60 day challenge, I wasn't about to let a little Nosferatu get in the way of my yoga. In fact, I figured, this may just be the day I cut out half-way through pranayama breathing to take a 90-minute hot nap. I waltzed into class, lightly sloshy.

My first backbend pretty well told the story of that whole class. I stood straight, pulled my arms tight over my head, leaned my head back as far as it would go and pushed my hips to the front mirror. I was pushing and stretching so good I anticipated staring at my own buttocks. Blearily, I could tell it was not my own butt I was staring at, but, rather, the pebbly surface of our ceiling. The facts laid out by my vision were telling me I had succeeded in tilting my head back an inch or two.

To make a 90-minute story short, I made it through the class sloppily but intact; no nap needed. I headed to the locker room after final savasana and my friend, who had the unfortunate mat position by my side, glowered at me, "Beer and corn? What the hell did you eat? The whole class smelled like beer and corn?!" It took me a while to catch on that the corn was the dressing on the salad, but the beer I knew right away.

This friend and I laugh about our exploits a lot, realizing this is not how a regular yoga practice "should" go. My thought on that is that none of us are perfect. Realistically, I am not going to stop drinking (although not before class if I can help it), give all my worldly possessions to charity, or live on a mountain. That's not where my karma is. My karma is being the best Kate I can be, (maybe that means I can encourage folks with lifestyles like mine that you can do yoga; it's not all willowy women in flowing white tunics foraging for mushrooms). Sometimes being my best "me" means admitting where I am at any given moment and doing the best I can to meet my personal goals with where I am. Sometimes that will mean a lesson learned for next time, sometimes it will not. Either way, continuing with a light heart will get me much further than chastising myself, or that darned bus-boy.

* Since picking up daily yoga I have become an incredibly cheap date. I thought I would mind, I used to enjoy drinking large muscly men with tattooed faces under the table only to turn around and have a pleasant conversation with my friends over another beer. I have, however, discovered that the cost savings far outweigh the swell of pride from an over-achieving liver.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Philanthropic Endeavor

There are many similarities between those of us who practice yoga but even more differences. I love the array of characters I have met through this practice. I may delve into that subject more at a later post, but for now, I would like to focus on two individuals who have talents that astound me.

I am referring to two teachers, a married couple, Allan Santos and Fenlon Lamb* who have among their accolades, won championships, teach beautiful classes, play classical upright bass and sing opera. It seems to me we could do a lot more with this myriad of fantastic talents.

I am writing this appeal to them, that they may let me take them under my wing. Out of the goodness of my heart, I would be happy to hone their skills, asking only that they humbly do whatever training I ask of them. My vision for us would look a little like this:

I really think this could work. So, Allan, Fenlon, when you decide you would like my help please let me know. We can start here in Chicago and move to Rome as soon as you we get the funds together.

* Fenlon Lamb? Have you ever heard a name that so perfectly invokes soft skin and a warm, lilting voice? The Brothers Grimm could have taken a lesson from this girl's parents.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How I gained the ability to wear shorts.

Modesty can be a wonderful thing  it creates people like Audrey Hepburn. It also creates a wardrobe inappropriate for Chicago summers. I have always had an odd relationship to modesty. In bars made exclusively of dark corners I feel perfectly comfortable in little corset-style tops and fishnets. However, you get me on a sunny street and I become some pre-suffragette trying to make amends with the fact that it is okay for the modern girl to show a little ankle. Or, at least, that was the case until one remarkable event. 

Getting me into short shorts for Bikram was a slow process. My first class was spent in knit pants and two layers of shirts. The first shirt was a tight tank top, so that if I had to flip upside down, my belly would not hang out (I was familiar with downward dog and prepared should it rear its ugly head). The second was a loosely fitting T-shirt so that, heaven forbid, no one could see the curvature of my body. I should mention that this behavior was not driven by some teenage angsty body image issue. More than anything, I just didn't want to assault the person next to me with unwanted fleshy bits. 

Within a month the outfit morphed into a tank top and loose running shorts (with built in undie-guards so the person behind me didn't have to see anything in balancing stick). Over the course of the next 6 months, my belly even made an appearance. Granted, the belly-bearing top had thick padded cups I would shove into it to prevent anyone from being able to see that I, like most other people, have nipples. 

This steady pace might have gotten me to the blasĂ© attitude I have now within four or five years but a miracle happened. My first year as a yogi, I competed in my first Asana Championship. While always an enriching experience, this one was special. Rather than performing the 3 minute routine on a stage in a park, where your audience passes by at a distance of 20-30 feet, or in an auditorium, where your audience is only people interested in the sport, this competition was in a Whole Foods. Yes, right in the grocery store. 

