Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 201

As Jenna pointed out, because it's the Leap Day, today is a 'free day.' I guess it's another one of those mysterious days when it's unclear what an Ashtangi should do (kinda like the eclipse). Should I practice? Should I take a day of contemplation and introspection? Should I live wild and dine on wine and Leonidas chocolates?

I did stop by the Leonidas shop ;-) (and hope to make it to the LCBO this weekend, but I digress). In the end, I decided to use this day to do all of the things I would normally be doing on the weekend. Like shopping and cleaning and food preparation for the coming week, etc, etc. I did these tasks between classes (I teach two on Fridays) and I'm now wrapping up a few loose ends before I commence my Weekend of Sloth.

I think I really need it.

Practice was absolutely abysmal. It's funny - when I'm in a headspace where I'm loving my practice and finding refuge in it, it's inconceivable to me that I would ever dread it. When I'm in a headspace where I'm dreading it, I can't imagine that I could ever look forward to it. And boy am I ever in a 'yoga slump' right now.

This morning *should* have been a magical practice. I was under no time crunch, so I could linger in my favourite poses. I had good music playing in iTunes. I was baking bread, so the whole apartment was fragrant and toasty warm. The sun was shining so there were misty sunbeams traversing my yoga mat (of course, as I write this in the evening, we're being hit by yet another snow storm). And yet, I dragged myself to the mat and as I readied myself for the first sun salutation, this is what was running through my head: DO. NOT. WANT. TO.


But I did. Apparently, February is my Yoga Martyr Month. I may complain about it, but I do my practice all the same.

I managed to get through the two handstands today without losing my shit. Instead, I saved the nervous breakdown for Urdhva Dhanurasana. By the third backbend, I was curled up in a fetal position sobbing. There's no real cut-and-dry reason for this. Sure, it's a tough month for those of us who live in Northern climes. Winter sucks. And yeah, Operation 'BE BRAVE' didn't go so well for me (we've now moved on to Operation 'FEEL HUMILIATED'). But I'll live. Seriously, spring has to come sometime, right?

I keep thinking about me, in a bikini, on the beach, bathed in sunlight, waves lapping on the shore of Lake Ontario. If I squeeze my eyes shut and breath deeply I can almost feel the sand between my toes and taste the muffins from the Island Bakery.

I keep digressing.

The handstands were brutish - yup, Chewbaka is back. Backbends were unpleasant. Musical Sirsasana was 'The Good in Everyone' by Sloan (bootleg live recording from the Napster Good Ol' Days).

I'm sleeping in tomorrow, but will be back on Sunday...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 200

I'm not sure which is worse: a exhausted, deadening yoga practice or an energetically charged, but emotionally raw yoga practice. Seems like my mat has become a land of extremes lately.

At least I'm well-rested. I skipped out on the soup kitchen this morning and slept in, logging a blissful 10 hours of sleep. I know I needed it, because when I lay down to nap yesterday, I was asleep within seconds. So I slept and slept and woke and then proceeded to tackle the long to-do list that has been languishing because I haven't had the energy to even peruse it.

I even had the energy to run some errands and picked up a package at Canada Post (Girl Scout Cookies from the States! Yay!).

Practice didn't happen until the afternoon and though it was a strong practice and my body was open, I was feeling oversensitive. My Handstand Mad Skillz all but disappeared and when it wasn't happening for me (like so, so many things in my life right now), I fell apart: I curled up in child's pose and sobbed. Then I tried again. Cried some more. Tried again. Whispered “I can't!” But floated up into two perfect, beautiful handstands (I even held the last one for several seconds).

The tears came and went for the rest of the practice, almost as if they were part of the whole sequence. I've never felt so vulnerable doing backbends, but I did three of them all the same. So much drama!

Now, showered up and eating a kale salad, I'm focusing on bringing my 'best self' to the two classes I teach tonight. My 'best self' spends so much time in classes, teaching yoga, I sometimes wonder if she's asleep the rest of the time. I'd like to spend some quality time with her this weekend.

Tomorrow: More bitter cold, 5-10 centimetres of snow, two more classes.

P.S. Day 200!!! A milestone!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 199

Horrible practice this morning (required a coffee and two tylenol to even get on the mat). I went to bed early last night and still woke up exhausted and low-energy. I could hardly drag myself out of bed, but I did and I did the primary series. My shoulder was bothering me so I did a modified closing sequence to baby it a bit.

