Advanced Yoga, Books about yoga

Letting go of assumptions, making triangles (Pigeon as a triangle)


Instagram, TV, and advertising sometimes show images of advanced yoga practitioners in difficult poses. Lithe, bendy people, smiling in the sun, backs arched gracefully, wearing white unitards. The common representation of yoga is that anyone who practices or is successful at practice has a ballerina build. It is unfortunate, because it gives the general population the impression that you have to be in peak physical shape with 6% body fat to do yoga. This is SO not the case.

Example: This morning’s class was mixed level, leaning to advanced. We worked up to camel and then up to this:

(Beautiful photo of Pigeon pose from page 119 of Hatha Yoga Illustrated, by Martin Kirk, Brooke Boon, and Daniel DiTuro. Photos by Daniel DiTuro).

But here’s the thing.

There might have been twenty students in that class. We all had our own variation of Pigeon going on. And THAT is yoga.

You start where you are at the time you are practicing. You breathe and make shapes with your body. I have never before thought of Pigeon as a triangle before looking it up in this book, but now that I am more interested in the building of a pose more than before, I see it. We were all working towards this beautiful triangle. Not to be confused with actual Triangle pose! That is a post for another day.

Anyhow. A fellow student asked, “is this a pose that you would be unable to do if you have a large body?” (I am paraphrasing. What she said also covered people who might generally be considered overweight).

Our teacher affirmed that there are different bodies but we all have ways to get there, and it is more individual body mechanics than anything to do with the size of body.

In all honesty, had I been shown the picture above, I don’t think I would have thought I could come close to Pigeon as pictured. However, with the right guidance, being led into it, I’m proud of how far I made it. (NOT pictured – hahaha).

So here I am, working to let go of assumptions and expectations. Thinking about triangles. And cooking dinner all at the same time. Gotta get everything ready so I can attend tonight’s YTT class!

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My YTT

About sitting and teacher training, after the first weekend intensive

You are prepared to learn a lot during yoga training. You bring your mat and you are ready to go! But now you bring an additional bag. Your books. Your paper (which I forgot. Twice. Thanks, B, for sharing). A screaming yellow highlighter. Pens, etc., and so on.

You know there will be a lot of sitting. But in the beginning, even though you set up for practice with your mats on the floor, the sitting is not about Sukhasana, or “easy sitting pose,” aka, sitting up straight, criss-cross applesauce. It is taking notes. Sitting lecture/seminar style with a yoga practitioner/expert instructor at the helm, along with a life-sized, plastic anatomically correct skeleton with rubber ligaments. Intermittent discussion, legal talk, teaching methodology, lecture, snack time, and Asana /exercise practice, and breathing. 

Now I understand that when I asked my mentor what I need to bring or prepare, she didn’t mention planks or fasting. Her response was along the lines of, “a highlighter and some index cards.” She meant that literally.

It is really cool to tap back into the student part of my brain, and also be handwriting again! When was the last time you spent about 8 hours in one day, sitting in class and taking notes by hand? It had been a while for me. And still, we have hardly even cracked the books out yet. There is so much to learn.

On Aging

Inspired by the women at the gym

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No, no, no. I am not inspired by the young, Instagram-ready bodies. I could care less about gym fashion.

I am inspired by the older women in the gym. Those who are in their sixties and seventies, sharing the locker room every day. Some of them are water fitness groupies, some attend Zumba and HIIT on the regular. Some are on the mat in the same room with me, and others stick to chair yoga.

Your bodies are strong, still carrying you. Your smiles are weathered but wide. Your eyes tell me you have been through a lot. You are still here, wearing that swim cap, Jazzercising to Maroon 5. Thank Silver Sneakers. Thank the free coffee in the hallway.

We greet each other in the locker room, maybe chat about the weather or a coming holiday. You might mention “the last time” you had cancer. Or your son who never could catch a break. Or the husband you outlived. “Can’t complain,” you’ll say. And I’ll agree.

I don’t expect my body to ever match that of a Kardashian or even a middle-aged starlet, you know the ones… they look so good for their age. No. I want to be at the gym, the day after my seventy-fifth birthday. Breaking a sweat. Cracking jokes.

Thank you, old ladies. Sure, you can sit here on this bench. Let me move my stuff.

My YTT

What does it mean to be ready? 

My YTT program begins Saturday. I am pumped. I’m also a little bit nervous. I gather that is normal. We are jumping right in with two full days.

