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Showing posts from 2005

Nov. 28 Yoga Practice

Last night we finished a four week series on arm balances. It was definitely the most challenging night for me. I had a hard time getting into any of the postures we did. Another one of those humbling experiences. These postures require a great deal of core strength, confidence, and concentration to do them. Somehow I was lacking in that combination.

We started out by doing a number of intense hip openers and padmasana then moved into the arm balances. Adho Mukha Svasana should be done as needed throughout the practice. Page numbers refer to illustrations and instructions for the pose from Light on Yoga.

Hip Openers:
Lie on back. Bring right knee up and place on floor next to ear, left hip as much as necessary to get knee on floor. Straighten left leg and push thigh toward the floor. Switch legs.Lie on back. Bring up right leg, place cross-wise across abdomen and cradle foot in left elbow. Bring shin to chest and lay head on floor. Switch legs.Sit on floor. Bring knees over the shoulders…

Nov. 21 Yoga Practice

I missed class on the 14th because of a work commitment. This class was the third in Ruth's series on arm balances. Usually I have trouble with these but tonight's class went pretty well. We did some poses that we've never done before or haven't done in a very long time. Arm balances require a good deal of concentration in addition to the coordination necessary for good balance.

For easy reference to Light on Yoga, I put page numbers in parentheses after the pose names. Because we practice these so infrequently, I don't know these as well as standing poses or backbends.

Adho Mukha Svanasana into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - go back & forth several times. Inhale into Urdhva Mukha and exhale into Adho Mukha
Rope work: forward bend into back arch, with chest fully expanded
Vasisthasana (p. 310, no leg in air) to Purvottanasana (p. 176) to Vasisthasana on other side - Reverse. Do a couple of times.
Vasisthasana - use wall, put strap around heel if necessary to hold leg out …

Mental strength in asana practice

One of the things I've learned in the last couple of weeks is that mental strength and focus is at least as important as physical prowess in asana practice. When Aadil was here a couple weeks ago, he talked about using the mind to find the granthi in our bodies as we do asana practice. He placed a great deal of emphasis on breathing into the granthi so that energy would flow more easily through our bodies. Then asana practice becomea not so much about accomplishing a correct posture as it does about becoming more attuned to our higher selves. By bringing that mental focus to the practice, the hard edges and the striving and the huffing and puffing are taken away. It's paradoxical but by striving less we achieve more.

I got that last night in class, too, as we worked on Adho Mukha Svasana. After starting out by doing this pose, which happens to be one that I have always struggled with, alone, Ruth had us work with a partner. By simply gently pointing our fingers into the trapezi…
Tonight was the first Monday in 3 weeks that I got to go to class with Ruth. There was a five-day intensive with Aadil in between so I haven't been completely yoga-less. But it was good to get to class tonight.

Ruth has us working on arm balances for the next few weeks. Ruth said the reason why we do arm balances is because they work out the back in ways that no other poses do. We almost never feel our backs, and the arm balances help us correct the imbalance.

Tonight we spent a lot of time learning foundational poses. In addition, Ruth emphasized that we need to work on hip openers and hamstring stretches. Supta Padangusthasana and Eka Pada Supta Virasana are good poses to do that.

Tonight's postures included

Adho Mukha Svasana - remember to engage the serratus anterior, relax the trapezius, and keep the triceps turned up.Plank Pose - keep the hips down, shoulder blades should be drawn into the body, push the arms down and left the chest.Chaturanga Dandasana - fold the arms to th…

A kind look

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A kind look,
originally uploaded by yogajournalca. Mr. Iyengar at the Yoga Journal Conference in Colorado.
At class on Monday, Ruth talked again about the Yoga Journal Conference that she attended a couple weeks ago. It must have been pretty darn powerful. What made it so was the appearance by BKS Iyengar. He's 86 years old and this will almost certainly be his last trip to the US. His tour coincides with the publication of his latest book, Light on Life. He taught at the YJ conference, then made appearances in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. He'll wrap up with appearances in Washington DC and New York. Both of them are sold out. I'm a bit disappointed that he didn't have a midwest stop, say Chicago or St. Louis. It would have been hard to resist the opportunity to see him live.

