Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 245

I had a fabulous, energetic practice this morning, full of wonderful forward momentum. I felt like the yoga energizer bunny - I just kept going and going and going. Felt great. My only block seemed to be in twists - couldn't managed a bind in Marichyasana D and the bind in Marichyasana C was not as deep.

Madonna's new disc was released today. I downloaded it from iTunes in the wee hours of the morning and first impressions: it's outlandish, over-the-top, overproduced, with inane and occasionally stupid lyrics. Pure, trademark Madonna; I'm loving every minute of it. Love her or hate her, Madonna's tunes carry a good beat and I'm sure that this was part of the reason that I was a bit bouncy (yes, I was listening to Madonna during my yoga practice).

Anyways, I'm glad I had that high-energy moment to end on because Ladies' Holiday kicked in after lunchtime. It's about time! (My cycles have been wonky lately)

So I'm off until Sunday. Toodles!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 244

Some changes are afoot in my life. Good changes and new possibilities...I'm smiling, but distracted. ;-)

Practice today was very good, but stiff and scattered. My brain liked being on the mat, but my body wasn't playing nicely. My hamstrings actually seized up in Baddha Konasana. How is that even possible?!! I took a rough stab at doing the closing sequence but didn't do headstand. I felt all light and ephemeral today, like I might float out the window. Instead, I sat on the futon while the rain fell outside.

Cold and damp today. Please Spring, come back!

Buses, trains and trams are back, thanks to emergency legislation passed yesterday in our provinicial legislature. This video pretty well explains the whole fracas ;-)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 243

After a restless night of sleep (I haven't been sleeping well lately in general), I managed to do a stiff early morning yoga practice. I was really looking forward to getting on that mat . Although I honoured my 'day off' yesterday, I really felt keen for some asana. This is good - it keeps it fresh for me during the other six days of the week.

I've been in a really good mental state lately, in terms of my practice. It's not a struggle, though it's not always blissful either. It's just a pleasant routine and fact of my day-to-day life.

My lower back was feeling cranky, so in each posture, I focused on creating space and softness around my lumbar spine. This caused me to modify some postures and not fold as deeply in my forward bends, but by the end of the practice, my lower back was feeling much better.

I had a much easier time this morning focusing on breath and kept a steady stream of Ujjayi breathing throughout the practice.

I've been experiencing some interesting turbulence in my personal life these past few weeks. Some extraordinarily serendipitous events have come together in a really wonderful way and I'm almost giddy with the excitement of it all, while still trying to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and not get too carried away.

I sometimes question my own decisions and paths in life, but I generally have faith that everything happens for a reason and in its own time. Everything is unfolding as it should.

One thing that has really come to light recently is how important the past year has been for my yoga practice and how much I *needed* the year to get my shit together. Had I made different decisions, I would not have had this year of practice and reflection. My daily Ashtanga practice, with all its challenges and difficulties has been key to my own transformation. Today, I'm full of gratitude for yoga in general and Ashtanga in particular.

Years and year ago, I hurt my back carrying concrete blocks used for portable fencing on an archaeological site. I tried yoga to ease the pain. Those blocks now seem like a gift. All of the circumstances that led to the moment when I picked a yoga video out of the bargain bin at Best Buy seen significant and amazing to me in retrospect.

In a nutshell, I feel like my heart and mind are open to new possibilities. It's a powerful feeling.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 242

The Great Expectations Edition.

In follow-up to yesterday's post about trying to find the 'feel good' moments in each pose: I did the same today and it was starkly clear when my mind wandered. When my attention strayed, a sense of dread would wash over me like a bad wave. I'm realising that I have developed a very bad habit: I'm expecting the very worst from my poses. I seem to carry with me all these memories of past discomfort and I'm projecting them into my present reality.

For example, Marichyasana C is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable if I'm bloated or experiencing digestive distress. This doesn't happen often, but I have fallen into a pattern of wondering, each and every time I do the pose, whether it will be uncomfortable. Today, I let go of that expectation. Instead, I told myself that this would be a GREAT Marichyasana C. I would enjoy it and feel a lovely release in my low back. I would find that fabulous combination of strength and stretch in my shoulder and revel in it. And I did just that. Great expectations!

So, I started asking myself: What type of fabulousness do I want to feel in this pose today? And then I tried to find it.

This is my brain, on yoga.

In other news, handstands are strong again and I discovered what my problem was. Are you ready for this? I had started practising Pinchamayurasana (crim, I know) before my handstands and set up the mat against the wall because I like the cushy cushion for my bony arms. Then I was then doing my handstands on the mat. My body (my brain?) no likey, Apparently, I gain a strong sense of grounding and support by having my hands *directly* on the wood floor. Take that away, and my confidence evaporates. I've developed an aversion to the mat - at least for that pose.

I'm not sure this is necessarily a negative thing. I recently read an article about a movement to discourage the use of mats in Ashtanga yoga. In the youth classes I teach, we don't use mats at all. The only time I really miss them is when rolling out of Sarvangasana (ouch. my vertabrae!) and for Pinchamayurasana (ouch, my bony arms). Otherwise, the wood floor is fine. I get more than enough grip with my feet and there's a tremendous sense of strength and grounding, having my feet on a hard, solid surface.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Manduka for all the various reasons that the Manduka is loveable. But I wonder if there's something to be gained by practising without a mat. Would anything be lost?

It was a hoax!

For those of you who don't read the comments - the article on about not using mats was apparently an April Fool's hoax and a quite extraordinary one at that. Obviously, I completely swallowed it, hook line and sinker.

It is not a hoax!
Though we wish it was. As of 12 a.m. this morning, without any notice or fanfare the transit workers in my city went on strike. No subways, buses or streetcars are running. Fuckity fuck, fuck.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 241

Thursday practices are always a bit tough because my Wednesday teaching schedule is so intense. I wasn't sure how today's would be, particularly when I felt completely exhausted merely walking the dog. So I decided to play a little game with myself this morning. In each pose, I asked myself this question: “In what way does this pose feel good?”

I do this practice every day, presumably because I *like* it. Certainly, each pose must have some redeeming quality that keeps bringing me back to the mat (we'll just ignore Supta Kurmasana when applying this theory, okay? *wink*). I found that working through my practice in this way actually helped me pace myself. I worked hard, but with less effort and tension.

