Sunday, March 27, 2005

Yoga summer camp slides into week two. I've got the Portland contingent posted up in my living room---Casey and Sheenon have thankfully left the Oregon rain behind, and San Diego appears headed into summer.

We hammered through first series last week---sub-zero temps in the gym at 7 AM forced me to tuck socks in the pocket (Why not on my feet? Flip-flops or death!) for the pre-practice sit-around session.

Second series commenced this week; Sheenon was feeling out of sorts, so he sat out for today. After class, Casey and I grabbed food and coffee and returned to watch first series. The room was positively steaming hot. It was a magnificent sight. You could see an angled forest of diagonal legs or a sea of upturned faces.

We watched people sweating and straining, either trembling or floating, and listened to the deep, rhythmic breathing, ebbing and flowing like a slow, loud wave.

I whispered to Casey, "Yoga is so hard!"

Sometimes after a led-class savasana, Tim will say to the class, "That was a valiant effort." The sheer size of this morning's class compounded that feeling: 200 people gave up their Easter morning to practice together and pay their respects to this man whose teachings have meant so much.

Guruji, Sharat and Tim hosted the best conference I've ever been to last Wednesday night. They held it at the shala, and it was quite moving. I've never seen Guruji that engaged, rested, and excited. And then there was a reception for Guruji last night. But more on all this nonsense later.

As I mentioned, it's been yoga summer camp: yoga, coffees, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, get-togethers. Jesus Christ, has it been social. And fucking great. I can't lie. It's nice to get together with like-minded, passionate people.

Okay, we're playing lap-top wars in the living room, and I've got a date with a hot-tub.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I guess I could go more journalistic about this whole tour business, and write about the whos, wheres, hows, whats, whens, etc, etc. But the novelty of that has passed.

The tour stop in Encinitas is held in a giant, frosty gym. Today, there must have been roughly 200 people in there. They left the overhead lights off, which was quite nice. Guruji called out many sun salutations to fire up the heat.

During those extended chaturanga holds I have been saving my rotator cuffs by beaching myself like a whale---belly-up on my rug.

I observed Casey J. Palmer grabbing his ankles on the third backbend. I resist coveting, especially others' practices, but oooooh---it looked so neat.

Guruji was heading to a long uth pluthi count. He shouted at someone and tried not to smile at them. Failing to hide the smile, he called out "Ten!" and ended it. Laughter all around.

Two thoughts: One, leave the towel over your eyes in savasana and take as long as you want.

Two, the noise of people shuffling around for darshan, the cold blast of air from people unfurling their rugs, and the sound of talking before practice is Ma pullling you from the silly seriousness of this Shiva practice.

(I meet Ma every Tuesday and Thursday. She sets up her mat right in front of mine, then clears her throat loudly, deeply, and often. She's not sick---she's been doing it every day since September and there's no phlegm being cleared. She waits until we're in savasana to loose the really loud throat-clearers. Oh Ma, I love you.)

I might be imagining things, but Tim seems incredibly relaxed and happy. Shakti infusion from the guru?

In the darshan line today I told Guruji, "Thank you very much for teaching yoga to Tim Miller."

I like to think he understood, because his eyes glinted and his gaze sharpened.

I am so very grateful for what he has made possible.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The last time I can consciously recall finishing practice and, suffused with a physical, palpable sense of light-ness, spontaneously humming the names of god, was in India ...

... and this morning. Perhaps that ought to tell you something of the energy in Encinitas for Guruji's first two classes.

It's been more festive than anything---my friend Casey clocked over 300 people in the gym yesterday! There must have been close to 200 today.

And just like the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album cover, close to everyone I've ever practiced yoga with is there, from distant friends to daily acquaintances. You're such a lovely audience, we'd love to take you home with us. Too, too sweet.

But dudes, can we turn the AC off?

(Tomorrow morning: thermal shirt, wool socks, knit cap, snorkel parka?)

Remember Mad Balls? God, I wish I had one, because I would hurl it at your head.

Remember those Carvel ice-cream TV commercials? I want a Cookie Puss right now. Mmmmmmm---Fudgie the Whale.

On my iTunes, Jai Uttal's "Radhe Govinda" just sequed into Raekwon's "Verbal Intercouse," Jai Uttal's sandstorm howl of "Radhe Govinda" followed by Nas' opening salvo, "Through the lights, cameras and action/ glamour glitters and gold/ I unfold the scroll, plant seeds to stampede the globe." Both good, both god? Yes.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Let's have a collective moment of silence for the closing of the Encinitas Ashtanga Yoga Center.

