Yoga Vita

Musings on Yoga, Life, and the Yoga Life


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I’ve moved to Twitter.

Meet me at Two Wheels N Tofu!  Nanoblogging on yoga, cycling, nursing, food, Seattle, well-being and good living.

http://twitter.com/twowheelsntofu

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Transition and Discovery

Mysore practice a few days a week combined with home practice a few days a week is one thing. All home practice all the time is going to be quite another. I’m going to have to muster up an uncharacteristic amount of will power or figure out a good system or something. Because the yoga’s not just going to do itself (except for on those rare days of amazing, magical flow. . . aaah). I need a plan.

AYS being closed and gone forever, I’ve weighed my options and decided to go the all self practice route, at least for the time being. On the mysore ashtanga front here in Seattle, the other option is to practice with Mr. Troy at Velocity dance studio, which sounds like a fabulous option indeed, but- – it’s weird- – I feel like I’m not ready for a new teacher. I guess I’m kind of greiving the loss of the teachers I’ve depended on for just over a year now- – in fact, it feels kind of like getting out of a strange breakup. I need to break free and go it alone for a while. (I had no idea I was so emotionally involved.) The idea of having some space to turn inward and really observe myself and my practice sounds very attractive right now. In fact, I’m craving it.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. However, I am lucky enough to have a fantastically supportive partner who cares about my yoga practice because I care about it so much, and he’s volunteered to be my project supervisor of sorts. I’m supposed to do my full practice with the twosies three times a week and at least an honest effort at something the other three days and report back to him. Presumably he will give me a scolding if I don’t meet my goal or something. At any rate, it’s helpful for me to be even slightly accountable to someone besides myself.

This might also be a good time to re-integrate pranayama into my daily practice. The lead teacher of my yoga teacher training, Paul Dallaghan (look at him–isn’t he cute?), is a longtime student of O.P. Tiwari, and as such prescribes individualized pranayama practices for each of his students at the end of training.

Paul and SKPJ
Paul and SKPJ

Which of course means I never took it very seriously. I was travelling in SE Asia for four and a half months after training! By bicycle! I didn’t have time for extra practices (I told myself). But now feels like a good time to pick it up. Really and truly, I have this feeling in my bones that the next few months are going to be a great time of discovery. . .


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Media Fast

Ever since my landlady inadvertently canceled our house’s internet connection at the end of April, I have had the unexpected, um, opportunity to go on a bit of a fast from news media, blogging, and compulsive email-checking for a number of weeks (yes, weeks!). It hasn’t been a total restriction of internet access, because I can attend to my most pressing online needs and habits while holed up in my windowless office after work, but because of my distaste for spending extra time in said office, it has been a significant restriction. I won’t say I particularly welcomed this partial media fast, but now that I’m back online (wow, “I’m” online–total cyborg thinking here), I have a feeling it was good for me. I feel a bit more relaxed, less of a sense of needless urgency pacing around in my head. I’ve read a few novels and had time to myself to think.

It’s been nice.

10% Useful, 90% Brain-Garbage

At one time in my past, however, a strict total media fast of a month or so was not just nice, but critical to circumventing a total mental breakdown. This was around the time of the 2004 elections. I was in a challenging period in college, working through lingering PTSD from a violent relationship, working on too many projects at once as usual, hardly doing any yoga, and utterly despairing of the fact that Americans were in the process of reelecting the inarguably worst president the (supposedly) democratic world has ever seen. A scary panic attack let me to make an emergency appointment with a school counselor, who introduced me to the idea of a media fast. Brilliant!

Is the world going to fall apart if I don’t know what’s happening in it for one month? No. Is there anything the media the might tell me in the next month that’s going to make me change the way I live my life? No. Is the media telling me anything about all the positive things that are happening in the world right now? Again, no. Maybe 10% of what I read, hear, see in the media is useful to me in some way, but the other 90% is just noise! Absolute brain-garbage!

My First Media Fast

So I decided to stop picking up the free copies of the New York Times on campus, stop reading news online, stop listening to Democracy Now and FSRN on the radio, and stop seeking out any kind of news or unnecessary information for one month. (TV was never an issue–I haven’t had one for years.) This was the only change I made and I believe it radically changed the quality of my brainwaves. More authentic thought and emotion, less noise. And when I did start reading newspapers again, I did so less often, and with more of a focus on the things that were important to me. I became better at keeping some emotional distance between myself and the events of the world. Tragedies and stupidities in the world still made me sad, but it was a cleaner quality of sad–less despairing-of-the-world sad, and easier to get past. I could listen to the news without letting it have such a powerful influence on my worldview. Looking back, I think this particular media fast was an important step in developing my emotional maturity. Before, it was as if I had no defenses, and would just be swept about by the information coming at me from all sides. A strict media fast required me to solidify my own views based on my own actual observations and experiences, to become more of the subject of my own life. It helped to teach me about the practice of mental freedom.

I think the counselor’s name was Dana–I will always be grateful for her and this little piece of timely advice that had such a big impact on me.


