Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'm spending a few days at the house. It's challenging to find time and space to do a daily practice of the Primary Series when I'm away from home, but I'm determined. My solution: rise early and practise in the morning. I never manage to do this at home, but I went to bed early last night in hopes that I could do it here.

And I did! I woke around 6 a.m., plodded downstairs to put the kettle on for tea, then set up my mat near MB Buddha in the front room. I placed the dog's basket near the front of my mat (she likes to be near me as I do yoga). This is what my yoga space looks like at the house:

Not a lot of room to either side, unfortunately, so I have to move to the hallway for Supta Padagunsthasana and Garba Pindasana is a bit tight. But I have windows to the west and east. This time of morning, the light streams in through the trees. Dappled sunlight, nice!

I practised the full Primary Series this morning. I don't have a towel or Mysore rug to use at the house. This wasn't a problem until I tried to slide my feet forward in Kurmasana and (worse!) bring my feet together in Supta Kurmasana. The mat caught on my feet and bunched up. The lack of a rug also made jumpthroughs awkward. This summer, I want to purchase a Manduka towel. When I do, I'll leave my old rug at the house (it's getting very thin anyway and is due to be replaced).

It's not as warm in the house as it is in the apartment (particularly right now - we're having a cold spell), but I worked up a decent sweat in my practice. I was able to bind in all the variations of Marichyasana and in Supta Kurmasana. I practised headstand against the wall because I didn't want to risk falling and breaking something (making a loud crashing sound would also be bad). I threw a blanket over myself in Savasana.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Technically speaking, I'm still on my Lady's but it's Day 3 and I'm feeling okay, plus I really, really missed doing my practice. And Saturdays are my favourite practice days: sleep in, go teach a morning yoga class, pick up a Death By Chocolate Cookie at the farmer's market, ride my bike home through the city and hit the mat (then a hot bath, chai tea and the cookie, plus a good book!).

I *loved* my yoga practice today. It's been weeks since I felt this open and focused. I did all of Primary but skipped closing and went straight to Savasana (can't do the inversions right now). Everything just clicked into place today like puzzle pieces. I felt bendy in all the right places, strong when it mattered, binding everything that was bindable. My back felt fine in Kurmasana and in Supta Kurmasana, I reached my hands back and easily grabbed my fingers. There was no effort involved, it was just *there*. I actually pondered for a moment what it might be like to grab my wrist.

I often wonder how much my monthly cycle and the hormonal changes that go along with it affect my flexibility and openness in poses. I definitely noticed a difference today in comparison to earlier in the week - it was stark. At times, I felt light and floaty.

In the interest of taking backbending more seriously, I want to document my Urdhva Dhanurasana regularly. I'm going to try to do this on Saturdays from now on. Here is today's photo:

This is a huge improvement from the photo I took just one week ago (May 23). I compared it to a backbend photo from last year and noticed that my arms are even straighter!

Lately, I've been doing some exercises to open up my chest and armpits. My favourite involves placing my palms on the upper door frame of my bathroom and hanging forward. I wonder how much two days of restorative yoga and hanging out over the bolster came into play here? I must be doing something right - I'm going to keep doing it!

Friday, May 29, 2009


With the arrival of summer produce and locally produced foods, it's been much easier to fall back into a healthier pattern of eating. I've been more-or-less doing CR for the past month but the 'optimal nutrition' part has been missing (though I have been making sure to get my daily allowance of protein).

I'm not logging my foods every day, but do so occasionally just to see where I'm at. I'm keeping a simple formula: greens and protein. I've been buying big tubs of spinach and making spinach salads, accompanied by a protein source on the side. I discovered those little tins of flavoured tuna and salmon and I'm now addicted to them. At the moment, I'm in a 'why bother to cook' mode, so it's nice to be able to quickly throw a salad together, open a tin of yummy protein and be done with it (when I do cook, it's usually an egg white omelette).

As long as I don't indulge in sugar or flour (read: bread), this results in a healthy, well-balanced CRON diet. And I feel great. I always feel great when I'm eating this way. I don't know why I fall back into disordered eating patterns (well, according to the book 'The End of Overeating', it's because my body is biologically wired to crave sugar/fat/salt and food manufacturers maximize these properties of foods to reel me in). I just like chocolate cake :-D

Over the winter, I got into the habit of drinking an occasional glass of wine. Just as easily, daily Astanga yoga has broken me of that habit. I can see a huge difference in my practice with the wine - I'm stiff and my joints are gummy.

Anyway, it's great and I'm enjoying the salads, but it's been more expensive (at least initially) to eat this way. I hope my grocery bills settle into something reasonable. And, for the curious, I did gain a few winter pounds and they're now falling away quite easily. I'm fitting into my summer clothes again.

Today's practice was very simple and delightful: a half-hour of restorative yoga before bed, mostly backbends over a bolster.

My brain is churning. I'm thinking about prep for backbends, (Urdhva Dhanurasana specifically), dropbacks, standing up from backbends and also how beginning to practice the Second Series might enhance my ability to do these things. This recent post from Grimmly, led me to this archived post and the comments were a fascinating read, particularly Ursula and Arturo, and V's contributions.

