Friday, December 31, 2010


I practiced at my usual time this morning, but because the evening classes were all cancelled, everyone else was there too. It was crowded and HOT. I was quietly dying over there in my little corner, whimpering on my sweat-soaked towel, wishing I was in the back row where I could flake out without an audience.

Yesterday, I promoted myself to the middle row so I could get a better eye-line to the mirror with my piss-poor eyesight (The Bikram Yoga Rock Stars all inhabit the *front* row). A rockstar I'm not, but I figured that I have enough of a handle on the series and transitions now not to confuse the people behind me.

I always wondered about those mirrors, but it's not vanity. Truly! No one looks good after 90 minutes in a hot room. Sweat-shiny skin, mussed hair, and beet-red faces peer back at us from the mirror. It's definitely not an ego-enhancing experience. The mirror is all about alignment. Can you see your foot emerging from the top of your head in Floor Bow? No? Kick up!

But seriously, the HEAT! How could I have missed this? It's always been hot, but today felt extreme. I was soaked in sweat before the class even began and felt alternately dizzy and nauseous through the floor poses. Even Savasana felt miserable.

As I was leaving the room, I noticed one of the Bikram Yoga Rock Stars laying in Savasana on the floor outside the room. I asked another Rock Star and she concurred: it was unusually hot, even by Bikram standards. Relief! I'm glad it wasn't just me!

It's the end of another year and I feel moved to acknowledge it. If I were to choose a word to describe 2010, it would be: 'unpredictable'. It wasn't a great year, but it wasn't a bad one either. It was challenging, painful and heartbreaking, but also surprising, uplifting and a year of great growth both personally and in my yoga practice.

I wrote a whole list of resolutions in January and it turned into a bit of a joke; didn't accomplish a single one. Instead, I did a number of things I never would have anticipated or predicted.

For example, I *never* would have predicted that I would go to a shala, let alone practise at one for 5 months. It was a huge adjustment for me, but I learned a lot.

And one shala led to another, and another. By the end of the year, I had practised Mysore-style across the city, attended workshops and made friends far and wide. I've connected to the Astanga community in my city and I greatly value that.

After years of a touch-and-go meditation, I finally returned to daily practice. It's become one of the things that truly sustains me during tough times and I would no sooner skip mediation than I would skip brushing my teeth. I truly feel that my daily Astanga practice has led me to this turn in my meditation practice.

Studying with Kino was something I had always wanted to do, but never thought I would have the opportunity. Then, surprise!, she showed up in my city. Awesome! Her workshops were spectacular and I learned so much.

Back in 2008, I added "Drop back into Urdhva Dhanurasana" to my list of resolutions, then I never even started. This year, my shala experience gave me the push I needed to explore different methods of learning this action. For me, working on a slope was the key and summer was the time. During my daily walks to the park, I dropped back to a hill, gradually moving to a flat surface. A backbending workshop at Shala North sealed the deal.

A spontaneous summer road trip offered the opportunity to study with certified teachers for the first time, an item on my Astanga wish list that wasn't on my radar for 2010. I learned a lot in those two days, and still more in a subsequent workshop with those same teachers. These experiences were life-changing and the whole of my teaching and practice has been transformed. Their approach to the practice resonates deeply with me. I have no idea how this will play out long-term, but I feel that I've 'found my teachers'.

And then there were the injuries...

My first injury came as a shock. It happened at Shala Central in July. It took over 5 months for that torn left hamstring to heal and every practice was a learning experience. My right shoulder went out during another shala visit. I practised through the hamstring injury, but the rotator cuff kept getting worse even with modifications.

Which leads me to my final unpredicted event of 2010: Bikram's Yoga. I wanted to continue daily practice as my shoulder injury healed. Hot Yoga seemed like a good compromise. I'll be starting the New Year in the hot room and will hopefully return to my Astanga practice in February.

2011 is already shaping into an interesting year and it hasn't even started yet! I have a feeling my life and my practice will continue to be 'unpredictable' and I'm starting to feel very comfortable with this state of affairs!

If I were to choose a word or phrase for the coming year, it would be 'light', both in the sense of vision and feeling. I want to bring a lightness and ease to my practice, learn to see people and events in a more positive light, but also let go of people, obligations and things that are weighing me down.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog. I would have never predicted how much this blog would grow in 2010 (there it is, that word again!) or how many people would join my community of readers.

You bring out my best as a writer and you motivate me in my yoga practice. I know that not all of you comment here, but that's okay! It's enough to know you're out there, reading my words. It's meaningful to me. I felt a great many emotions in 2010, but I could never feel entirely alone with such a great community behind me.

Thank you for being my community, my friends and my support network. I hope the New Year brings all of us joy, challenge and success!

(Princess Fur opens up a holiday gift. Very exciting! It was a bone!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I feel like a pancake!

Just to be clear, I'm not 'quitting' Astanga. Not permanently. Not yet.

I'm taking a break from the practice while my shoulder heals. My shoulder is in bad shape. When an injury starts to limit activity in my day-to-day life, I pay attention. Even removing most vinyasa from my Astanga practice was not easing the pain.

No, I haven't gone to see a physio about this. The physio would just tell me to stop doing stuff that makes my shoulder hurt. Like Chaturanga. And Adho Muhka Svanasana. I knew this already, I was just in denial. I need to rest my shoulder.

The 26 poses taught in Bikram's beginners' class are easy on the shoulder joints. There's no vinyasa, there's no deep binds that internally rotate the arm.

So I signed up for 30 days at Hot Central. When my contract is up, I'll return to home practice for the month of February. In March, I'm travelling to see my teachers for a week or two. If the shoulder injury is still an issue, D&J will help me with it.

In the meantime, there are far worse places to be during a Canadian Winter than a hot, hot room. I have three words for you: Radiant. Heat. Flooring. It's like lying on a beach, except you're working very, very hard. ;-)

I didn't make this decision lightly. A few years ago, I had a VERY bad experience with Bikram's Yoga which turned me off of the practice.

My current experience has been very positive. I asked around and heard great things about Hot Central. The studio is modern and spacious. The changerooms are clean and sparkling. The practice room has wood floors which are kept spotlessly clean.

The instructor for my very first class is also an Ashtangi! He predicted that 30 days in the hot room would clear up the pain in my shoulder. So far, he's right: I have full pain-free range of motion and I can use my right arm again.

So, how do I *really* feel about Bikram's Yoga?

Actually, I feel like a PANCAKE! In the seated portion of this practice, Savasana is taken between every. single. pose. Flip! Flip! Flip! If there were tanning lamps on the ceiling, I would be getting a VERY even tan. Every 30 seconds, I'm flipping myself over to rest or to take another pose.

I'm also feeling my quadriceps. And my calves. And my hip flexors. I scoffed at the idea that I might get sore from a Bikram's class, but my legs ached for the first few days. I'm intrigued with the emphasis on leg strength in this practice and heartened by the abundant opportunities for backbending. I may not be doing Urdhva Dhanurasana, but I'm doing hang backs, Bujangasana, Ustrasana and Shalabasana. For what it's worth, my legs are getting stronger and that can only help my backbending.

My holiday from Astanga also includes this perk: Sleep! Apparently, Bikram Yogis don't dig pre-dawn practice. The earliest available class is from 9:30-11. As much as I enjoy the energy of early mornings, it makes better sense for me to stay up later and get some work done at night, then sleep later in the mornings.

This could be fun :-D

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What I did on my Winter Vacation

Tap, tap. Is this thing on?!

Hi everybody! *waves* It's been awhile, hasn't it? Two weeks seems like a long stretch here in Blogland. I'm feeling a bit rusty, to be honest.

I'm really happy that I took the two weeks off. If for no other reason, I was able to avoid writing those inevitable, semi-obligatory 'Happy-Whatever-You-Celebrate' posts (Happy Kwanza!).

Also, my practice kinda sucked. Just knowing that I could be as miserable as I wanted to and not have to write about it cheered me enormously. One day, I wept through an entire Primary Series practice. As I took rest, a rebellious thought percolated: "I just had an absolutely miserable practice and NO ONE HAS TO KNOW ABOUT IT!"

It was kind of awesome! :-D

I truly savoured the downtime. I was only teaching 5 classes a week for the duration of my break. And what did I accomplish in this abundant spare time? Well, there was sloth, LOTS of sloth! Probably more sloth than was really warranted, but I loved it.

I baked vegan cookies and went for long walks with Princess Fur. I meditated every day, sometimes twice a day. I took epic afternoon naps that stretched into the evening. I watched the lunar eclipse (Happy Solstice!). I watched my entire collection of Jane-Austen-Books-Turned-Into-Movies on DVD (and started thinking in 19th Century Gentry Speak). I spent way too much time messing around on the Internet and not enough time reading. If I were to change just one thing, that would probably be it.

I spent the 25th in the best possible way: I hung out with other, non-holiday-celebrating friends, watching a good movie ('Almost Famous' - I can't believe I had never seen it!) and eating yummy Chinese carry-out (Happy J-mas!).

