Sunday, February 28, 2010


Moon Day, so I skipped my Astanga practice and opted for a nice 60 minute vinyasa sequence from Yoga Download. This is one of my favourites: Hip Opening Yoga #2, 60 minutes with Lisa.

I love this class! I’ve now tried all five versions: 20 minutes, 30 minutes, two 45 minute versions and 60 minutes. I gave four of them five star ratings (I gave the 30 minute version a ‘3’ for some reason. Maybe I was in a bad mood that day).

I’m notoriously picky so this is pretty good. I’m still waiting for things to slow down workwise, which usually happens in March. I can’t believe how full this weekend was. I hardly had time to catch my breath!

The Internet Asks: Interesting Searches in My Access Stats

This week, the Internet seemed keen to start Astanga. Many of the searches in my Keywords were related to getting started or maintaining an Astanga Vinyasa Yoga practice. For fun, I put some of these into a nice little sequence (the search terms are bold):

1) I started astanga
Good on you! Now keep it up!

2) astanga my oh my
Yeah. I know. Feels great, doesn’t it?

3) astanga exhaustion
It gets easier, I promise. Keep breathing!

4) astanga hangover
Oh, that pain in your arms and shoulders? It will fade away in about a week. I heartily recommend the ‘hair of the dog’ (more Chaturanga) as an effective remedy.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I’m sitting safe and warm in my window seat, sipping tea and eating a chocolate cookie. And remembering the Tsunami warning of 1985.

I was a teen, living with my father on a boat in a marina on Oahu, Hawaii. I still remember the somber regatta of boats that quietly left the harbour in the hours before the wave was supposed to hit. For a small boat, it’s far safer at sea because the wave only does real damage as it comes ashore.

In '85, the warning was a false alarm, but this one sounds more serious. Boats are already evacuating Ala Wai marina on Oahu:

Taken this afternoon, pictured here is the entrance to the harbour. The waters off of Oahu are apparently crowded with small boats. I’m keeping my eye on the news and my prayers with the people who live in the Hawaiian coastal areas.

My practice today was short and sweet: Yoga for Weight Loss, 27 minutes with Dawnelle. This class emphasizes the chin lock in order to stimulate the thyroid gland to facilitate weight loss. I’m not certain how effective this is, but it was an enjoyable class. It moved along at a good clip and the postures were not challenging (beginner level).

I slept in this morning, so I really appreciated a shorter yoga session since I was strapped for time. This is the shortest practice I’ve done in a couple months! It's good to have a break!

I captured my State-of-the-Backbend photo on Friday. The biggest difference I noticed this week is I seem to be pushing my weight more into the hands, so that my knees are directly aligned over my ankles. It’s a better alignment and brings more of the backbend into my upper back.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Snow! Snow! Snow!!!

What wonky weather! We had ‘tropical’ weather all winter, but now that the season is starting to wrap up, it’s snowing!

Princess Fur was born in November so as far as she’s concerned, the world is supposed to be icy and white. Released off-leash into the park, she bounds deer-like over (and through) the drifts. She nuzzles her bearded snoot around in the snow until she looks rather like a snowball with a shiny black nose.

This is fun! But I can’t believe it’s nearly March!

Today, I ended the yoga week with my last full Primary for a couple days. Tomorrow is my ‘day off’ and Sunday is a Moon Day (of course, I'll be doing yoga on those days, something vinyasa-y and fun, just not Astanga).

I was feeing a bit ‘blah’ as I stepped on the mat today. I think the ‘blah’ lasted up to Marichyasana A - that’s when I started to heat up and have fun.

I had a particularly nice Pasasana today. I think the bind in that one is coming along nicely. I’m still binding to a face cloth right now, but my fingers are moving closer together. My heels are on a rolled up towel - about 4 centimetres of height. Keep in mind, I’m doing this without any assistance from a teacher. With help, I have a feeling that I could bind. It’s really the top arm that’s holding me back now. My rotation is really good in the pose and it feels nice.

Also: Headstand is back in the middle of the room! I felt very stable.

I'm ready for a little break from Astanga. Bring on the weekend! :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Oopsies. I overdid yesterday.

I enjoyed my practice, I taught some great classes, but energetically, I was SPENT. Walking down the stairs into the subway at 9 p.m., I thought I was going to keel over from exhaustion. I came home to a long epsom salt bath and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow (so much for the insomnia, eh?).

I woke up this morning and was quite happy to spend an hour doing my Astanga Lite practice (full primary with the Sharath CD, quick self-led closing sequence). My headstands are much, much better. Tomorrow, I’ll be fine away from the wall. Bandhas are a girls best friend. :-D

In other news, my girlfriend got her first troll today. As a relatively newbie blogger, she’s all shocked and offended and WTF? about it. I still remember getting my first troll. And I was all teary and offended too. Then I got over it, put on my Big Girl Blogger pants and starting moderating my comments. :-D

The first troll hurts, all the susequent ones are fodder for amusing jokes over beer. I love the Internet.

Referrer Thursday

Happy coincidence! I planned to profile the Misanthropic Yogini’s blog ‘Damn Good Yoga’. Today, I noticed that the Misanthropic Yogini had listed *my* blog as one of ten for the ‘Sunshine Award'.

That’s so awesome - thank you! (I guess this is still a small community if we’re getting into the whole ‘mutual appreciation society’ thing).

I enjoy the 'Damn Good Yoga' blog because it’s so well written. Reading about someone else’s practice can sometimes be tedious, but not this blog. The posts are fresh and interesting, with keen insights into the mechanics and subtleties of yoga practice. ‘Damn Good Yoga’ explores themes and issues that are relevant to anyone who practices regularly.