At the conference in Colorado, Mr. Iyengar taught for 3 days. Ruth describes it as a life changing event. I don't doubt it. To work with the man who many credit with popularizing yoga in the west would be a tremendous opportunity. This is not the first time that Ruth has worked with him. …
Tonight Ruth had us do more twists. These were all open twists, which lead to an open and expansive chest. She emphasized again that we're not twisting our spines. Rather we're using our stomach muscles to pull ourselves around the spine. The great thing about twists is that I leave feeling refreshed, energized, yet relaxed. I always enjoy these postures.

Here are the asanas we did tonight:

Upavistha Konasa
Parsva Upavistha Konasa
Parsva Mukhottanasana - This is what Ruth called the pose but it's not in Light on Yoga and I couldn't find it on the web. The pose is done lying flat, with knees bent, rolling from side to side
Jathara Parivartanasana - We did first on mats in the center of the room. The we went to the wall and rolled our feet to the wall, keeping hips on the floor. Then we did it at the wall with a partner who was there to make sure our hips were working.
Rope work - We did some work on ropes to twist while hanging.
Pasasana - The work was to keep our spines strai…
In yoga class tonight, Ruth started a series of classes focusing on twists. We haven't done any in-depth study of twists yet. This year we've studied back bends, inversions, forward bends, and standing poses. In addition, we've looked at mudras and vayus.

Ruth said the important thing to remember about twists is that it is not the spine that twists. Rather we are looking for the the movement of muscles, ribs, and organs around the spine. That is what produces the action we seek and gives us the benefit.

Tonight's poses included:
Baddha Konasana
Upavistha Konasa
Marichyasana I
Jathara Parivartanasana (This is a hard pose to do correctly. It is very easy to move the hips off to the side, thereby avoiding the stretch.)
Rope work to practice Jathara Parivartanasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana (Also at the wall, with the overhead hand pressing into the wall to help get more of a torso twist. Very challenging.)
Ardha Chandrasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Rope work to work on Parivrtt…
Preston, Douglas. Tyrannosaur Canyon. Tom Doherty Associates, 365 p.

Part science fiction, mostly thriller, Preston takes several pages out of Michael Crichton's book in crafting this story of dinosaurs, meteorites, and alien life.

New Mexico veterinarian Tom Broadbent finds a dying man in the desert. The man had been shot and was barely clinging to life. Just before he dies, the man gives Broadbent a notebook and begs him to take it to his daughter. Broadbent gives his word and pledges not to tell the police about the notebook.

So begins this fast-moving story. Soon Broadbent is plunged into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with a hired killer as he tries to solve the mystery of the notebook and the murdered man's identity. He manages to engage the help of monk at a remote desert monastery. Wyman Ford recently arrived at the monastery after a tumultuous career in the CIA. He can't resist the mysterious notebook and soon is deeply involved in the hunt for the notebook'…
Weigley, Russell F. A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865. Indiana University Press, 2000, index, notes, bibliography, 612 p.

Martinez, J. Michael. Life and Death in Civil War Prisons: The Parallel Torments of Corporal John Wesley Minnich, C.S.A. and Sergeant Warren Lee Goss, U.S.A. Rutledge Hill Press, 2004, index, notes, bibliography, 268 p.

After Thailand, I spent some time immersing myself in the US Civil War. I have more than one book in my library that has been gracing the shelves for many months or years waiting to be cracked. Weigley's book is one of those. I don't remember exactly when I got it but I do know if came from the History Book Club and came highly recommended. After finally getting around to reading it, I agree.

