10,000 Vinyasas

The Importance of Proper Coffee Roasting, Or, Why Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, Stinks

by on Aug.16, 2012, under coffee, Kitchen, product review, Uncategorized

As readers know, I am a coffee enthusiast.  I roast my own beans and have several espresso machines, including one of the finest manual levers ever made, the Olympia Cremina. I sometimes like to purchase commercially roasted beans in order to gauge my roasting skills. I recently ran across a website purporting to offer roasted coffee beans at decent prices, Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLc, operating out of Selinsgrove, PA.  Since it wasn’t clear from the website whether the beans were actually fresh roasted (more than about two or three weeks and it becomes stale), I emailed the site and received a reply that the beans were shipped within 5 days of roasting, an acceptable amount. Based on that response, I ordered three bags of different varieties of coffee.  I should have noticed at the outset, though, that one of the varieties advertised, a Papua New Guinea single origin, was a “limited edition dark roast.”  This should have been a clue to me that the proprietors of this site didn’t know what they were doing.  You see, it’s a common misconception, fostered mostly by Starbucks, that dark roasts are for espresso, when in fact this is completely not the case.  Most high end espresso roasters roast much much lighter than a dark roast.  The reason for lighter roasting is that roasting too dark produces a monotonic flavor that masks all the subtleties of fine coffee beans, and this is most pronounced with espresso, which is an extremely demanding beverage.  The reason Starbucks overroasts their beans is because the beans basically will continue to taste the same over quite a long period of time, thus allowing transport and storage, and of course sacrificing the flavor as well.  This is why Starbucks is generally avoided by espresso aficionados, because their espresso is simply terrible.  Well, at any rate, when the beans arrived and I opened the bags, my heart sank. All three varieties were covered in oil, which is the primary sign of overroasting.  From their appearance, I suspected that none of these beans would be suitable for espresso, and I was correct; none of the varieties produced drinkable espresso.  I found this to be a valuable lesson:  don’t do business with unknown vendors who may or may not know what they are doing. Certainly I will never order from Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, again.  I did offer them the opportunity to refund my purchase price, but they ignored my email.

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A Tale of Bacon, and the Bankruptcy of the Nutrition Establishment

by on Aug.11, 2012, under Body Health, Cooking, food

I did something the other day that I’ve actually never done before:  I bought some bacon. Bacon has never been in my house, because I swallowed the conventional low-fat, high carb diet advice whole for years, and bacon was always something to avoid. To follow that advice, I came to accept certain concepts as gospel truth:  that eating fat would make you fat, and more specifically, that eating foods high in saturated fat would cause health problems (many), elevated trygliceride levels and eventually heart disease, that all calories are the same and that weight could be lost by adopting a calorie-restricted diet and exercise.

I know now that none of those things are true.

I won’t go into all the references I’ve read discussing the science of nutrition and the twisted road taken to reach dietary recommendations by the government, and the poorly researched studies such recommendations were based on, but they are certainly out there if you care to find them.  My conclusion, after much study, is that the conventional dietary and nutritional advice is based on bad science, political influence of the industrial food complex, and a curious reluctance to admit mistakes.  Further, I believe that the dietary and nutrition establishment, including the governmental agencies, are morally and intellectually bankrupt and have no credibility whatsoever regarding what anyone should eat. I believe that there is so much more individuality in humans physiological response to diet that it makes no sense to make blanket recommendations.

I made a three egg omelet today for lunch and had it with a side of bacon; it was delicious and I am confident that it will not hurt my body. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to certain foods, and today was a good start. I am not afraid of fat anymore, and I embrace animal protein, since it has certain minerals and nutrients that are not available in a vegetarian diet. Furthermore, there is an element of satiety that occurs in eating protein and fat that is not present in a high carb diet, which I believe is essential to maintaining an ideal weight.

