Tuesday, July 29, 2008
It is usually wall-to-wall mats. And because it is an Iyengar therapeutics workshop, there are many blocks and bolsters and belts and folding chairs and blankets and sand bags and people scattered all over the place. I showed a picture of the studio a few days ago, and as you can see, it's not a huge space. If we put the mats down almost side by side, we can get in about 45 people.
Kind of dark in these photos, but the walls are yellow and the floor is wood and there is a very good feel to the space. You can see the shelves with some props on them in the far right corner of the picture.
But with this class, you and your student are moving about the room, going from the mat where she starts in relaxation to the wall to practice Arda Uttanasana, to open the chest and strengthen the arms, and then to the wall with ropes to do a modification of Down Dog, with rope around your hips, then down to the mat again for some supported backbend work with the block under the sacrum, and then, one of my favorite poses: Viparita Karani. Queen of poses in my book: legs up the wall, backside scooched close to the wall, and back flowing down over the top of the bolster and onto the mat. Very very relaxing.
We had a good session. I talked with my student about some practical things that will help her to make her yoga practice a more regular event in her schedule. First, setting up an area where she can practice. My advice is to find a place that is large enough to put down a mat. Next, keep all your yoga stuff together in that area, so that you don't have to stop to gather things together when you finally settle down to practice. The space doesn't need, in most cases, to be any larger than the size of a yoga mat. I've practiced in hotel bathrooms and in between beds in motels. If you can fit in a mat, or even a large bath towel, you have space to practice. I know that some folks get very fancy with their yoga spaces. Typical Yoga Journal this month: the article about creating a yoga room in your house shows people adding on whole additions and walls of windows. Nice, but unrealistic. A corner of the bedroom, a space in the living room once you've slid the coffee table out of the way - most people can find that kind of room already available.
In that area, I keep a mat, folded up so it's not in the way when I'm not using it; a large pillow to sit on for forward folds and meditating; a timer so that I don't have to be in charge of the time when I'm meditating or in savasana, but still have a handle on how long I plan to sit; a glass of water; copies of the practices that my teacher has written for me; a book of Vedic chants; and a regular old candle, which I light in the fall and winter to give some soft light if I practice in the late afternoon.
But to get back to my student: if space sets up one barrier, time sets up an even mightier one. It is super easy to find a million things that need to be done, and then the day has zoomed by, and even though you feel frazzled because you haven't stopped, it can feel like it's too late to do some yoga. But that's when you will benefit the most from stopping, practicing even for 10 or 15 minutes.
My advice to my student was to pencil her yoga into her calendar. Such a good idea that I gave the same advice to another student, who hasn't been practicing much because she's been going to baseball games. Creative, but I liked it. Anyway, I suggested to her and my therapeutics student to put their yoga on the calendar. If you put it on the schedule, and keep it realistic - say, start by aiming to practice two or three times a week - it's much more likely to happen.
It was a day of advice-dispensing, which is pretty silly, given that I'm feeling very in need of some advice to be sent my way. I'm thinking that I'd like my very own Yoda right about now. Even the Yoda in the new Star Wars, tiny light saber and martial arts moves and all. (Here he is as a cardboard cut-out. )
Monday, July 28, 2008
Tonight, while reading a knitting book as I ate dinner (because if you can't be knitting, it's good to read about it) I learned that the word fascia, which is one of my favorite discoveries from anatomy class and is the little-known but amazing layer of tissue that encapsulates your inners and gives structure to the body and provides nourishment to bones and muscles and blood and nerves and what makes you feel so good after yoga or a massage because the fascia has been released, comes from the history of knitting.
This, from Vogue Knitting's The Ultimate Sock Book. Ancient Roman men wore fascie, or strips of fiber made from fabric or leather to cover shins, legs, and sometimes feet. Soldiers donned fascie for battle, while the elderly used them as the first bedsocks to keep themselves warm. Thus, it makes sense that the word denotes the layer of tissue that lies under the skin, wraps around bundles of muscles and ligaments and tendons, and encircles almost every cell in the body. If you pluck at the skin on your hand and notice that it doesn't go too far, that's because of the fascia holding it down.
