May 26, 2010

It's My Turn

I left the room today.  For the first time ever.  It wasn't overly hot.  It wasn't terribly crowded.  I just felt sick.  I was afraid I was going to puke all over my mat.  But I digress.

My day didn't start out too well.  I tossed and turned all night.  I could not get comfortable.  As I was peeing in the middle of the night I had to kill a spider that was trying to climb up my feet.  I read a book until 5 in the morning because I felt so horrible for murdering the poor spider.  I finally fell asleep only to be woken by my alarm at 5:30 for yoga.  I turned it off and promptly fell back into a deep slumber, waking half an hour later just as my yoga class began.

I decided I would take advantage of the situation - get to work early - finish early and be home in time to take the 3:45pm class.  I was looking forward to it - to switching up my classes and still being home in time to enjoy my evening.  The work day went well until I got pulled into office after office for performance reviews and training.  It wasn't until after 1:00pm that I was able to eat my lunch - leftover sesame noodles and salmon from last night's dinner.  I KNEW it was too late to eat!  But:
1) My home cooked noodles are so good, I did not want to pass them up and
2) All I'd eaten was yogurt and berries all day and I figured I should get some sustenance.
Yep, it really wasn't such a good idea.

I went to class.  I felt great.  I rocked the standing series.  I got some great tips on Standing Bow.  (I keep falling forward in the posture and my teacher suggested not coming down so far and to focus more on the backward bend and the kick.)  I felt like a super hero in Triangle and super strong in Balancing Stick.  Then we hit the floor.  Not what I expected at all!

Have you ever felt sick in Wind Removing pose???  Me?  Never!  I could barely pull my knee to my shoulder.  The nausea crept in.  My sense of smell intensified.  Rotting fruit.  Stale sweat.  Overly sweet perfume.  Farts.  Dirty towels.  These smells wafted over me in lovely waves broken up by an occasional bout of fresh air that I would gulp down greedily.  I sat out Cobra.  My insides were too rocky to lie on my stomach.  I attempted Half Locust.  And then promptly rolled over onto my back for the rest of the poses.  The scents kept getting worse.  As the class got to Fixed Firm pose I just looked at my teacher.
"Go!", she said. "If you're leaving, Juliana, I know it's for a good reason.  Think about what you ate!"  Oh, had I already thought about my food and regretted every yummy morsel I'd placed in my mouth only 2 and a half short hours before.
"You'll be back tomorrow, right?"  I answered with a firm, "Of course."

I will be back tomorrow.  This was a first for me.  It may not be the last.  But I know now that leftover yummy sesame noodles are not a good thing to eat before class.

What about you?  Can you eat before class?

May 25, 2010

End of the Line

Please listen.
This song has been my gospel lately.
Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys have got it right.
Because It's All Right.

May 24, 2010

Because I Can

I give myself permission to...

... wear the same clothes 2 days in a row because they are my favourite jeans and my favourite top
... get angry for no reason
... feel ashamed for being a part of this human race
... love my people to no end, with all their beauty and all their faults
... wear a bra top and short shorts to yoga, even though I don't have a "perfect" body
... turn on the Traveling Wilburys Volume I and sing the entire album out loud
... drink red wine on a Sunday at 2 in the afternoon
...go to yoga in the morning and then crawl back into bed for a few hours
... watch Almost Famous whenever I need some comfort
... still sleep with my baby blanket, "Didi", that my most favourite auntie made me
... want to change my career, again
... eat 2 big bowls of caramel ice cream with my love and not feel guilty about it
... accept and acknowledge compliments given me, gracefully
... forgive myself

Thanks to Just a Titch  and Caffeinate Me for inspiring this post.

May 21, 2010

Yoga Has Changed My Life

Bikram yoga has changed my life in so many ways.  Some of them I cannot explain and some of them I can.