Tucked safely between the check-out lanes and the entrance we lifted our legs, shoved our chests up to the sky (which incidentally, was not a sky, but the second floor and escalator. One competitor, when folded in half in guillotine, saw, just past her own rear, two young boys staring at her from said escalator). To ensure that no competitor would leave this day with lingering body-shame, the warm-up area was placed on a second level, past the floral department. Yes, to get on stage we had to walk past hoards of urbanite mothers and their gaping children in what amounted to our undergarments. Many a young child was educated that day on the glories of anatomy as competitor after competitor wove through the floral department, past the check-out lanes, passing the natural soaps, to the stage  clad in spandex leotards and banana hammocks.*

Aura's Guillotine

Now that my hoo-hoo has been pointed at unsuspecting shoppers of organic produce I find bearing a little ankle, even knee, quite unremarkable. And thus, you can now find me purchasing flimsy bra-tops and clingy short shorts for my practice. Problem solved. I would recommend this as a sure fire cure to any person willing to try.**

* I would like to make special note that I think this was actually a genius move. Being in such an open venue ensured a lot of visitors who would not have been watching otherwise. It also put us in close proximity to food, which was a huge bonus the second we were off stage. 

** The author of this blog will not be held responsible for any person being forcibly evicted from Whole Foods for indecent exposure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Incredibly Efficient Sweat Glands

For the first time in my life I plan on purchasing a scale. I have, as a rule, never owned one as I can see myself obsessing over every pound. This thought is not without reason. At one point, living in my parent's house, I stepped on a scale twice a day, if not more. I worked out the averages for morning and evening, before a potty break or after a meal. I knew this behavior was obsessive and that, lacking the willpower to stop myself, the easiest solution was to never have a scale stare at me from the foot of my home commode ever again. This plan has worked out great and I can currently only guess my weight within 15 pounds. I am willing to revisit my willpower over my former obsession, or possibly just purchase a scale as a disposable item, to answer one burning question, "Exactly how many pounds of sweat do I shed in one class?" I, up until this point, have squelched my curiosity, feeling it was just too odd to disclose, until yesterday. Yesterday, The Boy expressed the exact same desire. 

You see, The Boy just had his first tactile experience with what I have explained to him many times is a phenomenon beyond explanation  the amount of sweat my body can produce in a one-and-a-half-hour period. It happened because The Boy and I got home later than intended from Occupy Chicago. In order to get seven hours of sleep before a planned 6am (zombie) yoga class The Boy and I divvied up the chores I had left that evening. The only chore I could delegate to him (could he brush my teeth?) was laundry, which included the yoga gear I had been lugging around downtown with me for the past four hours. I was hesitant, but he was insistent. After he promised me he would still sleep with me after handling my grody towels I acquiesced  I really wanted to get to bed. 

As I was picking out clothes for the next day I heard a shout from the laundry hallway (it can't really qualify as a room), "This is all sweat?!?" While I was expecting some variation on this exclamation, I was not expecting the tone. There was no disgust in the voice. He was expressing sheer curiosity of the scientific variety. "Yeah!" I shouted proudly back.  

The Boy is stymied by my glands' efficiency.

I am not saying I sweat a lot for a girl; putting to shame those who "glisten." While I have never been a "glistener," my current capacity for water release puts most men to shame. I am captivated by the new efficiency of my glands.  If I can weigh my towels before and after class Im pretty sure it would be a figure of epic proportions. I may be able to get into Guinness for this!

At my studio, we frequently discuss the 'top sweaters' and my name is always in the top three. Of these three, the other two are men. I like to play a game with those other two, you know, like "Monkey in the Middle" only way grosser. One of these two fine gentlemen will set up on one side of a good friend yogi and I will set up on the other. We form a wonderful sprinkler system in eagle; sweat flying off our swinging fingertips in giant arcs. Our friend in the middle gets an unwelcome shower if they don't move to the back of their mat.

One of our teachers is such a good sport, when teaching from behind me she once exclaimed, "Whoo! You got me!" I apologized and she quickly retorted, "I like it!" I have also gotten the comment (from a much taller member of the top three tier), "I didn't know such a small person could produce that quantity. I mean, there just isn't that much surface area!" 

This might seem incredibly gross but it is just how comfortable I have become with myself. At some point you just shrug it off. There is even a "two towel club" I am proudly a member of. Yup. I sweat right through one bath towel and my teachers have kindly requested I lug not one, but two towels around with me so as not to form a marsh around my mat.

So, when The Boy had his first confrontation with what I had been trying to explain to him was a miracle of the human body and reacted in the same sheer wonder I experience every day, I was all too happy to puff up my chest and proclaim, "Yes, that is my poundage of sweat you are hefting!" And that, is why a scale may just make it back into my house. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Two, Two, Two Posts in One!

Am I the only one that will get that outdated Certs reference? Yeah? Oh well. Im not changing it because this is my blog and I can rave like a lunatic and make inside jokes if I want to. 

I will get to the regularly scheduled post next, but first, I would like to share with you the coolest thing I have ever seen on public transit. I can not tell enough people about it. Maybe it's all over the interwebs by now, but I haven't seen it. In fact, my fellow passengers were so plugged into their gadgets that I am the only one who seemed to notice! I weep for them.

I was on my way home from a client's office via the brown line. For those not familiar with Chicago public transit; all of our lines are elevated. This line is above ground for it's whole route, putting you at eye-level with rooftops. In this particular section of Chicago, Lakeview, you pass many four-story brownstone buildings with flat roofs. A few of these buildings have short brick walls (about three feet high) around the roof. I imagine the idea is so that one can safely work on the roof ...or paint graffiti in private.

On this particular roof, the one where I saw the coolest thing one could ever see on public transit ever, three individuals decided to dress up and enact a scene exclusively for us tired, huddled masses on the brown line at rush hour. 

