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

A Gentle Reminder

I tweaked my lower back yesterday.  I am pretty sure this happened during my practice.  So this morning I focused on my movements and tried to move just a little more slowly.  I figured out right away where this tweak occurred.

In Urdha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), I've been letting the strength go from my legs, my hips and my bum.  I was pretty much just flopping down into the pose and losing all mindfulness of my lower spine.  So I guess without my muscles being contracted my spine was able to flop around where ever it wanted and I was losing the strength in my lower back.  

I also noticed that as I neared the end of my practice and I started getting a little tired my vinyasas suffered.  I would lose the connection between my lower back and legs during the transition from Upward Facing Dog to Adho Mukka Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).  I found that I would just kind of flick my hips upwards and I was taking most of the movement on the right side of my lower back because that is my stronger side.  I was getting lazy on my left side and losing the control.

It's interesting because I thought I was being mindful.  It's amazing how easy it is to lose that focus without a teacher there to constantly remind you of what you need to do.  It's a good reminder that I need to be aware, both physically and mentally, of how I am moving through my practice.

November 13, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

My body ached as I rolled over this morning.  30 years old today and this is how I feel?  Not a great sign.  I rolled out my mat.  My body creaking as I bent over.  My hamstrings resisted bending over with straight legs.

Surya Namaskr A was slow and methodical.  My lower back was tight and I moved carefully so as not to hurt myself.  Surya Namaskr B was tough.  I had to catch my breath a couple of times at the top of each salutation before I could continue.  By the time I reached Trikonasana I was starting to feel like myself - the young, sprite 29 year old I was yesterday.  I finished my practice strong and with much gratitude that I have found my yoga practice.

I am 30 today and I feel the best I've ever felt in my entire life.

November 12, 2011

November 11, 2011

To Remember

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  Canadians are asked to pause and remember the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service.

To me, Remembrance Day is where I can be grateful to those Canadian soldiers who risked their lives to fight for the freedom of Europe during WWI and WWII.  I am most touched by these wars because they affect my family directly.  My Dad is from the Netherlands and I can still remember stories both my Oma and Opa told me of living through the war.

I am grateful for the Canadian soldiers who freed Holland.  I am grateful for Canada for housing Princess Juliana when she fled the Netherlands during WWII. 

I am grateful that we live in such a country that we are able to take the time to remember those people who fight for freedom.

November 10, 2011

Putting That Energy Somewhere

I met a man about a job today.  Well, to be more precise, I met a man to ask him questions and get input on my resume and the job market in this oh so sad looking BC economy.

He'd had my resume for a couple of weeks and I was dumbfounded by all of the different ideas that he had come up with where I could move forward in my career.  Some, I will admit, were a bit over my head.  But I found it amazing how this man was able to look at my experience and think of all the different things I could do with it.

I get extremely overwhelmed when people talk to me and about me in this way that represents me as a highly successful individual.  I don't know why.  It scares me.  It makes me uncomfortable and it makes me feel terribly unworthy.  It involves selling myself.  It involves research and hard work.  And it could very well be that I don't want to do that hard work because what I think my career should be is not the career that I want or that I would love. 

It makes me think that I need to take a second approach to my daily practice and follow the daily practice Altucher outlines here.  I'm going to try and take some ideas that were so kindly passed onto me by the gentleman I met today and put them to good use.  I'm going to try and challenge this energy that terrifies me and makes me want to cry and put it to some good use.

November 9, 2011

Curse of the Wine Gums

I love wine gums.  Adore them.  I covet them when they are on sale.  I don't like the small tiny roll of wine gums, I want the bag.  I tell myself that they will last forever.  I'll savor each one, saving the black ones for last.

This is not the way it works.  I buy the bag and restrain myself from eating them until I get home.  Then I dive into them.  I pull them out by the handful.  I eat them one by one but they go down fast.  My mouth and jaw work in overtime as I devour these delicious little candies.  There's something about the chewy stick to your teeth goodness that I love.  I keep going back for more, until half the bag is gone and then I shove them into the back of the cupboard and swear I won't eat anymore until later in the evening. 

5 minutes later I am back in the cupboard following the same ritual.

I did this yesterday.  And immediately felt ill.  I got a terrible tummy ache.  My body started aching.  My head started to hurt.  I got really tired and had a nap on the couch.

I have never reacted to a wine gum overdose like this.  I sometimes get a little tummy ache and my teeth hurt a little bit but never this severe physical backlash from my body.

I ended up missing yoga because of this.

Yesterday, I hit rock bottom on my addiction to wine gums.


November 8, 2011

Observation of the Day

Last night I said to LW that I didn't think I'd be going to yoga class tonight.  He asked me why not.  I'm feeling stressed out, I said.  He raised his eyebrows and slowly nodded.  