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The Importance of Adjustments in Ashtanga Yoga

by on Jun.21, 2012, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

When I began my journey towards teaching yoga, the fastest and easiest way was to take a weekend teacher training course with YogaFit, a U.S. organization founded by Beth Shaw. Even at this early stage, I could perceive that this method of leaching out all the authenticity, homogenizing and dumbing down of yoga was unsatisfying to me as a budding Ashtanga practitioner. Indeed, I believe that one of the major reasons Ashtanga appeals to some people is its authenticity. At any rate, adjustments are not taught in YogaFit, or at least, not well (the rumor was that in California, you were forbidden by law to adjust students). Subsequently, however, I was fortunate enough to  attend a series of workshops on adjustments, taught by a senior Anusara instructor, and of course, I had the direct experience of my teacher’s adjustments on me. These experiences made me realize the importance of adjustments (the Anusara teacher called them “assists”) in teaching yoga in general.  I have recently been contemplating the deeper aspects of Ashtanga yoga in comparison to other styles, particularly Iyengar and its now discredited offshoot, Anusara, and the role of adjustments in poses.  In essence, adjustments in Ashtanga are an integral part of the practice and dovetail nicely with the theory of the idea that energy flow is more important than alignment in Ashtanga.  An example of this would be the pose Utittha Trikonasana, which in Ashtanga involves taking the forward hand to the foot and binding the big toe. To achieve this, students are encouraged to shorten their stance in order to lower the hand sufficiently. Over time, the student will open and be able to go more fully into the pose, but also, the teacher will adjust the student and encourage the body to feel the depth of the pose, thus contributing to the progress of going deeper. Viewed in this way, adjustments are vital to the practice of Ashtanga.  Indeed, most Ashtanga teacher training programs emphasize adjustments to a great degree (I think). When I think of the shallowness of the Yoga Fit training and the teachers who simply model poses in their classes, I appreciate the Ashtanga practice so much more.

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Mysore With Manju

by on Oct.19, 2011, under Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

“Left goes first”

This was the only thing Manju said to me in my first Mysore practice.  He was talking about binding in bada padmasana; I guess I had been doing it wrong for quite some time, mostly since my padmasana is currently reversed due to knee pain and also probably because I can do it easier that way and no one had corrected me.  I had arrived in the beautiful beach town of Encinitas of the day before, and I was at the end of my first practice. It was so exciting to practice at the Jois Yoga Center and I had had no idea what to expect, so I arrived about 15 minutes early that first day.  I was surprised to find just two people practicing, with a woman (Amy?) helping them. Mysore style.  They were obviously close to finishing, and Manju had not yet appeared.  At the appointed time, 7:00 a.m., I began my Primary Series practice.

Manju appears

Of course, I abandoned my dristhi temporarily when Manju entered the practice room a couple of minutes later.  I was surprised to discover that he was quite short and slight; for some reason, I assumed, probably from pictures, that he was larger and bulkier.  I continued Suryanamascara; Manju fiddled with the CD player and put on a selection of Indian chanting, which played throughout the days of practice that I was there.

 

The Practice

I have been practicing Primary Series for quite some time; I’m familiar with the sequence and have a self-practice several times a week, if not every day.  Recently, I began working through the first several poses of Intermediate Series in my weekly Mysore practice.  The first day in Encinitas, I was a bit intimidated and didn’t know what to expect, so I limited myself to just Primary Series, although I went as slow and controlled as possible, leaving out dropbacks into backbend as well.  The second day, I did the full practice including my Intermediate Series poses as well as dropbacks.  I currently find this regimen completely exhausting, so I alternated days of lengthier practice with ones of just Primary Series. This worked out well in Encinitas.

