Handstands

 

Okay so, I’m even impressed with that picture above. Of course, the scenery in the background adds more to it.  But, I only held it for about 10 seconds. Handstands and I have this love-hate thing going on. I just went to this 2hr Inversion workshop last weekend at the studio with Chris Chavez. Chris is a certified Anusara teacher and someone who is really talented in his practice, especially in hand balances. He’s one of those people who can just go upside down, and stay there. I have two friends that I saw recently and who are equally as talented in handstands. I adore these two guys. But, at the same time, I want to give them a karate chop to the throat. They make it seem so natural and easy! I mean, I’ve come a long way from when I started a year and a half ago. But, the impatient side of me wants it NOW! We didn’t do a ton of handstands in Las Vegas. When we did do them, we did handstands at the wall. I remember it took me forever just to kick up and get my hips over my shoulders at the wall. That shit was SCARY, son! Everything looks different upside down. When I moved to L.A., I was shocked to find out that my Anusara teacher, Tony(and most in L.A.) do handstands during EVERY class; usually in the middle of the room. It was one of those sink or swim scenarios. I love being upside down!  If you ask most of my friends about me and handstands, they’ll give you the same answer. “Yeah,  during the middle of a conversation, Justin will get up and start doing handstands in my living room.”  I just love them so much. Well, that, and the fact that I have the attention span of puppy. I mean, I’ve already checked my Facebook page twice while writing this post. :-)

Arm balances change the way you see things, and really strengthens your shoulders and arms. So my goal for next year is go get up…and stay up for a while. Apparently, there is this “Sweet spot” in handstands that I clearly haven’t found yet. I sure hope I find it soon because I like sweet spots (Ba doom boom ching!!).

Chris Chavez and myself during his Inversion workshop in Silverlake  @ Yoga At The Raven.

BTW…sorry for the week off from posting. I’m still eating leftover turkey! How was everyone’s holiday?

 

Taking things for granted: Naive or just plain stupid?

I went to see the movie, “J. Edgar” the other day with Andy, a friend of mine. I had very little knowledge of J. Edgar Hoover. I just knew by him name and that he was some old dude in my history books. Let’s just say, I wasn’t a fan of history class in school. If you were to ask me what was happening in the world right now, I would tell you VERY little. I don’t read newspapers, watch the news; I rarely read online news either. There’s a lot of negative crap on there that I’d rather not deal with sometimes.

I liked the movie, “J.Edgar”. I felt like I got a little history lesson and enjoyed a pretty decent film. To my surprise, J. Edgar was a homosexual, or “Rumored to have relationships with men”.  Whatever.  Apparently, Hoover had a “relationship” with his longtime employee, Clyde Tolson for many years up until his death. Hoover was also a raging bitch, hypocritical and self loathing. I couldn’t imagine living life like that. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine being a homosexual male growing up in the early 1900′s. It must have been awful. By the end of the movie, I just felt sorry for him because he couldn’t be himself. It made me tear up several times just thinking about it. But, I also cried during an Ebay commercial recently, so…my hormones are clearly acting up again!

The story of J. Edgar Hoover made me thankful that I didn’t have those extreme hardships as a gay man like he had. Some people these days don’t remember how tough it was back then and how far we’ve come in this society.After the crazy year I’ve had(which you can read about in the prior posts), I’ve tried my best to not take things for granted. I looked over at my friend during the movie, who is currently twenty four. When I was his age, I was a self absorbed little bitch with an attitude to match. I wasn’t the nicest person and that makes me sick just thinking about it. I’m not saying everyone in their 20′s acts this way; this was how I acted.

I’m thankful every day when I walk into work. A lot of my patients have brain tumors, cancer, Crohn’s disease, heart problems and lung conditions. All of which I DON’T have. And, for that, I’m grateful. My yoga practice and my job make me realize that life is a gift. Life should be a celebration. It should be about good people, love and being happy with who you are. Some people in Los Angeles are so caught up with themselves, their clothes and celebrities. If you think I give a shit about name dropping or who your wearing…your sadly mistaken.

Come at me with eye contact, a smile and a genuine heart…then you have my attention.

:-)

HOLY SHI–VA!

A couple of awesome things are going on today (11/14/11). First, I’m going to pick up my Nataraja murti this evening from one of the most well known Philosophers and teacher of the tantric practice. Manoj Chalam is the main go to person in the Anusara community for statues/murtis. He’s been traveling around with John Friend lately giving talks to students. I’ve been chatting with him recently and he’s stopping in LA just for tonight and tomorrow before he heads east. He’s also bringing three, 14″ Nataraja murtis with him for me to choose from. Oh man, I’ve become one of “those yoga people”. It was bound to happen.  I feel like I’m going on a first date or something. I’m all nervous and antsy. LOL. Of course, this cup of cappuccino doesn’t really help. I drank this over an hour ago and I seriously feel as though I could start flapping my arms, and take flight. OH, AND…I got a new follower on my blog! YES! Someone I don’t actually know. That makes me super happy! Hopefully, I can calm down a bit before I get this murti. I don’t want this amazing philosopher to think that I’m on angel dust!  I’ll be right back to give you scoop!

