Archive | yoga

in which I am humiliated by a fiberglass plank

I have good balance. I can do standing balance poses in yoga (the mildly twisty ones, not the super-twisty ones); I have mastered the rudiments of stand-up paddle-boarding; I’ve even done some yoga moves on a paddle-board.

So I figured that learning to surf would be easy. Liam and Caleb did it in one lesson, in Weligama Bay, where the waves break evenly along a broad expanse of beach. The Sri Lankan teen-agers who were teaching them simply pushed the boards out to where the waves broke, aimed the board in the right direction and gave it a shove, saying “paddle, paddle, paddle.”  The boys paddled, they wobbled, they stood, they hung ten.

And suddenly they were surfin’ safari dudes who couldn’t wait to do it again.


Watching the boys, I says to myself, I says “self, you’ve got balance, and you’ve got an Athleta bathing suit–what more does a gal need?”

The next day we got a tuk-tuk to bring us back to the bay and I rented myself a board. I paddled out into those nice gentle waves ignoring the twinges of pain in what’s become a Middle Aged Shoulder, I watched the boys and the other beginning surfers, I got myself lined up, I paddled, I wobbled, I…

…went face first into the ocean.

That board kicked my ass.

Who knew there were so many ways to face-plant into a wave? Even with the help of the surf teacher, who tugged me into the right alignment on the wave, the same thing happened again and again: the board would dart forward on the energy of the wave, I would start to stand, and…


Again and again and again, as my kids whizzed by doing that bouncing thing with their front leg to make the board go faster, and clamoring to go out to the big waves.

I was not an Athleta gal shredding across the wave’s curl. I was that Athleta gal’s middle-aged mom with a bad sunburn and a borrowed rash guard t-shirt belly flopping off a tongue-shaped piece of fiberglass.

Athleta, summer catalog 2007, Sayulita,Mexico, surfer Julie Coxthis is not me

But you know, mom’s got some pride, and I didn’t want to hurl the board onto the sand and stomp off down the beach.  Especially because it was only about nine in the morning, too early to drown my sorrows in a festive tropical drink.

One more, one more, one more…flop, flop, flop.

Then on what I told myself would be the absolute last time, I stood up! Flying, gloriously, for probably an entire 2.5 seconds, before again eating the wave.

It was enough, that tiny ride. We’re planning a return trip to Sri Lanka and before we go, I’m going to tend to the Middle Aged Shoulder, find some muscles somewhere (maybe on the internet? you can get everything on the internet, can’t you?), study the pictures in the Athleta catalog in order to find the bathing suit that comes with mad surfing skillz.

Besides, by the time we go back to Sri Lanka, I might finally have gotten all the seawater out of my lungs—and how better to go into my next decade than on a surf board?


Continue Reading · on April 8, 2013 in exercise, Kids, me my own personal self, sports, Travel, yoga

does this mud make me look younger?

So I’ve done something to my shoulder.

I don’t know what I did but it’s been sore for months. Maybe I over-eagled my arms in eagle pose, or perhaps my efforts to be Miss Plank Body in chaturanga have backfired, or maybe it’s just a warning shot across the bow about what’s going to happen once I finally bid farewell to my late-mid-forties.

You know the signs. You’ve got A Back, maybe; or perhaps it’s The Knee.  Getting out of bed is no longer a bound-and-greet-the-day, instead it’s a calculated swivel of feet, leg, hips, and oof.

And there’s the face. I had the misfortune, while we were in Jordan, to stay in not one but two hotel rooms that had magnifying mirrors right near the sink. I kept catching my reflection in the well-lit surfaces and my friends, in the morning, my facial skin resembles nothing so much as the fabric of a waffle-weave t-shirt. Or, to go more high-end, some kind of fabric that Issey Miyake might use in a couture creation. Pleated, is what I’m saying.

My aching shoulder and pleated forehead–plus the rest of me–were thrilled about the prospect of “taking the waters” at the Dead Sea. For millenia people have pilgrimmaged to these salty waters, lured by the curative powers of salt, heat (the water is quite warm), and the famous Dead Sea mud, which is packed with minerals.