Adjustments

The first time Manju adjusted me was in Trikonasana; he slightly opened my hip with a subtle adjustment.  The other two standing poses I received assistance with was Parshvottanasana, in which he pushed me further down towards my leg (this is not a common adjustment, in my experience), and Prasarita Podottanasana C, in which he pulled my hands closer to the mat (which is quite common).  Overall, the most adjustments I got were in the seated poses Triagmukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana, Ardha Badha Padma Paschimottanasana, Janusirsana A, Marichyasana A, B (not D or C), and of course, Paschimottanasana.  This is very unusual, in my experience; few teachers consistently adjust students in these poses.  Manju’s adjustments also demonstrated to me how much deeper I could go with a bit of help; this, of course, was exactly what I was hoping for when I journeyed to Encinitas: an intensification of my practice. Oh, and  Manju also pulled my chest up in Bhekasana and put my hands to my feet (for the first time!) in Kapotasana. I felt somewhat more “official” after these Intermediate Series adjustments. Other adjustments occurred in Supta Kurmasana(placed feet behind head), Baddha Konasana A (pushed down), and Ubhaya Padagustasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana (both of which I frankly stink at, and really need some support to fully express the poses).  The only other instruction I got from Manju was to bring my feet closer in Adho Mukha Svanasana, which I have gotten before from Nancy Gilgoff (and is in direct contradiction to Tim Miller’s instruction to me to lengthen my stance here).

What Wasn’t There

What I found even more interesting than Manju’s adjustments were the poses he didn’t adjust.  He adjusted nobody in Uttitha Hasta Padagustasana, which I found completely surprising, since many people, not just me, find it difficult and need more help.  I have noted already the few standing poses Manju adjusted me in, and in looking around, I noticed that those were the only ones he helped many others with as well.  Another surprise:  he did not push anyone deeper in Adho Mukha Svanasana, which is perhaps the most common Ashtanga adjustment ever.   He did help a number of people (but not me) in dropbacks, using a cloth he kept wrapped around his waist to pull students up.  Adjustments can be strenuous for a teacher, and I wondered if Manju’s age had anything to do with the absence of certain adjustments.

The End

I was completely satisfied with my trip to Encinitas and my study with Manju Jois. The practice was solid and satisfying; I noticed small but visible improvements and more awareness and concentration in my practice than I have ever felt before.  If anything, the trip deepened my love and fascination for Ashtanga yoga, and before the trip was even halfway through, I caught myself thinking about when I could return.  

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Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal Review

by on Oct.10, 2011, under Cooking, food

love this multigrain hot cereal

I picked up some Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal the other day.  I have been a fan of Bob’s Red Mill brand of grains, pancake mixes, hot cereals, vegetable soup mixes and other baking products for quite some time, and this multigrain hot cereal is no exception.  It is thick, but not as thick as Bob’s Scottish Oatmeal, and presents a hearty, dense texture when cooked over the stove with raw whole milk.  In addition, I add cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts or pecans, along with a touch of salt. Topped with some fresh berries, Bob’s 7 Grain Hot Cereal is all anyone could ask for in a quick and easy breakfast.  As an added bonus, and for those who pay attention to the quality of merchants with whom they do business,  I understand that Bob’s Red Mill is employee-owned!

Give this fine, high quality multigrain hot cereal a try.  I thought enough of it to buy it in bulk, and will be enjoying this hot cereal for quite a long time in the future.

10000 Vinyasas Review of Bob’s 7 Grain Hot Cereal

 

 

 

 

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Practice Notes

by on Sep.18, 2011, under Acro Yoga, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice, Yoga Teachers

Because of sweaty conditions, this morning in Lisa Long’s Mysore practice I got myself into Garbha Pindasana today without help. Couldn’t do much with it but roll backwards a few times, but still…my right knee is still preventing me from taking the full Marichyasana D, but I’m ok with that. I can usually take the full Padmasana in the correct order (right before left), but some of the other poses (Janusirsana C comes to mind) are still limited. I am looking forward to studying with Manju Jois, a teacher my original teacher referenced many times.  Further progress is also noted in acro-yoga, where my kickovers without help are more consistent.  Hoping to take more of Mike Matthews in the near future.  An odd event:  my attendance at Mysore the other day resulted in my being given a number of Second Series poses.  I have to wonder about that;  I don’t feel that I’ve  “mastered” Primary Series, although I grant that I can do a passable version of most of the poses.  So, what really is the standard for moving on, I wonder?

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Trip

by on Sep.09, 2011, under Yoga, Yoga practice

Contemplating, no actually going to study with Manju Jois in Encinitas in October.  Would love to have someone to go and experience this with.  Any takers?

