Monday, March 9, 2015

Exper: A Course in Life, Weeks 2 & 3

I didn't end up writing anything in week 2. You don't care, and yet I must get defensive and protest that this is not to say that nothing went down! It merely delineates that some very important time was spent binging on House of Cards (season 3: meh), Grey's Anatomy (decent) and Downton Abbey (BEST EVER I DIE). I did also do a bunch of work and teach 10 classes (please hold your applause until the conclusion of the post). And I sallied forth in the noble pursuit of the study of improv!

YAY! Improv! Improv improv improv!

If we've interacted for more than five minutes at any point, you'll know that I love to be obsessed with things, and improv class is proving no exception. I don't find obsession to be creepy; I just see absolutely no point in half-assing anything and improv is currently pretty high on the list of efforts toward which I am delegating my full ass. So I am really trying, to the best of my ability, to do the thing. I am attending class and reading books and attending shows when possible. I am juggling my husband and my handful of jobs and dragging said husband and said jobs across town to the improv theater a few times per week. I am watching shows with medium-good improvisers and I am watching shows with very good improvisers. I am balancing my personal enjoyment of the comedy at hand with ferociously critical study of technique. I am listening and watching Very Carefully. I am Absorbing.

So far, I have noticed the following:

1. When improv is Very Good, it is *unbelievable*. I know I lean on the side of superlative, but I straight-up mean it this time. Pure, unadulterated disbelief, that this stuff is happening off the cuff. I like few things more than to have my mind blown, so needless to say this is thrilling to witness. 
2. When improv is Not Very Good, it is somewhat awkward and disappointing for the audience member and likely for the comedian/enne, and then everyone moves on with their lives and everything is and continues to be fine.

I am pleased with these findings because they give me something to be excited about and they are also a reminder that a the occasional lackluster yoga class is, similarly, nothing to cry over. Life moves on and nobody cares. Or at least certainly nobody cares as much as you do. This is a good thing.

I continue to find yoga and improv to be more or less the exact same discipline, which is to say they are organized permission to feel good and let your brain and body fulfill their potential. I had a conversation to that effect with a classmate, a comedian-turned-yogi who is friends with my cool/smart/funny friend Emily, the yogi-comedienne who introduced me to this whole thing to begin with. If you followed all that, high five. He agreed! And we were both really stoked to have found outlets and communities to help create happy bodies and happy brains. What could be better?

In week three of classes, I finally decided to be a rebel and leave my notebook and three pens at home. Instructor Rick said something really great, goddammit, so I ended up having to quickly type it down in the notes section of my phone. It absolutely killed me that I'm sure it looked like I was texting and not paying attention during this time. RICK I WAS TAKING NOTES AND I AM SORRY.

-- By the way, if you are interested in earning my undying admiration, all you have to do is become a halfway-decent instructor of any kind. Blow my mind with something simple and true (see above in re: obsession and also mind-blowing) and I will follow you around like an overexcited intern, making mental or physical note of your every word for as long as that isn't annoying, and sometimes well past that point. --

Anyhow, the noteworthy thing was this. We played a game where we had to do a brainstorm about a fake product. For each product attribute or sales idea mentioned, the whole team had to give a full-body YES right then and there. Yell it with your mouth and convey bodily excitement as well. So you build this crazy positive energy and that starts to feel really exciting, because we all know that attitude is the thing just as much as anything else. We control perception and perception creates reality. So the point of the game was to practice feeling fully immersed in every thing that happens over the course of a game, because there's no going back once the improv has started. "No matter what happens," he said, "it's your job to find a way to make it work. The behavior that happened or the thing that was said - why is that great? How is that perfect?" Classic Tim Gunn 101. Fair warning, I'm using this as dharma in my yoga classes all week. You always have a choice as to how you react and what story you choose to tell; YOU choose which reality you want to make true. THE WHOLE THING IS IMPROV, all of it. We can only move forward. Make it great, let it be perfect. That was my note, no pens needed.

