Saturday, October 31, 2009


I'm embarrassing! Looking back on October, I realise that my practice of Astanga has been pretty scant. I been focusing more on vinyasa-style. All together, I'll have less than 10 days of Astanga in by the end of the month. This needs to change in November.

For today's practice, I popped in the Power Yoga DVD at 8 a.m. and did full Primary. I told Beryl that I would see her tomorrow, so that means a Sunday Primary as well (if I keep my word and I don't sleep in).

A few notes:

- I love doing the landing from Supta Konasana but there is scant space in my apartment for it. I've figured out that if I turn 90 degrees to the side and bring Supta Konasana *really* close to the bookshelf, I can then 'land' close to my desk (the joys of city living!). I remember waaaay back asking Bindi how to land this pose and she said something about 'landing on the calves', which at the time made so little sense, she might as well have been speaking Swahili. But that's exactly what you do, you land on your calves. Funny, you do it once and then you're all “Oh! THOSE calves.” Yeah.

- I fell out of headstand today. That hasn't happened in ages, about two years I think... Given how paranoid I am about falling out of this pose, it's ironic it is that I do it so rarely (and when I do, it's such a non-event...silly brain!)

- This week's State-of-the-Backbend:

And, finally, some fun gossip: Rumour has it that Beryl Bender Birch herself may be reading this blog. One of her students, who reads and comments here (*waves to Jen*), sent the URL for this website to Beryl.

On one level, I'm not terribly surprised that this could happen, given the interconnectedness of the Internet and social networking. The world has certainly become smaller! In context to my own history of yoga practice though, I'm a bit gobsmacked.

As a mostly-home-practitioner, I've been using VHS and DVD teachers to supplement my practice for many years. But back in those years, Patricia Walden and Rodney Yee lived in my televsion. For all I knew, they were each about 5 inches tall and lived in shoeboxes (this made it particularly surreal looking up at Rodney Yee's face from Utthita Trikonasana during a workshop earlier this year, but I digress...).

What if Beryl is reading this blog?

Some of my posts are very serious and yoga-y, while others are quite frivolous. Let's face it, many of you would not be reading this blog if all I did was write about when-where-how-I-bound-what-in-which-pose. The occasional silliness lightens things up a bit.

But it begs the question, do I really want Beryl reading about the fascinating rash in my armpits that made the Marichyasanas so very uncomfortable today? Does she need to hear me speculate that this rash could be related to the large number of sea-salt-covered french fries I ate while volunteering at the soup kitchen last night? And-by-the-way-I'm-bloated?


And while we're on the subject, my guitar teacher will soon be a reader here. I'm getting ready to send her the URL, which she asked for ages ago (I was waiting for the Diva Cup post, which absolutely shouldn't be embarrassing to me, but somehow is, to fade from the front page. Of course, mentioning it now practically guarantees that my guitar teacher AND Beryl will now go looking for it.).

You archive, but you can't hide! Isn't blogging fun?! ;-)

Friday, October 30, 2009


Wow, that felt *great*

Full Primary today, practising with the Power Yoga DVD. Yes, I'm back to Beryl. In fact, I'm thinking of declaring a 'Weekend of Beryl' and doing the DVD every morning, maybe until Monday. Bonus points if I can stretch it until Tuesday (I'll never last till Wednesday though, not with teaching four classes a day...)

I love that DVD. It's like a warm blanket of Asana on a cold morning.

Today, during Utpluthee, (which Beryl calls Tolasana...David Swenson calls it that too, come to think of it...I wonder why?) I was cheerfully holding for a very quick and easy 10 counts and I remembered when I first started practising with this DVD, I couldn't even last one count (I think my exact thoughts were: “Fat chance!”)

Well, Sharath's CD cured me of that. Now? Beryl's the easy one! 10 happy counts! I was actually enjoying myself.

Measuring progress in poses is fun! (and motivating)

Speaking of which:
- I'm binding easily to wrist in Marichyasana C
- I'm binding to mid-hand in Marichyasana D (it's only a matter of time now). The knees are almost on the floor too!
- I'm crossing the ankle myself in Supta Kurmasana. Teacher P helped me the last time I visited Shala Central and I've been chipping away at this every time I practise. Today is the first time I did it easily on my own!

The rest of my day will be easy. I teach just one class and then I'm spending the afternoon/evening working at the soup kitchen.

And, since it's a cool and misty day, maybe doing some of this:

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Tired, so tired! I'm still troubleshooting my circadian rhythm.

For the past two nights, I've gone to bed early and fallen asleep right away (if I read a book for a few minutes after meditation, it seems to 'reset my brain' and I fall asleep easily). But after a full 8 hours of sleep, I'm *still* tired. Yesterday, I didn't give in to the napping urge, but I did today. I napped for an hour. My noon class cancelled so I have an entire blissful day to lounge about and read. I teach noon classes six days a week, so this is a rare treat (Though I'm inwardly groaning about the lost cash - I was planning to use it for my subway pass).

More sleep? Regular naps? I'm already using the LiteBook regularly so it's probably not S.A.D. I hope I'm not coming down with a bug. H1N1 is beginning to pop up around the city. A 13-year-old boy died from it last week. It's scary, though in a remote, vague sort of way. Right now, it's scary the same way SARS was scary - lots of media hysteria and people wearing masks on the subway, but I'm not affected directly. That could change. Vaccinations start next week. I'm definitely going to get mine if it's not a huge wait. I've heard rumours of line-ups for this shot.

My morning routine was completely mixed up and turned around because I was too sleepy to meditate when I woke up. Instead, I walked the dog in the dark. I felt like a bit of a interloper, wandering through the streets of my neighbourhood, watching the families at their breakfast tables (or watching cartoons on T.V. before school). It was kind of nice, comforting. Yoga didn't happen until 11:00. I did Lunar Flow #1, 20 minutes with Lisa (really, 24 minutes).

Nice and easy and low-stress. This sequence reminds me of the 'sit down' class I regularly teach to my Hatha students. There are literally *no* standing poses and only a few Downward Facing Dogs. The one thing I would add to this sequence is a Fish Pose after the Shoulderstand series(I think the counterpose is particularly important). It's easy enough to stop the recording and sneak one in.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the day. I don't need to be anywhere until 4:30. I have big plans for yummy lunch, reading, and lots of knitting.

Last night, one of my students gave me this:
I'm going to enjoy it with my tea!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I'm far less sleepy this morning than yesterday. I was able to settle into my meditation with no problems. The nap yesterday helped and I went to sleep earlier last night.

In my meditation sessions last night and this morning, I used a new zafu, the Mobile Meditator. This is a portable meditation cushion, inflatable and folds into a small pouch, making it easy to transport. It's similar in quality and design to an inflatable camping mattress, the ones with the flocking.

I'm interested in this zafu because I would like to use a cushion at the meditation group, and also when travelling. The product was designed by a meditators and the guy who designed it just gave it the ultimate 'test run' while travelling in India. Reportedly, it passed with flying colours!

First impressions: So far, I like it a lot. The two sits I've had on it were comfortable after a period of adjustment (an inflatable zafu doesn't have the same 'solid' feel of buckwheat hulls, but once I settled in, I felt a certain sense of ease sitting on 'air'). I'll have more to say (and photos! it's orange, my new favourite colour!) after I've had a chance to thoroughly test it out. But, so far, so good. I like it!

Today's yoga practice was Yoga for Runners #1, 45 minutes, with Dawnelle (20 minute class is a freebie for those interested in trying it). Nice flow in this one. No gaps - in fact it felt like a complete class. I enjoy Dawnelle's teaching because she sometimes meanders around and breaks things up a bit, but the flow always concludes in a coherent way. I appreciated the back bending and strengthening sequence in the middle of the practice. The resting poses (mostly Balansana) were well-placed.