  • I speak my mind more often.  If something is bothering, I try to confront the problem instead of ignoring it or bottling it up.  Granted, it doesn't always work but I'm much better at this. 
  • I have been able to quit smoking.  I don’t ever really want one anymore. It’s nearly been 3 months!  I do get the occasional craving for the ritual of a cigarette.  For the inhale and the exhale.  For the igniting of the flame.  But I find this in class every day.
  • I am more aware of my posture when I sit at my desk.  I try to sit up straight.  If I catch myself slouching I sit up - shoulders back - feet on the floor - head and neck aligned.
  • My weak ankle that used to always roll is strong again.  My ankle used to roll at the most random times.  I would fall over.  I would be scared to hike.  I now notice a strength in it that I have not had since I was 15.
  • I have muscles in my back that I never knew existed.  I can flex muscles in my back that, I swear, were never there before.
  • I have toned my abdominal area.  It is not perfect.  I still have wiggly bits but I am pleased with the results.
  • My hair has gotten thicker.  Seriously.  I have very fine, blonde hair.  It is not nearly as fine as it used to be.  I would like it if some curls would start to form.
  • I have more energy.  I only need 7 hours of sleep a night instead of my what used to be usual 9 hours.  My friends call me grandma.  Not because I crochet or sew but because I used to have to be in bed my 9:00 pm in order to get up for my 6:00 am class.  Now I can stay up as late as 11:00pm and be ok!
  • I have more confidence about my physical appearance.  I think I am pretty good looking lady.  I don't mind my curves.  I like my cleavage.  I love my legs and newly found cheek bones.
  • I feel as though I am truly capable of anything.  Anything at all.  If I put my mind to something and I want it bad enough I can accomplish anything.

May 20, 2010

One Year!

Today I celebrate one full year of Bikram yoga practice!  I started on May the 20th, 2009, shortly after returning from my whirlwind trip to Europe.  I went to the 7:45 pm class with 2 friends.  I was so nervous.  I had practiced yoga before but the heat - the heat scared the crap out of me.

I was prepared.  I knew not to eat at least 3 hours before class.  I had kept myself hydrated all day.  I had my mat, my two towels and my brand new vacuum sealed, double walled stainless steel water bottle filled with ice and water.  I was ready to take on this yoga.

I laid my mat down in the back right hand corner.  I still practice on the right side of the room, except I now stick closer to the front. I don't remember much of the standing series.  I think I got through it OK.  Some of the poses were familiar to me.  And I knew how to focus on my breath and my alignment from my Iyengar yoga practice.

It was when we hit the floor series that I started panicking.  The poses felt great.  But I HATED lying down in Savasana and then getting up again.  And again.  And again.  Just as I was starting to get comfortable, the instructor would say, "Heel, toes together.  Feet flexed.  Arms over your head."  Gah!  I was exhausted.  I remember thinking to myself that all of these people in the room with me were crazy, bonkers, out of their minds.  How in the hell could they stand this horrible heat, this awful sweat?  How could they lay STILL through all of this?

I managed to get through the entire class.  I didn't leave the room.  I did attempt every pose but it was a hellish experience.  When I walked out of class one my friends pointed out to me that I was pale.  Now if you know me you know that I am blond, blue-eyed, fair skinned with the uncanny ability to go bright red with any form of heat or exercise - that told me I had worked bloody hard.

I was back the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  I was hooked.  I constantly asked questions.  Any spare moment I had I was reading up on the yoga practice.  Now - here I am one year into my life long practice - 237 classes under my belt and a pure, turbulent and consistent love for my yoga that I will never ever give up.

May 18, 2010

Emotions on the Mat

This morning, as I came out of Eagle pose, I fell onto my mat in a great heap of emotions.  The twisting and squeezing of my joints had brought a memory forward into my conscious mind.  I remembered getting home from yoga one evening, there was a message on my phone – it was Dad.  All he said was, “Jewl, give me a call, please.”  I knew immediately.  Oma had passed.

I relived that moment this morning – that moment of utter denial – of complete acceptance – a moment where I experienced the deepest sadness I had ever felt in all my 28 years – I relived that moment right there on my yoga mat.

Peter came over right away and opened the side door.  Fresh air flooded over me and I was grateful that he understood something deep was happening.  The cool air pushed away the tears and I was able to get up and continue my practice.  I experienced a compassion for myself this morning that I have never before felt in my yoga.

As I left the studio, Peter asked how I was.  He told me he’d never seen such emotion on my face and knew right away it wasn’t the poses.  I was very glad that an instructor who knew me was teaching this morning.  It made the room feel even safer.  As I drove home the tears started to fall in an abundance of emotions.  Sadness.  Happiness.  Relief.  Sympathy.  Empathy.  Loneliness.

This morning made me realize how thankful I am to have my practice – to have compassionate instructors – to have compassion for myself.