One of my favourite posts is this one: How to Trick Yourself Into Yoga. This is great advice for reluctant yogi’s of all stripes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


(photo credit: Yoga Dogs 2010 Calendar)

I powered through my full practice this morning, added 10 minutes of shoulder stretches and spent a minute holding Bakasana. Then I realised that it’s Wednesday and I still have four classes ahead of me to teach (and four tomorrow; the noon just confirmed). I’ll probably be tired tonight!

I’m still amazed at how ‘routine’ my longer practice has become. I’m not exhausted afterward and I really enjoy it.

There are no big changes in my practice this week. A while ago, I backed off of the bind in Marichyasana D when my SI joints started complaining, so I’m gradually phasing that back in (I was able to bind to fingers on the right side - my easier side - today).

I bind to a facecloth in Pasasana, but from the non-binding side, the pose looks great! :-D The pose is final feeling stable and strong to me. I’m working on alignment first - the finger bind will come with a deeper twist and shoulder flexibility. A wrist bind in Pasasana feels like pure fantasy, but I used to feel that way about Marichyasana C.

My headstand has been wacky lately, very unstable. I would have crashed yesterday if I hadn’t been at the wall. Upon closer examination, I’m just getting lazy with my Bandhas. Today, I set up, walked the toes in (Bandhas!), walked the toes in some more (Bandhas!), lifted up (Bandhas!) and so on. And I felt stronger in the pose.

I’ll work at the wall again tomorrow and if I’m feeling okay, I'll take it back to the middle the room. I hate working at the wall in that pose - it makes me feel like I’m regressing.

Recently, I’ve had some trouble getting to sleep at night. I’m usually an asleep-as-soon-as-the-head-hits-the-pillow kinda girl, so this insominia thing is a puzzle. An eye pillow and pranayama knocked me out in about 10 minutes last night. Because sleep is so hard, I've had very low motivation to go to bed at night.

Last night, I stayed up late investigating yoga classes. My plan for March is to go to one class a week, but it’s hard to find a good class that doesn’t fall into one of my teaching timeslots.

But last night I hit the jackpot! Teacher IM (a senior teacher who use to teach at my home studio) has a Wednesday morning Astanga II. It will be a race to my noon class afterward, but the studio is close enough that it's do-able.

I actually flirted with the idea of going to Shala Central for the month, but I think I’ll accomplish more if I practice on my own. I doubt they would let me keep my Intermediate poses (look how possessive I am of those poses - I’ve been doing them all of, what...three weeks? *grin*). I don’t think the timing is right for the shala.

I'm really excited. March is going to be an awesome month for my practice! My mind is whirling with ideas and goals for the month.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


My practice was full Primary plus my 5 Intermediate poses today. When I first started adding the Intermediate, it was exhausting but I must have adjusted to the change because now I’m all “Meh.” It’s fine. I’m thinking of pressing on through the week with the full practice, rather than reverting to ‘Astanga Lite’ on Wednesday and Thursday.

Starting next week, my schedule eases up for a few weeks and I won’t be working those long days on Wednesday and Thursday. March will be a very good month for my asana practice.

All participants who practised daily for World Yoga Practice Month were in a draw for a prize. I won a calendar from Globie, which he sent via AirPost yesterday. My contribution to the prize pool was a ‘Cocoa Love Gift Set’ from the 5 Seed Etsy shop. ZenTurtle, a first-time WoYoPracMo finisher, will receive it early next week.

I discovered the 5 Seed products via EcoYogini and I love them! I’m a relative newbie to the wonders of cocoa butter. It’s marvelous for the skin: deeply moisturising, yet it absorbs quickly.

Last month, I bought the Orange Cocoa Butter moisturising cream and a couple cocoa butter lip balms (the Orange and the Peppermint). The moisturising cream is exactly what I needed for my face. My skin is dry and sensitive and I’m prone to weird rashes.

I had serious acne at one time, and still experience occasional breakouts so putting stuff on my face makes me very nervous. I’ve been using this cream since late January and I’ve had no rashes, acne or reactions of any kind - just lovely, baby-soft skin.

All of 5 Seed's products are eco-friendly (glass and metal containers) with natural, organic ingredients. The organic cocoa butter is particularly yummy - like chocolate for your face! Since I first ordered, the shop has grown. You can check out the full range of offerings here.

Monday, February 22, 2010


It’s snowing! I mean, REALLY snowing. We haven’t had a storm like this all winter. This is snow that will actually accumulate! Into centimetres! All 10 of them.
And if that wasn’t enough for celebration, it’s snowing again tomorrow (and maybe the next day too)!

Sorry, all you Snowmageddoned Americans, blizzard-fatigued Londoners and snow-astounded Floridians. I know you’ve had your fill of the white stuff, but up here in the Great Not-So-White-Anymore-North, we’re feeling a bit giddy about it. I mean, FINALLY! I thought we were going to see tulips before we got any real winter weather.

My Canadian identity is secure (Olympic hockey notwithstanding).

I was delighted to get back to my full Astanga practice today. I felt a bit of trepidation as I stepped onto the mat, but it faded in the sun salutations. I had a great practice. The bind in Supta Kurmasana was even there. Backbends felt a bit rusty though - both in my Intermediate poses and in Urdhva Dhanurasana. I'm willing to bet that the backbends feel better as the week unfolds.

I finally got around to scanning some shots out of my new vintage yoga book.

This is what happens when the ladies get together for tea at the country estate but grow weary of their biscuits and curled pinkies. They drag a few of those fine persian rugs from the sitting room, set them up on the estate lawn and then they do yoga! OM!

These dames are doing breath retention. Pranayama for the titled set!

Check out the pre-Lululemon tights and the white shirts. According to the book, this is all you need to do yoga! Well, that and a persian rug! And a country estate.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I’m feeling much better today. The emotional storms are passing. I’m on Day 3 of the Monthly Misery and that too is passing. I found myself in a happier place this morning. I felt deeply content to be at home on a sunny Sunday morning, with lots of time for yoga.