Interestingly, my handstands were floaty and nice. I've been hopping my feet lightly up to the wall, then straightening my legs. Musical Sirsasana was 'Low, low, low' by Moist and felt good, probably better than anything else.

After I practised, I went skating and couldn't understand why it was so cold. Got home and checked the temperature: -30 windchill. Well, no wonder. Took a hot bath, headed back into the cold to teach a couple classes, came home and took a nap. Now eating supper before heading off to teach three more classes.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 198

Woke up at 5:00 a.m., laid around in bed feeling sorry for myself until 5:20, on the mat by 5:45.

I had a nice, though stiff, practice (mostly the hips and hamstrings were tight). Backbends felt surprisingly open. Handstands were nice and floaty...wee! I feel like I'm making progress there. Musical Sirsasana was 'Fully Completely' by the Tragically Hip.

The day after hockey is always a bit dodgy for me. I was struck with insomnia last night and my shoulder was bothering me. I took a muscle relaxant, rubbed my shoulder with that weird-smelling goopy stuff, meditated for 20 minutes and finally got to sleep. Oddly enough, the shoulder was fine during hockey last night and fine during practice this morning. I think I'm just working the kinks out.

Ah, all these little physical dramas!

Hockey was awesome! We tied the game, 2-2. I had two very solid shots on net, and the two assists for the goals. Lately, I've been wondering if I'm just wasting my time at the rink in the mornings, skating around in circles, but I do a lot of work on skills. What I'm realising is that in order for a new skill to be useful to me in a hockey game, it has to become entirely second nature (because when I'm playing, I’m too focused on setting up plays, fighting for the puck and avoiding doing anything stupid to really pay any attention to my skating). In other words, it's when I'm not overthinking it that I get it.

Sound familiar? Think: cookies.

In other news, I accomplished something very important today. Frequently, I allow fear to prevent me from taking a needed action. There's something in my personal life that I've been needing to do for a very long time and an opportunity came up to do it. Of course, I held back because I was very afraid. At times like these, I just wish that I was a braver person.

Last night, it occurred to me that instead of wishing I was braver, maybe I should just BE braver. I even wrote it on a sticky note: BE BRAVE.


This morning, I did the Very Brave Thing that I've been putting off.

In retrospect now, it seems so simple. But it's not. That deep, anguished fear I had deep in my gut is *exactly* the same irrational fear I used to have about handstand (and I still have about some inversions). Recently, I read on a yoga blog that a fear of inversions is common in very orderly people who are adverse to chaos. Um, that would definitely be me. *meekly raises hand*

So. I did this brave thing. The question is out there, has been laid on the table. I still don't have my answer (which doesn't entirely surprise me) but I'm at peace with it. It is what it is.

Ah, all these little personal dramas!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day 197

State of the Backbend Report...

October Backbend


February Backbend

I can't believe this is my backbend! In all the months I've been working on Urdhva Dhanurasana, this is the greatest progress I've seen. Behold: my back is actually *bending*. Seriously people, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

I slept in a bit this morning, looked at the weather forecast and decided to maximise the time I spent in sunlight, in an effort to ease my seasonal malaise. I ate breakfast, walked the dog for an hour in the sunny park, skated on the sunny ice rink, ran errands in my sunny neighbourhood, ate lunch in the sunbeam coming through my window. I didn't get around to practising until the afternoon.

I love afternoon practice because my body is so open - and I was today. My hamstrings were especially so; I was loving the forward bends. With no time crunch, I had a lazy, easy-going practice. While I lacked the energy and momentum that I usually have in the morning, I made up for that in the depth I was able to take the poses. It was very nice.

First handstand was amazing: I amazed myself by floating up, a la Ana. The second one was all grunting and effort and a body slam - a la Chewbaka. Win some, lose some. I used a slightly different technique in the two handstands.

I'm almost embarrassed to share this, but in the interest of the greater good, I will: it's cookies. If I *think* about cookies while I hop up into the handstand, then I don't think about the fact that I'm hopping up into a handstand, so I don't freak out. I love cookies. Cookies make me happy and apparently, being happy about cookies somehow engages my bandhas.

I don't know why it works, but it works. I'm sure this has some genuine practical applications for my day-to-day life. I'm thinking about this very carefully, believe me.

