Monday, December 31, 2007

Day 149

Another early-morning-yoga day - I was up at 6 and on the mat by 6:30 for my last yoga practice of 2007.

Once again, I felt stiff and my back wasn't very open, but I did manage to build up a lot of heat. This is actually an interesting observation - skating chills me considerably because I'm outside for over an hour. Today, I went skating *after* yoga and I was able to come home and shower (and warm myself up) rather than jump on the mat with my icy little toes. I think I prefer it. I also love the atmosphere of early morning yoga - the candles on my altar, the darkness ouside, the warmth inside.

But I'm far more flexible in the afternoon.

Flexiblity, heat. Heat, flexibility. Hm... Not sure which I prefer.

I don't have anything profound to say about the New Year. I know that it holds great significance for some, as a 'clean slate'. For me, it's just another day, though I do take the opportunity to make some resolutions, goals to work toward in the coming months. This year's 'yoga resolution' is backbending and in particular, drop backs. I would like to have drop backs nailed by the end of the year.

WoYoPracMo starts tomorrow and I've given some thought to how I might challenge myself for the month, seeing as I already practice yoga 6 days a week regularly. I've decided that hell or high water, I'm going to do the complete primary series (no cheating, no short forms) for the entire month.

I'm also going to add daily seated meditation to my practice. This last part will definitely be challenging, as it's not something I've been doing lately. Week one, I'm going to meditate for 5 minutes each day, 10 minutes each day for the second week, 15 minutes for the third and 20 minutes a day by the fourth week. This seems doable to me.

I wish my four readers (yes, I have a fourth!) an enjoyable turn of the year. See you in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 148


Difficult day. Blech.

It started out okay - I rose early to do my practice before heading down to the soup kitchen. Early morning practice is almost always tough. I'm never as flexible in the morning as I am in the afternoon/evening, especially in my forward bends and back bends. But it's so, so nice to go about my day with the memory of my practice on the edge of my brain, knowing that I've already done it and don't need to worry about making time for it.

I was particuarly stiff this morning. I did my best in all the poses, skipping nothing, and stayed with my breath for the duration of the practice.

Then, surprise: In Bhujapindasana, I was able to swing my feet through my arms and put my head on the floor (kathunk). I've never been able to do that before and I'm not sure what inspired me to try it this morning. Wonder if I'll be able to repeat it tomorrow?

Frequently, it's these very questions that motivate me to the mat. ;-)

Afternoon: I had something on my mind. I decided to go for a long walk to think it through. The park was like a big sheet of ice. I slipped on the ice and landed in the biggest, foulest pile of dog shit in the vicinity. I'm totally not making this up.

There I was, laying on the ground, covered in shit. So I checked in with myself and for the first time in hours, I was totally present in the moment: the ice, the cold, the bruise on my hip, the stench of wet dog poo, my own deep sadness and frustration. And I started crying... No, actually I started *bawling*.

I managed to half-walk, half-crawl to a sidewalk and I cried all the way home. Dog poo is therapeutic.

My slippery fall into that dog shit is an apt metaphor for my entire day, actually.

Suffice to say, my Flickr account is now 'friends only' and I spent most of the evening sorting through the consequences of that change (many of the photos on this site are housed on Flickr and the links were broken during the transition - if you notice anything wonky on the site, let me know).

And if any of you are on Flickr and want to be on my 'friend list', drop me a line.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 147

I slept in this morning and went for a long walk with the dog instead of skating. Zamboni Guy does extra maintenance on Fridays, which takes more time, which means less ice time for me. So more and more often I'm opting out of going at all. I really miss my long walks in the park. Today, it was pleasant out temperature-wise and the path wasn't so icy.

Of course, this threw my entire schedule off and I ended up doing my practice in the evening. Once again, I found myself deeply connecting with my breath. This is so reassuring because after I had that upper respiratory infection a few weeks ago, I found it difficult to find my breath again.

I moved steadily through the series today, focused and not a lot of dawdling. After Bhujipadasana, I veered off on a tangent: Bakasana. I haven't done Bakasana since I stopped using the Beryl Bender Birch 'Power Yoga' DVD. On the DVD, she includes Bakasana in the Primary Series, even though it's not introduced in traditional Ashtanga Yoga until the Intermediate Series.

Bakasana has always been one of those poses that I can occasionally do, although very badly and wish I could do better.

Today, my Bakasana was unrecognisable! I should take a photo.

First of all, coming into it was smooth and uncomplicated. My knees were up near my shoulders and I was able to straighten my arms. And I just hung out there, clawing my fingers into the mat like my teacher always told me to do (but the advice never made sense to me at the time), perfectly stable and balanced.

It's mysterious...this is a pose that I haven't even been practising, yet here it is, improved.

It's like magic, except it isn't magic: I've worked hard to build strength and flexibility. This is the practice, working. This is the 'all' in “practice and all is coming.”

But I'm still amazed!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Day 146

I taught a noon class today, so it felt like the same old routine again: serving an early morning meal at the soup kitchen, skating for an hour, coming home to do my yoga practice, getting cleaned up, then off to teach. Except now I'm at home and feeling lazy. Good thing I don't have to go anywhere for the rest of the day. Or tomorrow either. I don't teach again until Saturday morning.

