December 31, 2011

Blessings To All

I am currently reading Cave in the Snow, the story and life of Buddhist nun, Tenzin Palmo. In 1976 she secluded herself in a remote cave in the Himalayas for twelve years on the search for enlightenment. Her story has warmed my heart in the last few days of 2011 - has renewed my faith in the capabilities and depth of the human heart and has left me in awe at the purity of one woman's life journey.

I will have to rescind my statement of best book of 2011 because the story of Tenzin Palmo has touched me deeply. This is by far one of the most inspiring stories I have ever read. 

In the spirit of Tenzin Palmo, I wish each and every one of you a year full of compassion and love for yourselves and all those around you.

December 30, 2011

A Yoga Sand Sculpture

One of my favourite videos to watch these days are time lapses of yoga practices.  They are beautiful and graceful.  But how about Katie Grinnan who takes it to the next level.  She has created a sculptural time lapse of her yoga practice using sand, plastic and enamel.

Images form This Is Colossal

December 29, 2011

Opening in Padmasana

Practice this morning felt so much better than yesterday but my ankles and knees in Padmasana were still giving me a lot of feedback.  I could not get into Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana at all, nor could I grab my big toe on the right in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschismottanasana.  Mari B was OK and Mari D I just tried to focus on breathing through the discomfort and getting a little twist in my spine.  In the finishing sequence, Pindasana was definitely not happening and neither was Matsyasana.  As I got to Baddha Padmasana, where I normally sit cross legged, I remembered this video I watched last week.  

In it, David Keil gives an awesome description of how to open your hips in Padmasana.  I followed his instructions before doing Baddha Padmasana, Yoga Mudra, Padmasana and Utplutih and wouldn't you believe my lotus felt so much better.  I was able to hold Yoga Mudra for full ten breaths, while grabbing my elbows - I am not ready to hold my toes.  

Check it out.  Give it a try.  I recommend trying the sequence when you are warm.  It was great to do at the end of my practice. Here is the original article on the Yoganatomy website.

December 28, 2011

Heavy Morning

There's a reason yoga should be practiced on a regular basis.  The accumulated benefit of the practice.  I think that there is the misconception with complete beginners to a yoga practice, that you only need to practice until whatever ails you feels better and then you're cured.  I remember very clearly thinking this 6 years ago, as I browsed through one of Iyengar's huge practice books, believing if I practiced certain asanas for a certain period of time I would be cured of my back pain.

This morning was the perfect example of why I should practice yoga five to six days a week.  Christmas morning was my last practice.  That's 3 days ago and while normally I would be OK with a 3 day break, take into account Christmas day feasting and Boxing day where I existed on the couch and watched movies and ate, my body was not happy with me this morning.  I felt heavy, my normally very flexible hamstrings were tight, I could barely lift my bum off the ground when I attempted jump backs, and my ankles and knees were severely tight when I attempted any half lotus or full lotus position.

It was a good reminder that this practice does me good - all of the time.  It was also a good reminder that it's OK to have a gentle practice - especially when you're recovering from food and booze overload coupled with epic laziness. 

P90 Update: I did do my P90X during these lazy days but I know from experience that the P90 does not improve my yoga whereas that the yoga definitely improves my P90. 

December 27, 2011

Best Book of 2011

I've read 31 books this year.  Yes, I keep track - I'm a bit of a nerd this way - if I don't, I forget what I've read.  I read a wide variety of books from B.K.S Iyengar's Tree of Yoga to Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim, a dark novel about a man's return from Hell.  I don't often read non fiction and if I do it must be written well, so that it flows like a story, I have little patience when it comes to slogging through a book.  Books are meant to be enjoyable to me.  They are my idea of the perfect escapism.

My favourite kind of books are those that portray the lives of ordinary, every day people and then take you deep into their lives.  Show you their inner psyche and relationships you would never expect if you were to cross paths on the street.

Therefore, I think the best book of 2011 was Alice Hoffman's The Story Sisters.  I read this book in 24 hours.  I could not put it down.  

It is the dark tale of three young sisters who live with an imaginary world, Arnelle.  Elv, the eldest, invented the world and the language, which only the sisters speak.  The sisters lock out the world, including their mother.  The youngest sisters, Claire and Meg, consistently look to Elv for approval and affection.  As the sisters grow older and Elv becomes a teenager, their bond and friendship begins to crumble.  Elv becomes increasingly addicted to drugs and the younger girls become terrified of their sister.  The novel follows the girls through the years struggling to stay together as a family until tragedy strikes and their world crumbles.  

What I found most intriguing about this book was how the women had to fight to stand alone.  They had to discover their own strengths within themselves away from the world they had always known.  They had to learn to live with their faults and their guilty feelings.  They had to overcome tragedy.  And although the end is not perfect, I had a sense of fulfillment and warmth because these women fought tooth and nail to stay afloat in a world that never seemed to be in their favour.