As a home practitioner, I'm free to modify my practice however I deem fit and I have, adding Eka Pad Raj Kapotanasana (Pigeon) on occasion and plopping Hanumasana (splits) into the middle of my practice. There's nothing to stop me from inserting some Second Series backbends in the seated poses.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Lady's hit me like a tonne of bricks and with the worst possible timing: I'm teaching four classes today. I practised 30 minutes of restorative yoga before heading to my noon class and it did help (along with a couple of Tylenol). But I'm still feeling wretched. My plan for the rest of the afternoon is to lay around and rest in hopes that I'll be energetic for an evening of teaching.

On a happier note, it's raining out - pouring, actually. This is my absolute favourite weather for sitting around and reading a good book, so I'm delighted! Bring on the chai and a cozy blanket!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I was perusing Mark Darby's DVD this morning, trying to find that neat clip of Karandavasana (to show my students), and I noticed that the DVD has a 30 minute short-form on it. Today was the perfect day for a shorter practice and I'm always up for a good short form, so I gave it a try.

If you can get past Darby's sometimes bizarre mispronunciations of the Sanskrit names (this is a niggling little thing that keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending this DVD to my students), it's a good DVD. I like the beginner modifications that he includes, which are demo'ed by the Nicole Bordeleau. The cues are precise and timely. I enjoy the slow pace and the long holds.

The short form is 42 minutes including a long Savasana at the end. It opens with 3 Surya Namaskara A, 2 Surya Namaskara B then continues with many of the standing poses and a handful of the seated. Padmasana is the only pose included from the closing sequence, but this is fine by me. If I'm doing a short practice, I'm usually not keen to do a lot of closing. And I liked the emphasis on standing poses. I was able to work up a sweat, which isn't always the case when I'm practising Swenson's short form.

I'm literally on the cusp of my Lady's Holiday so it felt good to move into a less intense practice. I'll likely be doing restorative for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I went for a long walk this morning in the sunshine and I'm so glad I did, because it clouded up by afternoon. There's something about these early morning walks that really feeds the soul. I never manage to find the same serenity in walks taken later on in the day. It makes me want to get back into a routine of early waking. Maybe soon, but not this week.

I practised the full Primary today. I've been struggling with a number of poses lately. The bind in Supta Kurmasana is elusive. Yesterday, I gave up entirely but today I manage to almost-but-not-quite clasp two of my fingers. This pose has been so do-able for weeks, so it's disappointing to lose it.

Garba Pindasana was a disaster yesterday, but deep and elegant today. Backbends are so-so. And then there's Sirsasana.

Sirsasana is a daily dose of terror. I have a Lululemon poster with a variety of tips for living fully. One of them says: “Do one thing a day that scares you.” I certainly have that one covered! I'm still doing the pose in the middle of the room and I haven't yet fallen out of it. And yet, I've retained my fear of falling, even though I haven't fallen in well over a year and I've even 'practised' falling out of the pose on the soft grass of the park.

I always move my mat to the left so if I *do* fall, I won't smoosh the dog.

Sunday: Great headstand day. I came into the pose quickly and with ease. During the hold, I felt perfectly, calmly centred and as comfortable as if I was standing in the middle of the room. I did half-bend, didn't come back up afterward, but came out of the pose smoothly.

Monday: Terrible headstand - felt awkward going up, tense during the hold (like I was holding on for dear life; fingers clenched). No half-bend today.

Today: I felt a bit unstable coming into the pose, but found my centre once I was there. I did half-bend and (for a microsecond!) I came back into the pose before exiting.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Oh, once again I had the best of intentions! My intention was to start getting up earlier and doing my practice in the morning again. But reality introduced a night of so-so sleep because of my allergies. Then I slept in and had tea (I'm off coffee again). Then I walked down to my favourite corner café for Banana Pancakes. So much for early, so much for healthy, and so much for morning yoga!

When I got home, I dressed and put on a light jacket with the intention of going for a long walk with the dog. Then I decided to water my plants.


That's when I realised that my spider plant was in very poor health and could benefit from new potting soil. I did the same for the aloe plant. Then it occurred to me that my poor long-suffering cactus (bought on sale at a southern Virginia supermarket in 1993) had never been repotted. It now has a new home. Then I figured I might as well repot the plant that my partner bought me last fall. I looked at the 'Tree' that lives on top of the fridge and wondered if it shouldn't have a pot of its own. So I repotted it. I repotted the remaining plants.

I spent an hour of serious dirt-under-the-fingernails time, repotting almost every single plant I own.

*end detour*

Then I finally went for a walk and yes, I did yoga. Full Primary today and my body felt even stiffer and gummier than it did yesterday, if that's possible. But my Lady's is coming up very soon, so that probably explains it.

Yesterday, I wandered around the city enjoying the annual 'Doors Open' festival. For two days, a number of buildings around the city open their doors to the public, for free. The best ones are the quirky, out-of-the-way places that don't get very much traffic.

My last stop of the day was at the Hare Krishna temple. I enjoyed the chanting and dancing. I left a few hours later, full of delicious vegetarian food and bedecked with a flower garland.

I put the flower garland on my Buddha.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The past three days have been a little bit of vacation and a little bit of a free-for-all. I've been happily staying out late, sleeping in, eating cookies and pizza and lazing around.

