Thursday, January 12, 2012

Practice report, Jiva Bandha; What can I write a book on?

Practice this morning was... interesting. It had been a very mild winter so far... till today. As I stepped on the mat this morning, I definitely felt the cold; I later learnt that the temperature outside this morning was somewhere around 5 degrees fahrenheit (-15 degrees celsius). And my practice room isn't the best-heated room in the apartment. The cold definitely made a difference flexibility-wise: In the first few Suryas, my hamstrings were cold and tight, and it wasn't till somewhere around Parsvotttanasana that I felt truly warm and open.

But I think that practicing in colder weather has its advantages too. Because my body is tighter, I have to work with the tightness and perceived lack of flexibility, bring more consciousness to the breath, and move with greater awareness; whereas in a warm environment, there is a tendency to just allow yourself to kind of "melt" into the softness of the muscles and joints. As I moved through primary this morning, I made a conscious intention to breathe more evenly and freely, and also to practice Jiva Bandha, i.e. lightly pressing the tip of the tongue to the center of the roof of the mouth. I learnt this Bandha from Nicki Doane a few years ago (she said that she learnt it from Richard Freeman). It's supposed to do two things: (1) On a physical level, pressing the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth prevents jaw tension. It is simply impossible to do this AND clench the jaw at the same time (try it: You'll see what I'm saying :-)). (2) On a pranic level, keeping the tongue in that position helps to conserve prana and prevent prana leakage.  

Practicing Jiva Bandha is especially useful when it comes to challenging postures. In Kapotasana this morning, I made a conscious effort to practice Jiva Bandha. I didn't get deeper into the posture, but the quality of the posture was different: I was able to breathe a little more fully, and the posture as a whole felt more free of tension.


In a comment I posted on Claudia's recent post on avoiding Yoga Jet Lag, I half-seriously remarked that Claudia's experience "gives us another reason why we should all try to write a book." Claudia rather unexpectedly responded to my comment by saying, "Nobel, yes good idea, your book, can't wait!"

When I first saw Claudia's response, I simply smiled, and didn't think too much of it. But earlier today, I started giving the idea a little more thought: I have been writing this blog for more than a year now. I might be able to use some of the material in this blog to generate a book (just like Claudia used material from her blog to generate her by-now best-selling book, "21 Things to Know Before Starting An Ashtanga Yoga Practice" :-)). But I'm very much a blogging-on-the-fly kind of blogger: I almost never plan in advance what I'm going to blog about. This being the case, my blog posts are kind of all over the place: I basically just blog about anything yoga-related that happens to strike me as interesting on any given day. So, there are no central organizing themes in my blog posts (other than the fact that they are all related to yoga in one way or another). So what should I write a book about (if I'm indeed going to write one)? What are the central themes in this blog that are worth drawing together and putting into a book?

Well, let's see... here are a few off-the-wall possible titles/ideas (I'm being facetious, just so you know):

1. How to Mess up your SI joint, Bust Your Knee, (Almost) Break Your Back in Kapotasana, and Live to Tell the Tale

Who would want to read a book with this title? Hmm... but maybe if I write this book, the NYT will want to publish an excerpt of it (you know what I'm talking about; don't make me link to that NYT article again). And then I'll be famous (and maybe rich too?); but this fame will come only at the price of selling out the yoga community and becoming Yoga Public Enemy #1. So, not a good idea.

2. Random Confessional Musings of a Crazy Chinese Ashtangi in the Upper Midwest

Will anybody be interested in reading a book with such a title?  

3. Confessions of a Crazy Chinese Douchebag Who Hangs Around Coffee Shops (and Secretly Scorns Strange Old Men Who Mistake Him for Being Japanese)

A book like this would at least be a true account of something that actually happened. But again, would anybody want to read a book with a title like this?

Speaking of which, here's something I'm really curious about, being a non-native English speaker: Can anybody tell me the difference between "asshole" and "douchebag"? I tried asking my students in class this morning, and we all had a great time laughing and thinking about this distinction, but in the end, nobody could come up with a satisfactory answer.

4. Why I Haven't Been to Mysore Even Though I Practice Ashtanga Yoga 

I have written a few posts on this. But I'm not sure if there is enough material to generate into a book. Besides, I'm also not sure if anybody would be interested in reading something like this.

