general blather, teaching

Nine years later . . .

I got too busy to keep up the old Practice Notes blog, but now I’m reviving it. It’s not just about home practice this time, because I want to use it to post extra information to my Pranayama and Restorative students.

Or maybe I will just be a slug and do nothing more with it. We are in the middle of sheltering in place for the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything could change in a moment.

hard stuff

Esther Myers DVD for breast cancer

Today Jill and Dana and I watched and followed Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors, from Esther Myers Yoga.  We don’t normally do this in our Friday yoga practice; in fact we have never done it.  But I have had two separate private restorative lessons with women dealing with breast cancer, one past the therapy and one in the throes of it, and I am thinking about some sort of class for breast cancer survivors.

One of the women I did a lesson with sent me the link to Esther Myers Yoga.  Esther had a background in Iyengar yoga, and then worked with Vanda Scaravelli, whose approach was slightly different.  Her mother and sister had breast cancer, and she was convinced she would not get it, but she did, and it ultimately led to her death. Read her story.

I loved this DVD and plan to buy a lending copy.  Esther leads the participants through a gentle sequence that starts and ends with relaxation.  Her style is kind and personal, and she says things I’d never thought of.  At one point she’s talking about grounding down through your feet, and she talks about receiving the diagnosis of cancer, how you feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under  you. I haven’t had this experience and would never have thought of it that way but it made perfect sense.

Although the DVD is aimed specifically at breast cancer survivors, I thought of a couple of friends dealing with other forms of cancer who could definitely benefit from it.

For the three of us today, it was a perfect gentle practice.

Addendum: I offered this DVD to a friend who has had breast cancer. I talked about how good the DVD was and how much I liked Esther. My friend said, “Is she still alive?”

“No,” I said.

“Did she die of breast cancer?”

“Yes,” I said.

“No, thank you. I can’t watch it,” she said. This made sense to me.



Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

Last weekend Mary Obendorfer came in to teach a weekend workshop at the Yoga Center.  It was just great, and I got extra benefit from having Mary stay at my house.  She is enormously generous with her time and knowledge, as well as being a delightful person.

On the first day of the teacher training Mary used me as a demo stemming from a question Kim asked about extending forward vs. pushing back in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).  Mary asked me to go into Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero).  I always need a blanket between my heels and hips, and I always feel I need to push my hands into the mat to get my hips to go back.

Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero)

Mary had me put my hands up on blocks and put a blanket under my forehead. Then she said something to the teachers like “Mary [me] won’t ever progress in this pose if she keeps doing it the way she always has.” Yikes!  I was shocked, distressed, and elated.  Shocked, because I’m always trying to work hard to loosen things up and never realized I wasn’t taking the right path.  Distressed, because how many other poses am I as stuck in? And elated because the implication is that some of my physical barriers can actually change!

Later, Mary showed me some other things to do with my bugaboo poses, notably Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle).  I’ll write about those variations later.  The cool thing was that now I can work on making progress in ways I was unaware of.

Upavista Konasana (seated wide angle)

As a teaching moment, this was also illuminating.  If a student has been doing the same pose over and over again and getting nowhere, it would be a good idea to look at other variations.  It’s tricky – you have to give a variation enough time to have an effect without getting stuck in it.

general blather

Pranayama Book Club second meeting

Jill and I met yesterday at Mirth for PBC.  We talked a little about the inquiries that go up to p. 24.  I think the time estimate for the last one, How Do I Breathe, where you’re considering all the aspects of the breath, was a bit low.  It’s a good exercise, because it forced me to put feelings into words and to consider things I hadn’t before, like origin of the breath and quality of the breath.

I’ve been either sitting or lying in the Effortless Rest position, but I’m going to experiment with some of the alternatives.  My sister’s cat has been staying with us, which has made the prone position difficult.  It’s pretty startling to have a cat jump on your chest during pranayama. Today I did the seated in a chair version.

