Christmas Bounty

I'm back.  The week with the family was wonderful.  I was sad to leave them on Sunday, but always glad to return to Texas where it's warm.  I was struck throughout the week by how much I wanted to give yoga to my loved ones and how nearly every conversation seemed to circle back to how yoga can help.  I had to temper my enthusiasm so as not to seem fanatical.  It's just so obvious to me how much yoga could do for them, and it hurts me to see members of my family in chronic pain and guzzling pills when, in my experience, a simpler, more natural approach can work wonders.  Just breath.  Just move.  Just let it go.  I did my best to explain how yoga works and what it can do in a clear and balanced way, and I will continue to plant these little seeds in hopes that something will take root and grow.

I maintained my regular practice, more or less, during my stay with the family.  This meant laying out my mat in a relatively high traffic and very draughty area of the house.  Drishti and rigorous sequencing helped me avoid curling up into a shivering ball on the floor or sprinting to the nearest hot shower mid-practice; lots of lunges, arm balances and extra vinyasas kept me warm and focused.  It was a good exercise in pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses), and even with the challenges of conducting practice in conditions that were not ideal, my daily ritual kept me grounded and at peace as I navigated the family politics and attempted to nurture each relationship equally.  I have a very large family and, as much as we love each other, the personal histories are complex and the politics abound.

Attaining proper nutrition was another challenge, which is ironic because the sheer amount of food my mother was able to prepare for us was staggering.  The holiday meals were fabulous; it was the simple things, like toast in the morning or fresh fruit that were more difficult to find.  For example:  I decided to double check the ingredient list of the wheat bread they had on hand before tossing a couple of slices in the toaster for breakfast.  The second ingredient on the list, after wheat flour, was 'corn syrup.'  Later down the list, for that extra kick of corn, were 'corn syrup solids.'  Top that off with some sugar and molasses, and that's some seriously starchy bread.

Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were practically perfect in every way.  It snowed all day on the 24th, beginning with a light dusting in the morning and working toward a thick fall of fluffy white flakes by dark.  Christmas morning we rose with the dawn, as is our custom, and gathered around the tree to give and receive gifts.  My parents came through with really great presents for me this year, including some new yoga duds, a beautiful mat tote/gym bag, a stainless steel water bottle, and, best of all, some awesome new additions to my yoga library!  Among the new books are Ray Long's Scientific Keys, Volumes I and II, which are incredible anatomy references, and Gregor Maehle's Ashtanga Yoga:  Practice & Philosophy.

Shiny new books!
I was reading Maehle's book on the flight home and deeply regretted not having a pencil and highlighter on hand.  Maehle's use of language is very specific as to the subtler actions of the poses.  I can't wait to get back to this book with the appropriate study materials.  I spent a couple of hours with The Key Muscles of Yoga, volume I of the Scientific Keys, on Christmas morning, soaking up the anatomical enlightenment so densely that I passed out on the couch and dreamed of agonists and antagonists.  After the nap, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and my practice before rejoining the family for the evening.  I can't think of a better way to spend a day.

It's overcast and rainy here in Austin today, which is perfect weather for some yoga reading, if you ask me.


  1. Love the Keys, I've heard of Maehle's book, I'd love to check it out.

    I hear ya on the family with chronic pain issue. Fortunately I do have family members who practice yoga to deal with it. But I also have family members who are worse off who can't find the money to afford it. Hopefully with the progress of yoga therapy, all people will have access to the powerful tools of yoga.

    Your personal practice is so devoted, I wish I could have that kind of daily determination!

  2. Hi Alice - The Keys are amazing. Maehle's book is chock full of precise language that I am finding very useful as a teacher. I recommend them both.

    As for the family, it's especially hard for me because I suffered many of the same afflictions, namely migraines and horrible muscular tension, and have successfully gotten them under control with regular practice of yoga, so I know it works. I just need them to see that it works. Regarding the financial hurdle, I began my practice with a book and a cheap mat -- a one-time $30 to $40 investment. I practiced this way for about two years before ever going to my first class, and the practice made enormous impacts in my life even then. Yoga doesn't have to cost a lot. All one needs is a small, clean space and the intention of healing.