Thursday, April 30, 2009


I spent an hour on the mat today doing restorative yoga, guided by Teacher H's restorative yoga CD. It felt like a long yoga vacation - very relaxing and soothing. At the same time, I didn't feel like I was *really* practising. When I got up from the mat, I felt like I had missed something. This isn't always the case - there are times when I have a great appreciation for a restorative practice. At the moment, though, I seem to be in more of an 'active mode' in my approach to yoga practice.

In the new configuration of my apartment, I no longer have a large swatch of wall space for Viparita Karani. So I moved the futon away from the wall, swept up the dust and did my practice there. It worked like a charm. I'm continuing to find things to love about the new layout. This morning, I woke up and opened my eyes to a pink sky. The futon faces the windows, which gives me a sweeping view of the city skyline if I'm sitting up, and of the sky if I'm laying down.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I'm glad I woke up early to do my practice because my Lady's Holiday hit a few hours afterward. My practice felt really good. The Epsom salt bath yesterday really helped; most of the soreness was gone today. I felt strong and focused, though just a bit sluggish. Afterward, I had another bad case of 'helium head'. I'm wondering if this is related to my Lady's or perhaps my body is adjusting to Full Primary? Hm...

I spent the rest of the day feeling wretched, as I almost always do during this time of month. I walked for an hour to distract myself, went to a meeting in the afternoon and taught classes until late evening.

I taught Tittibhasana B (Firefly Pose) in my youth yoga class. One of the girls is uber-bendy and is able to bind effortlessly. On a whim, I described Yoga Nidrasana and she happily folded herself into the posture. In fact, she was so happy to be there that she stayed for the duration of Savasana - about 3 minutes. After she unfolded herself, I encouraged her to do a 'gentle backbend' as a counter pose. She promptly leaned over backwards and planted her hands on the floor, then stood up, grinning at me.

*eye roll* Damned kids!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Episode III: Our heroine winces as she unrolls her mat, but manages to plow through yet another Full Primary with Beryl Bender Birch.

Ow, my rhomboids.

Still sore, but I felt better as I warmed up. I had a good practice, managed to do all of the binding stuff that I was doing yesterday. I'm still rocking Urdhva Dhanurasana, staying in the pose for the full duration of each hold and lowering down to my head in between repetitions. I don't know if my back is anymore open for all this effort, but I'm certainly building strength.

Full disclosure: I am substituting two poses in the series. For Janu Sirsasana C, which I hate anyway, I'm doing a quadracep stretch. In place of Setu Bandhasana, which I also hate, I'm laying over a bolster as a preparation for Urdhva Dhanurasana.

For a while there, I wondered if I should change the name of this blog because I wasn't doing very much Astanga. It's nice to be back to it. I feel better when I'm doing a longer practice. I have the time to devote to it (I'm not terribly busy at the moment) and I seem to be sustaining my enthusiasm for Full Primary.

I don't know how far I'll get with this Full Primary Streak I'm on (probably not too far, since my Lady's is coming up), but I'm riding the wave. I hope I will feel inspired to continue.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Welcome to Episode II, in which our heroine drags her aching body back onto the mat for another round of Beryl Bender Birch.

It should be noted that I opted out of Banana Pancakes in order to do my practice this morning. I was definitely tempted, but I knew that I wouldn't get through an hour-and-a-half of Beryl Bender Birch with a belly full of pancake. I'm still in awe of my resolve. I went for a long walk instead. Then I hit the mat.

So , yes, I'm sore. Very, very sore. I don't remember *ever* being this sore restarting full Primary, but I also never imagined that I would be doing so much of my practice again, this soon. Today, despite my achy Trapezius, I managed to bind to wrist in Marichyasana C, bind to fingers in Marichyasana D and I was able to bind in Supta Kurmasana.

I felt like a Celestial Magician just waved a wand over my head!

(Note to Self, for the next time I can't bind in Supta K: get those shoulders behind the knees! Further! Further still! Hold them there during Kurmasana. NOW try to bind! Yeah, you got it!)

After practice, I felt very woozy and light, like my body was filled with helium and a bit off-kilter. This feeling followed me all day. I felt like I might float away. By evening I was feeling 'grounded' again, but it was a little weird.

And I've been exhausted all day. I would have liked to take a nap after my practice or maybe walked to the park to enjoy the gorgeous weather (the high was 27C!). Alas, there were things I needed to do. I worked on a contract all afternoon, then came home and walked the dog.

Then there was the stuff that I *wanted* to do. I spent the evening with a big salad and a burrito from Burrito Bandidos (*heart*), cherry cheesecake and, *ahem*, a bottle of wine. Fun way to end the day!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Last night, while I read a book and played my guitar, a thunderstorm raged outside (my balcony fun was cut short by the storm moving in - and it was a doozy). I love sitting by the window and watching a storm. I felt all warm and cozy and happy.

Then I watched junk T.V. - reruns of Law and Order - while surfing around on iTunes listening to sound clips. I'm such a music junkie. I need a bigger high drive. And unlimited funds :-)

This morning, I woke with the entire day stretching ahead of me like a open-skied vista and decided to allocate a large chunk of that time to my practice. I dug out my old Beryl Bender Birch 'Power Yoga' DVD and did the full Primary Series.