I started a notebook to keep track of my observations as we go through the book.  In the back, I’m keeping a list of reasons to do Pranayama.  My first reason:

  • My father died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), commonly known as emphysema. His years-long struggle to breathe is a powerful incentive to keep my lungs strong.

The next chunk of the book we’ll do for next time is through p. 46.  We decided that instead of every other week we would meet the second and fourth Sunday mornings of each month.  That way we don’t have to wonder about dates, and it will make it easier for others to join us.

Yes! Join us! The book is The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi. We meet at 8:45 am, 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month, at Mirth, 8th & N.H., Lawrence, KS.

breath, Pranayama Book Club

Pranayama Book Club undaunted

I didn’t think I’d be disappointed if nobody came to PBC last Sunday, but I was.  It’s so helpful to have someone else to work with when you’re trying to be disciplined. However, Jill will be there next time, and maybe Judy, and maybe some others, and so I am not discouraged.

If you were thinking of coming, please do.  I think this group will remain open forever, and anyone who wants to show up at any time is welcome.  No need to feel oppressed by commitment.  And if you can’t make it but want to follow along in the book, please do that too.  I plan to keep notes in this blog.

So I sat at Mirth, drank coffee and ate a muffin and reviewed the first couple of chapters of The Breathing Book (Donna Farhi). It’s been ages since I first read this book, and I never did all the exercises in it.  (The author calls them inquiries, and I will too, henceforth.)

What I’d like to do, and hope others will do too, is do the inquiries up to p. 24.  The one that begins on p. 24 says it takes 15 minutes, but it looks longer to me.  I want to take this project slowly and thoughtfully, and not bite off more than I will chew.

Next meeting will be at 8:45, Sunday, January 30, at Mirth (8th & New Hampshire).

mulling things over

Workout resolutions

A friend of mine was talking today about how she was beating herself up for not working out as regularly as she had intended.  But then she said that it had been pointed out to her that humans for most of the life of humankind have never really worked out deliberately.  We’re hunter-gatherers, fundamentally, so we reached and stretched and ran and lifted as a matter of our survival.  And we appreciated opportunities to sit around and store up fat for lean times.

This perspective puts our wishes to establish a practice in a new light.  Establishing a practice is HARD and not necessarily natural.

I just have to think about this for a while, because on the one hand it could suggest that I don’t need to establish a practice.  On the other hand, we aren’t hunter-gatherers any more.  Establishing a practice is still hugely beneficial. And I love yoga.  I just need to be nice to myself about it.

breath, kindness

Obstacles: Snow, dogs, sciatica, chest cold

Usually I get up and go for a walk before the dogs are up.  Then I come back, take them outside, and then feed them and practice pranayama. It snowed, so I couldn’t go for my walk. It’s not possible to get up and sneak down to my practice space without waking the dogs.  Buster won’t go outside without a human, which means getting fully dressed, with boots, coat, mittens, hat, etc.  Then after the dogs have been out, they, or at least Sadie, must eat. Then Buster finds it necessary to accompany me to the mat.  “Off the mat.  Off the mat!” He’s doesn’t know that command.

The chest cold would necessitate sitting upright for pranayama, or at least with chest raised.  Sitting isn’t so great with sciatica, so I supported my chest with a bolster.  I just couldn’t last 20 minutes.

Wow, what a whiny post!  I think I will congratulate myself on some Ujjayi breathing and Savasana for 12 minutes.  Good job, Mary!


The book for Pranayama Book Club

We’re going to read The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi. The Lawrence Public Library has one copy. I’ve read this book a couple of times, but not for a long time, and not since I got more serious about pranayama.

I will try to document how this goes for anyone who is interested but can’t make it.

Also, I’m trying to think of a more interesting name.  Breath Club?  Suggestions welcome.

Wondering what this is about? Look two posts back.

8:45 am, Jan. 16, Mirth Cafe at 8th & New Hampshire. I’ll be there.  You?