Two people stood roughly 4 feet apart, dressed in brown outfits, held cylindrical, possibly by a hoop-skirt type form. The third stood in between the other two with a giant mallet. The gentleman in the center faced one brown cylinder, then the other, swinging his mallet at each when he faced them. As he swung, the brown critter getting clobbered would sink down below the short brick wall surrounding the roof. Get it!?! GET IT!!?? They were Whac-a-Moles! One of only two games I could play at Chuck-E-Cheese!*

Coolest commute EVAR. Or, at least I thought so. One yogi's only response was, "Yeah, I think you have to be a little nuts to live that close to the tracks." Point taken, John.  

Okay, now on to the yoga!

The other day my mat was placed next to a gentleman that must have been eating curry for lunch, dinner and breakfast for the last twelve years. The smell was pungent and pervasive. It kept assaulting me in waves, rushing over my nose and filling me with images of wholly unappetizing dollops of red, yellow and green sauce. And you know what? As long as my own lunch stayed down, who cares? Really. 

Knowing what I have put into the air after weekends of binge drinking, the classes during the first months of winter, when my diet consists of brownies and wine, and the worst, after one of my rare rendezvous with red meat, I have little room to complain. 

In fact, yesterday and today I have become a Glade layered scented candle from the Garbage Pail Kids' dimension. Breathing through eagle is onion. This melts away to a pungent ammonia smell that I, like all cat owners, can only relate to in terms of cleaning the litter box. Finally, from standing bow until I have flushed the last of the odiferous toxins out, the bottom scent I will refer to only as, "musky male." Let your imagination go on that one. I'll give you a second. Yup, what you just cringed at? The smell is about like that. 

I understand these layered scents are my own fault, my punishment for seven cinnamon rolls yesterday, a plate of brownies the day before, a New York strip steak the previous dinner and various other offenses to my system that were just so good smelling on the way in. I can live with that. I know that usually I do not smell. Regular practice ensures that. 

I also know that the hot room itself smells no more offensive to my olfactory system than walking into a boy's locker room. I can handle a bit of curry for an hour and a half, knowing that he will walk out smelling a little less like curry for his companions in the elevator, cubicle mate and that blind date he may have tonight.

So you, my smelly yogi sister, wafting waves of stale cheese in my direction, rock on. My yogi brethren who continue to live on Cheetos and beer long past college, hold your head high. You there, in the back row reliving your poor decision making skills at the bar yesterday (scotch? I don't even like scotch) continue to push those toxins out of your system and I will do the same.

*The other is ski-ball. Maybe "could play" is a bit strong. I was relatively proficient at that one, as long as Scott Evans would crawl up the lane and put a ball in the 100pt hole for me every now and then.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kate Runs on Dunkin'

I had one of those days today. Doing training seemed impossible, but not doing training became this weight of unimaginable proportions on my feeble back, not that I was going to any backbends even under that pressure. I would just mope instead. I procrastinated all day going to yoga, the one thing I knew had a chance of honestly making me feel better, opting instead to try things I knew would not make me feel better. Sushi, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream, chips, cookies.

Just before taking the last yoga class of the day, 8pm, I gorged myself on one more pb&j, figuring I would just puke if I had to and that was that.

While eating this pb&j I decided that the one thing that would make me happy the only thing in the whole wide world was donuts. Not just any donut; I wanted munchkins. Everything is cuter small, and therefore munchkins bear even more cheering-up power than standard donuts. Furthermore, they had to be the munchkins with sprinkles. The glory that is the sprinkle munchkin is unmatched in both adorableness and sugar delivery method. These little deep-fried bits of dough are rolled in viscous sugar-glue (aka: frosting) and then dunked in sprinkles. I have a feeling this process repeats a couple more times because otherwise I can not figure out how they achieve a two-inch thick crust of sprinkles on such a small sphere of fried dough. The result is a brightly colored cuteness sugar explosion.

The Sprinkle Munchkin: Sunshine Incarnate

I would drag myself into yoga with the understanding that, no matter what type of class I had, I would bike right down to Dunkin' Donuts afterward and claim my rewards. My cute, little, sugary, rewards. 

Yoga went without the expected naps, not a bad class all in all. I hopped on my bike singing the whole mile to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts. While I can not remember the words, I am positive I sounded something like when a four-year old makes up sonnets to their puppy, "Puppy! I love you, Puppy! You are the cutest thing on the planet! the universe!...Mom, that's bigger, right?" Replace, "Puppy" with, "munchkins" and you've pretty much got it.

When I arrived, I perused the munchkins section on the wall. NO SPRINKLES. I asked desperately, as if maybe it was like a shoe-store and they kept spares in the back. No luck. They were out. I opted instead for some bland looking peanut, plain and cinnamon munchkins. That was it, nothing was going to cheer me up today. Then, a surprise. The man charged me 50 cents for the three requested donut holes! Well, that was nice! Then I got outside to gorge myself on my small non-sprinkled stash and another surprise! He had given me not three, but six munchkins!!! Oh glorious day! I camped out by my bike with my water bottle and had a tiny munchkin feast. As it turns out, I did not need the sprinkles to make me happy, I only needed six 50 cent munchkins.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


This has nothing to do with yoga. Or maybe everything. I mean really, yoga is a microcosm for life isn't it? But I warned you all this might go this way. Maybe I'll try to work a cat in for good measure. 