It felt so good! it's funny how I never seem to hold the memory of how good the full Primary feels. I only seem to recall how difficult it can be. I had a wonderful, sweaty, vigourous practice and really surprised myself throughout. Vinyasa between each pose and each side of a pose didn't kill me. I can still do Garba Pindasana, though my hands aren't anywhere near my forehead as I roll. Alas, my bind is gone in Supta Kurmasana, but I easily came into and held Bakasana (Beryl slips it in after Ukatasana and the Warrior poses).

The biggest surprise was backbending. About once a week, I do a total 'play' practice with a lot of backbending and inversions (mostly handstand and headstand). As recent as last year, I remember really struggling with the backbending on this DVD. I never managed to make it through all three repetitions and I needed to rest in between each. Today, I held each Urdhva Dhanurasana for the duration, and only lowered my head to the floor in between. This is a *first*.

Really, I was flabbergasted. I really didn't think that my sporadic practice of Urdhva Dhanurasana/Ustrasana was doing me any good. I also wonder how much of this progress is due to my Yoga Streak (daily practice). Or perhaps mixing up styles of yoga has developed areas of my practice that might have been stagnating with Astanga alone.

Anyway, I felt like a million bucks at the end of my hour-and-a-half practice which, of course, means that I'm newly enthused about the Primary Series and determined to do the full series more often. We'll see how that plays out.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I was feeling very indecisive this morning, not sure whether I had the energy to go for a walk, or the time to squeeze in the walk *and* yoga both. I finally decided to do my yoga practice and save the walk for later. I had intended to do the sequence I'm teaching in my Hatha classes this week, but my back was feeling cranky, so I opted for a more intuitive practice.

I allowed my body to guide me from pose to pose, flowing from backbends to forward bends, into standing poses, then twists. I finished off with a few restorative poses and a long Savasana.

I biked downtown to teach a class, stopped by the Market, then headed home. It's a GORGEOUS day out. The high is supposed to be 28C. I was threatening to go to the beach all week, but I forgot that the lake cools the land temperature significantly - it was 10 degrees cooler on the Island, so sat out on the balcony instead and soaked up the sun like a sponge. Bliss!

Friday, April 24, 2009


This was one of those days that I really should have done my practice first thing in the morning, and I regretted that I didn't.

I slept in this morning. It was so much more fun to laze around talking and drinking coffee (a rare indulgence for me) than hop on the mat. Then I met up at noon with a good friend of mine for Thai food (my former-favourite Thai place has really gone downhill - the Pad Thai was *awful*) and ice cream (Greg's - a bowl full of Mocha! Delicious and SO not CR...).

Unfortunately, due to some personal circumstances, I had a tense afternoon. I was feeling down and very sorry for myself. I completely forgot about practising until late and unrolled my mat reluctantly.

I did a half-hearted Anusara practice and to my surprise, it really did make me feel better. I was in a better frame of mind as I drifted off to sleep shortly after.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I realised this morning that it's been over a week since I did an Astanga practice. So that's what I did, using the little application I've been using on my iPod to time the poses.

Before I started, I edited 'Routine', modifying the sequence I input the other day and fine tuning it. I brought all the holds down to 30 seconds, added extra steps so that two sides of Utthita Trikonasana, etc. were timed separately. I tried it out and though it worked very well, I realised that I didn’t have sufficient transition time between poses, especially in the seated poses, since I was doing vinyasa. I turned on the 'pause between steps' setting, but this really broke my flow.

I need to either add transitions between poses, bump up the time on the poses to include transition/vinyasa or persuade the developer to add the option to pause after each step rather than all-or-none (I've emailed him - I'm sure I'm not the first person to request this feature). I will mull this and revisit.

My noon class was so much fun that I realised that I felt like doing yoga again in the afternoon. This almost never happens, but happily, I had a children's yoga class to teach in the afternoon. I took my high energy to class and we worked on Urdhva Dhanurasana, dropbacks, Ustrasana, handstands and Supta Kurmasana.

I haven't done Supta Kurmasana in months, but I bound on the first try...then couldn't bind on subsequent tries. Oh well...need to open those shoulders, and hips and back and...

It was great fun and I left energised and exhausted, simultaneously. So I went and bought a burrito and BB's. :-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I'm loving the new set-up of my apartment. I watched an old episode of Law and Order SVU from the bed last night and I could actually *see* the television for a change (it used to live waaaay across the room). And I installed a light over the bed for optimal pre-sleep reading enjoyment.

I *adore* my little window seat. I've always wanted one. Sure it's a bit manufactured, but I can sit and watch the sun rise from this spot in the morning. And I had tea at my tiny kitchen table this morning.

Living in such a tiny space is something I've grown accustomed to and I'm skilled at using the square footage of have in the most efficient possible way. But I've raised the bar this time - my apartment has never been so functional. I guess I'll stay here for another couple years ;-)

I woke this morning determined to do my practice before anything else. I felt dance-y, so I did a half-hour of Journey Dance (moving through my now-larger space with delight), then a half-hour of Anusara. I was soaked in sweat by the time I finished.