And earlier, while writing my previous post, I was entertaining myself using anatomical directional terms - anterior, posterior, medial, lateral - to describe the different items on my loom. As in, the lease sticks are posterior to the heddles, but the heddles are anterior to the raddle. I deleted this, because I'm not sure anyone other than me, and perhaps members of my immediate family, would see this as humorous. (I just spellchecked my post, and I'd spelled the word "humorous" like this "humerus." As in arm bone.)
The third thing of odd synchronicity: as I was reciting to my husband the list of things that were up in the air and felt unknowable and without the guarantee that one might wish would come with big plans, like studying yoga therapy and going to India, I was fussing about the unknowability of how I was doing as a yoga therapist in training. And I mentioned one student who I had not heard from in a while. And then my husband asked me to repeat the name, which he then recited back to me. Twice. Turns out that there was a message on the answering machine from her, saying that her practice was going fine and she was planning to come to my regular weekend class one of these days soon.
I've threaded the warp ends through the heddles and am starting to draw the ends through the reed at the front of the loom. Tonight, I'm working on my Jitterbug socks and watching the end of Bye Bye Birdie.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I tried to be decisive and stick with the pattern that comes with the skein of yarn, but then bailed on Thursday night at anatomy class (we stood on a block and dangled one leg for 2 minutes, then walked on a very spongy foot after our psoas muscle released, then did the other leg so that we didn't limp out of class) and ripped back to the beginning.
Friday morning I woke up super early, started the sock again, and this is where I am after knitting Friday morning before breakfast; on the train and the El to the Cubs game (3-2 the Marlins, but a great time was had by all, and do not go looking for anything healthy at the ball game because it's all about the carbs - we ate peanuts in the shell and then nachos with cheese and then the man next to us, who had given us a paper bracelet that meant Free Food from all Vendors, passed me a Dove bar, and as I was standing in the crowd and the heat, waiting to get into the El station, I pretended I was in India) and back; last night during an episode of The Wire (I keep thinking: I know that actor from All My Children, and it makes the low-income scenes seem so much less real), and today on the way and back from Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (bad skull design, good action sequences, but Indiana Jones and aliens, and that kiss at the end?).
A better shot of the color. In the background, a yoga practice written out. Part of the practice is chanting a great mantra called Ayurmantrah. It's a chant for support and nourishment of the breath and body and life and family, and each line begins with an OM, which is a very good sound to have resonating in you.
And a picture of the yoga studio before class this morning.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I thought that I remembered how to do this. But there are so many steps to preparing, or as it is called - dressing - the loom, that some were sure to fall through the cracks. I've already started a list in the notebook where I keep track of a project. The subject of the list is Mistakes, and I've already run into two. (Edit: No, three.)
One was minor, or mrdu: I forgot that you want to insert the lease sticks - which are long, narrow pieces of wood drilled with a hole in each end - between the cross at the end of the warp so that you can keep the gazillion threads in order as you thread the loom. Somewhat important, but I caught myself as I was preparing the warp to go onto the loom.
Second mistake: somewhat more major, or madhya. Somehow, in the beginning or end of the middle group of warp, I willy-nilly wound the warp without making the cross. Now I have a hunk of warp in the center that has no clear order of which thread comes first.
Third mistake, noticed today, big- adhimatratvat -: even though I used a calculator, and kept careful notes, and pre-planned the warp so that the blocks of Summer and Winter pattern would fall neatly into the stripes of periwinkle and amethyst blue, I discovered that already, in my first block, I'm short seven ends of periwinkle. No idea how this could have happened. I worked out the math, doublechecked it, and recounted each group of color before moving on to the next.
