Gallo pinto and eggs and the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever taste for breakfast. White-water rafting on Rio Sarapiqui. Mountain biking around Volcan Arenal. Vinyasa yoga in an open-air pavilion overlooking the Pacific, the sounds of the ocean and birds and white-faced capuchins and air moist with promise surrounding you in savasana. Snorkeling in the shimmering green waters of Isla Tortuga. Mornings in the hammock, Centenario and Coke at night. Even the rum tastes better there.
One day near the end of August I woke up with my knee throbbing.
I decided to stay home and rest. I grabbed some ice and propped my knee up and watched terrible daytime television and cried.
By 2 pm, I was bored. So I got up and drove myself to Crocheron Park, where I sat by the pond and finished reading Daring Greatly.
Then I walked over to the Bayside Marina and kept walking. And walking. Until I stood underneath the approach to the Throgs Neck Bridge. Then I turned around and walked back.
My knee still hurt. But not as much as it had when I first woke up. And I realized: I had tried to protect myself from the knee pain by being as sedentary as possible. What I’d done, instead, was pack on an extra five pounds, which my knee definitely couldn’t take. I know five pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am just over five feet tall, and, at the time, weighed more than I had ever weighed before– over 147 pounds.
In the eight weeks since I took that walk along Little Neck Bay, I’ve shed 11.4 pounds. I resolved to move my body in some way, at least six days a week. I began tracking my food intake with an application on my iPhone (Lose It!), and I dug up the Polar Heart Rate Monitor my sister gave me last Christmas to track my calories burned with every work out. And so I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine. Mondays and Wednesdays, I work out at home. I do one of my Jillian Michaels DVDs (usually No More Trouble Zones because it is ROUGH), then follow up with an hour of incline walking on the treadmill I bought three years ago (which has only been used sporadically up until now). Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do cardio at the gym (typically a StairMaster/elliptical combo since I have the treadmill at home. I do at least 30 minutes, but usually closer to an hour), then go to my regular 90-minute Hot Vinyasa Flow class. Fridays, I go to the gym for my favorite, leg day. Saturday is whatever I feel like doing– most of the time I’ll walk around my neighborhood, or do my Butt Bible dvd plus a yoga class. This is the most consistent I’ve been about working out since I was still in law school, and routinely shirked my study duties by spending hours at the gym. My consistency has paid off.
My knee feels so much better now. Without the extra weight, there’s less pressure on the joint. And all the strength-building I’ve been doing has helped stabilize my patella so it doesn’t slide all over the place and get compressed when I bend the knee. I spent 30 minutes on the StairMaster yesterday and my knee feels totally normal. So it occurred to me– why can’t I run?
I want to run again. I miss it terribly. I never thought I’d miss it, but I do. As always, I don’t want to hurt myself again. So I will wait until I am under 130 pounds, and then I will start the Couch to 5k program. When I weighed myself yesterday, I was 135.8. My 31st birthday is in three weeks. My goal is to do the first day of the program the weekend after my birthday. It’s time.
And now I’m off to the gym!
This I know, for I found this awesome video:
Real post coming soon. I just HAD to share.
I’ve been thinking about what I’d write here for the last month.
It isn’t that I haven’t had ideas. I have several posts sitting in my drafts, getting dusty. I could’ve just pressed “publish” and and patted myself on the back for blogging. But something about those posts felt inauthentic to me. So I let them sit there. For weeks.
In the mean time, I’ve been to Boston to hang out with one of my best friends, started making friendship bracelets again, read four books (The Indian Bride by Karin Fossum, The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger, Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino, and Boundaries by Elizabeth Nunez). I nearly passed out while crossing Queens Boulevard after a hot Vinyasa class on a 96 degree day (in other words, I almost died). I’ve missed a man, started tapping, and gained five pounds. I’ve spazzed on a co-worker. I was annoyed, but the sheer nastiness that flew out of my mouth surprised even me, and while I think everyone else involved was also annoyed by his actions, my sharp Scorpio tongue was not completely warranted, especially at work. I’ve written in my journal and cried and prayed and spent a day on Long Beach wishing and hoping that summer will stay forever because my moods are so much heavier when it’s cold and dark out. And that’s pretty fucking awful. I’ve gotten bad news and planned fantasy vacations, bought a new dress in a bigger size and it still didn’t fit. I’ve worn makeup for the first time in a long while and gotten annoyed by the compliments, by people staring at me, telling me how pretty I am. Like, shut up. That is why I stopped wearing it in the first place. No one ever says I’m pretty without it. I’ve stared at my phone, waiting for it to ring, and turned it off for two days because it disappointed me. I’ve washed my hair twice and dreamed about locking it because I am tired of the constant maintenance my loose natural hair requires. I ate grilled chicken salad with fries three times in one week and remembered that, fifteen years ago, I would’ve just thrown it all up. I’ve seen friends hurt and I’ve wanted to hurt someone– a woman who finds ways to passively-aggressively intrude upon my life. She wants to know the truth, but she doesn’t want to ask. I know what I will say should she ever muster up the courage to ask what happened, nearly six years ago. Funny how the past haunts us both.
