Friday, June 27, 2008

John got me sparked, so what the hell --- these were shot on Thursday.

I went from road-kill, levered myself up until my back was against the wall, and then used my bodyweight to bear down until, if you and I may speak frankly, my muladhara chakra was on the ground.

On reflection, I wonder why I ought to go through all this trouble, as it felt good, I could hold it for a long while, and it's since been repeatable. It will still be an interesting experiment, so I'm gonna do it.

I've used the following tips during the last few months. They're from a book called Relax Into Stretch by Pavel Tsatsouline.

"From road-kill, slowly transfer your weight to your legs and assume as upright a position as you can muster. Keep your lower back arched. It is a must.

The pelvis usually gets in the way of your femurs when you try to spread them apart. Tilt your pelvis forward by making your lower spine go concave — and it gets out of the way!

Pinch the floor with your feet with one to two thirds of your maximal strength. Build up the tension gradually, over a couple of seconds.

Push the walls apart and—it is very important! — push your hips forward. Keep your lower back arched and chest open.

Hold steady, unwavering tension for twenty seconds, perhaps even longer, and do not forget to breathe. Although holding the contraction for such a long time is not always necessary to relax the muscle effectively, it helps to build strength.

Suddenly release the tension with a sigh of relief and allow yourself to sink a little deeper into the split.

You must understand that you will never, ever do a side split without positioning your pelvis in one line with your feet! Drive your hips forward at every opportunity, try to get them in line with your feet. Push your hips forward with the help of your arms.

There are three hand positions to choose from. You can push-pull with one hand in the front and one behind you; you can grip the floor in front of you with your hands and pull yourself forward; or, once you are flexible enough, you may push from behind your back.

[Italics mine] Leaving the glutes a few inches behind the heels is a fatal mistake, which keeps many very flexible people from going down all the way in a split. They either end up falling on their butts, or sitting down on the floor with their legs spread wide, but never wide enough.

[From road-kill:] [Y]ou will feel that the muscles in the front of your thighs resist the stretch more than your inner thighs. It is normal. It is time to shift your concentration from your groin to these front muscles: sartorius, psoas, etc.

Consciously contract all of the above, the muscles underneath and in the front of your hip joints, once you have driven your hips forward. Hold that tension! If your muscles start quivering and give out by themselves at some point during the stretch (a la the Clasp Knife), do not freak --- take it as a favor.

Keep at it, until you can no longer increase your stretch or you have reached your pain threshold. Carefully get out of the stretched position. Do not twist your knees and do not panic! Try to use the strength of your groin muscles to get up."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not much asana chatter on this blog --- I prefer Ambien to reading about supta kurmasana (It was hard! It was easy! Rinse, repeat). The little pill works much faster and I don't have to worry about my face hitting the keyboard. But I'm going to conduct an experiment on myself during the next 14 days, so come along for the ride, why doncha? Plus I'm gonna promise some photos with this one, which ought to prove mildly entertaining, if not downright titillating.

"Sama": same
"Kona": angle

1. "Road-kill" Part I
Widen stance as far as possible maintaining 180-degree angle between legs. Outer edges of feet, chest and chin down on floor, arms spread at shoulder level. Ten 10-second ujjayi breaths. (10 seconds in, 10 seconds out.)

2. "Road-kill" Part II
Outer edges of feet, chest, chin and belly down, arms reach out in front. Round low back and ground as much pubic bone into floor as possible. Ten 10-second ujjayi breaths (10 seconds in, 10 seconds out.)

3. Samakonasana
Begin in "road-kill" part II, point toes and kneecaps skyward, lever spine upright to vertical position with fists or blocks, then lower sits bones to floor until asana is sthira sukkham.

1. Do NOT sit down unless and until angle of legs is 180.
2. Mula bandha, uddiyana bandha.
3. Nasagra drishti.

Sequence Prescription:

Week 1
Monday: 1x a.m., 1x p.m.
Tuesday: 1x a.m.
Wednesday: 1x a.m., 1x p.m.
Thursday: 1x a.m.
Friday: 1x a.m., 1x p.m.
Saturday: 1x a.m.
Sunday: OFF.

Week 2
Monday–Friday: OFF.

Week 3
Saturday: 1x a.m.

1. Ujjayi-assisted total-body contract/release.
2. To be contracted: heels into floor, quads, glutes, ashwini, vajroli, mula and uddiyana bandhas, clench floor with hands, clench jaw, kechari mudra variation.
3. Gravity-assisted clasp-knife stretching, i.e. exhausting inhibitor muscles and stretch reflex through lengthy contraction while related tissues are bearing body weight. Google and practice this at your own risk. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Before and after photos are coming soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Half Cat, Half Amazing

We got a new lil' homie for the house. His name is Haku and Pete Rock is one of his favorite emcees. It said "American short hair" at the animal shelter, but c'mon --- lil' homie has got to have mad Abyssinian blood coursing through his veins: gigantic radar dishes, almond eyes, lil' triangle head. Jealous? Don't be. We stay winning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tangentially to the Previous Post
What would be the incidence of amenorrhea among female ashtangis?
Does Ashtanga Vinyasa Cause Miscarriage?
Let's just open with the fact that Pattabhi Jois suggests pregnant women not practice for the first three months of pregnancy.

