“Squeeze Your Anus” Ashtanga Workshop Weekend

You’re about to learn more about your “pelvic floor” than you thought was possible or maybe even what a “pelvic floor” is and how squeezing your anus can change your life. Or at least, your pelvic floor. Irresistible title, I know.  

Not long ago, In October of 2015, I wrote “Ashtanga Yoga – A primer” passing on my introductory knowledge of Ashtanga derived from two classes which consisted of the advice of “skip class and have a friend hit you in the stomach with a shovel.”  Ashtanga a primer  Imbued with this new found knowledge my logical thought was, “I should go to a class every week after the holly days.”  (Not very smart, I know)

A slightly more elucidating description of Ashtanga is “This form of yoga is intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga yogis practice a prescribed set of asanas, channel energy through the body using bandhas (locks), and concentrate on singular points using drishti (gaze) in asanas.”  (An asana is a pose or movement running from the easiest of, “bend over and touch your toes” (or the floor or put your palms on the floor and bend your elbows out) to a more complicated form of twister where you fashion yourself into a pretzel and look at parts of your body you’ve never seen before.    Like this. 

 You don’t even want to know how to get into this. In one class, a girl said someone should clone a life alert bracelet into a yoga alert bracelet – “help, I fell  into this pose and I can’t get out    Just for the record, I can not do this now, nor ever imagine it happening. 

After happily surviving NOT passing out the first two classes in January I follow my plan of regular weekly attendance when I see that internationally know Ashtanga Yoga teacher, is coming to the studio to do 10 1/ hours of instruction on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April, and I look at the individual classes with a la Carte pricing, and one fixed fee for the whole shebang, including waterboarding and I think, “YEAH, that’s me”!!! (Again, not smart.  If you’re a regular reader you know good judgement is not my hallmark.  Although, Senator Bob Packwood did say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment ) 

Today is Sunday and I have survived,  however, I am using my last functional appendage, one hand, to type this message.  By Friday morning, two days ago, I am anticipating the start of the first class Friday night with a mixture of fear and excitement.  Or terror.  Or dread.  However, Friday was pretty much a 2 1/2 hour lecture practice on paranyama (breathing) and bandhas, (locks)  (Hold on, we’re almost to the squeeze your anus part) 

First breathing. Ashtanga uses a from of breathing called Ujayi (pronounced “ooo jay) in which “…Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.”  Ujjayi Breath.  More simply, open your mouth an exhale as if you were fogging a mirror.  Now,  close your mouth and exhale, keeping the same restriction in your throat. MOST simply, I call this Darth Vader breath.  Breathing through your nose with Mouth closed, do your best impression of Darth Vader breathing,  this is Ujjayi breath.  (Now, try to breath this way for an hour- Bahahahahahaha)

Ah, finally bandhas.  Mula Bandha.   “Squeeze your anus”, he says.  “Huh?”  This is probably not an exact transcription of what  what he said but here goes at the very bottom of the bowl of your pelvis, you have a network of muscles attaching front to back and side to side like a warm apple pie’s top lattice Crust, nicely browned and perfectly weaved.  (Ok, he didn’t say the pie part, but I was hungry ). The muscle part was true though (kinda)  

 and by contacting these muscles, you help to lift your internal organs from crushing each other and eventually, bring peace to the Middle East. Or maybe kill your craving for Cocoa Puffs.  To do this, squeeze your anus.  Then while doing that, contract the muscles you need to stop. Urinating mid stream.  Now, you may be laughing, and you may be trying to squeeze your anus right now but if you’re trying to do both, when I tell you to hold this for the next hour, you’ll stop laughing.  However, when he said this eventually reverses something of the natural incontinent type symptoms which advancing age brings, I though, “hell yeah, I’m in!!!). However, he did point out that your supposed to keep these muscles permanently locked (meaning squeeze your anus 24 hours a day) unless, you’re using the bathroom, giving birth, menstruating, or drinking tequila with a stripped named Mercedes in Guadalajara.  I’m pretty sure  I squeezed my anus once for 24 hours in college and it made me want to vote republican.  