(Fast Forward to the next morning (11/15/11). Now, I’m telling the story from the next day because I didn’t have time to finish it last night.)

He’s PERFECT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Manoj at his hotel, in the lobby. He opened a box and pulled out three murtis; a 9″, 14″, and 16″ one. I had my heart set on the 14″ Shiva because of price and size. But, when he set the 16″ murti on the table, I didn’t see the others. This one was mine. He began to describe the meaning of the curves, points and shape of the murti. I started tearing up! WTF??? I swear I can cry much easier these days. It’s a little ridiculous. However, I knew instantly that this was the one I been searching for. Coincidentally, this is the one he originally “chose” for me before I had even met him. It’s funny how things like that happen. He’s the sweetest man in my life right now. I only allow sweet people in my life. If some other guy wants to step up and be with me…

Be warned:

You have fierce competition! Lol

The not so Happy Holidays, pt 3

Let’s just say that I was on my mat A LOT during mid December 2010. My mother had gone into the hospital due to a urinary tract infection that caused her to be septic in her bloodstream, which the doctors were treating with antibiotics. She was in ICU for about four or five days. Back in Vegas, I was still packing up my home to prepare for my move back to Los Angeles. My last day of work was the 15th and I was planning on moving back to LA that afternoon. Between that, work and all my yoga time, I was pretty busy. My mother had been in and out of the hospital several times before, but no one seemed to be very concerned about it. That is, until…she wasn’t getting any better.  I knew it was pretty serious when I spoke to the nurse and she said, “If it was my mother, I’d fly into town.”  So, I did. I flew into Beaumont on Friday, Dec 10th and went straight to the hospital.

From the moment I walked into her ICU room, her eyes lit up and her face started to glow. She always got so excited to see me no matter how she felt. I told her, “Move over, I need more room on this side of the bed to lay down”. She tried to move over for me, but couldn’t because she was so weak; this broke my heart. I squeezed my butt in the bed and laid with her for a long time, combing her hair, and telling her stories of how I used to get beat with the belt growing up. This, for some strange reason, made her laugh. :-)  My mom had this contagious laugh that I’d always love to hear. I still can hear it. Over the weekend, my family and I were always by her side and she seemed to be improving. Sunday came and it was time for me to go back to Las Vegas to prepare for my move back to Los Angeles that Wednesday. She said she was happy that I was happy and going to be moving back to LA. She was also really happy that I was going to The Galapagos because I got to ‘See all the pretty animals’. She wasn’t keen on me leaving, but I told her that “I needed to go on this trip so I can tell you all about it when I come back.” I couldn’t kiss her enough or rub my hands through her hair.  I knew this would be the last time I would see her.

Monday came and they moved her to a regular room to be with the family.

I went to one of Karen’s classes that night and dedicated my practice to her. That evening, I had wine, cheese, great conversation AND crying with Karen and her husband. When I was leaving to go home, my sister called me crying and said, “Mom just died.”  I started to tear up and said, “Good for her. Good for her.” I was surrounded by people who loved me the moment she passed. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be. She just went to sleep and was never in pain. What a better way to go? She’s not confined to the bed anymore and is finally free. I cried all that night, but was on my mat the next morning, dedicating my practice to her once again.  She’s not gone. She’s all around me. I am a part of her and that makes me smile a LOT.

There’s one thing you guys have to know about my mom. If she thought for ONE SECOND I was in a deep depression or wasn’t living my life to the fullest because she was gone; she’d get “Big Bertha” (The Belt) from the closet and whip my ass!

I love you mom.

The not so Happy Holidays, pt 2

To say that my mother and I were close is a bit of an understatement. I’d like to think of myself as a reflection of her. Or at least try to bring happiness to others as she did for me. She was always on the go and wherever she went, my sister and I weren’t far behind. She traveled through life pretty lightly and was always laughing. On several occasions I can remember my dad getting irritated with her because he thought she wasn’t taking him seriously sometimes. What does she do? Point at him, and laugh in his face! Lol. I don’t recall a lot of things that would get her too upset. I think my dad, in some ways, lived vicariously through her. Having his reservations about certain things, I think she helped him see them in different ways. Karen told me recently, “Maybe spreading your mothers’ joy to others is your path. Sending out joy to others is a way to be more connected with her.”  She was right.