Is there a correlation between an ashtanga vinyasa practice and miscarriage?

Purported statistics, of which I will track down sources later, report a frequency as high as one in four in the general population.

How do those statistics transfer to the yoga asana practice? Can we draw a correlation between the rate of miscarriages by women who practice similarly physically demanding activities, say, ballet, gymnastics, dance?

Anecdotal evidence, on my end at least, is thin --- the vast majority of women I know who have miscarried --- a number that grew quite large last year --- were, to put it politely, rather sedentary, and practiced no yoga at all. I have also known several women with third-series practices who have several children. Anecdotal evidence in this case is absolutely worthless.

What does any of this mean to you, a woman with a vigorous daily asana practice who is considering pregnancy? What certitude or assurances or peace of mind can any such statistics provide? I wish I could end this with more than a question.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We've gone silent running.

I'm gonna be flapping about on this thing for a hot minute, getting the puja room up to speed, so bear with me.

Also, perhaps you need some Talking Heads in your life? I think you do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thank God for Boredom
The novelty will wear off. That is, the tyranny of the novelty of the yoga asana will and should exhaust itself. Then the grim slog to the yoga studio will become the most terrific aspect of the practice.

The days to treasure are the days of seemingly overwhelming inertia--- the days when you have to manually lift one leg at a time in order to climb the stairs to the studio, only to unroll the same old mat in an empty, drafty room to practice the same sequence of poses you've been doing for years. Gah!

The inertia is a sign of something --- of what? Usually when the twitchy boredom arises, when my mind demands novelty and spectacle, grand inspiration and technicolor stimulation, the quietness that arises during practice is deeper, richer, more resonant ... utterly boring and mundane and brilliant.

To paraphrase the rishi Leonard Cohen, when you give up the idea of creating your own masterpiece, the real masterpiece arises.
What I'm up on at this Very Moment
My man Rodford C. is going to laugh 'cause I used to mock him for liking dubstep, but Christ, have you people copped Benga's full-length, Diary of an Afro Warrior? I've been freebasing it of late, all iPod chambers cocked and loaded with the Burial album, the Benga album, and any Skream mix.

Do people even use iPods anymore? Have we all gone Shuffle and Mini?
Moon Day!
For those who practice the ashtanga vinyasa yoga, that means it's time to loosen your white-knuckle grip from your yoga mat and unclench your butt cheeks to take the day off. Remember, the sphincter is ashwini mudra, not mula bandha. Anyways, the practice isn't going anywhere.

My favorite Chuck Miller story of late: Sri Miller mentioned to a friend that 2-hour practices used to be maintenance practices. Four hours per day was the norm. As Sri Freeman said in the execrably titled Yogi Bare, they used to pray for days off.
My Siddhis
After a score of years of daily practice, I've finally found the time to compile a list of all the siddhis I have recently developed as a result. For those of you unfamiliar with yogic terminology, "siddhis" here refers to the paranormal powers available to very advanced yogis such as myself. For example, the venerable Sai Baba can materialize vibhuti, holy ash, as well as various faux-gold trinkets such as pens and pocketwatches, and he can also make disappear inquiries into his relations with underage boys. Well, here are some of my abilities.

1. Radio Station Presets
When I rent a car, the radio station will come preset to the best radio stations that area has to offer --- no matter which area I am in! Remember, I do not ask for these gifts --- they have simply manifested.

2. Parking Spot Ability
The rest of you may circle the 17th and Valencia block in San Francisco perhaps 10 or 15 times as you look for a parking spot. Me, two times --- tops.

3. Supermarket Discount
While most people have to sign up to get supermarket rewards and club cards, this discount mysteriously manifests itself for me, unasked, at the time I check out.

4. Lint and Cat-hair Repellant
Despite now having two cats, my hip black clothing radiates a paranormal magnetic charge that repels cat hair and lint.

5. Movie Theater Preview Avoidance
No matter what time I leave the house, I enter the movie theater seconds before the main feature begins. I am an eminently desirable companion on any movie-going experience.

6. Book Absorption
When I am reading a book, you can speak, shout or scream at me --- in fact, my wife has often attempted to speak directly into my ear-hole from mere millimeters away --- and I will not even know you are there! It's not that I'm ignoring you --- it's just that, as my gift operates, you do not exist!

7. Party Invisibility
When it's time to leave a party or social gathering, usually at the 20-minute mark, I have the uncanny ability to find and use the nearest exit without saying goodbye to a single person!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Roughage, Randomage
In Encinitas at the moment, but only for a few more hours. The sky so wide and blue and big that it will wring forth a tear from even my cast-iron testosterone-laden he-man eyeball.

I'm gonna get switch up the mix here on Leaping Lanka in a few days' time, so look for a new look.

What else? There are some posts percolating, don't get your Lululemons twisted.

Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and track down some Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. I don't know how he did it, whether he added reverb to the echo or echo to the reverb, but his voice on "Some Velvet Morning" is the voice of God, capital-G, if God was taking muscle relaxers to help Him with an icepick-in-the-temple hangover. Open up your gates and tell me about Phaedra, indeed.