Clearly, I’ve summarized the 2 hours and thirty minutes but suffice it to say that by the end, I was thinking the last time I put so much focus on Darth Vader breathing and squeezing my anus was when my freshman dorm mate Pat and I double dated the two sorority girls to USC homecoming in 1975.  Lesson learned, “remember where you park your car anytime your”re parking with 40,000 other cars- it’s a loong wait till the parking lot is empty  and you can see it.  Which equally applies to squeezing your anus for an hour)

My greatest fear the last seven years of yoga was being in a completely packed yoga room, mats only inches apart, 7-8 yogis in a row and I lose my balance falling over into the hot chick next to me creating a human yogis dominoes effect.  I escaped that fear for 7 years. Until today.  While the entire row didn’t fall over, I took her out like a linebacker sacking the quarterback in the playoffs.  

 
On the positive side, she we very gracious about it, the class got some much needed comic relief (who doesn’t like being laughed at by 50 people?) and I lived.  Reminder lesson, even when our greatest fear comes true, it’s not as bad as we have catastrophized.  

My best moment?  Yesterday morning, we’re over an hour in where we’re trying to do several of the harder poses in the middle of the sequence and I’m not even close to doing it right and looking around the room, literally dripping sweat all over my mat, and thinking, just as a matter of observation, that I have clearly the absolute WORST form of anyone in the class, and he comes over, taps my foot and says “good job).  I only made it 6 1/2 hours of the 10.5 for the weekend, but hooray for me.  

As I was leaving today,  the studio owner goddess guru sweetheart asked if I was coming back for the last two hours, called “Do WHAT with my leg”, in which hip openers are offered to allow you to put your feet behind your head while sitting up.  “No,” I said, “I have Chik Fil A hips, they’re closed on Sunday’s.”  

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Yoga Dragon Sequence or as I’ve Renamed It- My Ex Sequence

One of my yoga instructors is enamored with “dragon sequence” which I have, just this evening renamed “my ex sequence”.  Allow me to explain .  Since describing the dragon wil take more words than I’m wiling to write and certainly you to read, here is an instructional video. 

Just a few points not to mislead, before I proceed. I cannot do everything in is video.  Like, that twisting upside down thing ain’t happening.  I could go on about all the other things I can’t do, but let me offer this analogy as to what I think I look like when we do this. Ever seen an enormous male dog, like a lab or a golden retriever try to copulate with a small female like a daschund or a toy poodle in heat?  If you’ve ever watched those enthusiastic but misguided attempts to contort their bodies so the act will still not work, that’s me doing dragon.  If you’re wondering if I’m the large dog or the small do, take your pick. Also, there’s timing.  While this video is 7 min long, keep in mind we’re doing this for 35 minutes. 

Yoga goddess says this is to “open our heart and lung meridians of energy”. This is yoga speak for we’re going. To do a series of difficult and strenuous movements so fast you’re going to seriously contemplate your heart exploding while you’re asphyxiating from gasping for air, while you trying to control your breathing and not sound like a freshmen in high school in PE class having to run 5 miles in an hour st 9:30 am. You’ll also notice that the video instructor explains ways to “modify” the pose in a variety of ways.   Encouragement to modify your pose is yoga speak for, “please God  do not push yourself to the point of actually passing out, because our liability carrier requires us to call and ambulance for any loss of consciousness and that will screw up the rest of class.”  

So, the first time I was exposed to this “dragon” was a couple of months ago.  I really don’t remember much about that first time, other than spending the entire 35 minutes contemplating my mortality.  My thoughts went from an “OMG, I’m gonna die” to a welcoming acceptance and looking forward to it in a Jesus on the cross, “into your hands I commend my spirit”, kind of way.

Then we did it in a couple of more classes where I was just miserable, but not calling for death like it was a long lost friend who needed to visit soon.  

She announced last week we were going to do dragon this week, particularly because I had grumbled about it. Now I love this yoga instructor  because she gets so filled with joy she giggles. During class. A lot. Although I’ve become a little suspicious that she’s really watching me move through asanas and vinyasas and wondering whether I’m the big or small dog.  I had a choice tonight between the county bar’s annual holiday party in a spectacular setting, with yummy catered food and an open bar…. Or yoga class.  I marveled at my choice of masochism instead of a party all the way there. Hold this thought a moment

She also recommended that during class we might want to employ Thicht Nach Hahn, the extraordinary Vietnamese Buddhist Monks famous mantra, “as I breathe in I relax, as I breathe out I smile”.  Hold this thought too.  

