Saturday, July 31, 2010


I slept for 11 hours uninterrupted last night! This is so rare. I can’t remember the last time I slept for so long. During my extended slumber, I think my brain grew tired of being creative. My dreaming became too familiar. I thought: ‘This is like déjà vu!’ And it actually was! It was the *exact* same dream from earlier in the night. My brain was going into reruns!

I guess my brain only generates 7 hours of good material!

I woke up stiff and groggy, but I know this sleep was good for me. Clearly, I needed rest! I just hope I can sleep tonight. Too often, long sleeps leave me with insomnia the following night.

My baking adventures today were an Epic FAIL. I totally botched the Blueberry Crumble Squares. They’re terrible! I must have made a mistake when I doubled the recipe. It could have been the nutmeg too - last time I used pumpkin pie spice and they were fine. Anyway, they’re going in the garbage. Yeah, it’s *that* dire.Yuck. What a waste of blueberries!

It means I’ll be waking early to bake muffins in the morning. I’m baking blueberry walnut muffins, to stay with the theme. I’m confident in my Muffin Madskillz, so I’m sure they’ll turn out fine.

I didn’t do yoga this morning, but by 5 p.m., I was getting really twitchy! I did a short Hatha practice: Classic sun salutations, some standing poses (Iyengar style) and hip openers. I did lots of work with Supta Padangusthasana, first with a strap, then holding on to my big toe. I repeated the pose about 5 times in various configurations.

At least 3 repetitions were done Astanga-style. I’m exploring the limits of my newly-healed hamstring, trying to delinieate the ‘discomfort boundary’. It’s somewhere between the natural tightness in a muscle that hasn’t been stretched very much over the past month and the scar tissue of the injury itself. It’s tricky, but my flexibility and range of motion is returning the more I use it.

I played around with some inversions. Since stepping away from a more diverse Vinyasa practice over the past year, I haven’t done Pinchamayurasana or handstand very much. I was curious to see if these poses were still accessible to me. My Pincha isn’t bad, actually. I’m wobbly and I’ve lost all sense of where my body is in space, but I had more control than I did the last time I played around in the pose. In some respects, I’m much stronger! Hello, Bandhas!

Handstand is GONE. It was never my forte anyway. When I practised Anusara, it was my most-feared pose (way back before I met ‘Standing up from a Backbend’). I used the wall today because I didn’t want to flip and break furniture. It wasn’t scary at all, it just felt foreign to me.

I didn’t practice backbends, but I did hang over the blanket box for 7 minutes.

This week’s State-of-the-Backbend was shot yesterday. I also took a photo the day before. I’m posting both of them here, just to illustrate the day-to-day variation I find in my backbends.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Five day week (due to the Moon Day) is complete. Hurray! I got through another one :-D

This week seems to have ushered in a new era of shorter practices. For a while, my practices were getting loooooong. Too much futzing, probably too much backbending, many minutes spent in Sirsasana, and maybe a *wee* bit of ‘falling asleep’ when I was supposed to be ‘taking rest.’ It all adds up!

I seem to be back on track with more precise vinyasa and I’m moving through the Primary Series efficiently: 90 minutes, every day.

My hamstring is feeling good! The Return of the Poses continued this morning with a straight left leg in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana A and B! I’m closer to touching my forehead to my shin in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.

And in my last, post-backbend Paschimottanasana, P gave me a ‘little push’ in the forward bend. This is the closest thing I’ve had to a ‘squish’ since an assistant carefully squished me at Shala North. I was able to rest my forehead on my shin and clasp my hands over my feet!

Backbending was a little bit better today. Susan pointed out that the tightness in my upper back is probably a reaction to the hangbacks I’m doing on the box. I’ll wait it out and see if things open back up again.

Urdhva Dhanurasana felt good today! I was more mindful as I came into the first backbend and there was no sensation at all in my low back. I only get three ‘warm up’ backbends now, so I milk them for all they’re worth: slow deep breaths in each one.

I had a lightbulb moment today during the first round of rocking. If I slow my breath waaaaay down, so my inhalation is very long, I can come right up on my finger tips and stay there for the duration of my inhalation. I have no idea what my knees are doing (that’s a major point of contention with R right now). P stood by and let me work on my own during this part, so I did three rocks onto my finger tips and I *did* try to straighten my legs and push down through my heels, but I’m not sure how successful I was.