I’ve been reading, keeping up with my practice, and gathering things I want and need. My friends and family have been incredibly generous with support, time, and love. Everyone asks, “Are you ready?”

What does it mean to be ready, paricularly for a journey like this?

1. I need to be and stay healthy. I can’t afford to lose any time to illness, mine or the kids’!

2. I need to be limber. I have some ideas and expectations, but I’m trying to let them go. My hamstrings and quads are tight as hell, and I’m working on loosening them.

3. I need to show up. My husband and kids are prepared to have me away from home a lot more than usual, and I am grateful for their understanding my need to do this.

Are my bags packed? No. But I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Except for one thing. I’m going to pick up some Epsom salts for sore muscle soaks before Saturday.

About Savasana, Yoga for non-yoga people

More about Savasana

Since I wrote about savasana post savasana yesterday, I was in a place with strong feelings. 24 hours + another yoga class with savasana later, I have a few more thoughts and a major retraction. Today won’t be the day I write it all out because it’s Friday, we’re heading into a busy weekend, and I haven’t organized it all yet. But I’ll say that yesterday’s post About Savasana is now officially going to be the first in an About Savasana series. Tktktk. 

About Savasana, meditation

About Savasana, pt. 1

As far as I can deduce, a typical yoga session boils down to three steps:

1. Breathing (Pranayama)

2. Movement or flow (Asana)

3. Rest and meditation (Savasana)
EDIT: this was originally a one-off post that evolved into a series about savasana. Read this, but read the retraction and further thoughts, too. 

There are infinite iterations of the above, and some days we focus on one or two of these things vs. the balance of the three, but we are always working up to Savasana.

Aka, “corpse pose.” This is where we seal in our practice. Empty the mind. Not focus. Personally, I don’t like the word corpse for this pose. Words I associate with corpse: heavy, end, final, haulted, bloated, decomposing, final, done.

In my mind, I call Savasana “float pose.” Like it sounds:

Shah – vah – sahn – ah
Words I associate with Savasana, or floating: light, free, flat, lifted, airy, clear, soft, open, beginning.

Perhaps this is a novice approach. Maybe I don’t understand Savasana. Maybe we all have a different understanding. In fact, some people skip Savasana altogether. I get it. That used to be me, spinning off and rushing to the next thing. But I embrace Savasana as the float. I’d rather start the next thing lifted, open, and light.

Living with intention

Lessons from Lithops and other plants

About two months ago, I decided to try my hand at succulents. I shopped around and added twenty plants to an online shopping cart, then got to work sketching where I would plant them. When I researched light requirements in-depth, I realized that the rocky succulent garden I had in mind would not work in front of the house, becuase these plants prefer Southern exposure.

As my garden progressed, I uncovered small hurdles… some plants need more nutrients, some less. Some are easily sunburned. Very few can handle winters here in zone 8a. My list of plants that could thrive here was getting shorter and shorter.

I deleted the online shopping cart and went to the local nursery. I let my kids each pick out a succulent, and my daughter picked a Lithops… a “living rock.” Sounds easy to care for, right?

After a few weeks in it’s new home, the plant started showing signs of ill health. The old me would have tried to revive it. More water, less water. More sun, less sun. The old me would have tried to do anything recover the plant, before tossing it into the compost heap for recycling.


But the now me, the me who accepts that I alone cannot do all the things, know all the things, and fix all the things, recognized that it was time to go to my community for guidance. I posted a photo of my sickly lithops, and immediately learned that it was, in fact, NOT a lithops, but a close relative called pleiospilos nelii. Not a living rock but a “split rock.” The extra leaves that we found appealing at the nursery are, in fact, a sign that the plant was in transition, and in fact I shouldn’t save them… they will feed the plant and shrivel. We had sunburned the plant by putting it in too strong sunlight, for too long, too soon. We had overwatered. We had made assumptions based on research, trusted the nursery would only sell a perfect plant, but we lacked the experience and patience to set the plant up properly.

We are not at our best acting solitarily, living in a vaccuum. Our plants, our selves, require not only sun and water, but patience, support and imput from those who have “been there,” acceptance of who and where we are, and time.

When I looked at this plant, I saw a plant that was dying. But people who have “been there” have assured me that if we re-pot the plant in the appropriate growing media, slowly acclimate it to it’s new home, and wait, the damage will “grow out,” the sunburned leaves will shrivel and nourish the plant, and new, healthy leaves with eventually grow.