In these YogaDownload classes, I'm finding that I prefer to have the instructor bring me into and out of the Savasana (with a nice 'Namaste') at the end. It brings a more authentic feel to the class. The alternative is coming into Savasana with the music fading out until the recording ends. This ending feels too abrupt; there's no closure.

I have a long day ahead of me. I'm teaching four classes and I'll be on public transportation for all of them, since it's *pouring* out. That's okay, though - I can knit on the subway, and read, and sleep. I'm actually looking forward to November and a having a subway pass again. I'm way behind on my reading.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I played a late ice hockey game last night. I didn’t have any spectacular moments in this game, but it was very fast and rough. We played the undefeated team (Or, I should say, the formerly undefeated team, since we defeated them *grin*).

Their players were like TANKS. I tangled with one of them behind the net and I heard a teammate yell: “Just hold her there“ Like this one might do less damage tangled in my legs than in front of the net. I was a doorstop! I made a really terrific pass that almost, ALMOST went in the net (but didn’t').

Final score: We won, 4-1. But the entire time, it felt like we were LOSING because the other team was so aggressive and we were working so hard.

I was SO tired. Evening mediation was a sleepy affair and I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Morning meditation was also a sleepy affair. I was actually drifting off as I sat. I managed to rally in the second 10 minutes of the session, but I was falling asleep again toward the end. Argh.

Practice was very, very sluggish. I did Morning Flow #1, 30 minutes with Dawnelle. YogaDownload did a good job of paring the longer sequence down to 30 minutes. There was only one awkward splice - between the two sides of Flipped Dog (which transitioned so quickly, I was totally thrown off). This sequence has many backbends, which woke me up a bit.

Still feeling tired (and now with a headache), I walked the dog, finished up the last few things I absolutely *needed* to get done and I laid down for a nap. Good move! I slept for over an hour-and-a-half and felt much better for it.

The lesson from this morning: I need to be more careful to get adequate sleep. I really do need a full 8 hours every night. With adding an evening meditation practice and sticking to an early schedule, I've been skimping on sleep. My body just sent me a memo. Now I know!

In other news, I received an exciting package in the mail this morning. My new portable Zafu arrived! (No, I didn't get a Prapatti, though I've sent an inquiry to that company asking for information. More on this soon). I'm going to try the Mobile Meditator out during my evening meditation tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The power came back in the afternoon yesterday, but the hot water was out until early evening. I finally toughed it out and took a sponge bath (brrr!), then ran my errands. It wasn't a bad day at all - it just unfolded differently than I thought it would.

I rode public transit to the Big Box Pet Store in the north-east end of the city. I almost never shop there but they carry those big wire dog crates. Princess Fur is fully crate-trained, almost to a fault: she howls like her heart is broken if I *don't* crate her when I leave.

She's had the same breed-appropriate travel crate for years but it seems so small. I know all she does is sleep when I'm away, but I wanted her to have more elbow room. I tried out her new 'Doggie Condo' (it was incredibly simple to construct, took mere seconds - Ikea, eat your heart out!). I can crawl into it and close the door (okay, in Balasana, but *still*) so I think it's big enough!

The rest of the day was dedicated to 'lazy'. I took a blissful nap in the afternoon, then knitted rows on my green sock. It's beginning to look like something substantial now and that's very exciting!

I'm discovering that I'm more of a 'process knitter' than an 'end product knitter'. I enjoy the repetitive flow of knitting; the meditative aspect. The fact that something useful emerges in the end is great, but it's the journey that makes me happy. I think I may become one of those psycho-sock-knitters. Now that I have the hang of it, I'm loving socks.

This morning, I eased back into my morning routine, slightly modified to account for the fact that we're *still* on Daylight Savings Time and it's very dark in the mornings. I'm envious of the Brits and Europeans who already 'fell back' this past weekend. It was too dark to go for a walk, so I practised yoga after my meditation, ate breakfast, then walked. My morning felt churned up, but it worked out okay. In fact, this may be my new schedule going into winter.

For my yoga practice, I followed Gentle Hatha Flow #2, 60 minutes with Jackie. The 60 minute version of this practice feels more 'complete' than the 45 minute one - I think I prefer it. I almost did a Yin practice this morning, but I'm glad I did something more active. I'll be back to vinyasa style tomorrow.

I chuckled with sympathy when I heard Jackie make one of my own infamous cueing errors. Going from Downward Dog to Forward Bend, the cue should convey stepping the left foot to join the right at the front of the mat. She said: “Step your left foot back to join your right” Oops! Step back to step forward? (sounds like my life some of the time! ha, ha).

I still remember blurting out this silly cue during my first year of teaching. The chaos that resulted left a deep impression on me.

Words really do matter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I woke this morning with debilitating cramps, almost went back to bed, but decided to try meditating per my usual routine. Ah, the hubris!! Ha, ha! I lasted about 15 minute and went back to bed. I returned to it about an hour later, sitting on the futon with some back support. Not my best meditation, but at least I made the effort.

I didn't know it, but my morning was about to get a whole lot worse.

I decided I was feeling well enough to take the dog for a short walk. When we returned, the elevators in my apartment building were not running. I crumpled into a despairing heap on a bench in the lobby. A few minutes later, a neighbour strolled through from the stairwell and told me that the power to the entire building was out.

Not much I can do about that. I dragged myself up 15 flights of stairs, carrying Princess Fur, who refuses to walk up stairs. No electricity (read: no tea, no breakfast), no hot water (read: no hot bath). The power only came back on a few minutes ago. It will take ages for the hot water to work again. Good times.

I'm just annoyed because Sunday is my only day off and I had plans for a *fun* day. Instead, I'm stuck indoors, stinky and not feeling well! My inner-toddler wants to throw herself on the floor and writhe around in a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. *grumble*

I dug my Iyengar book ('Yoga: Path to Holistic Health) off the shelf this morning and looked up 'Menstrual Pain' in the 'Ailments' section. I was forced to buy this book for YTT. The updated volume is much nicer but this copy is okay, not that I use it a lot.

This sequence is nice, though. I modified it quite a bit (what are inversions doing in there, anyway!?) and this is what I came up with:

1) Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)
2) Upavista Konasana (Seated Wide Angle Forward Bend)
3) Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle)
4) Virasana (Hero's Pose)
5) Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero's Pose)
6) Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hamstring Stretch)
7) Tadasana/Urdva Hastasana (Mountain w/ Upward Reaching Arms)
8) Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle)
7) Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
8) Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon)
9) Prasarita Padottanasana A (Standing Wide Angle Forward Bend)
10) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
11) Balasana (Child's Pose)
12) Savasana (Take Rest)

I did the version of Supta Padangusthasana that I regularly teach. It involves stretching the leg at centre, then to either side. One side offers a stretch across the pelvis and the other is a twist. Then use the strap to pull the femur (leg bone) firmly into the hip joint, keeping the leg very straight and making slow little circles on the ceiling with the foot. After a minute, change the direction of the circles, then release the leg. This action releases the Psoas and Iliacus muscles which are located deep in the pelvis.

I find that Supta Padangusthasana tends to soften the pain of my cramps. Supta Baddha Konasana is also good for this, particularly if I have a bolster to support my back.

It was hard to motivate myself today, but I'm glad I practised. I feel better for it.