Next round: With P’s help, I rocked four times with hands lifting. By the third round, I was tired, but all and all, I felt good about it.


Second practice:

I’ve fallen into a routine and I usually move through it in 30-40 minutes. This is how it unfolds:

-Shoulder openers: 3x (right now, I’m doing ‘downward facing puppy’ with hands on the coffee table).

-Quad/Hip Flexors: 3 sets of increasingly deep lunges, including the ‘power pigeon’ variation.

-Ustrasana: 3x, 5 breath hold

-Laghu Vajrasana: 3x, head on to a block, I’m *dying* by the third one and can barely come up by myself

-Urdhva Dhanurasana with rocking 3x

-Urdhva Dhanurasana, walking my hands WAY in, 3x

-Dropbacks, 3x

Last week, the daily dropbacks were injecting a bit of ‘Sheer Terror’ into my mornings - I dreaded them. By the end of last week, I had downgraded them to ‘Very Scary’. By early this week, they were just ‘Extremely Unpleasant’. Yesterday, they were merely ‘Worriesome’.

Today, they were ‘Let’s Get This Over With So I Can Have My Tea’. So I’ve raised the bar accordingly: no more resting in between dropbacks. I drop back, I get up, I drop back, I get up and I drop back.

I did three hangbacks before the first one, just to get my bearings and to register the floor, but I just dropped for the others.

Today, I was noticing how much easier it is to drop with control if I’m actively moving my hips forward. It provides a bit of counterbalance. By the third drop, I was bringing my feet a bit closer together too! That’s a nice way to end the week!


I’m taking a break from Second Practice tomorrow, though I’ll probably do some Hatha Yoga in the morning.

I’m really looking forward to Sunday!!! It’s the Shala’s ‘Led Primary’ and after-practice ‘conference’ (question and answer session). I’m bringing vegan blueberry squares for my shalamates.


A few weeks ago when I was up at Shala North, I stopped by the big pet store up the street and browsed around.

Princess Fur loves squirrels! I found a toy that’s a plush tree *filled* with little squirrels. She absolutely loves it! I fill the ‘tree’ with squirrels, she pulls them all out and hides them around the apartment (usually under the futon) then I find them and put them back in the tree. Repeat, many times a day!

Lately, she’s been carefully transporting the squirrels (and all of her toys, actually) out to the balcony.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Today was a big day for poses ‘coming back’ as my hamstring continues to heal. While teaching the Iyengar version of Supta Padangusthasana in a class yesterday (using straps), I accidentally discovered that if I move slowly, I can keep a straight left leg as I bring it out to the side. I tried this today during practice, while holding on to my toe and I could do it! Hooray! This is great news for all of my ‘wide angle’ forward bending.

With that improvement, I’ve started to ‘push’ a bit more and I’m finding that other poses are coming back! I put my palm on the floor (while keeping a straight left leg) on the second side of Parivritta Trikonasana and my left leg is close to being straight in Parvottanasana. Upavista Konasana was bit deeper today and I was actually able to touch my forehead to the floor in Kurmasana (but the knees are still bent).

I received the Prasarita Padottanasana C adjustment and my hands found the floor again. I didn’t think I was close, but R told me “one inch!” and I pushed a bit more. I’m really happy to have that one back! I like it. :-) My hamstring felt fine throughout.

A highlight of my practice was finally, *finally* rolling up into Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana while holding on to my heels and finding nearly straight legs, forehead close to the shin. This is *huge*. I have’t done this in over a month!

By the end of my practice, my forehead was on my shin in a forward bend. Progress!

Backbending was a struggle this morning. Nothing felt very open - hips, shoulders, upper back were all stiff as a board. I know I need to walk in farther in Urdhva Dhanurasana, but I can only go so far before my knees bend too much and my heels start to lift. I couldn’t move around at all in the backbends today because R was watching closely and instructed me to stay still.