I did make some small progress on my big decluttering project. Digging deep into storage, I immersed myself in the history and genealogy of my family, scanning the old documents and photographs for my digital archives. I rediscovered my grandfather's draft certificate from the 1940s. I learned that my grandmother was meant to be named 'Patricia' until her romance-novel-reading older sisters judged the name too plain and chose a more froofy, flowery moniker (which she disliked until the day she died). I found an announcement from my mother's high school graduation and my great-great-great-grandfather's birth certificate.

During my break, I heard from a few of you. You wished me a Happy Whatever-I-Celebrate (Thank you! Happy Yule!) But mostly, you wanted to implore me not to Change the Blog. Apparently, polished, professional content is vastly overrated for most of you (or perhaps there's too much of it on the Internet already?).

I thought my daily blatherings might be getting a bit old, but one of you went as far as to threaten to 'unfollow' me if I even *considered* writing a series of those '10-things-blah-blah-blah-yoga-blah-blah-bulleted-list' posts.

10 Ways to Piss Off Your Blog Readership. Okay, I get the message.

I never wanted to be an important 'A List' blogger anyway. Rest assured, my inane practice reports and daily brain-dumps will continue, complete with grammatical errors and entertaining typos. You've been warned! If it isn't your cup of tea, well, the Internet is a BIG place. I'm sure there's more polished content out there, I just won't be writing it.

I've continued my daily yoga practice during the break, with a bit of whinging and heel-dragging here and there. One week was thoroughly awful, then I finally learned the knack of super-heating my apartment (Humidity!). But then my Gimpy Shoulder, which is now officially a 'thing' (read: 'rotator cuff injury'), started to give me huge problems. I couldn't do Downward Dog. Or wipe the kitchen counter. Or open a door. The frustration began to weigh on me, and I started to brainstorm alternatives.

I had a lot of time on my hands. My imagination ran wild.

And this, Dear Readers, is what happens when I don't have a community backing me up for a stretch: I get all creative! Leave me alone for two weeks and before you know it, I've quit Astanga and picked up Bikram's.

You all think I'm joking, don't you? (I'm not!)

I'd write more, but I need to get some sleep. The hot room awaits...

More tomorrow.

(The very fact that I stayed awake late enough to see this eclipse probably qualifies as a miracle! Happy Festivus!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reluctant Holiday

Here's one of the great things about Astanga: on one day practice can be absolutely abysmal and then the very next, it can be the Greatest Practice Ever.

This morning, it's like someone waved a magic wand over my sweaty head, or I somehow Chakrasana-ed myself through the Looking Glass into a parallel world of unsore shoulders and boundless energy and backbends that felt peachy keen (and opening prayers that burst forth melodically, instead of wheezing out in raspy whispers).

I had an AWESOME practice today. Sometimes that's the way it works in daily practice. You see, every practice, no matter how unawesome, is actually awesome because one leads to another, like beads in a mala or breaths in a vinyasa. Everything ebbs and flows in cycles. That's how I knew, last week at this time, that as bad as things seemed they would most certainly be better in 7 days. They always are.

Yesterday, LauraYogini commented that as someone new to Astanga, it's comforting to hear that even long-time practitioners have off days. What I loved most about her comment, though was this: She wrote, "even if I don't always make it through, then so long as I notice that, and enquire as to why, and learn, acknowledge and nurture those reasons and lessons, my practice is still a 'success'."


As I lay on my back this morning, taking rest, I was thinking about my practice and blogging and I had this moment of brilliant clarity: I need to take a break. Not from Astanga, but from this, this blogging thing.

Now don't get all panicky! A break is a break; I'm not quitting the blog. But I've been going pretty much non-stop here for almost 2 years. As the readership of the blog has grown (and it has grown exponentially over the past year), it has started to become less about me, me, ME and more about what I have to offer the Astanga community, our 'Cybershala.'

What started out as a whiny little practice blog has grown. People actually READ this blog, hundreds of people! Last year, I got the mention in Yoga Journal. That was epic! Then, over the summer, my blog was listed on Shala North's website *cartwheel*.

Recently, the blog was honoured on two resource websites for the massage therapy community. I'm not naive: I realise that these 'awards' are intended to drive traffic to the sites, but I'm impressed that the site administrators had clearly *read* my blog. The lists they compiled are actually quite good and worth a perusal. I'm in esteemed company on those pages.

(there used to be pretty badges here, but the awards were 'discontinued'. I guess the site owner realised that giving out yoga awards wasn't driving traffic)

I'm delighted with the readership I have and I'm not interested in making money from my blog, but I would like to offer better content to the people who visit here. I'd like to make the blog less about me, me, ME and more about us, us, US, the community.

So I'm taking a Blog Holiday to think this over. I'll be back before the New Year.

Some of the things I'm doing on my holiday:

-Updating my Twitter stream. If you're really worried about me, you can always head over there to reassure yourself that I'm alive and well and not yet standing up from Urdhva Dhanurasana.

-Updating the Facebook Page. With new and interesting links because I'm *not* taking a holiday from the Internet at all! I'm not THAT crazy.

-Observing the renovation of my apartment hallway with great, um, trepidation. So far, we have lilac paint on the ceiling, shit-brown paint on the walls, darker shit-brown paint on the elevators and door jams. And the emergency exits on either side of the floor are painted a brilliant, bloody, Lady's Holiday Red. I can't wait to see the new carpet!

-Cuddling Princess Fur. Because there can NEVER be too much cuddling for Princess Fur!

-Reading and commenting on your blogs! And with great enthusiasm since I won't be writing here.

-Writing in my private blog. So I can chart out my course for the next year, both in my yoga practice and professionally.

-Buying a new coat.Because my old one is in pieces and Canada has decided to go back to having Real Winter again. *shiver*

-Writing a long overdue email. The one I promised to send two of my favourite people *cringe* months ago. I'm sorry :-( You'll hear from me soon!!

-Yoga tourism. The winter is cold, cold, cold. I need to warm my tootsies at a shala someplace. I'm sure there's Room at the Inn someplace in this town. I'll take the best offer! :-)

See ya'll on December 30th.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm finding it very difficult to maintain flow and focus with so much of the substance cut out of my Vinyasas. I'm not jumping forward or back. I'm not doing downward facing dog for most of my practice. I do it in the sun salutations and as far into the seated poses as I can manage, then I revert to table pose when my shoulder begins to ache.

The lack of flow creates hothouse conditions for huge amounts of futzing. Since I'm annoyed and (yes, I'll admit it) a bit depressed about my abbreviated Vinyasas, I tend to stop a lot and 'rest'. It seems to require a lot of energy to start up again.

I'm like a street car that jerks forward, then stops, forward, then stops. Leaving all the standing passengers pitching forward and back and bumping side to side, trying not to fall into someone's lap.

Part of this could also be the 'winter practice blues'. I've never practiced Astanga this consistently through an entire winter season. Last year, I was varying my practices more, the year before that, I was trying to get my groove back after an illness. And the year before that, I was in the first 6 months of my Astanga practice and it seemed hard no matter what the weather was doing (but somehow easier because it was newish to me).

I think consistent, daily practice of the same series highlights difficulties that might not seem as obvious if you just practisted yoga a few times a week or sporadically. The variations in energy levels and motivation become particularly stark.

Back bending was good today and my dropbacks were strong. I'm surprised by how well this is going, actually. I thought I would have to 'start over' but I seemed to have picked up exactly where I left off.

Today, I wasn't able to nail the exhale-to-drop-inhale-to-stand thing (to the futon of course - the floor is still impossible), but I was able to stand up easily with two strong rocks. I also tried coming up from the floor. I only managed to lift up to my fingertips, though.

In honour of the first big snow storm of the season, 70s Yoga Lady Kareen is making a Yoga Snow Angel.

Must get cold in that leotard!

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Monday, December 13, 2010


There are certain days when I have NO gas in my yoga 'tank'. Today was one of those days. I didn't feel well when I woke up. I didn't feel well as I unrolled my mat. And I didn't feel well as I started the Suryas. It was all downhill from there.

As I finished the standing poses, I began considering the possibility of half-Primary. I paused to rest before the Marichyasanas and knew I wouldn't make it through a full practice, so I bailed after Navasana and went to finishing.

Half-Primary. Oh well...

But I'm glad I paid attention to the frantic white flag of surrender my body was trying to wave. I could barely get through finishing! After lunch, I laid down to rest my eyes for a few minutes and woke from a deep, deep sleep two-and-a-half hours later.

Clearly, my body wants to rest, so I'm giving it some downtime: as much rest as possible today, early bedtime, lots of sleep.

So far, December has been kicking my ass. Definitely not part of my plans for the month but I'm rolling with the punches...