Yesterday, I felt wildly energized. But today I felt exhuasted. I had to really focus and encourage myself in order not to dawdle through my practice this morning. Once again, Ujjayi breathing saved me: I connected with my breath and rode it like a magic carpet through the primary series. I ended up having an very ordinary, but lovely practice.

Over the past year, I've been exploring how my fluctuating energy levels are part of my monthly cycle. This is somewhat new to me. I never really thought very much about this until I read Inga Muscio's book a few years ago.

**TMI Alert: This is your chance to bail out if this is Too Much Information: Take me to the kittens **

For a few years, I was on a birth control pill to control hormonal levels in hopes of mitigating a medical condition. It didn't work and I've since pursued another type of treatment (which seems to have worked). Because there was no longer any reason to be on the pill, I went off of it in 2006. It was a very rocky transition for me - weight gain, irritability, depression and my cycle was completely messed up. But once I got through the rough bits, I found my body falling into a very familiar and steady rhythm.

I'm very aware of subtle changes in my body. I believe that my yoga and meditation keeps me in tune with a my body to a greater degree than I was before I started this practice. This is particularly true in the past few years, as I've maintained a near-daily practice. I really notice regular mood shifts and variations in my energy level throughout the month.

When my energy level started to peak yesterday, I knew exactly what was going on. I even predicted it: 'Tomorrow, I'm going to feel lethargic and low energy.' Sure enough, today I was feeling unusually tired. This, along with other physical symptoms (see this page for more information), is a sure sign that I'm ovulating. I've been tracking these mood shifts and symptoms over the course of the year and I'm now able to predict with almost perfect accuracy the day of ovulation and the day of my period.

Besides the obvious advantage of being better prepared for my menstrual cycle when it comes, this knowledge has empowered me in other ways. I'm more aware now of how my body chemistry affects my brain chemistry and my moods. I'm more aware of 'PMS' than every before, but I've stopped feeling like a victim of my premenstual symptoms. Now, when I'm struck with moodiness, I'm more likely to remind myself: 'Those're just premenstrual hormones' and instead of reacting, connect with my deeper Self.

And here's where I'm going to get all esoteric and spiritual on you: Hindu and Buddhists teachings often focus on the illusion of identity. We identify ourselves with our cars, our jobs, even our emotions. But at our core, we're none of these things. Beyond moods and emotion and the machinations of our brains, we're pure spirit - each of us carrying the spark of the Divine.

Put simply, I'm not my PMS. At my very core, my true Self: joy and love and peace. When I view my PMS 'moods' in this light, it's easier to move past them, to connect with my higher Self and act instead of reacting.

Years ago, I might have skipped my yoga practice because I was 'grumpy' or 'too tired.' When I was feeling low-energy today, I gently urged myself to the mat instead. Now (no surprise) I'm feeling much better than I would have otherwise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Day 145

Boxing Day! I did, in fact, go shopping. I stopped by Eaton Centre at 8 a.m., on my way to the ice rink. I needed some new shirts and I desperately needed a new pair of jeans (my old ones no longer fit). An extra bit of Christmas money helped pay for my purchases and everything was on sale. I'm delighted with my new duds!

I feel deeply blessed with all I've been given this Christmas. This holiday truly surprised me. I had very low expectations. I thought I would be on my own yesterday. In fact, I was surrounded by friends the entire day. It was all wonderful and unexpected and precious.

Today, my practice was very deep and focused. Recently (since the upper respiratory infection), I've had trouble connecting with my breath - but I had no problem with that today. This close connection with my breath allowed me to observe which poses I have particular trouble breathing deeply in. Marichyasana C is one of them. And, of course, Urdhva Dhanurasana is another. I don't understand why I feel so tight and blocked in backbends. I really struggled with this today.

Interestingly, I find that when I'm connecting with my breath and practising Ujjayi breathing, my practice unfolds very smoothly without too much interruption; each pose flows into the next. I finished in 75 minutes, which may be a record for me.

After my practice, as I went on with my day, I felt like everything I did was just a continuation of this flow. The momentum of my practice propelled me forward: showering, tidying the apartment, running an errand, doing some reading, heading to the soup kitchen in the late activity flowed into the next.

I felt very aware, very focused, very present for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Day 144

There wasn't a creature stirring at 7:30 this morning, as I headed to the ice rink. The subway wasn't running, so I walked to the streetcar stop. I amused myself by walking right down the middle of a busy road that runs through my neighbourhood. It's normally bustling with traffic, but between home and the station, I didn't encounter a single car.

The streetcar took me downtown and from there I walked east. Downtown was nearly as desolate as my neighbourhood. Very noticeable in the silence, I heard the roar of an engine coming up behind me. It was a big red fire truck. I waved enthusiastically and the truck slowed down. Beefy hands waved at me from the windows and five firefighters roared 'Merry Christmas' as the truck rolled by.

Zamboni Guy was at the rink when I arrived. He looked glum. The lock on the staff room was malfunctioning again and everything he needed to flood and groom the ice was in that room. The locksmith was enjoying Christmas morning with his family, but would come as soon as he could.

