SAVE THE DATE!!

– ASL-Interpreted Shabbat Morning Services (February 12th)

From Martin Luther King’s birthday (January 15th, our most-recent one) to
Abraham Lincoln’s (February 12th, our next one)…that’s pretty distinguished
company!

New York’s Tifereth Israel-Town & Village (T&V) Synagogue (www.tandv.org)
will be hosting another sign-language-interpreted Shabbat Service on Saturday
morning, February 12th, and we hope you can join us!

The Service will include full readings from the Torah and Haftorah (Prophets),
and will be held from 10:00 AM — 12:30 PM at 334 East 14th Street, between
1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan.  Our Deaf/hearing interpreting team will
again include Naomi Brunnlehrman and Christopher Tester, and their work will
be underwritten thanks to UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Deaf
Interpreter Fund.

A Kiddush (refreshments and social hour) will follow Services, and all are
welcome to participate!

(Please note:  Out of respect for Shabbat, pen, paper and cell phones cannot
be used at T&V on Saturday morning.)

For additional information, please contact Bram Weiser at
or (212) 677-0368v.

Thanks, and we’ll hope to see you there!

(Schedule is subject to change.)

P.S.  Next month(!!) is Purim and T&V proudly offers an ASL-interpreted
Megillah reading (and, don’t forget, fun for all ages, too!) for the fourth
consecutive year, so mark your calendars now!  Saturday evening, March 19th…
Details are coming soon…so don’t miss out!

P.P.S.  ASL interpreters are available at T&V when requests are made in
advance.  Please contact me () for more information.

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In the Beginning

Thanks to all who have stopped by and/or left comments as the Wasa blog gets underway.

A couple people mentioned that this blog has inspired them to try yoga. I know the feeling. My husband inspired me to try yoga years ago after I watched him ease into a backbend with grace. I’ve mentioned that before, but what I failed to mention was the fact that I didn’t like my first yoga class. Or my second. Or third;

I knew the benefits of yoga – flexibility, awareness, inner stillness – were practices I needed in my life, but during class I couldn’t hold the poses. It takes time to find balance and build strength. Also, the teacher wasn’t a good fit. Plus, I kept slipping on my mat because I was wearing socks. Not to mention my loose-fitting t-shirt flipped over my head when I’d bend over for Downward Facing Dog.

So my first suggestion is to wear comfortable “stretchy” clothes. Slip off your shoes (and socks) before entering the studio. Bare feet help you “stick” to the mat. If you don’t have a mat, you can rent one. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes $1.

Okay, now you’re in the studio before class has begun. Believe it or not this can be the most intimidating part.

A few years ago I remember encouraging a friend to try a yoga class. We were traveling in San Francisco and the class was at 6am. I couldn’t attend because of another obligation (um, I believe it was sleep), but my friend was a super early riser and decided to try yoga for the first time. Ten minutes later she clamored back into the room complaining that when she walked in the studio all the students were gathering foam blocks, long white straps, and bolsters, and she had no idea what these were, if she needed any, and, if so, which ones she should take.¼br />

Oh gosh, I felt awful for sleeping in. I had completely forgotten how many times I’ve felt that exact same way when I’ve tried something new. Like the first time I tried a spinning class. I was standing in the cool dark studio when a group of women walked in all holding biking shoes (biking shoes? Oops! I didn’t have those). Then they began turning knobs, lowering the seats, and adjusting the handlebars. I was outta there in 30 seconds (I went back the next day – it turns out you don’t need biking shoes and the instructor showed me how to adjust the parts – but still).

Even just a few weeks ago I tried a new yoga studio and noticed the students folding blankets in a manner I’d never seen before. I’ve been practicing yoga for years and I still felt a bit out of place. I wasn’t sure if I should fold the blanket “my” way or “their” way. That question was answered when the teacher began class and showed everyone what she wanted us to do.

So, a few more suggestions: don’t worry about the blocks, straps, and blankets. They are props to help people (like me) adjust in certain poses. If you need a prop during a pose, the yoga teacher will bring it to you, or you can ask her before class begins. Also, consider brining a friend to your first class if that would make you feel more comfortable (a friend who has practiced before can show you the ropes; if not, you two can navigate the waters together).

Now class has begun . . . and you don’t understand a word the teacher is saying. Chaturanga Dandasana? Urdhva Mukha Svanasana? Virabhadrasana II? The same thing happened to me in a dance class once where the teacher was using terms I’d never heard. The students around me began spinning and hopping and twirling about as I stood there, motionless and a little annoyed (it was a “beginners” class). Finally I gave up and tried to sneak out of the room. A woman came over and touched me on the shoulder, “You just don’t know the lingo yet. You’ll get the hang of it,” she promised.

And I promise – you’ll get the hang of yoga lingo. I do, however, recommend finding an “intro to yoga” course if you’re trying it for the first time. After trying yoga and not liking it, I finally went to this 2-day orientation at Yoga Works. Instead of jumping right into sun salutations, we sat in a circle and talked. The teacher showed us how to breathe, answered our questions, and walked us slowly through the fundamental poses. That’s when yoga began to change to my life.