 It’s impossible not to laugh when you get into the water: you are, literally, weightless. Your feet float up to the surface of their own accord; you could, if you wanted to, float in the water and read a magazine without once getting the pages wet.  Diving below the surface is almost impossible; my kids tried to sink themselves by clutching big rocks in their hands, but even then, they barely got their chins wet.

We could have stayed floating on our backs forever, except that Caleb kept flipping over: he’s so light that each passing ripple spun him around like a pinwheel.

Searching for the cure to all my ills, I smeared myself with mud, rinsed myself in the salty waters, and then besmeared myself again. I repeated this process four or five times during our overnight stay at the resort.

Am I cured? Well, my shoulder still hurts. I finally went to an orthopedist who, after I had six x-rays, came up with a brilliant diagnosis: I have a sore shoulder. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory which, as near as I can tell, contains no Dead Sea salts.

And as for my skin?  While the mud dried on my face, Liam looked at me. “Wow,” he said. “I can see every single line and wrinkle. Your face looks like some of those buildings in Petra.”

Great. My face is a crumbling monument.

True, my post-mud skin felt smooth and soft – soft enough that I bought a packet of mud to give myself facials at home.  But I’ve discovered the double-whammy cure for pleated skin: First off, don’t wear your glasses when you look in the mirror. What you can’t see doesn’t exist. (Hey, it works for Mitt Romney and poor people.)

Second cure?

No magnifying mirrors.

Continue Reading · on October 29, 2012 in expat, Travel, yoga

chair pose. don’t leave home without it.

Chair pose:


squat toilet:

Imagine that squat toilet being your only option on a five-hour train ride.  Imagine the train car slinging and bouncing along the track. Imagine the water with which previous passengers have been sloshing out the squatter, sort of puddling and pooling along the bathroom floor. Imagine clutching your little ziploc bag of toilet paper (SUCH A WESTERN SISSY!) with one hand, holding your trousers off the floor with the other hand (WHY DIDN’T I WEAR A SKIRT?).  Where is that third hand with which to balance yourself against the wall?  Exactly. There you are in Indian train’s squat toilet without a third hand, dammit.

But hey, you’ve been doing yoga for a while, so you can just slide into that chair pose and hold it, hold it, hold it (WHOA  GOING AROUND A CURVE).  Finish your bidness and find a way to wipe off the bits and parts, and stand up without letting the trousers drop into the sloshy stuff. Find yourself deeply regretting the decision to wear birkenstocks instead of, say hip-waders or steel-toed boots, find yourself wishing briefly that you were a man with a man’s stand-up apparatus, and then make your way back to your seat. Realize you are having minor cramping in your quadriceps, but it’s a small price to pay for not falling down. Or in.

Namaste, my friends, namaste.

picture of chair pose from thedownwardfacingblog and the picture of the luverly squat toilet, in Thailand, is from Stop Having  Boring Life

Continue Reading · on November 13, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, exercise, Travel, yoga

Grace in Small Things #2

Am in need of grace this evening.  It’s been, as they say, one of those days. Although actually if I am really precise, it’s only been one of those days since 3:45, when my children got off the bus and all hell broke loose. But we’ll ignore that explosion for now, other than for me to pose the question: does it make me a bad mother that when my kids are having meltdowns, a tiny part of me thinks blog fodder!

But I am not writing about meltdowns this evening. I’m going glass half-full tonight, instead of glass shattered-on-the-floor-with-orange-juice-on-the-rug (metaphorically, that is. No one broke a glass, no one had to be rushed to the hospital gushing blood).

1. Spicy almonds from Lebanese Roastery,which has an entire wall filled with what looks like small file cabinets. Each drawer contains different flavors of nuts: lemon pistachios, spicy pistachios, walnuts, weird black knobby things with Arabic names that I can’t read. The drawers are warmed, so that when you get your bag of nuts, they are fragrant, warm, crunchy.