I asked Zamboni Guy if he'd gone out for coffee yet and he shook his head, “I haven't even had breakfast. Tim's is closed and everything is in that staff room”

I grinned and whipped out my thermos, said “Well, then it's lucky I brought coffee, eh?”

I knew that the nearby coffee shop was closed on Christmas morning and decided to surprise Zamboni Guy with the coffee. I had brewed two cups for the thermos and also brought a box of my Fabulous Butter Cookies to share. Since I like to be well-prepared, I also packed two coffee cups wrapped in a tea towel, a spoon, sugar and milk (turns out, we needed all of it).

So the Zamboni Guy and I sat down on a bench by the rink and I spread everything out on the tea towel. We enjoyed a decadent cookie breakfast and took turns telling each other our life stories as we watched people skate around in circles.

It was my bit of Karma Yoga for the day.

When I got home, I unrolled my slippery Manduka and did the full Primary Series. Good practice, no surprises. I moved through at a good clip. I added a couple of dropbacks to the three backbends I did. My backbends are feeling better and I think I'll post another 'state-of-the-backbend' photo soon for comparison.

I'm enjoying a quiet holiday. I prepared a fantastic meal around 2 p.m. and now I'm enjoying some green tea. In a little while, the dog and I are heading out to visit some friends and neighbours.

Wishing all of you a lovely day, wherever you are, whatever you're doing.

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Day 143

Peace Cupcake!

I was wrong about the Moon Day - it was actually yesterday, so my day off and my Moon Day are the same day. This if fine - I would rather practise since I have time off. My Moon Day Cupcake had 'peace' on it, which I actually think is nicer than 'Happy Holidays'. Maybe I'll take to saying that instead of 'Happy Christmas.'

As usual, I'm full of news!

I spent yesterday morning at the soup kitchen, serving a very special holiday brunch to our guests. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, so we had a smaller number of guests than usual. This is a shame, because these special meals are fantastic! They are catered by fancy chefs from a nearby hotel who donate the food and their time in preparing it. The chefs even stuck around for a while so our guests could give them a big round of applause.

After the meal was finished, we cleared some tables so the volunteers could feast on turkey (being a vegetarian, I passed on the turkey), fabulous stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies and a dessert of fruity cake with home made maple walnut ice cream . It was such a treat to sit down my fellow volunteers and share a meal. Over time, these people have become good friends - this occasion reminded how important they all are to me.

I think this was my true celebration of the holiday. I simply couldn't have asked for a better 'Christmas supper' than this impromptu gathering of friends!

When I got home, there was a package waiting for me from my mother. She sent me a beautiful green 'prAna' extra-large yoga mat bag (if you're looking at the link, choose 'ivy' to see the colour I got) and enough money to buy myself a nice yoga mat. I've been practising on the same perwinkle Maha mat for over five years (and using a cruddy Lululemon bag that isn't nearly big enough for it). The Maha mat has holes in it. I've long wanted to replace it with a thick black Manduka mat but they're pricey.

So I phoned around and found a Manduka mat at a downtown yoga studio and picked it up in the evening. I carried it home in my beautiful new mat bag! What a treat!

As I sat there on the streetcar, holding it on my lap, I was so very, very excited! My own Manduka!! Squee!!!!!

Christmas pressie!

I unrolled the Manduka for the first time this morning for my practice. As is always the case with a brand new mat, it's a bit slippery but the texture will become less so with use. It's a very solid mat, not as soft as my Maha, but it has better cushioning and support overall (I particularly noticed this in Sirsasana and Sarvangasana). I think I'll love it once I get used to it.

It a challenge for me to adjust whenever I make a major change to the environment of my practice. Today, I found that practising on the new mat was very distracting and disconcerting. I settled down a bit during the seated poses (that's when I generally put my Mysore rug over the mat), but I was still very aware that I was on a *different* surface. It reminds me a bit of how I felt when I first moved to this apartment and started practising in the new space. It took a couple of weeks for the energy to 'settle' and for everything to feel right.

I had a good practise for the most part. I had trouble warming up and my hips were tight at the beginning of practice (but opened up by the time I did the seated poses). I was able to bind to the wrist on both sides in Marichyasana C this morning (I was a bit worried that it might be a one-time thing, but no, I'm still doing it).

Jump throughs feel a bit smoother this morning, almost 'natural.' I have a feeling that one day they'll just fall into place I won't be able to imagine not being able to do them.

I'm having a great day - It's so great to be on holiday and not need to worry about rushing off to teach a class. Feeling very relaxed and rested. I'm making another batch of my Fabulous Butter Cookies this afternoon to treat various people over the next few days.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day 142

All these holiday parties are killing me.

I went to a Solstice party last night. Compared to last year, I was relatively restrained (I didn't drink at all, actually) but I was still out until almost 1:30 and I woke up this morning feeling absolutely rotten (makes me wonder how much of the typical hangover is the alcohol and how much is plain old exhaustion). And, of course, there's all of that heavy, fatty food that I'm not used to eating. I tried to stick to the veggie platter but I'm a sucker for hot artichoke asiago dip (and my own Fabulous Butter Cookies).