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Apparently both these fine gentlemen do not remember making this video.  Please enjoy the wonderful David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy.

December 24, 2011

And Again!

I'm starting P90X again.  It's been nearly 2 months since I finished the workout program and I've tried to stay on track with a regular weight regime and it hasn't happened.  I've tried to do BodyRock workouts every other day and it hasn't happened.  I've been trying to keep super clean with my eating and it hasn't happened.  My birthday, Vancouver, LW's birthday, Vegas and Christmas happened instead.

So today is Day 1.  Yes, I'm starting the day before Christmas.  A lot of people would say why not wait until after Christmas.  Why wait?  I've been procrastinating for 2 months now.  I feel ready to start today.

December 23, 2011


Uh oh, I've discovered Pinterest, which so far is just place to look at amazing photos and a bit of a time sucker.  If you want an invite, let me know :-)

Simple yet true.

Source: via Cher on Pinterest

I want to sleep here.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

I want to always live by these words

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

December 22, 2011

What Is Mysore About?

These three videos feature David Keil discussing the Ashtanga mysore method of practice.  With 3 months of mysore practice under my belt, I can say that David expresses very accurately what you will expect as a newcomer to the Ashtanga mysore practice.  So if you're curious about exploring something new, pick up your knitting and take a listen to the interview. 

Thanks to Laruga for sharing these on her blog.

December 21, 2011

A Thought

And another thought from Glimpse by George Murray.

"It's not easy to be me, but I know that's true for you too."

It's important to remember this sometimes.  We all have bad days.  We all have good days.  We all fear.  We all love.  We all cry.  We all steal.  We all lie.  We all have secrets.  We all have dreams. 

December 20, 2011



It pays to be pushy and ask for what you want.
Homemade Christmas gifts are better than bought ones.
It feels as though you're taking a step back.
That step back means a giant leap is about to happen.

December 19, 2011

With Yoga Comes Responsibility.

Someone asked me the other day what it was I liked about the Ashtanga Mysore practice as opposed to any other yoga class that is led by a teacher. 

For me it is the fact that I must take responsibility for my own practice from the moment I step on the mat to the moment I leave the room.  I have to really connect and be aware of my own body - it's capabilities and limitations - at any given moment.  I also have to be responsible for giving it my all - whatever my all may be on that day. 

I think one of the reasons I like this is because this responsibility seems to carry into every day life.  I am responsible for everything that happens in my life.  I don't mean things that are out of my control like how people speak to me or the fact that I was laid off.  It's more that I am trying to learn to take responsibility to how I react to these moments in life.  I can choose how upset, happy, excited, angry I become to any given situation.

I cannot blame my teacher if I hurt myself while practicing.  I can only take that injury and learn from it.  Become more aware of what happened to cause the injury and take full responsibility to not repeat the aggravation.  Every single time I step on my mat I make a promise to be completely honest with myself.  The more quickly I learn to become honest in my practice, the more responsible I become as a yoga practitioner, thus becoming more aware of my self.

December 18, 2011

December 17, 2011

Checking In

My practice has pretty much been on hiatus this week.  Monday, the day after we returned from Vegas, was the most painful Ashtanga practice I have yet to experience.  My knees hurt, my hips, my ankles, my back.  I was heavy, tired and my brain would not keep quiet.  Therefore, I stuck my head in the sand and pretty much avoided the world.  

I rolled out my mat Friday morning - in the dark before the world had woken and it was amazing.  *Cue George Costanza, "I'm back baby!"* 

This morning I went to the led half primary at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria to check in with myself.  I haven't taken a led class since my first week of Ashtanga practice and it really is something different.  I knew what was coming next but had to remind myself to listen to Harmony guide the class.  I now know where I move too quickly through certain asanas and where I take my time and have too many unnecessary movements.  I am still a little tired.  I came out of a few poses early, either because of a sore ankle or my arms felt like they were going to collapse underneath me.  I tried to breathe through the pain but today it simply wasn't happening.  I can feel my body slowly coming back to me and it feels wonderful.



December 16, 2011

Thoughts On A Dark Morning

It is in the dark before the dawn that I feel my most exposed.  When my insecurities and vulnerabilities are at their most fragile and left unprotected.  Before I have spoken a word to anyone and rebuilt the exterior shell that protects me during the day.  It is as I lay in the darkness - second guessing my plans and the beginning of a dream that I feel most ungrounded and uncentered.  It is during these moments of exposure - as I allow these thoughts to make me feel weak that I become aware that they are manifestations of my ego wanting to protect itself from becoming bruised and damaged - that I must roll out my mat, open my heart and breathe.

