Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I hate this head cold. HATE. It makes my skull feel like a helium balloon. The congestion isn't too bad, but I've had an off-and-on headache for days.

I'm concerned that this could progress into a sinus infection so I'm totally rocking the neti pot this week. I'm using a formula of sea salt, baking soda, GSE (grapefruit seed extract) and raw apple cider vinegar. Three times a day. So far, so good. If it doesn't clear up by Thursday, I'll go visit my doctor.

Energetically, I'm feeling much better today. I'm back to my regular practice - 90 minutes of Astanga, full Primary Series and I felt strong. I thought my balancing poses would be 'off', but they were fine - even Sirsasana. The sinus pressure made forward bends unpleasant (unbearable, at times), but shoulderstand felt great for some reason. I was able to bind in Supta K, which is a very good sign.

I took a long walk after my practice. It's been about a week since the dog and I went to the Big Park. I noticed that the day lilies are finally blooming. Hooray! It's my favourite time of year!

Monday, June 29, 2009


I had another napping marathon this afternoon. This cold is taking a lot out of me and I just want it to be over. I don't like resting, but rest I did. I had a thoroughly boring day, but my body is healing, I hope.

I did a 30 minute Hatha practice in the evening - a series of standing poses and a few floor poses. My head was aching, but it felt good to be on the mat.

There are some changes on the horizon. I'm almost afraid to get too attached to any routine, because it's sure to shift very soon. Until I'm over the cold, I’m putting the nix on morning practices, but I'm hoping that I'll feel well enough tomorrrow to return to my Astanga practice in the afternoon.

Today's verse from the Bhagavad Gita (translation from Santosha.com):

"One who has control over the mind
Is tranquil in heat and cold,
In pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor;
And is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self. "

And in wet and dry. It's going to pour tomorrow and I'll be walking around in the weather all morning. Good times.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I tried to sleep in this morning, managed to hang in all the way till 7 a.m. It's freaky how quickly I've adjusted to an early schedule. Getting up at 7 felt decadent. No yoga when I woke up - just tea.

We had a rough plan sketched out for the day. Each year on Pride Sunday, there's a really lovely multi-faith service on one of the stages. I attended last year and was very moved, so we decided to go that, then play it by ear (maybe not the parade, but definitely hanging out and listening to some music). We went to the café for brunch and I was half-way through my banana pancakes when the skies opened up.


It rained off and on the rest of the day. I ended up going home and napping. I slept deeply; I was just exhausted. I guess the lack of sleep along with my cold finally caught up with me - it was for the best.

I just finished a half-hour Hatha practice, a 'stress relief' sequence I used to do daily years ago. It felt comfortable and safe, like visiting an old friend. I don't use props in my Astanga practice, but tonight I used a wood block to make the poses less about effort and more about ease. I completely relaxed into the forward folds, resting my head on the block, used the block for a supported bridge pose. It was exactly what I needed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


My Lady's Holiday arrived in full force this morning, with perfectly bad timing too. I'm generally not a big party-er, but last night, I was out until 2 a.m. and...ahem...I was drinking (I'm a big fan of those Smirnoff Ice things and sour apple martinis...girly drinks). I don't drink often so I was staggering around and acting all cute after two drinks. Argh.

This morning, I didn't feel hung over exactly, but definitely off-kilter. I was up early because I *gulp* went to teach a 10 a.m. class. At 7, I took my mat out on the balcony and did a 30 minute vinyasa practice in the fresh, cool air. Basically, some sun salutations and whatever parts of Swenson's short form my poor, achy brain could conjure up. No inversions, short Savasana because I really wanted to go back to sleep.

It woke me up, though and it felt good.

Today: Fun, friends, sun, crowds, laughter, music, food I shouldn't be eating (it's pretty bad when Pizza Pizza feels like the *healthy* choice). Also, buttless chaps and drag queens who dress better than I do on my best day.

Tomorrow: More of the same!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yin, Astanga

I slept in a bit this morning (a bit = 30 minutes; fantastic, I know) and did the Yin Kidney practice from Sarah Powers' DVD. It was nice, really nice. It felt like a big, long Savasana, except it was hard.

I'm teetering on the edge of a cold, so I'm hoping that all of that kidney meridian flushing, along with Cold FX and Vitamin C (and siesta) will help clear things up before the weekend. I can *not* be sick this weekend.

I'm loving this DVD. It is, without question, the most cleverly designed yoga CD I've ever used. The sequences are combined in different ways to create numerous different practice options. It has both Yin and vinyasa, plus meditation, plus a lovely Savasana. The spontaneous mid-class costume changes are startling, though. You look up half-way through a practice and you're all “Hey Sarah, that's a cool shirt, but different from the shirt you were wearing when we went into this pose.” (some of the holds feel long, but they're not *that* long).

I like Sarah's voice (this can be a deal-breaker for me; Nicki Doane sends me over the edge) and I'm interested in the information she's conveying. It's a bonus that she's a Buddhist. I love the way she interweaves Buddhism into her sequences.

I toddled off to work for a few hours, ate lunch in my favourite downtown garden, taught a noon yoga class, then jetted home. It's hot out. Yesterday, feriocious thunderstorms moved through (almost, but not quite disrupting my outdoor class in the park; my students are a tough lot!).

All the way home, I kept thinking, “I wanna go home and practice! It's nice and hot out!” But it felt silly, since I had already practised for an hour in the morning. Yoga overkill, right?

I practised anyway. It was great fun, a powerful, sweat-soaked, joyful afternoon practice. I just love practising in the afternoon! It felt decadent, like helping myself to a second and *bigger* slice of chocolate cake. I know not everyone can do this. I know that I probably wouldn't be doing it under different circumstances, so I'm embracing these circumstances for now. I had a fabulous practice, my best all week.

Since I definitely won't be doing the Primary Series over the weekend (I'll be too busy being Out and Proud; it's Pride weekend), I took the opportunity to photograph my weekly backbend today.

This week's State-of-the-Backbend:
Comparison, last week vs. this week:

Definitely better! The Yin Kidney sequence includes some long holds in backbends. That, and the heat, definitely helped open things up a bit.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I realised this morning that I'm into my 7th consecutive day of the Primary Series. Although I didn't feel drained during my morning practice, I know my body is ready for a break and will get one in due course; my Lady's Holiday is nearly here. I'm excited about the Sarah Powers DVD I recently bought - I'll be doing some Yin Yoga during my 'holiday'! Expect a review of 'Insight Yoga' (so far, it looks absolutely awesome!)

Today was yet another early day. I would love to say that I'm adjusting to this bizarrely early schedule, but I'm not. I was up late on Tuesday night and I took a long siesta yesterday afternoon. Last night, I didn't get to sleep until well after 10:30. Again.

Today, I took a nap, but set an alarm so I wouldn't oversleep. I don't want to get in a pattern of inadequate sleep at night and catch-up during the day. A stable bedtime is key (though I know the weekends will inevitably throw me off, this weekend in particular).