Musical Sirsasana was 'Miss Punta Blanca' by Jane Siberry (going with CanCon this week - stay tuned).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day 196

I had a very busy weekend. My 'day off' was a hard day. This is amusing, given that I had enjoyed last Saturday so much, I simply *expected* this Saturday to be absolutely fabulous too. Ah, attachment! The King streetcar wasn't running on time in the morning and after just barely missing a streetcar (it was pulling away as I ascended from the subway) I waited for over a half-hour for the next one. Fortunately, I allow extra time in case this happens, but it meant that instead of having a leisurely coffee at the club, I was sprinting down Sherbourne frantically trying to make it on time.

I was beset my a whole variety of other mishaps, but here's my favourite one - it still makes me giggle (in retrospect) when I think about it. I was at the market and feeling peckish so I decided to treat myself to a samosa from my favourite vendor in the North Market. I lined up politely and was just about to ask for a vegetarian samosa when a couple cut in front of me. They were very demanding, so in the interest of harmony, I let it slide. I was in no hurry and besides, there was a whole bucket of samosas. They proceeded to buy the entire lot - in fact, there was one vegetarian samosa left and the guy said “Oh, give me that one too.” By the time it was my 'turn', the only remaining samosas were chicken. Bah.

So I had a peanut butter cookie for lunch and was just a bit sulky about it. ;-)

Today, I was absent from the soup kitchen, opting instead to skate and do a bit of shopping. Williams Sonoma got a bunch of my money and I got a baking stone and pizza peel for my continuing adventures in bread making. This is really turning into quite a hobby for me, on the same scale that knitting seems to be for Bindi. I stopped by the bookstore and got a copy of 'Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day.' I love this book so much. It's a *cookbook* and yet I can't stop reading it. I hugged it to my chest all the way home on the subway, overjoyed to have it.

I prepared the dough last night and today, I baked bread. And it was very, very good!

I did a 'laundry practice' this morning, because somehow my laundry didn't end up getting done yesterday. Although running to the laundry room truncates my practice a bit, it also slows me down and I'll often take the time to explore certain poses more deeply. Today, it was the backbends. I really savoured them. Handstands were okay today - no Chewbaka moments.

Musical Sirsasana was 'Full of Grace' by Sarah McLachlan. I didn't choose this song, it just happened to come up. Perhaps there's a message in it for me.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 195

I had a really nice Moon Day yesterday. One of my students asked if I get an extra day off because of the eclipse. ;-) That would have been nice, but no... I did have an unexpected cancellation in my teaching schedule that allowed me some additional free time so I enjoyed a lazy day.

I skated for an entire hour in the morning and also took a long walk with the dog, heading up to our favourite 'Big Park'. The sun was shining and we sat on a bench for awhile. We've had a lot of snow lately. I had my bum on the bench and my legs stretched out in front of me because the snow was as high as the bench (and fairly solid because of the freezing rain we had the other day). I came home, had a hot bath and really pampered myself. Spent the afternoon reading a good book and a few magazines.

I had a good practice this morning. I woke up later than usual. I've decided that as much as I want to maintain a consistent schedule for waking and yoga practice, this just isn't possible on those days when I teach late. So I've decided to change things up a bit. This morning, I slept in until 6:30, allowing me to get a 8 full hours of sleep, I practised, then I headed to the ice rink for 9 a.m. On Friday mornings, the Zamboni Guy does the edging on the rink, so this works out perfectly (he's usually finished by 9).

In the future, I'm going to practise *after* my Thursday shift at the soup kitchen in order to get adequate sleep after an evening of teaching on Wednesday. I've been napping on both Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I don't think this napping has been good for me - at least as compensation for lack of sleep.

I'm looking forward to a great weekend. We're supposed to have sunny days and the temperature is going to climb above zero! I'm already making plans for fun outdoor activities!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 194

I'm starting to wonder if my body is fighting a bug. I had the flu shot in the Fall, but it's not uncommon for mild flu symptoms to manifest when a flu is going around. I went to bed early last night and my body soaked up that extra hour of sleep like a sponge. I just don't feel like myself. I do feel a bit more alert this morning, though.

Tomorrow's Moon Day will be a welcome break - I won't need to get up insanely early to practice before going to the soup kitchen to work my shift. I can sleep in a bit. I'm hoping to get a full 8 hours of sleep.

This morning, I started out my yoga practice strong, but by the end, I was really losing steam. But I kept going. Handstands were okay - not great. I had a mini-meltdown before handstand #2 - laid in child's pose feeling Very Sorry For Myself for about three minutes, then nailed it. Bad Brain (because I *am* aware that this is not a physical problem, it's an 'overthinking' problem).