A final item - I found out in the cutest way that I am one of the oldest people in my class. A cool/funny/smart fellow student who I thought to be roughly my age made a joke about studying for her midterms, and then laughed and said, "gosh, midterms, that makes me sound so young!" I asked if she was a grad student, and she said no, undergraduate. And then she said she was 22 in a voice that sounded like she felt strongly that 22 was not a very young age to be. And then other classmates that I had also thought were my age started chirping in about also being 22, or being 24 or 25 or 27. If I had been a cartoon person, you would have heard the deflation noise as my plastic body puddled to the floor. This is one of my first experiences being and truly feeling older than people in an organized setting and I cannot believe how my mind immediately jumped to thoughts of being some sort of educational cougar, like I should be ashamed of myself for being at improv class instead of having a job that involves real pants. I was so surprised to find that I care about age, and as of yet I don't know how to make it perfect, make it great.

So that's my next task, I suppose. Onward.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Exper: A Course in Life, Week 1

My first improv class was last week!

I have not had time to write anything about it, because Clay and I have been frantically re-plowing through the previous seasons of House of Cards in an inappropriately short period of time, trying to cram them in before the new season launched (today). Also because despite the fact that I quit my fancy advertising job a year ago, I somehow now have three or four jobs, all of which are exhausting and time-consuming (also, low-paying, sometimes tedious and always rewarding/completely amazing). Regardless, I haven't had a minute. Also, we didn't even make it all through season one. We are watching the season finale right now, neither of us paying attention, which means we're going to need to watch it a third time. If someone could do for me a UPS guy whiteboard-style explanation of the SanCorp-Tusk situation, I would really appreciate it.

To put it simply, I liked my improv class a lot. I liked the other people in the class, I liked the instructor, I liked the fact that this sort of thing is available where I live and that we had all come together in search of it. For a nominal fee, you can be given social permission to do things that come naturally to children - in this case, using your imagination. As someone who gently prods you into moving your body after years of being told to sit still, it is clear that the improv folks and me are in the same business. This is the business of unleashing your emotional demons for the betterment of the entire universe. Anyhow, we did all the things that you wanted us to do - awkward icebreakers, making noises and superhero gesticulations, discussion of the theory of 'YES, AND' and three hours of playing pretend. It was so much fun.

More specifically, here are the things that I liked about it.


Improv, while ultimately a silly business, is not some sort of willy-nilly free-for-all. Like yoga, it is a discipline, and the practice of improv is a (loosely) structured team effort or nobody eats. There are clearly defined rules, which are explained prior to each exercise by our cool, funny and smart instructor, Rick. During the game, he interrupts occasionally to issue gentle reprimands when people are not following the rules. He does this with all the firm cool politeness of the English nobility. He spares no-one; not the obviously cool drama class kid nor the woman who speaks almost no English and very clearly has no idea what we're talking about or asking her to do. My ridiculous regard for rule-following has been documented at length; this sort of behavior makes my heart swell. He interrupted me one time and I was so embarrassed, I didn't speak again for twenty minutes. Both improv and western society run on the assumption that participants have agreed to abide by a set system of rules; without this, all is chaos. And we can't have that.

2/ I am nothing if not MYSELF

Despite being a bashful mess at my own wedding for some unexplained reason, I love to be the center of attention. I will steal the spotlight at pretty much any cost, and performance art is certainly no exception. My mother has photos and a pretty good story about me doing this in a community theater production of A Little Princess at the age of 9; despite being very firmly in the chorus with one, maybe two lines max, I pretended to be the lead throughout every performance of the show, mimicking her every move from the background of the scene. I more or less elbowed the other chorus girls (my best friends) out of the way, on stage. I do not recall doing this but the photos are very plain, an incriminating detail that cannot be overlooked. I also don't remember anybody ever telling me that I was doing this or chastising me throughout the course of the show, so I can only hope it was cute or funny or unnoticeable, although the photos would beg otherwise. Anyhow, once we got to the part of the class where the floor was opened up for folks to step in, I could not help but volunteer myself over and over. As soon as a scene started, my brain started furiously pumping about how I could contribute, or, even better, start the next one. I got another gentle reprimand from Rick, this time about taking turns. It was mortifying, sure, and it felt like coming home. This is embarrassing to admit in a public forum, but I'm somewhat comforted to know that this still pervades. It's not a likable quality, but uncontrollable ambition does begrudgingly command a certain amount of respect. I will attempt to be more courteous to my classmates moving forward, but please know that it's killing me on the inside.