I'm finding myself drawn back into Anusara lately, spontaneously doing handstands around the apartment, engaging in more 'voluntary' backbending. ;-) It's interesting how a daily practice allows me to meander down these paths - dance, difference styles of yoga. Some days, it feels like sheer drudgery, but on others, it's like play.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This morning, I caught the furniture rearranging bug. I thought it might be neat to move my huge purple-heart-n-cherry hope chest over by the west window to create a window seat/reading nook. But it didn't make sense to do that if the reading nook would be right beside the bed and what about the glare problem I've been dealing with on my computer screen and T.V.? Wouldn't it make sense to move all that stuff to the sides of the room so I could type/watch junk T.V. glare-free.

And so on and so on...

By mid-morning my 250 square foot city apartment was chaos: furniture scattered, wireless router unplugged, phone relocated, art taken down from the walls. Space, as you can imagine, is at a premium when you live in a glorified closet (at university, I stayed in more spacious dorm rooms). Also, I needed to insure the optimal amount of space to do yoga.

I ended up moving the bed to a side of the room it had never before occupied. I relocated the wall unit to position the television at an optimal non-glare angle and my desk is perpendicular to the window to prevent glare on my computer screen. And I have a window seat! And (bonus!) a little meditation nook! And (bonus!) a small dining area off the kitchen. Right now, I'm eating off a T.V. tray but a trip to Ikea for a small table may be in my future.

Imagine, eating off a table like a civilized human being! I feel reincarnated...

In the course of this shuffling, I unearthed more dog-sized dust bunnies than I care to admit. The whole apartment is still floating in a cloud of dust motes as I type, but I washed the floor and did yoga in my new larger-than-ever yoga-space (how did I managed to find more floor in this apartment? how?!).

I'm still rockin' the Routine application on my iPod Touch. This time, I set up an intense half-hour Anusara sequence. It was terrifically fun. :-)

I laid over my bolster for a full minute for launching into Urdhva Dhanurasana. It really does seem to help.

Now I'd better make sure my bed actually folds out and doesn't collide with the desk. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 20, 2009


Over the past few days, I've been working on a contract for a local university, marking papers for a technology course. It's the kind of intense, time-sensitive work that leaves sinks full of dishes and not-walked-enough dogs in its wake.

I've been hunkered down indoors with my iPod and a red pen since yesterday, trying to finish up the last bit. Fortunately, the weather has been atrocious (cold, rainy, feels like October) and my stomach has been in knots (food poisoning), so I wasn't very tempted to venture outside anyway.

I finished up the project around noon, organised everything and sent it off. I didn't step on the mat until late evening, though. And I wasn't feeling very ambitious.

I started doing sun salutations and ended up concocting a mixture of Surya Namaskara A with the classical Hatha salutation. Fun! I think I'll play around with that some more. I did a few standing poses, but was feeling pretty yucky so I moved to the floor.

I laid over the bolster again in a supine backbend. I don't know if this is making a difference, but my back has been feeling fine at night (I've had no recurrence of the lower-back-pain episode that was so horrific a few days ago). The bolster feels *awful* for the first minute until everything begins to release, then I can find the ease.

Best part is, it really does work! I tentatively tried Urdhva Dhanurasana afterward and it felt comfortable.

Note to self - do more of this:

Sunday, April 19, 2009


The party was fun and I did eat cupcakes - three of them - but I flirted with stomach cramps during most of the evening. Anything alcoholic was simply out of the question. I've discovered a new-found passion for sparkling water. I used to hate it, now I crave it. The last time I recovered from a GI trauma, I had a passion for bagels, so I'm not complaining! At least water is more compatible with CR (which I'm once again ignoring - I'm all 'restriction' and no 'nutrition').

As the party was winding down, our friends said they were going to a church service. They're Greek and it was Holy Saturday in the Greek Orthodox tradition, a traditional candlelight mass. On a whim, I decided to tag along. The church was crowded when we arrived and at first I felt a bit like an imposter. I was handed a candle pushed through a paper cup and I held it hesitantly. At the front, priests and altar boys dressed in elaborate silk robes were singing and carrying ceremonial objects. I felt like I had landed on another planet.

Then the lights went out. The church was blanketed in darkness and the first flame appeared like a tiny spark. Then another and another as the fire spread from candle to candle. Soon, the church was lit in a warm glow. The women next to me lit my candle and when I turned around to offer my flame, a young woman and then an old man reached out to receive it. In that moment, I was so moved that I had tears in my eyes.

As the priest sang out, the crowd moved their candles roughly in unison in the sign of the cross. It was like a graceful and beautiful dance of fire.

The end of the service had a celebratory mood. The priest sang out: “Christos anesti” (Christ has risen) and the crowd responded “Alithos anesti” (Truly he has risen).

Then, almost as soon as it had started, it was over. The lights came on on everyone pushed their paper cups up the candlestick to shield the flame from the wind outside. Families carried their candles back to their homes to light oil lamps with the sacred flame. I carefully my candle and handed it off before racing for a streetcar. As I waited to board, my friends shouted out the window “Christos anesti!” I shouted back: “Alithos anesti!”