Las Vegas work of art. 

December 15, 2011

Wisdom From a Novel About Knitting

I'm reading the book The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.  Here's a little excerpt from the beginning of one of the chapters.

Casting On

"The only way to get going is to just grasp that yarn between your fingers and twist.  Just start.  It's the same with life.  Of course, every beginning won't be the same: There are dozens of ways to cast on and they vary based on skill or design or even just relying on the tried and true.  My point?  Sometimes what works for one piece isn't the right way next time.  You have to experiment to see what works.  But there's a similarity no matter the method: you either try or you don't.  So form a slipknot; make a series of twisted loops on one needle and then use its partner to reach through and make a stitch.  Casting on is as much leap of faith as technique."

I guess I'm sharing this with you because as much as we can relate yoga to life, so can we relate other hobbies or interests that we have.  How I dealt with learning how to knit again after 20 years can be similar to how I may tackle life.  How I practice yoga can be similar to how I deal with a job interview.  So just get started.  Get the ball rolling.  It doesn't matter how you start.  Just that you do.


December 14, 2011

Wisdom on Forward Bends

This is a great video from Kino MacGregor.  She discusses forward bends and accessing your bandhas.  It is beneficial no matter what yoga style you practice.


December 13, 2011

Yoga Time

My favourite time to practice is first thing in the morning.  I like to rise, drink water, brush my teeth, wash my face and begin.  I don't even think about it.  I know I am not as open as when I practice in the evening.  But this doesn't bother me.  Everything about my day is better when I practice first thing is the morning.

Because of the deal I received when I started my Ashtanga practice, I am only able to go to evening classes without paying any more.  I struggle with this every time I plan to go to the studio.  It is dark, it is cold, I have to drive and find a parking space.  Don't get me wrong, as soon as I park the car, I'm good to go.  I am happy to be there.  I have a wonderful practice.

This internal struggle that I deal with two evenings a week is so annoying.  I try to simply make the decision and go with it.  But my stupid mind goes on with making excuses.  I find it especially hard now that it is dark at 4:30.  Who wants to leave the house then?

Next month I need to purchase a new pass.  It will be a Mysore pass and I'm hoping to practice in the mornings.  Ideally, I would go to early morning Mysore and then straight to work.  I can see the early morning practice but the job is still elusive.  I guess I'll see what the new year brings.

December 12, 2011

Vegas Recap

What can I say about Vegas?

Late nights.
Too much booze.
A lot of walking.
Poker, of course.
Beautiful dry hills on the horizon.
Amazing architecture.
Victoria Secret.
Rodeo cowboys.
Beautiful art galleries.
Expensive stores.
Fun with my lovely and my family.

We had a great time.  Vegas is one of the most overwhelming places I've ever been, with some of the friendliest drunks I've ever met.  I can't say I'll ever go back to the city but would love to explore the desert one day.

December 8, 2011

Holy Practice

Last night was an amazing and tough practice.  There were very few people in the Mysore room when I arrived and once I'd moved through Surya Namaskr A & B, Harmony was there adjusting me and helping me go deeper.

I touched my chin to my shin in Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana with help but my goodness was that difficult and liberating.  I was able to lift my legs through my arms in a couple of jump backs.  I was able to bring my nose to my shin in Mari A by inhaling and lengthening my breast bone forward then exhaling folding forward.  I struggled with Mari D on the second side.  I have a hard time finding that perfect spot for my foot to sit in my hip crease and receive a lot of feed back in my ankle.  I was given a new asana, Navasana or boat pose.  I then proceeded to do 6 sets of Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose).  On the fifth set, Harmony helped me walk my hands closer to my feet.  I have few words to explain the feeling of moving your hands closer to your feet while pushing against gravity and seeing the world upside down.  I was taught to do Chakrasana or backward roll out of the Shoulder Stand sequence.

It was an amazing practice.  I find that as my teachers help me move a little deeper into asanas that I it gives me the confidence to try to go deeper on my own.  It liberates me from my own mind where I think I may not be ready and it pushes me to try harder.  I learned a lot about what I am capable of last night and where I need to bring energy to during my practice.

December 7, 2011

So Close!

Last night, I touched my stomach with the hand that wraps around my bent leg in Marichyasana D!  So close!

After Harmony helped maneuver me into the asana the other week, I have been able to wrap my head or my arm, rather, around my leg to try to reach for the arm wrapped around my back.  It felt amazing having my hand actually touch a part of my body instead of floating around in mid air.  I needed a gentle pull to get my hands together but it was so much easier than before.  The first side is still much more open than the second side.  My right ankle has little tolerance for being compressed for so long.