So much has been written about the Civil War it's hard to think about anything else that could be said. Approaching Weigley's book with that in mind, I thought he did a good job putting the war into a context of the tim…
This morning I woke up in my own bed. Got home around 6:30 last night, after spending a long day driving across Ohio. I would have made it sooner but I had to spend about 90 minutes in a traffic mess in Cincinnati. They closed the expressway after two semis squashed a car. After getting through the detour, the only thing I had to deal with was the relentless rain, which finally let up around Toledo. By the time I got home it was gone. Too bad. Everything is pretty brown around around here. We could use some of that rain.

After I left the coffee shop yesterday, I found a locked up museum in Fort Wright. Turns out they're only open Friday through Monday. That's probably not unusual for a place that runs mostly on volunteer help but you'd think they could have posted that information somewhere, say on their web site so I wouldn't have wasted my time finding the place. In the vast scheme of things, it's a minor annoyance. Actually, getting off the expressway let me find…
Talk about a trip that doesn't go as planned. This is it. Katrina forced quite a major change in plans. Of course, my change in plans is nothing compared to the changes forced on the folks who live in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Right now, I'm in a coffee shop in Fort Wright, Kentucky, on my way to a new Civil War museum, then home. I cut my trip short by a few days due to Katrina. But I had a great time.

After a great day at Shiloh on Saturday, I drove to Memphis and spent some time with the Swanbergs. Sunday morning it was becoming obvious that my southern-most trip plans were endangered by the storm. I called the visitor center at Vicksburg and confirmed that it would be folly for me to attempt to visit there. The ranger said that they were under a tropical storm warning and that they were expecting winds of 70 mph. He thought they might be closed on Tuesday for clean-up. And they were seeing many, many people who were fleeing coastal Louisiana so finding a place to…
Another trip. My last one this summer. Tonight I'm holed up in a Days Inn in Lexington, Tennessee. Lexington is about 30 miles north of Shiloh, my first stop on my week-long exploration of Civil War battlefields. As far as I can tell, there is precious little to recommend this town. It took me all of 30 minutes to scope out the entire town while strolling around and looking for a place to eat dinner. Not even a local watering hole in the downtown. Wow. For a little while I thought I might have stumbled on to a dry town. Thank goodness, no. I consulted the proprieter of the hotel and he directed me to "Carolines", just down the road, across from the Wal-Mart Super Center. So that's where I headed. A fried-chicken dinner and two Sam Adams later, I'm back at the Days Inn.

So, is it the fate of every small town to be swallowed up, or more accurately sucked dry, by Wal-Mart and a strip of fast food joints? Maybe it's better this way, more jobs, some vitality. But t…
I'm in Seoul. At the same Internet cafe I started out at two weeks ago. At that time, I thought $3.00 for an hour's Internet usage was pretty cheap. But that's almost 150 Baht an hour - quite a bit more than the 30 Baht I've become accustomed to paying. How perspectives can change.

My flight to Chicago leaves in about 2 hours. I think it'll take a little bit of time to digest my trip. So many images. So many sights. I suppose it's inevitable to think about the contrasts between the urban hipness and busy-ness of Bangkok and the smaller towns of Chiang Mai, Lop Buri, and Ayuthaya. Which is the real Thailand? The rural areas or the urban center? I guess it's no different that asking the same thing about the US: If the only place a foreign visitor sees is New York, does he get a real picture of America? Or does he need to go to Kansas, too? Probably the latter but looking closely at New York, it's not hard to see that it really is a microcosm for America. …
Almost time to head out to the airport to begin the long trek home. My flight is at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday morning. I lose a couple of hours going to Seoul but then pick up a day when I cross the date line and get into the states. This time change thing is weird. The upshot is that I spend about 30 hours flying and sitting in airports and end up getting home the same day that I leave. Wednesday.

Today I rented a long-tail boat for a ride around the river and canals. Bangkok used to have a lot more canals, in fact at one time it was known as the Venice of the Far East. But with its rapid growth many of the canals were filled in to create space for roads. Bad move. Now traffic is gridlocked and the river is still a pretty convenient way to get around.