5. The Collected Wisdom of Kino MacGregor

Looking through my posts, I've noticed that many of them involve things that I have learnt from Kino, either in person at her workshops, or via email correspondence. There probably is enough material to turn into a book. But if anybody is going to write a compilation of Kino-wisdom, it should be Kino herself! It would be very weird for some other person to write a book like this, wouldn't it? Besides, I have heard somewhere that Kino herself is in the process of publishing a book. So why steal her thunder? (remember Asteya (Non-Stealing)...)

But seriously, any of you regular readers out there have any ideas about what I could write a book on, if I should decide to use material from this blog to write a book? If you have any ideas at all (doesn't matter how off-the-wall), I'll love to hear from you. I'm not yet committed either way (to writing or not writing). But I would like some ideas, so I can think about this some more. Many thanks in advance.


  1. Personally I would be interested to read a book about modifications in Ashtanga practice for injury sufferers.
    That would be helpful reading for practitioners as well as teachers. Especially when it comes to adjustment of an injured person not every teacher knows how it may feel like to step on that bad knee:))

    I would probably cover the most occurring injuries like shoulder, knee and back and how to modify asana into a therapeutic and healing one. Also I think raising a question of motivation for practice when injured is very important too.
    I've been through a hard time thrown away from my practice by pain and self doubt. The were simply not much resources available about all this..
    I think there is a good niche for such a book.

    1. Yes, this sounds like a good thing to write about. Only thing is, since I am not officially a teacher (I also don't want to mislead people by suggesting modifications that may not work for them), maybe I'll focus less on the actual modifications for postures, and more on the motivation for practice/psychology. I'll think more about this. Thanks for your suggestion.

  2. Hi Nobel, wow, right there Ashtanga mummy said something very interesting... I agree with her, there is definitelly a need, especially if it comes around with the wisdom you gathered around on how to heal yourself and if the injury you had could be a metafor for all injuries as well... that is an idea!

    Thanks for the mention of the book. Saw your comment on Susan's blog, and it is interesting I feel like we are friends yet we have not met in person -yet-

    The publishing world is different now, books are dead, and kindle is alive, amazon has changed the game, and authorship is only as distant as our willingness to gather our ideas, our messages and share them with the world.

    I think you have more than a book in you! some of those ideas had me cracking up. One suggestion James gives me is to list 100 ideas... to keep going, some may sound funny, like the confessions of the chinese douchebag... ha ha... but if you keep going, letting it flow, you will see that tittles will start to come from the stream of consciousness.

    I think the spine of the book, the basic idea is important. Must resonate with you enough so you stick with it. And I agree with you that being a blogger is helpful, as you already probably have what? 500,000 words written?

    Stay warm.

    One last thing, sorry to go manifesto. That Richard Freeman trick really works. I feel that it totally sends me within and relaxes the jaw, it works!

    1. "Do you know if it's snowing in Japan right now?"
      just seems like a title of a good book and you could take it in so many directions of connectedness.

    2. Hello Claudia,
      wow, you have said a lot here that needs thinking about.

      "there is definitelly a need, especially if it comes around with the wisdom you gathered around on how to heal yourself and if the injury you had could be a metafor for all injuries as well... that is an idea!"

      This is definitely an idea, and I agree that there definitely is a need; except that I don't know how much wisdom I actually have about this matter right now. As I was telling Kino the other day, I have good days and not-so-good days, and the only thing I can safely say right now is that I at least haven't done anything to make the original injury worse. As for healing, this is something my body has to do on its own. Only thing I can really do is not get in its way, and try as much as possible to create the conditions for healing.

      Yes, I agree that the "spine of the book" is important. I'm going to keep throwing ideas around until my thoughts coalesce into a well-defined idea or set of ideas.

      Hello Martha,
      yes, "Do you know if it's snowing in Japan right now?" has a nice ring to it. Actually, it sounds quite Murakami-esque :-). Maybe if I don;t use this as a title, I can at least make it the title of the first chapter or prologue. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. An asshole is an unpleasant jerk. A douchebag is a contaminated asshole because a douche bag is a container women used to ( or still?) use to clean their private parts, and nothing is more disgusting to a sophomoric mind than something associated with female genitalia. That is why the term is used to humiliate only men. So not a good title but a very good topic. Thanks for the space to rant!

    1. Very nice, sereneflavor. Which makes a douchebag a contaminated unpleasant jerk! Somebody in my class also mentioned that it is probably a generational thing: "douchebag" seems to be the word of choice for younger people (below 25 years of age?), whereas "asshole" seems to be used more by "older" people.