I have started holding my floor poses for five to ten breaths recently.  It feels good and I seem to be able to check in with my body more effectively.

Oh and I was also able to hold the final lift, Utplutih, in the closing sequence, last night.  I held it for seven full breaths and was able to stay in Padmasana, which is typically what bothers my right ankle the most.
I was a little worried when I switched from a Bikram practice to an Ashtanga practice, that my body and my heart would miss the backward bending.  Other than a little tweak to my lower back a few weeks ago, I feel amazing and am falling in love very quickly with this practice.

December 6, 2011

Right To The Bitter End

My Grandpa is a retired sea captain and when I ask him the right questions he will tell me stories about his years at sea.  

Today, he told me that the term bitter end originates from a nautical term.  A bitt is a wooden or iron post that is fastened through the ship's deck in order to secure the anchor.  If all of the anchor cable has been released into the water you have come to the bitter end.

December 5, 2011

Recipe Update!

I was following my own recipe tonight and noticed I left out a very important ingredient in my Miso Coleslaw.

2 tablespoons of rice vinegar!  It adds the necessary sourness to the dressing.

I've been dragging my legs off the healthy eating wagon in the last couple of weeks.  My trip to Vancouver started it, which I do not regret one bit!  I am a bit of a foodie at heart and when I'm surrounded by friends who love and appreciate food as much as I do it's so hard to say no.  I admire people who can stick with the clean eating 100% of the time.  I guess I'm kind of thankful that LW is not much of a foodie because it makes it easier to eat clean most of the time.

We head to Vegas on Thursday for LW's birthday celebration and I know that it's going to be hard to make the right choices all the time.  I am going to bring my oats so that I can soak them before bed and have in the morning and I want to do either my Ashtanga practice or a BodyRock every morning when I'm there.  I just feel better when I do something in the morning to get my blood pumping.  

I noticed when I was in Vancouver and ordered a fritatta for breakfast how hard it is to reduce fat and calorie intake when you're traveling because as good as the fritatta was I could taste the butter it was cooked in.  I now know that I should ask for some menu items cooked with no fat.  Do I really care?  Part of me does because I am not yet at my goal.  Part of me doesn't, I just want to say fuck it and move on.

It's tough to eat clean.  I have to say that it's one of the most challenging things I've ever done.  They say yoga brings awareness to your self.  So does clean eating.  My body responds so clearly to bad food.  I was making LW cookies for his birthday and well, you know, I love cookie dough and ate a couple spoonfuls.  I paid for it and 100% completely suffered for it.

So, as I sip my scotch and type this, I raise my glass to everyone who is making the effort to eat clean. 

December 4, 2011


Do you ever wonder why a practice - be it yoga, writing, painting, tai chi or soccer - brings you peace, tranquility?

In the book, Glimpse - Selected Aphorisms, George Murphy puts it beautifully.

"Routine breeds sameness; shields mediocrity, and creates happiness."

Happy birthday to my LW, who without, I would be searching for the divine in a cloud of mist instead of that which lives within us all,  I would not have these wonderful books lying around the house and I would not be staying up late playing video games and laughing with you.

December 3, 2011

Yoga As Art

I think this video is simply beautiful, it helps that it's soundtrack is Beirut.  Meghan Currie performs yoga as art in New York City.  She also has some beautiful time lapse videos.

December 2, 2011

A Quiet Place

I crossed the water back to Victoria this afternoon with a renewed sense of direction.  The sun sparkled amongst the waves, the sea birds dove for fish, the houses perched on the island cliffs seemed more peaceful than ever. 

Beirut was my soundtrack as I slowly started to formulate the beginning of a plan in my mind.  A path that seemed slightly impossible last week is now sporting sign posts that point in different directions.

Maybe it is possible.  It won't all be easy but I think I've found a sense of direction for the first time in a long time.

December 1, 2011


What can I say about today except if you ever get to Vancouver, check out Salt Tasting Room. They serve a daily grilled cheese and soup special.

We had a squash, carrot and Gouda soup with an emmenthal, cheddar grilled sandwich topped with caramelized onions and grainy mustard. It was absolutely delicious. You'll find it down Blood Alley in Gastown where you would never expect to find such delicious food amongst the dirty alley.

November 30, 2011

Old Friends

It was a perfect day in Vancouver today. K went off to her course in the morning and I rolled out the yoga mat provided by the hotel ( how awesome is that?) and practiced in the small space between the beds. I got up into headstand today! I was so excited when I got up there and a little nervous that I only managed to hold it for one breath but that's one breath longer than yesterday.

Then I went out and met another friend Z for breakfast and a trip to H&M. Luckily I was disappointed by their selection so didn't spend any money. We spent the day wandering the city and catching up.

