Yoga Fail


Yoga fail.

Is there such a thing? Maybe the term is an oxymoron, after all, there is no pass/fail in yoga.

Or perhaps I mean trying a difficult yoga pose and not being able to get into it, not even close. or maybe I’m talking about falling on my face in crow pose, or my low back going out in an overenthusiastic twist, held a hair too long.

A “yoga fail” could be a Bikram-style competitive yogi expecting to win her latest yoga competition, or at least place, but does not.

I mean none of these things. I’ll tell you my story, then you may decide whether or not there could be such a thing as a “yoga fail.”

It is a gorgeous sunny summer Sunday. I roll out my mat atop the dandelion and clover-flled grass on Mt. Washington’s Grandview Park. I prefer this outdoor spot over all others in Pittsburgh: South Side Works, Schenley Plaza, the Point, because those lawns are sprayed with chemical weed killer, as manifested by their green lawns, unbroken by the sunburst of dandelions. I admit I turn my nose up at weedless lawns. I prefer to keep my mat away from them.

Grandview Park is full of weeds and ants and the buzzing of bees. Plus no other place has such a fantastic view of the city. I ignore the cigarette butts and candy wrappers littering the area (after all, there was a free movie here last night). I sit cross-legged on my mat, close my eyes, breathe deeply, wait for class to begin.

We move through warm-up asanas into the sun salutation flow. In Chataranga Dandasana (push up pose) my nose catches the smell of fresh earth, and I decide I no longer want my sticky mat between me and the earth. When we’re up on our feet I take a step sideways and feel the cool grass under my feet, mother earth pressing back, supporting me. Instantly I am more grounded, more connected with nature. Sun warming me from above, the cool earth below.

Breathe in arms up, exhale down. I place my hands on the ground by my feet and OW! Ow, ow, ow, ow. My middle finger has landed on a honey bee. The pain is shockingly piercing and continues to get more and more severe. Everyone around me is at peace, moving with the flow of the asanas. Do I scream? Stop? Call attention to myself? I do none of these things. On the ground is the bee, who has died instantly after the sting, stiff, motionless. I gently pick it up by its wing and walk quietly to the garbage, my finger still screaming in pain yet my face calm and yoga-like. I bid the bee farewell and return to my mat, finishing my practice. By the end the pain in my finger has diminished, yet the bee is still dead.

What of ahimsa, non-violence? I have taken an innocent life today with my yoga practice. In my desire to connect with the earth I have killed one of her most gentle, industrious and important creatures.

Is that not, indeed, a yoga fail?


Another S and Z Post: “Spell My Name With An S” by Isaac Asimov

One of my favorite short stories is Spell My Name With An S, by Isaac Asimov, published in Nine Tomorrows. It is a story I read decades ago yet it stays with me:

“Marshall Zebatinsky felt foolish….” (Read the whole story here.)

It is about a nuclear physicist who visits a numerologist because his career is not moving forward. The numerologist suggests a tiny change: spelling Zebatinsky with an ‘s’: Sebatinsky. This tiny input starts a chain of events (unknown to Zebatinsky/Sebatinsky) which averts the world from nuclear annihilation. And yet that’s not the end of the story….read the whole story here.

The Independent Project

I am a lifelong learner, especially since homeschooling my children. I found this video inspiring…as a way to frame my own time, laying out smaller and larger projects for myself, and getting things done. I think it would be a nice model for a homeschool…whether among just one’s own family (including parents) or with other students, if there is that sort of interest among other homeschoolers one knows.


I find it easy to start things. Essays, stories, novels, poems, blogs…but I rarely finish anything, especially to the point of publication. I have been writing – seriously writing – for over twenty years. While I have published articles here and there (mostly health related, on various blogs, online magazines, local newspapers, even a couple essays in national magazines,) most of what I start sits unfinished. Here are some of the reasons I came up with for why I don’t finish things:

  • The work is not as good as I’d like it to be.
  • I don’t want to make a mistake in the plot line, so I stop writing
  • The easy flow that had me writing profusely at the beginning stopped
  • I did take a wrong turn: my story is headed in the wrong direction
  • I lose control of a character or plot
  • Editing is overwhelming, especially on a long work like a novel
  • It’s sad to say goodbye to something.
  • It feels like it will be embarrassing to have something out there…it may not be as good as I think it is.
  • Publishing opens myself up to criticism
  • My work may just sit there, ignored.
  • I’m trying to illustrate my stories myself and am not a trained illustrator, so I feel I’m not good enough or get held up by a technicality (how to get something I illustrated on paper into the computer and into the story in a finished sort of way.)

So many of my stories and projects lay forgotten in spiral notebooks or even computer files. Or on sheets of paper kicking around the house until they finally find the trash. Some children’s stories are nearly done, except for illustrations. Some are written, edited, expanded upon, reeled in, re-edited, and then cast aside.

One reason I like knitting so much is it resulted in actual finished projects. Sure, I have my share of knitting UFOs (unfinished objects) floating around in various basket and bags, but there have been a lot of things I’ve finished: scarves, dolls, hats, shirts, sweaters, toy blocks, headscarves, dishcloths. Finishing is immensely satisfying.