I ran into a couple of school teacher from New Jersey, who saw my WSU luggage tag on my camera bag and introduced herself. Her son went to UM so she had a kind of connection to Michigan. We chatted on the train for a bit. She's here on a 3…
My Thai adventure is drawing to a close. In some ways, the time went very quickly. In other ways, it seems like forever since Amanda dropped me off at the airport. Blogging has been fun. Internet cafes are plentiful here so it was easy to find places to drop in and write a bit.

Today was my library day. I had three guides show me around a bit to some Thai libraries. My guides are from a company that functions much like MLC. They work with vendors to get good prices so that the libraries can purchase access. They told me that they often get 70 percent discounts, but even that is often too much for many colleges to afford. They were very knowledgeable about vendors and we talked about Elsevier, Springer, OCLC, and the rest. They also work with integrated library system vendors so we talked about that, too. Their big vendor is VTLS. I asked them whether they know about III and of course they do. Apparently there aren't a lot of III installations but I gather there are some. We certain…
Not much out of the ordinary today. It was a Buddhist kind of day. I planned my day around a meditation and Buddhist talk at the World Fellowship of Buddhists. That was at 2:00 so I headed out a bit before 9:00 to make sure I'd have enough time at Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, which is next door. These are two of the biggest tourist attractions in Bangkok and they were both busy by the time I got there. Wat Pho is the biggest wat in Thailand and it is pretty amazing. Stupas fill the space between temples. Each one contains ashes of a king or some other important person. There are thousands of Buddhas in Wat Pho but the two that merit the most attention are the reclining Buddha and the standing Buddha. Both are very impressive. The reclining Buddha is said to mirror the position the Buddha took when he entered Nirvana at the end of his life. The statue pretty much fills the hall so it's impossible to get a decent photo. I don't remember the exact dimensions but it's hug…
Yoga class was great. Just what the doctor ordered. Good grief, am I ever stiff! No wonder, after all this walking, sitting in airports and airplanes, and bustling about. The teacher, Justin, was very good. He's an American, from L.A. (of course.), and ha been in Bangkok for about 8 years. He gets to India at least every other year and usually once a year. For him, it's only a few hours flight. I'm glad I took the time to do the class. My body really needed the time and it helped clear my mind, too. At least for a little while.

The rest of the day I spent at the weekend market, north of the hotel. Holy cow, what a lot of people. And what a lot of stuff. Anything you want, you can get at the weekend market. Need some new pots and pans? Get it there. How about new dishes? They got it. Jewelry for your sweetie or yourself? Yup. And if you really wanted a new puppy, bird, or fish, you can get them there too. It was a hoot. And very, very crowded. Sometimes the aisles were so j…
Saturday morning in Bangkok. I'm waiting for yoga class to start. That's at 11:00, in about 45 minutes. I had found this guy's studio on the web. I wanted to see whether Iyengar style yoga is any different here than it is at the place I go to in East Lansing. We'll see. He also has another class tomorrow morning but I'm not sure I can make that and also get to the wat to hear the discussion about Buddhist meditation that takes place the first Sunday of the month. Decisions, decisions.

So yesterday when I got here, I did a short swing around Siam Square. One of the touristy things to do here is visit Jim Thompson's house. Jim Thompson was an American who settled in Bangkok in the 50s and he's been credited for bringing an awareness of Thai silk to the world. He disappeared in 1967 in Malayasia and has never been heard from again. Now his house is a museum of sorts to show off traditional Thai architecture. It's very interesting. The guy had a fantastic se…
Who would have thought that Net access would be 10 times more in Bangkok???? That may put a crimp in my blogging activities. So it goes.

Anyway, Bangkok is everything it's cracked up to be. Big, polluted, crowded, and alive. Tonight I'm out trying to find a restaurant then a place for an after dinner aperitif. What I've found is a street with bar upon bar. And lots and lots of young people. A few geezers like me, but not many. It looks like a city of youth. Maybe all cities look like this after dark and I just don't see it because I'm curled up with a book and ESPN.
It's Friday morning, a bit before 9:00. I have about an hour to kill before I need to check out of the hotel and catch the train back to the Bangkok airport. If all goes well, there will be transportation waiting for me to get to my hotel in Bangkok. If not, I guess I'll need to resort to Plan B. Which I'll need to figure out. Seems like I've had lots of "Plan B" moments this trip.

