Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading List

I'm currently in the process of reading The Strand 80, having been inspired by my friend, Melissa. Some of these books I have already read at some point in my life, but I'm going to re-read the entire list.

Start date: June 13, 2011
Books read to date: 4/81 (as of June 27, 2011)

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  6. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (6/2011)
  11. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  12. 1984 by George Orwell
  13. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  14. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  16. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  17. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  18. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  19. Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  20. Ulysses by James Joyce
  21. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  22. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  23. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  24. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  25. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  26. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  27. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
  28. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (6/2011)
  29. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  30. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  31. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  32. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  33. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  34. The Stranger by Albert Camus 
  35. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  36. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  37. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  38. Moby Dick, or the Whale by Herman Melville
  39. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  40. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  41. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  42. Anthem by Ayn Rand
  43. The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
  44. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  45. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  46. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  47. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  48. Le petit prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  49. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  50. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  51. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  52. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  53. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  54. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  55. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  56. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover
  57. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (6/2011)
  58. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (6/2011)
  59. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  60. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  61. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  62. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  63. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  64. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  65. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  66. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  67. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  68. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  69. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  70. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  71. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  72. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  73. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  74. The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis
  75. The Odyssey by Homer
  76. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  77. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  78. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelein L'Engle
  79. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  80. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  81. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

persistent practice and dharma, imperfectly carried out.

It's interesting to me (and maybe to no one else) to take note of how my practice of yoga has evolved, shifted and changed over the past year, so I'm going to (attempt) to do so in this blog. Which is to say - this is a self-serving, self-indulgent sort of blog, and mainly only for my own documentation and processing. I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts - but please understand I'm not writing with an audience in mind, per se. =)

A year ago right now I was driving two hours, round-trip, to go to a hot yoga at a studio in Evansville, Indiana about five times per week, as the best possible preparation I could think of for going to Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu for a month, along with taking a once a week class in town. Where I live, there is not a single yoga studio - there was, at the time, one class a week taught at the YMCA (where I currently teach four classes a week). It was a basic Hatha class, led by a lovely and talented teacher, to be sure, who made a very positive impact on my life, and really encouraged me in my yoga journey to becoming certified to teach, but as it was an all-levels class, it really didn't offer me consistent growth opportunity. Even in Evansville there isn't a lot of opportunity for yoga; I thought a hot yoga practice would really challenge me, and help me with my two weaker points at the time: strength and balance. (Flexibility has always been my strength in yoga, but we all know it's not just about being bendy!) And I think the hot yoga WAS an excellent pre-training for the yoga boot camp that is Kripalu YTT.

After Kripalu, of course, my entire practice completely shifted and transformed. I came away from Kripalu with such a deeper understanding of yoga, on the whole, and my practice went from being something that kind of made me feel good to truly being sadhana - a spiritual practice of compassionate self-awareness and learning to tolerate the consequences of being myself. In September and October I did a lot of Kripalu practices: audio practices from Danny and Grace, Stephen Cope's video, and then a lot of PERSONAL practice, something I really had no experience with prior to Kripalu. I started teaching at the Y in mid-October, so my personal practice started blurring with my class planning, which is both a blessing and a struggle, as I'm sure many yoga teachers can attest.  My practice during these months was very strength oriented - a lot of the Kripalu classes I have on audio (and the way I was trained and the classes I took at Kripalu) focused a lot on holding poses for longer amounts of time - really exploring the alignment and the breath as the pose was sustained. Hold Warrior I and II for long periods of time, repeatedly throughout a 90-minute practice, and tell me that isn't strength training at its best. Hi, really big quads and very developed hamstrings. (So now I had flexibility and a LOT of muscle strength. Still not so great at balance. =)

In late November I had a horrible car accident (I wasn't hurt, thank goodness) that really threw me for a loop, and in December, I discovered Yogaglo. Sometimes I feel like I owe Yogaglo my sanity - my love for the site has encouraged at least six people I know of off the top of my head to join, and it has been a life-saver for me. On the Yogaglo site you can track your practice; there is a calendar that shows you how many hours of video you viewed each day of the month. I was shocked and mildly impressed when I went back through my calendar - I've done a LOT of Yogaglo practices. I have averaged six to nine hours a week on Yogaglo since mid-December! I discovered my yoga-teacher crush of all crushes, Kathryn Budig, on Yogaglo!

So, January through March was a lot of Yogaglo, which caused me to transition from Kripalu-style practices to a lot more Vinyasa Flow, which I do adore, even though my heart will always belong to Kripalu. I started incorporating a lot more Vinyasa into my own teaching as a result. This led me to explore further weaknesses (that seems like a negative word, and I don't mean it in negative way) in my physical asana practice, and I enrolled in Kathryn Budig's heart-opening, back-bend workshop in Nashville at the beginning of April. April and May, then, became ALL about heart-openers, and something about the workshop style in which I learned them with Kathryn took me back to my Kripalu days; I started exploring, in my personal practice, a lot of long sustained heart-openers and psoas stretches. This was a great, great thing - something I absolutely needed - and I did see the reverberations off the mat in my personal life. But then at the beginning of June I started struggling with some deep shoulder pain that is VERY much related (maybe physically and emotionally) to my hyper-focus on back-bends. (Even today, my shoulder not bothering me at all anymore, I felt the the reminder of the feeling of injury in the spot ONLY while doing cobra pose as part of a Kathryn Budig level 2 Vinyasa Flow class.) I had to take about two weeks off from yoga - the third week I started back in Danny's gentle Kripalu practice, which is VERY gentle, to say the least, and have slowly been building in some Vinyasa practices on Yogaglo. I've become very aware of where I need to back off (only very gentle back-bends for me these days) and where I can still find a lot of support in my abilities (hamstring and hip-openers are making my heart sing and rebuilding my confidence) and THAT in and of itself is part of the practice, right? Being AWARE of your body, your breath, your spirit - knowing when to be strong, and when to surrender, even to taking it easier than you think you should. Maybe I STILL haven't mastered balance in my physical asana practice (I fall over all of the time, but I try to laugh at myself) but I'm getting better at balancing challenging myself without HURTING myself!