This morning was the last Mysore practice ever to be held at the E Street location; Guruji and co. are teaching for the next two weeks, and Tim has accordingly cancelled his classes.

The lease runs out March 30 ... and that's it. After 12 (13?) years, there will be a new studio. Whenever they find one ...

Everyone's been complaining about the mold smell, which did get particularly harsh this winter, especially after California's extended deluge. I thought Matsya, Vishnu's fish incarnation, was going to have to manifest to strap our ark to his horn ...

And it was better not to think too much about the studio's carpet. You didn't really want to know what you were rolling around on. Or whose sweat you were rolling around in. And those hairs stuck to my body are long, black, and kinky---i.e. not mine.

But the room had such a powerful feel to it---warm colors, high ceilings, natural lighting, photos of Guruji, statues of Hanuman, Virabadra, Shiva, et al. There was the faint, pleasant smell of clean sweat mixed with incense.

Tim's studio was the real deal. It was an accurate, authentic reflection of the studio's teachers and teaching.

Who cares if there was only one bathroom and no waiting area or "boutique"? People showed up in droves anyway.

And they'll continue to show up, regardless if Tim runs classes out of his garage or a conference room at the Best Western.

With a little sadness, we're on to the next space ...

I hope one day to see anyone and everyone who reads this there.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

My Favorite Mantras
Maybe revealing your own personal mantras robs them of their power, but I thought I'd share anyway. I use these during the inhales, exhales and retentions of pranayama, as well as during moments of asana practice.

1. Shambo Shiva/Mahadeva Shiva
This one has some very powerful personal associations that stem from Mysore.

2. Bhajelo ji Hanuman
He's the monkey-faced god, friend of Ram, re-uniter of Ram and Sita, leaper of Lanka, son of the Wind, etc, etc. Such a friendly guy---why not ask him for help?

3. Om namah Shivaya
For the cleansing fire.

4. Nothin' to it but to do it.
This one helps counter avidya, asmita---basically, all the klesas that begin with "a."

5. Mmmm. Toast.
This one helps me through those late-in-the-morning practices, when all I can think about is eating some fucking food!

(Like me, you may substitute "toast" with "cereal," "muffin," "yogurt," "mango," "peanut butter and jelly sandwich," "banana," "omelette," or "egg muffin with cheese.")

6. Fuck it.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Popping and Locking
Maria was talking about her knee problem today. Now I'm hyper-consciously kneading my right patella like dough. I have no pain or anything ... but my right knee has clicked ever since the summer of 98, when I did an atomic knee-drop from the Foundation mini-ramp's six-foot-high deck straight to the flat-bottom.

It swelled up like a balloon and I was on crutches for a hot minute.

People ask me why I stopped skateboarding ... and don't really get it when I try to explain to them that often you don't skateboard so much as just fall down flights of stairs.

(As an aside and an example, my man Ryan just returned from shooting some photos for his upcoming shoe ad, and in the process he took three hits down a set of 17---straight from top to bottom.)

... and the list of my body parts that click, pop, and crack is long and illustrious. But still ...

Guru Shooters
It was absolutely wild the last time Pattabhi Jois came to town! My frat brothers and I caught a hotel room right next to the Boy's and Girl's Club, close to all the action. We totally trashed the room, just Jack Daniels, brown rice and tofu totally all over the place.

Before the morning classes, these hot yoginis would totally flash us because we were chucking mala beads to all of 'em. Guruji and Sharat stormed the stage to fireworks, and then at one point Sharat was suspended in a steel cage 40 feet over the crowd, and it totally started spinning! Guruji had a head-set microphone, and totally was like, "Encinitas! Are you ready to rock---Ekam! Dwi! Bad man! Bad lady!"

We all got totally crazy in the foam pit during standing poses. There were strobe lights firing off, and then they totally showed Joey doing eka pada paschimattasana on the Jumbotron. They totally had like 10 kegs throughout the room, and everyone was doing like, keg-stands during headstand! It was so hot!

We did that for like, a week, and I was totally wrecked! It was so totally killer! I bought this shirt that said, "Co-ed Naked Ashtanga Yoga---Encinitas 05."

I'm totally going back next year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

I'm trying a new tact for this blog business: less volume, higher frequency. Watch out, though---I've salted a bit of profanity in this one, because you know what? From time to time, I myself favor a bit of profanity in conversation.