Today was definitely one of those days when my yoga practice was pushed until the very last minute. After a long day working on the contract, I took a long, hot bath, then toddled to my mat for a restorative practice. The highlight was a long, long interval spent hanging over a bolster in a supine backbend, followed by Balasana. I practically fell asleep in the backbend.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I woke up this morning feeling so much better, but my back was killing me - mostly tension in my lumbar spine. The spasms were so intense that they woke me from a deep sleep. I laid over my Acuball for about 15 minutes, then did a very brief Hatha practice that focused on releasing the low back. Then I biked downtown to teach my noon class.

I'm feeling fine, but it was a relief to come home and relax for a few hours, mess around on the Internet and read a book. I'm still feeling woozy and I have no appetite at all. I need to rest up because my birthday party is tonight and I would like to eat at least one of the cupcakes I bought today!

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm glad I did my practice (a half-hour of Hatha yoga) in the morning because by early afternoon, I was completely out of commission. I went out for lunch at my favourite sushi restaurant for my birthday yesterday. This morning, I was feeling groggy and unwell, but the food poisoning didn't hit me until after I returned home from my noon class.

I thought I was going to die. I never imagined I would die in my bathroom. Ug.

You may remember that late last summer, I was terribly ill with a horrible gastro-intestinal thing. This felt exactly like *that* and I was terrified that I had been struck down yet again (that plague had me on bed rest for weeks after a hospital stay). I spent the afternoon curled up in a fetal position wondering if life was actually worth living.

Fortunately, I'm on the mend now, though still feeling shaky. I had some soup and gingerale and so far I'm keeping it down. Pray for me - I teach again noon tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today is my birthday! It's also a heavy teaching day for me - I had four classes to lead. I like teaching on my birthday, though. It's fun to tell the students and see their eyes widen.

In the youth class I teach at a private school the children broke into a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You!' and we danced around wildly to the tune. Then they all tried to guess how old I am. “You're 17!” “You're 50!” (when I asked her to guess again, she asked shyly, “Older?” and I laughed and groaned). One of my older students got it - she remembered: “You're 39!”

And I am. But I don't feel 39. I feel like I'm still in my early 30s. I have a feeling that 40 is going to take me by surprise. How did I get here?

Practice was a mixture of Hatha and a lot of backbends. I've been thinking a lot about backbends and how differently they feel for me from day to day. Today was a bad backbend day, but I decided to just experience the stiffness and tension and explore it with my breath. Survey says: Yuck.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


This was one of those days that slipped away from me. Before I knew it, I was packing my bag to go teach my evening classes without having accomplished anything I was hoping to.

The good: Banana pancakes at my favourite café. Long walk with the dog.

The 'eh-whatever': The rest of the day, in which I did pretty much nothing.

My yoga practice was 15 minutes on the mat, trying to figure it all out (I didn't). Today was not a great day for making decisions. I did a few Hatha-style sun salutations, a few standing poses, spent too much time in my forward bends because I was tired.

It all felt very forced. It happens sometimes. Usually on a day like today, I wouldn't have practised at all. Instead, I'm on the mat with all my baggage and lethargy and indecision. So this is what yoga on a 'bad day' looks like.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


My Geeky Adventures continued today with the Routine app on my iPod.

I sat down and enjoyed 20 geeky minutes of entering my modified Swenson Short Form, including my custom added poses (technology makes me so happy!). But I completely forgot to add different sides for poses like Utthita Trikonasana, so it didn't work very well in practice. I need to go back and edit the sequence and also take the holds down to 30 seconds for each pose.

But in theory, it's terrific!

I'm back to pondering the holds in my poses and thinking that for some of them, I may increase the hold to 1 minute. While waiting to chat with Natasha Rizopoulos at the Yoga Show, I overheard her say that she's moved toward longer holds (8-10 breaths) even in the context of an Astanga practice.

Because I'm on the mat daily, I've found the space to fine tune my practice in ways I wouldn't have imagined even last year. Experimenting helps to keep me engaged and it's fun!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Getting my daily practice in while I'm at the house has continued to be a challenge for me.

Taken out of my own space and routine, I seem to opt for 'sloth' every time. That's what I did all day today - well, that and I ate away at a chocolate bunny! I finally found my way to the mat in the evening. The front room was covered in laundry and the downstairs was dark and cold, so I set up in the hallway next to the bathroom. I could see my reflection of my foot in the Cuba print at the end of the hall as I did Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana!

I didn't do a full Primary. I did the sun salutations and a scattering of standing and seated poses for about 20 minutes. For a short practice, it was a good one - I felt great afterward and I'm happy that I managed to fit it in.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm having a total Yoga Geek moment with my iPod Touch.

First of all, let me say about the Touch: I've never had as much fun with any gadget as I've had with this one. Ever. It's awesome. I bought it at Christmas and it's been nothing but fun since then. My life pretty much revolves around it: music (I love music and use it mainly as an MP3 player), apps (for general entertainment) GTD (for tracking goals and tasks), games (sometimes; I'm not a big game player but I have a few favourites).

So it was only a matter of time before I found a way to merge my Yoga obsession with my iPod Touch obsession. I tried out the various 'yoga apps' that I could find for free and none of them inspired any excitement. I don't need to be shown what Triangle Pose looks like and I don't really care to do someone else's idea of a perfect Hatha sequence (boring!). Mainly, I wanted a way to create my own sequences and time them.

