Fascinating news today: Marmosets can meditate. Apparently researchers have been working with a technique of showing people what their brain waves look like when they meditate, to help people to recreate that state, and it worked for marmosets too – they were able to get the marmosets into a state of meditation, show them what their brain waves looked like, and then the marmosets could do it again. The marmosets want marshmallows to do it, but who cares? If we all gave ourselves a marshmallow after meditation practice, we’d still be doing ourselves way more good than harm.
Gilgamesh and the Yamas and Niyamas April 17, 2011
Reading the yamas and niyamas this month, I was reminded of one of my favorite literary passages. Gilgamesh is an ancient epic poem, chronicling the adventures of a long-ago king. Badly shaken and grieving after the death of his best friend, Gilgamesh sets out on a journey in search of the secret to eternal life, but what he learns is that we can’t control life or the future. What he learns is to live the life he has as best he can. Here’s my favorite quote:
“Humans are born, they live, then they die,
this is the order that the gods have decreed.
But until the end comes, enjoy your life,
spend it in happiness, not despair.
Savor your food, make each of your days
a delight, bathe and anoint yourself,
wear bright clothes that are sparkling clean,
let music and dancing fill your house,
love the child who holds you by the hand,
and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.
That is the best way for a man to live.”
– Shiduri the tavern keeper, to Gilgamesh
I see the yamas and niyamas in every line here. If Gilgamesh follows Shiduri’s instructions, he’ll also be following the yamas and niyamas, and he’ll be a better man with a simpler, more joyful, more spiritual life. I love that this wisdom isn’t just in spiritual books like the Yoga Sutras but also in one of the earliest stories known in human culture. I love that this epic isn’t just about adventure and ass-kickery, but about coming home and finding the best way to live.
And now for something completely different March 29, 2011
Since my blog’s been kind of a downer lately, today let’s talk about clothes!
I’ve gotten kind of picky about what I want to wear to yoga class. I hate doing yoga in loose-fitting clothes; I feel like a baggy t-shirt is always hanging in my face during down dog and riding up somewhere I don’t want it to. Same thing with pants, if they’re too baggy, they get in my way when I’m practicing. And I don’t like long pants, because then my legs get too warm in a vigorous practice, but I also can’t stand shorts (ever). So here’s what I like to wear for yoga. (FYI, gentlemen, you might want to stop reading here.)
Capri/cropped pants, close fitting but not too tight (to avoid the dreaded “camel toe” look), preferably with some flare at the bottom so I can easily fold them up over my knee during practice if needed. Elastic waist – no tie, no zipper, and none of that fold-over fabric thing that’s so popular with the kids these days, since that’s just more fabric to get in my way when I’m bending.
Right now I have four pairs of yoga pants that meet all these requirements. Two of them came from Target a year and a half ago; I looked at Target more recently but everything I tried on was of really thin material and resulted in camel toe. I got one new pair two weeks ago at Old Navy that I love (they even have pockets!). The ON website is down right now so I can’t link ’em but they were in their new GoGA collection (Go Go Active or something like that). I also got a pretty solid pair at Marshalls this past weekend. First I went to REI, felt ill at the thought of spending $55 on yoga pants, and then went to Marshalls, where I found a pair for $14.99 that seem like they’ll be quite serviceable. They also have a cute pattern on the waistband (which does not fold over).
Spaghetti strap tank top with a built-in bra. Because, okay, I hate sports bras. I find them really constricting and uncomfortable, and I honestly do not have enough bulk up front to really need one. When I’m jogging, a sports bra is a necessary evil (although there’s enough room in mine to store my iPod in there (and I even have a big old-school video iPod), and because that thing is way supportive the iPod doesn’t bounce at all!), but when I’m doing yoga, it’s just another layer of fabric. Which is important, actually, because if the room is chilly I don’t want my girls pointing at everyone. I actually feel a little conflicted about this. It’s yoga and I want to wear clothes that are comfortable, which would mean no bra, but I feel like it’s discourteous to be braless and potentially make my fellow yogis feel uncomfortable about the view. Considering my future as a yoga teacher, I feel like it’s possibly not professional to be braless in my workplace? I’ve only had one yoga teacher ever who went noticeably braless, which I was mostly cool with at the time (several years ago), but she was wearing a white tank which I thought was not too classy and was kind of distracting.Thoughts?