I taught a yoga class this morning, then debated with myself all the way home: 'I'm tired. I'm feeling crummy. Do I practice? Do I take a nap? The grocery shopping needs to be done...' As I ascended the steps of the subway station, this thought occurred to me: 'When I'm feeling crummy, practice always makes me feel better.' I made my decision. I unrolled the mat and got on with it.

Full Primary Series took me just over an hour and twenty minutes. I was focused and steady throughout, though I found my mind wandering a lot in the seated poses. It was a good practice. In retrospect, I realise I really needed it.

Today's news: I finally got the wrist bind on the left side in Janu Sirsasana C. I'm now working on the wrist bind on the right side of Marichyasana D. Baby steps, but steps all the same.

For the next two weeks, I'm on holiday, though teaching a few scattered yoga classes. I'm looking forward to relaxing, spending time with friends, skating, doing a lot of reading and focusing deeply on my yoga practice (without needing to rush off anyplace). I'll be working an extra shift at the soup kitchen because they're short staffed this time of year.

Tomorrow is my day off and Monday is a Moonday, but I'll be back to my usual shenanigans on Tuesday.

I wish a Happy Christmas/holidays/whatever-you-celebrate to my three readers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 141

Tiriangmukhaikapada Pachimottansana

Today's practice was even and steady. I was a bit distracted, but I moved through the postures in about 85 minutes. I worked hard, I skipped nothing.

The push-ups in the vinyasas are getting easier, I think. A few years ago, my teacher M tried to teach me to push up to Chaturanga Dandasana from the floor and it seemed impossible. I'm remember thinking "My body doesn't do this!!!" Of course, at the time, I could barely do Chaturanga Dandasana.

I tried to push up from the floor today and discovered that I can do it easily! It was so exciting! Even this time last year, I was still struggling with that (M never gave up and pushes me every time I come to his class). So in the last half of my practice (vinyasa between the seated postures), I've added this: lower all the way to the floor, then push up to Chaturanga Dandasana, then push into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downdog).

I sense that I'm making progress towards my jump-throughs though it never feels like it as I practice (if you do a search for 'jump through' on YouTube, you get a lot of people jumping out windows and cats jumping through hoops, but you also will find this fantastic little clip. Also check out this one). I'm trying to jump forward with my knees tucked toward my chest and lightly lower my bum (sometimes, not so!). Then I straighten my legs after I'm on the floor. If I can master this, it's only a matter of time before I can straighten my legs as I'm coming through, right?

I think strength is a big part of this - a big part of everything. I find that as I get stronger, other things are falling into place: Urdhva Dhanurasana is getting easier, I can hold Utpluthee and even Setu Bandhasana is coming along.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Day 140

Some days, my practice lasts less than an hour and a half. Other days, I goof around and loaf in my favourite poses and dawdle before the poses I don't like and my practice takes two hours. Today was one of those days.

I saved my practice for the afternoon because I didn't want to fall into the same trap I encountered yesterday (pressed for time because I had a class I needed to go teach). I had a great time. Mostly. It was great when I wasn't doing backbends. ;-)

I've discovered something: when I back off of a pose and just accept where I'm at with it, even if it's a strange modification, I often stumble into the full pose later on. That's what happened with Garba Pindasana a few days ago and it's what happened with Baddha Padmasana today.

In place of Baddha Padmasana, I've been coming into Siddhasana and just doing an ordinary sort of forward-bendy thing, bringing my arms to the floor. Today, I thought “What the heck - I haven't tried to bind in awhile. Let's see what happens!”

What happened was that I was able to bind! This pose is on my list of 'Ya Gotta Be Kidding Me' poses (along with Janu Sirsasana C and others), so I'm was rightly gobsmacked by this event.

Of course, my right foot immediately cramped up. I persevered and came into the forward bend anyway. Voilà,!

Oh yeah, and about Janu Sirsasana C? I can now do that crazy dorsiflexion thing with my right foot, but not with my left. This was yet another accidental discovery as I revisited that posture this week.

I didn't know that I was supposed to be pointing my toes in Halasana. So this week, I started doing the pose with my toes pointed. Ow, my feet! The tops of my feet get such a stretch just with that small change! And to my great surprise, my knees now rest on the floor in Karna Pidasana.

“Practice and all is coming” Um, yeah!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Day 139

Marichyasana D

I was pressed for time this morning because I overslept. I really tried to squeeze in the entire first series, but ended up stopping at Supta Padangustasana and doing the closing sequence because I needed time to walk the dog and get ready to teach my noon yoga class. Fortunately, transit was running on-time and I arrived at my location early. Since it's an empty room, I was able to squeeze in those last few poses (out of sequence, yes, but at least I did them). My first student walked in as I was doing Setu Bandhasana.