I can't tell you how grateful I am and how much it warms my heart to have these amazing friends in my life. I may whine sometimes that all my friends live far away but it says a lot when we reunite and we just keep moving without missing a beat. I'm sure we talk a lot more than we would if we saw each other once a week or once a month but that feeling of being hoarse after talking all day and all night, I treasure.

November 29, 2011


I was up early this morning for my practice.  It was still dark outside, LW still fast asleep.  I thought it was going to be tough getting up but I woke up before my alarm went off and was excited to start my practice.

For the first time I was able to get through Surya Namaskr B (Sun salutation) without needing to pause to catch my breath.  My jump backs are starting to feel more possible on my mat.  My feet are making their way back almost through my arms with a little more ease.

But there I was in Urdvha Padmasana, trying to find my balance on my shoulders, and damn, I forgot the Prasarita series!

Urdhva padmasana
I don't know how I managed to do that.  I love the Prasaritas.  Oh well, next time.  

Prasarita padottanasana D

I started adding Shirhsasana (headstand) to my practice last week.  I've only ever done Shirhsasana with a wall behind me and the first time I lifted up on Tuesday was with Jeff's help and it felt so awkward and a little freaky.  But the following night I was able to get both my feet up in the air and hold it for 5 breaths.  And the last two days I was able to do the same.

Shirshasana, almost there

I love this progression I am experiencing in my practice.  It can be difficult but it is so very satisfying.

November 28, 2011

Mind Garbage

I took 4 days off from my Ashtanga practice.  This morning was my first day back on the mat.  I hadn't planned on it but Thursday was a moon day, Friday I tried Bikram again after a month off, Saturday is a traditional day of rest and while I considered practicing I was kind of yoga'd out and Sunday I just didn't want to.

I was yoga'd out because, well, I let my mind get the best of me after my Bikram practice on Friday.  I started thinking waaayyyy too much about what direction my practice needs to go in.  Why I think it should go a certain way.  And I felt I needed to explain or justify whichever practice I choose to do - to myself and you lovely people who read my blog.  I love doing this to myself.  I love stressing myself out about tiny little details that occur in my life.  It can be anything from my yoga practice to how I spoke to the barista at Starbucks.  Ridiculous.  It really is.  Especially when it comes to my yoga.  When I do this to myself I get to a point where I am so worked up about a situation it consumes my mind.  It gets to a point where my brain is about to explode and I hit a release valve and it all leaves and I stop thinking about it completely.  I step back completely and just let myself be for as long as I need.  This is what I did this weekend.

As I rolled out my mat this morning and brushed my teeth and pulled my hair back, a tiny part of me didn't want to practice.  But as I took my first breath and grounded through my feet and tried to access the lift through my core, I started to feel the yoga work it's magic almost immediately.  I felt the mind garbage, the negative self criticizing thoughts leave my body and my soul.

Tomorrow, I leave to Vancouver for a few days to visit a girlfriend.  I plan on practicing every morning and spending some time exploring the city on my own while she is in a course.  I'll be blogging via my iPhone so I hope it works!

Namaste, everyone.
Be true to your self today.

November 27, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Protein Shake

I love this shake it is perfect for fall.  I found this recipe in an Oxygen magazine and have tweaked it to my liking.  Enjoy!

1/2 apple, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 date or prune
handful of fresh or frozen spinach
1/2 banana
1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1) Gather all your ingredients.  I forgot the apple in the photo and the acorn squash snuck it's way in. 

2)  Dump everything into your blender and blend on high.  I do not have one of those high power blenders so I let mine whiz around for a couple of minutes to make sure the spinach, ginger, apple and dates get nicely pulverized.  I also added a half cup of frozen blueberries to make the shake a little colder.

November 26, 2011


Follow your path.
Whatever that path may be.

Sometimes my path feels like it looks like this.  Straight and narrow but full of life.

Sometimes I feel as though I have so many decisions I may explode.

Sometimes I feel like I could make one of two decisions - the easy one or the not so easy one - the problem is I don't even know what these two directions are yet.

Sometimes I feel so worn down that my path feels lifeless, gnarled and twisted.

Sometimes I am so content with where I am that it makes me nervous.  It is so beautiful that I am afraid a monster will jump out at me and ruin the image.

But what I try to remember about all these different paths I may walk down, is that each and every one has a piece of beauty associated with it.  And that whichever direction I may go, I am on a grounded path of my own choosing.

November 25, 2011


I practiced Bikram yoga this morning for the first time in a month.  It was...nice?  It's strange, I'm not over the moon for the practice anymore.  It was good.  I can see the benefits.  I liked how it felt but something was missing.  I don't know why I feel like I need to make a decision.  That I need to know 100% which yoga I want to continue practicing.  I don't know why I feel like I need to work all of this out right now, after all it is the journey of yoga, it doesn't matter what happens at the end.