So it seems like the best solution for me will be tanks with built-in bras. I’ve been shopping for these a lot lately, and it’s surprisingly difficult to find one that is thick enough to be serviceable in a cold room and that also has spaghetti straps (because one of the other things I dislike about sports bras is the racer back). I have two really good tank tops right now that totally do the job, and are stretchy and comfy and also long enough to overlap the top of my pants and thus avoid getting a draft on my back while in a bendy pose. One of them I inherited from my friend Patty, and one of them is this PrAna top (the pink pattern is really cute in person), which is currently on clearance at REI for way cheaper than you can typically purchase a PrAna top. I know the usual price of PrAna tops because I did some top-shopping at REI this weekend too and didn’t buy anything because while yeah, they make nice stuff, I refuse to spend $48 on a freakin’ tank top. (Marshalls was a bust, no pun intended, in the tank department.) So right now I have two excellent tanks and a bunch of Old Navy basic cotton tanks that I have to wear with a sports bra. Hoping to find more of the built-in kind and phase out the ON tanks eventually. Or maybe look for a sports bra with spaghetti straps instead of a racer back, although I kind of want to stop purchasing sports bras altogether until my running bra falls apart, which shouldn’t be for a while as that thing has structural integrity like you wouldn’t believe.
So, dear readers, what do you find comfortable to wear for yoga? And where do you buy it?
Let’s explore that annoyance March 28, 2011
So, the carpet + dog hair + sticky mat issue at the yoga studio (which I mentioned last week) really is driving me nuts. In the interest of exploring my reactions, getting to know my brain better, and nurturing my yoga lifestyle, I thought to myself, what exactly is it about this situation that’s so maddening? Well, first, I just got this nice new yoga mat, and it happens to be super sticky, so it’s getting all gunked up with hair and crud. Now I cannot use my nice new yoga mat at home, because my father in law is deathly allergic to dogs and we try not to bring animal hair into our home, plus I don’t want to transport this gunk to my floors at home, so I am still using my old mat at home and I only get to use the nice new mat at the studio, where I look at it and don’t feel excited about my nice mat, only annoyed about the ick issue. I tried the lint roller but it’s just not sufficient for the level of stickiness combined with the level of gunk. So I feel annoyed, and further, I feel indignant – like, why can’t you have hardwood instead of carpet, how often do you vacuum this carpet anyway, why do bring your stupid dogs to the studio – at which point I get derailed, because that isn’t fair, they are nice dogs, N & J are entitled to run their business however they want, there may be any number of reasons why the studio is carpeted, and everyone leaves their shoes by the door so they are at least trying to keep the floor clean. So really what I am feeling is helpless, because I am experiencing a problem and I have no way to resolve that problem (the mat is gross, I can’t effectively clean it, and I can’t change the place where I bring the mat).
But, you know, that’s not really true either. I could vacuum the heck out of the mat when I got it home. I could take that sucker in the shower and hose it off. That would just involve a lot more time than I’m willing to invest in bi-weekly mat care. OK, then, if I cleaned it really well once then I could switch and take the old mat to the studio and use the nice one at home. Which I don’t really want to do either, because (1) the time to spend to get the thing actually clean, and (2) I don’t want to be limited to not using my good mat for the majority of my yoga practice. But I do have options – I just don’t want to explore any of these options. So now I am at the point where I need to either find another option (like buying a second nice mat to use at home) or accepting that the current situation is not going to change for the duration of this program. This should make me feel better: at least now I have considered all my options and concluded that I am not helpless, it is my choice to perpetuate the current situation, and there is a specific time when the problem will end. But if I choose this last option, that of acceptance, then I need to be at peace about the cleanliness of the mat. Period. I’ll lint-roll it periodically to keep from getting gunk on my feet, but other than that, peace. So why does that seem like the hardest option of all?
Random Yoga Tips of the Day March 21, 2011
- If you find that not just your hands and feet but, well, everything sticks to your yoga sticky mat, try using a regular ol’ lint roller to remove the excess gunk!
- Keep in mind that some gunk – for example, dog hair – is infinite, and no matter how vigorously or lengthily you lint-roll, you will never get it all. It’s good to do your best, and then practice letting go of results.
Clearly I need to practice the art of non-attachment (and so does my mat, really, but I think I stand a better chance of attaining it, since the mat has the excuse of being sticky).
(This post brought to you by Blue and Linus, East Eagle’s yoga dogs, with whom I spent much of the weekend, and by the studio’s low-pile carpet.)