I found my app! It's called 'Routine' and is intended for multi-use: sports, GTD, meditation, interval training, whatever. I discovered it when I realised that the countdown timer on my Touch didn't count down to seconds. 'Routine' allows countdown to seconds (so I can hold poses for a minute and a half, ie: 90 seconds), but it also allows the creation of custom yoga sequences with different hold times for each pose. This is handy for those of us who don't need to be told what a pose looks like, we just need it timed.

This afternoon, I quickly created a 31 minute Yin Yoga sequence that looks like this (poses mostly in English just to make things easy):
Lay over blocks, medium height - 90 sec
Lay over blocks, low height - 90 sec
Downward Dog - 90 sec
Deep lunge right side - 60 sec
Deep lunge left side - 60 sec
Supta Padangusthasana right side, leg up - 90 sec
Supta Padangusthasana right side, leg to side - 90 sec
Supta Padangusthasana left side, leg up - 90 sec
Supta Padangusthasana left side, leg to side - 90 sec
Downward Dog - 60 sec
Pigeon right side - 90 sec
Pigeon left side - 90 sec
Downward dog - 60 sec
Modified Tortoise w/ block - 90 sec
Reclined Hero - 60 sec
Child's Pose - 90 sec
Supine twist right - 90 sec
Supine twist left - 90 sec
Savasana - 5 minutes

The application prompts you with a 'ding' after each hold is complete (you can disable this feature if you just want to flow through it - I will do this for Vinyasa/Astanga sequences).

I just finished doing the Yin sequence above and the application worked great! I can't wait to create some more sequences. This is a great tool to keep me on track for days when I'm distracted or want to hold poses for longer periods. Or I just want to geek out with my iPod and do some magical geeky yoga.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Day two of the holiday was partially a working day for me. I taught a class in the morning, then chatted with my accountant about my taxes.

Eeek! Taxes!

I hate even thinking about finances. The good news is, I'm getting a nice refund. :-) The bad news is that it's just enough to pay off my stupid credit card. :-(

I'm working on a contract over the next week which will bring in another cheque, just enough to pay off a loan from a friend. This is one of those years when everything feels like 'one step forward, two steps back.'

I escaped to the park with the dog for an hour, did modified primary afterward and laid around in Savasana for 15 minutes. When I felt sufficiently soft and gumby-like, I went out for a sushi lunch. Sushi may not solve all my problems but it can help me forget them. Besides, nothing is going to be open tomorrow, so I might as well live it up today.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Today was a total bliss-out day. I woke this morning and resolved that the day would truly be a Friday full of Goodness. To start, I walked the dog for an hour in the sunshine. The weather is warming up, finally.

My practice was interesting. Using the CD I bought at the Yoga Show, I did Journey Dance for an hour and then segued right into a vinyasa-style Hatha practice. I'm loving the dancing. It makes me keen to try Nia, which I've heard is similar, but a bit more structured.

Yoga, even Astanga, is static even when it's flowing; it's rooted in stillness. It's a nice change to move my body in a flowing, fluid, continuous way. I broke into a sweat, moved erratically across the floor. I found myself deeply and intimately connected with my breath in a way that's different from my experience of breath in yoga.

It's hard to describe. I didn't notice this connection when I was doing Journey Dance in the big group (perhaps because I was so aware of the other people and energies swirling around me). On the Journey Dance CD, Tony Bergins is constantly talking about breathing, urging you to move with the breath and allowing the breath to move you; the breath is the focal point and the movement emerges from it. I like this. A lot. I found that it brought me into a deep connection with my breath as I moved into yoga practice from the dance.

As I moved in vinyasa, I found myself moving around more. I started waving my arms back and up during the sun salutations a la Shiva Rea and I finally started to *understand* that approach to flow yoga. I really enjoyed the feeling of my body moving in space. (After I finished my practice, I found myself swaying around as I did the dishes, swept the floor.).

After vinyasa and a few standing poses, I moved into Yin Yoga. This is a type of yoga that I haven't explored a lot. I know that other Astangis are interested in it (Arturo mentions it in his blog). I used my timer and focused on holding poses for 90 seconds.

At the Yoga Show, I chatted with the Yin Yoga guy. He was explaining that it takes 90 seconds for the fascia and connective tissues around a muscle to release. I seem to have come to a plateau in my flexibility and I'm wondering if this may help me move past that. I enjoyed it, sort of. 90 seconds feels like a long time. ;-)

The rest of the day was just decadent. It's kind of a tradition with me to go out for lunch on Good Friday. Years ago, restaurants were closed on Good Friday, but things have loosened up. It seemed like the entire city was out and about. I ran into two friends as I biked around the city.

I went out for lunch and ended up having Caesars while we waited for the food. Then wandered around Kensington Market and on the way home, stopping at Futures for chocolate cake.

Anyway...all of this to say, it really was a Good Friday.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I had a great practice today, the best since before the conference. I felt energetic and fully present on my mat. My classes went great as well. Come to think of it, I've been in a daze all week. I feel like I've been in a kind of fog that just lifted.