It was wonderful to be at the studio this morning.  My mum was there which is the reason I got up at 5:30 am, to practice with her.  I love practicing with my mum and I think it's the biggest thing I miss about my Bikram practice.  One of my favourite teachers was teaching which gave me another reason to get up in the cold and the dark.  Before class I made sure to tell myself that there was no need to try to go as deep as I may have a month ago.  I didn't want to hurt myself.  I felt strong and solid during class.  The heat felt nice and the asanas were comforting, my body knew what to do even if it hadn't done some of those movements in a month. 

It was also nice to just listen, to not think about what came next.  I simply had to listen to the dialogue.  I don't think I ever appreciated this before.  In my Ashtanga practice you are responsible for your practice, you need to learn, to embed the practice into your body and mind.  You are responsible for your alignment, your body.  Of course there is a teacher there but is not the consistent reminders that we receive through the dialogue in Bikram yoga.

I felt no need for water this morning.  I have never been a water chugger but I would always sip on my water.  I didn't take one sip until after final Savasana.  I attribute this to the Ashtanga and the fact that there are no water breaks in the Ashtanga practice.  For a month now I have been practicing yoga with no water until after my practice.  I was curious to see how this would translate into the hot room and I can see now how the need and craving for water while I practice yoga is all in my head.  Regardless of the heat or how much I'm sweating because I tell ya, I sweat just as much in my Ashtanga practice as I do during a cooler Bikram class.

It felt absolutely luxurious to be able to lie down in Savasana in between the floor poses.  It was strange not doing a Vinyasa between the poses.  I felt as though I was cheating a little bit :).  But I really noticed how they both have the same goal, to clear and release the blood through any limbs or organs that were stretched or bent or compressed during the asana.

So here I am comparing and contrasting the different practices.  Yes they are different but they all stem from the traditional Hatha Yoga.  I really just need to do what I want, what my heart tells me.  


November 23, 2011

Sanskrit Word of the Day - Chitta

I love languages.  They intrigue and excite me.  I speak French and Dutch and can converse in American Sign Language and am always interested in learning new words in new languages.

Sanskrit is the language which makes up the traditional names of our yoga asanas.  Sanskrit is strongly linked with Hinduism and is considered one of India's official languages.  I love hearing the invocation to Pantajali sung in Sanskrit.  It is beautiful.  I would love to be able to learn more of the language one day.

I was watching this video yesterday of Kino MacGregor discussing the Yoga Sutras.  (The Yoga Sutras are ancient texts written around the 2nd century BC by Patanjali discussing the 8 limbs of yoga.)  Kino speaks the sutra in Sanskrit, has the class repeat the words and then gives a full description of her translation of the sutra.  One word that I kept hearing her use in her discussion was Chitta.

Chitta (Sanskrit: memory)
- derived from the root Chit, "To be concious"
- the subconscious mind, the store house of memory
- where we store our memories and experiences and what define us

Definition found here.

New Mantra

My new mantra for focus during my practice and really during my entire day is, Lift My Core.  To continuously, constantly find connection in my core.  Whether it be in seated or standing poses.  Whether it be during the Surya Namaskrs.  While I'm sitting at my computer typing or standing in the shower or doing the dishes.  I need to find a lift in the core.

This should help me to keep my strength in my lower back but also help me work on these jump backs.  I put socks on my my feet last night and tried the jump back, well more of a slide - shift - slide when I do it, on the hardwood floor in the studio.  My arms ARE long enough!  It IS possible!  I was able to get my legs from the front of my mat to the back of my mat without lifting my hands off the floor!  I just need to practice finding more of a lift in my core to get my legs and bum through my arms.

Here is the lovely Laruga demonstrating a very graceful jump back and jump through. 

November 22, 2011

When I Grow Up

I remember, as a little girl, I wanted to go to space.  Then, I found out that you had to have 20/20 vision to fly above the Earth.  I let that dream go. 

Now that I've had lasik eye surgery, I do have 20/20 vision and while that dream still exists, it may be a little out of my grasp.  That's why Astronomy Picture of the Day is my homepage.  Every day there is a new image, featuring the universe.  Check it out!

This is my favourite image for November.

November 21, 2011

Yoga Toes

I remember in one of my first Iyengar classes, the teacher talking about learning how to spread your toes to give yourself a wider and stronger base to stand on.  The first time I ever tried to actually get my third, fourth and fifth toes to move felt nearly impossible.  Today, 4 years later, I looked down at my feet and very deliberately fanned apart all of my toes with ease. 