  (BTW, my favorite quote of his is: ” “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you  understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”.

So I’m rotating and gasping and doing my miserable thing, and I’m marveling at my masochistic choice.  Then I realize I’m kinda getting used to it, and I have the epiphany, “hey, this is like my ex marriage”. Then I notice the “I breath in I relax, I breathe out I smile is not having the desired meditative effect and I think, “when I breathe in, I get divorced, when I breathe out, I’m giddy with joy” and all of a sudden, I’m in my happy place. Hence, my renaming the dragon, “my ex”. Hopefully I’ll learn from the dragon, oops my ex some of the same things like non judgment, non attachment, personal responsibility, self awareness, boundaries and compassion.  Or maybe my heart will just explode. 

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Ashtanga Yoga- A Primer

We had a sub teacher in yoga class today. She practices Ashtanga yoga. As I frequently talk to people who either ask me or want a recommendation for what “style” of yoga to take as a beginner, this is not it. But some explication might be helpful.

This was my second Ashtanga class. I don’t have much memory from the first, but like with many traumatic events, I have PTSD, but cloudy memories.  Since this was my second class and I maintained consciousness (mostly) I think I’m better able to guide you.

Ashtanga is a Sanskrit word combining our words of “pain” and “agony”.  There are 5 series of Ashtanga, maybe 6, but I was starting to lose consciousness when this was mentioned. You do the same poses in the same order for each series. i The first five are pain and agony, more pain and agony, most pain and agony, excruciating pain and agony and unbearable pain and agony.

You do a vinyasa between every pose.  Vinyasa means movement to and while focusing on your breath while ignoring that your heart just exploded in the center of your chest for exceeding your maximum heart rate.

The first half is designed to build heat in your body.  This means, simply, that even in an 80 degree room, you will sweat like Miley Cyrus on the front pew of a southern baptist church.  The second half is meant to wring whatever remaining sweat that did not except your pores from the first half.

This was my first yoga class in a week, as I had business out of town last week and a couple of social engagements. When I miss a week of yoga, it often feels like starting over and I marvel at how much fitness I can lose in a week.  This intensified that feeling, much like going on a run straight from a recovery room after surgery.  Un anesthetized.

If you’ve never tried yoga before, don’t do this. Or, just have a friend hit you in the stomach with a shovel.

“Creep Yourself Out”- some musings on Yoga Speak

Anyone who is a regular yoga class attendee, or even taken a few classes is familiar with yoga speak.  “Drop your shoulders”, “rotate your thighs inward”, “balance on the four corners of your feet”, “pull your shoulders (blades), down your back” , “pull your lower belly up and in”.  Some, like “drop your chin to your chest” are simple enough. Some like “rotate your thighs inward” are meaningless to me but I’m not sure if that’s because I just can’t do them, or if they’re just truly meaningless it I accept them like a warm smooth story about Santa. I know he’s not showing up, but I can like the story anyway.

After 7 years, I’ve heard what has now become my number one favorite.  I was in yoga class the other day, with one of my favorite instructors whose musings during class sound like Kahil Gibran singing with Simon and Garfunkle when she asked us, sitting cross-legged on the floor, to bend forward, extend both hands on the finger tips directly in front of us, and “creep ourselves out.”   I think she meant stretch a little farther, but the first image that popped into my mind was me, outside of my condo late at night, peering in the window at myself, and “creeping myself out”.

I immediately busted out laughing and another yoga instructor, who was attending class and sitting on the mat next to me, also busted out laughing, so I took solace in knowing I was not the only one who thought this instruction bizarre, but wildly entertaining.

I admit I spent the remainder of class in a “creep yourself out” meditation, so I thought I’d share some of the ideas I have for creeping yourself out, as you may have some awesome ideas as well.