In other news, it's cold out. COLD. Behold, frost on the window right next to my window seat. It's like an entire universe in a window pane:


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Sunday, December 12, 2010


I returned to my full practice this morning: Primary, plus Intermediate poses. I wondered if it might feel long, or difficult, but it was fine. My shoulder still isn't completely comfortable in the vinyasas and half-way through the practice, I was modifying them. But I did every single vinyasa (not even skipping between sides) and I've dropped all of the modifications in poses.

Of note:
- I can bring my right arm alongside my ear in Parvakonasana
- Prasarita C is feeling deeper
- Wrist binds are back in Marichyasana D
- I'm doing Chakrasana again

And unrelated:
- Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana has been *fantastic* lately. My balance has been very good! I've never had an easy time with this pose, but for the past few days it's felt exactly like that: easy!

I whizzed through the rest of my practice and did all of my Intermediate poses, even Bhekasana and Parsva Dhanurasana.

I did my three Urdhva Dhanurasana and was considering drop backs to the wall, but my only wall is occupied by boxes full of stuff for scanning. So I decided to try dropping to the futon instead.

I'm still turning my feet out a *bit*, but overall, the drops felt really good! Even better, I was dropping on the exhalation and standing right back up on the inhalation! I've never done this! It definitely felt a bit awkward and it wasn't pretty (I was staggering around after coming up), but suddenly it's feeling possible! I'm looking forward to experimenting with this more in the coming week!

Bonus: Mysore Rug Yoga

I've recently discovered that in addition to turning my feet and hands Na'vi blue, my blue Mysore rug has other magical abilities. The rug has spontaneously started to take yoga postures!

In this photo, my blue Mysore rug is taking Purvottanasana!

I'll keep you updated if the rug decides to practice any other postures.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010


I still don't have my voice back, but that's okay. It's the weekend and I've just discovered chocolate almond milk at the grocery store (which, warmed on the stove translates into Vegan Hot Chocolate). Plus, I don't have anywhere to go, not that I'd want to. The forecast is for days of cold and rain. Perfect weather for a time-consuming indoor project!

So commences the next phase of Operation Going Paperless: Photos and Memorabilia.

I'm a prolific keeper of old letters, cards, photographs and sentimental schtuff. These items currently fill a large portion of my only storage closet (and I've already sorted through the collection several times before - it used to take up an entire footlocker!). I've dragged this hodge-podge from state to state, cross-country, and country to country. I'm not about to drag it province to province, so let the culling begin!

Technology has caught up with my sentimental packrat tendencies. I can now scan my memories! This month, I'll be spending lots of quality time with my new scanner and the paper shredder. My goal is to whittle it all down to two small plastic bins. If holding a document in my hands doesn't trigger a gut-wrenching sentimental moment, it gets scanned and tossed.

Practice today was in the evening. I did the Suryas and a few seated poses, then closing, followed by meditation.

I didn't want to jinx myself by mentioning it here, but I've been meditating daily for over two months. I started, as I always do, with easy five-minute sessions and worked my way up to 20 minutes. I meditate before sleeping - either before my afternoon nap or at night.

Meditation is one of those things that is hard to build a habit for, but once you do, it's tremendously helpful. I'm finally at the point where I don't skip a day. Even if it means simply sitting for five minutes, I do it. Even if I'm not feeling well. Even if I'm having a bad week (especially if I'm having a bad week). It's keeping me sane!

On Thursday, I made my triumphant return to back bending and documented it with a photograph. Urdhva Dhanurasana is not looking great, but given that I haven't been practicing it very much, it doesn't look too shabby:

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Friday, December 10, 2010


Often after a couple of days away from my Astanga practice, I'm struck with an irrational fear that somehow I won't find my way back to it - like a wandering child, veering off the known path and becoming lost in the woods. In the interval of non-practice, the Primary Series starts to appear long and interminable. I begin to wonder if I might be too weak. From afar, the practice starts to look too difficult.

Then I get back on the mat and everything is okay again. That's what I did this morning. My two-day Astanga vacation gave me a some perspective and appreciation for my daily practice. I realised that I didn't care whether I was doing perfectly floaty vinyasas between postures. I was just happy that I was doing anything at all! I was just happy to be there.

So I did my Primary and I had a good practice. Since it was Friday, there was no pressure to do Intermediate poses, but I know I'm ready to add them back in. My shoulder is still a bit sore in places, but I'm 99% there. I stopped pushing back into downward dog half-way my practice through because I didn't want to aggravate my shoulder, but I was feeling pretty good. I skipped inversions, due to my LH.

I did five backbends! Today, I was even walking my hands in. I can feel the effect of *not* doing backbends this past week. My front body is very tight and I feel the stretch across my belly when I push up into Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Tomorrow, there will be a very mediocre, but hard-won 'State-of-the-Backbend' photo! For practice, I'm going to take it easy, but I'll be back in the Astanga business for practice on Sunday.

Overall, I'm feeling a little more upbeat. It was just an awful week, but like all awful weeks, there's an end to it. My voice is still raspy, but I can talk. Sometimes. It's gradually returning.

And with a reduced schedule, I'll finally be able to rest and have some fun. Things will only get slower coming up on the holiday. My favourite part of Christmas is the time off!

A dog story for Princess Fur Friday:

My superintendents are not happy to be managing a building in a province that protects the right of tenants own dogs. When I first moved in, they asked me to sign a clause verifying that I would 'never own a dog'. I cited my legal rights and they backed down.

Since then, they've tried various underhanded strategies to force us out. When I finally filed a formal complaint, they backed down.

But then they renovated the elevators with special, Princess-Fur-Camouflaging interiors. I was suspicious. See? They're still trying to make her disappear! She blends right in:

In the sample book, I'm pretty sure that particular colour swatch was called 'Schnauzer'.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010


This morning I woke up voiceless. The discomfort of my cold was aggravated by a night of restless sleep, punctuated by a third night of painful cramps. And to add misery to injury, I had a blistering rash all over my legs and torso.

I feel like my body is hoisting the white flag of surrender: Enough already! I give up!

I'm falling apart. And I can't fall apart. I don't have time!!!

I got up and did some Hatha yoga, but I felt broken. It's been all of two days, but I already miss my Astanga practice. My plan was to take a break from Astanga during my LH, in order to rest my shoulder. But I'm feeling so fragmented and low energy that I may go back to a (modified) Primary Series tomorrow.

Huge props go out to Maepress for leaving the comment about apple cider vinegar. I think that may have been the single thing that helped me get my voice back in time for the noon class. The Cybershala comes through for me yet again.

By the end of the day, I still had a voice, but I sounded like a version of Bob Dylan in my evening class. Then I seethed through a 3-hour meeting regarding professional standards for yoga teachers, unable to make single remark, because I couldn't. My voice was completely gone.

I know my blog has been an unrelenting festival of misery this week. I don't often have a bad week, but when I do, its a doozy.

In my darkest moments over the last few days, I've considered:
- Quitting Astanga
- Ditching my career as a teacher
- Moving to Hawaii

The reality:
- I'll do my practice
- I'll plan my classes for next session
- Pay my credit card bill

Life will go on. Because that's what life does.

I hope tomorrow is better because I really can't take much more of this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I had a rough day, but I survived. My LH hit full force in the mid-morning, just as was preparing to teach a busy noon class. I had just finished a comfortable restorative practice, draped over a bolster in various contortions for a better part of an hour. And *bham*. Frankly, I wouldn't have chosen this timing (busiest teaching day of my week) but these things are rarely 'choosable'. I carried on as best I could.

I was really basking in gratitude that I actually had a voice to teach with. It's been coming and going since yesterday. Last night, I took a hot bath and gargled salt water, used a neti pot and crossed my fingers. When I woke this morning, I emitted an experimental 'OM' and sat up joyfully in bed when I could hear it resonating through the room.

My classes went well. Tonight was special for my students: these were the last classes of a ten-week session. There was a sense of celebration, honoring all that they had learned over the previous months. My voice lasted through all four classes, but started to fade as I made my way home.

I'm now 'on holiday' from these evening classes until the New Year, so I'll get a bit of a break. I'm looking forward to it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The universe is mocking me. I was sleepless past 2 a.m. last night with insomnia and cramps, but my LH is still MIA (I'm overloading on the acronyms here because, frankly, I'm sick of talking about it). So I got up this morning to practice: tired, sore and cranky.

My cold appears to be wrapping up, but laryngitis is following close on its heels. Believe me, this is the kiss of death for a full-time yoga teacher who offers mainly led classes. I'm scheduled to teach four classes tomorrow! I really need my voice!

And to top it all off, winter is here in full force, with snow flurries, wind chills and overcast misery. We haven't seen the sun in days. The sidewalks are gritty with salt. Even the smallest excursion outdoors chills to the bone.

Practice this morning was full Primary, which is so soothing. I love it! It's hard to start, but then it's hard not to stop. It's an easy practice for me, particularly since I'm still modifying every vinyasa. Today, I recovered my Chaturanga-to-Upward-Facing-Dog, with no pain. I can do Downward Facing Dog as long as I set it up very carefully. It's not the complete vinyasa, but it's a start.