As I am writing this, my grandad passed away just hours ago. I was fortunate enough to see him so recently my carry-on bag has yet to be unpacked. I wanted to share my favorite memory of him because it so perfectly sums up who he was to me. 

I was still in college when I got a 9pm call that my grandmother had just passed. My college was in Grand Rapids, the West side of Michigan, and my parents, in Detroit on the East side of Michigan, were in the process of booking an early flight to Florida for us. I had nine hours to drive the 3 hours to Detroit, sleep, make myself presentable and pack. While this may seem like an easy feat, let us consider two items on this list severely impacted by my college lifestyle:

1. Packing a funeral outfit.
Being an art student I did not own any funeral-appropriate attire. Heck, I didn't own a pair of jeans with even one knee intact. I had to dash from dorm-room to dorm-room asking girls roughly my size and shape for black dress clothes, which, of course, they did not have, being college students themselves. I managed to scrape together a skirt and blouse that fit...more or less. Nylons and shoes had to be arranged over the telephone. I called my sister for nylons but she couldn't help with shoes, her feet being a very normal size for an elf. My mother provided shoes, her feet were only one size too large (I brought a spare pair of socks to shove in the toes). 

2. Making myself presentable
College Kate was well known for her wide variety of hair-styles. Shaved head? Done. Purple leopard-print? Yup. Princeton? Uh-huh. Chelsea? You-betcha. Female pompadour? Briefly. The coiffure of choice this month (actually, I had been growing this out for almost a year) was a tall, fully shaved on the sides, green mohawk. My dad & step-mom are pretty conservative and, although they made their best effort not to show it, were horribly embarrassed by my hair and clothing even under regular circumstances. I was not sure they would let me on the plane, let alone look my poor grieving grandpa in the eye with a foot-tall green mohawk. 

As I explained, it took some time, but I did manage to get clothing together. The hair was another matter. I figured if I could just get my hair not-neon, I could comb it down and be okay. I sped to the nearest beauty supply store, which closed at 9. Of course the door was locked, but my pounding and yelling got the attention of the girls closing down in back. I knew I had to pound furiously because these girls were very talented at ignoring customers pounding on the door past closing. I know, I worked there. You would be surprised at the tenacity required to pretend the stylist screaming about her 8am perm appointment is not there. They let me in and I ran right to the dye aisle and picked out the top rated hair-color and developer (in darkest brown), some color remover and a crystal gel treatment. Does all that sound harsh to try on already bleached hair? It is. Very harsh. 

I grabbed my supplies and drove right to the other side of the state. Getting in at 1am, I had 4 hours to strip, cleanse, dye my hair and sleep. Hooray for adrenaline (I had yet to discover pranayama breathing)! I rushed through the treatments and ascertained that I had forgotten one major component conditioner. My brittle hair felt worse than straw. I am sure half the hair attached to my head only remained because of the series of knots that tied it to other strands yet to break off. A little lotion was all I had to run through my hair, achieving the hard to acquire greasy-yet-dry look. To top it off, the brown dye and treatments only succeeded in turning my neon green to a moss-on-a-log camo pattern. Patches of neon butted up next to mossy brown. With two hours left, I heaved a heavy sigh and put on a baseball cap. Maybe it could be considered part of my funeral outfit, like a lady's bonnet? 

As this was pre-9/11, I made it through security and to my grandpa's house without taking off my hat, which had a Dropkick Murphy's patch safety pinned to the front. My parents had been warned of the horrors beneath my cap, but we choose not to speak of it. When we arrived at my grandpa's condo there were many relatives gathered around having the customary scotch and wine forced upon them by my grandfather.* None of my family lives in the same city so nobody knew what my hair was currently doing under my cap, but everyone knew me well enough to know to be afraid. And for g*d's sake, do not mention it. People avoided looking at my hat the way people would avert their eyes from satan. There was an elephant in the room and it was sitting on my head. Finally, my grandpa spoke up, "Kathryn. Come here. Take off your hat." 

For the first time all day (my family consists largely of stereo-typicaly thunderous Jews, of which I am no exception) the room went silent.

"Um. No, grandpa. That's a bad idea." I responded. We bantered like that back and forth, him sounding like he was coaxing a ball out of a dog's mouth to play fetch and me sounding like he was asking me to slay my first born. I looked into my parent's eyes and saw horror, I looked around the room, further horror. No solace anywhere but my poor grandfather's playful eyes. If only he knew what he was asking, surely he would desist!

I didn't want to disappoint my grandad, not even being able to clean up for my grandmother's funeral, but there was no way around it. I just didn't have time to fix it. I bowed my head, apologized and took the cap off. A gasp came up from the crowd but above that could be heard laughing. Loud, joyous laughter. Grandpa thought the matted, greasy, mess on my head was hilarious, made even more so by my cowardice!

He grabbed my head put his lips to my shaved haffet giving me a big kiss. As he did, he whispered in my ear, a conspiratory whisper,  "Next time, shave these  better, the stubble hurts my lips!"

My grandad was always a regal man, a proper man. A classic WWII vet who loved his scotch, golfed and drank his tea very black. He was also above judgement and loved me unconditionally. Thank you for that last visit, grandpa. It was the greatest gift ever — even better than those plastic fisher-price roller skates you gave me for my 8th birthday. 