Blogging is a sort of way to finish things…little articles put out there, essays, thoughts. But it also is something I use as procrastination (as I write about not finishing things the novel I just re-started sits, not being finished.)

One thing I’d love to focus this blog on is finishing some of these projects. For a start, I will link to some online and print stories, essays and articles of mine that are actually finished, published and out there.

Here’s to finishing!

Food Under Foot – educational website/blog about wild edible plants

5 Ebooks about Wild Edibles – Yes! I did write and finish an ebook on each of these wild edibles: Dandelion, Burdock, Plantain, Clover and Lambsquarters. I’ve written others as well, and some are a hair’s breath away from being done….and yet…. (to get these ebooks you just have to join the email list at Food Under Foot)

Wild Ally Workbook

Winter Foraging Holiday Feasting – available on Amazon for Kindle!

Many many articles for Natural News

Birch Center Blog – Wellness Blog for Acupuncture Practice

Articles on Wild Edibles in The Cooperator:

  • August, 2012 – The Hunt For Wild Mushrooms
  • May, 2012 – Japanese Knotweed as Food and Medicine: If You Can’t Beat It, Eat It

Readers Write essays in The Sun Magazine

Breastfeeding Molly, My Special Needs Daughter, article published in Mothering Magazine, 2002

The rest of this year I dedicate to finishing! 🙂


The ‘Z’ Sound of ‘S’ or Why We Unschool

You may have noticed the name of the blog: Melissaz Wordz. I love changing esses to zees when they make the ‘z’ sound.

In school I learned the letter ‘c’ made two sounds: the soft ‘c’ as in ceiling (sounds like an ‘s’), and the hard ‘c’ as in cat (sounds like a ‘k’.)

In school we also learn the letter ‘g’ has two sounds, soft like a ‘j’ in works like giraffe, and hard ‘g’ in girl.

Y can make three sounds: yellow, friendly (ee sound) and by (long i sound.)

But no one ever said or taught that ‘s’ has two sounds. Did you learn it? I expect not simply because they wouldn’t be able to say that the ‘c’ sometimes sounds like ‘s’. They’d have to say which ‘s’, and no one ever does.

In fact it was when my daughter was about 6 or 7 that she pointed it out to me, and I almost told her she was wrong. Why? Because not only didn’t I learn it but the Calvert Learning Guide Manual I was using at the time didn’t mention it either.

We homeschool and before I realized it was best to chuck the curriculum we used the Calvert curriculum (loosely, we’ve never been they type to follow any curriculum rigidly), provided by the  Pennsylvania Cyber Charter school. In fact the reason we joined this particular cyber school was because they offered this time-tested curriculum, and I didn’t have to use the school’s computer-based curriculum (I am not a fan of kids in front of computers.)

So as I was introducing the lesson about letters such as ‘c’ and ‘g’  making hard and soft sounds, she piped in, “and ‘s’!” And I said, “No, ‘s’ makes the ‘ssssss’ sound.”

“And ‘zzz’ too though,” she said.

“No….wait, what?”

“Like in ‘is’, ‘has’, and ‘these’, those are esses, right? But they sound like ‘zzz’. ”

She was absolutely right. Even though it didn’t say it anywhere in the curriculum and it took my adult mind a few minutes to wrap myself around it. All my life and I would never have said that ‘s’ has a hard and soft sound. But there it iz. What else had I been missing?

And so that is when I decided to stop trying to teach her stuff all the time. Instead I try to sit back and watch, and maybe learn a thing or two (or ten thousand), from her.

Ten Life Lessons From My 1992 Herbal Apprenticeship

In 1992 I was an herbal apprentice for three months for a self-identified Green Witch. While I did learn quite a bit about how to identify and use wild plants for medicine and food, I learned these life lessons as well.

  1. When someone doesn’t do something exactly as you want it done: rage. Throw things at them. Insult them. Scream. Get your emotions out, it isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up.
  2. Never tell people exactly how you want things done.
  3. Make people pay money to work for you. Set the fee for the apprenticeship twice as high as you want it to be. Then let apprentices work half of it off by working for you at $10 an hour.
  4. Never give discounts to friends and family. You’d have tons of ex-lovers wanting something from you. Just don’t do it. Ever.
  5. Do give  full scholarships to women of color. It would be racist not to.
  6. Never clean. That’s what apprentices are for. And if it’s only December and your apprentice doesn’t arrive until mid March or April so much the better. Then they’ll have something to do the minute they arrive. “You want to move into this room? Dig it out.”
  7. Ignore people who arrive early. They are encroaching on your time. Why should you alter your day and give up your time for people rude enough to arrive before they are due.
  8. Never make things comfortable for others. You’ll create co-dependence and people come to expect things from you. If someone wants a pillow to sit on or a blanket to keep themselves warm, let them figure out if these are available and get them themselves.
  9. Don’t answer the phone unless it’s Wednesday. This was a big one in 1992. No cell phones, no mobile devices. No texting. Just the ring ring ring of a house phone. Let the answering machine pick up. Unless it’s Wednesday.
  10. A pair of geese make better guard dogs than dogs. You can eat the eggs and they won’t eat your goats.