As I examined each pose carefully in order to identify the 'feel good moment', I also noticed that I was often holding tension. This was taking me away from the good feelings of the pose. So I started asking another question, in addition to the first: “Where am I holding unnecessary tension in this pose?” As it turns out, it was mainly in my arms, shoulders and face. The last time I went to a class with Teacher H, she kept reminding me to soften my shoulders; I seem to hold a lot of tension there.

I'm also a member of the 'Jaw Clenchers Club' and had to remind myself repeatedly not to grit my teeth. This is particularly important for me because I had an extensive (read: expensive) jaw surgery when I was 21 - there's one joint I don't want to damage again!

I was also shocked, SHOCKED (okay, not so shocked - I do it in Sirsasana too...) to find that I've been aggressively clenching my bum in Sarvangasana. Poor bum! De-clenching my bum made me more aware of how engaging the bandhas adds stability in inversions.

I added a final question about half-way through my practice: “How can I bring more ease into this pose?” (I was enjoying this whole 'feel good' angle and wanted MORE!). Sometimes the answer was just 'let go of tension' but I also found that by experimenting with length and alignment, I could introduce more softness and openness into my poses.

If I were to choose one word to describe today's practice it would be 'softness'. Even my Chaturangas felt easier and lighter.

By taking this approach to my practice, I also found that the time passed more fluidly (because I was absorbed in the moment) and I enjoyed the postures more, savouring each one, much as I might savour a tasty meal.

Bon Appétit! ;-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 240

Early practice this morning - 5:30 a.m. Getting up wasn't too hard and getting on the mat was okay, but right around Marichyasana C I could feel myself slowing down. Then a thunderstorm moved through the city and the dog freaked out. She spent some time trying to insert herself into my Marichyasana D before retreating to the bathroom to hide behind the toilet (she's not a fan of thunder).

When I got up to check on her, I knocked over an empty glass of water I was drinking before I started and the glass shattered, necessitating a quick clean up (I was still finding glass on my Mysore rug as I finished the practice). With my momentum broken, I found it difficult to push through to the end. I could really feel a shift in my energy level after the thunderstorm/glass moments.

This is a good lesson to just *keep going* in the mornings. In the wee hours pre-dawn, momentum is everything!

In the comments, Jacqueline asked me what I eat for breakfast. She's on a grain-free diet, combined with CR. So this post is going to wander a bit into the realm of CRON (Calorie Resriction Optimal Nutrition), as I respond to her question. However, I feel this is yoga-related because hydration and breakfast are sandwich my practice.

When I wake in the morning, I make the bed and prepare the apartment for my practice by tidying up anything on the floor and sweeping the floor. While I do this, I drink two glasses of very warm water with some lemon juice. I eat breakfast after I practice.

Breakfast is my largest meal of the day and I try to make sure that it packs a real nutritional punch. Ideally, I like to have at least 18 grams of protein, most of my RDAs for vitamins and about half of my RDAs for minerals in that one meal. I add ground flax meal to my juice and my cereal for the omega 3 fatty acids it contains (I buy the seeds, grind fresh). I absolutely love the way flax tastes and I find that if I don't add it, something is 'missing'. Funny how your taste buds adjust! I selectively supplement for iron and calcium.

Confession: every morning, I take a half-teaspoon of cod liver oil. I still define myself a vegetarian - I don't eat meat and generally won't eat fish, but this little compromise adds some beneficial fatty acids to my diet and gives my vitamin D a boost in the winter.

I eat a great variety of foods, in smaller quantities than is typical for most people. In the photograph, you'll probably notice that the plates and bowls are smaller. Things are even smaller than they appear! ;-) Because I eat small portions, I find that it makes sense to have small plates to serve them on.

I'm odd in that I like to munch of fresh veggies in the morning and will usually have a couple of servings of them. Loblaws had a manager's special on sweet peppers this week, so I'm eating a lot of colourful peppers. I also love celery and carrots in the morning.

I do eat grains in the form of bran cereal.

I don't tend to vary my breakfast very much at all; I eat the same thing every morning, occasionally switching out a different tofu, vegetable or citrus fruit.

Here's a typical breakfast:
(I start my day, before practice, with two glasses of very warm water with lemon juice)
Egg white omelette 50 grams
Ying Ying Gourmet Tofu (sweet and sour flavour) 25 grams
Bran Buds 30 grams with 1 tsp flax meal, 20 grams banana, 1/4 cup Natura rice milk
Homemade (by me) probiotic yogurt, 75 g with a dab of sugar-free jam
Grapefruit, sliced, 66 grams
Sweet peppers, 90 grams
Celery 100 grams
V8 low sodium vegetable juice with 1 tsp flax meal
Green tea 500 ml


This breakfast contains 18 grams of protein, 20 grams of fibre (more than a typical North American eats in a day), 82% of my RDA for vitamins, 61% of my RDA for minerals, 1.6 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids. Also notable: by the time I finish this meal, I've already consumed four cups of water.

It takes me about 15 minutes to prepare this meal and I allow 30 minutes for a leisurely breakfast most mornings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 239

Another afternoon practice today and a quick one - I whipped through the series in about an hour. Immediately after I rolled up my mat, I stepped into my shoes and grabbed my bike, rode to my afternoon youth yoga class. It was a silly case of procrastination - I didn't need to be so rushed and I could have done it earlier in the day. I just didn't. Also, I felt tired all day.

I haven't been keeping my early schedule lately and I miss those pre-dawn morning practices (though I don't miss actually getting up for them). Practising in the morning is very satisfying because I can bask in that glow all day. Practising in the afternoon always feels stressful to me.

It's been far easier to just sleep in because I've been staying up late recently. There are various reasons for this - being out with friends, a bit of insomnia, walking around in the wonderful weather now that it's light later. Last night, I took the dog to the park with a friend and we were out until almost 9 p.m., then I stayed up late getting some work done.

When my schedule is disrupted like this, it always amazes me that I manage to get my practice in at all, but I always seem to. That's bodes well for the coming months because I suspect that disruptions in routine are going to become a matter of routine.