Then it hit me.  I love my yoga class.  There is more than enough time during the day to apply for jobs, pick up a few groceries and stop by my grandparents house.  I need this time to step away from my job search and my overactive thoughts.

Why did I feel the need to refrain from doing something that I love because I felt stressed out?

I will be going to class tonight. 

November 7, 2011

Thoughts On Savasana

As a yoga practitioner, I have heard many different things about Savasana or corpse pose.  Including such things as: it is the hardest asana to master; you must relax after a yoga practice to allow all the benefits to take affect; you should lie is Savasana for at least 5 minutes; you should lie in Savasana for 5 minutes for each half hour of yoga practice. 

What I have understood most clearly is that Savasana is about letting go.  It is about resting in a state of total relaxation - mental and physical.  It is the hardest pose for me to attempt on a day to day basis. 

When I first started my yoga practice.  I would fidget.  I felt creepy crawlies on my skin.  Hair tickling my ear.  My throat always felt heavy, like I was being choked.  My lower back used to really bother me if I lay flat on my back.  Slowly, over time, these physicals annoyances became less pronounced.  My back felt better from the physical asana practice.  I ignore the tickles and the creepy crawlies and they eventually go away.  My throat sometimes still bothers me but only once every 6 months or so.

Now that I have learned to somewhat control my body in Savasana, I am trying to learn how to quiet my mind.  I try to focus on complete relaxation when I first start my Savasana - to feel a heaviness as my body sinks into the floor.  I read once (I think it was in one of Mr. Iyengar's books) that if your tongue is tense, it causes your brain to be tense.  So the first thing I do is to relax my tongue.  Then I focus on my shoulders and my arms.  I inhale deeply so that I feel my lungs fill completely with air and then exhale deeply.  I do this a few times to really bring the focus to my breath.  Some days I am able to drift off.  To just relax and breathe but most of the time my mind is doing it's little jig between focusing on my inhales and exhales to my dinner plans, my next blog post and the carpet that needs vacuuming.  When my mind wanders I try to come back to my breath.  I count the inhales and exhales so that I focus on one thing.  This may last anywhere between one and ten breaths before I go through the mind wandering and then coming back to my breath again.

In B.K.S Iyengar's Light on Life, he writes:
"To relax is to cut tension.  To cut tension is to cut the threads that bind us to identity.  To lose identity is to find out who we are not."

He continues to describe how existing in present awareness in Savasana is to let go of everything that defines us to who we are, even our sexuality.  I think I have a long way to go until I can experience what Mr. Iyengar describes.  But the key would be to keep trying.  To keep returning to my breath.  To keep trying to simply exist instead of existing with attachments.

One Savasana at a time.  One breath at a time.  One moment at a time.  Try to find the quiet.

Shhh Via

November 6, 2011

What I've Learned About Yoga

What I've learned about yoga through my own practice.

1)  You do not have to be flexible to practice yoga.  Flexibility is a benefit that comes from a yoga practice.

2)  No one style of yoga is suitable for everyone.  There are so many different styles of yoga out there. Especially in Victoria, where there seems to be a studio on every corner.  I have tried 3 styles for a consistent period of time and I've learned that I prefer the more active style with a consistent sequence, and I like being able to to practice at home.

3)  There is controversy in the yoga world.  From the gurus that we have learned from in India to our studio owners.  Emotions and legal matters do leak into a yoga.  I try to ignore this, although it can be hard sometimes.

4)  Yoga can be as spiritual as you would like it to be.  The longer I practice, the more curious and interested I am becoming in the philosophy behind yoga.

5)  The main focus of yoga is breath and balance.  Easier said than done.  Especially when you are trying to find that breath and balance outside of your asana practice.

6)  The yoga world is endless.  From yogis blogging to the guy who delivered my couch the other day.

7)  Yoga can be practiced anywhere.  Hotel rooms, airports, living rooms.  Even while your driving - try to find your peace when the guy in front of you cuts you off - this is a real challenge.

November 5, 2011

Song of the Acorn Fairy

When I was a little girl I loved fairies.  I used to have pictures of Cicely Mary Barker's fairy's all over my bedroom.  Here is one of my favourites.


To English folk the mighty oak
Is England's noblest tree;
Its hard-grained wood is strong and
good As English hearts can be.
And would you know how oak-trees grow,
The secret may be told:
You do but need to plant for seed
One acorn in the mould'
For even so, long years ago,
Were born the oaks of old.