I had a good practice, sweaty and intense. I was able to bind in Supta Kurmasana (I could barely do it yesterday), but couldn't hold half-bend in headstand. Marichyasana C was easier today than it has been. I'm still leery of Bhujapidasana and I've been doing Titibasana A as an alternative to lowering my head to the floor while my face heals and my confidence recovers.

Over the past week, I've struggled with a repertoire of bizarre mini-injuries, very few of them actually Astanga related.

For posterity, here's the rundown:

  • Latissimus Dorsi, right side: I don't know what caused it, but it bothered me consistently for a week, then went away as mysteriously as it came.
  • Bhujapidasana face plant: Sore nose and a rug burn scab on the bridge of my nose. My nose didn't bleed when it happened, but it should have - it hurt! The rug burn is nearly healed and the ridge of my nose is only slightly sore.
  • Neck soreness: From the face plant. Nothing debilitating, just a bit of 'oh my!' while looking up in Utthita Trikonasana, that sort of thing. It felt better today.
  • Heels: I made the mistake of wearing new shoes last week on a day when I did a lot of walking. I was saved by a randomly placed flip-flop vendor (seriously, SOMEONE is looking out for me!) but my heels were very torn up by the time I got home. They hurt in Upavista Konasana mostly, but are slowly healing. By next week, the should be fine.
  • Left hip soreness: From pulling up sod last weekend. I couldn’t straighten my left leg in Navasana, or hold my left leg up in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Better today, almost gone, whatever it was.
  • Right hamstring: This one has been going for a couple of weeks, actually. The soreness is like a cramp at the origin of the hamstring on the right side and I feel it the most when I'm cold, starting the sun salutations. It's always fine by the end of my practice and has been much better this week, actually.
  • Right Piriformis: This one started on Tuesday evening and I'm certain it has everything to do with standing around for hours on concrete. Pigeon helps a lot.
  • Erector Spinae muscles, midback: Again, another consequence of standing for a pro-longer period. I'm developing a routine of stretches and movement at work to help combat this.

And this afternoon, I'm experiencing that bone-deep, aching weariness that is most certainly my body gearing up for its monthly hormonal mosh pit, which I'm guessing will start tomorrow.

Today's verse from the Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 6:

The mind is the friend
Of those who have control over it,
And the mind acts like an enemy
For those who do not control it.

(source: Santosha.com)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Dawn hadn't even cracked when I unrolled my mat this morning at 4:30. That's early, very early, but I actually like it (except the waking up part - that's hard). I've been lighting my OM candle and really savouring every moment. Practice is more contemplative at that hour, or maybe I'm just exhausted ;-)

Since my work, such as it is, is quite mindless, I've been reviewing Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita. A couple of years ago, I learned to chant Chapter 6 in its entirety and even memorised it, but I've since forgotten all but the first four verses. I reviewed those, and re-learnt verse 5 this morning. Fun! I'll keep doing this for as long as the gig lasts, and perhaps into the summer, depending on what I'm doing.

From the Easwaran translation:
“Reshape yourself through the power of your will;
Never let yourself be degraded by self-will.
The will is the only friend of the Self and
the will is the only enemy of the self.”

I also like this one from Santosha.com
“One must elevate, not degrade, oneself
By one's own mind.
The mind alone is one's friend
As well as one's enemy. “

Practice was unremarkable. It continues to be a sweat fest. This morning, I tried rolling up a bandanna and using it as a headband (making me nostalgic for my running days). It worked. I didn't have sweat rolling into my face. I look goofy, but at 4:30 in the morning, no one is around to see me but the dog (and she's asleep).

Due to all the standing around I'm doing in the mornings, I'm experiencing some weirdness in my right hamstring and piriformis. I didn't notice it so much this morning, though my hamstrings were very, very stiff. But my leg was cramping up so badly after supper tonight that I had to lay down and do Supta Hasta Padangusthasana (supine hamstring stretch) then Eka Pada Raj Kapotanasana (pigeon) to shut my muscles up. eek!

A few of you have contacted me via the comments regarding access to KD (Which is a relief, actually. There's nothing worse than throwing a party no one shows up to). In order to add you, I need your email address. If you're already on Blogger, I think it helps to use the email address you use on Blogger. To contact me you can use the comments here or I'm on gmail. My handle is 'reluctantashtangi'.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Early, early practice this morning - I unrolled my mat at 5 a.m. on the dot. I had a good practice, fairly typical, very sweaty (I'm loving the summer heat!). I seem to be on some sort of plateau right now, but it's a happy one. Today was six days of full Primary in a row, so I'm due a day off. I may do some Hatha tomorrow, or maybe not. I'll see how I feel in the morning.

Tomorrow will be even earlier because I was actually a bit late for my new gig this morning. I'm working part-time, mornings, this week and probably next. Weird gig, early start and the pay is lousy, but I don't have to do much except walk around in circles and stand around and I'm done before lunchtime. I kind of like it. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I usually am about anything work-related. At least this job is downtown, an easy 10-minute ride on my bicycle.

On that note, I'm reviving KD, but keeping it completely private (again). Yeah, I know, *another* private blog. It's on Blogger this time around. Those of you who have been reading here for a while (you know who you are; pretty much anyone on my blogroll) can contact me if you'd like access.

Off to bed. I'm quite serious! My batteries have run out...

Monday, June 22, 2009


I spent most of yesterday afternoon pulling up sod. After two hours of this, I was exhausted (and since summer is officially here, temperature-wise, I was also hot). I took a long bath, ate supper and fell into a deep, drooling sleep, chock full of bizarre dreams.

I assumed that I would dream of dirt clods or shovels, but I didn't. Instead, I dreamt of yoga teacher training. In the dream, I visited one of my YTT teachers, who was in the midst of training a new group. These students were practising an interesting adjustment that involved bringing the head into proper alignment in a pose by roughly yanking the student by the hair. Ouch.

I woke up with a headache.

I unrolled my mat and, after a quick search of my knapsack, I realised that I had left my favourite Beryl DVD downtown. That’s when I remembered the MP3.

I recently discovered that Beryl Bender Birch (whose 'Power Yoga' Primary Series DVD I'm very addicted to) is on iTunes! Yes, Astanga Yoga on iTunes...who knew? So I downloaded Beryl. I put her on my iPod. Now I can take Beryl with me EVERYWHERE! Kinda scary, isn't it? ;-)

Of the two Beryl Bender Birch Primary Series recordings offered by iTunes, the best quality one is produced by AliveYoga.com. This particular recording was made during a yoga retreat in the Bahamas, so it has that authentic 'yoga class' feel to it. The sequence in this recording is less polished than the DVD and slower moving.

Beryl mentions the beach several times. I started to daydream that I really WAS near a beach. By the end of the class, I was imagining that after Savasana, I would go off and do some snorkelling. ;-) Alas...

In terms of the sequence, it's pretty standard BBB Primary Series. She taught 5 Surya Namaskara A's, 3 Surya Namaskara B's. She skipped Marichyasana D entirely. The vinyasa between the seated poses was inconsistent (though there was enough fumbling around between sides that I was able to fit a Vinyasa in when I wanted to). Navasana was repeated 4 times and Setu Bandhasana was replaced with Bridge (which is fine by me; If I'm honest about it, I hate Setu). After one repetition of Urdhva Dhanurasana, there was a standard closing.