On the Road

Had my first cup of coffee in a long time the other day (well, a month, which is long for me!). I was on an airplane heading to Los Angeles and there is nothing I like about planes. Can’t stand the smell, the sounds, the uncomfortable seats, the bathrooms. Can’t stand how my head feels when I read (dizzy) and how my body feels no matter how still I sit (woozy).

I wanted something pleasant. The coffee smelled good, and I figured a cup or two wouldn’t hurt (I mean, heck, those cups on the plane are so little). Well, the next day I had a massive headache. So much for my theory that it wouldn’t hurt – it hurt a lot. I think on the flight home I’ll opt for decaf.

Since arriving, I’ve been sipping non-caffeinated herbal teas like crazy – it’s cold and rainy. Anyway, one of the many things I love about California is the fresh produce. With year-round farmer’s markets and a city full of restaurants that serve up lots of organic fare, it’s great to be here again.

I visited my old book club group the other night where there was a delicious raw veggie salad from Wolfgang Puck’s. Been eating fruit medleys (yum – it’s been awhile since I’ve had fresh, flavorful fruit – wish I could share it with all of you braving the winter snow back east). Today I enjoyed an organic greens salad at my favorite lunch spot, Coral Tree Café (I also had a big, ol’ brownie there – not so healthy, but very tasty).

I do miss cooking though. I’ve really come to enjoy making homemade meals. My husband was shocked when he looked at our budget the other night and realized how much we’ve cut back on eating out at restaurants. Ends up I have a mini-fridge in the hotel out here. In the morning I’ll be off to the local grocer to cobble together some wholesome goodies I can make right in my room. Š

Lazy Bones

During yoga class the teacher, Tina, tells me to lift up a bit. I’m squatting in a pose (it’s sort of this made up pose that I’ve dubbed the Tinasana) and Tina says my middle is sagging.

“The muscles in your body will automatically revert to being lazy if given the chance,” she says.

Lazy? But I’m working so hard, I think.

Later, in Warrior II I’m concentrating on my arms when Tina reminds me to firm my thighs. If I don’t pay attention, they become lazy.

Yet another pose and my feet are splaying instead of pointing in the right direction. Guess why?

Really. Out of all the things in the world, I don’t consider myself lazy. But apparently even when I’m truly working on my alignment there are parts of my body that are secretly trying to get away with as little as possible.

After class I start thinking . . . does that apply to other areas of my life?

No way. I’m motivated! Diligent!Relentless in my pursuits!

Aren’t I?

Except in the mornings. I like to linger in bed. It’s warm and cozy. Plus I’m still sleepy. By the time I do get up, shower, and eat breakfast, I’m always surprised at how much of the day has gotten away from me before I make it to my home office.

And walking. I love my afternoon walks. Love them. Then why do I skip them from time to time, opting instead to sit and work a little longer?

Speaking of work, I realized something as I began investigating this whole laziness issue. If I have ten things on my “To Do” list, I tend to opt for the easiest projects first. When I do start working on a hard topic (say an article that requires a lot of research or possibly a personal essay that forces me to do some inner work), I will drop it as soon as I feel stuck. I tell myself I’ll get back to it and turn my attention to the easier assignments again.

Isn’t it funny the insights yoga gives us into our lives? So if you’ll excuse me, I have an article I’ve put off. I’d better get working on it.

Big on Arms

We are in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) and the teacher is walking us through the pose nice and slow. She has us begin in Tadasana (Mountain pose) and then tells us to touch our fingertips together in front of our chest. As we jump our legs apart, our arms open up too (so they are parallel to the ground).

Next, the real instruction begins. She focuses on our feet, making sure they are spaced far enough apart and turned in the proper direction. She reminds us that our back heel should be aligned with our front heel.

She pauses as we breathe.

Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale.

She moves onto our legs. She makes sure that our right knee is bent so that it’s directly over the right ankle. We need to press our thigh back so we can see our second toe. She keeps us focused on our lower body, giving us directions on our tailbone, butt, and – again – our thighs. She mentions that second toe again.

Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale.

You can practically hear the thoughts of every student in the studio: My arms are tired. My arms are so tired! When will this pose be over so we can put our arms down? Are anyone else’s arms tired? Or am I just a wimp? How much longer do we have to hold our arms up?

Finally, the teacher says, “I know your arms are tired.”

Her acknowledgement is a relief even though she encourages us to keep those arms lifted. “Stretch them out even further, reeeaaaaching for the walls,” she says.

She moves onto our shoulder blades – are they scrunched up by our neck? Release them.

Lengthen our torsos.

Broaden our chests.

She knows exactly what we’re doing – allowing our minds to be consumed with thoughts about our arms.

“Your brain starts to panic first,” she says. “Your body is strong and your arms can handle this.”

That’s the extra motivation we need for the last few breaths until she finally has us step our feet back together and place our hands on our hips.

I’m working out in LA for a couple weeks – my old hometown – and it’s great to be back in my favorite teacher’s class. Now that I’m here, I remember she was always big on arms.

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