Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 2 update

Yesterday was one of those sucky days that disappear into the void of Internet and aimless eating. I began the day by not waking up in time for Sehri or prayers and then it went downhill. I did roast those tomatoes, thank God. Filled them with a mixture of rice and chickpeas and vegetables and put them in the oven for half an hour.

It could have been a complete waste of a day except... I pushed myself out for yoga class. An excellent yoga class at the Y, one and a half hours of movement work and hatha yoga. I was panting through some of the moves because I am so out of shape. So Out Of Shape. But at some point, we were in downward dog and I was looking at all the downward dogs behind me, each body beautiful in its own way, one curvy, one sinuous, one with a bandaged hand gamely holding the floor up, one old and bent by life. What the hell is in In Shape anyway?

I don't alwasy see things this way. Most of the time I am judging my body and that of others'. But for the space of one moment, I saw our tender, lovely materiality. Then the moment passed and I was back to panting and wishing I had a better body.

Today, it's again an evening class for me. On the whole I prefer morning yoga. It's a great way to begin the day and it's good to have it behind me, otherwise I have to work my schedule around it.

I didn't check my email for the 30-day yoga journey email until today. So here's catching up.

1. Begin a mantra for new beginnings and removing obstacles - Ganesh Mantra

2. Designate a notebook for your 30-days-it can be a specially designed journal, or a generic notebook. The notebook I'm using is in the picture. For today, just write your name on the cover.

No.2 is easily done. There's no shortage of pretty books in this household. But No.1 I hesitate about. Deborah's email makes it clear that this is a natural reaction. She is used to people finding mantra meditation weird. But, actually I don't. I believe absolutely in sound healing. That is why I am hesitating. I don't know if it is right to chant a mantra from a spiritual tradition without really belonging to that tradition, without undertstanding what the mantra really means, what it's context is. There is sound healing in the Muslim tradition too, in the form of dhikr. And dhikr is a very crucial part of the Sufi path. So I am going to reinvent this step and instead of the Ganesh mantra, I am going to chant the Kalima. In a way, this is beautifully serendipitous because I had moved very far away from the Sufi path. I had forgotten all abt dhikr. So right here, on the second day of my yoga-everyday journey, yoga and sufism are meeting each other and saying, "Bonjour! Let's work together!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

30-day yoga journey

Here is the perfect kick-start to my yoga-every-day project. Deborah Bernstein, yoga teacher and writer, is offering a 30-day yoga journey for whoever wants to take their yoga practice to another level. Every day for the next thirty days, Deborah will send a practice tool to my inbox.

From her email:

I've sketched out a process of physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotionally nourishing practices to live over the next 30-days. Some are practices that I developed to enhance my well-being and some are practices that I have researched and learned about from others.

Today's practice:

Day 1: Commit to your self-care For today, write an affirmation that is a contract with yourself. Commit to 30-days of wellness, perhaps note a goal, or perhaps keep it open-ended to see what outcomes arise naturally.

And here is my affirmation:

I commit to thirty days of yoga. I open my body, mind, and spirit to the magic of daily yoga. I will find the time and space and the mood for yoga, even on days when there is no time, space, and mood. I will listen to what my body has to teach me. I will honor my aspirations, be they lofty or shallow, for a better, more beautiful, happier me.


1. More and more these days, I am beginning to get that the "everyday" is an important component of doing something well. By honoring yoga with a daily commitment, I am always close to it. My next yoga is never more than twenty-four hours away.

2. Isn't it interesting that unlike most other markers of time, the day is a naturally provided unit of time? It's the amount of time it takes for the earth to rotate on its own axis. There is something organic about making a commitment to do something every day in the space between sunrise and sunset.

3. It anchors my free-floating schedule to have a rock-solid commitment every day. I have learned the hard way that discipline is paramount to the creative life. Ass-in-chair-time as a writer put it. Making a daily commitment to yoga is hopefully the beginning of a journey that celebrates creative discipline.

yoga and tomatoes

I woke up early this morning for sehri. (Helps to be jet-lagged.) Full of good intentions to heat up yesterday's beans and rice and tortillas for a nourishing sehri, but at 4.45 with fajr minutes away, fell back on a bowl of cereal and fruit. Then after prayers, I sat on the rocking chair trying to meditate/ watching the sun rise just beyond the scraggly tomato plant on my fire escape. The next thing I know I was waking up and it was 6.10 in the morning. Ten minutes too late for my walk to the Y for the yoga class. Of course, I could not go late to class. Besides I was too sleepy to do justice to the class. I have thirty-two years of experience coming up with excuses that make me feel like I am doing a favor to the world by not doing what I have to do.

I went anyway. It must have taken two minutes of grim self-parenting to get into my yoga clothes and leave the apartment. But the moment I stepped out into the bracing dawn air, I was glad I did it. Early morning joggers and delighted dogs in the park. Light slowly filling the shadows. Everything fresh and stark.

I was late by ten minutes. The teacher made me and a biker guy who was late, wait till the class finished a beginning round of shavasana. Then we slipped into class. This morning class is a pretty mellow, slow-moving class. Lots of stretching and alignment. I really like the teacher and in fact, when I think of him waking up at godknowswhen to make it from midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn for this early morning class, three days a week, I know how silly my own excuses are.

Since I just got back to the city, so many of the things that used to be routine are now new all over to me. Like the walk to and from the Y. It's a half an hour walk and it takes me through the park and downtown Brooklyn. At that hour, it's mostly people who are exercising and the proletariat, mostly immigrant, on their way back from early morning shifts. City coming alive. The walk is half an hour each way and provides the perfect cardio-bookends to my mellow yoga class. Besides I get to buy my vegetables. Today, a fruit cart vendor had tomatoes at 75 cents for a pound. So I came home with three pounds of tomatoes. There are stuffed tomatoes in my immediate future.

Yoga. Every day. Once a day.

For the next three months. No excuses.