And I had a good Garba Pindasana. This pose has been pretty good lately, actually. A few weeks ago, I broke my faithful old spray bottle - the one I bought at a Target in Boulder, Colorado in 1989 (during university). I replaced it with a 50 cent travel-size bottle from Honest Ed's. Works great! There have obviously been improvements in spray bottle technology since the 1980s. ;-) I don't know if it's the high tech 'light mist' that's doing it the trick (or simple practice, perhaps?), but GB is easier these days and I don't get those little 'GB bruises' on my left arm anymore.

We have some 'Breaking News' here in my city:
Queen Street smelled like a barbeque this morning as I exited the subway station on my way to the ice rink. Zamboni Guy told me that when he arrived at 6:30 a.m., the smoke was so thick that it left his throat choked up. There's a six-alarm fire at Queen and Bathurst. Half a block is burning down to rubble and that part of the city has been evacuated for fear of explosions.

As I skated around in circles, I closed my eyes and said a small prayer for the firefighters battling the blaze. Namaste.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 193

Getting up this morning was excruciating and I was tired all morning, didn't really wake up completely until after lunch. Seriously, the month of February is eating me for lunch. I'm having a lot of trouble holding myself together.

But I did practice - full primary series. I was holding on to my breath like a drowning woman holds on to a life raft: occasionally sliding under only to resurface moments later, sputtering.

Geez, that was dramatic, wasn't it? ;-)

Not a good yoga practice. Not a bad one either, which is kind of worse in a way. I felt like I was just going through the motions.

Today's handstand was *so* different from yesterday's. Yesterday, my handstand was strong and no-nonsense and I was all Ana Forrest about it, pushing up into the pose like the earth got in my way and I was moving it aside to make room for the sky. Today? Today, I was all Chewbaka about it, hopping, ponderous, floundering and noisy (I still do a great rendition of the Chewbaka wail, the horrible sound that pours out of me when I hit the wall).

And I kept stopping to adjust my clothes as if that would just FIX the problem. Yeah, right.

Also, it was cold. I'm back to using the heater again. Could we just fast forward to May, please?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 192

Practice interruptus this morning, due to camping.

Yes, you read that correctly: camping. Reservation for camping spaces in the Ontario Parks System starts five months prior to the date. It's a good idea to be on top of things, because the spaces fill up quickly. My über-organised friend M, who usually takes care of this, moved to Vancouver in the fall. Since I'm the only other über-organised person in my circle, I assumed that it was up to me! (and I was correct; no one else even thought of it).

I did my practice up to Urdhva Dhanurasana, then sat down at the computer and logged into the online reservation system. I didn't get the campsite I wanted because it was already taken by someone who reserved it for a day earlier (I was a bit disappointed because that one has a particularly great set of trees for my hammock).

But I did get my second choice by literally hitting refresh over and over again at 7 a.m. sharp. This site is close to the showers, very close to the washroom and close enough to the 'party site' to be fun, but not so close as to be noisy. Now, I can't wait until July! Early morning practice on the beach, anyone? ;-)

It's amazing how a short break can affect my momentum in my practice, though. Closing sequence felt a bit lacklustre.

Musical Sirsasana was the last two minutes of 'DJ Play My Song' by Jully Black.

Savasana? Very half-hearted. I was feeling impatient and wanted to get on with my day!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Day 191

Artisan jam

I had an amazing Saturday - my day off from practising yoga. I still woke early and used that time to do the cleaning and run up to the 'regular' grocery store for a few staples. Then, I headed down to the St. Lawrence neighbourhood to teach a Saturday class.

I really enjoyed my foray into the Market this week. Cheese and mustard were on my list. I ended up going to the cheese vendor who gives out the generous samples. I love trying the different cheeses they have on offer - different ones are featured each week. I bought the St. Andre: a soft cheese that's creamy and flavourful.

I've been lurking around Kozlik's mustard booth for a couple of weeks now. I wanted to buy a couple of good mustards to use as a seasoning in my salad mix (I've been perfecting the perfect kale salad). I knew I wanted a Dijon and the 'Dijon by Anton' was perfect - tangy and not too spicy, just enough of a bite. I also bought an amazing Balsamic Figs & Dates mustard. It's darker in colour and has a slightly sweeter taste.

I can't keep myself away from that jam booth! I stopped by to sample the latest jam Urs has been working on: a blood orange cranberry combination. He piled whipped cream cheese and a heaping spoonful of jam onto a cracker and it was delicious! I ended up with a jar of the Sour-Cherry Lemon jam I've had my eye on.