* The man was so insistent that every visitor to his home join him in a glass of scotch that not 7 days before he died, while The Boy and I were visiting, grandad had me run to the liquor cabinet and pour us each a glass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Introduction to Princess Sidney, the Perpetually Annoyed

I am owned by an adorable, spoiled rotten princess who's only reason for having not taken over the planet is that she lacks the necessary opposable thumbs. Her name is Sidney. All 7 pounds of her little fuzzy existence is devoted to following me around, ensuring that I am not doing anything that messes up her living space.

Every morning my alarm goes off too early for my liking, although later than most of the rest of the world. I hit snooze. This is Sidney's cue to leave the closet of my home office and join me for the last 15 minutes of cuddle time. She lies down on my back or belly, depending on which is facing up, and purrs so contentedly as to drip a drool puddle onto my comforter. She is the reason I had to purchase a fancy duvet cover, so I could wash the darned thing of cat drool regularly. I know the drool doesn't magically stop at the cover and the down-alternative beneath must be getting soaked too. I try not to think of this. I suggest you do the same.

15 minutes later the alarm sounds again and I slap at it until it silences. Sidney happily jumps off the bed and rushes ahead of me to the bathroom. The Boy and I keep the bathroom door closed so Sidney can't spend all night drooling on the sink waiting for one of us to go to the bathroom and turn on the faucet. She loves drinking from the bathroom sink and will spend all day there patiently waiting if we let her. The Boy gets annoyed at the hair and I can't help but think that, although it makes her happy, sitting on the sink 24 hours a day can not be good for anyone's mental development. As such, this is the first opportunity of the day she gets to be truly happy with her beloved faucet.

Once I am done brushing my teeth, showering and banging my head against the wall (mornings are not my strong suit) I open the door, point and grunt. She gets the idea and hops off the sink and trots out ahead of me. She lingers at my feet as I make a green juice and tea if I am ambitious,  whatever seems easy and tea if I am not. Then, off to the office, a whole 30 feet away. Sidney sits in my lap, which is folded into lotus or criss-cross, ensuring the princess has adequate lap space to unfold herself.

I tell you all of this so you get the general idea that my cat and I are very used to each other. Like an old married couple, we have come to our compromises, roll our eyes at the other's perceived shortcomings and begrudgingly alter our routines to accommodate the other's needs. Everything goes very smoothly until a new interest or hobby is introduced, like yoga poses in the home.

Much to Sidney's displeasure, I have taken to trying headstands, with the eventual goal of Tiger Scorpion. Very eventual. I am pretty sure I've got a shot at the pose if I can just figure out how to lift my head up. While I am aware that lifting your head is not the most challenging part of the posture, I get the definite impression that this tiny movement will take me so long to grasp that by the time my head is lifted, I will have been practicing for 19 years and the rest of the pose will fall into place.* By then, I plan on having such a great backbend I look like one of those Chinese gymnasts cultivated from the womb or something.

At any rate, here I am, fairly regularly, placing my forearms on either side of my head, and slowly lifting my legs up into the air. Once vertical, I visualize my head lifting off the floor. Slowly, I move my eyes in the direction I want to go. Flop. Try again. Flop. Try again. Flop. No worries. Again. Flop.

After a few very discouraging attempts at moving my head I decide to just hold a headstand. Maybe all I need is a really strong headstand. I get up, hold it for less than a second and inevitably my little Lucy Ricardo trots over to see why I am not petting her. The balancing act that I am so carefully honing impresses my little one not at all. In fact, with my hands so close to her level, why in the world aren't they attending to their duties i.e. petting her? She, I kid you not, starts head-butting me. In the head. I have to squint because her fur and whiskers are poking me in the eyes.

Not only does it take extreme concentration to keep the pose up with a cat head-butting you, but she is also circling my arms and head, which is dangerously close to where my body would come down should I fall. I get a tickle in my nose. Probably from one of the stray cat-hairs she has just thrust up there. It is clear I am going down. In a desperate attempt to clear my precious from the crash zone, I blow as hard as I can on her face. She looks annoyed, but not so much as to run away. Well, crud. Here we go. Whump! Down I come, narrowly avoiding her tiny form as it dashes out of harm's way.

You would think this harrowing escape from death would be a learning experience. Not so with my wee idiot savant. The next day she is there again, head-butting me in the face. Bless her. She will make sure I get my balance one of these days.

Believe it or not, this is actually a step in the right direction. I, at one point, did backbends at home instead. She liked to hang out, to lay down in fact, between my feet and hands, making it impossible to come down. I have literally been in backbends staring upside-down at her screaming, "PLEASE move! I can't come out of this with you there! Sidney!... Damn it!...Jeff! Can you come in here and get the cat!?!"

Sidney strives to accurately convey her level of extreme apathy toward my discomfort.

Sigh. As I said, I am owned by one spoiled rotten princess.

*If you are about to tell me that this is not, in fact, how yoga works, I have just stuck my fingers in my ears and am loudly proclaiming, "LALALALA...I'm Not Listening!...LALALALA!"