I had a good, sweaty, challenging practice today. I did all of the added 'push-ups' in my vinyasas. The greatest challenge is getting through my 5 Surya Namaskara A's and 5 Surya Namaskara B's. I remember when I first started this (with my Beryl Bender Birch DVD, back in June), I would collapse onto my belly, watching the people on the DVD doing these endless sun salutations and think “I'm dying here! Don't they get tired?” I quickly gained strength and the sun salutations were just a good warm-up, not a physical trial. Adding the push-up has taken me back to that point of exhaustion again. But I'm getting stronger. Today was easier than yesterday.

I had a lightbulb moment as I was working on Garba Pindasana today. I sprayed my arms with water *and* sprayed my legs. My arms when through very easily, and further than before. And I rolled. The only drawback was in Kukkutasana, the arms slipped so I had less height. Now I just need to find the middle ground.

Binding to the wrist on the right side in Marichyasana C is feeling very natural these days. The left side is coming along soon, I just know it. I'm binding to fingers in Marichyasana D and that seems to be where I'm at with that one. I don't feel myself moving further into it.

I'm feeling very comfortable and happy in the closing sequence these days. Urdhva Padmasana is very solid (when I first started, I couldn't figure out how to keep my Padmasana up in the air, I kept falling over (The answer is 'core strength'). Over the past couple of weeks, I've started doing Pindasana properly. It's now one of my favourites. It feels like I'm hiding. It's been a tough month - maybe I can just hide until the New Year, eh?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 138

I think my practice was the most important thing I did today - I really needed it. When I stepped onto the mat, I felt like my spirit was soaking up yoga like a sponge. I had a fantastic, focused practice and I worked very, very hard.

I'm really determined to get my jump-through and I'm so very, very close. I think it's a matter of upper body strength and muscle memory.

This morning, I decided to really work the upper body strength by adding a push up to all my vinyasas. After Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, I lower back into Chaturanga Dandasana and then push back up to plank before going into Adho Mukha Svanasana. I did this for the five Surya Namaskara A and the five Surya Namaskara B and I was sweating buckets. At one point, my arms just gave out and I was on my tummy, laughing at myself (I took a rest and continued).

I also did this in the vinyasas between seated postures and by that time, I was getting the hang of it and feeling strong. But I have a feeling that I'll be sore in the arms and shoulders tomorrow!

Garba Pindasana was much better today. With the aid of some water, my arms slipped through easily and I managed my nine rolls before coming up into Kukkutasana. Fun!

Something very interesting happened to me in Sirsasana today. I was holding the pose for 30 breaths and feeling very strong and stable, then I lowered into half-bend for five breaths, then started to raise my legs back up and...BAM!...I fell over. This has been my greatest fear about Sirsasana for years so it's amusing that when it finally happened (and this is the very first time it has!), it was totally anticlimactic. I just rolled out, set up again for the pose, and lifted my legs back up so I could exit correctly.

Backbends were good today. I'm still doing them on the Mysore rug. Today, I sprayed the rug with a mist of water to give myself some traction and held each backbend for 5 breaths, focusing on deep breathing (with varied success). I did try one dropback against the wall and it felt stronger.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 137

I literally leapt from bed this morning, eager to do yoga, then proceeded to have a very lack-lustre practice. Oh well!

I think part of my problem was lack of focus. I was trying to do my laundry at the same time, so half my brain was in the washing machine. I think the 'laundry yoga' thing is a good idea when I'm genuinely pressed for time (when might not practise otherwise), but I didn't really have to do my laundry this morning. And it was distracting.

I managed to get through full primary though. Nothing new to report. I took a vacation from Garba Pindasana this morning, but I'm bound and determined to try it tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day 136

Got a nose full!

I'm back! And I'm full of news!

I was on lady's holiday for the past two days. It started on Friday, so I rested. Saturday was an extraordinarily busy day for me - it's probably a good thing I didn't need to make time for practice. A couple of good friends of mine put on a big, fancy, formal holiday shindig every year - it was on Saturday night. In the morning, I pulled out my little black cocktail dress and tried it on. And I discovered that it's like a tent on me - at least 4 sizes too big. It was always a little bit big, but it didn't even look right anymore. I needed to go buy a new dress.

So I headed over to the mall after teaching my morning class and the adventure began. I'm not crazy about clothes shopping. I've gone down a couple sizes this year - this was expected. What I didn't expect was how my weight loss, combined with all of the yoga I've been doing would affect the way clothes fit me. My upper half and lower half no longer match! I've lost inches in my thighs, bum and mid-section, but I've gained muscle tone in my arms and shoulders.

I think someone needs to start a fashion line especially for Ashtangis (gymnasts and swimmers might benefit from this as well). These clothes would be a bit roomier in the arms and shoulders, but still slender at the waist. I must have tried on 10 dresses before I found one I liked. I had to get the next size up in order to fit my top half. The dress was a tad bit too big for my bottom half, but the style of the dress compensated. Success!

Then I went home and made cookies for the party. Here's a new victory for self-control: I didn't eat any of the cookie dough (I'm a sucker for cookie dough!) and I didn't eat the finished product (although I did treat myself to a few of the cookies at the party later on). The party was fun. I had some compliments on the dress. Getting to and from the party was a nightmare though.