I am also deeply and incredibly thankful that I had such a wonderful relationship with my Oma and that even during the heat of my yoga, I never forget her.

May 17, 2010

Just a Little Recap

I found this post today that I never published.  It is from March but it brought that morning back to me and I thought I'd share.

I woke up to the wind blowing and howling outside my bedroom at 5:30 this morning.  I rolled my weary body out of bed, cursing my commitment to my yoga.  I stepped outside to blown over garbage cans and cherry blossoms being danced vicously around the dark silent streets.

The teacher was playing the Legends of the Fall soundtrack when I walked into the studio.  I called it right away.  He was pleasantly surprised and we had a good joke about which helped me snap out of the gloominess and sleepiness hanging over my head.

I love my fellow 6 am-ers!  Regardless as to how tired I am feeling the presence of the regulars always cheers me up.  A little whining, some quick joking and some encouragement go a long way when you have voluntarily brought yourself to the "torture room" before the rest of the city has woken up.

My muscles were SORE today.  Locking my knees and tightening my hips in the first breathing exercise were tiring.  Standing head to knee was not going to happen, I could barely lift my thigh muscle to pull up knee cap to lock my knee.  Standing bow was a flailing mess.  Triangle was surprisingly strong.  But there was no way I was getting my hips off my heel in toe stand.

Savasana was heaven.  I felt like I was back in my bed, warm and cozy and dreamy.  The floor series felt wonderful.  I've started coming up a lot higher in Cobra pose.  My lower back is still working hard.  My legs and hips are solid and my feet are on the floor, but I noticed, this morning, that I have a lot of weight in my palms.  Next class I'm going to come down a little bit and try to reduce the amount of weight in my palms.

We held the second set of Camel pose for a minute!  It was heaven, bending and stretching and pushing for that long.  I felt like I was sinking into the floor after the pose.  My entire body was so heavy that the ground was opening up and slowly closing around me.

The 90 minutes went by quickly.  I left the studio, the wind had calmed down but the sky had opened and was dumping large warm raindrops.  I could have stood outside and had my shower.  Unfortunately, Victoria isn't quite warm enough yet.

May 6, 2010

Ode to Oma

May 5th marked the day of Dutch Liberation day in the Netherlands when Canadians freed Holland from Nazi occupation.

This day means a lot to me.  I am Canadian but I am also Dutch.  My father was born and raised in Holland but immigrated to Canada after marrying my mother.  I have been going back to my dad’s homeland since I was 3 months old.  Ever since I started forming words as a child, my parents spoke Dutch and English to me.  I was fortunate enough to spend an entire summer with my Oma and Opa (grandma and grandpa) when I was eleven and became fluent in conversational Dutch.  I still remember when I first dreamt in Dutch, this solidified the language in my mind.  I had no choice but to speak the language to my grandparents.  My Oma’s best English phrase was, “I am the boss”.  My Opa passed away the February following that amazing summer I spent with them and I am forever grateful that I did get to spend that time with him.  He used to smoke small cigars and whenever I smell them now, it takes me back to the time I was eleven, where he sat in his leather jacket with his aviator sunglasses and his snow white curly hair, drinking his coffee and smoking a cigar.

I had more of a chance to get to know my Oma as an adult.  I spent 3 weeks in Holland with her when I was 18 and visited her as much as I could when I was living in Scotland in my early 20s.  We would talk about everything.  Our conversations would linger long after dinner was over.  I smoked at that time and she would insist that I bring the ashtray inside so that I would not interrupt our "gezelligheid".  I always found it interesting how she had no problem with me smoking cigarettes but always told me to never smoke those “stokjes”, which translates to sticks.  She was referring to weed, ganja, marijuana, joints.  Contrary to popular belief the Dutch people themselves do not smoke a lot of weed, despite their many “coffee shops”.  Those that partake in this activity are mostly tourists and immigrants.  To give her peace of mind, I would tell a little white lie and say of course not.

My Oma was a stubborn woman who loved to spoil her three grandchildren with the little money that she had.  We would go out for coffee and she would refuse to let me pay.  She would take me shopping for clothes and when I would try to pay she would grab my forearm with her vice-like grip and give me her “don’t mess with me” glare.  It always brought a smile to my face and I would back down.  You just didn’t mess with Oma.