I felt that today would be a good day to get back into a routine for morning practice and the full Primary Series. I received a phone call while I was holding my headstand for 10 breaths. When I phoned back, it was fun to say “Hey, I couldn't answer the phone because I was standing on my head!”

My body felt really gummy and stiff today which is not surprising, given that I've been doing light practices and eating so much junk. My bind in Supta Kurmasana is gone. It will come back eventually. For now, I worked with a modification. Other poses were okay, but nothing was very deep.

After 3 relatively stiff repetitions of Urdhva Dhanurasana, I decided to do a state-of-the-backbend photo, completely on a whim. This proved a bit problematic, since I've rearranged the apartment since my last backbend photo (it was *cough* last April). I no longer have the yellow wall to set up against. I had to figure out a new place to put the camera. But the futon isn't a bad backdrop and the radiator is exactly the right height.

Survey says: *shrug*

It's more-or-less the same as it was last April, although not quite as deep (if you look closely, my hands are further from my feet in this most recent shot) Not surprising, given that I've fallen off the 6-day-practice wagon over the winter (and still haven't managed to crawl back on, though the wagon never seems to be far).

I'm brewing up a secret plan to improve my Urdhva Dhanurasana and nail dropbacks. Ursula has completely re-inspired me in this regard. She's worked diligently at dropbacks for years and she finally found success. It's fun to read her recent posts describing joyful, effortless dropbacks!

I want to do that too! I can, I can, I believe I can!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I was all about the good intentions today, but not about the execution. I had intended to get up early to practice a full Primary before riding to my morning class, but I slept in instead. I had intended to go to a city-wide open house that happens each year, but ended up lounging around the apartment instead.

I had a nice day, though. Sometimes, a lazy day is exactly the right thing.

And I did squeeze in the Swenson short form.

And administrative note:
I've been working on this website, making some changes to the format of the posts and adding tags.

For simplicity, I'm giving each post the name of the style of yoga I practised that day. This allows me to see, at a glance, what I've been doing each day. It also saves me from the mental gymnastics of coming up with post names, which was getting really old.

I like tags a lot, so I'm going to start using them. The tags offer further details, like full or half Primary, short form, backbends, ect. There are tags for some individual poses that I'm working consistently on. I'm also tagging posts that contain non-yoga content, like 'guitar'. There are over 400 posts, so the tags will be appearing gradually in the archives as I have a chance to add them.

Friday, May 22, 2009


These past few days have been really wonderful, for various reasons. Some involve money. A big cheque came from a client for a (non-yoga-related) contract I recently finished. This allowed me to repay a debt to a friend, which had been weighing heavily on my mind. I'm now completely debt-free again. It was a tough winter but I'm slowly rebuilding my financial health and I'm feeling more optimistic.

I was also able to pay off the balance on the guitar I put into layaway in the winter. I picked up the guitar this morning, spent some time cleaning and putting on new strings on in it and by evening, I was playing it. I'm so very happy and grateful that I took the leap-of-faith to buy this. It's every bit as wonderful as I remembered it being (the first time I played it, I was captivated by the amazing tone of the instrument). I'm now noticing other things about it, like the beautiful grain of the wood and the fact that it's slightly smaller than a full-size guitar, fitting me like a glove.

With all the excitement, practise was put on the back-burner and by the time I stepped on the mat, I was running late. I practised the sun salutations and standing poses, a brief but satisfyingly sweaty practice.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


In the morning, only an hour before I was scheduled to leave to teach my first class, I received a last-minute phone call informing me that all of my evening classes were cancelled. I spent a stressful hour sending out emails and phoning as many students as possible to let them know about the cancellation. I continued this flurry of activity in the afternoon between classes.

It was stressful. On the bright side, the free evening allowed me to do something special. I was able to attend a film festival that I'm not normally able to go to, due to my teaching schedule.

I had already planned to practise Hatha today. I treated myself to a playful practice of inversions and fun arm balances, after a warm up of sun salutations and standing poses. I spent a lot of time in handstand.

I'm working on coming up lightly and with control, using core strength rather than momentum. I accidentally stumbled upon a great 'prop' for practising these skills: socks! With socks on the feet, it's hard to get any traction with the floor. Instead, I need to use core and leg strength to lift the leg into the inversion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


When I'm practising the full primary nearly every day, I can really feel the difference that my diet makes in my practice. This morning, my joints felt numb and gummy. I couldn't bind in Supta Kurmasana and Supta Konasana felt uncomfortable. Last night's supper was pizza and I have a feeling that the dairy in the cheese (I rarely eat dairy) affected my body in a negative way.

I also felt exhausted. I'm going to take a break from Astanga tomorrow and practice Hatha. This works well for me, as it's my busiest teaching day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


It was kind of amazing to wake up this morning and step onto my mat as I imagined thousands of other people were doing around the world. Perhaps they were practising at different times, but all with the same intention of drishti, breath, bandha, as well as the philosophical underpinning of Patanjali's yoga.

And many of us thinking about Guruji and his lifetime teaching the Astanga Vinyasa yoga system, our own role in that lineage.

“Because this man taught this yoga to my teachers, I'm now doing this yoga.”

As I teach Astanga to my own students, I'm deeply aware of passing something on that is rare and valuable, not mine, but something given to me.