The best news: I did Urdhva Dhanurasana today, three times, very carefully. First backbends in nearly a week!

So it's coming along, slowly but surely. I'm just trying to be patient as this difficult week crawls by. I'm keeping faith with my practice and holding on to the hope that everything will be easier in 7 days.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 6, 2010


Last night was rough. I didn't sleep well because my head hurt and my sinuses were throbbing. Then, I was kept awake with horrible cramps that stayed with me until morning.

But when I rolled out of bed in the morning, my LH hadn't actually started, so I still had to get up and do my practice.

Lady's Holiday FAIL!!!

I'm still waiting, and in the meantime I'm bloated, paranoid and I can't. stop. eating. cookies. *burp* Epic PMS!

On the bright side, I actually had a very nice practice and my shoulder does feel a *bit* better. I was able to do Purvottanasana today, which made me happy because it's become one of my favourite poses. A number of other small things are back: bringing my arms overhead in Prasarita C (gently, of course), reverse-prayer-hands in Parsvottanasana, and grabbing my toes in Baddha Padmasana.

But some simple things are still tricky, notably downward facing dog and bringing my top arm alongside my ear in Parsvakonasana. I'm still modifying my vinyasas and skipping vinyasas between sides too.

I haven't bothered to even try my Intermediate poses and since I can't press up into Urdhva Dhanurasana or even put any weight into my shoulder in that position, backbends are out. I'm doing 'bridge pose' instead, hoping that I can at least strengthen my legs and work on that elusive connection between active legs and relaxed gluteals. Last time I was up at North, DR pointed out that I still I haven't nailed that.

On the even brighter side, I'm successfully fighting off the cold I picked up. A combination of ColdFX, neti pot, and vitamin C seems to be doing the trick and I haven't even brought out the oregano oil yet. As I'm writing this (on the subway home from my last class of the day, 9 p.m.), I'm feeling about 100 times better than I did in the morning.

It's 70s Yoga Day! Here, Kareen demonstrates one method to let off some steam when you have Epic PMS.


It's even more effective when you shake your head vigorously back and forth and flap your tongue around like a crazy lazy.

I tried it and now I only want to eat *half* the box of double chocolate vegan cookies.

I'm saving the other half for tomorrow. ;-)

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Sunday, December 5, 2010


I kept my promise to myself and eased off of vinyasa practice this weekend. Today, I took it down another notch and did an Iyengar-style restorative practice in the evening, based on an Iyengar sequence that boosts immunity. I prepped with a long, hot salt bath, then I blissed out over blocks and bolsters, finishing my practice with Viparita Karani and a leisurely Savasana.

The immunity-boosting practice was strategic - I woke this morning with a scratchy throat and sore sinuses. I've been using my neti pot all day and taking supplements to fight this off. It's absolutely the *last* thing I need right now, given that I'm moving into my last week of a heavy teaching, plus my LH is due any moment now.


So I'm grumpy, sniffly and I have no idea what kind of practice I'll be doing in the morning. I'm planning to get a good night's sleep and see what the dawn brings.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010


This weekend, my new best friend is the paper shredder, in close competition with the scanner. I completely emptied a two-drawer filing cabinet and started the arduous process of getting rid of old paper.

Why, oh why did I ever think I should keep all this stuff? It's a mystery...

By the end of the day, I culled it all down to six files of 'keep' items (stuff like my birth certificate and sentimental stuff). There's a 10 centimetre heap of items to scan for tomorrow. There's also a garbage bag full of shredded paper and another garbage bag full of paper that didn't need to go through the shredder.

The Great Purge 2010 continues!

I'm planning to shed the file cabinet (which presently lives in the kitchen, of all places!) and keeping the remaining files in the file drawer of my desk.

My life is shrinking! Yay!

Practice this morning was easy Hatha Yoga. I added a bunch of core work and hip openers to the mix. In the afternoon, my abs were sore. Already! Lazy abs! Maybe I need to do more of that tomorrow.

A fun riddle for a lazy Saturday:

Q: What does North Korea and Astanga Vinyasa Yoga have in common?
A: Driste!

Today, *my* Driste was chocolate cookies! What was your Driste? :-)

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Friday, December 3, 2010


After all of that fuss and drama yesterday, I was unprepared for my practice to be so ordinary and - dare I say it - good. I moved through at a good clip. My body seems to have adjusted to the modified vinyasas and I found myself falling into a groove. I skipped vinyasa between sides today to reduce the impact on my gimpy shoulder.

The shoulder is feeling much better! I didn't even notice any sensation until the very end of my practice. If this is any indication, I think a weekend of rest will resolve the problem. I hope so.

Princess Fur is enjoying her new hiding place under the desk very much. All the better to supervise me as I practice!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010


The Good: Ten hours of sleep. TEN! My mid-day class cancelled, so I slept in. Till 7:30 a.m.!!! It was heavenly.

The Bad: My practice. Nearly everything about it. Today, I sunk to a new low, not only skipping backbends, but opting out of Sirsasana as well. And I didn't bother with Intermediate either. Clearly, I need to figure out some reliable substitutions for those parts of the series.

Well, the backbends anyway. I skipped Sirsasana because I had The Lazy.

I can't believe I have to do it all again tomorrow. This has been one of those weeks when my practice feels impossible. The weekend is the light at the end of my tunnel.

In the meantime...

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Practice this morning was tough. I was paying attention to the sensations in my shoulder during every pose and transition, taking care to back off when I felt the slightest twinge. A huge number of poses, both in the Primary Series and my Intermediate, are now modified.

The whole process was mentally exhausting. Usually, my momentum carries me forward. Today, I felt like I had to bully myself through every pose. By the time I got to Pasasana (modified twist with prayer hands *sigh*), I was frustrated and spent.

On the bright side, I'm still able to do the 'lift-up' part of Vinyasa, so I've been emphasizing that and I had a few genuinely awesome 'Lolasana moments'.

I can't press into Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor without discomfort. I have to drop back instead. I'm using the wall as a support so I can drop back with properly aligned feet. Once I'm in the pose, my shoulder doesn't hurt.

Since I was already at the wall, I worked on standing up too, walking my hands up the wall a bit, then standing. It felt really good! I'm looking forward to this part of my practice tomorrow.

It's not a great practice right now, but I feel good about moving through it and learning from the experience. I'm trying to keep positive.

This has been a challenging week. My Fall pre-reg sessions usually wrap up by now, but they've been dragging on due to earlier cancellations. They won't finish until next week. I had hoped to travel up to Montreal this week to practice with D&J, but it just wasn't possible. My next chance will be in March.

I'll just be happy to have a couple weeks of a slower schedule so I can catch my breath. I'm exhausted. Then it all starts up again in January.

(Sunset tonight, while waiting for the bus to take me to my three back-to-back classes.)

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I've been in denial these past few days, but it looks like I need to face up: there's something going on with my right shoulder and it's not just my Gremlin talking to me.

This issue has been ongoing to a certain degree, but it's never effected my practice in a huge way until now. I started modifying parts of my practice yesterday, but today I found that even a simple movement like pushing back from Upward Dog to Downward Dog was very uncomfortable.

The pain is on the front of my shoulder, underneath the deltoid. I have to dig around a bit to palpitate it. It hurts at odd moment, like the forementioned Downward Dog, but also when I bring my arm over head in the Parvokonasanas. But it's fine in Chaturanga and even Uth Pluthi is fine (well, as 'fine' as Uth Pluthi gets, anyway).

By the end of my practice, I was modifying all vinyasas, taking out the jumps and replacing Downward Dog with table pose (hands and knees). I did a finger bind in Marichyasana D and took it easy with Prasarita C. For some reason, Supta Kurmasana was comfortable, but Pasasana wasn't even do-able. Ditto for Bhekasana and I didn't try Parsva Dhanurasana, figuring I pose that has me landing on my shoulder is probably a bad idea.

I gingerly did three Urdhva Dhanurasana, coming down to take a break between each. My shoulder was very uncomfortable pressing up from the floor, and the discomfort was enough that I was hesitant to make that additional push upward in order to bring the juicy stretch into my front hips.

Talk about taking all the joy out of my backbends!!! *sigh*

Fortunately, a Moon Day is coming up and my LH with it. I may take a break from Vinyasa-based yoga for few days and see if the shoulder issue sorts itself out. Meanwhile, ice and arnica are my friends. Demoing Downward Dog in my classes is NOT my friend.

I hope this thing resolves itself or it's really going to mess up my Big Plans for December. *sigh*

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Monday, November 29, 2010


Eight hours of sleep feels like a novelty these days. In fact, it feels like too much. I woke groggy this morning after a night of very weird dreams. They involved elements of nearly every job I had worked over the past ten years, including teaching.

Very freaky! Hey, go easy on me, Brain! It's only Monday...gah.

Practice was stiff and creaky. Forward bends were fine today, but twists were limited. I could only bind to fingers in Mari D.