3. Improv, like most things worth pursuing, is WORK

It is not easy to be funny. It is not easy to anticipate what people will like. It is not easy to remember to trip over props that do not exist. It is not easy to wholeheartedly go with the implied assumptions of a person you just met an hour and twenty minutes ago, whose brain-space you do not yet even begin to understand, while living in a city which constantly reinforces the idea of sleeping with one eye open. All of this is okay with me. I love to be a student, and I love to work. If pencils weren't the bane of my left-handed existence I would have sharpened myself a nice bouquet before class. I brought three pens instead, on the off chance that A. we had to take notes (we didn't) and B. something happened to the first two pens (it didn't). I believe in preparedness and I believe in work. I like the idea that I am a student of comedy, just like I like the idea that I am a student of yoga and a student of life. I believe that the good things in this life are worth studying, and I am looking forward to having something new and entirely non-take-apart-able to try to dissect.

That's all. Week one was fun. Week two is in hot pursuit, and I am looking forward to it.

By the way, we decided to do this 9-minute teaser recap thing instead of re-watching everything because Clay had his pants on fire and just could not wait for me to sharpen my pencils over what exactly Francis was up to in season two (spoiler alert: it was a lot). If you have access to the UPS guy with the whiteboard, please do send him my way. RAP RAP.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Exper: A Course in Life

My entire life, or at least since the beginning of my social awareness, I have been trying desperately, to varying levels of success, to achieve the following adjectives/personal labels:

1. cool
2. funny
3. smart

Luckily, once you hit the mid-late 20s I think you begin to take on the mental capacity to understand that 'cool' is something you are born with. If you were not, attempting to find it is a waste of time and anxiety and money and headspace. I now understand that 'cool' should be replaced on everyone's list with 'confident' or 'secure' or something of the sort, and that switcheroo should happen just about as soon as possible. Cool is exhausting. Just do you. And THAT, my friends, is what makes you cool. This is why the nerds prosper later on in life, once they work up the juice to be psyched about their nerd status. Nerds are usually nerds because they're uncommonly good at something that society eventually values, even if it's video games.

Also luckily, to the same extent that cool is not a thing, I find that being funny is just highlighting the best parts of situations, something anyone can do, and being smart is within the reach of pretty much anybody who's interested. Taking most of the time and energy you used to spend trying to crimp your hair (cool) and diverting all of that into the never-ending quest for funnies and smarts will take you far in life.

This is my postulate.

I found myself in a bit of a rut on the above as of late, as ya do, and as such have signed myself up for an 8-week course in improvisational comedy. Improv classes! At a theater. In Manhattan. FREE SHOW AT THE END OF THE COURSE. What is this life?!?! I have also found myself in a bit of a rut on the writing front and thought I'd marry the two here for you, an upstanding member of the society that values the two-for-one. In my head, there are endless parallels to be drawn between the ability to disregard one's awkwardness and all things that are beautiful in life and I plan to carry on about those parallels at great length in this public forum. And likely also in my yoga classes. Get excited.

This is to be categorized as a Life Experiment. Because what is life, if not one giant improvisational comedy? Nobody knows what's coming next, not even your shaman, you shameless hipster. And comedy can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.* I must take the time here to express the urgency with which I recommend experimentation. Without a bit of experimentation in our lives, we devote our existence toward the paying of bills, and this I can neither live with nor abide. Experimentation is how we learn and have experiences. Seek out any word with the root 'exper,' really, and only good stuff can come of it. I also believe that it is possible to experiment within the guidelines of the rules and laws of your given society. This is how genius money machines like molecular gastronomy and yoga teacher training and trapeze classes end up making the big bucks (do they? I have no idea). Plenty of drug-free fun to be had out there, people! Only you can prevent forest fires.