It reminded me of the Easter service I recently attended, where a single candle flame burned in the darkness, then lit another. Then another and another. Each flame coming from the same source, each individual responsible to keep their own light burning.

“Practice and all is coming”.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moments of sadness and gratitude

Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
July 26, 1915 - May 18, 2009

As I was finishing up my closing poses, I received word that Astanga yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois passed away this morning. I spent a few moments in reflection and gratitude for his lifetime of work, bringing Astanga yoga to the west and dedicating his life to this practice.

Although indirectly, he was a teacher to me and a source of inspiration to thousands of others around the world. My thoughts are with his family this morning.

OM, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I'm still tired. Who knew that Hanumasana would be so draining? But I had a good day. I did all of the things I wanted to do: walked the dog, cleaned the apartment, did my laundry, practised my guitar and yes, unrolled my Manduka and practised the Primary Series.

It was a multi-tasking practice today. I put in the laundry, did the sun salutations and standing poses, paused to put the laundry in the dryer, then finished out the rest of the practice. I wasn't overly sweaty today, but I did managed to bind in Supta Padangustasana. I had this bind last year, but lost it almost as soon as I found it. It's back.

Then I folded the laundry.

I should have spent more time outside. It's a beautiful day out, all blue skies, sunshine and flowers, but COLD. The high was only 53 and there's a FROST WARNING in effect for tonight. Sorry to shout but what's up with the FROST WARNING. Seriously, it's May. I'm filing a complaint with Mother Nature.

I hope it doesn't kill the dandelions.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I was so exhausted this morning after three hours of practice/workshop last night, doing any kind of active practice today was absolutely out of the question. I was just fried.

So I laid on my back and did a half-hour of restorative yoga: Supta Padangustasana with a strap, hip openers, twists. I taught one class in the morning, but spent the rest of the day in my jammies, with a hot pot of chai tea by my side and two Death-by-chocolate cookies to nom on. And a good book. Bliss!

It was a great day, but not an especially productive one.

So it amuses me greatly to find that I've been gifted the 'Honest Scrap' award by The Humble Yogini. What fun! Thank you so much, Janaki for your kind words about my blog. This couldn't have come on a better day, since I have nothing practice-related to blog about! ;-)

I have tagged the following folks below.

However, in accordance with the Law of Kai, (Regarding Memes, section 5, article 6),
My Tagees have three (3) options:

1) You can be secretly pleased as punch and make no response whatsoever, completely ignoring the meme
2) You can be publicly pleased as punch and tell me you are in the comments, but then opt out of the meme
3) You can be actively pleased as punch and say, “Hell yeah, I love me a good meme!!!! Bring it on baby!”

In which case, here are the rules... You must brag about receiving the award. You must name 7 blogs you find brilliant and then list 10 honest things about yourself (In my response, I chose 10 things directly related to yoga, but you don't need to do that).

I would like award the Honest Scrap Award to these blogs, that I look forward to reading every day. Thanks for making my RSS Reader a happy place, folks:

Arturo: Ashtangi, CRONie, architect, and right now he's living and working in China! He inspires me with his interesting posts and beautiful photographs.

Yogini's Quest: Another travelling ashtangi,Tiffany is teaching English in Korea. Despite adjusting to a foreign culture, learning a new job and being woken at 6 a.m. with marriage proposals from the locals, she still manages to practice ashtanga regularly. You go, girl!

Queen of the East Village: I just love Boodiba. She lives in a cool city, she's hip, she's working on the third series of Ashtanga, and she blogs a LOT. I can always count on her to keep me entertained!

Michelle: Michelle is a mom and yoga teacher living in a small town in the Canadian Prairies. Her posts about home and family give me a warm feeling and remind me that relationships are more important than any material object, job or yoga pose.

Alfia: Lovely Alfia is a Washington D.C. Ashtangi with a great love for the practise. She has beautiful dropbacks, something I'm aspiring to. Her posts help me stay connected to the D.C. area (I lived there for six years before coming to this city).

Southern Yogi: A recent discovery, Flo blogs about Anusara yoga, yoga teacher training and the challenges and rewards of asana practice. I'm enjoying reading about her journey as it unfolds.

Silent K: A local friend who is facing great challenges in her life at the moment. This is her YTT/Yoga blog. I greatly appreciate her observations, notes and thoughts about yoga and life.

And last, but not least, here are 10 random Yoga Facts about me:

1) When I first started yoga, my most-hated-pose was Virabhadrasana II. I whined that it 'hurt my knees' and I wouldn't hold it for more than a breath or two.

2) The first time Teacher M brought me into handstand, I sobbed. Tears streamed up my forehead. Then I crumpled into a little puddle of misery on the floor.

3) Pigeon is my favourite ice hockey warmup stretch. I happily do it at centre ice before my games.

4) My hamstrings were so tight when I first started yoga, I could barely reach down and touch my knees.

5) I still have my first yoga mat. It's a navy blue Gaim sticky mat I bought through mail order, back in the days when you couldn't find yoga mats in stores. It came with two mint-green foam yoga blocks and a canvas strap.

6) At my last corporate job, I had a private office (actually, it was a storage closet...long story). I practised headstand against the wall when I was bored (which was often).