I spent the rest of the day soaking up the sunshine: I went skating for an hour, then walked the dog to the Big Park for another hour. With bright sunshine, mild temperatures and perfectly clear blue skies, it was a day for being outdoors and I revelled in it!

I went to a party on Saturday night and the food was amazing. Lots of cheese and chocolate and Chinese dim-sum treats (it was a Chinese New Year/Valentines party). There was also a variety of gourmet chocolates and chocolate-dipped cakes from an Italian bakery. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I loved the scallion-rice pancakes - a Chinese treat. Very yummy with a dab of sweet-and-sour sauce. And there were people there too! *grin* It was great to see everyone - laughing with friends and good conversation is so good for the soul. I stayed later than intended, but with no regrets.

Alas, practice today was a bit heavy, yet slow and steady. Nothing exciting to report. I took it easy on the twists because I felt like I was *still* digesting all that food!

Musical Sirsasana was 'Take Me Away' by the Plain White T's, 2 minutes, 43 seconds.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 190

Baddha Konasana

It's official: I have the 'winter blues'.

The first clue was the irregularity in my sleep schedule. I'm either exhausted or I can't sleep at all. I've also been falling behind on my work and procrastinating over things I need to do. My energy levels have been lower than usual and I frequently don't 'feel like doing anything.' (I rarely find myself bored or at loose ends, but it's happened a few times this week).

February is often a difficult month for me, but this one in particular has been rough. We've had the usual cold weather, though nothing out of the ordinary. But the endless grey days and frequent snow storms are starting to wear on me. There are huge mounds of snow everywhere, the sidewalks are almost impassible in spots. The thought of going anywhere in the city is just overwhelming sometimes. We just dug out from our last storm (two storms, actually, back-to-back), only to find out that there's another one headed our way on Sunday.

For me, the cure for winter blues involves activity, movement and light therapy. Forcing myself to keep moving even when I don't feel like it is key. The dog has been missing her daily long walks as of late, so I took her for two long sojourns yesterday. I skated for almost an hour and worked on projects around the apartment during the day. I own a LiteBook (for light therapy) and plan to start using it daily again.

Practice this morning was sluggish and uninspired (though the handstands were better). I twisted my right knee slightly last night while demoing Parsvakonasana and it was a bit sore this morning. My shoulder is still occasionally sore, but feeling better. I went skating after my practice, taught a couple of classes in the morning and took the dog for another long walk when I got home in the afternoon.

I think I recognize that glowing orb in the sky...could it be the sun? ;-)

I would love to say that I'm feeling better, but I'm not. I feel leaden and tired (I could go to sleep right now, but I'm determined not too). I have one more class today, then I can come home to a yummy supper and perhaps some reading before an early sleep.

Seriously, spring cannot come soon enough. I'm ready for balmy breezes, colour, green grass underfoot and long walks until blue skies with the sun on my face. *whimper*

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 189

Heart Cookies

I had another afternoon practice today because I couldn't manage to get myself out of bed early in the morning. This time, it was my dog's fault. Last night, she woke me up at 11 p.m. to go outside and I just couldn't get back to sleep. I tried everything: warm milk, a cookie, deep breathing, reading, etc. I finally fell asleep after 1 a.m., but this made the Thursday morning wake-up call impossible to heed. I slept in and barely managed to wake in time to make it to the soup kitchen - late.

Afternoon practice was fun! I wasn't taking myself all too seriously because I was baking cookies at the same time. I prepared the dough then did the sun salutations and standing poses while it chilled in the fridge. Then, still clad in my yoga duds, I rolled out the dough and used my heart-shaped cookie cutter to make perfect hearts and started baking them. I finished cutting the cookies and started frosting the ones that were cool enough. The whole process took an hour-and-a-half and it was so fun! When I finished with the cookies, I went back to my practice.

The cookies are for my students - I have two classes tonight, three tomorrow and another on Saturday. That didn't stop me from 'sampling' two of them and they are very good! The recipe came from Average Betty. Thanks, Betty!

Yoga was okay. For some reason, I had this big head trip in handstand and hopped endlessly before I could get my hips over my shoulders. When I did, I sort of body-slammed the wall and this sound came out of my throat that sounded like a lot like Chewbaka. I did this both times I tried handstand. But Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana was absolutely fantastic. When this pose is going well for me, I absolutely love it!