Things are a-shiftin', people. The ground may even be moving underneath my feet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day 238

Full Moon

I had an amazing Saturday/Moon Day combo weekend! I spent much of it outdoors, frolicking in the sunshine. On Saturday afternoon, a friend joined me for a jaunt around the neighbourhood and tea at my favourite little indie café. I enjoyed a fun night out with friends on Saturday night. I celebrated my birthday in high style in a grand ballroom with yummy cookies, surrounded by friends, enjoying a great D.J. and dancing into the wee hours (I stumbled home after 3 a.m.). I slept in on Sunday, then headed to our Big Park for more fun-in-the-sun (I even got a bit pink; need to remember that sunscreen).

The weather was so balmy all weekend that I wore shorts and a tank. It seriously felt like summer! I took advantage of this great weather by starting my summer yoga project: free-standing handstands and dropbacks into Urdhva Dhanurasana. I usually work on this in the park, where there are slopes to drop back on and soft earth to cushion my head when I crash land.

Obviously, I have no bandhas to speak of - I drop back like a sack of bricks. Ouch. I had a bunch of successful tries using the steep slope to reduce the distance I need to drop back. That was pretty neat! Then I tried on level ground. The first try ended in an 'abort'. I sort-of wrenched my shoulder. The next try, I resolved that I would drop onto my head if that's what it came to and I sort of did. But I *did* drop back on my own at least.

I fared better in handstands. Right now, I'm working on kicking up, holding for a second or two, then coming down. It's a very odd feeling and I can do it most of the time. When I finally fall out, I'm able to come right back down or fall off to the side. I did crash land a few times, but it was fine. Removing the wall turns this into an entirely different pose! It was strange, but fun and kind of liberating!

I woke on Sunday morning with VERY sore abs. I would love to attribute this to my Mad Skillz on the dance floor, but I suspect it's all the dropbacks I was doing! ;-) I recall that I had sore abs the last time I attempted Project Dropback. I really noticed the abdominal soreness in the Updogs during my practice today.

Today's practice was good, but it took me awhile to coax myself to the mat. I'm feeilng distracted and tired today and I want to eat everything in sight: if that's no a sign of an upcoming ladies' holiday, I don't know what is! I could feel my sore abs in every single Up Dog and anytime I used my abdominal muscles in a pose or vinyasa. I'm actually amazed at how much I use those abs!

After Garba Pindasana, I enjoyed a happy little sigh because every single pose that comes after that point is fun and enjoyable for me. That's when I realised that I wasn't dreading backbends or handstands. Instead, I was looking forward to both! This is certainly a new attitude!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Day 237

Photo: Typical weekly shopping - I've gradually cut down on the amount of processed foods I eat and increased the amount of produce. I used to use my produce drawer to store plastic tupperware and old carryout containers. Now, the produce takes up the drawer and two shelves!

A reader recently asked me about the changes in my diet as I shifted my daily yoga practice to Ashtanga, particularly in terms of diet.

This is an interesting question and I'm not sure I can answer it in an entirely straightforward way. My particular approach to food and nutrition (and this is a key point: each person is unique) has developed over many years of trial and error of figuring out what works for me. In other words, what works for me, may not work for you. That said, there are a few general principles that I think are applicable to everyone and I'll highlight these in my post.

First of all, I might as well put this on the table: I'm an Ayurveda skeptic and eye-rollingly cynical about most alternative medicine. In saying this, I'm not dismissing *all* alternative medicine (nor Western medicine, which I also have a healthy skepticism). I just want proof. I have a background in the sciences and I like 'controlled studies.' Even with all their limitations (and there are many), I believe it's the best way to figure out what really works and what doesn't. I also trust my personal experience - if something works for me in a big way, I'll roll with it.

So basically, you're not going to hear about 'opening up the heart chakra' in my yoga classes and I can guarantee that you will never hear me wax lyrical about the 'aura' of the girl in the second row. I don't believe in auras. I think astrology if fun, but a bunch of bunk. For me, 'the yoga lifestyle' entails living in a way that's healthy and beneficial to my body.

I don't eat garlic - but not because Ayurveda tells me I shouldn't. I avoid it because personally, I've found that it makes me stink. At heart, I'm a practical girl.

I first started paying attention to nutrition about 15 years ago, when I first encountered Dr. Dean Ornish's research regarding diet and its impact on heart disease (I have a family history for it). I found a software package that tracks nutrition and started logging my foods and I've done this sporadically with different packages since then; I'm currently using CRON-o-meter. For a while, I was even vegan. I've been vegetarian since I was in my early 20s and have always paid fairly close attention to the nutritional content of the foods I eat, even during periods of not eating as well as I should.

Last year, following one of my periods of sketchy eating (hereafter referred to as 'The Muffin Era'), I decided to start logging my food intake again. I started walking every day and I cut refined sugar out of my diet. Completely! I have a huge sweet tooth, so this was a biggie. I had developed some bad habits and felt overwhelmed by them. But focusing on just a few things seemed do-able.

First general principle: Make a list of all the things you would like to change, then pick just ONE (or two, if you're feeling particularly ambitious). Work on your one thing until you feel that you've made some progress and then add another ONE THING. Trying to 'do it all' is a recipe for failure.

I've always been a big veg eater, but last summer, I really broke some new ground in my veg-eating. After I cut the sugar out, I proceeded to cut all processed foods, including bread and pasta. This had a huge - and very positive - impact on my health. I had already lost most of my muffin weight over the summer and I proceeded to lose the rest of it. In logging my foods, I noticed that although my food intake was high, my calories levels were low. I turned to my favourite oracle, Google to research this. I wanted to know whether a low calorie diet was harmful - I simply felt healthier eating less. I discovered the research around calorie restriction, and from there, the CR Society.

So here's my second principle: Keep a record. When I was walking every day, I put a smiley face on my calendar each time I walked. Every sugar-free day got a big 'cheque mark' on the calendar. I keep track of what I eat. Bottom line: tracking a goal keeps you accountable to it.

I added Ashtanga yoga into the mix last spring, so many of these changes occurred in parallel as I struggled with the Primary Series. It's a chicken-or-the-egg question: Did Ashtanga cause me to shift to this healthy diet? Did Ashtanga cause me to lose weight? Or did my changes in diet lead me to a more vigourous style of yoga?