7) I was my mom's first yoga teacher!

8) I cracked a bone in my right foot practising handstand. I took a year-long hiatus from the pose after this bizarre injury, more out of mental stress than physical limitation.

9) I'm a secret fan of Anusara. I go to the occasional class and I often chant the Kularnava Tantra at the beginning of my classes.

10) I had an arch-nemesis in Yoga Teacher Training. We still hate one another. Yes, HATE.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I'm absolutely wiped. Fun day, though!

I taught a great noon class, then biked to a friends. I hooped in the park for an hour, working on the waist-to-sky manoeuvre going clockwise (counter clockwise is my easy current - clockwise just feels *wrong*). I kept banging my right ear...ouch, ouch, ouch! At least I didn't hit myself in the face this time.

When I came back in, I discovered that the A string on my guitar was broken. I was seriously peeved and immediately googled “Why do guitar strings break?”, thinking that it was unusual or somehow defective. Nope, it's perfectly normal. In fact, some people change their strings every few months (I hadn't changed mine in 5 months).

So I rode my bike to the music store and bought new strings, then spent a half hour hunched over my guitar, changing them.

Then I jumped on the mat and did the full Primary. I skipped backbends. I wanted to be warmed up, but no overly exhausted. I biked downtown (like a banshee - I was running late) for a Hanumasana workshop. Ah yes, my forgiven-but-not-forgotten New Year's resolution of 2007 has come back to haunt me. I've definitely made progress in the pose over the years, but I'm not even close.

The workshop was okay. Not as much anatomy as I would have liked, but some of the prep poses were interesting. Notes to come. Someday soon. Maybe. After I take an epsom salt bath and sleep for three days, that is.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Taking a break from the Primary Series yesterday did me a world of good. I slept well overnight (Thank-you, Claritin) and woke feeling refreshed. No walk today because it was raining, so I headed straight to the mat.

It took me a lot longer for my body to heat up without a walk proceeding the practice. I had to wait until the seated poses to wipe sweat off my brow. Everything felt just wonderful this morning! I was strong and focused.

Ever since the class on Saturday, I've been deeply aware of alignment in my pelvis. At least half of the adjustments I received were correcting pelvic misalignment. So I've been doing some reading and experimenting in my practice - both to correct my own alignment and to give strong verbal cues to my students. Although the adjustments were great, I'm finding that I can't maintain a correct alignment without awareness and the ability to self-adjust.

Here's one visualization I've been using for poses like Virabhadrasana I and Parsvottanasana: Point the belly button towards the pinky toe. Impossible, of course, but the intention seems to bring about the alignment.

In the comments, Michelle asked about Hooping. It's exactly like 'hula hooping' except the hoop used is larger and heavier, which makes it easier to spin. And you can do all kinds of tricks! Right now, I'm learning how to move the hoop from my waist to above my head. Once I master that move, I'm going to start working on this:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Argh...allergies. I slept poorly last night and woke up exhausted and stuffy at 6 a.m. I went back to sleep only to wake up two hours later more exhausted than I was before and even more congested. I feel like my entire body is a big ITCH.

But I rallied and went for a 45 minute walk with the pup, yawning the whole way. By lunchtime, I was so miserable and tired that I knew I couldn't practice. I took a nap that stretched into over two hours.

So I decided to take it easy and did a 30 minute Hatha practice. I flowed through a few sun salutations, did some standing poses and several seated poses. I based the practice on a sequence I'm teaching this week in my Hatha classes. It's a sequence that I taught in the Fall and I'm now remembering that I didn't like it very much. Probably need to rework it a bit or think of something else for classes the rest of the week.

I've clearly adjusted to doing a longer and more vigourous practice, which is a good thing! :-) With the brief Hatha practice, I didn't feel like I had done enough yoga. My practice felt too short. If I had more time, I would have done an hour-long restorative practice.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I taught a noon class today, so I was really scrambling to get the closing poses in before getting cleaned up and ready to go. I hate to rush my practice. On some days, it feels like yoga takes up such a substantial chunk of the day. When I'm enjoying my practice, that isn't a problem, but if I'm having quarrels with my practice, it can be difficult.

Today, I did the full Primary, but I skimped on some poses. I bound to fingers in Mari C, didn't bind at all in Mari D, tried to bind in Supta Kurmasana but gave up. I was very distracted, composing a grocery list in my head as I did the seated poses. I usually do handstand in my practice, but didn't today (to save time). I spent less than a minute in Savasana - I was watching the clock by the end of my practice.

I spent a lot of time outdoors today because the weather is beautiful. I biked out to the west end of the city, then I got some groceries. I went hooping the park again. Amazing how hooping gets easier and easier the more I practice (like anything else, I guess!). I taught an early evening class, then I played my guitar in the park.

And *then*....I ate leftover lasagna and watched junk T.V. until late. So much for that healthy lifestyle I was planning, eh?

Monday, May 11, 2009


I was deeply exhausted last night and slept so soundly the I barely moved the entire night. I'm getting hit hard by allergies this year, but it's inconsistent. I was at the house on Saturday night and didn't sleep well because all of the sniffling and sneezing. I took an allergy pill before going to bed last night and seemed to be fine.