Musical Sirsasana was 'Neon Bible' by the Arcade Fire - an easy-going 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

Valentines Day is what it is. Not a fun day to be single, but I'm living a full life, so no complaints!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 188

Sometimes, I'm just TIRED. Last night after supper (around 7), I was doing some writing on my computer and I felt a bit weary. The dog was curled up next to me, so I laid down next to her to take a break. The next thing I knew, it was midnight. So I went to bed and slept until 7 this morning! I can't believe I slept that long! I slept through a big snowstorm. There's 20 cm of snow on the ground this morning.

I had a very mediocre practice. I was feeling very stiff and sore and sluggish. There's a huge difference between a 'mediocre' practice these days and six months ago. Now, I do the full Primary Series, I bind in every pose (most of the time) and work on all the stuff I usually work on. I just do it more slowly and deliberately and my practice sometimes takes me a bit longer.

Handstands were horribly difficult yesterday and I had a mental battle with myself this morning, but they were actually fantastic. I think there's a good bit of muscle memory involved in jumping into a handstand because sometimes my body just 'remembers' and I'm fine. If I overthink the whole process, that's where I get myself in trouble.

Headstand was fabulous, strong and stable today: 'My Immortal' by Evanescence, 4 minutes, 32 seconds

Two classes today, but I have the evening off! The space I teach in wasn't available, so we're adding a makeup class and I get a rare mid-week evening off. This will be nice, particularly with the weather.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 187

I had a late hockey game last night and I nearly didn't go, but bribed myself at the last minute with a few cookies and some coffee. ;-)

I'm glad I played - it was such a fun game. I like my new team! L and I are playing together again. We're both on defence, so it's fun to have someone to chat with on the bench and we play well together. Last night, there were only 3 defence, so we were rotating through. No goalie, but one of the forwards volunteered to play in the net (with equipment). It's amazing what a difference that makes, just having a designated goalie - even if she doesn't have some of the skills. We won, 5-6. I had three strong shots on net (that were ably stopped by my friend A, who was subbing in net for that team).

My shoulder is still sore, but that's not what was really bothering me last night. I just couldn't get my skates right. First, they felt too loose, so I tightened them. Then they were too tight and I couldn't manoeuvre properly. I was carrying the puck and did an actual belly flop onto the ice, still frantically swatting at the puck with my stick. When the whistle blew, I had a good hard laugh at my own expense. The I loosened them again; Goldilox hockey.

I got home late, then had a rare spell of insomnia, probably because of the game. I didn't go to sleep until after midnight, so I slept until almost 8. I didn't do my practice until nearly lunchtime and it was a great one. My hamstrings were so open! I love practising in the afternoon for that reason - my body is so warm and pliable and I'm able to go deep into the postures.

Musical Sirsasana was very wobbly and week. I held it for 2 minutes, 32 seconds to 'Dorje-Den' by Yungchen Lhamo.

My backbends were great! I've started adding some Anusara stuff to the backbends to help build strength. For the first Urdhva Dhanurasana, I come into it as I normally do and hold for five breaths. Second, I come up for one breath and then bring one hand to a thigh for two breaths, put that hand down, then bring the other up for two breaths. Third backbend, it's the same general concept, except now I'm lifting my legs up and extending them toward the ceiling one at a time.

Of course, if I was really doing Anusara, I would be doing all of that in one backbend, with no breaks and holding it for five minutes...but, whatever. ;-)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Day 186

Wow, I really miss yoga when I'm not doing it every day. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the time off, particularly on the first day of my Lady's Hols. But by Day 3, I was chomping at the bit.

I was feeling relatively good for LH this month. I rested on Friday morning, taught youth classes in the afternoon. On Saturday, I got up early to do the cleaning and shopping. In the afternoon, I baked. I baked bread again this week and also a huge batch of Oatmeal Banana muffins (I froze these in single servings in plastic wrap; I pop them under the broiler in the morning and they taste fresh-baked!). I made yoghurt on Saturday night. I bought the cutest miniature souffle dishes at Honest Ed's. Each dish holds about 75g of yoghurt, which is perfect!

I also spent a fabulous hour wandering around the St. Lawrence Market eating samples of cheese, jam, olive oil (with bread), sparkling wine and flavoured tofu. You can practically make a lunch of it ! I ended up buying the best strawberry-banana jam. I've been eating it on my bread - it's so good!

Anyway, yoga: I had a rotten practice this morning, to be honest. I felt very stiff and sluggish. I woke in the early morning on Sunday with a slightly scratchy throat and my immune system has been very busy fighting it ever since. I lingered in bed for a long time this morning, feeling cranky and tired (and this after going to bed early!). The good news is that I'm feeling much better now.