At this point, I can make a few general observations:

Ashtanga has made me far more body-aware than any other style of yoga I've worked with. Because I'm doing this practice six days a week and I'm doing the same series of poses every day, I really notice the small variations and changes in my body. I also notice, in a rather dramatic way, how diet effects how I feel in my practice. I don't have a big ethical or spiritual compunction about drinking alcohol. I just notice that it makes me feel rotten for days after drinking it. I don't like feeling rotten, so I don't drink it. Ditto with many foods. Whole foods makes my GI track happy.

Another interesting note: I'm back to my pre-Muffin-Era weight, but my body has changed in *dramatic* ways. Put simply, I've become much leaner and more muscular. The patterns of fat accumulation on my body have changed. I believe my metabolism has speeded up. Clothing that used to fit snug at this weight now hangs on me. I replaced most of my cold-weather clothes this winter and now I'm facing the reality of my summer wardrobe: it's too big. My smallest shorts are tent-like. And I can't attribute these changes entirely to diet.

Doing Ashtanga yoga has had a positive impact on my health.

Which brings me to back to this web space: I first started this blog as a private journal on my computer, half-heartedly keeping track of my Ashtanga yoga practice. I originally planned to do Ashtanga for a month (I seriously didn't thing I would last even that long). After I kept at it and decided to go for 365 days, I went public and set up this blog. This, more than anything else, has kept me inspired to do the practice.

Principle #3: Be bold: tell the whole world. Set a goal, then tell all your friends. Life can be surprising; you may find support in places you never expected. You'll be far more motivated to stick with it if you are held accountable to other people. The blog worked for me because I knew that people were reading it. It felt less like an 'audience' and more like a support network.

When making big lifestyle changes, the whole won't-everyone-think-I'm-boring? issue often comes up. I like to think I'm immune to what other people think, but in truth, I do care. The thing is, people will often rise to the occasion in the most wonderful ways. Generally, I've found that my posse doesn't really care if I drink beer or eat the same things they do when we're out. They like me for me. I'm 'fun' because I like to listen to people, tell funny stories and dance for hours on end. My eating/drinking habit don't define me as a person. I've come to realise that although the people in my life are interested and supportive of my goals and projects, what they really care about is ME.

Here's principle #4: Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Get off the 'net and into the real world. Take some classes, join a bookclub, join a yoga shala, start a 'lunchtime walking group' at work, play Scrabble. Do the things you love and find other people who love those things.

And finally, one last thing...

Principle #5: Don't beat yourself up. Don't dwell on your failures, set realistic goals. Don't judge yourself, celebrate your successes. Be a supportive friend to yourself. And be mindful of your self-talk - that little voice that judges, criticizes, interrogates, keeps up an endless commentary about your life and your choices. You can change that voice and shift it to a more positive tone. It really does make a difference.

As one of my hockey buddies likes to say: Visualize! ;-)

Practice today: Handstand seems to be back. Everything else felt a bit off and I was exhausted. My heavy teaching schedule on Wed/Thurs really takes a lot out of me. I modified the practice to accommodate my sluggishness, backing off from the bind in Marichyasana D and skipping a vinyasa here and there. Sunday is a Moon Day, so I'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Day 236

A big THANK YOU to everyone who left a comment yesterday. I read and enjoyed each and every one of them. It was like receiving a bunch of gifts!

It was so much fun to hear from all of you! I'm amazed and humbled that so many people read this blog. I never intended to write for an audience. In the beginning, I just wanted to keep a record of this weird little experiment I was trying with my yoga practice. I'm deeply grateful for the warm welcome and advice I've received from the 'cyber shala' and online Ashtanga community. I'm moved that anyone might be motivated to practice or to try Ashtanga after reading about my yoga (mis)adventures here. And I know for a fact that there are poses I never would have worked on if it wasn't for the encouragement from people who read this blog.

My yoga practice is better for having come to know all of you. If that's not 'sangha', I don't know what is!

I was pleased to find out that some of my readers are Canadian! It's good to know that there are others out there who understand that hockey is the game you play on ICE (Hi, Charlie!) and won't be shocked if I mention bag milk or kvetch about the weather! ;-)

Cara - It certainly is a small world! I do volunteer at the soup kitchen you're thinking of! I'm curious what shala you practice at here in the city. You can get in touch via email if you don't want to comment publicly (reluctantashtangi at gmail)

Judy - Thanks for the tip! I will strive for more enthusiastic flexion in my ankles - although I must confess that my ankles are already wildly enthusiastic as it is. They're very perky and nervous, trying to avoid the inevitable heel slam! I have a feeling this is one of those Mad Skillz that will take me by surprise one day when I just spontaneously do it. And I probably won't fully understand how it happened.

To my lurkers who don't regularly comment - Now that you've chimed in, I hope I'll hear from you more often!

And to all of you who left birthday greetings - many, many thanks! So far, 38 is a happy place to be.

Namaste, everyone!

I did a mid-morning practice today because I was at the soup kitchen in the morning. It's WARM today (21C, the last time I checked), so I had a warm, sweaty practice. I've missed those! No matter how warm I heated my apartment this winter, it never seemed to get warm enough.

I had a good, strong practice. Handstands are a bit dodgy, but they're back. I felt very strong in Chaturanga today. I was actually surprised to be so strong and focused because I felt like hell-in-a-handbag going into it. I was actually thinking that this would be a horrible practice as I stepped on the mat, but as soon as I started the sun salutations, I just settled into myself and found a rhythm.

Binding in Supta Kurmasana is given these days, so I'm trying to figure out how to move towards getting my legs crossed over my head. I can sort of get the right foot up, if I prop it on the left foot and move my head underneath.

Latest breakthrough: I can reliably put my legs into Padmasana (Lotus) while in Sarvangasana, without using my hands to facilitate. It's a fun thing to do and it makes my Urdhva Padmasana much more stable (and my Pindasana deeper).

Lately, my mind has been all over the place. I seem to be in a deep-thinking mode. My practice feels like a welcome relief from the inner chaos: for an-hour-and-a-bit, all I have to do is hold postures and breath. It's like a vacation from my own busy brain and I'm loving it!

Coming up tomorrow: I'll be writing a longer post to address Surya's question about food, nutrition and the 'yoga lifestyle' (one of my favourite topics - I'm getting my soapbox ready *wink*).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 235

Early morning practice: The Birthday Edition.