All of my students were giddy with joy about the holiday weekend. I grew up in the States, so it's still difficult for me to get used to the fuss that's made of Easter in Canada. Easter is a four-day weekend here. Good Friday is a holiday, Sunday is a holiday and Monday is too. Too bad the weather hasn't warmed up at all. It's sunny, but still unseasonably cool. The daffodils aren't even out yet.

In celebration of the holiday, I bought a bag of those malted 'robin eggs' as a treat. They last less than a day - I just polished them off. Not being Christian, Easter is just an excuse to eat chocolate. And be lazy - I'm looking forward to four days of lazy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Today was a bit better. It doesn't help at all that we're having what amounts to February weather in April. Yesterday, the temperature with wind chill was -9. This morning, I decided to take the dog for a long walk but we turned around after a few minutes because it was too cold.

Faced with a lack of inspiration on the mat, I turned on the heater and did my modified Primary. It was a relief to move through the familiar poses.

After that, I curled up on the futon with a book and didn't move until it was time to catch the train to my evening yoga classes. The book was amazing - I couldn't put it down. I'm going through a Mormon Polygamy reading phase.

So far, I've tackled 'Under the Banner of Heaven' by John Krakauer, 'Stolen Innocence' by Elissa Wall and 'Keep Sweet' by Debbie Palmer. Next up is 'Daughter of the Saints' by Dorothy Solomon. Then I may well be tapped out on that particular subject but I'm open to suggestions.

Actually, I love riveting non-fiction of any kind. If you have a favourite you'd like to recommend, drop me a line in the comments.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I did a half-hearted sort of Hatha practice today, with some sun salutations, standing poses, a few seated poses, but my heart wasn't in it.

The most unexpected aspect of the Yoga Show is that it turned out to be a sort of 'escape' from reality. It almost felt like a vacation. Even though I was spending the day in my own city, the conference centre seemed far, far away. I felt completely immersed in yoga, yet the only effort I had to make for my practice was to show up.

Back to reality now and I'm feeling a let down and I'm super unmotivated, lazy and a bit glum.

Monday, April 6, 2009


My calves feel like two heavy, sore logs attached to my legs. Ug. I don't think it's from all the yoga. More likely, it's due to Journey Dance and perhaps a small part of the blame can be given to all of the crazy moving squatting things I did in those Shiva Rea-esque Prana Flow classes. Anyways...ouch.

I did a small restorative practice right before I went to bed. I did several hip and hamstring stretches, plus an intense twist learned at Natasha's session yesterday. To be honest, I *am* a bit burned out on yoga at the moment. It's also strange to be back to a home practice. Alone on my mat, it's a bit of a let down not to have Rodney Yee stop by to adjust my downward facing dog, or enjoy a wicked adjustment in upward facing pigeon from Natasha Rizopolous. The truth is, I love taking yoga classes and I miss them. Something to think about, I guess.

I'm still playing my guitar with great dedication. Like yoga, it's a daily practice and my guitar teacher seems pleased with my progress. I'm delighted with my progress so far. I just can't believe how much guitar I can play! I can sing and plan songs! (at the same time!) I can play fancy stuff! It's all very exciting... Alas, today's lesson is the last until mid-May. There were too many scheduling conflicts to set something up so I'm on hiatus until then. Still practicing, though. Teacher has given me “I've Just Seen a Face” by the Beatles to learn.

Ice Hockey finals were tonight and my team played for 5th place. Despite being short-handed and not having a goaltender, we won the game 7-6. I was deeply exhausted and didn't stay long at the pub afterward. The end of the ice hockey season is the end of ice skating for me, until the season starts back up in September.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yoga Show, Day 3

Today was the last day of the show. I almost didn't go. Outside, the wind was howling (winter doesn't want to let go in Canada - it feels like February). I wondered if I really wanted to ride my bike all the way to the convention centre when I had a good book to read at home. Curiosity won out. I wanted to know if Pilates Guy would be camped out for a third day - he was. I'm glad I showed up. It was a good day.

If yesterday's theme was 'How Not to Teach', today's was 'How to Teach Like a Rockstar'.

The presentation on anatomy totally blew me away. If you're a teacher or a senior practitioner, chances are you've heard of Ray Long's yoga anatomy books. But seeing him in person was mindblowing. The books literally came to life. Right there on the screen sat Mr. Skeleton with his various layers of muscle cheerfully exposed. Mr. Skeleton flexes his rhomboids and voila! His shoulder blades move together! You could observe the movement of the ribcage as Mr. Skeleton took a deep inhalation. What does Mr. Skeleton use his seratus anterior for? Well, let's find out! The audience was rapt.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I went up to ask the guy at the computer which software they used to create this miracle. He said it was standard 3D software that they had jazzed up. My geeky-yoga side was all aflutter.

Natasha Rizopolous was once on the cover of Yoga Journal (and I recall she looked pretty good; she's a gorgeous woman). That magazine cover was the extent of my knowledge of her. Well, she walked up on that stage and *completely* blew me away. She's an incredibly gifted teacher and her teaching style really speaks to me (probably because it's so similar to my own, except better. Much better). The clarity and specificity of her instruction was absolutely stunning. Her approach to various familiar-to-me postures was unique and well-grounded in anatomy and body mechanics. She had an eagle eye on the large group she was teaching. She walked around and gave subtle, but effective adjustments. I walked away from that session with pages of notes.

