Monthly Archives: June 2019

Falling (Day 4)

And we gently exhale out of Urdhva Hastasana into Uttanasana.

Doesn’t that sound nice? Peaceful and soothing, no?

Ugh. It’s not.

For those who were with us yesterday, Urdhva Hastasana is the Standing Salute. We inhale up into that pose, then we exhale down into a Standing Forward Fold.

As your gym teacher used to say, “touch your toes.”

Or, in my case these days, especially on the first try, touch your shins. And that is truly frustrating, because a few months ago, when I was in a regular practice, I could get down to my toes relatively easily.  With my legs straight! (or at least they felt straight to me). By the end of the warm up (5 cycles of Sun Salutations A and 3 Sun Salutations B), I could hang there with my knuckles pushing into the floor.

I have lost so much flexibility. So much that I wonder if it’s worth starting back again.


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In this house (Day 3)

The task for this piece was to incorporate a sign into it.

I was scribbling this out in a café at lunchtime, thinking about all the signs (mostly in Catalan) I saw while walking there from home. Which one to choose? When the waiter brought my meal, I looked up and saw this:

In this house

  • We do real
  • We do mistakes
  • We do I’m sorry
  • We do fun
  • We do hugs
  • We do second chances
  • We do happy
  • We do forgiveness
  • We do really loud

After I left, I realized I forgot that I meant to take a photo of it. Oh well.


You’re back on the mat, centered and ready to begin. Feet firmly planted, the outsides parallel and calloused big toes touching.

Looking down to double check, you resist the urge to pack it all in and head straight for a pedicure.

You bring your hands to prayer position in front of your chest. You breathe in and raise your arms above your head. Not just raise. Reach. Upward Salute. Urdhva Hastasana.

The first real movement of Sun Salute A.

You create a gentle tension in your body. Feet still pushing him to the floor, grounding yourself. Your hands are together above your head, reaching towards the ceiling, towards the sun.

It’s a formalized version of one of the most basic stretches you do almost every day if not every hour. Grabbing something off the top shelf. Having a big, indulgent yawn. Holding an overhead rail on a jostling bus or subway train. Helping someone shove that just too big to fit on into the overhead (why do people lose any sense of spatial awareness when flying?). Hailing a taxicab. Swatting at that itsy bitsy spider at the top of the wall who isn’t doing any harm to anyone, but needs to go nonetheless. Getting rid of that cobweb in the corner (not right now but definitely before company comes). Writing slang they don’t teach in textbooks at the top of the blackboard.

In the here and now, it’s a controlled, precise movement. You look up and back towards your hands, palms pressed together. You feel your breath sink down deep past your diaphragm. Your core is taut. You feel a stretch in your chest and your heart opens just a little bit more. Your shoulders sink down and back. Your legs are solid, supporting the pose.

In the Ashtanga studio, the shala, you would be like this for only one inhalation. But you’re at home and, as they say all too often here, no hay prisa, tranquilo.

So you take the time to breathe into the pose. You feel a little tight in your right shoulder, so you lean into that and stretch a little from side to side.  In this house we do real.

You close your eyes and lean a little bit further back, wondering what it will be like to return to back bends. You lose your balance a little but quickly recover. In this house we do mistakes.

You move your hips around a little in a circular movement. It’s not part of the practice, but you’ve been doing this a lot before and after runs, and it feels quite nice. In this house we do fun.

You think about how many times you’ve rushed through this in the past, and how much you’re enjoying getting back into it as slowly as is necessary. You feel that you’re growing taller with every breath. In this house we do second chances.

You feel like you’re starting to wake up, and smile at the thought of returning to your practice. In this house we do happy.

You think about how long you’ve been out of commission. Of the many reasons that might have caused that, and truly don’t really matter anymore. Of all the projects started, of all the races not run, of all the round-tuits you never got. You tell yourself it’s all okay. In this house we do forgiveness.

You take one more deep breath, reach a little higher, and let out that breath with the loudest “ahhhhh” that you can manage. One of the cats jumps off the window sill where she’d been sleeping. In this house we do really loud.

You know you’re ready to dive into the next movement, but for now we focus on this. And you know, that in the entire practice, you will have plenty of time to wrap yourself around yourself. In this house we do hugs.

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Bringing the mountain to Bikram (Day 2)

I had been talking with my work colleague Margaret about running and saying that  I needed to get back to some kind of yoga practice. This was a couple of years before I’d left New York, so around 2002.  It was wintertime.

“I’ve been going to Bikram,” she said.  “It’s just a few blocks away, the other side of Times Square.  Come with me one day, I love it.”

Margaret also loved doing spontaneous 10Ks and half-marathons that she never really trained for. Her motto was “if you can walk the next day, you didn’t run hard enough.”

“What’s a Bikram?” I asked, handing over a stack of presentation slides I had just prepared for her team.

“It’s yoga in a warm room,” she said. “I’m going next Monday. I’ll sign you up.”

A “we’ll see” turned into a “why not?” and the next Monday we were trudging across midtown in a wintery mix, trying not to slip in the icy slush.

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Mountaineering (Day 1)

I am standing in tadasana, the mountain pose.  I feel more like a recently-transplanted, withering old wobbly tree whose roots haven’t quite taken, but a mountain is what we’re going for and a mountain it is.

My feet are planted firmly at the top of the ratty purple yoga mat I keep at home. The one that the cats like to scratch on. If I look out to the side, I can see the Mediterranean beckoning me through the morning haze.  “Wouldn’t you like to be relaxing near me? Perhaps sipping a cafe con leche at the chiringuito? But I look ahead. A pop-art Buddha I got in Siem Reap sits atop the TV stand we got from IKEA. He reminds me to focus.

I make sure I’m in the proper position.  Feet parallel, big toes touching at the top of the mat. I fan my toes to the best of my ability, which has never been all that great.  I engage my thighs and think about rotating them slightly inward. Everything lifts up. Core is engaged. I shrug my shoulders and let them fall down and back. A quick tilt of the pelvis towards the legs makes sure I am aligned correctly.

I take a slow, deep breath and am ready to begin the first movement of Sun Salute A, aka Surya Namaskara A.

I pause.  It’s been a while since I’ve done this. It’s not like I don’t know how. It’s not like I haven’t done literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these in the last 20 or so years.  It’s not like I didn’t do around 40 of them a week for a few months when I started Ashtanga last December. Then I tore my adductor in February. A torn adductor does not a happy asana make.

I’ve been thinking about restarting my practice for several weeks now.  I know I’m better, but I also am well aware I’m not fully recovered. Like my groin, my mind is torn between knowing the yoga could help me heal faster, but could also re-aggravate the injury if I’m not careful.  And so I’ve been, perhaps, erring on the side of caution. I don’t exaggerate when I say I am petrified of pulling something new, or fucking up an injury that hasn’t quite healed, or just being in pain. There’s been too much pain the past several months. I’m not used to it. Nor do I want to put myself in a situation where I have to get used to it.

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