November 4, 2011

Confession Time

I put my Bikram yoga pass on hold the other day.  Yes, fellow Bikram yogis, I feel like I am moving on from my Bikram practice.  I still am not sure whether or not it will be a permanent hold.  I'm going to try it out for a month.  I want to see how I feel sticking to an Ashtanga practice.

I, honestly, never thought I would ever leave my Bikram practice.  When I discovered Bikram yoga it did so many different things for me - physically and mentally -  that I thought I would practice Bikram yoga for the rest of my life.  I'm coming to realize that it is more suitable to say, I will practice yoga for the rest of my life.

I have been practicing Ashtanga yoga for maybe 4 weeks now and it is like turning on a new light.  I am learning a lot, not only about the asanas but about how to listen to my own body.  I am learning how to feel the poses.  I've found myself in the middle of a posture trying to think of what comes next and when it comes time to transition, I just know and I move into the following asana with little thought.  I have been discovering a new sense of the attention to detail that must be observed in each asana.  And I'm learning to find it on my own.  I get corrections from my teacher but they are subtle corrections that are often directed through touch.  I find this useful because the sensation of what muscle I should stretch or relax or tighten seems to be remembered by my body.

I wish I could go to the morning Mysore classes but, financially, it is not possible right now.  Which is OK.  I like that I have to practice at home.  I like that I that I can go to the studio in the evenings and weekends and that instead of following a led class during the evenings - which this pass was originally supposed to be - it has turned into an introduction to Mysore, so that I am getting the Mysore experience.

I just finished my morning practice at home in my small living room.  My eyes gaze outside as I practice and I see my plants on the window sill and the colourful trees outside.  It feels good to create this energy in my own living space.  It feels right to take a step away from instruction and to try to experience the yoga through my own mind and body.


November 3, 2011

My Tricks to Weight Loss

About 5 years ago I lost nearly 50 pounds.  Since then, I have kept the weight off and in the last 9 months have started losing more weight while toning and gaining muscle.

This is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  But it has gotten easier over time.  Healthy living becomes a habit, you just have to make it a habit.

Most of these things I have listed below are in all the health magazines out there.  They are in those magazines because they are true.  They are what has worked for me.

  • Give yourself permission to make time for yourself.  Exercise and cooking healthy meals takes time, you need to have "me" time to do what you need to do.
  • You need to make the decision.  It has to be a concious choice to get healthy.
  • Planning is so important.  Plan your workouts, plan your meals.  I plan my meals because if I don't I will end up making poor choices, like grilled cheese sandwiches (which I haven't had in forever and love) or perogies or just plain old toast and butter.  Not healthy.
  • If you are going out and don't know where your next meal is coming from, have a snack in your purse.  Some dates balls or a mini sandwich with some peanut butter.  Have something or else you'll get so hungry that you'll eat anything that is put in front of you.  If you know where you are going to eat and the restaurant menu is online, look it up and decided prior what you're going to have.
  • Start with an exercise that you enjoy doing.  My weight loss journey started with a yoga video.  I would wake up at 3:45 in the morning to do this yoga video so I could be at work for 6:30.  After work, I felt so good and had been sitting in a desk all day I would go to the gym.  My endorphins had already been lifted for the day and it would cause me to want more.  Exercise does get addictive.
  • Have some protein with every meal.  This may not be the case for everyone but when I was told that I need more protein in my diet 9 months ago, weight loss became easier.
  • Don't be afraid of protein powder.  I was always adament that I didn't want to consume it.  Who knows what's in that stuff right?  There are some good ones out there.  SunWarrior is great.
  • You will spend more money on groceries when you eat clean.  Fresh vegetables and meats are more $$ than your average frozen pizza and boxed cereal.  I used to not want to spend more money on clean eating but I've really realized that I don't function well on crap.  I need fruit, vegetables and clean proteins.  I am a happier person when I eat yummy healthy foods.
  • Find a day that you can prepare some food for the week.  Then you don't feel as stressed that you have so much food to prepare in one day.  I make my food on Sundays and eat the same lunch and breakfast for a week.  The following Sunday I switch it up.  
  • Make food you enjoy.  Healthy food does not have to taste bad.  There are a ton of recipes available to you out there.
  • Have a conversation with your loved ones.  I had to ask LW to stop offereing me chocolate.  He has a big sweet tooth and is a big sweetie so he would always offer me chocolate not once but two or three times.  It's easy to say no once but again and again is hard.  I asked him to stop offering me chocolate and it makes it easier for myself to avoid.
  • If you are craving something sweet, drink water with half a lemon juice.  I don't know what it does but it works. 
  • Make yourself treats.  Instead of having your sweetie going down and getting a carton of ice cream (yes, sometimes this happens) make yourself a batch of Raw Brownies or Cashew Dreamcake.  These are filled with healthy ingreadients, which are higher in calories than a piece of fruit but are way better than a processed cookie or a huge bowl of ice cream and you feel like you're splurging.
  • Eat when you need to.  Most magazines and fitness forums will say 5 small meals a day.  This works for me. I prefer to eat this way.  Some people, whether it be their schdule or personal choice don't need to.  Do what works.  
  • Every one is different.  There is no cookie cutter method for getting in shape and weight loss.  For example, I've had someone tell I should reduce my yoga practice while I am exercising and lifting weights.  I lost interest there.  I love yoga.  Yoga keeps me supple and mentally, physicall and spiritually happy.  Yoga has been a part of my weight loss since the very beginning and yoga has given me the confidence to continue to get in shape.  I will never stop my practice.  For some people this may be dance or swimming.  Do what works for you.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you have some ice cream or honemade Mac & Cheese.  Enjoy it and move on.  These little treats keep me sane.
I think the key is you need to figure out YOUR method.  Find out what works for you and start small.  Make little changes one day at a time.  It is a lot less overwhelming and you will be more inclined to stick with your changes.