Sirsasana felt better today, but I completely wimped out on backbends. After my three compulsory Urdhva Dhanurasana I took finishing. I didn't even try to drop back. I was tired!

We haven't had a visit from Lyn in awhile and with the colder turn of weather, it seemed like a good time to showcase her smurf-blue body suit.

Snazzy! All the cool Ashtangis are wearing them this season. ;-)

Every time I look at this photo, the words "Sit tall!" erupt from my mouth in my special 'Yoga Teacher Voice'.

Also: Bandhas, Lynn, BANDHAS!!!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010


I feel like I'm developing an intimate relationship with the garbage dumpster.

I've probably thrown away six bags of garbage/recycling and I've been up and down the elevator all weekend, carrying stuff down to the loading dock.

I placed a box full of items in the back hallway for my neighbours to pick through. It astounds me what people will pick up if it's free. Plastic travel mugs! Blank books! Gone! A jar of honey?! Yes, even a jar of honey! Everything disappeared within an hour. Old binders! A tea strainer! An old plastic spatula? Yup! A worn out skillet? Absolutely! Mind boggling.

The notes and papers from my YTT required two bags, two HEAVY bags, to recycle. I couldn't believe the huge space this created on my bookshelf. I kept some things - pop quizzes, my final exam and essay, chant worksheets and sentimental stuff. When I was finished, the keeper pile fit in a small file folder. Three giant binders were reduced to less than a centimetre. All these years, I've never even looked at this stuff...

I stumbled across the notes I took during my first year of teaching. I used to document every. single. class. Reading these critiques of myself and my fledgling teaching experiences was entertaining. It's a bit like finding the diary you kept when you were 16 years old. CRINGE! And then: RECYCLE!!! No, I didn't keep them. I'd prefer to forget my first year of teaching, thankyouverymuch.

The one thing I wanted to keep was a series of articles by Thomas Myers (Anatomy Trains) that were absolutely fantastic. I'm looking forward to rereading them. Of all the fluff I was forced to read for my anatomy module, those stayed with me.

Practice today was a typical Sunday practice, with one notable exception: I was able to move past that 'sticky hamstring feeling' and find true openness in my forward bends. Friday's experiment wasn't just a fluke. I was reveling in it! The one pose that still gives me problems is Krounchasana. When that one gets easier, I'll be relieved.

This was probably the futziest (is that even a word?!) practice I've had in ages. At one point, I was camped out on my mat, laying on my belly, propped up on my elbows, carefully studying my fingernails and trying to talk myself into doing my Intermediate poses.

Then I was reading Twitter when I should have been doing Urdhva Dhanruasana. I admitted as much in a tweet, appending it with the #badlady 'hashtag'. Ha, ha! But with all of my futzing, I still finished in 1 hour, 45 minutes.

When I woke up this morning, the sky looked like this:

This is reason enough to wake at 5:30 a.m., non?

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Today was more-or-less a day off, though I did do a short practice: the Suryas and fundamental poses, then finishing. No backbending!

I still woke up early though, at 5 a.m. I prepared a mug of tea and went back to bed with the Richard Freeman book. It was a great way to while away a morning.

It's amazing how well my body has adjusted to this crazy, early schedule. I get about 7 hours of sleep at night and another half-hour during my daily nap. It's really working for me. I even get tired in the afternoon around the time I should be taking a nap!

I shot the State-of-the-Backbend photo on Thursday this week. I was NOT having a good back bending day. But here it is:

See that? No bend in my upper back! And my shoulders have been really tight lately.

I feel like I'm regressing.

The Great Purge of 2010 continues this weekend with my desk, which I've decided not to sell because Princess Fur likes to camp out under there and hide from the world. It makes her very happy and I don't have it in me to deny the Princess her happy place.

I went through all the drawers and cleared out the junk, though. Note to self: You NEVER need to buy office supplies EVER again. I'm officially cut off from stationary stores. My plans for this desk involve keeping the surface clear of clutter.

After I finished the desk, I cleared out the bathroom cabinets. I now have three bags for the trash, a bag of stuff to give away and still more clothing to donate to the Sally Ann.

I've had a tough time letting go of some of these clothes, even though most of them are HUGE on me (thanks to Astanga, I've gone down many sizes). I'll never wear this stuff again, but the memories tug at my heart.

Next up: The kitchen cabinets. Then, three GIGANTIC binders of papers from YTT 8 years ago. My filing cabinet is also on the list.

I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying this. Skippetty described this type of cleaning task as 'cathartic' and I completely agree. I also agree that it's only cathartic when it's *your* stuff. Cleaning up someone else's mess is no fun at all.

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Friday, November 26, 2010


It's as if the Astanga Gods heard my whimpers of despair this week and delivered this morning's practice as a reward: I had a fantastic full Primary! I always love Primary Fridays, but this was a particularly yummy one!

I think I may have answered my own question regarding the hamstring. This morning, as I pushed through the sensation - with care and attention - I felt a shift. After a few minutes of this, things started to open up and lengthen. It felt AMAZING!

Kurmasana is the pose that tore my hamstring. A commenter asked where I was feeling discomfort prior to the injury. It was right around the attachment to the left sit bone. One day, I was lifting my heels in Kurmasana (something I had been doing for months) when I felt a sharp pain around my left sit bone. I knew immediately that it was bad, and it was.

As the injury healed, I continued with my daily practice, making all of these hilarious modifications to the Primary Series to accommodate my gimpy hamstring. Lots of bent legs! It seems silly now, but I often wondered if I would *ever* be able to do Kurmasana again. It felt so impossible! The pose used to be one of my favourites and over the summer, I watched with a bit of envy as shala-mates came into it.

Earlier in the week, I was experimenting with Kurmasana, engaging my legs and nearly coming into the full expression of the pose, chest close to the floor, and then strongly engaging my if my heels might lift (but not lifting my heels).

Today, I did this for five breath cycles and continued for another five. My chest was on the floor, I was feeling really comfortable in the pose and there was no sensation at all around my left sit bone. So I tentatively lifted my heels:


I know I'm not out of the woods yet. There will inevitably be days when I'm stiff and uncomfortable, but I think the worst is over. Lifting my heels in Kurmasana felt like the final test, and I've passed! I'm now learning where my limits are with this healing injury and how to move past them with care.

This has been SUCH a learning experience!

Every morning, Princess Fur gets her fur combed out. If I don't do this, she turns into the schnauzer version of Bob Marley with fantastic dreads.

When I call her over, she hesitates, then finally heaves herself out of the basket and then (I swear I'm not making this up!), she DRAGS HER FEET until she's standing in front of me, head hanging low. It's like she's lost her best friend.

Then she gives me this pleading look:

Oh, poor, abused little dog!

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Thursday, November 25, 2010


Wow, it's a slllllooooow day in the Cybershala. I guess everyone in the States is stuffing themselves silly, hopefully on Tofurkey, but I know better. Poor turkeys! It's an ordinary day here in Canuckistan: practice, work, eat, nap, work.

My noon class cancelled, so I slept in then endured a really mediocre practice. My shoulder is feeling better, so jump back/throughs were do-able, but I bailed out of headstand early because my hands kept slipping apart. back bending felt stiff and difficult.

I'm still on my re-organisation kick. I bought two bins for storage. Princess Fur's toys will fill one and the other will be home to 'active knitting projects', though I use the word 'active' very loosely here.

I was knitting up a storm last year, then I got derailed by the heel of a sock. That heel has become the 'standing-up-from-a-backbend' of my knitting life. I can't seem to get past it. It's the gatekeeper pose to the Rest of the Sock. It's driving me nuts. One of my goals for December is to pay a visit the Knitting Lady at my favourite shop and beg for help.

If I could finish that damned sock AND stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana in December, I wouldn't need anything for Christmas. Santa, are you listening?

Yesterday, I mentioned that I've finally adjusted to Intermediate Series. Not only are the poses feeling easier, but my nervous system seems to have settled down (no more insomnia, except occasionally on the Full Moon) and I'm no longer eating everything in sight. This is a relief, because my diet has been terrible during the transition. In the past couple weeks, I've been trying to reduce caloric intake and clean up my diet a bit.

Today, I purchased a stainless steel, leak-proof container to carry my supper in. Such a small thing, but it will make a huge difference. Because I teach most evenings, I eat on-the-go, usually between classes or on the subway. I used to forgo supper, thinking that I shouldn't be teaching with a full stomach, but I was eating anyway. I was just picking up vegan cookies instead. Might as well eat healthy!

I've also ended my dysfunctional relationship with 'energy bars'. Let's speak plainly: these are chocolate bars with some vitamins in the ingredients list. I jettisoned those cold turkey last week and I've returned to an entirely whole foods diet, no sugar during the week (I cut myself some slack on Saturdays).

Eek. Agave syrup is my BEST friend. I never thought I'd say that.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Okay, let's swap it up: Great day, lousy practice. I was up at 4:30, on the mat by 5:30, had plenty of sleep. My practice felt interminable.