1.   Follow yourself, and call, text and e-mail yourself dozens of times in a day.  The “stalk yourself”.

2.  Make kinda creepy sexual innuendos to your self.  “Pervert yourself”

3.  Relate to a SUBSTANTIALLY younger part of yourself, and ask yourself out on a date.  “Lecher yourself”

4.   Catch yourself staring at your own butt for the entire class. “Voyeur yourself”.

5. Spend the entire class talking to yourself, about yourself, including all you past failed relationships.  “First date yourself- from hell.

6.  Demand to know where you are and who you’re with, from yourself at all times, down to the minute.  “Abuse yourself”

Oops, class is almost over, back to the real world.  My last fantasy was imagining if one know famous TV SHOW, could have incorpatedmthis meme in their wonderful “treat yourself” vignettes. Watch this video, and imagine a slew of “creep yourself” segments.

ZUMBA Class and This Blog’s Two Year Anniversary – an Expression of Gratitude 

Warning:  This may NOT be funny. This blog is about “Gratitude”. ” and I don’t know that I can make this funny.  April 22, 2015 is my two year anniversary of going to ZUMBA class. (And a little over 6 years of tango and almost 7 of yoga, all while gradually changing my diet and habits). I started writing because I was encouraged by friends who thought some posts in which I was humorously dealt with all my shortcomings, foibles and challenges were funny. But, I owe whatever progress I’ve made, and MY inspiration  to so many people, so many of YOU, that I write today to express my gratitude.

“Gratitude” may not be the most powerful energy on the planet, but I think it’s in the top three. I’ve tried to work as hard the last 7 years on the inner me as the outer me and I’ve found gratitude to be one of the best therapists on the planet.  It is hard NOT to be happy, joyful, peaceful, kind, or compassionate if you’re grateful.  It’s a terrific, almost immediate tonic for the unavoidable sadness, depression, grief or malaise we all must experience as humans.  While I’m not saying there is not value to “rest” in these emotions, when you decide it’s time to let go, there is no better single tool then gratitude.

I claim no credit for these concepts, there are hundreds, if not thousands of blogs, articles, stories and books on the subject of gratitude and starting a gratitude practice.  There are many variations but all you have to do to start a gratitude practice is once a day, think of one thing you’re grateful for.   Then think of one more. There are myriad suggestions for how many a day, but start with one. As you practice, you’ll set a number for yourself as you get better at it until you find yourself being grateful a good part of the day.  If you’re struggling to think of one thing, do not despair.  Whether or not you have good health, a roof over you’re head, family that loves you, a job, a beautiful flower outside, you’re alive. And if you can’t be grateful for that, you have choices. And there is so much to be grateful for- a blue sky, a warm breeze, random acts of kindness, a smile from a stranger, the ability to help someone else- it’s almost infinite.

So, here in no particular order is my list of things I’m grateful for, as thanks to all who have helped: my friends, my instructors, my classmates, my dancing partners, strangers with a kind word or smile, my readers (both of them)( you knew I couldn’t resist at least one quip), and all those who’ve inspired me.

I’m grateful for:

  1. Quitting smoking,
  2. Losing 30 pounds.
  3. Having stomach muscles, again.
  4. Yoga, ZUMBA and tango, in general.
  5. Yoga for teaching me self acceptance, patience, peace, the joy of the journey and the struggle, balance, mindfulness, upper body strength. Breathing, and the joy of slow but steady progress.
  6. Tango sor teaching me balance, grace, creativity musicality, and the joy of doing something that I’m not really good at. But passionate about.  You don’t have to be the best to enjoy yourself.
  7. Zumba for joy, stamina, balance, a better heart rate, musicality, rhythm, inspiration and motivation. And ZUMBA women. 😉
  8. Supportive friends.  
  9. Kind words which have motivated and inspired me
  10. My classmates- Zumbaranions rock!
  11. My chiropractor. 😉
  12. My doctor for 30 years. (That guy deserves a medal. From somebody.  For something).
  13. The amazing ability of the body to change and heal even considering what I’ve done to it. 
  14. Meditation.
  15. People who say stupid, judgmental or ridiculous things for teaching me patience, tolerance, forgiveness and non attachment.
  16. My daughter whose own 150 pound weight loss has inspired me in so many ways.
  17. For learning but not always practicing, that every moment is a gift, and it’s called “the present”  The actual quote, “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, Thats why it’s called the Present” is attributable to many people as the first author.
  18. Failure for teaching me persistence. Compassion for others, gratitude for successes, motivation, and self reflection.
  19. Giving up dairy, wheat, carbs and sugar.  
  20. Learning to eat vicariously.  (If you saw someone smiling at you while you were eating the triple fudge sundae with chips and chocolate sauce, thanks for the memory)
  21. Choices. 
  22. The belief that everything that happens to me is my own doing and I have the ability to change 
  23. The desire and inspiration to work even harder for my goals and dreams.  80 pounds to go. 
  24. That I’m not out of things to be grateful for- I’m just stopping here.   Ok, and redheads and convertibles. And whiskey and the Kama Sutra. Alright, I’m really stopping now. 