P.S. If you read this far, I assume you are also a cat fan. So, I feel I can share this with you, compliments of the best cute-cultivator EVAR, Bleu Caldwell, YOGA KITTEH!!!

Enjoy, yogis, enjoy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Practical Yoga (A Continuing Segment)

Today, I would like to announce a new segment, "Practical Yoga." This handy guide is here to explain the benefits that yoga can provide to your everyday life. In an effort to appeal to the segment of our population preferring a logical approach, this no-nonsense guide will not be touching on the more 'foofy' aspects of yoga; instead focusing on hard, practical fact. We will not discuss calmness, increased energy or karma. We will eschew words like, "prana." Here, we will outline stale facts -- indisputable proof of yoga's daily benefits. Let's begin:

Practical Yoga #1:
Ladies, specifically, are familiar the burden of using public toilets. Public toilets are hazardous cubby-holes to be navigated with extreme caution. Techniques are taught at an early age to endure the hardships, but no amount of nest-building prowess has ever prepared you for the horrors of the late-night bar.

The scenario: 
You accompany three of your friends to an after-dinner drink. After an unusually classy evening, you are in heels(!!!), the comfortable atmosphere is perfect, low lighting, easy banter and the drinks are about as chill as you are feeling. After an hour you excuse yourself from your sedate surroundings. You push open an unassuming wooden door to find yourself within the ranks of hell. Wet toilet paper litters the floor and the toilet seat looks as if a blind person has been shooting it with a water pistol for months...and it must have been a Super-Soaker 100.* 

You build a nest 13 layers thick knowing that it is no match for the pestilence laying beneath it. Then, calm comes over you. You have got this. Thinking back to your yoga class, you strike a pose.

Fig #1: Awkward Pose

Fig #2: Awkward Pose for the Public Lavatory

The thigh strength and balance you have been building over the course of your practice have paid off. You wash your hands and exit the restroom (using a paper towel on the handle as you leave) with a buttocks as fresh as when you walked in. Congratulations. You have conquered plague with yoga.

(Seriously, I actually have had a way easier time using public restrooms since starting yoga. Even in heels, which I figure is just like second part of awkward, I can hold myself inches above the seat as long as I need. Thanks, Yoga!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

99% Perspiration

Like most of my generation, my siblings, parents and grandparents have chosen their places of residence based on family. Specifically, how far away can I move to ensure they will not pop in for surprise visits?

While eliminating the tedium of family dinners, we have now ensured exotic vacations are a thing of the past too. Self-centered destination retreats have given way to visits to the family bases. Specifically, my vacations have been replaced because I have been deemed the most mobile of my family. My refusal to have children, freelance career and major airport hub city have made me the prime candidate for a nomadic lifestyle. The rotation, kept as strict as tribes moving from planting ground to hunting ground, has me bouncing between Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, St. Louis and St. Petersburg.

I love my family, I really do, but most of them are far more sedentary than I am (heck, most gazelles are). By mid-day on day one, I begin a Mr. Bojangles routine that would make me a pretty penny on any street-corner in New York. In each of my temporary residences I have a yoga studio to stop the tweaking.*

In home base #3 (Detroit) I usually have a pretty rough class. I'm not sure why, but I always end up trying desperately not to loose control of my breath by the end. The places where my heart-rate are supposed to decrease come and go without respite. I stare intensely at the ceiling fan above my head willing it to spin faster (our gazes transfer energy, right?).

Upon my most recent visit to this studio, the person next to me announced herself as a first-time practitioner. I felt a little bad that she would have to experience her first class with me trying to cling to sanity through the mental madness that is this particular studio for me. I did everything I could to be strong that class. Still, I found myself panting like a dog by the end, as usual.

At the final savasana I was trying to get the gasping down to a minimum, counting my breaths: in... one... two... three... four... five... six... out... one... two.... when the persevering first-timer leaned over and whispered, "You're perspiring."

I thought this was a most lovely gesture. Here I was, about willing to die and the brave new yogi made a 'captain obvious' joke to ground me; reminding me that we are all just as comically sweaty and gross. I laughed and responded, "I know!" and laid back down, comforted by the laughter.

Two seconds later, I popped back up, my eyes widened in horror as I realized what was actually said.

The new girl did not say, "PERspiring." She had said, "INspiring." As in, "You are very inspiring," and my response, with a cocky little giggle, had been, "I KNOW.

So, yeah, girl who took her first class at the Farmington Hills studio, I swear I misheard you through the blood pumping feverishly in my ears.

For every other yogi out there, if you ever hear a rumor that Bikram yogis are conceited, it's my fault. I'm sorry.

* With the exception of St. Petersburg. For mercy's sake, will someone please open a studio on the West side of Florida?!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HOT Yoga

I love evening classes. Being a freelance designer I don't have a drive home to separate my work-life from my home-life. I read somewhere that a 20 minute commute is the ideal time to make that healthy mental separation. The closest I have gotten is leaving my office, going to the kitchen for tea and, upon returning to the office, announcing that I am done with work; thinking this would work the same way half-court basketball does. Much like half-court basketball, I can never remember which side I am on and end up shooting for the wrong team; work creeping into my free-time and Zombies vs. Plants sneaking into my work-day.