My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 1998, I believe. There are variations of MS. Some have remissions for 20yrs, while others end up in wheelchairs. Unfortunately, my mother had the latter. It began slowly with her falling, then becoming weak. And, before we knew it, she was confined to a scooter and then, ultimately the bed. This woman who used to tell me, “Home is where you go where there isn’t any other place to go.”, just…stopped going. It didn’t make sense to me. From a medical standpoint, I understood the disease. However, at the same time, it was MY mother. Which, didn’t seem fair. She was confined to the bed for the last six or seven years of her life, which was not easy for the rest of the family to see. Remarkably, she still had an amazing outlook on life.

I remember wanting to move out from my hometown for the first time; I was 22. I went to her room and told her, “Mom, I really feel like I want to move out of the city and see things; experience life. However, if you want me to stay and help dad take care of you, I will.” To my surprise she replied, “No baby, you have to go. Your daddy and I have already lived our lives. You have to live yours.”  This is how this woman was ALL the time. Even while confined to a bed, she always remained happy and optimistic. I think it’s a great way to travel through life.

Those are just a couple of reasons that I am proud to be her son.

The not so Happy Holidays, pt 1

As the holidays approach, I can’t help but wonder what they will bring. Because as of last year, they will never be the same.  By the beginning of last December, I was deep into my Anusara practice. It was month number eight; the way I looked at everything seemed to be shifting. I didn’t get as angry or upset over things that I couldn’t control. When I look at things or situations, I try to see the good in them; opposed to the bad. Believe me, it makes your stress level go way down and makes things much easier. “Everything happens for a reason” isn’t my favorite saying, but it was ironic the way everything presented itself last year. After the end of my relationship, I was built back up with my Anusara practice. Which, I believe was to mentally prepare myself for all of the life altering changes that came about in December.

In October, I made a conscious decision to move back to Los Angeles by January 2011.  My contract at work would be ending December 15th and there were few jobs around town. So, I decided to move. I would be leaving behind my house that I purchased in 2008, relationship memories, friends, Karen, and my new Anusara family. But, the feeling of uneasiness from living in Las Vegas was stronger than my will to stay. My friend and I had a trip planned to The Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu  earlier in the year. We planned to go during the week of Christmas just to get out of our space, and end 2010 on a happy note. Throughout November and December, I was still doing about 5 or 6 yoga classes a week. I was trying to prepare myself for the loss of my job, the move back to Los Angeles, and my first trip out of the country. Everything seemed to be on a deadline or a rush to the situation. I was starting to stress out, but tried my best to not get overwhelmed. I knew I was going to be losing a lot within the upcoming months. But, there was one loss that I had not anticipated.

The loss of my mother.

Staying Steady

It’s time for me to buy my first Shiva Nataraja statue. I have no murtis in my possession and didn’t buy any because I wasn’t really sure about them. I’m still not really sure how I feel about them today. I was raised catholic as a child but left the faith when I was 18. Today, I consider myself Agnostic. I believe that something might be going on after death. However,  I don’t think talking snakes, or an old man hearding animals onto a ship, ever existed. Again, I’m not endorsing Hinduism, but I like what this statue represents to me.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the God, Shiva:

In the tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as a major Hindu deity, the supreme God. He is represented as a handsome young man immersed in deep meditation or dancing the Tandava upon Apasmara, the demon of ignorance in his manifestation of Nataraja, the Lord of the dance, goodness, humility, and every good quality a human should have.  In this statue, the murti is depicting Shiva’s “Dance of Bliss”.  ’Depicting every good quality a human should have’. I kind of like that. It was seriously eight or nine months before I knew what the statue even meant or who it was. At the time, I was just trying to focus on doing better forward folds and back bends. I wasn’t trying to immerse myself in Philosophy or the culture behind it all. It just wasn’t a priority.

The first six months of my yoga practice with Karen was very interesting. I had never heard of teachers playing artists like AC/DC, Nirvana,  and Skid Row during class. I mean, who does that? Not many teachers. But, that’s one of the things that I love about her; her uniqueness. At the same time, it was a little difficult holding Vashistasana(side plank) while listening to Styx pleading with me to “Come Sail Away” with them.  It’s hard to stay steady in your pose with “distractions” and you have to learn how to overcome them. The same thing went for my life off of my mat. Life was tough after my breakup, but I had no other choice than to stay focused on my goal; which was ultimately happiness again.

John Friend described the Shiva Nataraja statue in a weekend retreat he had in San Francisco in February 2011. He said, “Look at all the movement that’s going on with Shiva. The hair is wildly moving behind him, indicating that he is dancing very quickly. But, his eyes are always steady, straight ahead. He is always focused on what’s important.” And after that, I got it. I just got it. There will always be distractions around us. It may be ex boyfriends, bad coworkers or financial troubles. Even doing yoga while listening to Marilyn Manson in your underwear could pose a challenge. The trick is trying to stay steady among all of the chaos and stay focused on your goal at hand.