The second set of ‘warm up’ backbends are history! I had a feeling those would be taken away soon and I’m glad - they were no longer serving me. I started rocking after I pressed up into backbend #4. I’m struggling to find straighter legs as I’m rocking. As soon as I straighten my legs a bit and press forward through my front hips, I seem to lose the ability to lift onto my fingertips during the rocks. I’m trying to find a good balance between straight legs and effective rocking. I have a feeling that if I persist with the straight legs, the ‘lift’ will eventually catch up. My body just needs to get used to working in a different way.

R wants me to walk my hands in more in Urdhva Dhanurasana and ‘bend more’ into my upper back. This is the first time she’s ever mentioned my upper back. So it’s not my imagination! My upper back has become *less* flexible this week.

During my second practice, I took a State-of-the-Backbend photo and sure enough, my upper back is as flat as a washboard in Urdhva Dhanurasana. What gives? It was really odd comparing this photo to images from previous weeks. Some weird stuff is happening in my body and I don’t know whether it’s good or bad! I tried to ask R about this, but I got the ‘No talking!’, so I gave up.

That’s fine. I’ll ask P before practice tomorrow.

I’ve been hanging off the blanket box two times daily for close to ten minutes. The only effect I’ve noticed has been a soreness in my front body and side-ribs. My gremlin has moved to my left side body, but I only really feel her when I take a really deep breath.

I’ve had to become MUCH more mindful pressing up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. If I come into the pose quickly or casually, I feel a pinching sensation in my low back. If I take the time to tuck my tailbone, engage Udiyana Bandha and lift up through my lower ribs (which I know I should be doing anyway, but it really doesn’t happen unless I’m methodical about it), my lower back feels fine.

Dropbacks were fine today, more than fine! No drama, no brain-stress! I just dropped, dropped, dropped. I was working with wider legs because my back is less open. I noticed something different though - I was *really* feeling the action of my legs as I came back. On the second drop, I noticed that my legs were helping me ‘decelerate’ and slow the drop to the floor. As soon as I lose the legs, I ‘fall’. On the third dropback, I hung for awhile then lightly lowered my hands. Better!!!

Part of the sensation of active legs is firmly planted heels! It was kind of awesome to experience this, but I had to turn my feet out slightly to really ‘dig in.’ Baby steps!


It doesn’t happen often, but I have two whole days off! No teaching! Nada!!!

Today I’m headed to the beach for the day: lake, sand, sunshine. Tomorrow, I need to stay in town because I’m hitting an Indian buffet with a friend (but I may head out to the Really Big Park with the dog in the morning). The weather is really beautiful, it’s not too hot and I have interesting books to read and things to study.


I paid my shala fees today.

That's right! I’m back for August :-D

Aw, poor teachers! They’re stuck with me for *another* month!

But I’m giving them a break from my shananigans near the end of the month. My mother is coming up for a visit *silentscream* and we’re doing some travelling.

I agreed to a road trip with her on three conditions:

1) she’s not allowed to complain about my vegan diet

2) there has to be some *excellent* yoga at our destination

3) no politics!!!!!

We’re headed to Montreal and Quebec City with a stopover at a cottage.

Yoga in Montreal - I’m sure you can guess where! I can’t wait! :-D

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Nothing exciting or interesting to report today.

No teachers today - the assistant was there. I got the standard Uttita Hasta adjustment and rolled through the rest of the series on my own.

Backbending was okay, not great. Since I had the time and no one was watching, I explored Urdhva Dhanurasana a bit more than usual. The first backbend always sucks, but the others were starting to feel kind of good!

Mostly, I was shifting my weight around, first moving the weight into the hands and keeping the arms *really* straight to stretch the shoulders, then shifting the weight back into my feet to get an idea of what that feels like (trying to imagine doing it while rocking; my pesky heels are *still* lifting). In the second backbend, I focused entirely on tucking my tailbone (keeping my glutes soft to protect my low back), trying to lengthen the back body and stretch forward/up through the hips.

Final backbend, I started shifting my weight forward again and pushing my hands towards the back of the mat to lift the hips up and straighten the legs more. Then I walked in, Pingu Arms. Repeat.

Ug, that’s hard. My whole body rebels when I do that. I have to ignore the alarms to keep going.