I'm 38 years old today! My buddy Chewbaka is back (uh oh!). I was suddenly and completely rendered clueless in handstand today - just could not get my hand-eye-arms-leg-feet co-ordination on board for that pose. It was really messy; I banged the back of my head against the wall. Even thinking about cookies didn't help. Argh!

Handstand! Please come back!

Besides that, it was a garden-variety, ordinary practice for me today. I tried what Jan suggested for the landing in Upavista Konasana, but no dice. I still bang my heels (ouch!). But I do appreciate any and all advice regarding this dilemma. Thanks, Jan, for commenting.

As far as the birthday thing goes, I'm feeling pretty good at 38. I don't feel any of the dread or depression that some of my friends seem to have about aging. The numbers are increasing, but I feel strong and healthy and I'm basically happy with where I'm at in my life. No big plans are afoot, for today at least. I'm generally not a big birthday celebrator. I have some vague idea of going out with a few friends and dancing on Saturday night, but nothing is set in stone.

Today, I teach five yoga classes and I'm delighted with the idea of spending my birthday with my students, doing something I love to do. It doesn't get much better than this!

A special request to all of you who read this: I think it would be really cool to hear from my Five Readers and all the other lurkers who I suspect are hanging around periodically. So go ahead, de-lurk, and say hello!

And then I'll blow out the candles ;-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day 234

Life is exhausting me. People are exhausting me. People are SO COMPLICATED.

Seriously, my brain is tired from trying to figure out the people in my life. I'm weary of trying to understand them and trying to please them. I know, I know, it's impossible to please everyone, but I still dislike the feeling that I'm stepping on invisible toes and being irritating to others purely by accident.

Stepping on my mat and doing yoga has been far easier lately. No toes there except my own.

A shout-out to the more advanced Ashtanga practitioners out there - I need some advice:

In Baddha Padmasana, the pressure of my left leg pressing into my right (near the ankle) causes me pain as I fold forward into Yoga Mudra. My left knee doesn't come all the way to the floor in Padmasana. Will this improve with increased flexibility and mobility in my hips? I can't stay in Yoga Mudra for very long, because of this pressure on my legs.

Also, in transitioning from Upavista Konasana B to the floor, I can't seem to do that landing without pounding the backs of my heels painfully into the floor. Any advice? I'm muscular in the upper legs but average in the calves. I feel like I need bigger calves, but I know that's not the answer! ;-)

Ah, the devil is in the details. eh? I had a good practice today!

I've been enjoying headstand a lot and feeling very strong (and more confident) in the pose. In particular, my entry is strong and light. Badhas bandhas bandhas!

I went through a tight-hamstring-phase recently and I seem to have broken through that. I haven't been bringing my chin to my shin in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana because I was feeling tension in my lumbar spine - I simply held my toe and kept a long spine instead. In the past few days, I've re-added the forward bend and it feels good (though I need more practise keeping my balance during the transitions to Utthita Parsvasahita and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B).

I didn't want to leave Savasana today. I felt very safe hiding under my fuzzy blanket, but alas, it was only a brief respite. Off I go.

P.S. Hockey finals last night! The game was close right up until the bitter end. In the last few minutes of the game, I got a penalty for tripping while chasing after a player on a breakaway (she went down like a sack of bricks; it really *was* an accident). My team beat the penalty and scored a goal (I was jumping up in down in the penalty box, cheering). The game ended in a tie and we lost in overtime, 5-4.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day 233

Did I mention that I had a date yesterday? Well I did, and it was fun!

I'm always a bit concerned that one of my various 'quirks' will prove a deal-breaker. I'm a bit weird even by the most generous standards. I get up at 5 a.m. to practice yoga six days a week. I meditate daily. I practise CR (something I rarely mention on this blog), so my diet is vegetarian, low-cal, high-nutrition and very whole foods based. It may seem like much, but for some people, the idea that you're not willing to chowdown on cheesecake with your coffee can be a bit of a dealbreaker.

Today's practice was very nice. I'm feeling really good in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana these days. I find that if I press my toe forward a bit to pull on my arm, it's easier to balance; I feel more solid in the pose. This also brings my leg up higher, making the whole chin-to-the-shin thing a bit more plausible (though I'm not there yet). I've been using this technique in some of my other forward bends with some success - it helps me go deeper into the poses.

Today, the Ashtanga Gods threw me another bone: I fully bound in Baddha Padmasana and folded forward. Whoa.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 232

Saturday's ice hockey sign-up was every bit as grim as I had expected. I was grumpy. The line-up was long (even though I arrived at 7:30 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. start time, I was still #30 in line). The arena was cold. I was too distracted to read my book, so I was bored. Oh yeah, and there's that other stuff I'm not talking about. Argh. I do not like drama.

But my drama was purely personal. Other people were suffering from will-I-get-a-spot-in-the-league drama. Not fun - I'm glad that wasn't me. By 8:30, there were nearly 200 women in line (and a few men, filling in for absent wives and girlfriends). There are only 120 spots in the league (even after they expanded the league last year). They started sign-up a bit early, at 8:30. I was relieved.

On the bright side, it *was* kind of fun to see everyone in the league, in the same place at the same time. That's doesn't happen very often. I took to greeting people with a wry “Welcome to the line-up!”. There was a party atmosphere that I probably would have been able to enjoy if I hadn't been so angsty. Rockstar Friend brought her guitar and entertained everyone. There was free coffee and donuts for those who partake (I don't). I entertained myself observing the amazed looks that flashed across people's faces as they walked in and saw the length of the line.

It was all good in the end: I got my spot in the league for next year. To be honest, I would line up at 3 a.m. to get that spot. I like hockey. With the quicker-than-expected start, I had time to bike home in the freezing rain and thaw before heading off to teach my morning class (via subway - there was no way I was going to do that in the weather).

This morning, I happily leapt on the mat and enjoyed a lovely practice. I've been coasting along for quite awhile now, so the Ashtanga Gods threw me a bone: I straightened my arms in Bhujapindasana, then tucked my feet under and delicately laid my head on the floor, without my usual face-plant. I was so surprised that I fell over. Also: I had the Best Garba Pindasana Ever.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Day 231

My Friday afternoon Youth Yoga class is a hotbed of criminal activity. I take my role as a bad influence on the next generation of Ashtangis very seriously! ;-)

Last week, we worked on coming into Kapotanasana using the wall. My favourite moment was when a particular bendy little girl dropped back and shrieked “Look! There are feet on my mat! Oh, those are MY feet...” This week, I showed them Pinchamayurasana, which elicited groans from nearly everyone: ”That's dukha!” (hard).