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Expect the Unexpected

Well, in my last post about a week ago, I proclaimed that I would do my full practice with all the twosies all week long.  Unfortunately, I ran into a few hitches in my plan.  First, I ran into Ladies’ Holiday–duh, I should have seen that coming–it’s like clockwork.  Second, however, I ran into a truly unforeseeable hitch–a mysterious yet seemingly benign neurological disease that is as of yet unnamed.  Really.  It’s quite strange–I’ve been getting waves of intense vertigo with no accompanying symptoms, besides feelings of fatigue.  I’ll just be minding my own business–sitting in my office, for example, or buying groceries–and all the sudden it feels like the room is spinning and shaking.  It feels a bit like being drunk, only without the associated pleasantness.  Sometimes it lasts all day.

brain3.gif(Not so good these days.)

So. . . in lieu of my usual health care  strategy–waiting ’til it goes away, which didn’t work this time–I actually sought a bit of professional help.  The only professional help I can afford, that is–community acupuncture.  Having never received acupuncture before, I went in not expecting much.  Not expecting anything really, because although I have some faith in the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I’ve heard that it sometimes takes multiple treatments before any noticeable effects take place.  Turns out, it was AMAZING.  The acupuncturist set me up in this big cozy reclining chair and stuck me full of needles (ok, just 9 total) and left me to marinate in the needley goodness.  For the first 20 minutes or so, I just felt like I was rocking in a boat–I was feeling especially dizzy that day–but then it just stopped.  Just like that, the waters calmed.  I slowly began feeling more energetic and more clear-headed than I had been in days.  The acupuncturist came and de-needled me, I put on my coat and scarf, put my $25 into the pay-box, and I walked away feeling fantastic.  The clarity only lasted about 24 hours, but it was a great relief.  Thank you, CommuniChi!  I’ll be going back this week.

I’ve been doing some old-ladyish yin yoga at home, but this morning I finally felt able to return to yoga and do my twosies.   I tried to generally take it easy and be careful about my neck, a possible misalignment of which I suspect may be the source of my vertigo problems.  So far so good.


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The Social Politics of Neigborhood Names

I live in a kind of physical and social borderland- – an interesting bit of geosocial real estate in the city of Seattle. If I look at a city map, I can see clearly that my third floor apartment is located well within the geographical borders of the Central District. But if I take a walk around, I can see that this area is in a phase of becoming culturally, racially, and economically more and more Capitol Hill. I never know what to tell people when they ask where I live.

Do I tell them I live in Capitol Hill, and thus associate myself with white punk-rawk hipsters, grown-up liberals with trendy glasses and well-dressed babies in designer organic cotton attachment parenting slings, seedy gay bars, ultra-hip gay bars, overpriced restaurants and coffeeshops, Seattle’s old-money-haunted-mansion enclave, and so forth? (And if they’re geographically savvy, will they know I actually live in the CD and think I’m being snobby?)

Or do I tell them I live in the Central District and associate myself with crack-dealing busts, shootings, low-income housing developments, African immigrant communities, and the only part of town in which Black people were historically allowed to live? (And then, if they see that I live in the spacious third floor of an old Victorian with a view of the Cascades and Lake Washington in a pretty decent part of town, will they think I’m trying to let on like I’m “slumming it”?)

cd-house-1953.jpg

(Central District, 1953)

These questions seem to be shared by all of the many people and businesses who occupy Central District geographical space and Capitol Hill social space. Granted, neighborhood distinctions are constantly shifting, and some people identify more with their smaller neighborhood than their larger district, but I believe that these shifts and various identifications are telling.

The yoga shala, also within the geographical borders of the CD, advertises itself as being in Capitol Hill. And the thing is, it is Capitol Hill–white-dominated, affluent, hip (ish). The somewhat dilapidated Ethiopian restaurant, the car repair lot with the handmade signs, the mosque that operates out of a run-down house, and the Philly Cheesesteak place, all on the very same street, however, are Central District.

The Trader Joe’s here calls itself the Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s, even though it too is in the CD. But the people shopping and working in it are Capitol Hill.

Well within the Central District, there are a number of tiny islands of white affluence- – a two- or three-block section of 34th Street comes to mind. It boasts no fewer than three wildly overpriced French restaurant and a popular gourmet cupcake shop to boot. This area refers to itself only as Madrona. (I haven’t seen a single actual madrona there, so I’m not sure how that particular name came to be.)

The Planned Parenthood of Western Washington main administration office and clinic is also in the Central District- – it’s right next to Mt. Zion Baptist Church, in fact. However, at least one staff member who I’ve talked to here refers to the office as the Capitol Hill location. Is she perhaps concerned about the shady, “back alley” abortion image that may enter (mostly white) people’s minds when they learn where this clinic is actually located? Or does she actually not know the name of the district she works in? She honestly may not.

When Z and I first moved here, he asked a friend whether to tell people we live in the Central District or on Capitol Hill. She said just tell people you live on Capitol Hill- – people know where that is. What people are we talking about, exactly?