We've been having some weather here in Canada - snowy weather. It snowed most of Saturday, probably about 10 cm and that was just the precursor. By this morning, a big snow storm had moved in from the States (complete with thunder and lightening - creepy!). Another 25 cm of snow fell today. I slogged through the drifts to work at the soup kitchen in the morning, but I've been indoors ever since. I've been going stir crazy!

By 5 o'clock, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to do my practice. I didn't have to - I usually take three days off for lady's holiday, plus it's my usual day off. But I was missing my practice so much and that's all I wanted to do, so I unrolled my mat and did it.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I really missed my practice over these past two days. It just felt like something was missing.

I had a great practice and, even better, I had a couple of notable breakthroughs:

The long search is over!
That is, the search for those mysterious little holes in my legs where my arms are supposed to go in Garba Pindasana. I found them! I couldn't believe it at first (and I'm not holding my head in the pose yet, but baby steps...). I tried to roll. I can roll around like a pro holding on to my knees in full lotus, but my balance was completely thrown off by this new configuration. Instead of rolling, I just slowly fell over with a 'thump.'. I laid there and laughed and laughed and laughed. I haven't laughed that hard in ages. I managed to free myself, then tried again. The same thing - I fell over and laughed. Finally, I managed some semblance of 9 rolls and magic: I came up into Kukkutasana for the first time. Now my calves hurt. They're sore like I climbed too many stairs. But I found the holes!! I've been looking for them for months. Small victories are sometimes the sweetest.

Isn't this supposed to hurt?
I didn't work on dropbacks today. Instead, I decided to really spend some time in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Inspired by Arturo, who mentioned a few days ago that he holds Urdhva Dhanurasana for 30 breaths, I decided to try to hold my backbends for five breaths. To be honest, I feel oppressed if I hold Urdhva Dhanurasana for three. I practised a bit differently today. I was too lazy to take up my Mysore rug (I usually like to have a stickier surface to work with). I just did my backbends on the rug. This forced me to really claw the floor with my fingers and root down through my feet because otherwise I would slip. But strangely, that felt okay. I held each backbend for five breaths and I didn't feel panicked or angsty in it. My arms felt really, really strong and my back didn't ache. I have no idea where this ease came from, but I did a bunch of backbends, holding them each time. At one point, I even started enjoying myself!

Of course, I could wake up tomorrow and this will all go away, but I thought it was interesting. I'm really looking forward to my practice this week. I think the next few weeks are really going to be productive and satisfying.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 135

I was almost certain my lady's holiday would start today, and it still may - but I was able to squeeze in a one hour practice this morning. I cut out the inversions and added in some other postures from the Primary Series to even things out.

My foot is feeling much, much better. I could have skated this morning, but the Zamboni Guy is still gone so the ice was a mess (I stopped by on my way home from the soup kitchen). I think I'll rest my foot through the weekend and get back to skating on Monday.

I've signed up for WoYoPracMo (World Yoga Practice Month), organised by the amazing Yogamum. This means that I'll be practising yoga every day during the month of January.

I haven't quite decided how this will translate in terms of my Ashtanga practice. I think I may just go hardcore (Cowabunga!!!) and practice on moon days and my regular days off. During my lady's holiday, I may opt for some restorative yoga though (I'll see how I feel).

Should be fun...a nice way to start off the year. If any of my three readers are participating, let me know.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 134

Ow. My foot.

Yesterday, while teaching one of my children's classes, I injured my foot. This injury is not yoga-related, it's leaping-around-like-a-goof related. During a game we were playing, I skipped back to the starting line, only to land awkwardly on my foot as I made my final, brazen leap.

Not exactly a 'leap to glory.'

The children were startled, then sweetly concerned. I took a few deep breaths and carried on. Nothing is broken, although I do have a *very* colourful bruise around my little toe. When I'm barefoot, my foot feels fine. It's only sore when I'm wearing shoes.

Putting on ice skates was out of the question, so I opted for a long walk instead. The journey up to the park was very slippery with snow and ice and the park itself was practically a sheet of ice. My dog slid around in her Muttluks and I struggled to keep myself upright. Between my sore foot and the ice, it wasn't the most pleasant walk.

I wasn't sure how the foot injury would affect my yoga practice. Turns out, it didn't affect it at all, except for a little bit during my exceedingly slopping jumpbacks. Not a good day to stub toes. Ouch. Everything else was fine.

I practised full series, including inversions. This will probably be my last practice with inversions for a few days, since I'm pretty sure my lady's holiday will kick in tomorrow. I can already feel the tightening in the hips. I've lost my wrist bind in Marichyasana C (though I can still do it in Marichyasana A and B). As my hips open more, the monthly hormone onslaught seems to affect them less.

I held Sirsasana for 30 breaths again. I'm planning to gradually increase the time I'm in this pose by adding five breaths every week. This seems like a reasonable goal!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 133


When I arrived at the rink this morning, it was chaos: the ice was ungroomed and two guys who work for the City were wandering around clutching bunches of keys, trying to open doors. Turns out, the Zamboni Guy woke up this morning only to find out that his car, wallet inside, had been stolen. Everyone, please send some good thoughts his way - he's a good person and this is a rotten bit of luck for him.