Yes, it *is* hard. Then we laid on our backs and tried to put our feet into Padmasana without using our hands. I'm beginning to get the hang of this. Fun!

Today's practice was really nice, though a bit rushed. I practised in the afternoon, so my body felt very open. I've been coming deep into the twists in the Maris and I'm finding it easier to bind in Marichyasana C these days. In fact, I might even be brushing the far edge of 'ease in that one. Binding in Marichyasana D has been easier but actual 'ease' is a long way off.

I've been dealing with some personal stress lately and seem to be stuck in a really dark, pessimistic headspace. Some days, my practice and teaching my students are my only light moments. I'm so grateful for my practice right now. I struggle with it at times, but for now, it has become a refuge. I hope that things sort themselves soon, but until then, I suspect I'll be living from child's pose to child's pose and just trying to breath through it. Yes, breathing is good.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 230

I was feeling mentally flighty and agitated this morning. A while back, I worked in a government office for almost a year (while teaching yoga full-time; yes, I was overscheduled!) and although I loved the job and the people, it was easily the most stressful work environment I've ever experienced. This morning at the soup kitchen, I discovered that a few of my fellow volunteers knew my boss and several of my former coworkers (this was no surprise, as both of them are in the legal profession). So I chatted with them about what it was like to work in that office and we indulged in a little shop talk/gossip.

It was loads of fun, but I was amazed by how stressed out I got even *thinking* about that job. I must have been a basket case when I worked there!

So today I literally *needed* yoga to calm and centre myself. It was interesting to observe how effective my practice is for doing just that. I did feel better after and I savoured every moment of my practice. Yes, I'm back in the 'bliss phase' again. I'm enjoying it because who knows how long it will last!

I photographed my backbend this morning, to get a sense of progress. I don't see a huge difference between this one and late February, perhaps a bit more openness in the armpits and shoulders. Yoga Chickie advises that the Driste is the feet. . If that's the case, my feet may as well be on Jupiter. ;-) Baby steps...

I can't believe this is my backbend

State of the Backbend: April

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day 229

Good, solid, happy practice today. I was on the mat by 5:30 a.m., felt strong and reasonably flexible considering the early hour. My shoulder feels fine these days, but my right wrist has been sore lately, so I've been very mindful of it in my Chaturangas. I keep my fingers (of both hands) spread wide, keep the wrist crease in line with the front edge of my mat, root down through the heel of the thumb. I'm sometimes very lackadaisical about my hand placement, but not anymore. It's been feeling better, though.

Handstands have been fabulous lately. I come right up, no fuss. It helps if I don't think, just 'do'. I don't even think about cookies anymore. ;-)

I nearly fell asleep in Savasana - I think this may be a first!

Today, I wanted to address some questions I've received via comments and email.

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to me asking about tips to keep organised. And in the comments, Surya asked these questions:

Do you do any restorative yoga (yin yoga) as a compliment to your ashtanga practice?
When you teach do you practice with your students or just talk throuh/show the asans and assist the students?
If you practice with your students how do find the energy to do both your ashtanga practice and your teaching practice?

In essence, all three of these questions boil down to energy: where you find it, how you build it, how you choose to use it.

As a teacher, I know that my students all learn in different ways. Some are visual learners while others are more responsive to verbal cues. In my classes, I often demonstrate poses for my students. But I don't feel it's necessary, or advisable to do a yoga practice with my classes. When demonstrating a pose, I come into it about 50%. That's about right for most of my beginning Hatha students and it's easy for me. Students who are more advanced are not going to need a visual cue to tell them how deep to take a pose - they're already familiar with the poses.

I only demo something once. That means that I will usually do one sun salutation with my students. Then I teach verbally and observe during the rest. I teach one side of a pose, then wander around giving adjustments (both gentle physical adjustments and verbal cues) during the second side.

If I didn't conserve my energy in this way, I would be exhausted by the end of the day. Today, for example, I'm teaching five classes.

I do my Ashtanga practice six days a week, with additional breaks for the new and full moon, and my monthly 'ladies holiday'. My absolute favourite form of Yin or Restorative yoga is not to practice at all! ;-) However, during a long break or the last day of my ladies holiday, I will sometimes do a very gentle Hatha practice or a longer restorative yoga practice. I don't have any experience with Yin Yoga. I believe that Restorative Yoga (as taught by my Teacher H) is very good for me, as it forces me to slow down a bit and I find that the practice itself builds energy.

Put simply, staying organised is about priorities. As a rule, you'll have time in your life for things you perceive as priorities, things you're truly committed to. There's absolutely no shame in foregoing your yoga practice because your child takes priority (or your favourite television show, or a good book, or your career) as long as it's a mindful decision.

In a nutshell, when something is a priority, you make time for it by:

1) Doing it first: I'm a big fan of to-do lists - they work for me, though I know they don't work for everybody. Yoga is the first item on my to-do list. I find that I'm more likely to keep my commitment to yoga by doing my practice first thing in the morning, before I need to start balancing other priorities.

2) Doing it mindfully: It's far easier to maintain my commitment to my practice when I do it mindfully. Those of you who read this blog have witnessed what happens when I lose that mindfulness in my practice. Here's my mantra: “For the next hour-and-20-minutes, there is no place else I need to be, nothing else I need to be doing.” Repeat, as necessary.

3) Doing it consistently: Anything done consistently becomes a habit. Habits build momentum and momentum is a great help in keeping on top of your priorities. When I'm able to build the habit of early morning yoga practice, it becomes relatively easy to keep my six-day practice without feeling overwhelmed.

This carries over into other areas of life. My apartment is organised, because I make tidiness a priority. I do the dishes as soon as I've finished eating, I do the laundry, wash the floors, clean the bird cage, on a schedule (consistency!). When the closets get messy, I add an item to my to-do list to clean them. When I sense that I'm accumulating too many 'things', I go through and purge them. I use a calendar and schedule reminders for things I'm likely to forget, like meetings, workshops and bills.