I did three rounds of rocking. The first one was terrible. The second, I was able to come up on my fingertips and hang out there for a microsecond. For my third round of rocking, I tried to do the same thing, but with straighter legs while moving my hips forward more than my knees. That one didn’t go as well, but at least I tried!


I didn’t do my second practice in the morning. I was too busy sorting out a complicated and disconcerting mini-crisis that involved phone calls to law enforcement, uncomfortable telephone conversations and damage control. As unfortunate as it is (those are three hours I’ll never get back, damn it!), it did give me a bit of perspective.

It reinforced something I kind of already knew: Teaching classes and practising at the Shala are my top priorities right now. They’re also my greatest source of comfort and stability. I fell into a state of high anxiety when it appeared that my teaching and my practice were under threat. This bizarre situation (and believe me, it’s *really* bizarre!) gave me a greater appreciation of yoga and the importance it has in my life right now.

I realise this might sound like an unhealthy level of attachment, but I’ve had more than adequate opportunities to practice non-attachment in other areas of my life over the past six months. I need this stability right now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


And this too shall pass. I cheered myself up last night with some yoga-related retail therapy and then I updated my iPod with the new bells-and-whistles software. I stayed up late, gleefully organising my applications into folders while I listened to the Hanuman Chalisa.

I do ‘grumpy’ really well, but I also bounce back pretty quickly.

I rolled into the Shala a whole half-hour later than usual, but at least I showed up! I seem to be on a roll with these vinyasa-y, efficient practices. I realise right away if I’ve fallen ‘off-track’ with my breath, and it’s usually in the ‘futzing’ poses, like Mari C and D, or Supta K.

Wouldn’t it be cool to just wrap into Marichyasana D on one breath?

Yeah, fat chance. :-D

I didn’t even get the wrist bind in the first side today (fingers only) and I’ve decided that I’m okay with that. I’m not going to push it. I’d rather minimise the futzing and move along.

My gimpy hamstring felt significantly better today. Straight legs in Padangusthasana and Padahastasana! But I have to move slowly - if I move into a forward bend too fast, the muscle cramps up. It’s a clever early warning system! R asked me if I could have wider legs in Kurmasana and I told her “Absolutely not.” That pose is the ‘scene of the crime’ so to speak and my body still doesn’t like it very much.

Right now, coming into Kurmasana feels a bit like this:

Poor turtle!

Backbending was okay. For the most part, R left me alone to work on my ‘rocks’ by myself and I was doing really well! Today, I managed to rock forward onto my fingertips and hold there for a microsecond before coming back down. After observing this, R told me that my hands need to be closer to my feet - something I kind of already knew, but I walked in again, as far as I could.

It all comes back to my non-bendy upper back!

R also wants me to straighten my legs more and push forward through the hips as I rock, rather than bending at the knees. She pointed out that I’ll just crash forward on my knees the way I’m rocking now. I responded to this comment by pointing out one of the colourful bruises on my knees. Been there, done that! Ouch.

R assisted me for the last two rounds of rocking. She was rocking me forward until my hands lifted up, but then taking me back down again. I wish I could figure out how to engage my legs at this point. I think I would stand up if I could just get my legs to join the party! I tried to keep my legs straighter during these rocks, since I had some help.


The second practices are tiring me out so today I made some changes: I did my ‘second practice’ right after coming home from the Shala. This saves some time, as I have the benefit of a warmed-up body. I cut out a few things out to shorten the practice and tried to futz around less during my dropbacks.

Susan suggested moving closer to the wall during my hangbacks and then focus on moving the hips forward. I did that and it was difficult (I felt ‘smooshed’), which is probably a good thing! I’ll keep working on it.

Dropbacks were pretty good. The first one was difficult, but I stuck with my stay-on-the-mat-until-it-happens approach. The second one was better and on the third one, I hung back for a long time (okay, 5 breaths, but for me, that’s a long time!) and when I finally dropped, it was light and it felt more controlled. This is *exactly* what I’m aiming for! I was really happy with that one.

I’m ‘hanging off’ the blanket box again to try to open my upper back. I stayed for about 10 minutes last night and did another 10 today. I’ll probably aim to do this a few time a day. To be perfectly honest, I’m enjoying it! I find it kind of relaxing and go into a bliss out state (probably because I’m focusing so closely on my breathing). After a while, I ‘dial up’ the sensation by bringing my arms toward the floor.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Fair warning: if you came to this blog to get all inspired and read pretty words, you won’t find them here today. I’m grumpy!