Now, it's time to check on that hot water and see if I can salvage this day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I stopped at the store on the way home from class yesterday to buy ingredients for baking. Spontaneously, I thought to grab a banana and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to put in the muffins. Yummy chocolate! I was having a craving. Coincidence or hormones?

Hormones. My Lady's arrived. Drat. I had big plans for full Primary this weekend! Oh well...

Coincidence: I received an email from YogaDork letting me know that I had won a giveway. I'm very excited to be receiving Bobby Clennell's new book, The Woman's Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle.

One of the reviewers on the Amazon page credited the book with helping her avoid cramps and bloating. As a person currently suffering cramps and bloating, I'm ready for any advice on offer!

Plus, since I'm regularly doing yoga during my menstrual cycle, it will be nice to have some beneficial sequences to follow.

While we're on this delicate subject, I might as well mention my new love affair with the Diva Cup.

(Male readers, cover your eyes! Anyone who is squeamish or easily offended, go look at the kittens)

I'm late to the Diva Cup Party, but SO happy to be here. How did I go for so long without discovering this? I have to credit EcoYogini for helping me make the leap. Her unrestrained enthusiasm about this product was heartening.

So I bought one.

To sum up: Expensive, fussy, initially intimidating, but absolutely fabulous. I think it was the price that turned me off initially. $40 is a lot of money to pay for a silicon 'leap of faith.' It's not like I could just return the thing if I hated it.

I was a late, late convert to tampons. I never liked them, but as a yoga teacher, they became a necessity. I hated the idea of them (toxins, bleach, ect), but savoured the freedom.

I will say this: if inserting tampons freaks you out, the Diva Cup may be a scary trip. The instructions say 'DON'T PANIC' in all-caps for a reason: once it's in there, you really, REALLY *want* to panic.

Don't panic. Seriously. Especially if you're a regular yoga practitioner. I don't know how closely Mula Bandha is related to the muscles used to push 'down' but holy smoke, when I 'pushed', that cup practically flew out! Not a problem.

So far, it's a 'learning experience, but I give it high marks.

Practice today was easy-going and slow. I did Gentle Hatha #2 with Jackie, 45 minutes. I kind of half-slept through the first part of the practice. This one was nice but I think Gentle Hatha #1 is still my favourite.

I spent some time on the Acuball as well. My back is a bit cranky, but feeling better. I'm really tired today. I think I may have a sleep defiicit going. Maybe I'll go to bed early with a good book!

Friday, October 23, 2009


It's a perfect rainy fall day - perfect because I'm sitting by the window with a hot tea, reading a good book (this day may not be so perfect as I walk to my noon class in the rain, however).

A few minutes ago, inexplicably, tears start streaming down my face. Yesterday, I noticed that I was more reactive than usual. There was a subtle shift in my psyche; I seemed to be trying to find offence in places where it didn't exist. So I checked the calendar and sure enough: Lady's Holiday is coming up on Sunday.

I'm pretty sure I would have noticed some of this stuff before I started taking meditation seriously, but more and more I've noticed that I'm becoming an observer of my own reactions. It's difficult to describe. It's almost as if I'm sitting outside of myself, nodding sagely and thinking: “Yup, she's at it again. She's getting agitated over nothing.”

I'm well into my second month of daily meditation. Near the beginning of October, I gradually moved to 20 minute sessions. These were working really well for me. I didn't want to move on because 30 minutes kind of scares me. After the 30 minute session last week in the meditation group, I realised that my fear was completely irrational. I expanded my meditation to 30 minutes the next day. It was fine.

This week, I shifted my 30 minute meditation to the early morning to make space for a second, shorter evening meditation before bed. I never thought I could be an early morning meditator, but again, I surprised myself.

The amazing thing is that I'm finding that I really, really enjoy meditation. I didn't add the evening session because I was trying to build up minutes. I added it to give myself something to look forward to after work. It's a nice end to the day.

So, why was I so resistant to meditation in the first place? Why was 30 minutes such a scary thing for me? I think I have some bad associations from my first experiences with meditation 10 years ago. All the books said: “Sit for at least 30 minutes” So I sat. And it drove me nuts. It made me feel defective. I couldn't do it. I hated it. I couldn't stop my brain. So I gave up.

The other day Michelle asked if I had any advice to begin a meditation practice. In fact, I do! And allow me start with this: You don't need to sit for 30 minutes to benefit from meditation. When learning to run distances, people don't step out the first day and run for 30 minutes. It's easier and more effective to ease into it, bit by bit.

Meditation Tip #1: Start with 5 minutes, consistently
Make a commitment to do it daily. Consistency is more important than length. Consistency allows you to build a habit. Start with 5 minutes. This isn't a huge block of time to schedule into your day. Let go of any expectations about the experience. Just sit. When the timer goes off, you're done. Let it go.

What method should you use? It's up to you. I've found that Passage Meditation is the best method for me. I like the fact that it trains my brain to maintain one-pointed attention. I like that it's non-denominational (even Athiests can use this method). I absolutely adore the idea that some of the goodness and wisdom of the passages I use may sink deep into my consciousness.

But it may not be the best method for *you*. Explore your options (the Internet is a great resource). Your daily 5 minutes is the best laboratory for sorting through these options and finding out which one resonates with you.

Meditation Tip #2: Shop around and experiment!
There are many different methods of meditation. Use your 5 minute sessions to explore them. Find a method that works for you and stick to it.

Just as you might build your endurance for running distances by run/walking and gradually increasing the distance (think: 'Couch to 5K'), meditation is best expanded in increments. When 5 minutes starts to feel comfortable, try 10 minutes, then 15.

My timer allows me to set intervals in my session. The tone sounds once every five minutes. Early on, this helped me feel less panicky (”Are we there yet!!?”) and allowed for short 'stretch breaks'. In my 30 minute session, I set intervals for 10 minutes. This gives me two opportunities to mentally 'reset' and carry on.

Meditation Tip #3: Build it up!
Increase your session 5 minutes at a time. You can use intervals to help divide the session into manageable 'chunks' (if your timer doesn't have intervals, just set it for 5 minutes and keep restarting it during the session).

Other things that helped me maintain a daily practice:
- Keeping a journal or statistics: It's been very satisfying to see my progress in meditation through my simple meditation blog and a Google Spreadsheet that I created (Since early September, I've accumulated over 12 hours of meditation!)
- Create a special space for meditation: Have a yoga room? Great! Live in a bachelor apartment? Find a small corner to create a altar. Be creative. Make it your own.
- Maintain comfort: This isn't about torturing your body. Experiment with pillows to elevate your hips. Use a blanket to create cushioning on the floor. If you're more comfortable in a chair, use one! There are zafus/zafutons, meditation benches, special chairs, ect. available for purchase, but you don't need these to start. The whole point of the exercise is to sit comfortably for a long period.

Today's notes on my yoga practice: I felt drawn towards a Yin style yoga practice this morning. I haven't used my Sarah Power's DVD in awhile, so I chose the Yin Liver sequence. I was surprised to find that I could come deeper into some of the poses and also found that my ability to quietly hold the poses had increased. The fruits of meditation? Perhaps...

Mainly, it was just nice to bliss out doing something slow and restorative. It was a tough week for my physically. After about 40 minutes of Yin, I rolled over on my back and used my Acuball to massage my spinal erector muscles, which have been twitchy. I followed this up with an epsom salt bath.

I'm feeling so much better!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


My practice today was Lunar Flow #1, 30 minutes with Lisa (20 minute class is free). I was looking forward to something a bit easier today because I'm teaching so much this week.

This was billed as a 'flow' class, but it's really just Hatha, definitely a beginner level, very nice and easy. I was delighted to *start* the class in Savasana (and finish in Savasana too!). Lots of forward bending and hip opening with slow, easy transitions.