I don't what the problem was, but I felt stiff and HEAVY. Halfway through, I stopped doing jump back/throughs allegedly because my right shoulder was feeling tweaky, but it's entirely possible I was just being lazy.

Also: The gimpy hamstring is talking to me again. During my shala visit last week, it was feeling pretty good, but it's stiffened up again. This morning, my mobility was limited on the left side and I felt overwhelming sensation in the area every time I came into a forward fold.

So, what do you think, Cybershala? Do I push through this (the injury is now about four months old) or do I back off? I think it's hilariously funny that my hamstring is always on it's best behaviour when there's a Mysore teacher in the vicinity. Kind of like that quirky banging in a car engine that ONLY happens when you're NOT at the mechanic.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I think I need to make a truce with Tuesday. At the moment, it's not my favourite day of the week. Tuesday seems to be the day when nothing is easy and even simple things go disastrously wrong.

I can't put my finger on any specifics, besides a feeling of general ennui and frustration. I'm starting to jive with the notion that nothing new or important should be undertaken on Tuesday, because Tuesday kicks my ass (In other words, I should have picked a different day to install the update on my iPad *cringe*).

I've been brainstorming Tuesday Survival Strategies. I love the Hanuman Chalisa and this past summer, I set the goal of memorising it. The project stalled about 7 verses in, but I know those first verses really well because I chant them in my yoga classes (as my students are taking rest). Maybe this is a good time to take up the challenge again. I can use my unhappy Tuesdays to chant the whole thing and maybe Hanuman will help me ward off bad Juju.

Practice today was good. I realised something as I finished up my Intermediate: It's no longer a big deal. Those 8 poses used to feel interminable. In my brain, I think Parsva Dhanurasana lasted at least 10 minutes, but I don't mind that pose anymore. Laghu Vajrasana no longer lasts for a half-hour. In fact, I kind of like it. And everything else is breezing by.

On Sunday, when I was at Shala South with my shala buddy...okay, wait a minute, this is getting ridiculous. I have a few different 'shala buddies' so I need to do nicknames. I'll call this particular buddy 'Cabbage'. I think she'll laugh when she reads that.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes...Sunday. Cabbage was doing full Primary and I was doing my Primary+8Intermediate. I breezed smoothly through my 8 poses of 2nd, Cabbage did a little bit more backbending, I did a little bit less and we magically finished at the same time. Pretty cool, eh?

Jai, Hanuman. Save me from Tuesdays. And can I have a piece of that large, vegan chocolate cupcake you're carrying?

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Monday, November 22, 2010


During my 'purge' this weekend, I cleaned out a few storage areas, including my yoga gear. Apparently, I'm a woman of many props, with a special fondness for blocks. I have three sets! Foam, hollow wood and cork.

The foam blocks came with my very first mat, which ordered through the mail from an ad inYoga Journal in the early 90s. The hollow wood blocks were required for YTT. The cork are a recent addition - I love them and use them the most.

I also excavated a strap, two sets of toe seperators, 3 Yogitoes towels, 1 Manduka towel, 4 traditional Mysore rugs, 3 yoga mats, 3 mat bags, 2 eye pillows, 4 tennis balls (two of them encased in a sock), Miracle Balls, the Acuball, a deflated gym ball (for backbending), a resistance tube and an entire bag of malas.

And did I mention the 4 zafus, 2 buckwheat hull pillows, the bolster and the zabuton? Don't get me started on the cotton blankets!

I'm thinking I need to get rid of some of this stuff, especially the props I don't use anymore. All of these items were used at time or another, but I've 'outgrown' many of the props. I don't props very much anymore.

It's ironic. Never in my life have I had such a regular, daily yoga practice, yet it requires so little in the way of accessories. Astanga is minimalist. I like that.

Good practice this morning. It felt good to get back to my own space for after a weekend 'away'. No big changes to report.

I've returned to daily dropbacks, but for now I'm only dropping to the futon, taking great care to keep my feet correctly aligned, hip width apart. It's rough going. I no longer have The Dread, but the floor seems very far away right now. Need to get those hips to open up!

This week, the 70s Yoga Ladies offer a new approach for coming up from Laghu Vajrasana: Pray!!!

I'm going to try this! It has to be better than my current approach, which involves collapsing into a sloppy Virasana and laughing at myself.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010


This weekend was great! I did some serious thinking, reordered priorities, rejigged my schedule and made a few changes. One of the biggies is this: I now have a regular day off. Yes, that's right. I didn't before. I was teaching 7 days a week, sometimes even during the slower summer months.

From now on, I'll always to be able to count on having Sundays free and I'm planning to keep that day sacred. No classes, no privates, no work. It's a relief to know that each week, I'll have a entire day with nowhere to go, nothing to do (unless I want to).

Today was my first 'Sunday off' and despite the Moon Day, I decided to practice. I went to Shala South for Mysore-style.

I was 'crim' but I was in good company! There were many other 'crim Ashtangis' today at South. I counted close to 18 people in that room. But going against the grain is very much in style at this studio. I walked in and did my full Primary, plus 8 Intermediate poses. The teacher, DT, never tutted or raised an eyebrow. If anything, I was amongst the more 'traditional' people in that room. Many people were working outside the series, adding extras or flourishes.

I received some strong, focused adjustments. I was impressed that I got so much help, considering this teacher had never seen me before. DT corrected the alignment of my hips in both Parivritta Trikonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana (she asked me to shorten my stance on the latter). These adjustments were very similar to feedback I've received from IM at Studio Central in the past.

I received really deep adjustments in both Marichyasana C and D and also got the coveted Prasarita C adjustment, hands to the floor (I held the pose longer, hoping some help might come along, and it did!).

I probably would have had an assist in Supta Kurmasana too, but I didn't need it! For the first time, I was able to bind my hands, cross my ankles, then shimmy my ankles behind my head by myself. DR's help the other day gave me the muscle memory, I think. I wonder if I'll be able to do it again tomorrow?

I moved through my Intermediate poses smoothly. DT checked that I was binding in Pasasana, then left me alone to do the pose on my own. I skipped Parsva Dhanurasana because it felt too crowded to manage it. I grabbed a block to use for Laghu Vajrasana (I'm still not lowering my head all the way to the floor). It was actually nice to have this option and not feel all sneaky or weird about it.

This studio is very supportive of the use of props: the wall for handstands or backbends, bolsters, straps, etc. I certainly could have added my usual shoulder and hip openers before Urdhva Dhanurasana, but opted to go right into backbends to save time. I was practising with a shala buddy and wanted to finish up. I did 6 backbends, no dropbacks (though I might ask for them next time).

I had a good experience this morning. My only gripe is the music - there was some electronica playing when I unrolled my mat, but it wasn't playing for the entire duration. I was actually surprised that it bothered me so much - I used to practice with music and I still play it in the Hatha classes I teach.

I wouldn't mind going back to this room for an occasional practice on Sundays. It's not a 'traditional' shala, but given where I am in my practice right now, it's a good compromise. Whatever practice you bring in the door is supported and I really like that.

And I'm very curious about DG's morning Mysore now. I'm planning to go back to South and give it a shot sometime in the next couple weeks.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010


Over the past month, I've releasing stuff from my life: books, objects, clothing, papers. Every weekend, I take on a new project. Last weekend, I went through my bookshelves and bagged up books for resale. I made $100 off of this project, which wasn't actually the point, but a nice end result, nonetheless. And I'm not finished! I'm already bagging more.

Yesterday, I sifted through my closet and ended up with three bags of clothing. Some will go to charity, some will end up at the resale shop. I'm starting to realise the folly of buying dressy clothing: I never wear it. I'm not a fancy dresser. I literally live in yoga clothing from Lu these days and maybe a few t-shirts, jeans. Note to self: shop accordingly!

Next up is my desk, which I'm planning to sell. I never actually use it. It's really just a storage receptacle for papers and objects I don't know what to do with. I'm a sucker for electronics of all kinds (Geek!). I've packed up a box full of this stuff to donate to a non-profit that refurbishes it. My printer is in there. And a digital camera from 8 years ago that looks like a brick.

Today will likely involve shredding and recycling vast amounts of paper. It makes me weep for trees. I think the YTT I attended 8 years ago killed an entire forest! Bell Canada killed another one. And my early years of teaching killed one more.

In the evening, I unrolled my mat and did the Suryas, Sirsasana, and the three closing lotus postures, then I meditated for 20 minutes and retired to bed with Richard Freeman's new book, which I bought for myself in a fit of retail therapy on Friday. This is my bit of fun for the week and I'm enjoying it throughly. Great stuff!

The State-of-the-Backbend was taken on Tuesday. It's not the deepest backbend ever, but I look more relaxed in this photo, at least. I've been working on trying to release muscular tension.

In the aftermath of a rough week, my instinctual reaction was to curl up in the window seat this weekend and munch on chocolate. Not healthy. And a two-day break from practice is just gonna make me more loopy.