I loved the invocation being sung, call and response fashion, at the beginning. And I also loved the Savasnana at the end. It was LONG.

Overall? Worth the nine bucks, I think. AliveYoga did a nice job of producing this.

As for my practice, it was good, though I was very, very achy just about everywhere, including my back and my neck. There was something very weird going on deep in my left hip (which made Navasna absolutely excruciating). I didn't work up quite the fabulous sweat that I did yesterday but I was in a more contemplative move.

There's something delightful about an early-morning practice in summer, with the light streaming in the windows and the balmy breeze floating through the room. Blissful! I had the best Savasana I can remember. I'm finally beginning to appreciate my morning practices again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


This is what I see as I practice in the morning. For the dog, yoga is our daily routine. That is, I do yoga while she sleeps. From what I can tell, it's a deep sleep and a tad athletic. I wonder if she gets extra karma points for witnessing my yoga practice over her lifetime? Is this an auspicious rebirth for her? Sort of like a child who's born into a family of sages?

I returned to my downtown shoebox late last night and awoke at 5 this morning to sunlight streaming in through the windows. Finally, summery weather! I enjoyed a full morning of yoga, a long walk to the Big Park, and a downtown class taught in a local park, damp earth underneath my feet as I walked between students, offering cues and adjusting postures.

I'm drunk on sunlight!

I had a fiery and sweaty practice this morning. By the time I finished, the towel I use to mop my face was soaked. I really love these heated summer yoga practices. I never seem to be able to work up a good sweat in the winter. It's easy in the summer with the heat and humidity.

I had a good practice. With the exception of a very cautious Bhujapidasana, I did everything that's currently in my repertoire. I bound in all the poses I usually bind in (except the left side in Marichyasana D, which continues to elude me). Sirsasana is such a joy. Each time I do this pose, I feel more and more stable. I'm no longer afraid of falling out. Backbends were strong and mostly comfortable.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The weather around here continues to defy logic. Today, it's rainy. It *poured* all night and off and on throughout the day, making a mockery of several little street festivals that I had hoped to attend. I managed to make it to one of them in the afternoon after the showers eased. And it was fun (and well-attended; I think the whole neighbourhood was out!), but I'm getting just a bit burnt out on street festivals.

Because my morning class was cancelled, I came to the house last night and stayed through the day (I'll head downtown tonight because I'm teaching a Sunday morning class). I lazed around for most of the morning, reading the new yoga anatomy book I bought last week. I took a nap and hit the mat soon after I woke.

I didn't think I would have a very good practice, given that I was a lazy lump for much of the day, but it was nice. I borrowed a beach towel to place over my old Maha mat as a substitute for my Mysore rug. Worked okay. At least I wasn't struggling to slide my heels forward in Kurmasana.

I've lost the bind in Marichyasana D and Supta Kurmasana was a struggle. I felt very nervous in Bhujapidasana. The 'accident' yesterday left me with a sore noggin and a bit of rugburn high up the bridge of my nose. My eyeglasses cover it up, but it now hurts to wear them.

Today was backbend photo day. I've never set up a backbend photo at the house before, so I had to shift my mat over to a wall. I did my backbend under lovely artwork!

Here is the State of the Backbend this week:

A quick comparion to last week...I think this reveals a slightly deeper backbend:

I haven't been doing as many hip openers this week - just pigeon. But I *have* been implementing a new strategy. I call it: "Life is a Backbend."

I'm on my computer a LOT and I tend to sit on the bed with my laptop, in a seated position that is the polar opposite of a backbend, upper and lower back curled, shoulders hunched forward. I do the same when reading (and I read a LOT).

New strategy: I've been moving to the floor and coming into a sphinx position when reading stuff online or reading a book. Periodically, I rest in Balasana to stretch my back muscles (they tend to get cranky after a while).

I like it. I find it keeps me from becoming foggy-headed. I didn't notice a huge difference in the feeling of my backbends this week, but in the photo it's looking deeper, so I'll carry on.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I picked up Richard Freeman's Primary Series DVD from the library today. I borrowed this years ago, back in my 'reluctant' days and remember watching it with awe and a bit of disbelief. It was pretty fun to unroll the mat and actually *do* the practice I had once scoffed at.

My overall impression? It was a bit too slow and leisurely for my taste. I felt like the practice lagged in spots, allowing my body to cool down. Beryl may have her quirks, but her Primary Series is snappy, it moves along at a good clip and I've come to love that.

It goes without saying: Richard Freeman has a gorgeous practice. This DVD is worthwhile simply for viewing. And he has a really lovely voice - I could listen to him speak all day. This is important because he has a lot to say and he says it all on this DVD. There are few moments of silence in which to listen to your breath or contemplate the stillness of the mind or simply be. The steady stream of instruction is a bit overwhelming at times, but as a teacher, I appreciated the richness of his cues and his observations about the practice. I could, and will, listen to this DVD multiple time to pick up the nuances.

I noticed a few differences. He didn't offer a Parivritta Parsvakonasana (though the Parivritta Trikonasana was there). In Bhujapidasana, he put the crown of his head to the floor in what looked like a tripod headstand. Of course, I didn't do the pose that way - I decided to do some 'research'. I tried to put my chin on the floor (inspired by some tips Susan offered in a recent post) and in my enthusiasm I ended up falling forward onto my face.

Ouch. I had to ice my face for the rest of the practice to avoid a fat lip in my 4:30 class.

There's a nice section on jumps, but unfortunately, it's smack-dab in the middle of the practice, so if I were to use this DVD regularly, I would need to fast forward through it. I appreciated his thoughts about the purpose of vinyasa: it allows you to start each pose with a 'clean slate' (kind of like clearing the palate) and also offers the opportunity to re-engage the bandhas before moving on to the next pose.

There were some funny moments. In Ardha Padma Padottanasana, you're instructed to “grab the left toe, if available”, as if the left toe might have stepped out for a bite to eat or something (apparently, the right toe is more of a homebody; there was no question about its availability). There was a constant reference to 'enthusiastic legs' which oddly reminded me of 'The Joy of Painting' with Bob Ross and his 'happy trees'. I forget where the 'Power of your tail' came up, but it gave me a good giggle.

Some of his cues were powerful. As a yoga teacher, I really appreciate it when someone can tell me precisely how to deepen a pose, in words rather than adjustments. In Janu Sirsasana, he says more than once that the sit bone of the extended leg should be 'floating above the floor' and moving backwards (so the front heel and the sit bone are moving in opposite directions). Brilliant! I've always rooted down through that sitbone. By moving this engagement into the other sitbone, I was able to deepen the pose.