Try a gratitude practice,  the changes you will see in your life are almost immediate. You often hear, tell the people you love, that you love them every day.  Now go tell the people you appreciate, every day, that you appreciate them. 

 

   

Karmic Lessons from Yoga Class

Note to self or Karmic lessons for the day:
1. Ordering drinks called “Devils Lips” at the monthly Dirty Old Mens Club Benevolent Association dinner is GOING to bite you in the ass at a 9:30 am yoga class taught by the studio owner (duh).
2. Apparently, the Sacroiliac joint,

IMG_2667-0.PNGwhich I don’t recall ever having heard of, is responsible for all the hamstring, hip, and Piriformis issues I’ve had the last 6 years in yoga class. (Whatever I did or whoever I hurt I am so sorry).
3. Looking at illustration of the joint, you wouldn’t think someone could find movements to stress just that one area for an hour but they can. (I have no idea why the CIA water boarded terrorists when 2400 hundred yoga teachers were available to work them over at $8 an hour on a pass card.
4. I always wondered, but never asked how the owner came up the name “Holy Cow” for the name of the studio. Because the shopping center owner wouldn’t let her put “HOLY #%£!” on the sign. This came to me when I felt my “SI” joint, as she “affectionately” referred to it throughout the class, split apart- is that too strong?- let me say, then- exploded, and I said, “HOLY #%£!”, which in a meditative moment, made me realize that’s where the name of the studio come from. This was also,the same time I came back to consciousness to hear her say, “and this will make you say “Holy schmokes”, which I knew just meant “holy #%£!” (Saying #%£! In yoga class is never appropriate, even in Sanskrit, in which case is spelled {€%!).
5. This was the 6 th yoga class in 8 days BECAUSE I had the BRILLIANT IDEA that since the ZUMBA Instructor was off in Buenos Aires for the yearly Tango trip, I would try a new yoga class for each ZUMBA class missed. Karma lessons: thou shalt not complain about ZUMBA or the yoga classes your were already taking; things can always be worse- sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.
6. I was still in pain from Wednesday first attempt at “YIN” yoga. “Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with poses or asanas that are held for longer periods of time—five minutes or longer per pose is typical. Yin yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues—the tendons, fascia, and ligaments—with with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. “. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_yoga. All the exercises are done on the floor and they make it sound deceptively “opposite” the heat building energy demanding “yang” of hatha yoga. Here’s all you need to know. Somebody figured out a way to do yoga poses and leave your muscles alone but make EVERYTHING ELSE in your body hurt. All at once. (Whatever I did or whoever I did it too I am so sorry).

Those are my Karma lessons for today. Well, it’s only noon. Whew!!!

Yoga Class Update: “Recruit Your Belly”

I’m in yoga class Thursday night, minding my own business, because 1, that’s kind of the mindful Zen point and 2, because due to work interfering with my regular life, this is my first yoga class in 11 days and my body feels like I’m completely starting over and I’m sweating out every toxin I didn’t even think I took into my body in 11 days, secretly trying not to wish for death in the first 30 minutes when Maria, the Yoga instructor, in walking us thru a pose says, “recruit your belly”. As anyone who has ever been in, around or heard of a yoga class knows, the mantra is “listen to your body” so this is what I heard.