So tomorrow I'm 'going rogue'. I'm doing my practice at Shala South's Mysore room (they're open on the Moon Day because that's how they roll down there). I'm pretty sure the teacher, DT, will let me practice my Intermediate too, so it will be business as usual. And I'm practicing with a shala buddy, which will be fun.

I've never been South for Mysore before and never practised with this teacher, so it will be a little adventure!

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Friday, November 19, 2010


What a throughly wretched week! I'm happy it's over. Next week will be approximately half as stressful, then things will begin to drift back to normal. And then it will be December. Poof! Just like that.

I slept until 7 this morning and sat in the window seat for a lazy hour with a mug of hot tea. Then I took a salt bath and headed up to Shala North to do my practice in a room full of warm, breathing fellow humans. I think I was looking for comfort more than anything else, a feeling that I'm not alone in this crazy thing I do every morning with such fierce dedication.

I had a great practice. DR was there (he hasn't been the last few times I've been up), so I received a number of really useful adjustments. I had some help with Marichyasana D. I can reliably bind to wrist in this pose, but it takes some wriggling around to get it. DR showed me how to rotate the shoulder of the wrapping arm and then he took me into the pose much deeper. Nice!

I got the 'calf roping' adjustment in Supta Kurmasana. Once my legs are behind my back, I can usually lift up for the exit on my own, but I flopped out of Bakasana like a dying fish. DR coached me through the jumpback to Chaturanga a few times and I think I have the hang of it now. I can't wait to practice this on my own!

Oh yes, and backbends. I was so warm and bendy this morning, it was a bit disappointing to find Urdhva Dhanurasana so stiff and uncomfortable. In my home practice, I do at least one shoulder opener and one hip opener before I take backbends. Without the prep, I felt very uncomfortable and tight. It was frustrating.

In Urdhva Dhanurasana, DR asked me to press up to my fingertips. The muscular action required to do this feels absolutely foreign to me, like it's a language my body doesn't yet speak. I have a feeling I'm probably strong enough, I just don't know how to co-ordinate my muscles to bring the weight forward into my feet.

DR pointed out that if I was in his room regularly, he could help me learn. True. But to be honest, I'm not in a big hurry to stand up from backbends. I don't see a reason to force it. I'm working on it and I have faith that it will come when my body is ready.

For completely different reasons, I've considered the idea of going up to North for a month - perhaps in December when my teaching schedule slows down. I could do shala practice of Primary in the morning and a second practice with my Intermediate poses at home in the evening. I would love to get some help with my transitions and clean up my Primary a bit more.

After practice, I went out for Indian food with a shala buddy. I'm still eating myself out of house and home these days (and not gaining any weight...weird!). As I came back with a second full plate of food and extra Naan, her eyes widened. "I have to fill my hollow leg", I explained.

It's my Intermediate Series hollow leg! I never ate this much when I just practised Primary! Plus, I ate dessert too!

And I tonight I went out with friends to a smokehouse and had a vegan sandwich with fries, a couple beaver tails and then cancelled out all of my hard-won virtue with a slice of non-vegan cake for dessert. Cake is always my downfall.

Bad lady, but I sure had fun! ;-)

Today is a VERY special day! It's Princess Fur's birthday. She's 8 years old. I took this photo on the first day we met. She was a tiny puppy, just 8 weeks old and I knew immediately that she was THE dog.

She's still THE dog. Happy Birthday, Fur! You're the best home practice buddy ever!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


Aaaaand Day 5 of 6. I was up at 4:30, on the mat by 5:30, finished by 7:25 and out the door by 8. Life is moving too fast! This week just blew by and I feel like I spent all of it teaching, practising, eating, sleeping. Repeat.

Well, that and errands, and hand laundry.

And caring for Princess Fur. Even at my busiest, I make time for cuddles, playtime and long walks with my dog. It's not Fur's fault that I'm over scheduled.

Yes, I like all of these things and they make me happy. But I haven't been making time for ME. Of course, I do my practice and meditate every day, but I'm missing that quiet, introspective time needed to 'process'. Without it, I get loopy, discontented and stir-crazy.

That's where I am right now. So far, with the exception of a few angsty blurts on Twitter, I've managed to hold my shit together pretty well, but I'm feeling a bit rootless and uncertain again. I'm having a crisis of confidence in both my practice and my teaching (ironically, I've had incredibly positive feedback on my teaching this week, so I really need to stop being quite so hard on myself).

I think I just need some rest, so that's first on the agenda (my classes cancelled tonight, so I can go to bed early). Tomorrow morning, I'll make a bit of time to sit and drink tea in the window seat, watch the sun rise, do some reading, maybe a bit of writing, and thinking.

My morning yoga routine hasn't felt long or difficult lately, but it *has* been a tad bit lonely. I miss the sound and energy of people around me as I practice, so tomorrow I'm heading up to the Shala North Mysore room to visit DR in the late morning. I've been jonesing for a Prasarita C adjustment. If I'm lucky, I may get Supta Kurmasana too. And a good squish.

And after I've done these three things, I'll re-evaluate how I'm feeling and see if the itch has been scratched.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Seems I woke up at a stupidly early hour this morning for no good reason.

It's poor manners to waste another person's time because you cannot manage to be organised. Particularly when said person started *her* day at 4:30 a.m. in order to accommodate *your* schedule.

Basic Ahimsa. Or maybe Asteya. Or good old fashioned common sense.

Hrmpf! End rant.

All of which leads me to this moment in time: Sitting in a coffee shop in a part of the city I rarely frequent, yawning as I drink my green tea and killing some time before my next class. Trying to make the best of it, but annoyed all the same.

Practice was good this morning! I was on the mat by about 5:30 a.m. and wrapped up around 7:15. I skimped on backbends today to save time, did only three Urdhva Dhanurasana.

I've been thinking a lot about Supta Kurmasana lately. I feel like this pose is stagnating. I suppose I expected that I might be binding to wrist by now - my shoulders are certainly open enough. I find that this pose comes along more slowly when you're not getting regular shala help.

I think I need more opening in my hips. That would be a good project, and a good preparation for the LBH poses later on in the series too! If anyone knows any 'research poses' in that genre, I'm keen to hear about them.

One of the top search terms for the blog these days is "pulled hamstring ashtanga" (the other one, amusingly, is "jivamukti balm"...seriously, what the heck?!!).

My gimpy hamstring has finally mended and I have full flexibility back in most forward folds. The one exception is Krounchasana, but I didn't have that pose prior to the tear. When he gave me the pose, D offered very specific direction to avoid re-injury. I can come into the left side of Krounchasana without a lot of depth, but minimal discomfort.

I'm surprised by how much sensation I still feel in the area of the tear. It's not pain, more like a tugging. This injury still limits me. I wonder how much longer it will affect my practice? Should I be concerned?

It's been over four months since the injury. I think it may have been a more serious injury than I initially thought.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Mardi de la misère. I'm so glad this day is over!

The best parts of my day were 1) my practice and 2) exchanging my space heater at Canadian Tire at 9 a.m. This sums it up nicely!

The heater wasn't staying on consistently so I had to baby-sit it, reaching over every so often to give the power switch a nudge. Definitely not good for maintaining a flow in my practice.

By the way, 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning is definitely the hour to make an exchange if you ever need to do it. The place was empty, except for me and one very elderly man.

My classes were fun, though the energy was a bit weird.

And the weather. Oh, don't get me started on the weather! It's my least favourite kind: Windy, rainy, cold. HATE!!!

I'm using my new, brightly orange Mysore Rug this week. Last week, I looked like a Na'vi after using the blue rug. This week I'm taking on the hue of an Oompa Loompa from using the orange.

Tomorrow, wake-up is at 4:30 a.m.

Is it Friday yet?!

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I was up at 5 and on the mat by 6 this morning. I had a good practice. I'm amazed by what a non-drama my Intermediate Series poses are now. I flow right into them and love them. I feel like they complete my Primary.

I've been doing a shoulder opener, a hip opener and six Urdhva Dhanurasana lately. Yesterday, I added in a few dropbacks, but to the wall so I can start to persuade my brain that my legs don't *need* to be externally rotated in order for me to drop back.

That went really well, actually. I think my leg/foot alignment would have even passed J's scrutiny. Today, I raised the bar and dropped to the futon: with feet hip width apart, inner edges of the feet parallel. I couldn't believe it was actually possible, but I did it!

I couldn't seem to stand up, though.

Busy week ahead. I have two really early mornings mid-week and a kazillion errands on my to-do list. I'm feeling a bit wrung out and it's only Monday.

I may need a tranquilizer at some point. Or maybe I'll just unroll my Persian rug on the lawn for a bit of "Tranquilising Breath".

P.S. The 70s Yoga Guys (aka: the Swenson brothers) are having a party at Loo's place. It's Astanga, Old Skool!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010


On Friday afternoon, a huge fog bank rolled in and covered the city for most of the night and into the next day. This is what it looked like from my balcony:

It was just fog, but for some reason, everyone was really excited about it. And then the fog lifted and it was back to life-as-usual. Today, it's rainy, but I'm happy to be sitting in my window seat and reading a book. I have a rare 'day off' today, so I'm making the most of it!