I will begin my improv education at the Magnet Theater. I know two things about the Magnet Theater:

A. My cool, funny and smart friend Emily works/performs there
B. My cool, funny and smart friend Kelly took improv classes there, and when I mentioned Emily (A.) she said, "I've heard of her. She's cool and funny. And smart."

Magnet Theater, please take my money.

Class starts tomorrow. I signed up for it yesterday. I'll see you on the other side.

*Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, quote modified, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (screenplay)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New York anniversary, year 4.

I'm a few weeks late on my fourth-anniversary-in-New-York post, or something, which is just about perfect for my current state of mind and affairs. This is not to say that I've taken toward tardiness, as my yoga schedule relies quite a bit on heavily-pointed promptness - it's more like I've refocused the lens in terms of which things do and do not require certain levels of attention and priority.

I've fallen out of frenzy into a softer variation of busyness. A softer variation of everything, even, but still within the context of the city. Still a bee, but probably not the first one out of the hive on any given day. Definitely not, in fact - as I slip further and further into this warm bath, I've found myself staring at the hoards of subway riders exploding forth from the doors like water from a dam while I putter about, wondering what exactly they are rushing to, and for.

It's a lot of this - time for wondering about inane things. I love it so much. I imagine that it's a little bit like being in a coma, or an extremely pleasant and extended dream. I understand that it is probably super annoying. But I can only take care of myself and my family, and so here we are.

The city is playing very prettily toward my little tableau, with the sunbeams on full blast and seemingly doing its level best to hold off on the god-awful stinking humidity for as long as possible. It's golden hour after golden hour, and if you steer clear of Chinatown in direct sunlight I would say you can really do pretty well to avoid that fetid summertime ripeness that New York is so famous for. No promises for July and August, though.

We're rounding the corner on three months in our third apartment in our third neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's our favorite spot yet - the aesthetic a combination of modern and vintage, the neighborhood a combination of grit and warmth. Three being the auspicious number of balance, and I would say that we are feeling pretty darn balanced as we settle into our new cubbyhole. No longer wishing for more space, a different view, or really much of anything at all. And as we talk more and more about what's next, I actually feel for the first time like we can't leave. Because of all of this - this neighborhood and this community and my amazing, amazing friends.

These friends! I am sometimes so surprised to look around me and see such a dense and varied garden of loyal compatriots. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was sitting alone in our Dumbo apartment night after night, waiting for Clay to come home. My yoga situation actually allows me to balance soothing my inner introvert with my tendencies toward friend-neglect, giving me plenty of alone time during the day and freeing up nights and weekends for socializing. My friends are envious of my schedule and I of their income, and we all do our best to support each other anyway. Between the husband and the lifestyle and the city and the people, I've never felt so supported in my whole life.

I feel so here, really here, moreso than I ever have. 'Putting down roots' is the best way to say it. No longer arriving, a polite observer and a thank-you-very-much-for-letting-me-squat-here-for-a-while sort of participant, but a solid and fully-acclimated piece of the root system. Like if I left, the city might notice, might lose its own balance, if only for a minute.

Today I stand in tadasana on our new balcony and let the hot wind whip through my hair and splayed fingers, feeling every inch a mountain as the trains blow by on the Williamsburg bridge. I can feel myself growing right up out of the concrete, reaching as far down into the dirt as my skull is tall. The people continue to burst out of the subway cars like ants from a desecrated anthill, but I am not one of them, no longer. I am the earth, I am the wind.

I'm losing, loosening, my grip. And it's nice.

Friday, April 25, 2014

To every end.

So as it turns out, that was a big fat lie, at the end of that last one. Remember how I said I was going to write about a yoga pose for you once a week, keep it coming, something to chew on? And then I just didn't, not even once?