Lower Belly: “toke, toke; shhh! Who is that!?!?!

Upper Belly: ” it’s the yoga instructor dude, put that out!! Shit!!! Hide the stuff.

Lower Belly: What does SHE want!!!

Upper Belly: I don’t know, man.

Maria: …..and recruit your lower belly……then….

Lower Belly: Recruit for what? Do we have any Doritos?

Upper Belly: No, dammit, we don’t have any Doritos. I haven’t seen a Doritos down here in 2 years. How would I know what she’s recruiting for, I try put my little belly mind somewhere else while we’re here. It’s too traumatic. It’s too early in class for boat pose.

Lower Belly: Do I get anything for signing up?

Brain: Hey, you fat ass slab of bacon down there! She wants you to constrict for as long as possible, until the point of exhaustion, preferably so that some of your fibers break down, and at least until you send me a sufficient amount of chemicals from the process that I register such a sufficient pain response so he gives up and so that when you heal over the next couple of days, you’ll be stronger, leaner and harder than ever.

Lower Belly: F*ck that. light that thing back up. And turn up that Jason Darulo, “Talk Dirty to Me”, You Tube Video, will you?

Maria: “And if your mind starts to wander, return to your breath and the intention you set at the beginning of class.” Really? Ohhhhh… Ok.

Om…… namaste ya’ll.

Clarifying Yoga Instructions or “Pull Your Lower Belly In and Up”

Ok, I admit it. After 6 years of yoga classes there are still some yoga instructions regularly given in every basic class that make absolutely no sense to me so I’m here to confess.

The last straw, in cliché speak, was in Maria’s (we’ll call her “Maria” ’cause that’s, well, her real name) Thursday night yoga class at the Holy Sutra and Va Va Voom Vinyassa Yoga Studio. (Not the real name, you don’t think I’m stupid, do you? Ok, not a good question to ask).

So, we’re standing at the top of the mat, and Maria says she’s going to explain the oft-repeated instruction to “pull in your lower belly”. Oh good, I think, because when I send this command from my brain to my nether regions, absolutely NOTHING happens. In this way, yoga has helped me to understand what it must feel like to be paralyzed. There are many yoga instructions where I send these commands to my whatever part of the body, absolutely NOTHING happens.

“Called “uddiyana bandha” (ooo-dee-YAH-na BAHN-da)”, she says, measure three fingers below your navel, and then feel this muscle. This is the transverse abdominal, or the muscle that you engage, when you’re asked to ‘pull in your lower belly”. I follow this instruction. I feel no muscle whatsoever. I do however feel something akin to the last time I went to a butcher and had a five-pound fresh slab of extra fatty smoked bacon prepared for me. I’m tempted to speak up and ask what if I feel THAT, but I know from experience the skinny people do not always appreciate these comments. In case you think I’m making this up, (which wouldn’t be completely unfair since that’s the nature of hyperbole), or in the completely weird event you’re actually INTERESTED in the topic and want a SERIOUS discussion, see http://www.thesecretsofyoga.com/yoga-articles/Uddiyana-Bandha.html.

For those of you who are considering yoga but have not taken it, it helps if you understand that all yoga instructors are from the marvel comics, but have to go to Dalai Lama school before they can teach yoga. This insures they can both handle their super power (you know, levitate right side up AND UPSIDE DOWN, do a handstand with no hands, make their soul glow in the dark, or shoot rainbows out their ass. I swear I saw that once. Ok, maybe I was delirious) AND that you won’t, in projecting your self frustration at not being able to “pull in your lower belly” stab them in the parking lot after class.

“Glide your shoulder blades down the back”. WHAT? Yes, I saw “Avatar”. AND the AVENGERS. So, what. Here’s the thing. My shoulders do one thing. Shrug. It’s a DNA guy thing. Ex GF- “I’m leaving you”. “Shrug”. “Do you want to talk to me or watch this TV program?” Shrug. I’m not even sure I HAVE shoulder blades. I don’t even know what that means?!?!?!