I did a 75 minute YogaDownload vinyasa practice, Power Yoga #5 with Jamie. This wasn’t a particularly challenging class (though the abdominal work made me sweat), but it was fun. The time flew by. I was surprised when Savasana popped up. Already? But I was having so much FUN!

My access stats were very interesting this week! Earlier in the week, I lost two of my Google followers. I was surprised to find that my feelings were a tiny bit bruised. Then I got a hold of myself and reflected on the early days, the days of my 'five readers.'

Anyway, maybe they just didn’t like Lyn’s hairstyle. Everyone else did, though. According to the stats, Monday tipped the record for the number of visitors in a single day.

And then there were the searches, the funny funny searches...

The Internet Asks: Interesting Searches in My Access Stats

epsom salt boodiba
As a matter of fact, she does! But not while she’s in India (though I'll bet she's jonesing for one right about now!). By the way, I think this would make a nifty new nickname for Boodiba. Let's call her ESB for short! Stay tuned for the sequel: ‘Epsom Salt Grimmly’ (Oh wait, I think that's already been done...) :-D

erich schiffmann heavy handed dog series
Whoa! I knew that Erich was more of a ‘cat person’, but I had no idea! Be nice to the puppies, Erich!

i’m queen of the world pose
What would this look like, exactly? Is this the one where you put your foot behind your head, or the one where you’re *standing* on your head. Or maybe it’s the one where you’re doing both of those things simultaneously...Or maybe you take an epsom salt bath first!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Yesterday was a spectacularly BAD day with Murphy’s Law moments throughout. Since I was already grumpy, I decided to spend the evening doing tax preparation. Misery loves company and my taxes were lonely! At least I got something done!

Then I slept in and THAT was great!

I had just enough time to do a 45 minute Hatha practice this morning. I’ve tried all of the Hatha offerings from YogaDownload (there are not many) so I repeated one: Gentle Hatha Flow #2, 45 minutes with Jackie. I was curious to know why I had given this particular class a rating of ‘4’ and the 30 minute version of the same class a rating of ‘5’.

The answer: I didn’t like the additional postures that were added to make the longer recording. I gave the 60 minute version a ‘3’ so I guess it was all downhill with the added poses. I may stick with the shorter versions of this class.

I took a State-of-the-Backbend photo after practice on Thursday this week, just before my Lady’s hit. I was pleased to see some progress! I can definitely see an opening in the shoulders. The big change I made to my practice this week was to walk my hands in and push UP in my Urdhva Dhanurasana. It seems to be working!

It’s know hard to see the difference in my backbends from photo to photo so I did an experiment. Using my MacBook as a ‘lightbox’, I traced over the backbend photo from mid-January and compared it to this most recent one. The purple lines are January, the red lines are February:

I see a huge difference in the shoulders. It’s more difficult to see if there’s any change in the back - I’m not sure if I traced that part accurately. I feel like my backend is 'moving', though. I feel a deeper stretch in my upper torso.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Not a happy camper at all today - I’ve been hit with some pretty intense discomfort as a result of my Lady’s Holiday (I call it my 'monthly misery'), so I’m not feeling particularly wordy.

My practice was 90 minutes of restorative yoga, derived from Bobby Clennell’s sequences for menstruation and including specific poses for menstrual cramps. Who knew that Ardha Chandrasana could relieve pain around the uterus? Not me! And it works! The leg-to-the-side part of Supta Hasta Padangusthasana is also a good one.

For Princess Fur Friday, I'm offering a series of photos shot over the past week. Just in case any of you were wondering if the ‘golden egg’ thing was a one-off or just a passing phase. Here’s your answer.

Fur is patient. Very patient. If she sits on on that thing long enough, *something* is bound to happen!

(Don't even think about touching my egg!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I did my best to squeeze in one last full Primary practice this morning. But while I was finishing my Intermediate poses, ‘Aunt Flow’ was arriving at the train station and catching a cab to my apartment for her three-day stay (I heard she gave the cabbie a lousy tip! Bitch!).

I had a good practice today, but not a great one. Nothing stood out - it was just ordinary and I was a bit distracted. Due to my ‘changed circumstances,’ I decided to skip the closing inversions.

Tomorrow will be Yin Yoga and/or Bobby Clennell’s Moon sequence. I just got Judith Lasater’s book ‘Rest and Renew’ from the library but from what I can tell, her ‘Moon Club’ sequence for menstruation is very similar to Clennell’s. I might read through the chapter though, see if I can glean anything new. I’m currently reading her book YogaBody and it’s AMAZING! She’s a physical therapist and boy, does she know her stuff! I’m an Anatomy Geek so this is right up my alley! I’ll probably buy the book - I’m having so much fun!

I’m hoping to do some Hatha on Saturday and, if I’m feeling up to it, a nice vinyasa sequence on Sunday. Although I don’t do Astanga during my Lady’s Holiday, gentler forms of yoga are fine, even beneficial (and they keep me in the daily routine).

I’ve had a weird energy surge today. During the first part of the week, I was feeling very tired most of the time *except* when I practiced yoga. Now that I’m on my Lady’s, I’m feeling WIRED! Seriously! After my post-practice bath, I bounced around the apartment like a super-ball, then finally crashed on the couch with my receipts to log for my taxes. I got through a third of them! In an hour!

Holy Rajas, Batman! ;-)

I’ve calmed down, but I’m still not getting even a tiny bit of my regular mid-afternoon slump. I’m super high energy, really warm and I want to move around (which is good - I teach three classes tonight, including an advanced kids’ yoga). My only complaint is the usual Lady’s Headache but a couple of Tylenol will nip that. This energy thing is not my usual, but this month has been a bit weird physically on a bunch of different levels.

Referrer Thursday

This week’s referrer is Bab’s Babble. I saw Babs’ blog in my access stats a few weeks ago and I’ve been happily reading her musings ever since. Babs doesn’t post often, but when she does, she has something ‘real’ to say and she always leaves me with something to think about. I’m looking forward to combing the archives for more inspiration.