I enjoyed his instruction in the Marichyasanas. I didn't know that the foot of the folded leg should be six inches away from my thigh in Marichyasana A (I had been working with my foot almost touching my leg). Interestingly, this helped me go deeper in the pose. In Marichyasana C, he cues to 'ground down through the sit bone'. This helped me create more length in my spine and took some pressure off my low back (a common issue I experience in this pose). His instruction to “reach way, way up” before reaching around to bind also made a difference - both in spinal length and the depth of my bind.

Just prior to the section of the practice containing Bhujapidasana, he offered some advice, quite priceless in retrospect:

“The key here is having a good attitude. You should enjoy falling down sometimes.”

Looks like I get an A+ for that one!

More on this DVD as I continue to use it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hatha, Astanga

This was a bizarre day.

I was up bright and early, 5 a.m. I did about an hour of Hatha yoga with my new yoga buddy Erich Schiffman (the DVD). It was nice - the apartment was softly lit by the early morning light and I lit the OM candle that Yogamum sent me to enhance the atmosphere. I took the dog for a quiet walk in the park (I love my neighbourhood at this hour of the morning) and headed to the subway shortly after.

When I arrived at my contract location, I was told that they didn't need me. There was this huge miscommunication (between the client and the agency; a conversation I wasn't part of) so I ended up coming home early.

The entire day felt like a bit of a disaster but at the same time it was oddly harmonious. I was wearing a new pair of shoes and by the time I arrived at the location, I had terrible blisters. I limped all the way down to the security office to get my $5 deposit back on my ID badge, wincing in pain every step. On the way back to the client's office, I saw a vendor in the lobby. I think I may have actually heard angels sing when I noticed that she was selling squishy, croc-style flip-flops. For $5. I handed over my newly acquired security deposit and received a bright orange pair of marvelously comfortable shoes. I joyfully flip flopped around the building until I finally left.

I spent most of the the day at home, in my pyjamas, reading library books, drinking tea and feeling decadent. ;-)

My evening class cancelled due to weather (it's rainy and, once again, unseasonable cold), so I decided to hop on the mat and do the Primary Series. Yoga, Round 2. I had a great practice and really enjoyed myself. I just had fun. Since it was unexpected, it felt like a gift.

For some reason, I'm loving Marichyasana C. I usually hate it, but I'm binding to wrist this week and it's feeling good to me.

Here's some more 1970s Glamour Yoga. Kareen is the ultimate yoga cheerleader:

Figure 10: Gimme an 'O'!
Figure 11: Gimme a 'Y'!
If you add a 'G' and an 'A', whaddaya got? YOGA!!!

(Many of my older students remember Kareen from her yoga show. She's all kinds of awesome and greatly beloved here in Canada).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The bad thing about a short-term contract is if it's *really* wonderful, then it's sad to leave at the end. On the other hand...

Rough day. Long commute. *grump*

To be honest, I was so tired when I walked in the door, I had no idea how I would get through a practice. My entire body felt like one big knot. But I once I unrolled my mat and got started, I felt this wave of relief wash over me. I could literally feel the stress dissipating. I felt like I was reclaiming my real body. By the time I was through the standing poses, I felt great.

The 'bliss meter' was way up there.

I practised full Primary with no extras (read: hip openers and extra backbends). I was binding everything there was to bind. Halasana was mindblowing, it was so easy and felt so natural. I experienced a rare *comfortable* Supta K, ease-y backbends, light and balanced Sirsasana (I'm running out of adjectives here.

Good thing I had a good practice, because the rest of my day sucked. Friday? Soon?

(My new theme song; it's an inside joke)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I woke up early this morning and did an hour of Hatha, al la Erich Schiffmann.

A friend recently asked me about Schiffmann' 'Yoga Mind & Body' DVD that features actress Ali MacGraw (the DVD headlines MacGraw, but make no mistake, Schiffmann is the teacher). I vaguely remembered it, mostly as being exceptionally strange, but I do like Erich Schiffman so I was more than willing to give it a go. I found the DVD at the library and I took my 1990s nostalgia trip this morning. It's a nice sequence. I didn't sweat, but I got a bit dewy. The poses are not overly challenging, but the Ardha Chandrasana variation is some good fun.

The entire class is shot on a white dessert under a bright blue sky. That part's okay. Schiffmann, who looks like a lovable Yogi Bear, dramatically appears on the desert to lead the class (the manufactured drama made me roll my eyes). The models are of various ages and ethnic backgrounds (good) and they're all absolutely beautiful (good) but they all looked a bit stoned and none of them cracked a shadow of a smile or appeared to enjoy the practice (creepy).

The camera often flashes rapidly between models, superimposing them upon one another, to the sky, to the sand in dizzying succession. In one particularly creepy shot, MacGraw is viewed doing cat/dog tilts through the slightly blurred silhouette of one of the male models as he pumps his spine suggestively (as jungle beats pound away in the background *rowr*).

It tried to be art, but it's not art.

My biggest complaint about this DVD is that Schiffmann doesn't tell you what's coming or what the poses are - you have to look at the screen and watch the weird models in order to figure out what's going on. This is unfortunate because Schiffmann's cues are pretty good, the sequence is nice and I enjoyed the music. I wouldn't mind practising to an MP3 of this. But Ali MacGraw and the those weird camera angles and the Stepford Yogis? They creep me out.


Summer contract season is here and you know what that means. Many of my classes don't run in the summer, so I do contract work to pay the bills and make extra money to pad my savings account. Last year I ended up at the same place all summer. So far this year, I haven't been placed anywhere long term, but I will be working for the next two days on an eensy weensy little short-term contract.

I have a Grand Plan for my yoga practice over the next two days, which I'm documenting here to keep myself accountable:
Wednesday: Astanga Full Primary Series in the afternoon, as soon as I get home from work.
Thursday: One hour of Hatha in the morning before I got to work (which entails getting up stupidly early, but I might a well get used to it).
Friday: Back to Astanga Full Primary to round out the week.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Day 8 of full Primary. Well, it was an interesting experiment, but today it came to its not-terribly-surprising conclusion: I'm tired. *yawn*

I woke up tired, I stepped on the mat tired. In the past, I've usually rallied and I can get my prana up, but not today. I sluggishly endured the standing poses (my allergies are bad and I started with a slight headache).

It didn't get any better with the seated poses (I was only binding to fingers in Mari A-C and couldn't bind at all in D) By the time I hit Navasana, I was pooped. I briefly considered half-primary, but pressed on through Kurmasana (didn't bind in Supta K) to the bitter end (skipped Setu because it seemed like too much work) and did a very modified closing sequence.

Not my finest hour.

To be fair, I haven't exactly been treating my body like a temple this weekend. There was that funnel cake on Saturday. And yesterday, I went to a potluck picnic that resembled a dessert table potlatch. I actually felt a bit embarrassed setting my fruit salad on the table alongside the Cinnabons and cupcakes (it was devoured though). But me? I can't resist sugary treats, so it was yet another unhealthy weekend for food. I need to watch that. Gonna get pudgy...

Tomorrow, I'm taking a break from Astanga with a shorter Hatha practice and I'm tentatively planning Hatha on Thursday as well. Then I'll see how I'm feeling and what my schedule is like.