Why did this take so long? According to Yoga Journal, our toes have the tiniest muscles in our bodies and are often atrophied by the time we reach our adult years from lack of use.  We have abductors on either sides of our feet and these can get lazy over time and also smooshed from being stuck in tight shoes.  So I guess over the years I have consciously and unconsciously worked on abducting my toes, moving them away from each other.  It works, when I stand on my mat at the start of my practice I focus on spreading my toes and often in forward bends I will pick up my toes and adjust them so that they are straight instead of curled or turned in a certain direction.

Our feet are what carry us, propel us and balance us.  We should give them some more attention.  Next time you step on your mat or you are at home in front of the TV or at your desk at the office, spend some time with your toes.  Play with them see what they can do.  


November 20, 2011

Winter Food Woes

What is it about these cold days that make me want to make yummy, cheesy casseroles and bake warm savory pies?  It is killing my self control right now.  Last night I made a tamale pie, which I found to be OK. It was my first time making it and I'd never made grits before so there was a learning curve but it was a fail in LW's opinion so at least that one will be off the menu.  I'm trying to find some great one pot meals that LW can throw in the oven when I'm at yoga and we can eat when I get home.  I'm starting to lose my creativity and along with the health factor.

I've been breaking out the crock pot and have been letting veggies and meats simmer all day which is delicious.  I found an amazing recipe for Shepherd's Pie, which uses way less potatoes than normal and incorporates yummy squash into the topping.

The lack of fresh, in season fruit and vegetables is such a shock to the system after November.  Here, in Victoria, we get local squash, potatoes and kale well into winter but the local carrots are starting to fade and the zucchini is long gone.  I find it difficult to buy carrots from California because a) they have no flavour, b) they have traveled so far and c) they are more expensive.  And cauliflower is starting to get pricey again - four dollars for one head! 

I've been roasting vegetables which I adore and baking chicken but I've also been craving homemade mac and cheese and homemade perogies.  I find I start the week off well with lots of kale and healthy food but as the week starts to end and it keeps getting colder I struggle with choosing to make the healthier choices.  I guess it's just reconnecting with my self control and doing more research for some healthy, non cheesy dishes.

November 19, 2011

Know When To Rest

I broke tradition today.  In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, Saturday is a rest day.  I took my rest day yesterday.  

This week has been a tough one for my practice.  My lower back has been sore and so you would think that my practice would get a little easier.  It hasn't.  Every movement that I go through during my practice has been done with more care, more conscious effort than I've ever done before.  I move more slowly while lowering down in Dandasana, taking care that my core, my legs, my arms are all working together and are strong.  I move even more slowly into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Dog) while focusing on opening my chest and lengthening through my abdomen.

I've been able to find this new focus from the two Mysore classes I went to this week.  I was lucky to receive invaluable information from both Jeff and Harmony.  They both gave me different tips on how I can work through my soreness.  I think that this rediscovery of this old injury will help my practice.  Sometimes you don't know you are doing something incorrectly until you receive feedback from your body.  When you receive that feedback you need to listen to it and as I was told, you do not want to reaggravate the discomfort.

I was also lucky enough to be helped into Marichyasana D on Tuesday and Thursday.  Oh my god does this asana feel incredible when you are in it.  The twist that I received in my spine was indescribable and the rush that I felt with all of my internal organs compressed together while still breathing and holding myself upright is one of the most amazing feelings of control I have ever experienced.  I love that now I know how I am supposed to get into this asana.  I tried it on my own this morning and while I was far from binding, am able to take on a new approach.

So as you can see it's been a busy week in my yoga world.  A lot of new things have been revealing themselves to me.  Thursday night after Mysore class and dinner I could barely move.  My joints were stiff and sore.  My back was bothering me again and I just felt old.  I needed a day off immediately, to allow myself to recuperate from the various changes I've been experiencing in my yoga.  I am so happy that I listened to my body because this morning I had very little feedback from my lower back.  I had a lot of energy and felt strong through my practice.

Sometimes you need to break tradition to do what's right for you.  You are the best judge of what you need.

November 18, 2011

Raw Carrot Cake Muffins

Oh yes I said it, raw carrot cake.  Sounds weird but it is so good!  I found the recipe at Two Blue Lemons and adapted it to my liking.

Raw Carrot Cake

4 cups shredded carrot
1 cup dates
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dried apricots
1 - 1.5 cups unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/5 teaspoon cloves

1) Grate the carrot in a food processor or by hand.  It took me a while to figure out this attachment on my food processor because I had never used it before but once I got the hang of it, those carrots were grated in seconds.

2)  Change the attachment in your food processor back to the S blade and chop up the dates, apricots, walnuts and raisins.  Chop them until they are well blended but you don't want them to be mushy.  Add the date mixture to your carrots and your spices.  Feel free to add more cinnamon or nutmeg or omit whatever you don't like.