The poses were very restorative. The only thing that keeps this sequence from being an ideal option for Lady's Holiday is the inclusion of shoulderstand. But Lisa offers Viparita Karani as an alternative for that section.

The Yogic Jury seems to still be out on the issue of Viparita and menstruation. Some teachers insist that as an inversion, it should be avoided. Others recommend it for easing menstrual symptoms. Here's my take: Keep the sacrum on the floor, don't elevate the hips onto a bolster or pillow (as seen here) and you're good to go!

Heading out to teach now - hope it doesn't rain on me! Meditation post tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This morning, I was all happy and gushy about the beautiful autumn weather we've been having. Bright blue skies! Sunshine! Gorgeous fall colours.

As I was teaching my noon class, the skies clouded up and by the time I left for home, it was POURING out. Argh! I'm one of those people who hates getting wet. I have trouble finding grace in any situation that sees me dripping and cold on a street corner, waiting for a bus. I quietly recited my mantram to myself and held onto Positive Bus Schedule Thoughts. It worked. I got home.

I had a productive morning which included 30 minutes of meditation very early (if I can make it to the Zafu by 6:30 a.m., I'm done by the time the annoying constructions noise starts). I walked the dog, practised my guitar and enjoyed a new YogaDownload sequence, Yoga for Weight Loss, 30 minutes with Dawnelle.

I hadn't tried this one yet, mainly because it's billed as an 'advanced beginner' class. I'm raising an eyebrow at that designation. I don't know many beginners who could work at that pace.

It was great! I'm eager to try the longer version because by the time it was ending, I was ready to do more. There was a huge emphasis on Jalandhara Bandha, including some pranayama engaging that lock. There was Jalandhara in poses you wouldn't expect, like Parvottanasana (and where you would, like bridge and shoulderstand). It was very different from anything I've done from YogaDownload so far.

Dawnelle sounded a bit 'down' on the recording. I wonder, was she having a bad day? Coming down with a cold? Not really a fan of Jalandhara Bandha? I think it's funny that I picked up on that, given I've never met her or been in her classes 'live.' I wonder if my students pick up my vibe when I'm feeling 'under the weather'? (I imagine they probably do)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I made one small change to my morning routine: I made meditation my first act of the day (after making the bed).

It was interesting. I thought I would be sleepy. I wasn't, but I was more distracted than usual. I was also all riled up because, in my early-morning clumsiness, I managed to burn my thumb trying to light a candle (I'm sure somebody, somewhere, has written a sitcom episode about this).

“It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”

I sat there in the dark, thumb throbbing, cursing the lighter. Oh well!

After a brisk walk with the dog, I settled in for half-Primary. I stood Beryl up again and will probably not revisit my Power Yoga DVD until the weekend. I was thinking about this today after practice, as I soaked away my hockey soreness in the bathtub (My back feels a bit tender, but otherwise fine, and I got an assist last night! Too bad we lost, 7-5...). My practices are consistent, but they're shorter.

Over the summer, business was so slow and I was so employment-challenged that I had abundant time to practice and really, that was *great* (I was poor in money, rich in asana). But now I'm busy. Busy teaching, busy knitting, busy reading, busy spending time with friends, busy volunteering, playing ice hockey, blogging. Busy is good! I'm glad to be busy.

And if 'busy' means that I'm doing half-Primary or even a half-hour yoga practice here and there...well, I've decided it's totally okay. Because a full life is better than the alternative. As long as I have my priorities squared away (and for the first time in awhile, I really feel that I do), there's no problem.

And speaking of priorities, I'm doing my meditation early because I would like to add an evening meditation. The tradition I follow limits each 'sit' to 30 minutes. If you want to meditate more, it's suggested that you add a second session. I'm trying for 10 minutes before beditme. I'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I skipped out on Beryl today. Aw, sorry Beryl!

I overslept and had a time-crunch situation this morning. Rather than stress myself out trying to fit a long practice into a short morning, I opted for a short practice. And I'll do my meditation tonight because the last thing I need is to get all stressed out trying to fit that in too.

This morning, I did the 30 minute version of Dawnelle's Yoga for Runners from YogaDownload. I absolutely loved the 60 minute version of this class so I was curious to try a shorter one. I'm not a runner, but I really enjoy this sequence. It includes many hip and hamstring openers, plus a few wicked Psoas lengtheners. The 30 minute version didn't feel 'cobbled together' from the longer class. In fact, it felt like a brand new class to me and flowed really well. Dawnelle fits a lot of asana into 30 minutes. I was sweating a bit near the end.

This is definitely a 5-star class. I can't wait to try the other durations. Like many of the YogaDownload classes, the 20 minute class is completely free! Go try it if you're curious.

I'm off to my guitar lesson next. I'm still struggling with this new fingerpicking pattern. There are the sanskaras that you try to avoid and then there are the ones that you try to acquire. It's taking a while for this one to carve itself into my brain (In my last lesson, Guitar Teacher noticed that I'm still 'thinking' about the pattern as I play it).

I'm finding that it's a bit like meditation - it goes easier if you practice daily. And (unlike meditation) maybe while watching the Amazing Race. ;-)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


An update on my sore back: a bit tender in some poses, but mostly better. Twists feel yucky but I feel better after. I wonder what I'll do to myself at my hockey game tomorrow?

Today, I returned to Beryl.

Whenever I get disillusioned sbout my Astanga practice, Beryl Bender Birch always sets me straight. I love that woman! I popped my beloved 'Power Yoga' DVD into the laptop this morning and spent an hour-and-a-half practising the full Primary Series with Beryl. At the end, she said: “See you tomorrow morning!” and I said: “Okay, Beryl!”

But will I? I guess so...

I have to admit, it *was* really nice to have all the time in the world to practice. I went for a longer walk this morning too - an hour up to the Big Park. And I made brownies. And meditated. And knitted.

Finally, a 'day off' that really feels like a day off. *happy sigh*

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I'm having a genuine 'yoga slump' right now. For a week, I've been excited about this weekend. My girlfriend is away and I had this vision of long, lazy yoga practices. None of that has come to pass (I've been doing my practice each day, but reluctantly), but I'm doing a lot of thinking, re-evaluating.

Here's a thought: I spend way too much time on the computer. Yesterday, I cast a critical eye to my RSS feeds and purged, purged, purged. I whittled my list down to a manageable size and I'm going to keep it that way. My goal is to spend no more than a half-hour daily reading feeds. Don't get me wrong - I love reading blogs, but the Internet was beginning to swallow my life.

Since returning to daily meditation, I've started examining other areas of my spiritual practice. I've been dedicating time before bed to reading spiritual writings (right now, I'm re-reading Easwaran's translation of the Upanishads). This has been amazing actually. I want to re-read the Gita next (I usually read the Gita once a year anyway).

A part of my spiritual practice is serving others. My teaching gives me opportunities to put others first, but I still found this area lacking.

To be honest, I've really missed doing my volunteer work. Some of my long-time readers will remember that I used to volunteer regularly at a soup kitchen downtown. My schedule shifted in the spring and it was no longer possible for me to go to the Thursday morning breakfast programme. But a new meal was added on Friday evenings and that's one of my nights off! Happily, some of my favourite people from the Wednesday dinner are working at this one!

I volunteered at the dinner last night. It was so much fun to go back and see old friends. I love this programme because we make no demands of our guests. They don't have to sing songs or listen to sermons to get their meal (and the food is *amazing*). They truly are our 'guests' - we treat each person who comes in as if they were a visitor in our home.