Musical Sirsasana was 'Tempest' by Jesse Cook, 2 minutes, 29 seconds (and I was wobbly, but still managed to do half-bend).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Day 185

Moon Day was a true break for me, as I tried to rest my shoulder. In the afternoon, I tied a couple of tennis balls into a sock and laid over them (gradually rolling them down my spine) to work some of the knots out of my upper back. It was the most uncomfortable 15 minutes I've ever spent with tennis balls, but it worked like a charm and I felt better. I felt like there had been an important 'release.' I also used a heating pad for part of the day. As I taught my four Wednesday classes, I found that despite the discomfort, doing a tiny bit of yoga was actually helpful and I was feeling even better a the end of the day.

So I wasn't completely reticent when I hit the mat this morning. I wasn't sure how my shoulder would feel, but it turns out that yoga was exactly what I needed! I did a more gentle practice (didn't bind in Marichyasana D, replaced Setu Bandhasana with a bridge pose), focused on the Bandhas and breath. I could feel the heat of the practice easing the tension out of my shoulder and upper back. I laid on the tennis balls again during Savasana and felt like a new woman when I got out of the shower.

(Musical Sirsasana was 'Do It Well' by Jennifer Lopez, 3 minutes, 33 seconds - I was feeling tippy today, so did headstand near the wall in case I needed it).

I feel almost 100% better now. There's a tiny bit of residual tension in my left shoulder, but mostly it's just sore. I think I was having muscle spasms and possibly had a pinched nerve near the left shoulder blade. This is not a new problem - it's been popping up periodically for 15 years. Makes me wonder what trauma I'm holding in those muscles!

I think the trigger was a week of teaching twists followed by a rough hockey game and some unrelated personal stuff that's going on. All the ingredients for angst, borne out by my body. Ah well...

Really looking forward to practice tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day 184

I was up very late last night, mostly because I drank too much coffee at the pub before the game. It was great coffee and it had me bouncing off the ceiling. I probably played my best game all season, in part because I was so hyped up! ;-) We had a good game, but lost, 6-5. All of the goals for the other side were scored by the same person, which made it feel a bit like we were playing 'an individual' instead of a 'team.' So much for 'team sport.'

After I got home, I took a hot bath and read until I was sleepy, but it was after midnight before I finally fell asleep. I slept in a bit, snoozing until 6 a.m., then did some other work because I was feeling groggy and finally started my practice around 7:30 a.m. It was the best practice I've had in ages! My body felt very open, particularly my hamstrings and back. Everything flowed and felt good.

I came into my backbends really deep today. The only thing that didn't feel very solid was my balancing (ironic, as I'm teaching a sequence on balancing in my classes this week!).

Musical Sirsasana was the Arcade Fire, 'Intervention' (4 minutes, 19 seconds).

I was hit pretty hard a few times last night during the game. I play defence, so I'm often shoved around as I try to foil plays and recover the puck from the opposing team (and this team had some big players). There isn't supposed to be any body checking, but when the ref's back is turned, stuff sometimes 'happens' (as it was, the other team had two penalties, something that almost never happens in our league, which goes to show you how rough it was getting).

Anyways, I got slammed into a corner pretty hard by a snarky right winger and my left shoulder/upper back was feeling tender last night. It felt fine this morning for practice, but afterward, I had a horrible cramping sensation around my shoulderblade. I took a nap this afternoon and I'm taking it easy, and will try to rest the shoulder as I teach my final class of the day.

Tomorrow's Moon Day couldn't be better timed! It will be a good day to rest - and perhaps have a nice lie-in (I'm exhausted!).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Day 183

Today is the official half-way mark for the Reluctant Ashtangi. I began doing this practice near-daily last June and I only have 182 more practices to go to reach my goal of 365 days of the Primary Series!

I woke up early and lazed around in bed like a huge lump for a half-hour before finally getting up and sweeping the floors, then hitting the mat. I had a great practice - even though I started a half-hour late, I finished on time because it took me just over an hour to complete the Primary Series. On these days that I'm able to maintain a deep, one-pointed focus on breath, I really move through those postures. It's rate, but it happens (and it's been happening more and more lately).

Musical Sirsasana was Avril Lavigne, 'Slipped Away' (3 minutes, 35 seconds).