3)  Mix the carrots, dried fruit, nuts and spices all together and transfer back into the food processor in batches.  Process until well mixed.  It will be mushy and you want it to stick together when you press it between your fingers.

4)  Fold in the coconut.  I nearly forgot this step and it is very important.  The coconut adds flavor and helps the the muffins hold together.

5)  Using a measuring cup, scoop the mixture out of the bowl and place on a cookie sheet.  Give the measuring cups a good smack to get the carrot mix out.

6)  This is where I decided to branch of from the original recipe.  The carrot mix tasted great like this but I felt it was a little unfinished so I decided to experiment by some of the muffins in my dehydrator for 12 hours and I baked one lonely muffin at 200 degrees for about half hour.  They both turned out great but I much prefer the dehydrated muffins.  They are slightly chewy and the coconut flavour really shines through.

Getting ready to be dehydrated.
One lonely one for the oven.

All done! Fresh from the dehydrator!

You can top them with a cashew icing but I omitted this step because they taste great on their own!


November 16, 2011


I have begun exploring Hindu and Indian philosophy and religion.  Lord Ganesh revealed himself to me a few months ago when I was in a store trying to decide on a shirt that I wanted to buy.  I was in a free trade shop and these shirts were made by hand in Thailand.  My favourite one and the one I ended up buying has a version of Lord Ganesh on the front.

Lord Ganesh is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.  He is revered as the god of beginnings, knowledge, wisdom, intellect and is most known for being the remover of obstacles.  Ganesh is identified by the mantra Aum or Om.

The Om symbol combined with Ganesha's trunk, ears, tusks and eyes.
I have been considering Lord Ganesh and the meanings that stand behind all he symbolizes.  Listen more, think big and talk less are actions that I am trying to follow every day.  As well as retaining the good and throwing away the bad or the unnecessary.

Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival held in India to celebrate the birth of Ganesh.  It usually occurs between mid August to mid September on the fourth day of the waxing moon and lasts for 10 days.  The celebrations that are held for Lord Ganesh today came to be in 1893 when an Indian freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak, reshaped the festival into a large community event where his goal was to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and non-Brahmins.  Ganesh was chosen to be the symbol of the festival because he is considered to be the "God of every man" (source).

Via Celestial Skeletons

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare.  The hare challenges the tortoise to a race to prove how fast he is.  The slow tortoise accepts and the hare laughs at him thinking he will have no problem beating the tortoise.  The hare remains cocky and decides to sleep while the tortoise continues to plod forward with determination and with as much strength and energy that he has.  And the underestimated tortoise wins in the end.

This story popped into my head this morning as I was practicing my yoga.  I have begun moving much more slowly in my vinyasas.  I am finding more strength through my legs and feet and I am stretching my heart forward as I lower down into Dandasana.  Keeping the strength from Dandasana, I slowly and carefully roll my chest up and my shoulders back while lengthening and strengthening through my abdomen into Upward Dog.  I am trying to be much more aware of my core and to keep the control in my hips to prevent them from simply dropping down in order to get a deeper back bend.  I am actually resisting my deepest backbend for the time being because I think that is how I hurt my back.  I am trying to find the strength before I go deeper.  My transition from Upward Dog to Downward Dog has slowed down as well.  I am searching for the strength of my core, my legs and my arms to lift me up into Down Dog.  I realized that I was simply using my momentum to transition between the poses.

This awareness that I am trying to bring to my practice has slowed down my practice immensely.  My vinyasas are becoming a part of the practice as opposed to being something I must do between the asanas to stay warm.

Now, we all know that in the practice of yoga there is no race but I think that we all have a tortoise and a hare that exits within us.  The hare that wants us to be able to do all those amazing arm balancing postures and deep back bends as quickly as possible because we feel we have something to prove.  And the tortoise, that simply wants us to do what we can by focusing on the moment and putting one foot in front of the other.

The hare may be what helps us begin our yoga journey but the tortoise is what keeps us practicing.  The determination of the tortoise allows us to continue our practice through injury or life getting busy.  The tortoise allows us to access the resilience that is sometimes needed through a practice.  If we keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what the pace, eventually we will get there, where ever there may be.

November 14, 2011

Sense of Obligation

I have this sense of obligation to people sometimes.  It isn't necessarily a bad thing because I think it makes me who I am but it can sometimes cause me an immense amount of stress.

I admire people who can say no easily or feel no guilt when they change their minds about something.
This is my work in process.  To do what I want to do without feeling guilt or an obligation to people who really don't matter.

"Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. Being true to anyone else or anything else is . . . impossible."
                                                         - Richard Bach

"If you are living out of a sense of obligation you are slave."
                                                        - Wayne Dyer