Posted tagged ‘yoga’

Thankful for Courbet

November 6, 2009
courbet_baigneuses (detail)

Courbet "Baigneuses" (detail - only one baigneuse)

The combination of  day job, blog, and endless post-season baseball games, have made it difficult to do decent yoga and/or get to the gym of late.  (Hard to blog in downward dog.)   This, plus some brownies that I made for a visiting nephew, have left me feeling very chubby this Friday morning.   To compensate for those feelings, I’m posting “Courbet”, an homage to the wonderful sensitivity of  Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) to the womanly  physique.


All I can say is that
it’s a good thing we have
museums hanging Courbets,
the occasional Italian,
with their depictions of swelling bellies,
dimples gathered around spines, flesh rippling
like Aphrodite’s birth foam,
the creep of pubic hair juxtaposed by coy hands
whose curved digits
pudge, slightly sunken cheeks (above, below),
spidery blood vessels
rooting beneath the patina.
All I can say, as
I catch my face in the
glass, glance down at
my folio of torso,
is that it’s a good thing.

All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson.

Yoga Done Right

October 21, 2009

Yesterday, I explained how to rush through the whole Ashtanga primary yoga series in just a couple of short pants (as in breaths, not trousers.)

Below is an illustration of Ashtanga yoga done right, with steadiness, cheefulness, balance, and most importantly, an elephant.  (Also practicing are a little white dog and a yogini mouse.)

The pose depicted is trichonasana (triangle pose).  The animals are really quite good at it, particularly considering all the extra legs.

Elephant - Dog - Mouse Trichonasana

Elephant - Dog - Mouse Trichonasana

(All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson)

Unfortunately, the elephant-dog-mouse yoga book, from which this picture is taken, is not yet finished.  But, if you like the style, check out 1 Mississippi, by Karin Gustafson at the link above.

How To Do Ashtanga Yoga In One Short Breath

October 20, 2009

I am a longtime and very proud devotee of Ashtanga Yoga. This is a form of yoga pioneered by Shri T. Krishnamacharya and the much beloved Shri K. Patabhi Jois. It involves six fairly long series of poses (though most practitioners stick to the first “Primary” series), which are intended to energize the body, clarify the mind, and purify just about everything.   Ashtanga is supposed to be practiced six days a week, preferably in the morning.  (An empty stomach is recommended; a non-empty stomach is regretted.)

It is a great form of yoga, especially for people, like me, who have a hectic schedule, as it is designed for self-practice.  Not only does Ashtanga provide a  series of pre-set poses, it includes certain transitional movements between each pose. This takes decision-making out of home practice, an immense benefit for those who already have too many other things to think about.

Breathing in Ashtanga, as in all yoga, is super important: each transitional movement corresponds to a specific inhalation or exhalation, and each pose is ideally held for eight steady breaths.  This means that Primary series, if done right, should take between an hour and an hour and a half, to complete.

Some of us, however, have managed to shorten the required time span to approximately fifteen minutes.

Here’s how:

1. First, practice for years. It’s important to know the poses in your bones so that when you whiz through them you don’t need to spend a single extra second thinking about what comes next.

2. Second, be Manic.

3. And slightly depressed.

4. Start a daily blog.

5. But keep your day job.

6. Most importantly, fuel the flames of family and personal drama with long drawn-out conversations or email each morning, so that you really don’t have more than fifteen minutes to do yoga. (Ignore possible effects of yoga’s calming influence, if done correctly.)

7. Don’t mind if you wrench your knee or shoulder throwing yourself into convoluted positions. (Alignment always felt kind of boring anyway.)

8.  Who said you had to do the complete pose?   At least, your bending that wrenched knee.

10. Try not to mind that a practice that is supposed cultivate deep breathing and energetic stillness is whipping by in panting exhaustion

11. Congratulate yourself on the fact that you are practicing yoga at all.

12. (If you can call that practicing . Or Yoga.)

13. But keep practicing anyway. (As that great sage Scarlett O’Hara said, tomorrow is another day.)