It was fabulous and I'm definitely going to make time for this each week from now on.

Finally, I've been searching for a spiritual community to be a part of. For a while, I was going to Quaker Meetings. The Friends are very welcoming to all comers and since the Meetings are essentially a one-hour meditation, it was working for me. I'm not sure why I stopped going. I guess since Sunday is my only day off, I was feeling over-scheduled.

I signed up for a mailing list for followers of the meditation method I use, but never heard back. This was a disappointment. The thing I like about Easwaran's 8-point programme is that it's comprehensive - it's not *just* about meditation.

Last night, I attended a local women's meditation group that meets monthly. It was an interesting experience (which I will probably deconstruct in hilarious detail in my private blog). Suffice to say, many things surprised me. The fact that we were meditating in chairs surprised me (I didn't - I sat on the floor, but most people were in chairs). The fact that the leader of this group questioned my meditation practice surprised me (Specifically, she questioned the method I use to meditate).

I was polite, but in the back of my mind, I was all 'Dude, seriously?'

I mean, c'mon...we're sitting silently with our eyes closed for 30 minutes. Does it REALLY matter what method I use to still my mind?

To be fair, she may have just been trying to make sure that I understood meditation and felt comfortable. But I got a strong 'do-it-my-way' vibe which automatically triggered my 'fuck-you' reflex.

So, that was that. I'll probably go to the November session, just to feel it out a bit more.

Today's yoga practice came after a period of earnest procrastination that involved doing dishes, sweeping the floor and cleaning up my desk. Finally, I settled down on my mat to do 5 Surya Namaskara A's and then a YogaDownload practice, Heart Opening Flow #1, 20 min, with Jackie (this is another one of the *free* classes; yes, this means you can download free of charge).

I've done longer versions of this one, so I already knew that I liked it. I skipped Ustrasana, though. Backbends are not my friend this week.

Maybe there will be some Astanga tomorrow. Maybe.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Tired, slept in this morning and it felt good. After I walked the dog, I did a 30 minute yoga practice from YogaDownload, Detox Yoga #2 with Natalie. It was so bad, I don't know if I'll bother trying any of the longer sequences for this particular class, which is a shame because this is one of the few that is offered in a 70 minute format.

My biggest complaints are the really bad sequencing and horrible cueing. Both made it difficult to follow the practice. Several times I came into Balasana in frustration so I could listen and figure out where the heck she was going.

The music was awful. I know this is a matter of taste, but it ranged from 'powder puff soft rock' to 'tribally inspired soft jazz' (think 'Yanni goes to a rave' and you'll be on the right track). I don't like Natalie's voice - again, a matter of personal preference. I found her style of speaking very 'info-mercial'. Her pacing was erratic - at times speaking slowly and clearly (good) while at other times speaking very quickly and slurring her words together (not good).

She used names for poses that I had never heard before. I've been practising yoga for 15 years around the world, so I was surprised. For example: Standing Splits. She referred to it as 3-limbed Uttanasana and I was all, “Huh?!” And there were others. I think she called Parsvokonasana “Extended Lateral Angle”. Weird...

I was struck by how few postures were offered in the 30 minute sequence, given how much she was talking. There wasn't enough good instruction to let me know what was going on and at the same time, it wasn't concise enough.

Finally, I was horrified by some of the 'advanced' variations she suggested. A few were valid, but she clearly 'invented' a couple of them and one of them ('Challenge Dog') is dangerous to the shoulder (rotator cuff) and I would *never* ask my students to do it. The transitions were choppy and poorly thought out (this was more of a Hatha class than a 'Flow'). For example, the entry into Ardha Matsyendrasana was so bad, I had to come out of the pose and come back in *my* way to align my spine.

As a teacher, I've learned some great stuff from these audio classes. Overall, I think the instructors are good and doing these classes has helped me clean up my cueing a lot. The one positive from this class is I spent 30 minutes experiencing how *not* to teach yoga. I'll be analyzing my own classes so I can avoid these mistakes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I'm drinking hot chai to revive myself. I've felt exhausted all morning. I felt sleepy during my asana practice and I was falling asleep during my meditation session. And yes, I'm getting plenty of sleep. I might be fighting off the edge of a teeny-tiny cold though. I've been taking ColdFX and using the neti pot twice a day to fight it off. My throat was scratchy yesterday, but fine today. Now I just have a sniffle.

Need to wake up. I have a long day ahead and four classes to teach!

I did something weird to my back and I'm going to blame it on hockey - I took a hard fall halfway through the second period (tripping, but the ref didn't call it). I'm pretty sure it's just muscular because I was fine on Tuesday (muscular aches usually show up 48 hours after the exertion). By late yesterday, I was very sore.

Lattisimus dorsi, maybe? My lower torso feels achy when I twist. I took an easy Hatha practice today, starting with 10 Surya Namaskar Classic and moving on to Gentle Hatha Flow #1, 20 minutes with Jackie.

This is a nice, easy-going practice and was exactly what I needed today. With the sun salutations, I practiced for 30 minutes (and warmed up a bit). I like the way Jackie keeps the body moving in this flow without introducing too much effort. Lots of hamstring work. This is one of the free classes on the site.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I'm in denial, but I think I need to brace myself and acknowledge the coming of winter.

II'm still wearing a jean jacket over my black hoody, instead of the down coat I really need. I certainly should have worn a scarf on my walk yesterday. Instead, I ignored my cold neck. And we're definitely moving into the last few weeks of good bicycling weather - my ears were so cold yesterday they were numb by the time I rolled in the door.

This morning? Frost on the lawn.

All joking aside, I really do love this time of year. Autumn is my favourite season and I don't mind the cooler temperatures. But I do hate being cold and I'm dreading the deep freeze of winter (at the same time, looking forward to outdoor ice to skate on!)

I did a short vinyasa practice today, Detox Yoga #1, 30 minutes, with Lisa. This sequence is new to me and I liked it a lot, though I think the 'intermediate' label is inaccurate for this one. It's definitely an 'advanced intermediate' level practice.

This week, I've been following my asana practice with 20 minutes of meditation. This seems to be really working for me, though the last few days have been 'sleepy' meditation sessions. I seem to have settled into 20 minute meditation sessions. This duration feels very comfortable for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This morning, I did the Heart Opening Flow #1 with Jackie (YogaDownload). I liked this sequence better this time than I did the last time I tried it (45 minute version). I wonder if part of it is just becoming accustomed to the style of the flows and the various poses used on YogaDownload (I find that there is definitely a consistency in transitions and the poses even between instructors).

I had a pretty good Thanksgiving. Yesterday was the 'non-traditional' celebration. I met up with the girlfriend for supper at our favourite sushi place. Afterward, we were browsing a bookstore a few doors down when the power went off. The corner café had candles out when we arrived for dessert. I had a big slice of Chocolate Explosion cake. First time I've had my favourite cake in months and it wasn't as good as I remembered. Hm. Maybe my tastes are changing? It was too sweet...

Real Thanksgiving was on Saturday night and it was marvelous, with great food, fun with friends, lots of knitting (yes, I had to be 'that girl', the one who brings her knitting to the party) and Wii.

I've played around with Wii once before and I've even played the drum set in Rock Band. But I had never tried Wii Yoga. I have to admit, I was really curious. My friend J set it up for me. It had been so long since he used Wii Fit, he had to reinitialize the platform. When he started the programme, it chided him gently: “It's been 118 days since you logged in.” It also noted that he weighed more than he had the last time he logged on. FAIL! Ha, ha!