In my last post, I wondered if I had the tools to get through this on my own. I ditched my therapist a year ago because I didn’t feel like she was helping me. I chose her initially because she seemed to understand me. We were from similar backgrounds. But I think perhaps we crossed the line. She spoke to me sometimes as more of a friend. She revealed some of herself to me. And because of the things she revealed, I could no longer trust her with my secrets. I couldn’t tell her, my therapist, the things I can’t tell anyone. And if I couldn’t be candid with her, how could she help me? I stopped answering her calls. I never know how to break up with anyone.
The fact is, though, that I’m pretty sure yoga and prayer are not enough for me. When I first met my therapist, she made me complete a battery of tests and told me that I had no diagnosable mental disorder. This was the same thing I’d been told by a psychiatrist my mother took me to see when I was in high school, after I was almost suspended for cussing out a classmate in front of several teachers. In college, I was a peer counselor, and our requirements included attending sessions with our director, a licensed therapist herself. She told me she worried for me because I took on what other people felt and made it my own. I seemed self-destructive to her. A year later, a boyfriend told me, “You know what your problem is? You need to quit feeling sorry for yourself.”
The solution was that simple to him, and it seemed to make sense at the time. Whenever I’d hit a slump, like this one, I’d tell myself to get it together, to quit feeling sorry for myself. And I’d find something to distract myself and pretend I was okay.
It took me almost a decade to realize this: I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve had a fairly easy life. I know this. I appreciate it.
I am angry. With myself. Furious. Seething. For the mistakes I’ve made. For the secrets I can’t share.
I’ve been carrying this anger around with me for much of my life. It started from a tiny seed, deep in my belly, nearly 18 years ago. And it grew, flourished really, with each horrible predicament I placed myself in. Now it’s like kudzu, thriving and invasive. It’s what has me here, today, looking at my path, at what I feel are my only available options, and seeing the destruction Cassandra saw when she looked at me, when I was only 20 and clueless. Now I know what she was talking about.
I don’t need to quit feeling sorry for myself. I need deliverance.
Yoga and prayer help. They do. Yoga made me confront myself, made me acknowledge that I was even angry in the first place. I know I’ll never discuss any of these things that make me angry with anyone in my life. I don’t talk about my problems, because who wants to hear a privileged person complain? Even writing, sharing this is difficult.
The truth is, I just need a little help.
Still recovering from a cold that knocked me over last week. Despite my sore lungs, I managed to drag myself to Pure East for a very special workshop this past Saturday.
That’s Mandy Ingber with her arm around my shoulders. Yes, that Mandy Ingber, who played Polly in Teen Witch and now teaches yoga to the stars. I TOOK A CLASS WITH POLLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have you all forgotten how much I love Teen Witch? Well, you can refresh your memory here. The class was fun, her signature hybrid of yoga with strength-building moves. I love that she introduced herself to everyone who set foot in the room and asked if we had any issues or injuries she should know about before we began our practice. I can tell that she’s used to working with private clients because her general class cues were sometimes vague and full of what Laurie calls “throw-away” words. For example, she’d say “We’re gonna shift into plank” rather than the more direct “Shift into plank.” HOWEVER, she assisted everyone in the room several times and when she offered individual instruction, her cues were much more specific and helpful. She was really sweet and quite hilarious. I would definitely recommend that you catch a class with her in your city if you can! I’m currently reading her new book, Yogalosophy (which she autographed for me!!!!!!!!!!!!), and I’m thinking about buying one of her dvds.
So this kid who attends my “home” studio kind of annoys me.
[sidenote: He’s like 23 and it is very scary to me that I am old enough to think of him as a kid. But he sometimes behaves like an overgrown 8-year-old. So I do.]
Upon my return to LY, he said, “Oh Keisha! You just finished teacher training, right? You need to practice in the front row so I can check out your skills!”