Many presenters sprinted away after their sessions, but Natasha stuck around afterward to answer specific questions one-on-one. I had a heart-to-heart with her regarding some of the challenges I'm facing as a teacher. Her advice was clear and on-the-money. If I could, I would sign up for her teacher training immediately (it's on my life-list). I'll definitely be on the look-out for any of her workshops I can attend.

Doug Swenson (brother of David Swenson and author of several books, including 'Power Yoga for Dummies') was one of the 'big names' at the conference. As his session grew closer, all the hard-core Astangis started streaming in. ;-) Doug led us through a few sun salutations, then we all sat down for the grand finale: The Yoga Demonstration. You can see these things in books or on a DVD, but there's something very jaw-dropping about seeing an advanced Astanga practitioner in person, doing his thing a few feet away from you. I don't go to a shala, so I don't often have the opportunity to see an advanced practitioner. It was stunning and inspiring!

There were some cancellations in the afternoon, so another session of Journey Dance was slotted in. That's how I ended my day. I enjoyed this hour-long version of Journey Dance just as much as the full two-hour session. I bought Toni Bergin's Journey Dance CD, though I know that it will be a different experience doing it at home. Dancing in a huge group has energetic power. It was actually an interesting experience doing Journey Dance in a public space. Even though I knew people were watching me, I still felt free and uninhibited. This is the power of the group.

My overall impression of the Yoga Show was very positive. I definitely think it's worth the $15 entrance fee to see and experience the instruction of so many advanced practitioners. I would definitely do this again. In fact, having had a chance to look at the pricing structure for the conference workshops, I think I would sign up as early as possible to get into a few key workshops with people I respect (like Natasha Rizopolous or Mark Darby) and then spend the rest of my time at the show, interacting with vendors and catching sessions at the Yoga Garden.

Here's a rundown of my sessions today:
Ray Long - Anatomy
Nathasha Rizopolous - Home Yoga Practice
Jennifer Weinert - Purna Yoga
David Newman - Kirtan
Doug Swenson - Astanga Yoga Demonstration
Toni Bergins - Journey Dance

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yoga Show, Day 2

I taught a class in the morning, so I walked in the door just in time to see Seane Corn conclude her session in the Yoga Garden. I sat down for the meditation. I really, really wish I could have seen her teach. By the way, Seane Corn's hair? Not as curly as it is in the posters. Just sayin'.

Today, I brought along my light 'teaching mat', which I'm perfectly at ease leaving unattended. Then I staked out a spot and took off to find some yummy snacks before the next session. Whenever a session got dull, I wandered off to the booths to play with yoga merch and chat up the vendors.

I had some really amazing conversations. I'm in the midst of doing some marketing and outreach for my teaching. I chatted up a very successful teacher from Ottawa who has just launched two new DVDs. He gave me some great tips about getting my foot in the door for corporate yoga and marketing my services for private sessions.

I also *ahem* had some birthday money in my wallet. I bought a few things. I replaced my cheap mala with a lovely tiger's eye mala. I bought Dr. Cohen's AcuBall at a discount. And I bought a product very similar to YogaToes called 'Healthy Toes'. The latter may prove to be the most fun because I've been making silly jokes about YogaToes for years. Reviews coming soon.

Yes, I know, I know. I was rolling my eyes about merch, but I caved in. At least I didn't buy the yoga mat bag I was eyeing. It was a beautiful bag, but I already have a bag that I never use (but resistance may be futile - I grabbed the bag-makers business card).

I started to recognise some familiar faces in the Yoga Garden today. I'm not the only one 'camped out' there. I chatted at length with another yoga teacher who, like me, got a freebie pass to the show. The pilates teacher behind me does this every year - he buys a three-day show pass for $15 and camps out in the Yoga Garden for the sessions. I ran into someone from the YTT I attended six years ago. I chatted with yoga students who are here for the free classes. It was fun.

I attended 9 half-hour sessions. Today's theme seemed to be “How Not to Teach.” The biggest surprise was how many 'famous' teachers are actually ineffectual assholes in a real teaching situation. A few of the Big Names absolutely left me cold. Also, if Shiva Rea's adherents are any indication, I'm just not into Prana Flow yoga. It's not my thang.

I also reconfirmed that I really dislike Pilates. I knew this already, but the few Pilates presenters reminded me that if I never do 'the hundred' again in my life, I won't be missing much.

Nischala Joy Devi totally wowed me with her guided relaxation. When I saw her on the schedule, I thought: "Uh oh. Flake-o-rama'. I couldn't have been more wrong. She's a great lady, a clear and compelling teacher and she accomplished something truly impressive: she got me to slow down for a half-hour. Although it's entirely possible that I was so exhausted at this point I would have fallen into a soft silly putty state regardless, Nischala rendered me floppy and drooling in under ten minutes. I can't recall the last time I felt so deeply relaxed. I emerged feeling like a million bucks. I'm seriously going to seek out her relaxation CD. Loved her!