As it were, I just didn't have time. I know that's a crappy excuse, but it's true. And it became somewhat of a theme - had been becoming a theme for some time - until I decided that something had to be done about it, because I was falling apart trying to do it all, to be it all. Either I could pound away at the ad factory all day and try to feed my growing addiction in the wee hours of the mornings and evenings or I could leave it all behind in favor of time, time to play on my mat and write and meditate and practice my Italian, maybe teach myself how to play the cello. And maybe build a little business sharing my yoga with the world.

Needless to say, I chose door number two, so here we are. I am a brand new soul today; today is graduation, and I am so thankful to be here. I am certain that I was always going to find my way here. Even two years ago when I was sobbing on the kitchen floor at 2am, on night 9,827 (or so it seemed) of 14-hour days, begging my husband or myself or whoever was listening to save me, find me a new career, help me claw my way out of the darkness; even when it was so unthinkable that things could ever get better. Even then, I was always going to get here. Which is such a relief.

I am so incredibly grateful to my amazing husband for supporting me (both emotionally and financially) in pursuing my journey. He jumped in feet first, never even blinked. And has continued to not blink through every panic attack I've had since then, from telling my boss to officially putting in my resignation to hiring my replacement and so on and so forth. Thank you so much for not blinking, my darling. You are my lighthouse.

I am also really grateful to my lovely soon-to-be-former co-workers, who are some of the smartest people I know and were so super cool when I told them my plan. Pretty sure they saw it coming a mile away, but still, I appreciate the lack of freak-out and the lack of lecture and the lack of anything but support, even as I told them I was jumping ship. You guys have been my family this past year and a half. If it weren't for this turning of the heart, I would never be leaving you, and I want for you to do so, so well. You deserve it so much. Cuties.

At the end of every class, I repeat this mantra -

we give thanks to ALL of our teachers
and ask that they ALWAYS keep teaching us.

- something I learned from my mentor and she learned from hers. The first time I heard this, I actually laughed out loud - is this chick seriously asking us to thank her publicly for this class? But as the sun salutations began to permeate and my raging cynicism began to soften, I've noticed how the word 'teacher' has begun to expand.

She wasn't referring to herself, the person directing the class, telling you to breathe. She was talking about your family and friends and coworkers and clients and the person who accidentally stepped on you in the subway and the guy who is screaming at the bagel counter and the dog who hasn't had enough to eat and the child who is wailing and the leaves that are growing and the trees and the bugs and the dirt and the air and every single precious instant of every single day, telling you to breathe. All teachers. She was mostly talking about you, yourself, the you that is hiding under all the muck, the only teacher of your own truth. That beating heart, those hungry lungs. Telling you to breathe.

Every moment is a perfect time to learn something new. And I ask that you always keep teaching me.

Smell you later, advertising. I am cautiously, anxiously but oh-so-thankfully out.


and release.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Back to the Blog: Never Hold Your Best Stuff

This is the story of how I became a real writer, quit my job as a real writer, and realized (again) that I will always be a writer so long as I am writing. For your sake (also, let's face it, I'm trying to keep the drama at bay), I'm going to keep it brief.

For the past few months, I have been writing a weekly column about yoga for an online magazine. The editor of said magazine had reached out to ask me to be a contributor after reading the yoga posts on my blog and I nearly up and died of happiness. Seriously, it was a close one and I actually cannot believe that I am still here and able to write to you today because I was nearly dead at the thought of it. I've wanted to be a writer since I could hold a pencil and couldn't believe that a Real Live Editor wanted to pay ME to write. In my head at this point, by the way, I am frantically trying to decide what would be the most sensible location to start my book tour. Anyhow, we got the paperwork sorted and eventually we were live and I was writing, a Real Writer, just like I always wanted to be.