We’ve already established that I have zero tact. I just ignored him and set my mat in my usual corner in the back row.
After class, a student who was relatively new to the studio overheard him lamenting the fact that the teacher hadn’t done Bird of Paradise. She asked him what the pose looked like. I was, again, in the corner, minding my business, just trying to let the effects of the practice sink into my bones. The kid turned to me and said, “You can do Bird of Paradise, right? Can you show us?”
Without looking at him, I began to pack my things and said, “I have to get home. But since you wanted to do it in class so badly, why don’t you do it?”
I’m not sure if he caught the annoyance in my voice, because he clapped his hands and said, “You’re right!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate the pose as I sidestepped his puddles of sweat on the bamboo floor, trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, before he could make any more ludicrous requests of me.
It took me a little while to figure out why I was so annoyed, and why I’ve since avoided taking classes with him. But here it is:
I’m not a show pony.
I didn’t go through teacher training to become some superstar yogini.
I took the course because I wanted to learn how to teach yoga.
The fact of the matter is, although I have a fairly regular physical practice, there are just certain poses that my body, at this point, is unable to do. I don’t necessarily have the lightness and fearlessness required for arm balances and inversions. I also have tight hips, tight quads, tight hamstrings. Pretty much the only part of my body where I’m not tight is my shoulders. So the arms in Gomukhasana are no problem…but that’s not particularly impressive. I’m working on increasing my flexibility— I’ve even begun a yin practice. But that takes time. I have learned not to push myself. Pushing myself (training for the 10k that never was) is how I ended up with this bum knee. And I certainly won’t push myself for some overzealous student’s entertainment.
I can do Bird of Paradise, for the most part. My hamstrings do not allow me to extend my leg all the way. I’m okay with that. Some days, my leg can straighten nearly all the way. Other days, I just chill in Utthita Parsvakonasana with my arms bound, and I don’t bother with Bird of Paradise. Honestly…the fact that I can even bind facing my right is a physical triumph for me. I have scoliosis; my spine hooks to the left (which I exacerbate, much to my mother’s exasperation, by carrying my very heavy purse on my left shoulder), so twisting to the right can be downright painful for me. Regardless of my issues with the pose, it bothered me that this kid just assumed that I would perform for him.
I don’t go to class to show off. I go because it makes me feel good. Compliments about the “impressive” poses I can do make me slightly uncomfortable. Is it nice to be able to do beautiful things with my body? Absolutely. But the satisfaction of those poses comes from the hard work it takes to learn them, to make them work for my body. And one thing I learned throughout my teacher training—the physical practice is the least important part of this yoga journey for me. Asana, though challenging, is not the reason why I show up to my mat every day.
When I attend classes, I try my best not to pay attention to the yogis around me. My practice is my practice. It doesn’t serve me to steal glances at another woman’s Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and wonder why she can get her back leg so high in the air and float there like magic, while I struggle to lift off for even just a few seconds. So the idea of this kid watching me to see my “skills” made my skin crawl. It made me want to say to him: “Are you here to practice yoga? Or do you want to do gymnastics? Because there are gyms for that.”
But his practice is his practice. Everyone does yoga for different reasons.
I will just keep ignoring him, and keep working on my Bird of Paradise until I can straighten that leg all the way.
And don’t expect me to just bust out a forearm stand or Eka Pada Galavasana for shits and giggles. It’s not gonna happen.
Me, in Virabhadrasana II on the Plaza de España.
I’m still recovering from my whirlwind of a trip. We visited nine cities in as many days. I prayed for my mom in Fatima. We ate massive steaks and patatas fritas in Madrid. We hopped on the metro in Lisboa and took the train to the last stop, Cais do Sodre, where we strolled along the Tagus River and had an early dinner at a chic little restaurant/lounge in Praça do Comércio. We climbed the hills of Toledo, visited the old Jewish quarter of Cordoba. While the rest of the folks on our tour were heading to bed, we ventured into the streets of Sevilla at 10 pm for tapas and sangria. The next night we found ourselves squeezing through the crowds of Semana Santa to attend a flamenco show, then devouring delicious paella mixta, taquitos de bacalao, and chocolate con churros at Cafeteria Spala. Our waiter, who spoke no English, showed me the receipt and pointed out that he hadn’t charged us for the churros. I understand enough Spanish to know he said he extended that kindness because he wanted us to remember Spain. I’ll never forget it.
back row, L-R: Johnny, Olga, Dana, Tiffany, me
bottom row, L-R: Veronica, Talya, Kelly
Y’all get a li’l bonus post this week. I just got home from my practicum. I did exactly what I wanted to do. I used the theme I wanted to use, I played the music I wanted to play. And when I was done, Laurie said, “Wow. I mean…just…wow.” After it was over, two of my classmates came over and said how good my class had been.
