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.