I submitted my first piece like a proud parent, carefully crafting, uploading and triumphantly smacking that send button and was admittedly a bit taken aback to see it edited down significantly "for length" and published without my approval. I brushed aside that nagging stinging feeling, told myself that it was just a matter of getting used to having an editor, that she was just doing her job, which was true. You guys were reading it and liking it! So that was fun, and I decided would get used to it - on to the next. The second piece was also sliced and diced and shortened, as was the third. The frustration built as I struggled to convince myself that the points I had included in the pieces were unimportant, knowing I didn't believe it to be true. And again, positive feedback, and again I swept the hurt under the rug.

After a thorough round of editing, I found the fourth piece to be completely unrecognizable in meaning and in tone. It was published after I forbade and even tearfully begged the editor not to do so, lest they publish sensationalist fluff under my name. This, of course, was the instant where I could choose to either throw a temper tantrum at the overt unfairness and (my opinion) horrendous editing and quit in an explosive show of fireworks, or choose to do and see and say and be something else.

It was tough, but I ended up going with option B and kindly explained that it was a liability to my career as a yoga teacher (ummm... also as a WRITER) to have my words edited and published without my approval. And that I would like to be released from my contract, please and thank you. And they agreed to, very graciously, and that was that.

Only that wasn't that, because I got all kinds of really nice feedback from my circle of friends, asking me to continue writing. So I am going to keep doing these posts as my schedule allows, trying to bring you an asana of the week (or some other yoga tidbit on a weekly basis) here on my own blog, my own little chunk of the tubes where I always have been, and always will be, a Real Writer.

I've reposted the four pieces here on the blog in their original versions, for your viewing pleasure.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga, Injury and YOU (this is the one that caused all the trouble)
The Warrior Poses, and Why They are Cool
Chaturanga: Seriously, You Can Do It
Downward-Facing Dog: A How-To

I'm also sharing this article, because it was sent to me by a friend as I was writing this post. If that ain't the universe trying to tell me something, I don't know what is. The late Peter Kaplan, on writing - from Clay Felker's obituary tribute.

There were Felkerian adages:
1. Never hold your best stuff.
2. Put something shocking at the top of the page.
3. Women are the best reporters.
4. Point of view is everything.
5. Personal is better.
6. Never hold your best stuff.

I will no longer be holding my best stuff. And I am going to be the filter, because I am fully capable of deciding what's good. And that's all I have to say about that.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga, Injury and YOU

This article was originally posted on TheKnow on Nov 8, 2013, in an edited format.

The New York Times put out an article earlier this week showing that yoga can be seriously detrimental to the body, causing severe pain to the hips of fairly serious female yogis. My social media feed blew up more or less immediately as all my peeps started to rabble and grumble and several friends with hip issues swore off yoga forever. Three of my friends emailed the article to me directly – "What do you think about THIS, yoga-face?" – people all up in arms, because the whole thing is supposed to help you live forever and whatnot.

So, fine. I am not a 20-year yoga practitioner; I am not a doctor. I am but a speck in the universe with no fancy data or degree. I AM, however, a yoga teacher (and the owner of a pair of very stubborn hips) and as I've been encouraging you to explore your own practice and truly believe you should continue to do so, I feel like I should respond. So here's what I think.

This all seems like an inevitability. And kind of obvious. Blerg. Depressing but true. Hear me out, if you would.

Yoga has been widely adopted as a hot, hot piece of the get-fit pie in Western cultures. Here in America in particular, the word lends to images of bending and twisting and sweating in stretchy clothes on colorful rubber mats. I am a large proponent of colorful paraphernalia. People seriously love this version of yoga. It is approachable and super fun! High fives for everyone, because yoga can be such an incredible force towards the good, and if desire for fitness and a LuluLemon sports bra is the way in, then I'm all for it. However... a tiny, gentle reminder this isn't exactly the intention, nor the promise, of the practice.

Yoga, as defined by the Yoga Sutras (the oldest recorded yoga text), is this and only this: we become whole by stopping the mind from turning things in the wrong way.

Translation: the practice of yoga is that which helps the sadhaka, or practitioner, to clear away the mental muck and see some real truth, to see the true Self.

Quoi? What about the handstands?