Today, she shared a wonderful quote from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (I’ve had that book loaded on my Kindle for ages; I need to read it!) and reflected on ‘impossible things’ in yoga.

My ‘impossible things’: I’ll never forget my first handstand in the middle of the room (with the person who was spotting for me holding my legs in a full-body bear hug to keep me from having a complete melt-down).

And I still reflect with pride on the first time I calmly did a wall-less headstand in the middle of a yoga class. By the end of 2010, I hope to carry the memory of my first successful drop-back into Urdhva Dhanurasana!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Just as I pressed the ‘publish’ button yesterday, I received word that my Thursday noon class was cancelled, which opened up a whole world of possiblities, including a full practice on that day (and, if I’m smart about it, tax preparations). Then Transit Gods were kind to me last night and I got home earlier-than-usual after my evening classes. I thought, “Why not go to bed early? I could get up early and have some extra time for my practice.”

So that’s exactly what I did. I’m glad I was able to swing it because I’m probably going to be down for the count with my Lady’s Holiday over the weekend. And I really had some nice momentum going. I’ve been working hard this week!

Today’s practice was very similar to yesterday’s. I focused on deepening my forward bending. When I pay attention, I really noticed the difference in flexibility between my right and left legs. My right leg is the more flexible - chin-to-shin in Janu Sirsasana A and B. I’ve been binding to wrist in all the single-leg forward bends.

Lately, I returned to binding fingers in Marichyasana C in order to focus more on rotation in the pose. My rotation feels deeper now. Today, I went for the wrist bind and it felt *easy*, even on the more difficult left side!

In Urdhva Dhanurasana, I walked my hands toward my feet for every repetition of the pose. This felt SO deep, I was convinced that I would see a huge difference if I took a photo. So I did. And there was no difference at all - so much for that! No matter. I’ll keep doing the work. I have a strong suspicion that eventually I’ll see something move, because I really FEEL it.

I’ve started taking 10 minutes to do some extracurricular poses after my backbends. Yesterday, I worked on the inner-thighs and today, I stretched the hips (Eka Pada Raj Kapotanasana). Tomorrow, I’ll work on shoulders.

All in all, good times! And I’m looking forward to a good practice tomorrow.

(Here's our gal Lyn, on her special 'branded' yoga mat, with matching duds. Point that toe, Lyn!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I had a fantastic practice this morning! I felt like I was finally ‘settling in’, to the postures, to the intensity and to the routine.

I’ve been pretty lazy in my forward bends recently, so today I stepped it up a notch. By the time I did my last, post-UD Paschimottanasana, my face was resting comfortably between my shins. That was a good feeling! I find the ‘active’ version of that posture monotonous, but when I’m relaxing into it, it’s as good as a restorative pose.

The bind in Supta Kurmasana is sticking around for now. I’ve been feeding it chocolate (shhh! don’t tell anyone!) :-D

I’m trying something new this week in Urdhva Dhanurasana (well, it's new to *me*). After I lift up, I’m walking my hands one hand-step towards the feet, then lifting up and into my hands. I hate it. It feels like shit. And I’m doing it even if I don’t feel especially bendy.

It’s interesting to watch my internal dialogue transition from “Fat chance!” to “Oh, this isn’t SO bad.” during the three repetitions.

I had so much fun this morning, worked so hard, felt so great afterward. And now I’m all bummed that I won’t be doing it again tomorrow. Wednesday is an ‘Astanga lite’ day, Primary only. Theoretically, I *could* do the longer practice, but it’s not a good idea when I’m teaching four classes over the course of the day.

Attachment much?

Monday, February 15, 2010


Grumpy. I think I had some version of the ‘Monday Blues’ this morning, or maybe the ‘Gray February Blues’. It’s darkish and somber out, very cold, and scant snow on the ground to dress things up. The problem with a ‘break from routine’ is the 'going back to the routine’ part. I was all used to my daily round of Astanga and work, then I took a couple days off and now look at me: whinging.

Technically, today is a holiday but time stops for no yoga teacher. My classes were running. I was surprised to notice how empty the city centre was as I travelled through this morning. This is a relatively new holiday to us and in the first year, it seemed that most businesses were open. Not today. It felt like a Sunday.

My practice was full Primary with 5 Intermediate poses. I used the cork blocks, giving myself a bit more height to work with for lift-ups. I was amazed to find the bind in Supta Kurmasana. I was sure my Valentines indulgences (capped off by cheesecake last night) would limit me in that pose.

I was also surprised to find that I was sore in my hips and my forearms today. I know I worked hard in the YogaDownload class I did yesterday, but I guess I worked some areas that aren’t covered by my Astanga practice.

I found a new vintage yoga book at the used bookstore yesterday: Yoga for Health and Beauty by Joan Gould. This one is great - British, with lots of photos of women in bouffant hair-dos sprawled on persian rugs, practising asana. Hee, hee! I need to start posting 70’s Yoga pics again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I’m having the BEST day! All fun, all day! When I’m Queen of the World, all Valentines Day holidays will fall on a Sunday, on a Moon Day.

I had an hour for my practice this morning, so I did a YogaDownload audio vinyasa class, one of the good ones that I was saving for a special occasion. OMG, it was *awesome*. Loved it!

I did Power Vinyasa Flow #3, 60 minutes with Jackie. From the get-go, the class had clear, logical flow sequences that kept moving and moving and moving. There was lots of fun stuff thrown in to keep things interestesting too: Ardha Chandrasana, Paravritta Ardha Chandrasana, Svarga Dvidasana (bird of paradise pose) and even a headstand. There was a shoulderstand at the end, but no counterpose to it - that’s my only gripe (But a minor one: I quickly did Matsyasana before moving into Savasana and it was fine).