Today, I did the full Primary. I had a good, focused practice. My lower back is feeling a little bit cranky today. Before practice, I took a long walk on my own (without the dog) so I was already warmed up when I started.

Busy day ahead. This afternoon, I'm going to a guitar lesson for the first time in over a month. I haven't been going regularly because my teacher has been busy. After that, I'm headed to a party.

Goals for this week: I'd like to practice yoga in the mornings (easier to do when I'm going to bed early) and eat healthy (easier to do when I'm not eating out, which I'm not going to).

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I go through phases. Sometimes, my practice is a thing to get through so I can do all fun things I really *want* to do. I also go through periods when my practice is a thing I put off for as long as possible, procrastinating by doing fascinating tasks like organising my finances, or cleaning the toilet. Then there are the times that my practice is a reward - I use it to entice myself through all the yucky stuff I have to do, just so I can unroll my mat and savour 90 minutes of Astanga.

Right now, I'm going through this latter phase. I absolutely LOVE my practice. It's the best part of the day. Today, I used my practice as a 'carrot' to get through some work that had to be done, phone calls that had to be made and a sink full of dishes. I put on my yoga clothes as soon as I woke up, but I didn't hit the mat to do my usual (at the moment, 'the usual' is full Primary) until about 1 p.m.

I did Sirsasana in the middle of the room (cue: applause). I didn't fall over. I was just as steady and stable as I was when with the wall a few inches away from my heels. In fact, I pretended that the wall was there. I even managed to do half-bend, though I didn't come back into full Sirsasana from half-bend before coming to the floor. Oh well. Baby steps.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


That pretty much sums up the day. I woke early this morning to sunshine, but by the time I headed to class the skies were dark and rain was coming down in sheets. This continued all day - sun interrupted by rain, interrupted by sun, and so on. It cleared into sunshine when I was ready to leave downtown, so I enjoyed a lovely walk home in the bright sunshine, but more clouds rolled in as I approached my building.

Spring fickle!

A downtown yoga studio was having an Open House today, including three free classes. Sadly, the Nia class overlapped a morning class I teach near the Market, so I signed up for an Intermediate/Advanced class taught by the studio's most senior teacher (and owner).

I've been to this studio a few times before because my teacher H occasionally teaches classes there. Coincidentally, I ran into her in the change room as I was arriving. What a lovely treat! It reminded me how much I miss her classes. We talked about our dogs and I promised to come to a class soon.

The main room of the studio is big and bright, with light streaming in through tall windows. I unrolled my Manduka in a spot near the back, close to the window. When visiting a class (especially when it's complimentary) I try to keep a low profile, carefully doing the postures exactly as taught and not drawing attention to myself.

But I think H gave this teacher a heads-up that I was there, because she non-chalantly walked back and spotted me for Pincha Mayurasana as she instructed the rest of the class in a prep pose. I went ahead and kicked up and was so surprised to be vertical that I just hung there, as if suspended in space, then lightly came down. This is *not* my rock-star pose, so I was bit stunned. She also gave me several fabulous adjustments, mostly for pelvic alignment in poses like Virabhadrasana I and Parsvottanasana.

In Shoulderstand, she called out some really fun variations for the advanced students. These included bringing one leg to the floor by the head while keeping the other leg vertical (Eka Pada Sarvangasana) and twisting the body to the side while bringing the opposite leg to the floor by the head (Parivrtta Eka Pada Sarvangasana). She quietly came over and supported my torso as I brought one toe to the floor behind me to touch down while keeping the other leg straight (incredibly difficult without support; in Iyengar Yoga, this is called Eka Pada Set Bandha Sarvangasana).

The class started with modified sun salutations, interspersed with various lunges. This progressed into several vinyasa sequences of standing poses. I really liked the Utkatasana to Parivrtta Utkatasana to Parivrtta Parsvokonasana sequence (coming into the last pose by stepping the opposite leg back, while the torso is twisted; that one played with my brain). We also did a sequence that included a bound Parsvokonasana moving to Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise) pose.

Also of note, Parivrtta Krounchasana with extended arm and an Ardha Virasana variation of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, with opposite arm binding to the foot (underneath the leg) while the other arm reached in a side stretch. I know, I know, that barely makes sense - it's difficult to describe. I tried to draw a stick figure of this and it looks like I'm trying to invent a new language instead of conveying a yoga posture.

Irony: I've been demoing Astavakrasana all week in my classes (as a fun intro to a hip opener/preparation) and discovered that I can now do this pose equally well on both sides. She taught the prep for Astavakrasana as the token arm balance, so I had a chance to do the full poses in-situ, holding for five breaths. I only fell on my face once :-D

This studio is known to be a bit quirky. The music was eclectic and sometimes bizarre. During the floor poses, I realised we were listening to the Beatles. I swear I heard some Led Zepplin too. A hip-hop ballad boomed out of the speakers during Savasana so I can take that one off my life list: “Doing Savasana to Rap music. Check”

They're also big on the aromatherapy *cough*. There was incense in the washroom and during the beginning of the class, the teacher walked around and smeared a Tiger Balm-esque lotion on our backs. During Savasana, she annointed us with lavender oil. I'm not a big fan of this stuff, but it's part of the whole experience, so I went with the flow and tried not to get the stinky stuff on my Manduka.