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Really Fun Practice!

by on Sep.05, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Ok, I’ve done this once before, when the gym I teach at had no yoga classes on a holiday (4th of July), and after hearing my students lamenting that fact, I came up with the idea of an informal practice, where I would go through much of Primary Series, not teach but just call out the names of the poses and those who showed up would just follow along.  That worked well, and after detecting some similar interest on Sunday for Labor Day, I decided to repeat it. I had 6 show up this morning, one a woman who brought her young daughter who’d never practiced yoga, and we went through my “basic” practice, which is Suryanamascara A/B, all the standing poses, paschimottanasana, purvattanasana, and then skip to setu bandasana, backbends, and then the closing sequence, which takes about 55 minutes.  I had a great time, and I think my students did too.  I am inspired by my students enthusiasm and their willingness to keep practicing; another benefit of teaching I would have never experienced had I not taken that leap forward 2 1/2 years ago.  It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe the amazement and fulfillment I experience both from the practice itself, and the teaching and all the other experiences which seem to spontaneously come from it.

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Injury Update

by on Sep.03, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice

I think the shoulder is completely healed, a combination of rehabilitation (Airrosti) and me being careful in practice.  At any rate, we did 3 kickovers in a row at acro today without issue, and I believe it’s time to move on.  Anticipating tomorrow’s practice with hope and enthusiasm. A death in the family this week caused me to miss some practice, and I was especially glad to get back to it; it feels like your body truly needs this and suffers when it is not available. Teaching notes:  I am starting my fourth weekly class tomorrow, and intend for it to be a more vinyasa-style class, in the vein of what my original teacher used to teach.  I continue to sub a different class at least once a week, which keeps things fresh and at the same time makes me appreciate my “regulars.”  One of the unanticipated pleasures of teaching is watching people make progress.  I imagine some of them may not even notice the slow but steady progress, but when you look at the group as a whole and compare them to the students in a subbed class, the difference is noticeable.

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The Return To Practice…

by on Aug.28, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice

Well, I was kind of joking a few posts ago about the “sweatiest practice ever,” but I think yesterday’s return to my Saturday led Primary Series really was, in fact, if not the sweatiest, then certainly up in the top three. Also noted that this practice was done on perhaps the hottest day of the year here. At any rate, brought one of my students along to help him experience a different teacher and environment; he acquitted himself well.  My shoulder has almost completely healed, and I did not aggravate it yesterday by jumping back (I am doing this with more awareness now, so I think we can continue without fear of further injury). I had missed the led Primary class quite a bit, and despite some normal difficulties, got through it with a sense of serenity and peacefulness.  Looking forward to getting back into more practice, although I may have to attend to my “other” job more than usual this week. In other news, I have picked up a new class at the gym on Saturday mornings, and am scheduled to sub for a teacher at the gymnastics center not far from the house.  Acro has been going well, also (pictures to be posted).

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A Serious Injury

by on Aug.12, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Yoga, Yoga injuries, Yoga practice

I have noticed, probably without thinking much about it, that I have recently developed a weakness in my left shoulder, manifesting itself in pain when jumping back into chaturanga.  When we resumed acro-yoga this week, I was doing a kickover when I felt a searing pain in the front of the shoulder.  I immediately attended to it, and was actually able to do a regular practice of handstands, but the pain has really prevented me from doing my usual yoga practice, and in some of the classes I’ve taught this week, I most obviously cannot jump back in the normal manner. I discovered today that one of the issues was my left hand coming slightly off the floor when jumping back, and consciously planting that hand eliminated the pain. Further healing seems necessary, though, and I have decided to forgo my usual led Primary Series tomorrow and Mysore practice on Sunday.  I can do some of my personal practice without straining the shoulder, and my teaching job at the gym enables me to take some rehabilitation without cost, so I have an appointment Monday for some of that. It’s a little discouraging, but I do have a history of using injuries in a positive way, to develop other skills or parts of my body. For acro specifically, we are working on extending my handstands by quite a bit, and that is developing my endurance.  I am also emphasizing more of my splits, which are already almost developed, but need a little extra attention.  It was kind of upsetting to have to teach in pain this morning after I strained the shoulder again (couldn’t help demonstrating something I shouldn’t), but I do think acro-yoga does slightly help the injury, since the alignment is fixed and the shoulder is worked in that position. Sorry to be so self-centered in this post, but I think it’s valuable to record some of my responses to adversity in addition to the positive ones (which, by the way, outnumber the negative exponentially).