Evening yoga gives me that mental break. Before yoga, my office is an office. After yoga, it can be a painting studio, game room or den. Yoga has the added advantages, when compared to a commute, of invigorating me, giving mental clarity and not encouraging me to scream and hold my middle finger up at people, just under the dash-board where nobody can see.

Sometimes my work-day runs late and I end up eating a light dinner the prescribed 3 hours before 8:30 class. This was the case recently. I made a light dinner of curry. I make my own, using spices I grind at the time of cooking, organic spinach, mushrooms and hot peppers. I have to be very careful when handling the peppers because I have dry skin (Eczema actually. Before yoga it was not unusual for the dry cracks in my hands & feet to bleed). The pepper oils easily seep into the cracks and burn painfully for hours. This time, I was good. I used gloves when cutting the chilies and scraped them neatly from the cutting board into the skillet rather than transferring them by hand.

That was then. Three hours later, in half-moon, my hands were starting to tingle. By awkward pose the tingling became a fire. My hands, from finger-tips to just below my wrists might as well have been dipped in lava. Evidently, when removing the gloves, I had not been careful not to touch the gloves. For hours the oils had been sitting dormant on my skin's surface but  as my pores opened to release sweat, the mistake was obvious. The painful lumps on the end of my arms were getting worse, turning into white-hot pokers I wanted to fling from my body.

The march of time stops for no yogi. Next up, eagle. Hands over head. Swing your right under left, twisting at the elbow and again at the wrist. You know those crazy/talented people who swing fire around their bodies on the end of long chains?

Yeah. That was exactly how I felt. The problem is that fire-dancers keep the fire pretty much away from their body. I was about to twist my swinging chains up and hold the ball of flames to my face. My fear resembled a bad trip, where a seemingly innocuous item (my hands) inspires such fear as to be paralyzing. My hands were a rabid axe-weilding bunny and I had to hold still and watch them come at me.

My Eagle Pose

The good news is, I made it through eagle; holding my hands as far from my face as my twisted arms would allow. In fact, I made it through the whole class. The fire started to subside around rabbit pose. I can't say I did a good job focusing on my breath, unless you count snorting heavily to force a breeze onto my hands, but hey, any class you stay in the room is a good class, right?

I still enjoy my evening classes, but am now very careful to plan my meals accordingly should I have to eat dinner beforehand. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Decline

My mood swings are monumental in a way that makes Liza Minnelli look stable. Yoga has helped me even them out a bit and come to terms with the ones I can't manage gracefully. Still, during slumps, I whine about going to yoga the way a 6 year old whines about going to Sunday school -- complete with shoe throwing. Or, if you were a creative kid like me, hiding in the closet and refusing to get out of your pajamas by anything other than force. At any rate, this sort of behavior is REALLY unbecoming of a 30-something.

I had decided that the only way to get myself to stop making excuses was to include practice into my daily routine. If I was to go everyday, martini lunch be damned, I would, in theory, stop whining and just do it. Actually, this worked pretty well. The result has been far fewer hours spent wandering around the house, shoulders slumped, jaw slack, kicking things in my path, complaining about the impending yoga. The irony here is that I complain like this knowing that I will emerge from class the bright, pert woman I wish I was all the time. It is the only sure-fire cure for slumps that I have ever found. Does this knowledge make me skip into class merrily waving my rolled up yoga mat like a baton? Never.

What happens now, the shortened fit I have come to accept as my daily routine, is so predictable as to be obnoxious. Both my cat and my boyfriend have memorized their lines perfectly to get me the f*ck out of the door and on my way. I wish that meant I could dispose of the theatrics, but they seem interwoven into my person.

The daily script:
The deadline approaches. I wander into my boyfriend's home office and pull him (quite literally, his chair, conveniently, has wheels) away from his work, I curl up in his lap, as close to the fetal position as a full-grown adult can manage. I throw my head back and proclaim, "It's THAT time." This is said with the same inflection that one would inform their child that the asteroid will, in fact, be colliding with the planet, snuffing out the sun, at any moment.

He informs me what I already know, "You will feel so much better when you get done."

I inform him that, although what he said is common knowledge and I accept that, it makes my march into Mordor no easier a burden.

Several large sighs escape me before I begrudgingly let The Boy get back to his computer. I grab my things and go to yoga, telling myself the whole time that if I feel like sleeping through the entire floor series today, it is okay.

*Class* (cue fairy music)

After class I am energized. I am glad I rode my bike. I contemplate on the way home how freeing bicycling is. I decide dinner should be juice today. I am turning over a new leaf. Nothing but salads for a week. I could do a double (two yoga classes) tomorrow!

I realize I do this every time. Better to think realistically. Maybe dinner tonight just won't include a starch.

Halfway home my tummy grumbles and I think of ice cream. It's okay though, there are good alternatives. I could have some Italian ice before my salad. Five minutes later, it's sorbet. Five more minutes, it's gellato. Two minutes more and it's a scoop of rocky road, a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and a scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice cream, all topped with fudge. Whipped cream is a must, but we can balance it out with a banana...I should have some potassium for all the work I did.

I arrive at home happy, with plans to make a seven course meal. Now that I think of it, no wonder The Boy is so encouraging of my yoga habit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brace Yourself, This is a Long One.

I whipped my cock out on stage yesterday. That is correct, as I am writing this, yesterday was the Illinois Asana Championships. There is so much to say about the day; the competitors were ecstatic, love was gushing out the floorboards and inspiration was everywhere.