The asana are one limb (out of eight) of the yogic path to enlightenment. The other seven limbs are about discipline, breath and meditation work and definitely do not mention anything about handstands. The asana practice may be a gateway drug to a happier, healthier life, but it is not, on its own, the yoga.

The asana practice is a physical purifier, essentially - it was designed to create a healthy body, as well as to move energy from all over your body into your central channels so that your enlightenment potential is tip-top and you're set up to sort out that chitta vritti, or twisty-turny mind-stuff, without bloating or a sore knee getting in the way. It is definitely not intended to be practiced in a silo. Certain traditions don't even recommend attempting the asana until your meditation is in a good place, because let's face it, our brains are kind of a mess and the asana is a grueling practice requiring acute mental sharpness. Which brings me back to the hips thing.

Truth is, the majority of American yogis are not practicing eight limbs. And they are so important. But, I mean, right? Probably not. Four days out of five, I am also a "probably not." This doesn't makes us bad people; it's just the reality of the busy-bee culture. However, it is likely the lack of attention to those seven less-glamorous limbs that makes modern yogis susceptible to injury.

Three reasons why:

1. The asana are HARD. The practice as a whole is meant to be hard, so as to burn away the gunk and purify the body from the inside out. IT IS SUPER HARD. Do not be fooled by the cute outfits.
2. You are a unique snowflake and not every pose works exactly the same way on every body.
3. We have eyeballs and like to compete with the people around us, because, who knows. (hint: it's that mind stuff from earlier)

Because the majority of us are not working on our mind-stuff as per the other seven limbs (which might help us away from a quest for physical perfection), we are likely always pushing ourselves harder than makes sense for our bodies. If your brain is twisting your perceptions around, you're not likely to be listening to your body for the subtle cues that something isn't right. Also, you're likely to be attempting to out-handstand Red Yoga Pants next to you for no real reason other than your need to be the winner.

Even if it's just the tiniest bit harder because Red Yoga Pants is a total show-off, even if your left hip is only off by the tiniest of smidges in your Warrior I, this is the kind of shit that will wear on your body over time, guaranteed. Have you ever practiced blindfolded? It FEELS different, and I can guarantee you that your poses look different because you are more likely to be honoring your body and making the modifications, however slight, that make sense for you. This doesn't mean avoiding any and all discomfort, but it does mean taking a quick scan of that discomfort and categorizing it as safe and endurance-building tension versus pain. Always, always back off of anything that is causing pain! It might be a tiny tiny pain, but it is your red flag that something is not right. The poses were designed for and by people who were on a journey to clean their minds and who were listening like hell to everything their bodies were saying. They were avoiding injury like the plague because injury would only hinder their ability to achieve enlightenment, which was the only goal of the whole thing.

Now, if you're practicing asana three to five times per week and the idea of a yogic path is a bit much for you, that makes you an athlete. For real. Go you! Because yoga makes you feel good and involves soft lighting and emotional music and sometimes maybe makes you cry, it often gets dumped into the 'soft lady workouts' bucket. Do not be deceived. As mentioned above, this shit is for real. It is bodyweight resistance training, it is a serious endurance workout, it is incredibly hard and super strenuous. A baseball pitcher who pitches for an hour 3-5 days per week, if he or she is not SUPER careful, might end up with a sore rotator cuff that needs reconstruction in ten years. Nobody would argue that that person is an athlete, and nobody would be surprised about the sore rotator cuff. Why is this any different? Is it the pants?

Do not, under any circumstance, let society or your twisted mind-stuff tell you that you are not an athlete. You are, totally and completely. Even if you ARE on the eightfold path, you're still an athlete. Be careful with your body. It is your vessel! And you are stuck with this one for the time being – you want to keep it feeling good.

Please keep practicing. Please look into the rest of it, if it piques your interest at all, because it is kind of the majority of the thing and will improve your asana practice, guaranteed. Above all else, do what works for you, and leave the rest, but do so from an educated perspective, keeping your own best interests (and those of your body) in mind.

That is all I have to say about that.