Wii Yoga? It's stupid. It's all about balancing on a platform so that the little dot stays in the yellow circle. In order to do this, it's necessary to do the posture *wrong*. After I tried Vriksasana (Tree Pose) and rated a big fat Zero (Yoga Amateur!), J shooed me off the platform and demonstrated. He could keep the dot in the circle, but his body was contorted like Astavakra. Geez! What a waste of time.

Wii Yoga is coming out soon and Yoga Dork reviews it here. I won't be buying it.

The other games were better. The platform thingie is fun for other stuff. And I totally rock at Wii bowling. Especially when I do it sitting on the couch and don't bother to put down my knitting. This is when I had my best luck with the game. I'm an awesome couch knitting bowler! I beat everyone except J!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Oh no. I'm going through one of my sick-of-Astanga phases, I'm afraid. I couldn't coax myself into the Primary Series this morning so I treated myself to a led vinyasa class.

I loved the 30 minute version of Hip Opening Flow #4, but the 40 minute version was even better. It's my all-time favourite, hands down. I loved the Supta Garudasana at the end too. I'm going to add that to my classes next week!

I was so calm and happy afterward, I did my meditation before getting up to make lunch. Today is a holiday here - no classes for me, but ice hockey stops for nothing so I'll be playing a game tonight. I'm meeting the girlfriend at the sushi place for a Thanksgiving maki feast later on this afternoon.

My plans for the afternoon include hunkering down with a good book and doing some knitting.

I'm thankful for hip openers and guilt-free hibernation followed by Japanese food and high-aggression ice sports! Hurrah!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Well, that was a bit of a joke.

I unrolled the mat, thinking that I would practise the full Primary Series since, after all, I have nothing else to do today. I got through sun salutations and standing. I was well on my way through the Janu Sirsasanas but I was very distracted. I actually pulled a book out of the bookcase and I was glancing through it when the phone rang (so, obviously, I wasn't very invested).

It felt like a sign. I spent the next 45 minutes chatting with the girlfriend (who's still bed-bound and very bored). I never got back to yoga...

It was just one of 'those days', the days that I don't feel like practising, but I do it anyway. Today, 'practising' meant getting through the sun salutations and standing postures (about a half-hour of practice).

I recently posted a new status report to the WoYoPracMo site. I've been periodically updating the peeps there on my yoga streak. Here's the report, for those of you not on Ning:

June - September: The Summer of Yog

It's been a few months since I posted an update on my year of daily yoga practice.

The news is good! I'm still at it, every day without fail.

By now, my daily asana practice has become so ingrained that skipping it rarely occurs to me. Even the very short, obligatory 15 practices have all but gone. These days, I'm on the mat for at least 30 minutes every day.

The summer was amazing for my practice because my teaching schedule faded to part-time. I had more time and energy to devote to my asana practice. I started doing the full Primary Series more often, sometimes as much as six days per week (practising another style of yoga on my 'rest' day). A few times, I even went on an 'Astanga Streak', practising up to 12 days in a row before taking a break to do Yin or Hatha.

I discovered two things that really motivated me in my practice over the summer.

The first was practising outdoors. I've never really practised outside before. Quite by accident, I discovered that I loved the fresh air and sunshine! Being outside added a whole new dimension to my practice. Gazing up to the sky in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana was fabulous! I started taking long walks again, stopping to do yoga in a sunny park along the way. I did yoga on the balcony, at the campground, on the rocks at the cottage, at the beach. I lost my shyness about it and had interesting conversations with people who saw me in poses.

The second innovation was audio yoga classes. I won a one-year subscription to an online audio yoga web site. The site offers a variety of yoga classes, mostly vinyasa style. In the past, I've enjoyed using yoga DVDs for my practice and I am a big fan of Sharath's led primary CD. These recordings allowed me to expand my practice into different styles and poses (outside of Astanga) and also take my yoga 'on the road'. I loaded the classes on my iPod Shuffle so I could easily practise to them in the park, while travelling, etc.

My asana practice became much stronger over the summer. Last year, I was weakened by an illness and lost my practice. In the past four months, I feel like I've regained the ground I lost.

I'm amazed by how solidly I've established a daily yoga practice as a 'habit'. This has made me rethink other areas of my life that have been neglected. What other daily habits could I work on that would help me grow?

The obvious answer is: meditation. I've had a sporadic meditation practice for the past six years. Last month, I decided to meditate daily, setting 5 minutes as the minimum duration for my sessions. So far, I'm doing well with this goal and I've gradually increased the duration of my meditation to 20 minutes (with the goal of eventually meditating for 30 minutes a session).

I've also added other 'habits' to my roster that are unrelated to yoga. I've started flossing daily, brushing the dog daily (she develops dreadlocks if I don't). I go for a long walk every day and sweep my floor every morning. I'm finding that these routines keep me centered.

I'm sure I never expected so much to come out of simply practising yoga daily. This has certainly been an interesting journey! I'm now moving into the last three months of my Year of Practice.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Full Primary today. I just hopped on the mat and got on with it because I had a busy day ahead of me.

I'm not using Ujjayi breathing in my practice right now because I have a slightly dry throat and I don't want to make it dryer. To be honest, I think I'm fighting a bug. There's a plague going around and the girlfriend is in quarantine with a severe respiratory viral infection. This is exactly the type of plague that struck me about six times last winter, when my immune system was still shaky from my illness.

So, understandably, I'm nervous about it. I'm taking ColdFX, Echineacea, Vitamin C, drinking tonnes of water and getting adequate sleep every night. So far, I'm fine, but no Ujjayi for me until this dry throat passes. It's very weird doing the practice without the breathing - it feels incomplete.

Another new trend in my practice: Snap, crackle pop in my some of my joints, especially my right hip! It doesn't hurt at all, but it makes loud noises. The symphony isn't exclusive to yoga either - sometimes the pops happen when I'm walking around the apartment (or around a classroom while teaching yoga, startling my students). I wish the EZBoard was still active so I could query the masses.

Anyone have thoughts on my sudden popping? Do I worry? Not worry? Is my body experiencing some massive opening?

I'm still developing strategy for my backbending project. I've decided to start laying over blocks for at least five minutes every day to bring some flexibility into my thoracic back.

In the meantime, I'll start posting State-of-the-Backbend photos again on Saturdays. Here's today's:

Friday, October 9, 2009


A reader recently commented about the body/mind/spirit connection and my response grew so lengthy, I thought I would just address it here:

There's definitely a strong spiritual component to my practice, though I don't often talk about it on this blog.

It definitely *is* true that I take a very practical and physical approach to practising and teaching asana. You won't find me waxing lyrical about my connection with the Chakras in my home practice or find me describing my student's 'auras' during a class. Astrology makes me roll my eyes. Much of typical 'yoga teacher speak' strikes me as flaky and cheese-ball.

My strengths as a teacher are in conveying proper alignment, how anatomy corresponds to movement and asana, and how to build a practice of yoga through modified variations of poses, especially those that are considered 'advanced'.

My motto is: “There is no 'can't' in yoga.” There's always a modification, there's always a way forward. The practice is never about reaching a final, 'perfect' pose and everything about the process, the journey, the steps taken along the way and the lessons learned.

I'm very much a 'scientist' when it comes to my practice and if something works for me, I consider it carefully. If I observe something in my asana practice that makes sense on a more energetic or spiritual level, I explore it further.

This is why I practice Pranayama. It's effective, it beneficial. The idea of energetic meridians in the body definitely resonates with me. I have my First Degree in Reiki (energy work and healing) and I believe that Reiki works on a subtle level. Much of my supplemental teacher training has been dedicated to yoga philosophy. I love chanting. My meditation practice (sporadic as it is) has been a great refuge to me in times of distress.