Here are some of my tools. In the background, the glass of white wine. Perhaps the reason for Mistake Number 3? But I don't think so. Somehow, there's always a gremlin in the machine when I set a warp up. I can't remember it ever lacking at least a few glitches.
Today was not the day to try to fix this mistake. I could feel the urge to cut the whole thing off the loom, all 175 inches of 488 warp ends, which equals 2372 yards of fiber. Instead, I roamed from project to project, drove to the knitting store in search of a sock yarn that resembles tweedy ragg socks (no luck), knit my Jitterbug yarn from Joan and listened to a Harry Potter (great yarn makes all the difference!), threw the ring for Parker, colored in my homework from anatomy class, and laid in the hammock and read a mystery by K.K. Beck
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Things are either very good (I met with a hospital administrator last week and we are planning to pilot a program offering yoga to one of the patient groups there -and I note this with trepidation, because I'm fairly superstitious and afraid I'll jinx things). Or very bad (on Sunday, I had an appointment to discuss yoga therapy with two doctors who have a clinic and I completely forgot about the appointment and spent the afternoon winding a new warp for the loom, and because I had my cell phone turned off, I missed their call asking where I was, and they have not responded to my apologetic phone call and email).
When I get stressed, two things usually happen. The first is that I get this crazy inability to wear pierced earrings. Last week, during one of the good things (meeting with a colleague to discuss my editing of her master's thesis), I heard a story that may explain my stress/ear sensitivity. Or, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you. In any case, here's the story: on long sea voyages, a sailor has to climb the mast to do a look-out for land. The Chinese, recognizing that the ear lobe is an acupuncture point for bravery, would pierce the ear of the poor guy who had to do the climb to give him courage. So maybe I need extra courage when I get stressed?
The second is that I have a need to create order by discarding stuff. If I can't find structure inside, I try to create it artificially outside. Usually, I go through my closet and dump a bunch of stuff that I haven't worn in a few years. This time, though, I'm going with yarn.
If you've stuck with me this far, here's the plan. I have several batches of wonderful yarn that have not worked for me. Most of the yarn is no longer in its original packaging and may already be wound into balls instead of its original hanks. But all is in good shape, comes from a smoke-free environment, and is clean and ready to be knit up. I'd love for another knitter to rescue the yarn. If you're interested, just leave a comment with your contact information and we'll work it out. The only cost will be the postage, which you can send to me once you get the yarn; I'm guessing that postage will be between $5 and $10 at most per box.
Here's what I've got:
- Rowan Summer Tweed in blue. Probably the equivalent of four-five skeins.
- Prism's sock yarn, Saki, in black and brown. A pricey sock yarn that is just too thin for my loose knitting.
- Elsebeth Lavold Angora in a deep red. One packaged skein and several balls, probably the equivalent of three to four hanks.
- KnitPick's lace-weight yarn, dyed in shades of pinks and reds and white with Koolaid.
- a single skein of Rowan Calmer in a pale blue-grey, a skein of Classic Elite WoolBamboo in a beautiful sherbet-colored pink, a skein of Debbie Bliss Silk Alpaca DK in pale blue, a skein of Cascade 220 superwash in light brown, a skein of KnitPicks Gloss in burgandy
- 2 and a half skeins of Muench Sir Galli
Hoping that these find a home.
Source: Charlene Schurch, Sensational Knitted Socks
Yarn: Louet Gems Merino Wool, Fine/Sport Weight, about 1 1/2 skeins at 225 yds a skein
Needles: size 2 (2.75 mm) KnitPicks 40" circular with nickel-plated tips
Gauge: 6 st and 8 rows to the inch in sock-speak; 24 st and 32 rows to 4" in regular knit-talk (I knit very loosely - another knitter might be able to get this gauge on a larger needle - the label suggests a 3-5 size needle to get 5-6 st/inch)
Method: Magic Loop (and highly recommended - why some sock knitters want to fiddle with four or five doublepoints is beyond my ability to think, but as much as getting gauge is individual, so is needle choice)
Notes: I'm starting to get a liking for knitting socks. Amazing. They are easy to carry around, I can work on them in public (say, in an anatomy class that lasts 3 1/2 hours and doesn't require me to take many notes), I like the way that they offer a different kind of puzzle to the mind every few inches, and I'm beginning to develop a tiny bit of history, which will help me in the future if I ever manage to knit a second pair out of the same yarn.