In other news, since backbending has been on my mind, I remembered that I do own a balance ball. I purchased it a few years ago, but deflated it and put it into storage because I wasn't using it (and it's huge). I thought that now might be the time, but I needed a pump. I added 'Buy pump at Canadian Tire' to my to-do list and literally hours later, I saw some garage sale leftovers sitting at a curb. There was a brand-new pump in that pile! I snagged it and now have a functioning balance ball!

It takes up a lot of space in the apartment - I now remember why I deflated it (it smells funny too). My plan is to use it for supported backbending.

Whee! This is fun...for about 30 seconds, then I hate it. Aversion? Sounds like something I need to explore further! ;-)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Okay, I'm still getting my head wrapped around this, but it appears that I'm about to become mini-famous (In fact, there's a good chance that many of you reading today are brand new, so welcome! I'm glad you're here!).

YogaDork tipped me off.

I was casually reading YogaDork's latest post, which was about an upcoming article in Yoga Journal (August 2009) talking about yoga blogs. “Oh goody,” I thought, “This should be interesting!” The article discussed yoga blogs in the context of community and information sharing (which is a pretty generous take on the sometimes narcissistic, snarky world of yoga blogging, I thought). It also offered a selection of 10 particularly good blogs. I curiously perused the list.

I saw many of the usual suspects. Yoga Dawg is on there, along with Cyndi Lee and a few of the 'professional blogs'. YogaDork, of course, made the list. There were some new-to-me blogs that I'll definitely be checking out (Brook looks particularly awesome).

And I'm on that list.

I kind of did a double take, then a triple take, then a quadruple take. Then I did my happy dance, because seriously, who doesn't want to be in Yoga Journal? And then I checked the scanned copy of the article because I still couldn't believe it. Then I went to bed and dreamt that it had all been a BIG MISTAKE. In the dream, I was standing at my local news stand, flipping through the August issue of YJ and I wasn't even in the article at all.

Then I woke up and did my happy dance again.

As far as I can tell, I'm the only Ashtangi on that list and the only Canadian, so I have a lot of representing to do.

It's interesting to me that out of all the really outstanding Astanga blogs in our Cybershala (and there are some truly wonderful ones that put my little blog to shame), YJ chose the 'Reluctant Ashtangi'. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I'm far from 'reluctant' these days..

Anyways, I'm honoured and deeply flattered and pretty well gobsmacked. And in a couple of weeks, my access stats are going to be very interesting.

A nod to my fellow blogging celebrities: Congrats, everybody! Behold the awesomeness:

Yesterday, I took the dog to Woofstock where she spent two hours frantically sniffing, sniffing, sniffing everything within leash-reach: “A bum to sniff! Another bum to sniff! More bums! Food on the ground! What's that, over there? OMG a Great Dane! Is that a poodle? I MUST SNIFF HER BUM! Then I'm going to eat some more food off the ground...” It was miniature schnauzer heaven! Her frantic, scattered energy reminded me of my brain when I'm trying to meditate. It was exhausting just watching her and when we got home she slept for 16 hours.

Me? I ate half a funnel cake. All of this by way of explanation: my practice was stiff and ponderous because my diet was horrific yesterday. We won't talk about the double-chocolate cookies. Or the burrito. Or the sushi. No siree!

This morning, I woke early and did the full Primary Series here in my own little yoga space. I had a laid back, easy-going practice, but my body and especially my joints felt really, really gummy.

For those of you keeping score, this was the 7th consecutive day of Full Primary. It's the first time I've managed to get six in a row in months. I don't schedule my days off; usually, life happens and schedules them for me. I'm sure that in the next couple of days, practice will not be possible for one reason or another and I'll take an astanga break. Until then, I'm on a roll.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


You know, *this* is what I love about Yoga.

Just when you think you have a plan, that you're on a roll. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Yoga smirks, then bitch-slaps your errant ego back into shape. *ouch*

All week, I faithfully did hip openers. I was a woman on a mission! And let me tell you, my hips? They are most *definitely* open. It's nice - even walking down the street feels better. I taught Eka Pada Raj Kapotanasana yesterday in my morning class and I slid into the pose like butter. My hip crease kissed the floor. But my backbend?

This is state-of-the-backbend this week:

It's kind of hard to say, but I think it actually looks *worse* than last week's backbend. No improvement at all.

I'm loving the open hips though, and I'm really enjoying messing around with these extracurricular poses before the closing sequence, so I'm going to carry on.

Today, full Primary Series, plus lots of hip openers and Ustrasana. Good, but not a great practice. I was feeling tired. I noticed some tightness/cramping in my mid-back, right side.

Of course, this made me a bit panicky because it evoked memories of last year's horrible shoulder/upper back injury that kept me out of shoulder stand for months. But Supta Konasana felt fine, so I knew that couldn't be it. I tried various movements trying to pinpoint the spot. then glanced through an anatomy book.

It's my Latissimus Dorsi. This is a new one! I wonder what did it? I think I may need to place a moratorium on doing more advanced poses cold. I know, I know...I can see you shaking your head and 'tsking' at me. There was that demo I did of Supta Kurmasana for my youth class yesterday...

I'll end on a high note: Sirsasana was marvelous! It's moved from the 'dreaded pose list' to the 'favourite pose list.'

Friday, June 12, 2009


Last night, for the first time in a long time, I stayed up past midnight. I was reading a good book and just didn't feel like sleeping. Ironically, I awoke bright-eyed and full of pep at 6:30 this morning, ready to start my day on six hours of sleep. I'm a mystery to myself! *eye roll*

Thanks to my early start, I was on that mat by 7 a.m. and I had a fabulous practice, full Primary Series (about 105 minutes with all the extras I added). I sweated buckets. My focus this week has been on the breath, so I continued with this theme. I challenged myself to follow the breath like stepping stones through the entire practice. Didn't even come close, but it was fun and kept me mostly on track.

To prep for Urdhva Dhanurasana today, I did hip openers, lots of hip openers. I covered all of the usual suspects, plus Ustrasana to prep for the back bend. As a counterpose, I did Futon Balasana, which also opens the shoulders.

Here's the basics of this fabulous made-up-by-me-but-Iyengar-probably-thought-of-it-first pose:

1) In Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) face the futon (a couch might work too) and put your palms on the seat (you should be about a foot away).
2) Lower your chest towards the floor until you feel a stretch around the armpit chest.

I can get my head to the floor in this one and I *heart* the stretch.

Urdhva Dhanurasana felt really deep today, but it always does. It always feels better than it actually looks, but tomorrow will be the true test, as I'll be taking my weekly photograph.

After my 3 repeats of Urdhva Dhanurasana, I did some work on drop-backs. I can easily walk my hands down a wall into a backbend, but I'm miles away from doing it in the middle of a the room without assistance. This morning, I shot a video of myself doing the preparation - a standing backbend - just to see how far away the floor really is. *Gulp* It's pretty far.