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Teaching Cues We Love

by on Aug.02, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Following a improvisational vinyasa class last week, and hearing an unfamiliar and startling cue, I started thinking about how as yoga teachers, we try to find new ways of inspiring our students to go deeper in their practice or into a particular pose. As yoga students, I am sure we are all familiar with the “aha!” moments when a teacher says just the right thing to help you find your way into a pose, or you leave practice thinking more about some spiritual aspect of yoga that was mentioned. At this point, I thought I would throw the floor open for helpful or inspiring cues that you’ve heard, or used yourself. You can attribute these, or not. I’ll start with a few:

On poses:

“take it to wherever it goes”–Ken Willian

“don’t hurry”–Lisa Long

“no forcing”–Ana Hollis

“surrender to the pose”–unknown (or, mine)

On the breath:

“let me hear you breathing”–Lisa Long

“soften your breath”–Ana Hollis

“without the breath, yoga is just exercise. With the breath, it becomes something else.”—mine

And one of my all-time favorites:

“I just make this crap up”–Meg Stecher

And here’s an original one from me: “some of my language is aspirational”

Now, let’s open the floor to readers…any takers?

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Adventures With Kamut

by on Aug.01, 2011, under Cooking, food, Kitchen, recipes

I stumbled across this ancient grain a few weeks ago, and liked the taste of the salad made with it, so I got some and last night made a delicious meal of it, using the following recipe for an outline:

Wilted Spinach Salad with Kamut and Sauteed Vegetables

Ingredients:

* 1 cup uncooked kamut, soaked overnight in cold water
* 3 cups fresh baby spinach
* 1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4″
* 3/4 lb yellow squash, sliced 1/4″
* 8 oz mushrooms, sliced thinly
* 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
* 1/4 cup cubed Pecorino Romano
* 6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
* 1 red pear, cored and sliced thinly
* 2 tsp Kosher salt
* fresh ground pepper to taste
* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to saute
* 2-3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

1. Place the kamut in 4 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 50-60 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly at room temperature.
2. Place the sliced squash in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tsp kosher salt. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This will draw out much of the water which would otherwise prevent the squash from caramelizing. Drain the squash and pat dry.
3. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauteuse over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about two minutes until one side begins to brown, turn over and saute the other side for an additional two minutes, or until lightly brown. Remove from pan and set aside in a large bowl (you will build your salad in this bowl).
4. Add the sliced onion to the pan and saute until it begins to caramelize. Remove from pan and set aside with the squash.
5. Repeat step 4 with the garlic. Reduce the heat slightly.
6. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the sliced mushroom and stir in pan for one minute. Add one tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar and stir. Allow mushrooms to lightly brown and then remove and set aside with the squash.
7. Remove the pan from the heat. Add up to 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pan (*you might scale this back a little if you were heavy handed with the oil while sauteing) and 1-2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar. Stir to incoporate the brown bits into the warmed dressing. Pour over the sauteed vegetables. Add the pine nuts and kamut. Toss well.
8. Add the spinach, sliced pear, and 1 tsp of kosher salt and toss well, allowing the spinach to wilt.
9. Garnish each serving with some of the cubed Romano. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper, and salt if desired, to taste.

I left out the spinach and pear, and changed the cheese to something I had already, but overall, this worked out extremely well. Give Kamut a try; it’s available, probably, in your local bulk bins.