Sometimes Oma would go into stories about what it was like to live in Holland during World War II.  When the Nazis occupied the country the Dutch were not allowed to display any form of their national patriotism.  No flags, no colours, nothing.  Well, Oma had a pair of stockings that were the colour of the Dutch flag - red, white and blue, and one day she wore them out.  A Nazi soldier saw her, and while he didn’t confront Oma on the spot he came by the house later that evening when her father was home and confiscated those stockings.  As she told me this story her eyes gleamed with remembrance of her defiance but also of fear that something terrible could have happened to her father.

Sixty five years ago Canadian forces liberated the Netherlands from Nazi control.  The Dutch are forever grateful to Canada for being the country that freed them.  As the Dutch Prime Minister said on May the 5th, “Our liberators. Our heroes. Forever.”  This is a beautiful article in the Globe and Mail about the friendship that existed and still exists between the Dutch and Canadians. 

Oma used to always tell me how glad she was that we lived in Canada even though we were so far away.  Whether or not this was true she was showing her strength even though she missed us terribly.

The last time I saw my Oma was in the hospital.  She was tired and had just had enough.  But I tell ya, sometimes, that spark still shone right through.  One morning Mum and I were in her room visiting when two doctors came in to talk to her.  She was incredibly polite, answering their questions and saying good bye politely as they left the room.  But as soon as they were out ear shot she muttered, “Zak.”  While shaking her head.  Zak is a swear word that kind of means asshole and directly translates into balls.  It cracked me up!  Still the same fiery Oma.  No one was going to push her around.

It’s been nearly a year since I had to say goodbye to my Oma for the last time.  It was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  She meant and still means the world to me.  Sometimes I wish I could have known her better but I am also incredibly grateful that I knew her as well as I did.  I have all of her jewellery because I was, am, her only granddaughter.  I wear her beautiful necklaces with pride and get compliments on them all the time.  One of the things she used to say the most when I would put on a new shirt or dress or sweater was, “Met en mooie ketting, Juliantje” which means “Perfect with a pretty necklace, my little Juliana”.  This is how I will always remember her.

May 5, 2010


One of my most precious friends told me today that I was very persistent.  She was talking in regards to our friendship.  Our situation has recently changed.  She has become a beautiful proud mom of a little boy and I am still living my life as it has been for the past little while.  We've both had difficulty adjusting to this.  Simply because we lead different lives now.  We still love each other very much and that will never change but conversation has changed.  We both weren't really sure how to go about dealing with this and had avoided discussing it.  But today I bit the bullet and called her after a few weeks of strained long distance silence.

I love her because I can tell this woman anything and have no fear of being judged or negated for the way that I feel.  I think she feels the same with me because we were both very honest during this call and it cleared the air considerably.  As we hung up she told me I was very persistent and admired that about me.

It got me thinking of my persistence in other areas in my life.  Ever since I made my first big life decision - leaving Victoria to go work in a resort when I was 19 - if I made my mind up about something, there was a 90% chance I was going to do it.  When I randomly chose to go to Forestry school, I did it knowing I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  When I decided I was going to Europe, I left the country with $2000 in my pocket, completely forgetting that back then, with the exchange rate, my hard earned cash only equaled to about 800 British pounds.  I went after a boy I knew was not for me but he was who I wanted at the time.  I lost 50 agonizing difficult pounds.  I found a job in Victoria when my relationship ended because I wanted to be close to my family.  I pursued  the man I love today because it felt right in my heart.  I started Bikram yoga when I needed some peace of mind and will never ever give it up.

All these things, these actions I've taken have not been easy.  I often agonize over my decisions.  Sometimes thinking it is all just too hard and I should walk away.  I have often doubted my choices, thinking that I am trying too hard for something I am not meant to do or have.  That some of these hardships are just too difficult and if they are that difficult then why the hell am I bothering.

When my gorgeous girl made that comment to me today it stuck with me and as I sit here over my well earned glass of red wine it made me realize that persistence is a good quality to have.  It has challenged me.  It has not been easy and sometimes the paths that it has brought me down have not been fun.  But I'm glad I have it because those paths I've traveled have made me who I am today.  And I'm most grateful to have those wonderful friends who support me and love me and who, I know, will always be there.

And as Bikram says, "I never said it was going to be easy!"

May 2, 2010

Proud Daughter

My mum came to her first yoga class with me this morning.

She rocked it!