Sirsasana was fun. I moved the pose back into the middle of the room today. To be honest, I really started to like doing it sans the wall - I was missing my daily mini-dose of terror. Today, I worked on bringing my legs all the way up until I felt the slightest bit of an arch in my low back, then pressed up through the heels. I felt very centred and I really noticed that my arms and shoulders were supporting the pose; I didn't feel anything at all on my head. This is good - it's what I'm supposed to be feeling.

I shot a video of the pose and confirmed that the alignment is much better. Mission accomplished!

Today's 1970s yoga glamour shot:

Tummy and Thigh Toner
"This movement does exactly what it says it does. It slims and firms the tummy and thighs."

Alrighty then. Everyone who's working on Lagu Vajrasana in the Intermediate series should be all set for bikini season! ;-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Last night, I slept for 10 and a half hours. This is a half hour more than the previous two days and a lot of sleep for someone who ordinarily sleeps for 7. I don't know if I'm fighting a bug, yoga-related exhaustion or if it's just sloth, but I'm going to go with it for now. My body knows what it needs. With the long sleep, the weird, movie-like dreams continue. Last night was a comedy, a kind of dark twisted one. Who needs television when you can just close your eyes?

I ended up doing my yoga practice in the afternoon. Between teaching two classes, I had two solid hours of free time. I worked through the Primary Series and then spent another half-hour experimenting with more hip openers. Hip openers have become my new project. As I biked to my last class of the day, my hips felt all loose and floppy, in a good way!

I did the same sequence I mentioned yesterday, but added standing splits against the wall and a variation (read: modification; since I can't actually do the pose) of Hanumasana. I really worked the low lunge pose, bringing the stretch deep into the hip by extending my back leg behind me and shifting my weight forward toward the front leg, while dropping my pelvis down. I even tried propping my front foot up on a chair, so I could really bring the stretch deep into the hip.

I thought I should offer a clearer explanation of the Supta Virasana psoas stretch I've been using (the one I mentioned yesterday). It's quickly becoming my New Favourite Thing. Here are the basics:

1) Come into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) with a block positioned vertically under the sacrum (or horizontally for less height, if your hips are very tight).
2) Tuck one foot underneath, as you would for Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero's Pose), pressing the knee towards the floor. It likely won't reach the floor. Basically, think of this pose as an elevated Half Supta Virasana.
3) Keep the other foot firmly on the floor. You'll feel the stretch in the quadracep and deep in the hip crease of the tucked leg (you shouldn't feel any pain in your knee though). As the pose deepens, move the toes further toward your armpit and the knee closer to the floor.
4) Repeat on the other side.

As I did my three repetitions of Urdhva Dhanurasana today, I focused specifically on pressing my feet deeply into the floor and using the strength of my legs to shift my weight toward my hands and also lift UP! The hip openers were helpful - I was able to hold the pose longer in each repetition and also gently rock, rock, rock my armpits toward the back wall. I'm not sure if this is really doing anything to open the hips, but it felt good.

Completely an aside, but all of this hip work has done wonderful things for my handstand! I find that I can come up very lightly and today I lifted up and balanced without touching the wall.

I did another video of Sirsasana, this time working against the wall. I shifted my weight forward and back to get a sense of alignment in the pose. The resulting video was VERY revealing. As I suspected, I haven't been straightening my legs completely in headstand, erring on the side of caution because I'm afraid of falling over backward.

The good news is, as much as I was forcing myself to arch back, towards the wall, I never actually touched the wall (I didn't fall over). Tomorrow, I'll take the pose back to the middle of the room and see if I can apply these alignment lessons in context, with a big dose of courage, of course.

More Vintage, 1970s Yoga, this time from Kareen Zebroff (who's actually a pretty cool lady and still teaching yoga):

Figure 8. Grab your foot
Figure 9. Change lightbulb!

(On a more serious note, maybe I should add this vintage move to my series of hip openers!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Alas, yet again I couldn't manage a morning practice. I've been sleeping a LOT lately, and having extremely vivid, engaging, movie-like dreams. They make it too easy to sleep because I'm so entertained! I woke up to shut the window last night and when I came back to sleep, the dream picked up exactly where it left off, just like a T.V. show! I went to bed early and slept late, didn't get on the mat until mid-morning because I had phone calls to make, then the dog needed a walk.

I was hungry for lunch at noon, but did yoga instead.

I did full Primary and this practice was definitely an improvement on yesterday's. I was less distracted and better able to keep attention focused on my breathing. Yeah, I kind of let that part slide yesterday. It's amazing - the first few sun salutations were lazy and soft, but when I pulled my focus into ujjayi breathing, I could feel the scattered energy coming together into a flow. My body heated up right away too.

In the comments, Alfia made an interesting observation about my Urdhva Dhanurasana. She said that I'm already open in my spine and shoulders, but my hip flexors are tight. I've been prowling around the Internet, looking for good Urdhva Dhanurasana photos. I found Arjuna, of course, and Elsie (an Anusara teacher) and one other. Then there's me...argh. ;-)

I think Alfia's onto something!

Today, I did a short series of hip openers before I came into Urdhva Dhanurasana. I did a psoas opener on each side using a block (I learned this in the recent Hanumasana workshop;iIt looks a bit like a Ardha Supta Virasana with the block under the sacrum). Then I did some low lunges that focused on stretching the hip flexors in the area of the hip crease. I moved into Eka Pada Raj Kapotanasana (Pigeon Pose), came into Ustrasana (Camel) for 10 breaths, then repeated the psoas opener.

Then I did Urdhva Dhanurasana three times and I think it felt better, more open. At least, it didn't feel as difficult as yesterday. I often blame my back when I can't come into this pose easily, but I need to remind myself of something I say to my students all the time: “Don't think of it as a 'backbend,' think of it as a 'front stretch!' “ If the front of the body can't stretch, it's impossible to come more deeply into the pose, no matter how bendy your spine is.

I'll continue with the hip openers this week and see if there's any difference on Saturday when I take my next backbend photo.

I did Sirsasana against the wall today and worked on 'playing' with weight distribution and alignment within the pose. I didn't even come close to falling out of it, even with all of my moving around and experimenting. Tomorrow, I think I'll get out the camera and get a video of the pose so I can see where I'm coming into the best alignment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Well, that was a perfectly awful day! Even the parts of the day that tried to be fabulous fell completely flat. I overslept, wasted the morning surfing around on the 'net (but finally extracted myself from the computer and went for a walk). I taught a noon class. In the afternoon, I broke my favourite bowl while brewing tea (thank goodness I didn't break the teapot too!). Taught another class. Dourly noted that the temperature, which was supposed to be a summery 25C was actually 15C (we're having a horribly cold summer here so far and I'm not happy about it). Spent much of the day indoors. It was cloudy. Grump!

I did the full Primary Series in the afternoon. I was very distracted for the full 90 minutes and my mind was churning. My body was stiff and my lower back was cranky. It was a bit better once I warmed up with the sun salutations, but nothing felt quite right. I did all the poses, just not very well. Not a great practice.