And btw, if you’re able to do arm balances to Marilyn Manson yelling obscenities at you, you’re off to a great start in following Shiva’s example.

I hate demoing poses in class!

Well, I USED to. Around my second month or so of my practice, my teacher started “picking on” me. Well, that’s what I thought of it at the time. I’ve never was the guy in school who was the class clown or the popular one. I’m a very social person in MOST situations. However, I’m a little nervous about speaking to groups and especially “Demoing” yoga poses during a class with over forty people in it. It’s not really my thing, but thanks. :-)  I didn’t want to appear as a show off, or people to be whispering, “Who the hell is this guy?”. And, I didn’t want to be labeled, “The Favorite” , because people got picked on and beat up for shit like that in school. I was very confident that I wasn’t going to get jumped after class by the sweet, grey haired women with glasses hanging ’round their necks .  Even the young twenty two year old girls with their expensive Lululemon attire didn’t seem threatening.  But, I clearly had some sort of weird phobia. It’s amazing that crap like that can run through your head. It’s one of those things that you HATE doing, but if you say no, people will whisper, “What an ass!”. Not to mention, my teacher would have given me shit about it after class. I basically had no other choice.

My stomach would seriously “fall” when Karen would say, “Justin, Urdhva Dhanurasana. Place your hands and go up!” It’s not exactly fun having a sick feeling in your stomach when your doing crazy back bends! And, for a beginner yogi, it stressed me out! I didn’t see my potential back then.  I used to dread having to demo in huge classes while at the gym. I finally realized that I wasn’t being picked on. She was calling on me because…I could actually do these poses!  She wanted the others to see how the pose was supposed to look from another student and not from her. After a while, it became empowering in a way. It was definitely a confidence booster, and Karen knew that. She knew exactly what she was doing because she knew I needed it at the time. These days, if any of my teachers ask me to do anything, I do it. Even if I have reservations about the pose, I at least try. Because dedicated yogis know that if your teacher asks you for anything…you do it. They wouldn’t ask you to do something just to “pick on” you.

It’s always out of love.

I spoke to my ex the other day…

 

In all honesty…I was going to document all of these life changing experiences that I have had over the past year and a half. I was going to go into explicit detail about my bad relationship, among other things. About how we never got along, he’s such a bad person, etc…About how I was a battered victim, but ultimately clawed my way back to salvation! Well, most of that is true. And, the other part of it? It was spite. I wanted everyone to know how inspiring I thought my story was, and was hopefully going to inspire others. But, why do anything if there isn’t good intentions behind it? So, all the little details about my relationship ultimately aren’t important. The important thing is that I learned from them.

I spoke to my ex the other day. It would have been one year and two months almost to the day since I talked to him. I’m not sure WHY I did it. I was in my apartment, hanging out with my kids and thought, “It’s time. I need to contact him.”. So I did.  I sent him a text saying, “Hi. You’ve crossed my mind recently and I wanted to see how you were doing. :-) ” Not a MINUTE later…he called me. And, we talked for 3.5hrs. We went over unanswered questions, caught up on each others lives, said a few apologies, and even cried a little. It was…nice. I had heard he tried to contact several months later me after we split up via email. But, I never got any emails from him because I had blocked his email address. And, I had heard that he basically wanted to apologize and wish me well. But, I never believed that. I always assumed there was always going to be an underlying jab right after his “sincere apology”, and wasn’t interested in hearing it. I reminded him of the email and he quickly found it in his archives.  He asked if he could read it to me. Considering that our conversation was going quite well so far…I let him read it. And, I have to say…it was NOT what I had expected. It was sincere, thoughtful, and heartfelt. Right after he finished reading it, I sat up from lying on the bed and began to cough. And, I actually started gagging as if I was going to vomit. It was so unexpected that I was just shocked. I had a rush of all of these emotions that I wasn’t sure what do to with. I then realized… I had been having ill feelings for this person for such a long time when I didn’t have to.  They were hindering my emotional growth. People can surprise you, and I got surprised that night.

After we ended the conversation, I went to bed very happy. I finally just let all of my bad feeling towards him go. I did, in some ways, miss him. I’m glad I got to tell him how I felt without either of us shouting at each other. I was glad to know he was doing well. And, we both made sure the other knew that dispite what happened between us…we still care for each other to some degree, and probably always will. You can’t forget 2.5yrs of memories just like that. It wasn’t all bad. But, there’s reasons why we aren’t together anymore. The only thing to do now is to move forward.

Harboring bad feelings for someone sucks. And, doing things out of spite to people is wrong. I should know better (Bad Yogi. BAD BAD YOGI). And, I truly didn’t realize I was doing it until that night. Yeah, I could go into more detail about all the problems we had and who said what to who.

But, what does it matter if it’s in the past?  Letting go takes less energy and you tend to smile more. :-D

PYT