And here's something that may surprise you (or not): I have a mantra and use it regularly, using it in my day-to-day life and also practising Japa (repetition of a mantra with a mala, meditation beads).

The asana practice I talk about here is just one part of a larger picture.

Speaking of which... :-D

Today, I had two choices for my asana practice. I could do a longer but easier practice (hatha) or a shorter but more intense practice (vinyasa). I opted for vinyasa. I did a class called Hip Opening Flow #4 with Dawnelle (YogaDownload).

I really liked this sequence. It flowed well (no gaps or inconsistencies in the cueing) and felt very complete. The length was ideal - nothing seemed extraneous and it ended on a good note. I liked doing Savasana in a Supta Baddha Konasana at the end. I'm looking forward to trying the 40 minute version of this one.

Tomorrow, I'm back to Astanga.

Today, I'm making butter cookies to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner (we're celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with friends on Saturday evening). I'm also making those sticky sweet Candied Yams with the little marshmallows on top. This is a uniquely American contribution (I grew up in the States) and my friends always ask me to bring the 'weird sweet potatoes' when I come to Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I'm going to call this morning's practice 'hatha' though I'm not really sure *what* that was. I did the 30 minute 'Goddess Yoga #1' from YogaDownload this morning. It was led by one of my less favourite instructors on the site, Natalie. I'm absolutely positive a demographic exists for this style of teaching. I'm not in that demographic.

What demographic am I? I guess I'm in the cynical, does-not-suffer-fools-gladly demographic.


I almost bailed after the first pose (Persephone Pose, Goddess of the Underworld, turn inward to your darkness - we were in Uttanasana. HUH?), but I stuck it out. At some point, I made a decision to silence my inner cynic and I actually started to enjoy the psychobabble a little bit.

I'm not entirely without a soft spot - the right teacher *can* ease me into a guided inward focus. But the Goddess thing totally wasn't doing it for me. This is the first YogaDownload class I've actually disliked. I did like some of the poses though and I was surprised by the number of 'intermediate' standing balances, given that this was billed as a 'beginner' class. Hm...

Anyway, it was an easy half-hour.

I'm having a difficult week. Specifically, I'm having a bad teaching week. All the yoga teachers out there will be nodding in sympathy. A crisis of confidence is never fun and negative self-criticism tends to build upon itself.

Now, indulge me while I wander out on a limb:

I'm the last person to credit the moon or the stars for variations in human behaviour, but I have to say this: People have been WEIRD this week, particularly early in the week. And the wee ones in my children's classes? They're nuts! They've been behaving badly, completely out of character. It was a full moon on Sunday! Coincidence?

At any rate, I'm glad it's waning. And I hope that Mercury does whatever Mercury does when it's *not* making people crazy, because sometimes I think people just look for an excuse!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Today has been non-stop since I woke up at 6:30 a.m.

I'm on a bit of a 'to-do-list' kick right now. Laundry was on my list. I managed to finish two loads while I was doing other things. I took the dog for a walk as the clothes washed, I practised yoga as the clothes dried.

On my way home from teaching a noon class, I stopped and bought groceries. On the bright side, if I can finish these chores now, I'll be able to be a complete vegetable on Sunday, my one day off.

There was a surprise waiting for me in the laundry room. We're moving into a brand new era with my run-down 40-year-old apartment building. Recently, the management replaced the washers and dryers with brand new models! And they work!

The elevators are being modernized too and there's going to be a sauna and exercise room in the basement. The superintendent told me that the sauna opens in a month. I love saunas! Maybe the exercise room will have space for yoga too!

Imagine this: Sauna first, yoga afterward. I'll be like Gumby!

I'm eagerly watching this all unfold. After years of crappy slum-lord-style management and no amenities to speak of, it's pretty exciting to finally have a few perks (and elevators that run properly!).

I did 45 minutes of flow yoga this morning, following the Heart Opening Flow #1 sequence with Jackie. The last time I tried this sequence (the 60 minute version), I didn't like it very much. I guess I've adjusted to Jackie's teaching style because I didn't find her cueing quite as 'over the top' as I did last time.

There was one moment though, when she was talking about stretching the deltoids, and using a syrupy 'Yoga Teacher Voice', when I rolled my eyes. Hard core anatomical descriptions and Yoga Teacher Voice just don't mix well.

I'm off to teach still more classes. One down, three to go. I'll be rolling in around 8 p.m. tonight, exhausted.

I need to meditate before I leave. Yikes, and the dog needs to go out. And are those dishes in the sink? Better get a move on...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I'm barrelling into the busy part of my week, but I still managed to squeeze in a full Primary practice this morning. Might try to do the same tomorrow, but Thursday will definitely be something lighter.

I had a good practice! I'm binding effortlessly in Supta Konasana these days. I'm certain this is due to the shoulder openers I've been working into my practice. In the comments, Michelle asked about these. I've been doing the sequence offered by Erich Schiffmann on his website. You can find it here.

I'm grateful to Erich for his generosity in offering access to his book, 'Moving Into Stillness' on his web site. The sequence on the site is exactly as it is presented in the book. He also offers this sequence with some additional material on this video (Props to Karen for finding this; it's on my 'wishlist', it would be wonderful if he had an audio-only version of it).

Two days ago, I stumbled across another great resource for Astanga yoga practitioners: this video series by Jackestonia on YouTube. In the video of the standing series, I was particularly attentive to Parivritta Parsvakonasana, because I'm struggling a bit with that pose. I always feel like my bottom arm is horribly hyperextended.

Then I had a bit of an epiphany (I've been having these epiphanies all over the place lately, in yoga, meditation and even in my guitar lessons). The current epiphany: I noticed in the video that his bent knee seemed like it was into his armpit.

I tried to apply this concept yesterday and I found a much deeper pose, with less hyperextension in the bottom arm. Not only that, but when I applied this same principle to Marichyasana C, I found that pose much deeper too. And today in Marichyasana D, I could bind while still bringing my half-lotus knee to the floor on both sides of the pose. I've never been able to do this before!

So, hooray for the Internet and oceans of gratitude to those who share their knowledge through this medium!

Monday, October 5, 2009


I just returned from my third ice hockey game of the season. We won this one, 3-1 (Season tally: 2 wins, 1 loss). My body is finally adjusting to skating again after the six month break. Even better, my brain is finally connecting with my stick. It's always embarrassing when someone passes the puck to you and it flies right by, down the ice. Oops. Argh!

Last week, I even had an assist. No such luck this week, but I was holding my own on defence and I'm starting to have fun again. It was a bit shaky in the first couple of games, but I really do enjoy myself once I get into it.

Today was busy-busy. I taught one class, went to my guitar lesson and almost immediately headed to my hockey game. I was in motion from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

I did my yoga practice first thing in the morning, after walking the dog. Even with the time crunch (and inadvertently oversleeping by an hour) I managed to pull off the full Primary Series. First time in ages and it felt great. I felt strong and powered through. I had a really great Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Sirsasana was fabulous.

My hamstrings are very open these days. I'm going to give full credit for this to the YogaDownload Hatha classes. Both the Gentle Hatha #1 and #2 (with teacher Jackie) have a plethora of hamstring stretches with looooong holds. My forward bends have significantly deepened. Since I did a Hatha class yesterday, I'm still feeling the effects of it today. Makes me wonder if I should do these classes more regularly.

I have Erich Schiffman for my shoulders (thanks to his shoulder sequence, I'm now regularly binding in all the Marichyasanas again - yay!), Jackie gets a nod for hamstrings. Now, I just need to find someone who can tell me how to bring some flexibility into my back.