The City guys had to call in a backup driver - that took an hour. Then they had to gas up the Zamboni (another half-hour). Flooding and cleaning the ice took another 20 minutes or so. One of the City guys opened the staff lounge for me and I sat in there for nearly an hour, reading a book, while they sorted things out. I finally did go skating - it just took awhile.

Anyway, this little drama really threw my schedule off. Thank goodness my noon class doesn't start up again until the New Year! I didn't have to rush to get anywhere and still had time to practice.

By the time I got home, I was hungry and it was nearly lunchtime. I didn't feel like practising the full series so I did a one-hour short form. Felt very distracted, but I always do this time of month.

I had a lightbulb moment in Marichyasana C today. My goal, now that I can bind easily on both sides and to the wrist on the right side, is to do this without 'helping' my arm reach around my leg. Today, I really started working the twist before I even started to bind. I kind of 'shimmied' into it. And, whoa and behold, binding was much simpler!

(I tried the same 'shimmy' technique in Marichyasana D with no luck, but I still have a feeling I'm on the right track).

Overall, practice was good. I came up with straight legs and held Sirsasana for 30 breaths. Sarvangasana actually felt 'comfy'. Something about these inversions is very soothing to me these days.

We're having some weather. Snow was lightly coming down outside, so I opened up the drape. I occasionally allowed my driste to gaze out toward the city skyline and the marvellous winter scene. After practice, as I was walking the dog, the fluffy snow turned into hard little ice pellets and now it's icy rain.

It will be 'fun' walking down to the main drag to teach my afternoon class. *eye roll*

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 132

I had a spectacular moon day yesterday. After my shift at the soup kitchen, I went shopping for all kinds of yummy food. I cooked up a big pot of miso soup while I put everything away (the soup will last me the rest of the week). Then I put on my jammies, grabbed the special cupcake I had bought to celebrate the new moon and curled up on the futon with my computer and a good book. Cozy afternoon! Perfect!

I got up this morning inspired to have a good practice. I'm trying a new routine in regards to my morning ice skating. I've been going to the outdoor rink very early - 8 a.m. At that hour, the ice is as smooth as arena ice and there are few other people out. I skate for an hour and head home to practice afterward.

Lady's holiday comes this week, so my low back is feeling cranky. I modified a few postures and didn't go as deep into my forward bends today. I managed one Urdhva Danurasana pushing up from the mate, but it was lousy and I didn't even attempt dropbacks.

I've really been savouring my inversions lately. Sirsasana is a special favourite. I love it so much, I've been holding it for longer and longer.

I do a handstand between each Navasana. This morning, I noticed that I can kick up very naturally with either leg. I had been working on that a few months ago, but sort of forgot about it. I find it interesting that it's now second nature. Is it a strength thing from doing other poses?

I haven't been back to my teacher M's Anusara class for a very long time (since last winter). I wonder how it would feel now? Harder? Easier? Just 'different'? I'm thinking of stopping in in the coming weeks, if he's in town. Should be interesting.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 131


Yesterday was an unintentional day off, due to a rather bizarre reaction to the flu shot: It hit me like a tonne of bricks and I literally slept all day.

I wasn't feeling especially energetic today either, but I rallied in the afternoon after teaching a morning class. Instead of skating, I took a long walk and it really felt good - made me realise how much I've missed those walks. Alas, it was rough going - the trails that I walk on are solid ice.

I didn't do a Full Primary today, opting for the one-hour short form instead. It was a very ordinary practice, but in the midst of it I was struck with a deep gratitude for yoga and how it makes me feel. Into the second sun salutation, I was already feeling better. When my left hip joint finally popped in Trikonasana, something inside of me said “ahhhhhh!” Incredible, the difference it makes. You can make this stuff up. It's very real.

I'm coming up on my lady's holiday, so I'm sure some of this lethargy is due to that. I'm already feeling the physical effects.

Tomorrow is a new moon day too. Double whammy, but at least I get the day off!

Back on Monday!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 130

Here it is...
Dropback: The Movie

(The weird sound in the background is a particularly jarring clip from the electronica I sometimes listen to when I practise.)

Still plugging away at my daily full series. This morning was a bit stiff - I always know things are tightening up when Supta Konasana feels cranky. I'm in the midst of the week-before-lady's-holiday, so I'm really feeling it in my hips and hamstrings (and my appetite has tripled *eye roll*).

Sirsasana is feeling particularly good and stable this week. I'm feeling very confident coming into Sirsasana that I've moved away from the wall again - even with straight legs (perhaps that will be my next 'movie'!).

I'm still using the wall dropping back into Urdhva Dhanurasana. I've been doing this for about a week (and I've only bonked my head about three times during that period, lol). Making the video was really eye-opening for me. When I'm dropping back, I feel like I'm being bent in half, but I'm really not really in that deep of a backbend when I finally touch the wall. I think the key is to work on coming back deeper and deeper, touching the wall further down as I make progress.

I would love to get a freestanding dropback by the end of the year - I'll make this my goal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 129

Marichyasana B

Another day, another practice. Since I skipped my day off on Sunday, I'm sort of on a roll - one of those weeks that feels like the yoga version of the movie 'Groundhog Day.'