I woke up early-ish this morning for my full practice. I was on the mat by 7:30 a.m. I was feeling stiff and awkward, as I often do on Sundays.

My left armpit is bothering me, a side-effect of the flu shot I got on Friday. Usually, my deltoid hurts from the flu shot (last year's H1N1 was particularly brutal; it ached for a week). But this year, it's the armpit.

I didn't feel it in my chaturangas but definitely caught a hint of it in Urdhva Dhanurasana. At first, I was hopeful that the soreness was a sign that the shoulder openers I've been doing have been effective, but nope, I'm pretty sure it's just the shot.

Backbends were good today and Sirsasana is back to being awesome. I had a pretty good practice for a Sunday! I'm looking forward to a good yoga week.

A quick update on my protein conundrums

I'm finally figuring out vegan protein sources and creating more balance in my diet. Last week, I bought some gluten flour and made my own seitan. I was amazed by how easy it is to prepare (and how very, very messy...geez!) But it's delicious, loaded with protein and freezes well. Thank goodness I'm not allergic to gluten, as I first though I was!

I've also been adding Quinoa to my brown rice, mixing them half-and-half. I'm not a Quinoa fan, but I have to admit, it's growing on me and the mix is a good compromise.

I finally figured out a way to use the Vega protein powder. The smoothies were not working out for me at all (they were making me sick) so I've been adding the Vega (along with Maca powder, flax meal, chia seed) to oatmeal.

It ends up looking like toxic sludge by the time I've added all the stuff to it, but it tastes okay and it gives me a great protein/nutritional boost.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010


I did a Hatha Yoga practice this morning for an hour. I followed the Gentle Hatha Yoga #3 sequence with Jackie, from YogaDownload.

I did not like this sequence at all. I'm not a fan of sequencing that focuses exclusively on one side for several postures, then switches to the other side. It leaves me feeling unbalanced. There was definitely not enough pose/counterpose in this class and more than once, I felt like I needed to add counterposes of my own, or just come into Downward Facing Dog for a spell.

Interestingly, I looked back on the 20 minute and 30 minute versions of this sequence, which I tried last year, and I didn't like those either. For the same reason!

The rest of the day was full of fun. A much beloved and excellent vegan restaurant is shutting its doors after this weekend. My vegan buddy G messaged me and we made last minute plans for a late lunch.

Nothing is funnier than two vegans despairing over a menu that has too many options. We're not used to options! I finally decided on a yam/eggplant sandwich with sage hummus. It was awesome. G got the scrambled Tempeh. We shared a pumpkin spice waffle with banana-coconut compote for dessert.

Then I headed off to a party for a friend visiting from Vancouver. It was the best possible Ashtangi social schedule: I was home by 7:30 at night. Ha, ha!

I took my weekly State-of-the-Backbend photo on Wednesday. My middle is pouffy from LH, but the backbend isn't bad. I'm still focusing on breathing. I walk my hands, but never past the 'edge' where I'm not able to breath deeply and freely.

One thing I struggle with in backbends is keeping my breath duration long. Once I get into a pattern of quick and shallow breathing, I'm almost never able to get back to a better quality breath. So I've been using a metronome to give myself a point of reference. 4 beats inhale, 4 beats exhale. I know right away if my in-breath become shallow and too fast. It's not a new idea, but it's been really valuable to me for keeping my breath even in Urdhva Dhanurasana.

I was looking at past backbend photos and, though the changes are subtle, it's coming along slowly and slowly is just fine with me.

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Friday, November 12, 2010


I slept in a bit this morning. This means I slept until 6:30 a.m. Kinda sad that it felt stupidly decadent to get up before 7 a.m., but that's my life and I'm not complaining! The early schedule is still working great for me. I'm getting used to being a bit sleep deprived. I tend to catch up on weekends.

I did my Primary this morning with D's DVD. I don't think I've used this DVD since *before* I went to Montreal, so it was a bit surreal. Prior to Montreal, he was just The Dude on the DVD. Now he's one of my teachers, at least in a 'long-distance-once-in-awhile' sort of way (I'm still getting my head wrapped around this, to be honest).

The DVD moves along at a slower pace than I'm used to, but felt good to slow down and bring more mindfulness into my practice. It was also a nice change for a Friday. I was able to focus on my breath and bandhas more. There are constant cues and reminders to breath evenly and engage the bandhas. It's one of the things I've always liked about this led DVD.

With the more leisurely pace, I had time to work my vinyasas and lift-ups, emphasizing strength. I took the time to come into postures more carefully, especially in the Marichyasanas.

D skips a pose in this DVD (Paravritta Parsvakonasana) and adds in others (Baddha Konasana C, Tadaga Mudra). It was fun to change things up a bit from my regular routine.

I noticed that a few of the cues are different from the ones I've heard D use in the workshops and in his Mysore room. None were contradictory, the emphasis was just different in spots. Hearing the instruction in the DVD helped reinforce some of the things I learned at the workshop. Since I'm now integrating these concepts into my teaching, it was helpful to hear how D offered them in the context of a led class.

I had a good practice. My knees is still fine *sighofrelief*. Sirsasana felt better today, backbends felt worse. Oh well!

I really enjoyed seeing the responses to my 'Lady's Holiday Survey'. The responses are still trickling in, but yesterday I hit 50 responders, so I figured I would do a tally.

Frankly, I was astounded by how many of my readers are Ashtangis. I know, I know, I shouldn't be! I guess I just thought I had a wider readership here, but I'm pretty 'niche'.

So here's the numbers:

1. Do you practise yoga asana during your monthly 'holiday'?

It appears that most of you practice during your Lady's Holiday. One person commented: "I practice if I feel good, don't practice if I feel bad. Simple logic!" That sentiment summed it up for most respondents.

2. What asana style do you practice during your 'holiday'?

In addition to the styles mention above, one person indicated that they practice Anusara.

The first day of the cycle is rough for many and it's the common 'skip day'. This was a theme in the comments. Some of you practice Yin Yoga or a gentle restorative sequence on that first day (or the heaviest days).

A few people commented that 'daily yoga' is important, even if it's not Astanga. I was very surprised by how many people keep on with their Astanga practice even during the Lady's Holiday.

There seems to be a strong culture of daily practice amongst Ashtangis which transcends physical discomfort and traditional views.

Put simply, I think many of us get in a routine and we're loathe to change it up, lest we lose momentum. Also, going back to a daily Astanga practice even after only a few days off can be stiff and unwieldy. Many try to avoid that by carrying on.

3. Do you practice inversions at this time of month?

Again, many people take the first day off, but continue 'the practice as usual' on subsequent days.

In the comments, most indicated that they do Sirsasana and Sarvangasana, but hold for shorter durations (10 breaths).

One person noted that Urdhva Dhanurasana feels good for her back during Lady's Holiday (I concur - backbends are one thing I don't skimp on during my 'holiday').

To be honest, this statistic was the one that amazed me the most. Most yoga texts and YTTs drill it in: no inversions during the menstrual cycle. Dire consequences are predicted for those how break this rule. But obviously, many of you are doing inversions with no ill effect.

4. If you abstain from asana practice, what influenced your decision?

This question was for those people who abstain from practice during the 'holiday'.

To be honest, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when I added the option about Nancy G. So I was genuinely tickled when I noticed that " 'Cause Nancy Gilgoff said so" came in a close third after "Advice from my Teachers" and the big winner: "Physical discomfort."

'Feeling like shit' seemed to be a good reason for most of you to skip practice. It's kinda hard to do the Suryas when you're doubled over in pain.

Four of you indicated that you *do* sometimes get The Lazy. One person even admitted:"Sometimes I use it as an excuse..." (Yeah, I do that too!)

There were a couple of interesting comments regarding the importance of the Bandhas:

"It's impossible to engage bandhas and so I don't feel like I'm practising ashtanga or at least not practising in a safe and healthy way."

"If I happen to be suffering from cramps, I don't practice intermediate because I need my bandhas to be intact to keep me from hurting myself. Plus, it feels like shit."

5. If you choose to practice during your 'holiday', what factors influenced your decision?

This question was for those of you who *do* choose to practice. I was curious about your reasons (health related, practical or more philosophical).

Most of you are practical. Practice feels fine, so why not do practice? Several of you, like me, go a batshitcrazy without some kind of practice or you find that practice actually alleviates the discomfort of your menstrual cycle.

Only 3 of you practice during your Lady's specifically on the advice of your teachers.

And 16 of you are resisting the Patriarchy *fistpump*

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the survey. That was so much fun, I may do another one someday.

Be sure to read the comments from the survey post for additional views on the topic.

Finally, a photo for Princess Fur Friday. This is one of my favourites. Sleeping schnauzer, furry paw!