There's that one song by that one band Sonic Youth where Thurston sings "It takes a teenage riot/ Just to get me out of bed." Don't you feel like that sometimes? No? Maybe it's just me.

I listen to my breath (I have loud thoughts, so loud breath), I follow correct drishti as much as I can, and the practice really demands a fierce amount of focus to link all those poses together like prayer beads ...

... but fuck it, I'm going to say it anyway. Spring has arrived, and spring fever along with it, so let me go on record as saying that you ladies are lookin' mighty good up in the shala.

I know, I know---that's not what we're all there for. At least, that's not what I'm there for. But as a friend once said to me, "It sure beats lookin' at dudes all day." Thank god for the shakti, because it helps balance such a Shiva-like practice.

(I probably shouldn't have even mentioned anything, because I know several people from the studio actually read this. Damn them for their Web savvy.)

Alcohol update: I was absolutely feelin' a half-glass of wine the other day. A half glass! Not hammered, mind you---but the door to hammered was definitely open. My non-existent frat buddies would be so disappointed. Keg stand? Beer bong? Beer shooter? Certain death.

I watched Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars last week---I'd like to take a poll of how many ashtangis annoyed everyone else in the room like I did at that point by saying, "She does ashtanga! Just like me!"

Speaking of celebrity ashtangis, I heard tell the only photos actually in Guruji's bedroom---not just his office, but upstairs in his house---are of Madonna. Who can confirm or deny?

That's actually pretty cute. Yet again, I'm reminded of Tim, who will think longer and speak less in response to a question than anyone save the Sphinx. Gregarious he ain't: "I've never met a saint."

Guruji is set to hit Encinitas in less than two weeks, and I bet heads are going to turn out en masse. Here's an open letter to all you older ashtangis, the ones who braved Guruji in the '70s and '80s: let's do this! I want some history up in that room.

Do you reckon people will be clawing for mat space like they do in Mysore? "Oh! Oh! I'm terribly sorry, there's been a tremendous mistake---I just feel so foolish about this! But you seem to have put your mat down in my space! I feel just horrible!"

I do look forward to sliding through first series with 200 other people, though---I expect to be veritably buoyed by the energy in the room.

I do not look forward to having to slide into those backbends immediately after, though. Ye gods.

Fans will doubtless be pleased to know the heavy metal high-water mark has been hit, and the waters are slowly receding as I turn to other, gentler, more yogically appropriate genres of music, such as polka.

How to identify a new age bookstore? Listen for chimes tinkling softly in the breeze, over the sound of burbling water, and sniff for the potpourri of incense, soap and candle scents. Time was in my life I'd have as soon lobbed a cinderblock through a new-age bookstore window as set foot in the place.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on that one, so don't bother ringing your lawyer.

Alt country? So hot right now. I've been running the Handsome Family: "This is why people OD on pills/ and jump/ from the Golden Gate bridge/ anything/ to feel weightless again." Dart to the heart.

For all the club kids no longer out running the late nights---e is a drug of diminishing returns, after all---I've also been running some Swayzak for that dirrrty laptop disko krunch. When you hear that grimy electro fuzz, it only makes sense to use "k"s.

I just re-read a book that I loved when I was younger---I'm not going to humiliate myself by repeating the title here, but suffice it to say I have a staggering weakness for sci-fi.

(Actually, I reckon I have a staggering weakness for crap books, and I've been known to scoop up armfuls of trash series like Dragonlance, The Executioner and The Destroyer at the thrift store. But I digress.)

Man, it really wasn't that great of a book. It really sneaks up on you---listening to music, reading a book, or watching a much-loved movie again, years and years later, and discovering that you don't really like it.

Sort of like visiting an old yoga teacher and knowing in your bones that you've outgrown them, or moved on, or even just moved over.

You want asana talk? What am I going to tell you that you don't already know from your own practice? "It all gets easier, just keep doing it."

For the record, it took me three years of practicing four to five times a week to get the strength to lift up and jump back. It took me roughly four years to sit in lotus.

Four years? I almost blacked out re-reading that last sentence because I'd buried the memory somewhere deep and dark.

This is some discursive-rambling-about-daily-minutia, in which I've used swear words, made a drug reference, and even admitted I think ladies who practice yoga are hottt (that's right---with three-Ts). On that note ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

It was a greenhouse in there today. During drop-backs I looked at the guy next to me, and it looked like we had both taken baths---both of us soaked head to toe, water beading and dripping into pools on the floor, hair wet and plastered, steam vaporizing, the whole nine.