I'm now in the experimental phase with a new yarn: Saki by Prism. Very good in the color department: the colorway is called Mink, and it's blacks and browns. Not sure whether I'll end up with stripes or just spots of color that flow into the next, but the shades are so dark that one could easily assume that the whole sock is one (manly) color. The yarn feels harsh as you work it, but softens and blooms nicely after a gentle machine washing and air drying.
The gauge is under scrutiny. I started the cuff last night with 56 stitches, worked about 1/2 inch while watching The Wire, and then discovered that it was too small. Today, I bound off what I'd completed and threw it in the machine to finish and then recount. My guess is that I'm getting 8 st to the inch and will need to cast on 64 stitches to get that 8" cuff circumference. Then I'll need to find a pattern (manly) in Schurch to accommodate 64 stitches.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
So, I went back to the den, where my husband was balancing checkbooks or some such kind of work that someone in the house needs to do and luckily he does it, and I said: before I open this, I want to tell you that there's going to be a shawl in this box, and it's going to be pinks and oranges with some touches of burgundy, and it's going to be lace. He looked at me with some bemusement, but was willing to go along for the ride.
So I took the box out to the kitchen, and I opened it. And I'm not kidding: it had this shawl inside. The one that I saw last night on Joan's blog, where she's making the Tweedy V-Neck Jacket from Fitted Knits. I have the book home from the library, and this is true: I was looking at that pattern the day before I saw it on her blog. But back to the shawl: Joan said that she was sending it off to a "recipient." And yes, I am not making this up. Even though it was a post from a few days ago, when I saw the shawl and the note last night at about 11, when I couldn't settle down to reading before bed, I thought to myself: I hope that shawl's for me. No reason to expect this. It's not my birthday or anything special, and even though I've been admiring the beautiful lace things that Joan's been knitting in a fiber with the best name ever - Dream in Color Baby - so much that I'd almost broken my yarn diet to either order the yarn or buy myself a CD on Vedic chanting - there was no logical reason in hell to think that I was the "recipient."
Here's a picture of all of the contents: The Shawl. A wonderful photograph of water and mist and rocks that Joan took near to the Falls. Have I mentioned that I love water: it is more relaxing and calming than almost anything in life. Or that part of my yoga practice is a chant called Mantra Puspam, which talks about how everything is water: the clouds are water, flowers are water, the trees are water, we are water. It's really a chant about how we are all the same, that there is a connection and relationship between every living thing, and when we know that, we know ourselves more completely.
And a skein of Colinette Jitterbug. Now I can make a pair of socks for myself. And in something other than blue or black or brown. Yeah for color!
Another picture of the shawl. But you really need to visit it over at Joan's blog. Much more beautiful pictures, and she's a good person to get to know. I'm hoping that someday we'll be able to meet for coffee.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
And today, in anatomy class, we saw a video of the spinal cord. It looks like an Alaskan King crab leg, if you were wondering. And the spine: it's covered with layers of protective stuff that looks like saran wrap and bubble wrap, secured with layers of Scotch tape. Pretty cool. And did you know that we have connective tissue - called fascia - that wraps around all of our bones and joints and organs, kind of like a giant rubber glove?