Overall, I enjoyed my yoga tourism excursion very much. I learned some new poses, and variations on old ones, had a few nice adjustments and some insights into my practice that will help me improve as I practice at home.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Better practice today! I enjoyed a good night's sleep, ate a green apple upon waking and took the dog for a long walk. This seemed to be enough time to digest the food. By the time I unrolled my mat, I didn't feel full but I had sufficient energy for practice.

I breezed through the poses (Full Primary today), felt strong and steady. I was just a tad distracted and lacked the breath awareness I had established yesterday. On the plus side, I was aware of my distraction and kept bringing my attention back to the breath.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, so I took my hoop out to the park for a bit of hip-bruising fun (No matter how careful I am, I always seem to end up with these massive bruises on my pelvic heads).

By now, I've mastered all the tricks that I learned in the one hooping class I took over the winter. I can hoop pretty comfortably both counterclockwise (my natural direction) and clockwise (less comfortable for me). I'm thinking of searching around on YouTube to find some more tricks.

I get a lot of attention when I'm hooping. From kids ("Look at the grown-up hula hooping!") and adults ("Where can I get a hoop?"). I thought I would feel like a freak show, but people seem friendly and interested (or completely ignore me). It's so much fun! I'm looking forward to taking the hoop to the drum circles this summer. I have a feeling I'll pick up some neat tricks.

When I got tired of hooping, I did headstands in the grass, practising falling out of them in different ways. That's my big fear in headstand, falling. Even though I rarely, if ever, do. I thought that if I practised falling, I could condition myself not to fear the prospect of falling. I'm not really sure if it worked (I guess I'll find out next time I do the post on a hard floor).

It's silly, but I always set up my headstand near to a wall, just in case, even though I never use the wall. It's a mental game. I probably just need to suck up and do it in the middle of the room. I can. I should. Soon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I had a very sub-par practice today. I was feeling lethargic and groggy in the morning and hoped that a practice would boost my energy levels. I stumbled through the poses of the Primary Series, actually coming out of one or two early because I was feeling so tired (Setu Bandhasana once again felt impossible. So much for that!). On the plus side, I was particularly focused today and deeply aware of my breathing.

Afterward, I felt worse instead of better. I didn't have the energy to go for a longer walk (opted for a shorter one) and I was too muggy-headed to get any work done in the afternoon. Later on in the day, this sense of mental fog and exhaustion manifested as a headache and I carried that into my afternoon classes. I didn't start to feel better until my very last class (three Tylenol later).

I'm feeling fine now (late evening), but wondering what has been causing the post-practice 'wooziness' I've been occasionally experiencing. I'm wondering if perhaps I need to eat something (easily digestible) before I step on the mat. My practice is sometimes postponed to mid-morning and I end up skipping breakfast. Also, I need to return to the 'optimal nutrition' part of CR and make sure I'm getting all of the nutrients I need. I'm think specifically of iron, protein and vitamin D.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I went to the house last night and at the exact same moment that I was pushing open the perpetually sticky front door, it opened from the inside, HARD. I hurled forward, just barely catching myself before I catapulted over my bike and into the front hallway. In doing so, I wrenched my back. I spent the rest of the evening in pain, flailing around in supine twists on the floor in front of the television in hopes of solving the problem (American Idol wasn't helping matters).

The pull was on the left side, I'm thinking it was the erector muscles along my spine that took the hit.

I went to sleep laying on my Acuball. The pain had diminished significantly by the morning, but I was still sore. Still, it's obviously nothing serious, just some muscle spasming. I took it easy in my practice today, particularly since I have a heavy teaching day ahead of me (4 classes).

I did the Suryas A and B, all the standing poses, then meandered off into my own hatha practice. I worked through most of my favourites: Supta Virasana, Supta Padangustashana, Eka Pada Raj Kapotanasana, did some restorative and Savasana. I used to do this all the time last year, when I didn't have time to get through the entire series. I would do either half-Primary or as-much-Primary-as-I-can-fit-in.

My back felt significantly better after the practice, so I'm pretty sure I'm on the mend, whatever it was.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Posted on the AYS weblog at around 7:30 p.m. tonight:

“We are sad to announce that Guruji has been admitted to the ICU. Sharath must return to Mysore immediately to be with his family during this critical time.

Unfortunately, all north american workshops will be cancelled. Full refunds will be given.

Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time.”

Sharath was in the midst of leading a workshop in San Francisco. A certified teacher is now finishing those last few days.

I wasn't planning to attend for the entire duration of his visit to my city, but hoped to go to at least one led primary while Sharath was here. I had been living vicariously through the blogs of the New York peeps who attended his sessions last month. I was a bit nervous, but very excited. This upcoming workshop was one of the things that inspired me to jump back into my full Astanga practice (I wanted to be more prepared). So I'm disappointed, but more saddened about the circumstances.

The news comes as a shock (although I've heard that Guruji has been ill off and on for the past several months). I'm filled with compassion for the family of Sri Pattabhi Jois and I hope he recovers. The KPJAYI website has scant additional information. I posted to the Ashtanga EZ Board in hopes of hearing more from practitioners who are currently practising in Mysore, India.

I'm keeping good thoughts for Guruji and his family.