November 2, 2011

Opening My Eyes and My Hips to Padmasana

Last night, I was able to make it through my practice right up to Marichyasana D without forgetting an asana.  I am able to complete the binds in the Marichyasana until I get to D where you must bind your bent leg with the opposite arm while your other leg is bent into half Padmasana or half lotus.

Marichyasana D. Via
There I was struggling desperately to grab my hands or even the tips of my fingers and rolling around on my butt, when Jeff came over to me and asked me if my ankle that was in Padmasana hurt.  Yes!  It always does.  I've mentioned this to teachers in other disciplines but had never gotten much in way of feedback, other than that my ankles were tight.  Well, did I just learn a wealth of information last night.  Jeff had me take my leg and bend it at the knee with my calf in front of me and parallel to the floor.  He then had me point my toe, like a ballerina, to prevent my toes from pointing to the ceiling and my ankle from turning.  Keeping my shin bone parallel to the floor I pulled my heel tight into my abdomen.  Jeff pointed out to me that my tendency is to bend my ankle, pointing the toes upward, which is what causes the strain on my ankle and my knee. I then turned my knee to almost point forward while rolling my hip and my calf in. 

Wow! What a difference.  My ankle no longer hurt.  It felt stiff but it wasn't painful.  My legs felt strong in Padmasana.  They never felt that way before.  It always felt awkward to me.  Suddenly, it was - it is - a new pose.  I felt grounded.

Jeff told me that in the next little while, I should work up to Marichyasana D in my practice, working on the variations of Mari D until I build some more strength in my core and am able to sit up straight so that I can reach my opposite arms.  In John Scott's book, he says that if you cannot perform this asana, do not progress further.  It is importatnt to develop opening in the hips and ankles before attempting the following asanas.

So, I will continue building my practice and working with my breath through the fluidity of the movement of the asanas while working on opening my hips and strengthening my core.  I feel like I have a goal that I am working towards and a focus.

My practice has shifted again.  It was always does, when I least it expect it to, things change.

November 1, 2011

P 90 X Update

I finished my 90 days of P90X a week and a half ago and the final measurements are in!

Chest: -0.25 "
Waist: -1.50"
Hips: -1.50"
Thigh (R): -0.75"
Thigh (L): -0.75"
Bicep-flexed (R): +1.0
Bicep-flexed (R): +1.0

Over all I am very pleased with my results.  I gained muscle in my arms and the flab has decreased so an inch gained when my arms are flexed is pretty awesome.  I didn't follow the program to a T because I just couldn't fit in the program on top of my yoga practice.  So my yoga replaced the non weight days.
Some other things I've noticed are my jeans are almost too big, they are definitely looser.  My winter coat from last year is way too big.  My yoga shorts fit me better.  My arms have more definition than they have ever had - ever.  I feel muscles in my back that I never knew existed.  

I started a new exercise routine on Monday and while I'm using a lot of Tony Horton's exercises, I'm changing things up a bit.  I was getting bored.  I read in an Oxygen magazine a couple months ago that women have a higher tendency to get bored with exercises than men do and I want to stay interested in my work outs.  So, I'm doing three days of weights and they're broken down into Back and Biceps, Chest Shoulders and Triceps and Legs and Back.  This is similar to the P90X workout but the way I've got it figured is that in between sets I do a cardio blast, which consists of squats, jumping lunges, burpees and mountain climbers.  It was tough, it got my heart pounding, challenged me and it was NEW.  And I will, of course, be practicing yoga 5 or 6 days a week on top of this.  I'll give this a shot for 4 weeks, take my measurements and see where I go from there.