Yoga doesn't have to be *your* priority. Perhaps, at this time in your life, your child is a top priority. Putting someone else, like a child, first is a wonderful yoga practice in of itself (a la Eknath Easwaran). Being mindful while spending time with your child is the best way to remain present. Being consistent in your care and interaction with your child will enhance the relationship.

In terms of staying organised, I could break this down more specifically and tell you that I always put my keys on a hook by the door when I come inside (so they won't be lost) and I always do my bookkeeping on Mondays, so by tax time the work is done and I'm able to simply hand everything over the accountant. But these specific strategies are different for everyone. Certainly, my sense of 'being organised' will look very different from yours.

Put simply, I view good habits of organisation as a way of conserving energy. Every time I lose something, or miss an appointment or forget to pay a bill, or damage a relationship through carelessness, I expend needless energy in worrying. And nothing saps energy like worry.

So, in a nutshell: Decide what your priorities are, and be uncompromising in your dedication to them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 228

I had another fantastic practice this morning. Specifically, it was fantastic because it felt good, I didn't dread it, there was no mental drama involved and the time flew by because I was enjoying myself. I prefer this serene feeling of well-being to making spectacular progress in any particular pose. I'll take the bliss over the breakthroughs. I feel like I'm in a general strength-building phase right now. Also, it was a sweaty practice - due to the warmer temperatures, certainly, but I know I've been working harder lately.

Spring has officially sprung here in the Great White North. Most of the snow has melted, though there are still random piles around here and there. In the past week I've spotted the first robin, the very first crocuses, and the inaugural Crazy Guy in Shorts (always remarkable here in Canada because our version of 'warmer weather' usually just means temperatures just above 0). The Tennis Fanatics were out in force at the Big Park as soon as the last bit of snow melted off the court on yesterday. My neighbours are coming out of hibernation.

Today, the high was 16C and I took the dog for a two hour long walk in the Ravine, a fairly new haunt for us - we stumbled across it this past winter. I bought new walking shoes yesterday, so I was trying to balance my desire to wear NEW! SHOES! with not getting them muddy, on the muddy trails. The weather was so beautiful in the evening that I took the dog for another walk. As we approached the stairs on the way to the Big Park, she turned around and gave me this look, like: “You've got to be kidding me - we're doing this AGAIN?”

Yes. Because the cabin fever is killing me.

Final sign of spring: I dug out my fleece vest. Life is good! ;-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day 227

Remember the Karma Pod? Well, it's been three months since I turned it in to the main police station. For all of my dramatic efforts with phoning Apple and trying to locate the owner, no one has claimed it. I phoned last week and the officer in charge cleared me to pick it up. The Property Centre is clear out in the west end of the city. After a long subway ride and a long bus ride, I located the squat, unremarkable little building where dodgy property goes to languish.

I now own a second iPod! I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but for now, I've cleaned it up and I'm using it. It's in mint condition - very few scratches because there was a sticky vinyl cover on it. All of my music doesn't fit on my white iPod, so I loaded the additional music (mostly jazz, classical music, soundtracks and latin stuff) onto the black iPod.

Since I have the space, I also loaded some podcasts. I've been listening to - and enjoying - the Visions of Cody podcasts. If you haven't heard any of these, you should give them a listen. They have some very funny moments. I've been listening to them on my daily walks and I'm sure the other people in the park must think I'm a crazy lady, given the way I've been cackling to myself.

Great practice this morning. I pulled out the Beryl DVD again and practised for an hour and a half. I'm mulling over the idea of practising with the DVD a few times every week, when I'm not pressed for time. Ironically, I seem to focus more deeply on breath when I'm using the DVD (yet, in my teacher's class, I really struggled with focus...). I also tend to rush through the down dogs and some of the standing poses. It's good for me to follow someone else's idea of 'five breaths' for a change.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 226

My day off was rather busy, with the morning spent teaching and the afternoon spent catching up on work. I did find some time to browse at the St. Lawrence Market and take the dog for a long walk though. It was very pretty out - the entire weekend has been nice.

Late Saturday afternoon, I turned off the computer and put it away for almost 24 hours. On Sunday morning, I slept in. Sundays always feel like a fresh start to me for many things, including my practice. More than anything, I wanted to start out my practice for the week strong and focused. I was in the mood for a led class, for being in a room with other students. Often, I think it would be nice to go to a local shala on Sundays, but it's too cost-prohibitive for me. Being a full-time yoga teacher is abundantly fulfilling in many ways, but not financially; studio classes are a rare special treat for me.

Instead, I pulled out my old Power Yoga DVD. I haven't used it in months. It was amusing to observe how 'easy' and comfortable is has become. The DVD provides a real basis for comparison because I struggled with it for so long. Beryl Bender Birch teaches Bakasana in that DVD and I was surprised to discover that I could jump back from Bakasana. I felt very strong in the standing poses. Inversions were fabulous and I felt like a total rockstar during the three backbends (when I first started out, I couldn't do three, and I couldn't hold one backbend for five breaths).

The DVD also provided a bit of an ego-check: my jump backs are weak and sloppy. My jump throughs are okay, but not particularly strong. At this point in my practice, I'm struggling with the transitions. And breath. And bandhas.

I had a really good practice. I'm back in a headspace where I'm excited and eager for my practice again. And I'm feeling strong.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 225

Today's practice might best be filed under 'A-work-in-progress'.

I didn't sleep well last night. Yesterday was physically taxing and I taught classes into the early evening. As often happens when I teach late, I was wired and agitated when I got home afterward. I wasn't sleepy. I didn't go to bed until after midnight, then slept restlessly. Wake-up call for my volunteer shift at the soup kitchen is 5 a.m. and it was a bit painful.

After returning from the soup kitchen (yawning), I walked the dog and sluggishly started to do my practice. I felt like I was moving within a vat of jello. I managed to get through the sun salutations and standing poses before I ran out of steam. In the middle of Janu Sirsasana C I realised I just couldn't go on. I literally didn't have it in me to do the rest of the series. It's arguable whether this was mental or physical resistance, but I'm pretty sure it was a bit of both. I chose surrender - got up, slid the mat aside and made my lunch. I ate and then I collapsed onto the futon and slept like the dead for two hours.

I was so tired.

I woke up groggy. I had errands to run, including the grocery shopping. The rain stopped and I managed to take the dog out for a walk. By this time, I was feeling better.