I had a perfectly ordinary mid-morning practice today. No neck problems at all! In fact, I spontaneously decided to add Setu Bandhasana to my practice (I had been doing a supine chest-opener during that pose to prepare for Urdhva Dhanurasana afterward). Easy peasy...what a surprise! I always struggled with that pose. It felt too weird, like I would collapse onto my neck. Today, it felt stable and strong. I enjoyed the pose. I guess I'll be doing this one from now on.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Upon waking this morning, my neck felt a bit stiff, but I had full mobility and no pain. I decided to wait it out. I went for a long walk in the morning, gave the dog her spring clip in the morning (she looks gorgeous, but is a bit peeved at me now), and had lunch. In the afternoon, I rode out to High Park to look at the pretty cherry blossoms. I spent a couple hours there, blissfully soaking up the sun, people watching and reading a book.

Then I came home to practice, full Primary Series, and my neck was fine. I'm still modifying 'everything-neck' (I supported my lower back in Urdhva Padmasana, did Matsyasana *gently*), but there was no pain and I had a really nice practice.

I was so clear-headed and focused afterward that I was able to plow through a whole pile of work before bedtime. Wish practice always had the affect on me!

I'm planning for a Full Primary tomorrow, then I'll do a shorter Hatha practice on Wednesday, as that's one of my heavy teaching days. I'll play it by ear on Thursday. I've only been back to my full practice for a week, so I'm still sorting out how I'll fit it into my current schedule. I want to take at least a day off of Astanga, maybe two, per week. I'm not sure if I'll bother with Moon Days.

I'm still doing my Yoga Streak, though, so it's yoga every day regardless.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Okay, it's official: my neck is sore.

Also, and probably unrelated: my lower back was aching last night as I tried to sleep, but I'm going to blame that on the bed. It's too soft and saggy. At one point, I awoke to find myself sleeping in a variation of Pigeon pose, so I switched sides and went back to sleep!

I had vivid dreams of buying a huge loft-style living space with enough space to maintain a yoga studio. But the previous owner had left behind shelves upon shelves of knick knacks and junk: figurines, dishes, old washers and dryers and even a lawn mower. I was desperately trying to move these things out and also remove the layer of brand-new gray carpeting to reveal a wood floor beneath. My dream kept me busy and exhausted through the night.

Just before waking, I finally cleared the my dream loft space. I discovered that it had a wonderful wrap-around balcony looking out upon the city and rooftop gardens. And a real fire escape (it's silly, but I've always wanted one!) The afternoon light spread golden beams across the floor as I convened a group of students for a yoga class near the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Then I woke up with a crick in my neck. Oh yeah, my neck. Argh.

I did do the full Primary Series this morning, but very carefully. I gingerly tried Supta Konasana, and it actually felt fine, as did Shoulderstand. But I didn't stay long in Shoulderstand and didn't even attempt Urdhva Padmasana again. I replaced Matsyasana with a series of gentle neck stretches and opted out of Sirsasana entirely.

I don't want to push it. I think tomorrow will be a modified Hatha practice and if my neck is still sore after that, I'll do Hatha for the rest of the week.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Ow, my neck.

My Lady's passed, so I returned to the full Primary Series this afternoon with renewed enthusiasm. But perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm...In Urdhva Padmasana, I lost my balance and as my weight shifted backwards, I struggled to stay upright, putting pressure on my neck and shoulders. I think I may have strained the muscles in my neck because it's sore now.

Argh. That's a lesson learned. Too bad I had to learn it in one of my favourite poses. I'll see how I feel tomorrow, but I may be taking an abbreviated practice for a few days while I figure this out.

Besides that slip, I had a wonderful practice. After I finished, I took a hot bath and had lunch. Then I enjoyed a lazy afternoon of reading, drinking my favourite Chai tea and devouring a Death by Chocolate cookie from the Market (I stopped by the Market this morning after teaching my class).

Friday, May 1, 2009


I had big plans to do an hour of Journey Dance before practising yoga this morning, but these plans evaporated as soon as I laid down on the futon and picked up a book. Then I took a phone call. Then I realised that I was hungry, for banana pancakes. So I quickly unrolled my mat and did 40 minutes of Hatha Yoga.

I warmed up with Sun Salutations and standing poses, then did a few hip openers. I never feel like I'm opening up my hips enough in the Primary Series, so it felt good to focus on this part of my body. I also did some core strengthening and ended the practice with some more restorative yoga.

Then I took a copy of the yoga sutras to the café with me and enjoyed it with the pancakes, continuing my yoga practice with some Swadhyaya, self study. Maple syrup on the side ;-)

I had a late celebration of my birthday. Yes, I know my birthday was in mid-April. But it was worth the wait to go to my favourite restaurant. We spent a lovely evening at Nirvana. I had a ceasar (and stole sips of my companion's cosmopolitan) and I ordered the cheesy ravioli. We shared the eggplant dip and asian fried flatbread appetizer. And we picked up cheesecake on the way home.

Fun! Not CR, but definitely fun.

Also, on a side note, today is the 10 year anniversary of my move to the city. After a nomadic childhood, moving around every couple of years, it's quite remarkable to have been in one place for this long. I love this city and I'm still happy to be here.