So my own practice has had ebbs and flows - has shifted with me both in response to AND in informing my life off the mat - and yet all the while I've been teaching regularly. I am less aware of how all of this has affected the classes I've taught - but without really sitting down to think about it, I'd guess they have followed a very similar pattern. I know, at least, that I taught a LOT of heavy-duty heart-opening classes in April and May. I taught a LOT of restorative classes right after my accident. And recently, while dealing with this shoulder injury, I've found comfort going back to my roots in terms of teacher training, teaching more traditional Kripalu style classes.

My practice teach evaluator at Kripalu told me that she knew being a yoga teacher was my dharma. That felt a lot easier to believe ten months ago, fresh off a month in the Berkshires. What she also told me, that is actually easier to believe now, or at least to understand, is that it takes at least a year to find just the beginnings of your VOICE as a yoga teacher, and that the voice is constantly evolving. I haven't yet been teaching for a full year, and I don't know that I've found my voice just yet (I'd really like to do a focused Vinyasa Flow Teacher Training program and explore that further) but I at least can look back and know that I've been present for the journey, and that the journey IS happening. That's something, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011


My darling friend from college, Melissa, has inspired me immensely today! Her blog is a GREAT read, and she has a list of 40 things she wants to accomplish before she is 40 (which she aptly titles the 40/40 project) and I WANT TO COPY HER. I want to make my own list of 40 things to accomplish before I'm 40, but first on the list is something I want to accomplish MUCH sooner - which I am also copying from Melissa - I want to read (or re-read) all 81 books on The Strand 80 list. I'm so excited about it! I'll be starting with Harry Potter - I borrowed all seven of the books from my friend Devin. Thank you, Melissa, for inspiring me today! I'll start working on that 40/40 list ASAP!

so hum-shanti-shanti-shanti-om.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thrown off the mat/INJURY: What is Practice?

I sort of feel like I'm the outside looking into my practice today. It's sort of weird.

I haven't practiced in over a week. I've taught, but I have not actively engaged in MY practice of yoga.

What does that mean, though? My practice? I can get all lofty and trippy and see my entire LIFE as my PRACTICE. "It's all yoga, baby, " they say. And it is - truly. But it's ALL just about EVERYTHING, isn't it? So let's narrow it down a little bit.

I haven't been on my mat by myself, or in a class as a student, or in front of a video or YogaGlo, in over a week. Why? Because I'm INJURED. And I hate it. I really, really hate it. Ever since Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu I've had this little, faint rumble in my right shoulder. It's always been just to the left of the curve of the blade, and very deep. I've had two massage therapists since then tell me my muscles are supple everywhere BUT this location, where it feels "stringy and clumpy." Someone mentioned rhomboid connection once. I've tried researching it but I really can't quite figure out what the anatomy is or what the problem might be. (I do hyper extend my right elbow, which I feel might be related to pressure on my right shoulder in asana practice, though.) In any event, this deep pain really never inhibited me in my practice or in my teaching whatsoever. In fact, I never felt pain often, or doing anything with my shoulder specifically - it doesn't hurt in downdog or chaturanga or handstand, etc. (Even now.) However, in deep forward folds - especially seated forward folds (specifically in upavista konasana, actually) I'd feel this dull, aching pain deep in my upper back, again, right underneath the shoulder blade in between the blade and my spine.

After a spectacular weekend at my alma mater for my Chamber Singers reunion, I got back home deflated and depressed. I struggle deeply with mourning the end of experiences - especially experiences that have incredibly deep meaning for me, and that either can't be repeated or won't be repeated for an extensive period of time. The second day I was home, I woke up in excruciating pain in my shoulder - right where the deep, dull, pain has popped up for months - that was traveling up my neck and making it impossible to turn my head. Kind of like a crick in the neck on a massive amount of steroids.

Needless to say, the six days since haven't left me in any shape to practice yoga, especially not when I read that if it's a ligament strain or tear, the last thing I need to do is stretch it more before it can heal. So I've been walking some (which I read helps the body pump blood through the inflammatory healing response and encourage it to go faster) and doing some pranayama (breathing) and meditation, but no asana - which I know, for a lot of people, is the only definition of yoga that computes.

And it's really gotten me thinking about what, exactly, my yoga practice is to me. Or at least, I realized I was thinking about exactly that, today. Getting forced off the mat - at least in terms of my vigorous, challenging, very physical-focused practice - has almost put me square in the MIDDLE of my mat in terms of real contemplation.

A possible good thing?

ps - any ideas/advice about my shoulder, I'll happily listen to. It's feeling much better as of today, but it's still frustrating. Not exactly sure what to do.