Tonight is Finals Night at ice hockey. My team is second-to-last, so we're playing the consolation game at 9:30 (another late game - yuck!). I'm going to party with my friends at the pub early, before the game. My official plan is to drink coffee and eat only a few slices of my pizza because I don't like to skate on too full of a stomach.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Day 182

It was nice to get back on the mat this morning after my day off. Also nice to know that the momentum I established in January is still serving me in February. I got up early and had a very good practice.

Those two handstands were on my mind all through the Mari's and wouldn't you know, they were totally anti-climatic! I was able to hop up with both legs easily, bringing my feet lightly against the wall, then straightening my legs from there. I can come up without doing that, but that seemed like the thing to do today so I just went with it. I'm feeling less anxious about the handstands now. But how will I feel tomorrow? Time will tell...

Musical Sirsasana was Rachael Yamagata, 'Meet Me By the Water', (4 minutes).

I have a confession: I don't enjoy Savasana very much. I've been guilty of skipping it. Since I've been doing Ashtanga I've been more diligent: I do it , but grudgingly. I just can't seem to relax in that pose. It's not that I'm a live wire and don't like laying around, because I do. I can happily lay in bed, doing absolutely nothing, for hours.

I decided that perhaps I need to pamper myself a bit more at the end of my practice and make Savasana 'my happy place'.

A few year ago, during Yoga Teacher Training, I worked weekends at a gallery. My employer gave me a wonderful polar fleece blanket/pillow set when I left. They're cozy - the blanket has a side that's fuzzy, fake lamb's wool. I dug these out of my blanket box and designated them my official Savasana props: blanket on top and pillow to prop my legs. I even put on the hot pink fuzzy spa socks one of my students gave me.

And I did have a better Savasana! Maybe I was just cold before, or felt too exposed (It's food for thought, in terms of my students and their needs in Savasana).

I had a spectacular day off! Doing yoga every single day in January threw my cleaning schedule off. I usually clean the apartment on Saturday mornings, wash the floors on Moon Days, and try to wash my Mysore Rug every two weeks in winter, once a week in summer. Last month, I didn't do any of these things and though I made a half-hearted effort to keep up minimal cleaning, it wasn't enough.

I didn't realise how filthy the apartment really was until yesterday. Yuck. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. (I know! I know! I woke before the alarm...), read my book for a bit, then spent three hours doing catch-up cleaning. I cleaned everything: the kitchen, the floors, scrubbed down the bathroom, dusted, cleaned up my altar. I washed my Mysore Rug. The apartment is now sparkly.

Then I baked some bread (Ahhh! Hot bread with raspberry fruit spread = heaven) and prepped a small batch of homemade yogurt. I am the soul of domesticity! And I'll be eating well this week!

Today, I went to the soup kitchen in the morning, went for a long walk in the afternoon. I stopped in at the LCBO to buy a bottle of wine and then went to Madeline's for a perfect, tiny cupcake. :-)

I love weekends!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Day 181

I was particularly well-organised this week and managed to climb into bed just after walking in the door after teaching my evening classes both Wednesday and Thursday. I also took a two-hour nap on Thursday afternoon. As a result, I wasn't dead exhausted this morning for practice; I was feeling pretty good. This is a good way to go into the weekend.

As I came into Surya Namaskara A and the first downward dog this morning, I felt a happy sigh escape from my lips. Lately, I've really been digging the sun salutations. They're becoming my favourite part of the practice. I did the full primary. The more I do it, the less onerous it feels to me. Everything just flows.

I've been thinking about what I would like to work on in February in terms of my asana practice. Last month, it was jump-throughs and those are still coming along nicely. It's fun to have a 'project' to work on.

Yesterday, I was messing around with handstand in the afternoon and it occurred to me that I'm coming into the pose with a lot of control these days and sometimes balancing on my own (against the wall, of course). There are a few directions I could take this pose now that I'm feeling more comfortable with it.

I was thinking a lot about my 'entrance' into it. Those of you who are familiar with BBB's Power Yoga DVD may remember that Stan (the skinny guy in the front row) hops up into handstand instead of coming up one leg as a time. Teacher M was trying to get me to do this last year and it was laughable. I just kind of hopped around, got frustrated, then sat on my mat and glared at him.

I tried it again yesterday and it actually seemed do-able. The jump-throughs have given me a chance to get used to that unsettling feeling of jumping the hips over the shoulders. I tried it again and came up on the third try.

So that's my asana project this month: 'hoppin' into handstand. I do two handstands between repetitions of Navasana and this morning I 'hopped' into both of them. The second time felt really good. I find that it's easier if I imagine pushing the floor away with my hands as I 'hop' - this keeps my arms active.