2. I found a vegetable market within walking distance of my apartment! It’s not the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but the produce is relatively local (versus, for instance, the irony of going to one of the grocery stores around here and seeing that all the grapes were from California).  Also unlike Union Square, most of the guys working in the market are barefoot. Also? You can buy fresh coconut:

3. Delivery trucks with decorative paneling. Many of the white trucks that rattle around have detailing: cut-out tin hearts, flowers, butterflies. They make me smile.

4.  Bad translations. Probably I shouldn’t laugh at mis-translations (especially because at the rate I’m (not) learning Arabic, I will never even know how to say my own name in another language, much less translate anything).  But then again, I’m the mother who thinks her kids’ miseries will create blog content, so what the hell. Somebody’s bad English gave me a giggle:

5. Yoga on the beach. Actually, yoga on the beach is a BIG grace note. I confess that I’m not a true yogi: if I were, I would’ve been “on the mat” for our entire summer travels and for the weeks after we got here. I even went so far as to put yoga classes on  podcasts in my ipod but you know what? I got distracted, would do a little bit and then decide I needed to do something more important. Fold the laundry, check my email, eat cookies.  So when I found out that The Yoga Juice was starting up their evening yoga on the beach classes, I got myself there: in an open-sided pavilion facing the water, doing vinyasa during the long Arabian sunset. More than grace. Bliss.

Continue Reading · on October 16, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, exercise, expat, grace in small things, UAE, yoga

There’s a Metaphor Here Somewhere

The yoga teacher says we’re going to do handstands and that “if a handstand isn’t part of your practice, you can use the wall for your handstand.”

I’m thinking to myself, looky here, LuluLemonista, not only is a handstand not in my practice, I don’t want a handstand in my practice. In fact, I’ve been really pretty happy for most of my life without a handstand.

Going upside the hell down and then balance on my hands? Funny joke.

I don’t do upside down. In fact, I hate being upside down.

Even when I was little, when all the other kids were impressing one another with the whole hanging by their knees thing on the monkey bars?  Nope. I remained steadfastly upright. In gym class, in high school, when we were supposed to learn a move on the uneven parallel bars–a “penny drop” (swing by your knees back and forth until you get enough velocity to unwrap your legs, then land on your feet)–I about had a nervous breakdown.

So. Handstands.

Dutifully, I drag myself over to the wall, plant my hands, walk my feet towards my hands until I’m in an upside down V, then lift one foot into the air and start hopping off the other foot to launch the extended leg skyward–or wallward, rather.

It scares me. Scares me because while my feet are thrashing in space (a millisecond at a time), there’s no way of knowing if the wall is really there. Is the wall there? I can’t see the damn wall because I’m upside down, so how do I know the wall has not suddenly melted, ala “Inception” or something?  Being upside down may involve more faith than I’m really equipped to offer.

Then last week, Lululemonista ratcheted it up a notch.  Now the wall isn’t an option. We’re supposed to just V ourselves, extend the one leg up into the air and start that damn hopping off the other leg.

We’re either aiming for handstands or ol’ Lemonista has got us all doing some kind of obscure mating ritual.

Every now and then, in one of my hops, I can feel my arms kind of root down into the floor and all my muscles (such as they are) suddenly figure out how to work together, and for a brief moment I think “okay, this is what it feels like to do a handstand.”  You know what? For that split-second nano-moment where “handstand” seems attainable, it’s glorious. I feel strong and weightless, at the same time.

And then, immediately, “oh my god am I going to do a handstand? holy crap.” My feet come thumping down onto the floor and I realize that my arms are trembling with fatigue.

When I used to be in therapy and would wail about my anxieties to my therapist, she would look at me and say, calmly, “what’s the worst that could happen?”  And most of the time, when I forced myself to answer that question out loud, “the worst” wasn’t usually that bad – usually not death or pestilence or global destruction.

What’s the worst that could happen in a handstand? Maybe the wall wouldn’t be there. Maybe I’d fall down.

Or maybe, maybe one of these days (weeks, months, years) I won’t fall down. Maybe I’ll  just suspend there, balanced on my hands, toes wiggling in the air.

Nah. Never gonna happen. Upside down still scares me.

Most of the time.

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Continue Reading · on January 19, 2011 in me my own personal self, yoga

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