Other fun for Valentines Day:
- Banana Pancakes! And our favourite guy was working the counter so we got an update on his educational adventures (he went back to school recently)
- Free museum passes, a perk from our public library! I finally got to see the exhibit of lotus shoes. Whoa, freaky!
- Biscotti. With frosting on it.
- Chocolate covered butter brickle
- Mini Cupcakes: tiny, bite-sized indulgence
- One of my favourite all-time movies, on DVD: Beverly Hills Cop. I haven’t seen it since I was a teenager. Damn, that’s a fine film!
- And coming soon: Thai food at my favourite neighbourhood Thai restaurant. Red Thai Curry? Yes, please!

As you can see, I’m having a good day.

There were a few interesting hits in my stats this week. I particularly loved that last one. Cookies! Somebody out there knows me pretty well!

This week...The Internet Asks (interesting search strings from my access stats)

astanga motivation low:
The old Nike advertising slogan, ‘Just Do It, applies here. Low motivation? Just do it. Do the Surya Namaskara A’s, do the B’s, do the standing poses, do all the seated up to Navasana and if you’re still struggling at that point, maybe it’s time to call a ‘half Primary’ and do the finishing poses. Don’t beat yourself up, but also remember: some of the best practices start with low motivation.

practicing ashtanga during menstruation:
Eek! I don’t want to become the posterchild for this. So, just to set the record straight: In my experience (which is exactly twice: when I opted to do daily Astanga for World Yoga Practice Month), intense yoga practices like Astanga are not healthy during menstruation. Inversions are not a great idea either. I’ve had some good results with gentle yoga around the time of my Lady’s Holiday. Bobby Clennell’s book is a good resource for this.

reluctant ashtangi cookies:
Yes, please!
The famous Death by Chocolate Cookies that rule my Saturdays!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I love my Astanga practice, but it’s really fun to do something different. This morning, I decided to try a 60 minute Anusara class offered on YogaToday. This novice level class was called ‘Expansive Heart Openers’, and taught by Neesha Zollinger.

This is definitely a beginners class and the pace moved slowly. No sun salutations, just modified vinyasa with Chaturanga and Bujangasana. The flow was simple throughout.

There were two poses that would be challenging to someone brand-new to yoga. Full Vasisthasana (side plank) was taught without modification on the first side, then an alternative was offered for the second side. This didn’t make sense to me. When I teach beginners, I offer the easy mods first, then offer more difficult versions for those who feel ready for them.

There was also a lunge/quad stretch that could be tricky for students with bad knees. However, done correctly, this is an amazing stretch for the iliopsoas, so I quite enjoyed it! It was one of the high points.

The other tidbit that caught my attention was a standing shoulder stretch. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll give it a try:
1) Standing comfortably, put the hands behind the head with the elbows angled out to the sides
2) Press the elbows *forward* while at the same time, pulling the shoulder blades towards the midline.

This has the effect of puffing the chest out while bringing a subtle bend into the upper back. Classic Anusara heart opening stuff, but I was digging it.

What I didn’t like: The instructor’s chatter during this class. She often spoke when the moment called for silence. One of these moments came near the end of the class: She FINALLY shut up, only to start chattering about what ‘students should do when the teacher is silent’ (the answer: 'go within', not that she gave us a chance to do that).

Oh, and her constant, cloying use of the word ‘expansive’ was driving me NUTS. There were three instances of cringe-inducing cliches that had me rolling my eyes. The left/right cueing was off, but that didn't bother me as much as the inconsistency in the way postures were presented. There were a couple instances where a pose was taught so differently between the two sides that it created an imbalance.

Overall impression: Not impressed. At the end of the practice, I didn’t have that warm, post-yoga glow-y feeling. In fact, I didn’t feel like I’d done any yoga at all. This is the second YogaToday class that I’ve tried and have not enjoyed. I’m starting to appreciate the high quality of the YogaDownload classes. Even the worst YogaDownload class is far better than this.

I took a State-of-the-Backbend photo yesterday, after my Primary+5Intermediate practice.

I think I’m starting to see some progress. For comparison purposes, here are two backbend photos. The first is from a month ago:

December 17

February 12

Friday, February 12, 2010


“Help me, Epsom Salt Bath, you’re my only hope!”

I was a mess last night. My enthusiasm for Lolasana led me to teach it in my afternoon youth yoga class and then demo it in my two evening classes. The kids just love the ‘party favours’ (aka: yoga props). We had a grand old time, lifting up, lifting up, lifting up...

This week was ‘arm balance’ week in my other classes, so I demo’ed Bakasana, Bhujapindasana and Astavakrasana over and over and over again. By the time I finished teaching my last class at 9:30 p.m., I was TOAST.

But Epsom Salts, nine hours of sleep and a couple Tylenol made everything better. I had a fine practice this morning: Full Primary, 5 Intermediate Poses, 3 simply *awesome* Urdhva Dhanurasanas and a nice, lazy closing sequence. I was a bit distracted in the beginning, but as soon as I hit the seated poses I was fully present in my practice.

Because I love vinyasas! I truly do!

Now that I’m onto Lolasana, the seated vinyasas have become great fun! Today, I focused on using core strength for my lift-ups and felt a huge difference. The cork blocks are now ’too high’ to use for lift-ups (yup, those are the very ones I bought last week: no worries, I’ll use them for other things). I found some ‘skinny’ cork blocks at Lululemon but so far, I've resisted. Don’t think I’m wasn’t tempted though!

The fourth and fifth Harry Potter books were nearby and for today, they sufficed. I’m afraid that I will eventually destroy those books if I keep using them as blocks, but hopefully I’ll make rapid progress and graduate to the first and second Harry Potter books (and, dare I say it, graduate to using 'no blocks').

I’m coming up on a two-day Astanga holiday: tomorrow is my regular day off and Sunday is a Moon Day. I have a bunch of YogaDownload classes I’ve been looking forward to and Yoga Today has a Anusara ‘heart opening’ class that might be fun. I’m sure I’ll find a way to fill my time.