I'm taking my Sirsasana back to the wall, this time to work on alignment issues. I did a video of Sirsasana yesterday (which will not be posted here - the camera really *does* add 10 lbs! ug) and in viewing it, discovered that my legs are not straight. The problem is, I'm not coming into the pose fully, probably because I'm afraid of falling over backwards.

I experimented with the pose today using the wall. I kept moving my legs back, back, back (!) well past the midline toward the wall until my back actually started to arch. I discovered that I had to make an extraordinary effort in order to even touch my feet to the wall (I set up my hands about 10 cm from the wall). My fear of falling over is unfounded; I wasn't even close to falling over. I just need to build some confidence and I'll be fine.

I also photographed my Bakasana. Though it's not part of the Primary Series, I do it each day. Lately, I've noticed that I can come into the pose more comfortably (though I can't yet jump into it). I've been working on placing my knees behind my armpits (rather than balancing my shins on my triceps). In the photo, the pose actually looks great! My arms could be straighter and my knees could be further up towards my armpits, but I've made substantial progress.

Monday, June 8, 2009


“Life is only two minutes long: one minute you are born, the next minute, you die. In between, only a flash of lightening….”
- Sri K Pattabhi Jois

I found this posted on Yoga Dork this morning. I love this quote. My life sometimes feels this way. Where did the last ten years go, for example? I started yoga teacher training when I was in my early 30s. Now, I'm on the verge of my 40s. The time has flown by.

The Building Overlords turned off the water for the day for plumbing repairs so I escaped to the café for breakfast. I had eggs this morning because the Pancake Lady wasn't back in the kitchen. I came home, did some work and unrolled my mat a couple hours later.

Today's practice gave me a whole new appreciation for the value of an empty stomach. I felt a bit queasy during the sun salutations, but it passed as I moved into the standing poses. Still, I felt 'heavy' in the vinyasas. It was a strong practice, but not a light one. This could also be due to my *ahem* less-than-optimal diet over the weekend.

The apartment was warm; I sweated buckets today. My Mysore rug really needs to go in the wash, but I'm afraid if I do that, it will fall apart completely. I have my eye on the eQua yoga towels, but they're pricey. If I get a good contract this summer, I might do it.

Supta Kurmasana was really deep. I'm starting to realise how important the Marichyasanas are in preparing for that pose. Skimp on the Maris and binding in Supta K is difficult. Today, I discovered a neat little trick for getting my shoulders further behind my knees in preparation for the pose. I lift my heels, one at a time, so I could move my calf muscle forward and make space for the shoulder to slide in behind the knee. My back wasn't cranky at all and I was able to bind easily.

And here's something neat: I'm starting to look forward to Sirsasana! I actually like this pose! Coming up and down from half-bend doesn't feel so scary anymore.

I finally scanned some pages from the vintage yoga books. Today's image is brought to you by polyester and the colour green. Note the dance tights which match the leotard which match the logo. She kinda looks like a refugee from a 1960s space drama. Yoga Trek, perhaps?

“Ensign Marshall, please come to the bridge. The Captain would like to adjust your Ardha Matsyendrasana.”

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Okay, honestly? I really intended to do my full Astanga practice today.

But I slept in this morning, went out for sushi, then headed to the Drumming Festival. I figured I would stay for a half-hour or so but it was so much fun I ended up staying there all afternoon. The drumming festival is really quite magical.

I do play a drum (djembe) but didn't have it with me. I laid on the grass, watching the leaves sway overhead and listening to the performances. Supper was found at the food tents (the best Roti I've ever tasted and some of the most mediocre doubles) then I headed back to the apartment for an evening of junk television.

And still, there was no yoga. I kept putting it off until it was very late. Finally, I unrolled the mat for 20 minutes of restorative yoga before I went to sleep. Hm, let's see: forward bends, Supta Padangustasana, Supta Baddha Konasana, a supine twist and Savasana.

But the drumming festival was fun! ;-)

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I had banana pancakes *again* this morning, though again, they were not as good. Pancake Lady wasn't there, asked guy who was filling in for her not to overcook them and he complied. The pancakes were undercooked. Pancake Lady is just amazing. I'm wondering how she always manages to get them just right. Is there is a secret adjustment to the temperature of the grill? A special method of pouring the batter? Whatever it is, it's magic and she's the only one who seems to get it right. I'm not going to get pancakes again until she's back on duty.

It's 'festival season' in the city, so there's a lot to do and I attended a conference in the afternoon. It's difficult to get my practice in when I'm this busy. Fortunately, I was able to sneak in my practice after I returned from teaching my morning yoga class before going to the conference.

I'm really loving my Saturday afternoon practices. Today was especially good. Supta Kurmasana was very deep and Sirsasana, once again, felt strong and controlled. I came up, held it for 10 breaths, came to half-bend, back up, then exited. I'm feeling less panicky about it.

Today's State-of-the-Backbend photo was disappointing:

My backbends feel deeper than they look these days. It's frustrating. As I was doing this, I was thinking “This is a DEEP backbend” but the photo doesn't reflect it. In my practice this past week, I've been consciously trying to work deeper in my backbends, walking my hands closer to my feet with each repetition of Urdhva Dhanurasana. I was so certain that I would see some progress. I guess it's a long process.

Patience, Grasshopper.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I taught until 10 p.m. last night and decided to ride my bike home, rather than fold it up and ride the subway. I love riding past High Park on a summer evening. There's a musky foresty smell that permeates the air around the park at night: trees, damp earth, oxygen. I savour it. Then back into the city and traffic and urban stink. :-D

Since I was up late last night, I turned off the alarm so I could sleep in. As luck would have it, I woke up bright and early at 6 a.m. I forced myself to go back to sleep and got up at 8, rolling onto the mat by 8:30. I felt stiff, cranky and out -of-sorts and I really didn't know what kind of practice I would end up having, which I guess is sort of the point: practice brings the body back into equilibrium.

By the second sun salutation, I felt fine and I had a really good practice. Sirsasana totally rocked - it was very controlled today, which seems to be the key. Coming back up from half-bend, I played a mental game, pretending that I was coming into the pose fresh. Then it was all a nice surprise when I was able to come back down again right away. :-D

My lower back was feeling cranky which I expected, having put some strain on it last night, carting books home from class. One of my students 'gifted' me a couple of vintage yoga books. 1970s yoga is VERY...um, interesting. Scans soon, I promise.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I was out late last night, so I slept in. I didn't practice in the morning, opting instead for banana pancakes. The Pancake Lady was not working (replaced by the much-inferior Pancake Guy), so the pancakes were subpar - over cooked and chewy. Better luck next time.

Today is my last 'heavy teaching day' for the summer. I won't be this busy again until next fall, when my pre-registered sessions start up again. This means that, temporarily, I'll have lots of spare time. It also means that the Money Tree will soon wilt. I will need to get a job-job for the summer. I phoned my agency this morning and they said things are 'slow' but they will start sniffing out possible contracts.