Fortunately, moon day is coming up on Sunday, which means I can move my 'day' off to any other day I like. I'm hoarding it close to my heart right now, but I may very well take it tomorrow, since I teach four yoga classes and will likely be very busy and tired. Or maybe Thursday, since I'm going out for a holiday lunch with my old boss and that would make the day feel that much more festive. Or...(etc, etc; thinking about it is the fun!)

Today's practice was completely middle of the road: not extraordinarily deep, but not cranky and inflexible either. I pretty much did all the things I'm able to do, without too much sweat or drama. In the spirit of measuring my progress (more for me, than for any of my three readers), here are the poses I'm still struggling with (read: using modifications):

Marichyasana C: I can bind to wrist reliably on the right side, but not the left. That's definitely my less-open side.
Marichyasana D: I can bind to fingers on both sides, but binding to wrists feels impossible. Of course, I used to say that about Marichyasana C and look at me now! Will keep trying.
Kurmasana: will those legs ever straighten (I suspect they will when I'm able to get my chest to the floor in Upavista Konasana)
Supta Kurmasana: I wish I could have seen my face when my hands found each other last week and I was binding for the first time. It's a right squeeze, but I'm still doing it. Next goal: get the soles of my feet back together.
Garba Pindasana: Still can't get my arms through those invisible holes in my legs (Seriously! There are *holes*? Where?!). My hips are very open these days so that's not it. And a spritz of water from the sprayer doesn't seem to help. So right now I just hold my knees and roll.
Setu Bandhasana: I'm actually doing this one (used to replace it with bridge). It's always a struggle for me. I don't find an ounce of Sukha (ease) in it and I'm not completely sure that I'm doing it correctly.

Jumpbacks/forward in Surya Namaskara A are lovely and almost floaty. Jumping back/forward from a seated position not so much. I'm still struggling with Lolasana-to-jumpback and although I can jump through with crossed legs, I can't seem to bring my legs forward and bum to the floor (unless I'm using, hiss, I know, I know).

Looking at this objectively, I realise I've made great progress on this series since June. I'm *so* much stronger.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 128


This morning, I hopped on my yoga mat soon after waking up, so my practice wasn't as deep as usual. But it was deeper in other ways. I felt profoundly comforted by it, after facing a very difficult evening last night. Each time I return to the mat, I connect with my truest Self, but it's off the mat that this intuition really shines.

When I'm coping with stress, I find that yoga soothes me and helps me remain centred. But yoga has also changed my personality in subtle ways. I've found that I've become less reactive and more thoughtful when dealing with conflict. It's almost as if facing difficult poses day after day is a dress rehearal for facing difficult situations and people.

I certainly could have been angry by what transpired last night. I also could have been broken with self-pity. But I wasn't (although I did feel a bit sad).

Instead, I resolved to sleep on it, with faith that an answer would come.

This gave me a chance to reaffirm who I am and how I want to live my life. I thought about who I *don't* want to be. I searched for a path of integrity in this situation and found it; a 'middle way' of sorts.

And that's how I found the courage to refuse be pressured, chastened or hurt by the actions of my family. Instead, I will carry on and do what I need to do to be true to myself. I'm being 'me.' I'm loving and generous and I know my actions will reflect this.

That's all I can do. I accept it. I move on.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 127

I don't normally practice on Sundays, but I took my day off on Wednesday this week.

I'm glad I practised - it felt good. I was strong and focused today. No messing around, no stalling. Sometimes, I lose my momentum and drag my heels a bit but today wasn't one of those days. I persisted.

And surprise: In Supta Kurmasana, I reached back and grabbed my fingers! I've been getting closer and close to this goal over the past few weeks. I believe my progress in the Marichyasanas contributed to this small victory.

I really needed it. Binding in Supta K was probably the best part of an otherwise rotten day.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 126

My practice was long and meandering today because I got interrupted halfway through by a phone call (that I needed to take) and ended up chatting for awhile. But I got back to it and did the full Primary Series.

It's very cold here. I woke up to -11C temps with -20C windchill (for everyone in the States, that's 12F with a windchill of 0F). So, of course, I went ice skating and froze my ass off. ;-)

Yoga practice is particularly nice on days like this because it's *warm*. It's such a relief to feel toasty (sweaty, even!) and listen to the buzz of my little heater as I fly through sun salutations.

I'm continuing to make rapid progress in the Marichyasanas. I bound my wrist on both sides of Marichyasana C today and binding fingers in Marichyasana D is now second nature.

And here's one for the books: I actually touched my fingers together in Supta Kurmasana. Binding can't be far behind (and I definitely would have been able to with assistance).

I worked on lots of dropbacks (Urdhva Dhanurasana) today using the wall, banged my head only once. I managed to come back one time only touching the wall once, which felt like some kind of practice. I made a few movies of my efforts with my little camera. Watching them made me realise that I'm not really arching back enough before I start to drop. I guess I need to be bendier. I guess that will come in time.

I will try to post one of the clips in the next couple of days. “Dropbacks: The Movie”! Stay tuned!