I also liked the part when the teacher had us all walk in a big circle: first with our knees bent, then on our heels, then on our tippy-toes, then on the inside of the foot, then the outside, to show us how much we rely on our typical anatomy to stay upright and walk comfortably. We looked like extras from Planet of the Apes.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
It's not that I'm having a problem with the dreaded Kitchener stitch, which is the lament of most authors of sock patterns. It's pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, and there's a pleasant, weaving-like rhythm to the knit-purl of the stitches on the front needle and the purl-knit of the stitches on the back needle. And it goes fast: lots of instantaneous accomplishment as you drop a stitch from one needle or the other every 30 seconds or so.
My issue was that, in working the finishing of the toe, I had left too much slack between needles and had a bumpy, uneven, row of little ear-like stitches instead of a nice, smooth edge. I unpicked the stitches, put them back on the needles and walked away from the project to go to yoga. After dinner, we watched the second episode of The Wire and I tried again. Much better this time: even decreases, a lovely edge, a very respectable-looking sock. Unfortunately, a tad too short for the prospective wearer. And I had dutifully finished all ends before I had him try it on. See, doesn't it look nice?
I was so proud of my accomplishment that I had my husband try the sock on right away. I wanted to take one of those modelly-foot shots that all the best blogs are showing this summer. Then I noticed a surreptitious wiggling of the toes action. Turns out that the sock is a bit too short. I put it away for the evening as I could not bear to rip it again, especially since I had meticulously finished the end and clipped it short.
Today, as I waited for my steel-cut oatmeal to cook, I picked the darn thing apart again. Never say that I'm not a perfectionist. It's truly a labor of love when you make the same navy blue stockinette sock three times over. (And that's not counting the gazillion times that I tried to get gauge on a size 3 or 4 needle.) I ripped back to the foot section before the toe decreases, worked about 8 or 9 rows more while I listened to Kelly Petkun and the KnitPicks podcast, then put the sock away for a fitting session later in the day.
Here's the other labor of love. At least you can eat this one: a pie. Really, a tart from the Chez Panisse Deserts cookbook. I artfully attempted to execute pie dough twice last week, and you know, it's just not in my genes. I cannot get the feel of the right amount of moisture, resiliency, or amount of dough to make for a traditional pie crust. Both efforts went into the garbage.This is the fail safe: short crust pastry that can be pressed into the pie pan. A pastry cream. Bake the shell, cool it, add the cream, throw some beautiful fresh fruit on top, and eh voila: a pie.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
- the yarn. Louet Gems merino. Superwash. A tight twist and enough heft to the fiber that you feel like you're holding something in your hands as you knit.
- the pattern. A basic four-stitch pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, simplified even more to a basic 2 x 2 rib on the leg and stockinette from the end of the gusset decreases to the toe.
- KnitPicks' 40" circular needle with nickel-plated tips. Long enough to easily work a version of the Magic Loop. Less needles and cords to keep track of. No porcupine-arrangement of double-pointed needles. No searching in the sofa cushions and under the coffee table and in the knitting bags for the fourth needle that wandered off.
- I can knit about 3 inches in, well, an hour or two, which is much faster than the rate of the first pair of socks.
What wasn't working:
- keeping the ribbed pattern going down the instep to the toe decreases. My hands, arms and elbows feel much better. I've been having stiffness and aches since I spent a marathon few days during the winter executing a moss stitch or seed stitch Minimalist Cardigan. I was having the same thing happening after working on the sock. I wasn't sure if it was this thinner yarn, the smaller needles, or the stitch pattern. I switched to stockinette - well, really just knitting, because I'm working the sock on a circular needle - and the pain is almost gone. (I also added back in some yoga poses for carpal tunnel and tight neck/shoulders, but I think the improvement is coming from both the knitting and yoga adjustments.)
- this is not strictly a not working, but more of a glitch that's postponing completion. I'm running low on yarn and what I have left is in a nicely tangled clump.
I took the sock with me to the fireworks. You know how you have to go early enough to get a spot on the lawn, but have no dinner to occupy yourself with, and people are gathered together in unusual social combinations which make conversation a little more choppy than when you're with just your family or old friends?