Yup, I did that.
Congratulations to my fellow TTs. We’re yoga teachers now!
My practicum is on Sunday, March 17th. Early yesterday morning, I wrote Laurie a frantic e-mail, asking a half dozen questions about the sequence she assigned to me, then spent the better part of the day worrying because she hadn’t yet responded. Her response, when it finally arrived, some 28 hours later?
You are so funny, Keisha. You are definitely over-thinking this.
The seated twist in the manual is fine, just remember to mirror the cues. You
can keep it simple for getting out of ankle to knee and your transition from
vira[bhadrasana] I into triangle forward bend is perfection.
You have this down. You will ace the practicum, I have NO doubt.
Perhaps I am over-thinking this. In fact, I know I am. But now that I have the answers to my questions, I can focus on the fun stuff– the MUSIC.
I feel like I don’t know anyone who isn’t a music-lover. We may not all like the same kind of music, but most of us love the way music makes us feel. When Laurie told us we could play music during the practicum if we wanted, I immediately became excited. What would I play??? I came up with a brief playlist– the sequence is only 30 minutes long– and it includes songs by DJ Drez, Fela Kuti, Bonobo, Nosaj Thing, Liquideep, and J Dilla.
When it came to Dilla, I chose “So Far to Go,” but I was torn… I didn’t know if I should use the original, instrumental version, or the version with Common rhyming and D’Angelo’s vocals? I happen to love the second version, and there’s nothing vulgar about it– it’s pretty much a love song. But I was hesitant. Some people just don’t like rap. I didn’t want to play anything that would offend anyone.
Part of yoga is finding your truth and trusting your own voice. Finding my voice as a teacher meant letting go of what I think a yoga teacher is “supposed” to be. For me that means making sure the person leading the class is the same person that you run into at the grocery store. I don’t whisper in my normal conversations, so I do not whisper when I teach (no breathy “innnhaaale now exhhaaale” either). If you get in my car you won’t hear chanting or sitar music (well maybe once in a while), so I don’t really play that in my classes. I refuse to feel like I’m leading a double life.
So, I’d say that about clears it up, no?
I listen to rap. I also listen to a ton of soca– I thought about adding it to the list but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t too uptempo– and all sorts of random electronic dance music, jazz, bossa nova, Haitian zouk and konpa, reggaeton, some dancehall, and let’s not forget that I love me some Beyonce and Rihanna. I’m fairly certain that songs of all these genres will find their way into my classes. And let’s be real. If you’re focused on the music playing, then you’re really not paying attention to what you should be doing– which is practicing yoga!
Guys…I’m so nervous I could scream!
p.s. I know I’m about eight hours late with this post. My bad. I usually write my posts the weekend before and schedule them to publish at 1 pm the following Tuesday. But last weekend I was studying for and taking my YTT final exam (which I’m pretty sure I knocked out of the park, BTW), so it just didn’t happen. And last night I started removing my Senegalese twists because I want my hair to be wild and free during the practicum. Forgive me!
My final exam for yoga teacher training is THIS Saturday, March 9th, and the practicum in March 16th. I have been studying and practice teaching and trying not to freak out! I don’t know how much it’s working. I have to teach– and mirror– ankle-to-knee pose. Which I hate. My hips are tight, so it’s really uncomfortable. I just want to get through this so that I can go to Spain and eat a lot of yummy food and drink a lot of delicious wine.
Please forgive me– I just don’t have the energy for a real post this week. So I hope you enjoy this lovely rendering of the chakras I came across on my favorite social media site. I’m glad I found it because it’s helped me to memorize the order of the chakras: Mulandhara (the root chakra), Svadhisthana (the sacral chakra), Manipura (the solar plexus chakra), Anahata (the heart chakra), Visshudha (the throat chakra), Ajna (the third eye chakra), Sahasrara (the crown chakra). I bought a few bottles of orange nail polish (Orly Melt Your Popsicle and CND Electric Orange) as a reminder that I need to work on clearing out my Svadhisthana chakra. I think I’m going to wear an indigo polish for the exam (I’ll search my stash for it, I know I must have one), and blue for the practicum.
Ugh, I’m queasy just thinking about it.
Send me love, guys! I need it. I really want to do well!