After viewing my recent State-of-the-Backbend, I decided that there was technically nothing stopping me from doing dropbacks. Instead of doing 3 Urdhva Dhanurasanas today, I did one from the floor and did dropback preparation for the others.

I took a photo of myself doing the prep work and discovered that there is practically *no* bend at all in my back. It's a very sad state of affairs! Might need to go to a teacher for help with this one.

Advice, anyone? I'm looking for resources, tips, prep work, DVD suggestions, anything... What worked for you?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Last night, I was out until the wee hours celebrating a friend's birthday, then I hoofed it around town on the annual city-wide arts festival. I finally rolled into bed at 1:30 a.m., but I didn't manage to sleep in past 7:30. I tried unsuccessfully to nap. Usually when I'm nap-resistant, it's best to just get on with my day, so that's what I did.

I picked up my guitar first thing, because I haven't practised in a couple of days and I knew I would skip again if I waited until later on in the day. I'm back to regular lessons again (my next is tomorrow). I took the dog for a walk before the daily rainstorm rolled in. It's been a wet and cold October so far!

For my asana practice, I did an easy hour of Hatha. The 60 minute Gentle Hatha #2 with Jackie is a pretty laid back sequence, though parts of it were vigourous enough that I felt some internal heat. I was savouring the long holds today. This was exactly what I needed.

But by far the best part of my morning was meditation. I'm glad I stuck with this goal during the first couple of difficult weeks. Now that I've settled into a routine and I feel comfortable with the technique I'm using, I'm loving it. It's not easy, but it's not painful anymore.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Through some miracle, I managed to wake up by 8:30 a.m., walk the dog, and do an Astanga half-Primary practice. It felt good. I probably could have done a full Primary if time wasn't an issue, but I had a noon class to teach, so I was hurrying through.

I was able to bind in all the Mari's today. I attribute this to all of the shoulder openers I've been teaching in my classes this week. I often feel the affects of whatever 'theme' I'm teaching in my own practice.

I haven't been practising backbends regularly, so I haven't bothered to take any photos of my Urdhva Dhanurasana. On a whim, I took one today and was very surprised. My bum is smaller :-) and I can see the weight loss. And my backbend isn't bad at all! In fact, my shoulders look very open. This is pretty amazing given that I haven't even done a backbend in a couple of weeks.

Friday, October 2, 2009


This morning was a bit 'hair of the dog'. I stumbled out of bed, directly to the floor and did a series of cat/dog tilts, downward dog, a few Chaturangas and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, more cat/dog tilts and Balasana. Then I got up.

I know, know! Yesterday, I was all “I'm not sore! I'm not tired!” Today? I'm owning it: Sore and tired. Ouch and yawn. I've almost doubled my class load from this time last year, so it makes sense. Even daily yoga practice can't ward off the exhaustion of teaching 11 classes over the course of 3 days.

Today is a day off, but by next week, I'll be teaching on Fridays too. I'll be teaching 6 days a week. On the bright side, my financial situation is about to get a lot better and that's *good* news.

I love days like this. The rain started around noon, just after the dog and I returned from our walk. I've been sitting by the window, sipping tea, knitting, and goofing around way too much on the computer, but I'm allowed. :-)

I did about a half-hour of yoga, with an easy 25 minute flowing sequence I found on YogaDownload (Moon Salutations #1 with Lisa). I specifically looked for something labelled 'beginner'. It was exactly what I needed: flowing movement with lots of hip opening. I spent 5 minutes in Savasana at the end, then did my meditation.

My meditation practice is going well. I've meditated daily for the past 21 days. Some days, I feel like it's making a great impact on my life, others it just feels like more thing to check off the to-do list. But I've noticed a few odd coincidences that I can't explain away.

For example (I've mentioned this in a previous entry) I'm losing weight. Last week the girlfriend mentioned that I looked slimmer and I didn't believe her, but then I noticed it too. It's significant. I haven't weighed myself lately, but clothes don't lie: my pants are fitting again.

I've *have* been trying to choose healthier foods, but I've been doing *that* all summer with no success. The odd thing is, I haven't increased my exercise routine in any drastic way. In fact, I'm practising less (though teaching more) and I've cut my daily walks down to 20 minutes from an hour. My diet, on the whole, has generally been healthy - at least, the stuff I eat at home is. I have an insatiable sweet-tooth though - that's my major Food Issue. When I'm out and about, I have a tendency to buy treats.

But recently, I haven't been buying treats. It's not like I suddenly developed amazing self-control out of the blue, I'm just not hungry for treats. I'm *am* hungry, but I'm channeling that hunger into meals and healthy stuff instead of cookies and brownies and rice krispie squares. I could still buy that stuff if I wanted (and I still do on occasion), but I'm not doing it as often. I didn't make a conscious decision to lay off the sweet stuff, it just sort of happened.

Here's the reason I'm going on and on about this: I checked my receipts and the purchase of 'treats' dropped off right after I started meditating again. I've been meditating daily for 21 days and coincidentally, I've lost weight during that 21 days. I'm going to stop short of saying “Meditation made me lose weight” but this has certainly given me a pause. It appears that meditation has diminished my cravings for sugar and fat and all of those 'treats' that were so irresistible.

I'll keep you updated.

Second coincidence: I've recently started back into knitting in a big way. I spontaneously looked for a knitting class because I wanted to learn to knit a toque (that's Canadian for 'hat'). I've been knitting daily since then. I checked my journals. The last two times I've developed an interest in knitting both correspond with meditation practice. Freaky!!!

So there you have it, if my experience is any indication, meditating makes you lose weight and create woolen garments. Be warned!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Oh yay, the first of the month. Rent day. *gulp*

If my cocyx wasn't already tucked between my legs, it would be. I had to borrow money from the dog to make rent. Yeah, the dog has her own special savings account (alas, not in her name) for emergency vet bills. It's quite a fall from grace, hitting up my miniature schnauzer up for rent money. Good thing business is picking up. I'll pay her back next week.

I'm teaching four classes again today. So far, I'm taking the shift to a busier teaching schedule in stride. In past years, I've been absolutely exhausted during the start of my fall sessions and very sore. Not this year. I think I have daily yoga practice to thank for my new endurance. Weirdly, my biceps were touchy this morning and my left latissimus dorsi was tender, but that's about it. I'm not overly tired, though I do feel a tad over-scheduled.

For yoga practice this morning, I did 5 Surya Namaskara A, 3 B, and then the 20 minute Balancing Flow #1 with Jamie from YogaDownload. I prefer Dawnelle's instruction over Jamie's - I find Jamie a bit stilted and bland. But the sequence was fun. It has most of my favourite one-leggers: Gorudasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Virabhadrasana III and the unique YogaDownload invention, 'Airplane'. I felt it all my hips.

In other news, I'm slimming back down to 'fighting weight' again. I've been more-or-less practising Calorie Restriction. The qualifier is there because I haven't been logging foods on a daily basis. Instead, I've been keeping a pretty consistent, interesting-to-me daily menu, mostly-vegan, focusing on whole foods.

Mother Hen will be delighted to know that I've reintroduced breakfast: old fashioned oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and honey. Lunch is the main meal: a big plate of veggies, an egg white wrap on a whole wheat flax tortilla with hummus and flax lavash crackers on the side. For supper, I go light. I eat a plate of fresh fruit, dried fruit and raw nuts (usually almonds). This is enough to carry me to through to bedtime without feeling hungry.

It seems to be working. My pants are beginning to fit again. That's all I wanted.