I’m pretty sure that my yoga practice is Princess Fur’s favourite part of the day. Think about it: I’m on the floor, a couple feet away where she can observe my every move! I can’t get away without giving her a cookie.

And best of all, my proximity means that she can doze off. Today, she glanced over as I set up for Sirsasana and she released a deep, heart-felt sigh. Dogs do love routine.

This is her happy place:

Yes, she's STILL sitting on the Golden Egg (it hasn't hatched yet).

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Today was yet another day of Extreme Astanga Reluctance, except this time it was paired with a distracted mind. Oooo! A deadly combination. So I sat on my mat and studied my fingernails while a fascinating flurry of thoughts swirled through my busy little brain.

I had a little break after the sun salutations to take a phone call and then I *finally* settled into my practice. Everything fell into place around Marichyasana A and I was flying. Full Primary today led by the Sharath CD, self-led finishing poses and this time, I managed to do Savasana!

The lift-ups are going well! I’ve added a sort of quasi-jumpthrough to my routine, lifting into Lolasana (this link has a wonderful video by Patrick Stewart with detailed instruction and a couple of different variations for the pose) and then extending my legs forward.

I’m feeling stronger every day and my feet now clear the mat every time. It’s probably time to lower the blocks again - except, the blocks are as low was they go. I did a quick web search for 2 inch cork yoga blocks, but didn’t find anything. It’s just as well. I *really* don’t need to feed my ‘block habit’. I already have quite a collection! :-D

I see two options:

1) Phone books. Our lobby is full of them because the new ones just came out and nobody wants them anymore because we all surf over to Canada411 when we need a phone number. But I could wrap two in duct tape to make them more solid, then use them as thin blocks.


2) I could just raise the blocks up again and work on the jumping-my-feet-back part. This seems like the most logical solution. But once I get the jumpback, I’m still stuck with trying to do it from the floor.

For fun, I’ve been exploring the different site referrers in my access stats. Since many of you read regularly but don’t often comment, I’m starting a new feature to recognise readers who blogroll or link to me in some fashion...

Referrer Thursday

This week’s referrer (and also a Google Follower) is Lew over at the Pratyahara Blog

Lew started blogging in October of 2009 after her practice of the Astanga Intermediate Series was curtailed by a diagnosis of Graves Disease (reading the first post is a very worthwhile for getting her back story).

Lew has a gorgeous practice, cute dog pictures, an absolutely lovely Urdhva Dhanurasana (I'm JEALOUS!) and you can find posts with titles like this: ‘Fear and Loathing in Kapotansansa’.

Astanga is a challenging practice for someone who's perfectly healthy. I have heaps of respect for anyone who perseveres with their practice in the face of an illness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A quick update, in the midst of a busy, busy day:

This morning, I did my ’easy’ practice of full Primary only, no Intermediate poses and self-led finishing poses (which almost always means that I breeze through them very quickly, in under 10 minutes).

And Savasana? Hm. If anything, Savasana was a quick interlude; I think I barely did Savasana. By that point, I was already rushing to get ready for my first class of the day. I’m teaching five classes today. Five!

I’m in better shape today, sleep-wise. I got an extra hour-and-a-half of sleep last night and I’m feeling less drained.

The bind in Supta K hasn’t left me yet. Sirsasana is the favourite pose of the day. I’m discovering the Power of Elbows. Exciting!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


This was definitely one of those ‘reluctant’ days when I didn’t feel like practising. I was deep into Baddha Konasana before it occurred to me that I was finally enjoying myself and it was a cakewalk after that. I think I’m just really, really tired.

I need to be more careful about getting adequate sleep. Losing a night of sleep over the weekend put me in catch-up mode for the rest of this week and I don’t have *time* to catch up on anything; every minute is allocated. I yawned through my evening classes and right now, I’m so tired, I feel numb. I’ll try to go to bed early and sleep in a bit.

Pasasana was great today. I didn’t bind in the pose - I’ve backed off from binding in favour of deepening the twist. So I’ve been kind of reaching my arm around and grabbing my heel, then tucking my back hand between my thigh and abdomen. Today, I experimented with bringing the wrapped arm around my shin and back toward my hip.

I didn’t bind to fingers or anything, but the pose felt *right*. Now, it’s only a matter of time and practice before I get the bind. I remember how this works from the Marichyasanas. I’ll work on opening my shoulders a bit. Losing a few pounds wouldn’t hurt either. Baby steps!

I’m adding a couple classes (teaching) next week, so today was my last ‘free’ noon hour. I decided to live it up and go see Avatar again. I’m glad I did. The IMAX-3D is less mind-blowing the second time around. I paid more attention to the plot and dialogue this time and I caught little details I missed the first time.

I enjoyed it thoroughly - this is one of my favourite all-time movies. I could see it again, but I probably won’t bother with the IMAX, I’ll just see it in the ordinary theatre (Isn't technology funny? I used to think seeing something on the 'big screen' was a big deal. Now, I'm all 'meh').

Monday, February 8, 2010


Back to my ‘studio space’ this morning with lots of room (comparatively) to stretch out. I had a great practice! Full Primary Series today with my five Intermediate poses. The apartment was just warm enough for a decent sweat, but not overly stuffy. The sun was shining, so the room was bright and glowing.

I just love these lazy morning practices. This is *exactly* what I had in mind when I envisioned my life as a self-employed yoga teacher. Sometimes I feel like a carefully staged scene from a Yoga Journal article (and other times, I feel like a feature in Mad Magazine; depends on the day).

At the moment, I’m deeply grateful that I have the opportunity to do this every morning. Stay tuned! This could change!

Intermediate news: There has been some progress in my Bhekasana. I’m now placing my hands correctly on top of my feet/toes and lifting my chest UP. My heels don’t want to ‘visit the floor’ (to use Richard’s quaint cue), but I’m feeling more of the backbend in this pose.