The highlight of the day: I got to meet Rodney Yee and his lithe, velour-short-shorts-clad companion, Colleen (read about the scandal here). In my DVD player, Rodney is forever young, trapped in a world that is perpetually the 90s. In person, Rodney's black pony tail is threaded with gray and he's looking a bit worse for the wear. He's aging! Who woulda thunk it? But he gave a great class and I have to admit, he and the infamous Colleen made a wicked team. I actually liked them.

And I have to admit, it's never a bad day when you get a nice adjustment in downward facing dog from Rodney Yee. (it was just a bit surreal watching him stroll around the Yoga Garden during the class, like my DVD player had exploded into life...or sucked me into its screen).

I left early because I had a dinner to go to. I missed the Hare Krishnas and the woman demonstrating a yoga strap sewn together in two places which she is selling for $40. *eye roll* (Neat idea, maybe I'l buy a strap and sew two loops into it).

Here's a rundown of the sessions I attended today:
Seane Corn - Ashtanga Yoga
Twee Merrigan - Prana Flow
Neil Perason - Yoga for Chronic Pain
Jonathan Urla - Yogilates
Alycea Ungaro - Pilates
Michelle Cormack - 5 Elements Vinyasa Flow
Anodea Judith - The Chakras
Nischala Joy Devi - Guided Relaxation
Rodney and Colleen Yee - Yoga

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yoga Show, Day 1

A few days ago, a colleague contacted me out of the blue and offered me a free ticket to the upcoming 'Yoga and Pilates Conference and Show'. She's a personal trainer and is completely disinterested and bored by yoga (resulting in hilarious conversations; another story for another time). She had no interest in using this ticket, which was for the 'show', so she gave it to me.

Full disclosure: I'm a yoga conference skeptic. For years, I've kind of rolled my eyes at the whole thing and if anyone asked, told them that it was an silly waste of money. So I had *really* low expectations going in. I figured that a one-day pass to the 'show' would get me two hours on my feet, looking at Yoga T-shirts, yoga socks, mala beads, palm readers and maybe a few good food samples. I was right about the food samples, but there was more...

I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, the people at the door were not communicating well and after I offered my free one-day coupon to get in, I was presented with a three-day wristband instead of the one-day hand stamp. Oops.

For the first little bit, as expected, I walked around and rolled my eyes a lot. But then I got my hands on a Show schedule and discovered that in the 'Yoga Garden' area, there are free workshops going on all day. Pretty much anyone who's anyone at this conference was giving a short presentation at the Yoga Garden at some point during the weekend. For free.

So I camped out in the Yoga Garden on a loaner mat and did free yoga classes. It was awesome.

I did about two hours of yoga, in bits and pieces. In the process, I experienced some of the stupidest vinyasa yoga I've ever encountered, learned about yoga and neuroscience, listened to a fabulous presentation entitled 'Yoga for the Planet' (an anti-consumerism rant that was ironic, given the location), and was inspired by some amazing teachers (and dumbfounded by some very bad ones).

There was one Astanga session, with Mark and Joanne Darby. I was excited about this because I use their DVD periodically. The session was short, really just sun salutation A. I spoke with Mark afterward though and found him to be a kind, modest and helpful. It was such a pleasure to meet the two of them in person. I was also deeply impressed by the Himalayan Institute's Rolf Sovik, who did a short presentation on Yoga for Meditation. His session was rich with information on strengthening the back for long periods of sitting.

In the evening, there was a free two-hour session of 'Journey Dance' with Toni Bergins. I had seen this advertised at a local yoga studio but couldn't go, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try it. It was really wonderful. If you like touch-feely hippy-style free-dance, then this would be right up your alley. I felt like a 5-year-old kid again, particularly during the part where we danced around with floaty silk scarves. The two hours passed by quickly. I emerged sweaty and happy.

All in all, it was worthwhile and I'm going back tomorrow, since I have the option to.

For reference, here are the sessions I attended:
Maria Garre - Vinyasa Flow
Lisa Black - Baptiste Yoga (but it was really a lecture on pre-natal; *yawn*)
Blake Martin - The Brain and Yoga
Mark and Joanne Darby - Ashtanga Yoga
Bernie Clark - Yoga for the Planet
Rolf Sovik - Yoga for Meditation
Yogi Vishvketu - Yoga

Thursday, April 2, 2009


To my surprise, I really bounced back today in a big way and dove right into a backbending practice. Yes, backbends!

I warmed up with sun salutations and a few standing poses, did one hip opener and then, spontaneously came into Urdhva Dhanurasana. It felt so good, I did it again. And again. In between each backbend, I came into Baby Turtle. I did this about 10 times, holding the backbend progressively longer.

I also used the wall and practised drop backs and experimented with hanging back.

My teacher once told me that backbends are helpful for cramping during Lady's Holiday, but I didn't believe her and certainly never felt well enough to follow up on the suggestion. It's interesting how my body 'craved' this practice and how well I felt afterward.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Just like that, my Lady's Holiday hit, a few days early and inconveniently, on my busiest day of classes in about a month. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, but instead I got to stand in front of a room and teach for 4 hours. *sigh*

So today was a restorative yoga day with practice sandwiched between a hot bath and a warm bed.