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Sweatiest. Practice. Ever. (Progress in Practice)

by on Jul.30, 2011, under Yoga, Yoga practice

Ok, not really, probably. I’ve done a few really sweaty practices before, and I don’t have the memory to rate them, but today’s was pretty, as Lisa said, “tropical.” On the other hand, I had a small breakthrough this week when I was able, for the first time, to get my feet into supta padmasana without the use of my hands. And then I did it again, today, in practice. Yay! These tiny advances really do give you encouragement, even though you realize that the achievement isn’t the point. Still, I think sometimes that even a little encouragement like this goes a long way. At this morning’s practice, I was next to a woman who had never done Primary Series, and I think it gave me a little bit of extra energy imagining her first experience, remembering what mine was like. Unfortunately, it’s a “two steps forward, one step back” thing, because I also tweaked my good knee pretty hard, again, frustratingly, apparently without trying. Oh well.

Further reflection on Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana: I think I posted this entry in part to become more comfortable with my unease and frustration with the pose, and thus make some of the negative energy dissipate. I hope that makes sense.

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Nemesis

by on Jul.23, 2011, under Yoga, Yoga practice

That's not me!

When I began practicing yoga, my deficiencies were painfully apparent: I had little or no flexibility in legs, hips, shoulders, chest and back; I had some strength, but much of it was unavailable due to the lack of flexibility, and my balance, well, let’s just say it was terrible. In subsequent years of practice, I developed much more usable strength and flexibility, but my balance remains my weakest point to this day. Certainly it is a source of some frustration in my practice, but nowhere so much as when I contemplate the first standing balance pose of Ashtanga’s Primary Series: utthita hasta padangusthasana. Without question, there is no other balance pose to which I find even remotely close in ferocious difficulty, and one which I have struggled with, mostly in vain, ever since I began practicing Primary Series. The full expression involves a great many breaths standing on one leg, bowing over the lifted leg, taking the leg out while looking in the opposite direction, and bringing the leg forward again for yet another bow, and then holding the leg out for five more breaths. I can see very slow progress in this pose when I reflect on how poorly I used to perform it (frequently hopping on the one leg before losing balance), but still,at best it has to be considered a work in progress. I have somewhat come to terms with the apparent fact that I have special challenges in balance poses in general and this one in particular, but I still would like to master it, or at least be more steady. I certainly don’t avoid it when I conduct my personal practice. I also notice that the floor surface actually makes a difference, which I find puzzling. In other words, I just about have the full expression of this pose down when I practice at home on the carpet, but on the mat, it’s a different story. I also note that there aren’t, apparently, any secrets or tips to learning this pose, other than just adopting the proper form, which is disappointing. I don’t suppose there is any solution to this, other than more practice, and being satisfied with the excrutiatingly slow pace of progress.

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A Visit To Costco

by on Jul.23, 2011, under food

I admit, I patronize Costco pretty frequently. They have a decent selection of fresh fruit (berries), vegetables (mushrooms, greens), and orange juice. Also, the store across town actually sells green coffee beans at a cheap price. Once in a while, like now, they make a mistake in gauging the local taste for unusual beer and have to unload it at a hefty discount. On these trips, I usually like to amuse myself by noting what processed foodlike substances are being offered, usually shaking my head at the lengths to which the food industry (the term is deliberate) goes to add “value” to real food, by processing, packaging, etc. Having shopped at Costco for some years now, I thought I had pretty much seen the full range of this crap, but apparently I was wrong, because the other day I found the store featuring already prepared and packaged hard boiled eggs. Okay, think about this for a moment: some marketing department genius figured that there was profit to be made in selling these, because apparently, people cannot be bothered to boil and peel an egg! I pause to reflect that this is just the culmination of the entire food section of Costco, which is devoted to the principle that anything that comes whole and unprocessed can be made better by peeling, stripping, combining, slicing, dicing, canning, storing in little plastic cups, freezing, and of course, adding all kinds of salt, sugar, additives, preservatives, fillers, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and just plain garbage. At any rate, I thought up a new slogan for the place, based on the hard boiled egg incident:

Costco: Food For Lazy People

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Winding Down From Teaching…

by on Jul.19, 2011, under Acro Yoga, teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Well, last week I ended up teaching twelve classes, ranging in size from one (twice) to twenty-five. I taught full Primary Series twice, an advanced Ashtanga class with Second Series variations, and several basic or introductory classes. Far from being tedious or tiring, I found this experience to be educational, enlightening and just plain fun! I remember when I first started teaching and was trying to teach three or four classes a week; at that point, it just seemed almost too much, although admittedly some of the classes were not scheduled at convenient times and locations. Seems clear that I’ve come a long way in my teaching progress, and yet I do understand with quite a bit of clarity that it is really important to be able to continue practicing if you teach yoga. Your teaching should be an evolving process, and that can only come through a continuing yoga practice, which is also changing as you learn and move deeper. I have been gradually moving back towards Ashtanga in my yoga practice over the last few months, and I am happy with how that’s going, although the aches and pains of body parts occasionally require my attention. I am working on rehabilitating my knees, and hoping to get back to the correct form of padmasana (I have to draw the left foot in first right now), but I am also trying to remove myself from expectations about this practice and just enjoy the moving meditation.

This week’s schedule calls for only one extra class for me to teach, so I am getting a break, I guess. Hoping to get all three sessions of acro-yoga in before next week; we won’t be practicing for a couple of weeks after.

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Teaching The Primary Series

by on Jul.13, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

As mentioned, this week I was called upon to teach Primary Series twice for the very first time in my teaching career. As is true with my entire teaching experience, I found it difficult and rewarding. I have previously posted on the difference between counting the breaths and using descriptive words in teaching Ashtanga, and this week offered an opportunity to explore that. My first class was rather, well, like my first teaching experience: nervous and excited, but with some confidence that I could translate the knowledge I had to my students. After all, I have been teaching a modified version of Primary Series for quite some time, so I only had to add the rest of the series. Of course, I was somewhat awkward in my verbiage with these “new” poses, but everything seemed to work out well–I only forgot a couple. My second try was better. Ten people showed up, some of whom were obviously inexperienced, but they all stayed until the end. I also tried to add in the traditional elements of the led Primary that I have been taking recently, even chanting the opening and closing mantras, even though that is not often done at the gym (for fear of offending those who think we are trying to convert them to the “religion” of yoga). Of course, my counting is far from perfect and I need more experience in counting in Sanskrit beyond Suryanamascara A and B, but overall, it was great fun. I was quite impressed with the students who were new or had limited abilities continuing the class until the end, remembering clearly how ferociously difficult I found the Primary Series when I first encountered it. At any rate, I will be looking for more opportunities to teach Primary in the future. As always, I must express my gratitude to my many teachers who have given of themselves and conveyed their knowledge and skill to my great benefit.

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Pictures…

by on Jul.08, 2011, under Yoga, Yoga practice

Here I am during some of my recent travels:

Half Moon Pose

Shoulder Stand

Monkey Pose

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Yoga Teaching Explosion!

by on Jul.05, 2011, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

For some reason, probably because so many go on vacation during this month, I find myself with quite a few additions to my teaching schedule; specifically, I will be teaching Sundays and Thursdays at Yoga Shala (Beginning Ashtanga), as well as filling in for a couple of fellow instructors at the gym where I teach. This will give me an opportunity to teach the full Primary Series for the first time, something I’ve been wanting to do. This is the point at which I say, “well, you wanted to teach yoga, right?” Actually, far from dreading my full schedule, I am looking forward to adding to my teaching experience. I have reached the point where I have very little negative feelings from teaching; I feel accomplished enough to have acquired a bit of confidence in my ability to lead a class. In some ways, teaching is a furtherance of your yoga practice and the direct feedback you get is encouraging. I feel lucky enough to have had some really excellent teachers and instruction, and to be able to share that knowledge with others is inspiring and gratifying, in a way that my “other” job is not. I am completely impressed at this point with the direction yoga teaching has taken me, and am curious and eager to find out what’s next. Come by for a class if you find time in your schedule; namaste!

An additional note on practice: one of my favorite teachers is filling in at Yoga Shala at the end of the month, so I will probably have to wander over there a bit more.

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