The day started at 5:08am when I peeled open my eyes, a good seven minutes before I was being picked up by the clown-car of yogis carpooling from Chicago to Naperville. Four bleary-eyed competitors and all our yoga gear piled into the car and drove the hour+ to the studio hosting the pre-show class. The studio was one of the prettiest I have seen (well-done, Mama Tam!) with a beautiful faux wood floor. It was flocked, making it carpet-like, but the pattern was so real my pre-noon senses were thrown for a loop.

Taking class pre-competition is a beautiful thing. Looking around you there are yogis of all sizes, skill levels and age brackets (so, yeah, a little like regular class I guess). In front of me was, I would later discover, one of the judges. To my left and right were fellow Bikram Yoga Andersonville friends. Kitty-corner was a little girl of maybe 10 that may or may not have been doing a dance routine throughout class. I attribute my excellent focus that morning (and maybe the lack of sleep and food) to the fact that I missed (and therefore did not break out laughing at) the little girl turning around mid-standing series and facing Borislava, the yogi next to me. Good job, little girl! Testing Borislava's concentration was key to her performance later that day. Maybe if we all had had a little tap-dancing cutie to challenge our focus that morning none of us would have fallen out of standing bow later.

Borislava's Standing Head to Knee

After class, we piled back into the car, passing Starbucks, Chipotle, Five Guys Pizza and many other drool-inducing stores on our way to the Wentz Concert Hall. Thankfully, green juice was in ample supply. In the warm up room, which counter-intuitively was quite chilly, the mood shifted from casual to anxious and back again. Camaraderie ruled supreme as people did each other's hair, gave last minute tips for transitions and shared green juice in the grand fashion of breaking-bread.

After a long wait for the on-stage dance, music and bowl meditation acts, the children were taken. This was especially sad as it took away our 6 year old entertainer, Christian, who had been showing us how he could use his foot as a telephone by holding it to his ear. The pied piper came back for the men and eventually for the first 5 women.

The thing about an impending performance is that there is both nothing you can do to prepare and everything you can do to prepare. Do you do backbends to make your spine limber, or will this just make you fret? Do you do a few cock poses, or will that tire your arm muscles? Do you sit and talk with others to calm your nerves, or concentrate on a spot to gain focus? I, at the advice of a pro, settled on pranayama breathing. I also figured I would get one solid standing-head-to-knee before going on stage. 20 standing-head-to-knees later I stopped, having finally achieved this goal. Maybe that wasn't such a grand idea.

My turn was announced and I cued up to the stage, careful not to watch whomever was on stage just before me. Stripping down to my leotard was fun. First came the leg warmers, socks, pants, hoodie, tank top. I felt a little like a stripper who wasn't aware there was supposed to be grace to her job. The pile of clothes next to me kept growing until eventually, I was naked enough to walk into the public eye. In seconds I would attempt to convey everything I've learned in my year and a half of practice through an odd but very precise dance lasting only 3 minutes.

Before going on stage, standing in that chilly stage-doorway I got hugs and well-wishes the likes of which true competitors would never give. This is why I take issue with the word, "competition." I have yet to find a word that truly grasps what we are seeking to accomplish here, but competition certainly isn't it. Yes, there is a winner, but that winner represents all of us. The winners got there because of all of us, and they know and appreciate it. There is an understanding that each one of us has a part on stage, virtually naked, proud and humble, with every demonstration. A part of my standing bow is trembling under the spotlight from the time it hits the first child to when the last woman shuffles off the tiny yoga mat taped to the palatial wood stage. I literally tighten my knee when I see a competitor shifting in standing head-to-knee, I feel proud when Gianna completes a full standing splits in bow. One could argue my tightened knee-cap will not help and I have no right to feel pride in another's actions. I will argue, they need my strength and my love.

It is that sort of spirit I find, waiting in the airy side-door waiting for my name to be called, as yogis twice my age, twice my size, half my experience, three times my hardships, seven times my strength, hug, kiss, wish me well and love me with all their beings, with all their honesty. In their hearts, they are about to walk on stage with me.

After the last of us joined the audience, leaving the warm-up room empty, things got chaotic as they are apt to do when one person organizes an entire regional. As if in sympathy, my mental faculties began to digress from hunger; I had not eaten since the evening prior. My brain had long since abandoned its post inside my skull and the hole left in its place was calling for Chipotle. I had been eating raw for a week* so, with the promise of a burrito the size of my head looming over the horizon, it was taking all my strength not to take the microphone and unceremoniously announce winners according to who's leotard I thought was the prettiest.

After the ceremony, of which I did not ruin, possibly my greatest accomplishment that day, a few of us ate ravenously at Chipotle before heading home. Post competition libations were consumed in a beer garden (rain be damned) and I got to bed after 22 consecutive waking hours.

At the risk of turning this blog into a cheese-fest, I would like to formally say, "thank you" to my instructors, fellow yogis, friends, family and the boy, making special note to those yogis to whom I have met only in passing, yet still show amazing interest in me, as they must to everyone. It takes an open heart to put that much love into every person you meet and I am grateful.

*Full disclosure: there were two relapses 1. pizza 2. bread with peanut butter.