Speaking of backbends, per Patrick’s subtle suggestion, I’ve been paying more attention to *where* I’m feeling the stretch on my front abdomen while in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Today, I discovered that if I 'rock' - that is: shift my weight from feet to hands a few times - I feel the front-stretch increasingly in my upper ribs (rather than lower abdomen). Hm. Interesting!

My bind in Supta Kurmasana comes and goes. Today, it stopped in for a short visit, reminding me of how much I enjoy it when it’s easy (and how much I dread it when it’s not). There’s no rhyme or reason to these appearances and disappearances, except that it’s now become a regular ’thing’.

By the way, I’m *loving* the cork blocks. It’s probably in part due to sheer novelty, but I enjoy the feel of them, the solidity, the texture (they're soft!). When I place them on my wood floor, they don’t go ‘kathunk!’. They feel like they *want* to support my weight. I even used one (oh, the shock!) in Parivritta Trikonasana to give myself additional leverage for the twist. It felt so much better.

With this recent acquisition, I'm becoming quite the collector of blocks. I now own three sets: my very first foam blocks (purchased almost 15 years ago when I started my practice), the hollow wood ones (required for YTT, then we never used them), and now these.

Maybe I need a display case!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Oh, I’m TIRED.

The girlfriend and I went to a dinner party downtown last night. There was a fireplace! I’m so glad I brought my knitting. I’m never sure if it’s kosher to bring knitting to a party, but in this context (family) it was definitely fine. There’s something so cozy about knitting in front of a roaring fire. We had chocolate mousse for dessert and by 9, I was curled up on the sofa in that room, napping. We got a ride back to my apartment which was a true boon because it was COLD out there.

I woke early and while the girlfriend slept in, I did my yoga practice in the kitchen. Yup, kitchen yoga! I moved the filing cabinet and Princess Fur’s condominium out to the hall in order to create some space. I lit a couple of candles to warm things up without resorting to the noisy hum of the heater.

I placed my mat at an angle so I could do Supta Padangustasana. Supta Konasana was a bit of a squeeze and there was no room to do Garba Pindasana. I was afraid I would get a concussion with the rolling!

The Intermediate poses are starting to flow for me. I like the backbends. Pasasana is a bugger of a pose! Deep twists are just not my forte.

Urdhva Dhanurasana felt strong, if not terribly open today. I appreciate all the advice in the comments of my last post. I suspect this backbending things is just a ‘process’, a long, drawn-out one. It took 8 years to get my palms to the floor in Uttanasana. I need to be patient.

I do believe I’m stronger because of my work with the blocks in the vinyasas. I’ve been using hollow wood blocks I bought for YTT. They work okay for some things, but they’re not very ’solid’ and tend to topple over. This morning, after brunch, I picked up two fabulously solid cork blocks. I already love them! Solid enough to take some weight, but soft enough not to cut into my back if I lay over them in a supine backbend. This will be useful!

And now, it’s time for...

The Internet Asks: Interesting Searches in My Access Stats

In my access stats this week, I noticed a search for a woman’s first-name-last-name. I don’t often put names on here unless I’m talking about some A-list teacher, but there are a few scattered through my archives. I wonder what it was about? A new love interest googling to ferret out some dirt on her? A potential employer hunting down her blog?

Here are a few of the search words I found amusing this week.

mobile meditator coupon
Enough searchers are looking for this, I thought I would repost the coupon code. The code is TRA20 and it’s valid through the end of March. The code gives you a 20% discount on the Mobile Meditator inflatable zafu. This is a bargain! I just love mine!

pet peeves toothpaste cap
Yes, yes, yes! This *is* one of my pet peeves. I just don’t get it! How can you put something in your mouth that is squeezed out past a clump of dried, probably bacteria-infused mess? Yuck.

skippety ashtanga
If ‘Grimmly Ashtanga’ is what you do when you force yourself to practice with a hangover, maybe ’skippety ashtanga’ is what happens when you give up completely and don’t practice at all. Or you could just be looking for her :-D

Okay, that’s all for today folks. Time for a nap!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It’s here! Saturday, my much anticipated ‘day off’. This is the first time in over a month that I haven’t done the full Primary Series of Astanga Yoga. I was looking forward to it not so much because I anticipated *not* doing yoga, but because I was looking forward to doing something different.

A few months ago, YogaDownload introduced videos and I downloaded Dawnelle’s Yoga for Weightloss #2. I was curious about this format. The videos are shot live, so they’re definitely less polished than the audio classes. There are awkward pauses, gaps in instruction and outright cueing errors.

It was interesting to observe Dawnelle’s teaching style in-situ (an archaeological term that means ‘in place’). It was interesting and she’s a terrific teacher. Given the choice, though, I’ll stick with the audio-only recordings. They’re much clearer and the cues are more concise. I don’t need to watch a screen as I practice.

This was an good sequence, geared for Intermediate-Advanced students. I kept up with most of it, though the Revolved Half Moon flow kinda kicked my derriere. The one hour seemed to last *forever* because I had no idea what was coming next. It was a refreshing change from always knowing what's coming next.

I wasn’t certain if I would be doing my State-of-the-backbend today, but the sequence had more-than-sufficient hip and back openers and Urdhva Dhanurasana was one of the last poses. So here it is:

Hrmpf. Not bad, not wonderful. It looks more or less the same. When, oh when, will my upper back get more flexible? I've been hanging over the balance ball daily, doing hangbacks, sitting on the floor and reading while in Bujangasana.

I do feel stronger, but that Gumby thing just isn't happening for me.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Holy smokes, this has been a *day*.

When I woke up this morning, I lazed happily in bed, confident that the day would be full of chill. No teaching, only a few errands, lots of reading and rest.

The reality? After my practice, I ended up teaching a very-last-minute private session for a student who was very keen to get started. This bumped my errands into the afternoon and by 3:30, I was feeling frazzled and hungry.