Yesterday on the trip back from Lop Buri as I was watching the countryside go by, I noticed that the railroad crossings all had crossing guards. They carried little flags, one red and one green. And there were often manual gates that they apparently moved whenever there was a train coming. It was an odd juxtaposition considering that in Lop Buri, only a few minutes away, I found shops with the latest electronic gadgets, several places that offered Internet access and the latest Playstation games, and a host of other modern conveniences. But on the railroad there was still a lot of m…
Another day visiting ruins and learning about Thai history. This morning I got on a train to Lop Buri, about an hour north of Ayuthaya and with a number of ruins, although nothing like the volume found here. At one time, the king thought he'd make Lop Buri sort of his home away from home. So there is big ruin of the king's palace, along with a number of smaller sites that were home to some wats and other buildings. Lop Buri is quite a bit smaller than Ayuthaya and more manageable. Also not very many tourists so it was much harder to find people who could understand me. Even when I said the name of the town I'd get blank stares. The Thai language is very subtle. At least it is for my very heavy, thick tongue. I discovered that if I just say "Ayuthaya" no one knows what the hell I'm talking about, but if I say "Ayuthayahhhhhhhhh" they get it. And I have to make sure that my voice goes up on the last syllable.

My adventure today was when I got to the ru…
Today for the first time I felt like I was in tropical country. The weather was hot, humid, and sunny. According to Yahoo it was 95. And I was bicycling around the island that contains the old city of Ayuthaya. Maybe not my first choice for weather (or lighting conditions for photography) to visit the ruins of the old city, but it was my only chance. So there you go.

It's hard to describe the amazing sight that these ruins are without showing photographs. In 1767, the Burmese army invaded what was then Siam, later to be called Thailand, and trapped the Siamese army in the capital, Ayuthaya. After a short heroic stand, the Siamese army collapsed and the Burmese sacked the city. They literally burned it to the ground and melted down nearly all the golden Buddhas that inhabited the many wats in the city. What's left has been designated a UN World Heritage Site and it's easy to see why once you experience the ruins.

There is one wat left standing. For some reason it escaped the …
If it's Tuesday, it must be Ayuthaya. I flew from Chiang Mai this afternoon and got to the hotel here around 3:00 p.m. Nice flight on Thai Air. Short and smooth. My idea of flying.

Yesterday was a lot of fun in Chiang Mai. After I left the public library I headed south along the western wall of the city, to the Suan Dok gate, where I thought I'd have a look at a couple of the wats I missed in Sunday's tour. I would head east when I got to the gate and go over the moat into the city. When I got to the gate, I hung a right and headed for the wat. Now those of you who have been reading closely, will notice that I was walking south, turned right, and headed east. Wrong. When one is walking south, turning right means one is walking west. So I ended up at Wat Suon Dok, where I had been on Sunday. Along the way I just couldn't figure out why the landmarks on the map weren't showing up. Another Dykhuis story about directional impairment. So it goes. Anyway, it was a differe…
Image
This is the remains of the wall and moat that used to surround Chiang Mai. It's about a block from my hotel. As you can see it's mostly ruin now and the moat is a pretty ugly brown soup. The traffic flows on both sides of the moat and there are periodic crossing. There are several phae or gates around the wall. I use these to keep myself oriented, more or less. The streets around here go don't go in straight lines so it's easy to get turned around and lost. I actually carry a compass (thanks, Eric!), in addition to my map.
Checking out the Chiang Mai Public Library. Gosh, it looks just like the Holt-Delhi Branch back home. The only difference is that, except for the two English newspapers from Bangkok, everything is in Thai script. I introduced myself to the librarian and she set me up on one of the Internet stations they have in their computer room. Yes, it's a wired library! It's about 11:30 a.m. on Monday and about half the stations are busy. Usual assortment of teens and geezers like me. I could watch eloquent about the power of libraries to touch everyone's life, no matter where you might be in the world. But I'll spare you.