While you’re laying on your stomach, “put your toes, the top of your feet AND YOUR SHINS FLAT on the floor. I cannot get my shins on the floor from any position. Even kneeling. Here’s a little test you can try. Stick your leg out. Bend your foot forward. If your foot bends sooooooo far forward it’s at a 180 degree straight line with the rest of your leg, you can probably get your shins on the floor. You are also probably a Marvel Comics baby whether you know it or not, and should check in at the closest yoga studio so they can tell you about Dalai Lama school.

For a later blog, “press your hip points into the floor”. “Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama”.

Yoga Zumba and the Paroxysmal Back Spasm Part I

I know, I know, in a previous blog I wrote if you don’t want to sound old, don’t complain about your aches pains and ailments. But, you know, the exception that proves the rule and all. Anyway, since law school, thirty years ago, I’ve had these crippling back spasms periodically on just my lower left side. For a long time, I thought, rationally, that they MUST be caused by picking something up the wrong way, or over exertion (me? HA!), or twisting or turning wrong. It took years to figure out that stress, anxiety and mental illness had to play a factor. And being a fat ass. That had to play a factor too. Anyway, after getting them every year or two, and having to be almost lifted into the car to get to the chiropractor so I could get fixed enough so I could crawl to the bathroom on my own, I figured out if I would see the guy every few months on my own, I could mostly avoid these unpleasant spasms, which, for the most part, has been an effective plan.

So, Friday, I get one of these crippling paroxysmal back spasms. I love that word “paroxysmal”. Mainly because its so hard to spell and also because I can’t pronounce it. Now, I’d like to tell you that I did this in some intense twist in yoga class, or by really pushing myself in a forward fold in pyramid pose, or by really pushing myself in Zumba class, but noooooo, I did it driving. Yes, driving. On my fat ass. In my comfy Volvo.

On Friday, my usual day off, I got a massage, saw the chiro boy and was on the way to Yoga class, when the Volvo, flashes in red, “Power System Failure; URGENT” with a red triangle, with an exclamation point, and a voice exclaims; “Danger Danger Mr. Robinson!” The route to Yoga class is also the route to the Volvo dealer and it’s only 3:30 so no problem, detour to the dealer, but then I have this vision of being stuck on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, the main bridge between Downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant SC, and being on the 5 pm news, as THAT FAT GUY in the red Volvo who snarled traffic on a FRIDAY happy hour because he couldn’t keep his fancy ass car running.

I get to the dealer and Amy asks what I’m doing there. I’m completely drenched in sweat as the air conditioner stopped working when the red danger danger message stopped flashing so I explained all the messages which flashed, IN RED and said, “Either the alternator/AC belt has broken. or its the apocalypse, or aliens or coming” but my messages are usually yellow, this is the only time in 14 years a Volvo has given me a red message so I was sure the Volvo was going to explode. She got me a loaner car, told me she’d call me Monday and sends me on my way. As I went to get in the loaner car, I realized I couldn’t move. I realized in the midst of all that error message, I must have gripped the steering wheel,and tensed up, like a little girl who was going to have her first car wreck. How embarrassing. But wait, it gets worse.

So, I go home figuring it will be gone by morning. I wake up Saturday morning in time for Zumba class , and it is not pretty. Generally speaking, if you have to crawl off a couch by rolling over to plant one knee on the floor then the other knee on the floor then gradually pushing yourself up while writhing in pain, Zumba class is probably not a good idea, no matter what your brain is telling you otherwise. But, I went anyway. Macho, Macho Man. I want to be, a macho man. (You automatically know something is bad judgment when Village People lyrics are playing in your head. Automatically) I did however, practice some creative profanity during the class that I had not before experienced which I would not have believed possible. Trust me. Pain will enable you to combine curse words in ways you had never thought possible.

I went home and found my stash of flexeril muscle relaxers which I had wished for years ago and which had been left on my front porch by the pharmacopeia fairy in an plain pill bottle with a simple dymo label which said “flexeril”. (and you guys thought practicing the law of attraction didn’t work) Oh, here’s hint number two which I picked up in tonight’s Zumba Class – do NOT go to Zumba on Flexerils…. More of that in Part II of this piece.