What on earth is wrong with me, I wondered? Well, I was SO busy, I completely forgot to eat! So that’s what I’m doing now, before I dash off again.

Despite all of the hustle, I made a point of carving an Astanga-shaped hole into my morning for my practice, and it was terrific! Back to my longer practice today (with dear Beryl) and my Intermediate poses.

Lift-ups in the seated vinyasas are going really well. my toes are clearing the floor again (I struggled with this a bit when I first lowered the blocks down a notch). Jump throughs are starting to look theoretically possible!

The bind in Supta Kurmasana stopped by for a visit and I even felt better in the twists. I decided to do the bind in Marichyasana C, but I’m still modifying D.

In my Intermediate poses, Pasasana felt very nice (no bind in this one, but I don't want to bind until it's not a struggle and that part is coming) and I enjoyed Dhanurasana.

Backbends were fabulous! Urdhva Dhanurasana felt soft and effortless! I have been playing around with hang-backs a bit and it’s helpful, especially for building strength in the legs for (eventually!) controlling the decent to drop back. Hang-backs are starting to feel less 'scary' to me.

Earlier in the week, Princess Fur found a yellow ball in her toy bag and took it to her basket. She’s been roosting on it ever since. I guess she was a chicken in her last incarnation! I don’t know what she expects to hatch out of this ‘golden egg’ but she’s pretty determined!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


More Astanga Lite this morning, full Primary series and boy, was I ever lazy during the finishing poses. I hung out in Karna Pidasana for what felt like an hour.

I’m still taking it easy with the twisting poses - I’m not binding at all in Marichyasana D. Sharath's led Primary doesn’t offer a lot of time for transitioning into those poses, anyway. Instead, I’m just focusing on the twist - alignment and depth.

I did the prep poses for Urdhva Dhanurasana today and the backbend felt *worse* than yesterday. Maybe the prep work is breaking my momentum and I’m losing heat? Or maybe the effects of the Intermediate backbends are wearing off (I haven’t done my Intermediate poses since Tuesday; I’m back to them tomorrow). I still felt very strong in the pose and held it for the full count - my back just felt less open.

I’m feeling really sleepy today, definitely need to make time for a nap this afternoon before I continue my Thursday teaching marathon!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I’m feeling better today. Also, today was my ‘Astanga Lite’ day; I “just” did full Primary. I had a bit of a vacation! ;-) I took it easy in the standing poses, worked a bit harder in the seated, but overall, it was a shorter, easier practice.

I lowered the blocks for my ‘lift-ups’. Now it’s that much harder to lift my toes clear of the floor. I knew I wasn’t working hard enough! Now I’m using an ‘inner lift’ more, rather than just the strength of the arms.

In Marichyasana C, I need to remember to unsquare my hips before coming into the twist (bring the extended leg forward and the hip of the bent knee back). This directs the twist into the mid-to-upper-back, away from the sacrum and lumbar spine. I’ve been doing this, but probably not enough.

This morning, I played around with the hip alignment, exaggerating the rotation and it made world of difference in the pose; it felt more comfortable and I came deeper into it. I don’t notice as much of a difference in Marichyasana D, but again I’m probably not drawing my hip back far enough - I’ll continue to work on it.

No backbend prep today. The first Urdhva Dhanurasana was a tiny bit stiff, but the others felt fine. And I am getting stronger! The count wasn’t as long. Funny how that works! :-D

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Ice hockey finals were last night. My poor, blighted team got destroyed 6-1. You know it’s bad when the opposing centre scores a goal, then says “Oops!” out loud. She didn’t mean to score, since her team was already up 4 points. It was an accident. *cringe*

We drowned our sorrows at the pub afterward. I had a really fun time, perhaps a bit *too* much fun because I staggered home tipsy and was slightly hungover in the morning.

I took Princess Fur for a walk to clear my head, then did my practice. The first half-hour was fine, but then I started to feel awful. I carried on and finished, though a large part of my ‘finishing poses’ were restorative (I skipped headstand). I took it easy, modifying many poses.

I’ve been feeling some tenderness around my left SI joint, particularly in the second side of Utthita Trikonasana. Today, I approached that pose very gently, doing it ‘Hatha style’, hand-to-shin on the second side. I modified all the twisting poses, especially the Marichyasanas. I did my intermediate poses, but very gently.

I skipped the backbending prep poses I usually do and went right into Urdhva Dhanurasana, to get it over with. To my surprise, Urdhva Dhanurasana felt terrific today - I felt strong and open. It was the best pose of the lot!

Monday, February 1, 2010


Welcome to February! WoYoPracMo is officially over. I have a mental image of all these WoYo people waking briefly, realising that January is done and rolling over to go back to sleep. :-S

In the past, I’ve had a troublesome relationship with February. I’ve traditionally found it a difficult month, icy cold, doomed by Valentines Day (for years, I was single and dreaded this holiday), dampened by my Seasonal Affective Disorder and bland after the shiny newness of January.

A couple years ago, I dubbed February ‘The Yoga Martyr Month’ because as much as I complain, I always seem to do my practice anyway.

This year, I want to reframe February. I want February to be the ‘Month of Awesome’. Every single day will have an element of awesome, and I report back on my findings here.

I had a great morning. I woke bright-eyed at 7 a.m. after a full night of deep sleep, walked the dog, swept the floor and unrolled my mat. I did my full Primary with Beryl’s led, carefully worked through my five Intermediate postures and enjoyed a lazy finishing sequence and long Savasana.

Today’s challenge was a sore left SI joint (I think I slept on it funny because it was fine last night). It was bothering me on the second side of Utthita Trikonasana and Supta Kurmasana was not in the cards for me today. So I took it easy, put my extra effort into the lift-ups during the seated vinyasas and really worked the backbends.

I did two preps for Urdhva Dhanurasana today and the pose felt good!