We had a wonderful time and met the new neighbors, but my sock came along as my security blanket. There was an amazing little girl in our group, the granddaughter of a friend. Yarn plus creative five-year-old plus time to kill? She wrapped her grandmother's feet and legs up with miles of the Louet sock yarn, and entertained herself and us for a good 20 minutes. (We're an easy crowd.) We thought that we might have to cut it off. We got past that by unhooking her feet.
But now there's a good tangle of sock yarn to unwind. In fact, this is the second go-around: the first was Parker's mangling of the skein. I have delegated the unreeling to my husband, who will be the owner of the socks, or temporary owner, until another dog or small child decides to make a toy or sock puppet.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Years ago now, when working on my doctorate, I said to my advisor: "I want to do something real." And he replied that I was doing something real. Even though I was spending all of my time either reading a book or article or writing a paper or article. At the time, I was working on the correspondence between Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Very interesting letters. I see many of the same themes in knitting blogs: women befriending each other across a long geographic distance, women commiserating about the responsibilities of caring for a family while trying to carve out an autonomous self, women talking about illness. So, a very good project, and one that I wish that I had stuck with when it came time to write my dissertation. But I would look around Hyde Park in Chicago, a neighborhood that goes from high-income to low-income in the space of crossing the street, and feel very ineffectual as I trudged off to the library to work on my degree.
Now I feel like I'm finally doing something tangible to make people's lives a tiny bit happier, or clearer, which is the goal of yoga. With a better read on your reality, you'll be better able to make choices, choose relationships, find a bit more joy in the ongoing battle. I was doing this somewhat as a teacher in group yoga classes. But you don't see the result as readily. People's faces are very deceptive when they practice yoga. What looks like dissatisfaction may be concentration. Or there is this certain absence of clear signals: people go inside, concentrate on their breath - and thus, their mind, and maybe there's less need or energy to display what's inside on the outside. So I try not to attend too much to facial expressions (which is tough for me - I'm standing in front of a group, and hoping that I'm living up to my expectations and the models of my teachers) because when I think that a student is dissatisfied, invariably that's the person who tells me later that the class was just what he needed today.
This feeling of helping is a momentary flash for me and maybe for my student. Just as I tell my students that yoga works slowly, that it's not like waving a magic wand and all of a sudden everything changes, feeling that I'm helping is a brief glimmer and then life and its messiness comes back to the forefront. And I'm not looking to pat myself on the back: Good Yoga Teacher. Just to say that for an instance, looking back at the three students who I saw on Monday, I felt like I opened the window a tiny bit.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Not that I'm suggesting that the pre-machine method is necessarily better. Just that when you're thinking of the most familiar, or most efficient, or easiest way to get a job done, that your mind doesn't jump out of the expected groove very readily. What you perceive is only what your available brain space allows. I was thinking sewing machine, so I couldn't see other options.
As a result, I've been dithering around finishing the cloth on the loom because I no longer have a sewing machine. And it's much faster, and somewhat more of an insurance policy, to zig-zag all of those individual warp threads on the machine before you toss many hours of hand weaving into the washing machine to be finished. (Unlike knitting, weaving usually wants to be manhandled in the wash cycle and then throw into the dryer so that all those tiny holes in the fabric take up. It's the inverse of lace finishing: you want to shrink the cloth and disappear the openings.)
I also was dragging my heels because I'd run short on the warp and hadn't come up with a plan for that, either. I'm weaving pillowcases out of organic 10/2 cotton. The pattern calls for 6 inches of plain weave, hemstitching, then 1 1/2 inches of plain weave, 56 inches of basket weave pattern, then repeat the edging. And I was down to 50 inches of basket weave and not enough warp left to complete the second edge like the first.
Cat? Chicken sitting on an egg? You decide. And no, a yoga eye bag filled with flax seed and lavender doesn't seem to adversely affect his innards too much. Nor Meow Mix. Nor pine cones.