In desperation, I emailed my massage goddess and pleaded my case, (I also told her the whole car/little girl story on the theory that she’d be laughing so hard and peeing herself that she’d have to see me Monday, which apparently worked, and I got an appointment). Much to my surprise, and further embarrassment, I learned, after all these thirty years, that my problem is NOT in my lower back, but my pirformis muscle, which, I had never heard of before.
piriformis

However, to save you some google time, I will just tell you, that from where she was touching my ass, I said, “so when they say ‘that was so scary it made my asshole pucker – this is the muscle that does it’ I guessed from her hysterical laughter that was an affirmative”. She then said something about it wrapping around the sciatic nerve and causing all the pain, blah blah blah. To be continued…… Zumba on Flexeril and Karma for the Electric Slide Part II

Yoga Fifth Year Anniversary Part II – Euphemisms Part I

I’ve maintained for some time that I don’t understand why the CIA employed waterboarding to get terrorists to give up valuable information when they had yoga at their disposal and lately I’ve wondered how yoga has maintained such a pleasant “om” kind of PR reputation. I think their widespread use of euphemisms is certainly one huge reason, if not the only one.

I thought I’d share just a few of my favorites.

“hip openers” The usual drill, with anatomy lesson supplied, goes something like this. “One of the most common requests heard in a yoga class is “hip openers today please.” This request is usually followed by the other half of the class groaning. We love to hate hip openers yet our bodies crave them and often feel lighter and more open after—for good reason. The majority of us sit for most of our days, shortening the hip flexors at the front of the hip (psoas, rectus femoris, sartorius) and tightening the hip rotators (piriformis, obturator internus, gamellus, to name a few).” From “http://www.myyogaonline.com/about-yoga/yoga-anatomy/what-really-happens-in-hip-openers” No, Here’s what REALLY happens in pigeon pose and other hip openers, but for you non yogis, first a picture of one of the most popular hip openers, half pigeon.

half pigeon

As you start to fold over your hips and descend toward the floor a searing pain originates in your hip which you cant really tell if it’s more like the time you mistakenly, in a drunken state, placed your empty hand on the hot eye of the stove while placing the cast iron frying pan on the non hot eye of the stove to cook that grilled cheese sandwich you wanted OR, if it was that time you thought you really COULD climb a barbed wire fence. Then the instructor says to “BREATHE” and you realized that the end of your hip socket IS actually being pulled OUT of the hip joint, when she says, “focus on your thoughts”, and you realize your thoughts are on the illegitimacy of her birth, and some pretty nasty things about her mother, father, and sexual practices.

“The tension in your shoulders is completely unnecessary”

half moon with block

Uhhhh, actually, yeah it is, ‘cuz I think without it, I’m gonna fall over on my face and chip every single front tooth I have. This actually happened tonight and when she says this, I start laughing, admittedly a little uncontrollably, which is not really cool, in yoga class, where they prefer a “soft smile”. Hell, getting rid of “necessary tension” in my shoulders is one of the 642 reasons I started taking yoga in the first place five years ago and is something I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for about 4/5’s of my my life.

“twists” Does that conjure up in your mind something that tastes good like a pretzel, or a swirly ice cream cone or something equally yummy? Actually, I kind of miss those days when the jokes about practicing yoga was like being twisted into a “pretzel” was actually scary. Pffft, that aint nothing. Here’s what they’re REALLY doin to ya….”Indian yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar describes twists as a “squeeze-and-soak” action: The organs are compressed during a twist, pushing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When we release the twist, fresh blood flows in, carrying oxygen and the building blocks for tissue healing. So from the physiological standpoint, twists stimulate circulation and have a cleansing and refreshing effect on the torso organs and associated glands.” http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/817 And THAT makes it sound better than it is, actually, when you are standing there, gasping for air, feeling the blood squeezed from your organs, like Paula Deen, squeezing a washrag in the bathroom at her deposition like it was the lawyer on the opposing side; and the toxins coming out of every pore of your body. Feelin that “Pretzel” image now?

Stay tuned for “Euphemisms, part II, “focus on your breath, and listen to your body”.

“We all live in a yellow submarine”.