I'm off to visit another wat this morning. Then starting to think about the next leg of my journey to Ayuthaya tomorrow. Still trying to hook up with the yoga studio here but I'm not sure I can make that work. Tonight I'm meeting David and Neung for dinner. We're going to an Italian place not too far from their house.

One last observation: no one w…
Today I spent most of the day visiting some of the wats (i.e. Buddhist temples) that dot the landscape of this city. They're fascinating places. All of them are working temples, in that they have monks who stay there, tend the grounds, and teach. Several of them are hundreds of years old and have been restored in recent years. Walking up to the main building on the temple grounds, you always see an assortment of shoes lined up outside. No one is allowed inside with shoes on. And it is considered very insulting to sit with your feet pointed at the Buddha statue inside of the pagoda. Most people sit on their feet, although some sit sort of side-saddle, with their legs off to the side. Many people are there to pray, although today most of the people that I saw were tourists, like me. All of us clicking our cameras. I didn't get a chance to talk to any monks, most of them were walking around on the periphery of the grounds. I suppose they were tending to chores or studying in thei…
First full day of exploring Chiang Mai. And after a long sleep - almost 12 hours. Amazing how a little sleep deprivation can make the world look a bit less bright.

Today David and Maew took me up to Doi Suthep to see the Buddhist temple on the mountain. The story is that several hundred years ago, the King of Chiang Mai sent a white elephant up the mountain with some bones from the Buddha. The elephant got to the top, dropped the bones, and fell over dead. So they figured it was a sign from god and built a temple on the spot. And it's a beautiful spot. Many images of the Buddha, many statues. Also some from Hindu theology. It's a real monastery so many of the people there were praying, lighting incense, and chanting. There was a monk reading to some of the pilgrims. I sat and listened for a little bit. Of course, it was Thai language so I didn't understand a word. The sing-song quality was quite mesmerizing though.

After walking around for a bit, we headed down the 306 steps…
Only 7:23 and I feel like it could be 2:00 a.m. But it's getting better. Spending most of today outside really helped.

I got to Chiang Mai at 7:30 this morning, checked into the hotel, had a shower and started to feel human again. I resisted the urge to jump into the very inviting bed and opted instead for a quick walk around the hotel's neighborhood. It's a commercial strip with many little shops, including an abundance of Internet cafes with access at a reasonable 10 Baht per 30 minutes. (A Baht is worth about 2.5 cents US. You do the math.) The Chiang Mai Public Library is also just down the street. I haven't gone in yet but I'm sure I will before I leave town on Tuesday.

It took me a while, blame it on the travel stupor I was in, but eventually I began to notice the religious symbols all over the place. Every other block, if not more often, I saw little spirit houses. The usually had a statue of a god in a house or gazebo-like structure. Most often the gods looke…
My usual blog at http://www.dykhuis.net seems to be out of commission at the moment. I hope to get it working shortly. In the meantime, here's plan B.

Nothing much to report, except that Korean Airlines knows how to treat its passengers well. I flew from Chicago to Seoul and from Seoul to Bangkok on KAL and on both trips had hot meals that were actually serverd on ceramic serving pieces with flatware that wasn't plastic. Amazing. On the Chicago-Seoul flight we actually had two hot meals because it's a cotton-picking 14 hour marathon. They did their best to make it manageable. We had three movies. Two American and one South Korean. The American films were forgettable romantic comedies: The Wedding Date and Fever Pitch. The South Korean film turned out to be quite affecting, even when few over the heads of all the people in front of me. It's called 'Little Brother' and would be worth searching out on DVD.

OK, so now I'm in the Bangkok airport. One more flight t…
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