After teaching my noon class, I unrolled the mat for 45 minutes of Vinyasa, the same sequence I taught in the class. The practice included two standing balances that I love, but don't often do: Ardha Chandrasana and Virabhadrasana III. I also worked on my entry into Pinchamayurasana. I would like to come into this pose with more control, so I can confidently practice it away from the wall. Listened to Arcade Fire while I practiced. I'm still using the DVD for my Primary Series, so it was nice to have a different kind of soundtrack.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I was so good! I went to bed before ten last nigh. But my mother apparently didn't get that memo about my Grand Plan to start getting up early for practice. She phoned at 10:15 p.m. and woke me up...argh. To her defence, she only phoned because I told her to. I thought that “Call me in the evening” would translate into a phone call around suppertime. Nope. Mom's on mountain time.

When the alarm went off this morning, I pushed snooze and slept till 7 a.m. Not as good as 6, but better than 8. Baby steps.

It's 'Bike Month' in the city. This event used to be called 'Bike Week' but the scope has been expanded. Many of the annual events still take place during the first week of June, though. I rolled out of bed and headed down to the University 'bike breakfast'. Free food!

I enjoyed half an apple pastry, a cheese danish, some yogurt and apple juice. There was live music - something blue-grassy. This is the tenth year I've attended this little event. TEN!!! I can't believe I've been in this city for over ten years! I think I may be settling in...

After a long walk with the dog, I unrolled my mat for practice, full Primary, the usual. To be perfectly honest, I don't think walking beforehand makes a significant different in my practice. I thought it did, but I was wrong. I had a good practice, to be sure, but warming up wasn't any easier because of the walk. In other words, I could roll out of bed in the morning straight onto my mat and get the same practice.

Every time I do Kurmasana, I think of Kermit the Frog. Kerm-asana! At least I'm binding. The binding is going so well that I'm beginning to wonder what it would be like to cross my feet. Not over my head - not yet. But soon?
Shoulderstand-y poses felt lovely today. I could have fallen asleep in Halasana.

I was stable in headstand and did the half-bend but didn't come back into full headstand before exiting the pose. That's the icing on the cake for me. The last time I seriously and unexpectedly fell out of headstand was while I was coming up from that half-bend. As Teacher M always tells me, it's all a brain game.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, rolled over, pulled the sheet over my head, went back to sleep until 8. I was tired. I needed to catch up, I guess. But I did practice after I got up.

First, let's reflect on the irony: I had to dig my space heater out of storage and heat the apartment for my practice this morning. It's June, for pete's sake! When is it going to warm up? It got down to 8C last night and the high today will only be 15 or so. Two weeks from now, I'm going to look back at this post with my eyes popping out, as I boil in a heat index of 35C. Unless it's a cool summer and please, I *dont'* want that! I like my heat! (I like boiling!)

I did the full Primary today. I felt a bit stiff and strangely tight in the hips. Shoulderstand felt wonky (it either feels wonky or feels great - there seems to be no 'in between'). It gives me a better appreciation of my practices over the weekend. They were *good*, really good! Given that the house was cold, I'm impressed.

A couple of notes:
-Over the past week or so, I've moved from simply holding Bhuja Pindasana as an arm balance to tucking my feet under and putting my forehead on the floor. This is a pose I 'lost' during my break from Astanga, but it's back.
- The bind in Supta Kurmasana was easy today. I did something a bit different: in Kurmasana, I scootched my shoulders a bit further under my knees. That made it easy for me to bring my fingers together behind my back. I should note, though, that it probably wouldn't have been helpful if I hadn't had my shouders tucked behind my knees to begin with. Anyway, this pose is feeling better.

Headstand deserves its own paragraph. Over the weekend, I was practising Sirsasana against the wall because I didn't want to fall over and break anything at the house. I wondered if I might be uncomfortable doing this pose in the middle of the room again after having that sense of 'safety' with the wall.

Quite the opposite! Back at the apartment, I came into the pose comfortably sans wall, held it with a good amount of control for 10 breaths and even lowered into half-bend, then back up again! First time I've done this away from the wall in about a year. I'm gettin' my groove back!

I think that working against the wall for a couple of days was actually useful because it helped me gain confidence coming in and out of the half-bend.

One of my five readers, Michelle, asked about my salads. Here is a photo of today's lunch salad. Baby spinach, zucchini squash, mushroom, avocado, cherry tomatoes and red pepper, all topped by Bolthouse Farm's yogurt honey mustard dressing:

Monday, June 1, 2009


Slept in until 7 a.m. this morning, but still managed to get my practice in before the household awoke. I did full Primary today. It was a lovely, but unremarkable practice, very similar to yesterday's. Same problems with the Supta Kurmasana and the sticky mat (my old purple Maha). I may need to get a second rug/towel sooner rather than later.

When I'm spending the weekend here, I find that I look forward to yoga practice for the 'me time' as much as anything else. It's nice to have some solitude - I live alone and I'm used to it. And there's a special serenity to practising in the morning, a certain calm. The dog loves it for the sunbeams.

I'm heading downtown, back to my own little apartment later on this morning. It will be nice to get back into my routine, but I hope I can keep getting up early for morning practice.

As it's the beginning of a new month, I wrote this 'progress report' to post on the Ning site for my Yoga Streak:

I last reported progress on my Yoga Streak in early April. I'm now heading into my sixth month of daily yoga practice. Although there have certainly been days that I pulled a 15 minute vinyasa sequence out of thin air at 11:45 p.m. in order to fulfill my commitment, I've actually been quite dedicated to doing a significant daily practice. I've felt the impact this has had on my life and health and it's all positive!

April: In the opening days of April, I received a free pass to the Yoga Show and Conference and spent three happy days at the show's 'yoga garden', enjoying free classes by internationally acclaimed teachers (and a few I hadn't heard of). I came away from the show newly inspired, but had a difficult time reconnecting with my home yoga practice for a few days. During most of the month, I practised a greater mix of styles, flirting with Yin, combination practice with Journey Dance, Anusara and plain old Hatha. There was some Astanga mixed in here and there, but definitely not every other day as I had planned. Late in the month, I realised that I felt better physically than I had in months (since an illness that had me on bed rest last fall) and I missed doing the Primary Series. I dusted off my Beryl Bender Birch 'Power Yoga' DVD (my favourite led Primary) and did the whole thing. I felt great. I did this the next day and the next, until my Lady's Holiday came.

May: In May, resumed a daily practice of the full Primary Series with the occasional 'day off' to practice Hatha or Restorative yoga. I practised the full Primary 18 times in May. I was pleased to notice that I hadn't 'lost' much of my Astanga practice and my strength came back to me quickly. By the end of May, I was back to the level of fitness I had been last summer before I got sick. Clearly, all the daily yoga I've been doing, even the non-vinyasa styles, was beneficial!

I've flitted around with Full Primary these past few weeks, but in June, I want to really return to a true 'six-day' (six days on, one day off) Astanga practice and continue this through the summer. My day off will probably not be Saturday. I'm about to shift into a different pattern of employment this month (I will likely start working a contract as I usually do when summer comes and my teaching schedule lightens) and will base my routine on the demands of work. On the days I'm not practising Astanga, I'll do another type of practice.