Five hours after I originally started my yoga practice, I finally slid the mat back to the middle of the room, sat down and continued at Marichyasana A as if I'd never stopped. And yes, I finally finished.

Sometimes, all you can do is your best. And keep trying, trying, trying.

Tomorrow is Moon Day and Saturday is my day off. I plan to rest and read tomorrow (and teach). The entire weekend is forecast to be gorgeously beautiful, with warm temperatures and sunshine. I'm sure I'll find some way to make the most of this boon!

I'll be back on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day 224

Early practice this morning, not that I had much of a choice. My day is jam-packed. I'm teaching five classes and they're oddly timed. It will be a challenge to find time to eat with all the running/riding around I'll be doing. I'm taking my bike out for our first excursion of the season. I wonder how out-of-shape I'll be for cycling? I guess I'll find out riding uphill on the way home!

The weather warmed up considerably yesterday. The high was 14C, which melted most of the snow in the park (it's truly magical how *fast* it melts). The roads are all fine.

A few weeks ago, a reader asked about the modified closing sequence I sometimes use in my practice. Over the past 9 months, I've sort of developed a 'philosophy' about the closing sequence and it's shaped how I approach this poses in my own practice and how I teach them.

For all intents and purposes - or *my* purposes, at least - the closing sequence is a cool-down. It should be relaxing or, at least, not overly taxing. I never skip closing, but I often cut myself some slack if I'm feeling tired or over-stimulated from the Primary Series. By taking it easy during my closing sequence, I find that it's easier to relax in Savasana.

The first thing I do to ease the intensity of the closing sequence is skip some of the vinyasas between poses. I usually do only two or three vinyasas, just enough to keep my body warm. I also soften and deepen my Ujjayi breathing. If I can't manage to focus on breath during the rest of the practice, I should at the very least be doing it during these poses (it's good practice!).

Depending on how I'm feeling - and by that I mean how my back and neck are feeling - I will sometimes modify the sequence further. When I'm feeling really under-the-weather or I'm on the verge of a Ladies Holiday, I'll even throw in the towel and do Viparita Karani for 10 minutes.

I'm not hard-core when it comes to closing and this is why: When you take away the shalas and the teachers and other students and your own judgement and expectations, this is YOUR practice. And the closing sequence should feel good, nourishing and prepare you to take your practice off the mat and into your world - whatever this means to you. You shouldn't dread your sequence and you shouldn't feel rotten after your practise. If you do, you need to take it down a notch or two.

So explore different modifications until you find the sequence that brings you ease. In time, the full closing sequence will do this for you, but don't beat yourself up over getting all of the details of shoulderstand perfectly when you're just beginning an Ashtanga yoga practice. Do what you can, learn the dristes and BREATHE!

What follows is the basic sequence that I teach my beginning Ashtanga students. This gives them a sense of the sequence and some of its benefits without the full postures (which none of my beginners can generally do).

1) Paschimottanasana (forward bend): The forward bend is an important counterpose to backbends, even if you're not practising the full expression of Urdhva Dhanurasana. Even the prep poses for backbends can stimulate the nervous system. Forward bends bring the body back into equilibrium.

2) Ardha Sarvangasana (half shoulderstand): I love this variation because almost everyone can do it, it places minimal stress on the neck and back and it feels comfy for most people. Starting on your back, roll backwards, swinging your legs up and bringing your hands to the sacrum (the flat area just below the low back) to support your body. Hold this 5-10 breaths.

Half Shoulderstand

3) Ardha Karna Pidasana (half squeeze-the-ears pose): Next, bring the legs back further and gently rest the knees near the forehead. The bend in the knees should allow most people - even those with cranky low backs or tight hamstrings - to do this pose. This is a nice preparation for Halasana. Hold for 5 breaths.

Modified Karna Pidasana

4) Ardha Matsyasana (half fish): This pose is mostly a chest lift and can be practised with the chin tucked toward the chest if your neck is sensitive. If your neck feels good, you can very gently drop you head back. At no time is the full weight of the body resting on the head - the weight of the body is supported by the arms. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

Modified Matsyasana

5) Sasangasana (rabbit pose): This pose is not a traditional part of the closing sequence - I add it because it offers some gentle shoulder-opening (which comes from the shoulderstand cycle in the traditional closing sequence) and introduces some gentle pressure on the crown of the head in preparation for Sirsasana. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.


6) Ardha Sirsasana (half headstand): In this headstand variation, the emphasis should be on the strength of the arms and shoulders. The crown of the head should barely be touching the mat. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Modified Headstand/Prep

7) Padmasana: This pose can be practised in simple cross-legged position, half-lotus or full-lotus. Hold for 10 breaths.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day 223

I briefly thought of pulling an April Fools gag today, but I can't think of one. I know very well that if I claimed to have taken a last-minute trip to India or grabbed my ankles in Urdhva Dhanurasana, you guys would totally be on to me. Instead, I present you with this list of successful April Fools hoaxes. I wish I could be half as clever!

I played a good ice hockey game last night. During the game, I consciously tried to slow myself down, particularly when I was handling the puck. A fellow player suggested that I use the 'three second rule' - when I received the puck, counting to three before I cleared or passed it. Three seconds is usually enough time to make a good passing decision without losing the puck to an opposing player.

This reminded me of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's suggestion to 'slow down, smile, and breath'. I tried to do this too. It may seem counter-intuitive in a game like ice hockey, but I genuinely enjoy the game and smiling seems to have a relaxing effect, clears my head and reminds me that I'm there to have fun - not act out anger or self-judge.

It was helpful. The game seemed very smooth and easy. I had two very nice shots on net and one assist. I played an effective defence and I was passing to another player about half of the times I cleared the puck from our zone. Ahhh, the yoga of hockey... ;-)

I was particularly tired this morning and since my morning class cancelled and I'm still fighting this cold, I opted for some extra sleep. I woke at 7:30 and launched into my regular routine, except I haven't yet gone for my walk. I'll do that after lunch when the sun comes out...

I teach just one class today. Tomorrow, my full schedule kicks back in. I'm teaching five classes tomorrow, two on Thursday, another couple on Friday and my regular Saturday. I'm looking forward to this busier schedule - ironically, I always seem to be more productive when I have less time.