Today was pretty terrible. And I didn’t have a great practice this morning. In fact, I hated my practice this morning.

I was stiff, tired and a bit depressed. Nothing felt right, so I just tried to move through the Primary Series fluidly, focusing on the breath and vinyasas. In other words, I just ‘did what I could’. It was interesting to see how some of the more ‘challenging’ poses unfolded when I didn’t fuss around or get picky about alignment (or try too hard....there! I said it!)

It was not too bad, actually. I didn’t bind to wrist on the first side of Marichyasana D, but I managed it on the second side. Bhujapidasana was actually better than usual without all that fussing to get the hands perfectly aligned and the legs situated over the shoulders in a specific way. Of course, I had to spray myself with water for Garba Pindasana which broke my momentum a bit, but then I blazed right through it and onwards.

I was finished in less than 90 minutes, including taking rest. I did the World’s Briefest Headstand (usually, I like to hang out in that pose).

Backbends were NOT on. I did my usual Urdhva Dhanurasana but cheated and only did 5. P either didn’t notice, or ignored it. He helped me rock. After the last time, he said ‘Good’ but I think he throwing me a bone; it wasn’t good. It was pretty lame, actually.

Part of the problem is that my back doesn’t feel open at all right now. I did my ‘second practice’ (one hour of extracurricular backbending) in the morning after my walk. To be honest, I just wanted to get it out of the way. I filmed one of my hangbacks and was kind of shocked and discouraged by what I saw. I’m getting absolutely NO arch at all in my upper back - it’s as flat as a board as I hang back.! My dropbacks were not too bad, but I had to take a really wide stance and I wasn’t coming down lightly at all. I was kind of ‘falling back’.

At least I didn’t womp my head.

I guess laying over a bolster over the past last few days has not been benefitting me. Hanging off furniture is next. Susan has briefed me in the ‘Secrets of the Bed Hang’ (not to be confused with the ‘Secrets of the Head Bang’ which is what rockstars do. I’m SO not a rockstar).

I’ll try that tonight. I have a bunch of Pema Chodron audio recordings on my iPod to keep me entertained while I hang off the side of my bed.

On a gorgeous night like this, normal people sit out on patios, laughing with their friends and getting tipsy on icy cocktails and handcrafted local beer. Me? I do backbends off of furniture and go to bed early so I can get up and torture myself on a Manduka mat at the ass-crack of dawn. My practice has been stagnant for months and frankly, it kind of sucks. My teachers don’t like me (seriously, they REALLY don’t).

Sometimes, I wonder why I keep doing this.

Didn’t Einstein define insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?That sounds *exactly* like my practice right now.


Wow, that was heavy. Here, go look at some kittens.

EDIT, July 22, 5:30 a.m.: I'm feeling a tad better after a (brief) night of sleep, now heading off to do my practice. I've closed comments because I think my meltdowns function better in a vacuum. ;-) I'm not quitting anything at the moment and rest assured that my dedication to my practice is solid, even though I'm feeling uncertain about certain ancillary aspects of it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I took my Ashtangi Moon Day Obligations very seriously today and rested with enthusiasm. :-)

In the morning, I woke up and took a salt bath, then practsied an hour of Yin Yoga. I did the Sarah Powers ‘Yin Liver’ sequence, replacing ‘Seal’ with a supine backbend. I rolled up an old Yogi Toes towel in my Maha mat and used it as a bolster. I wanted something a bit more solid under me and this worked great.

I’ve been trying to do this supine backbend a few times a day for about 5-10 minutes. My theory is that my back will become bendier if I bend it more. Profound, I know! I spend so much of my life with a rounded back: in front of the computer, curled up with a book, or riding my bike. I’m trying to reverse the trend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Yin Yoga felt fantastic. The ‘Liver’ sequence includes a number of hip openers in external rotation, held for 5 minutes at a time. I sunk into these and really savoured them. Long Savasana afterward and my entire body felt soothed! After last week’s labours, I needed this!

I spent the rest of the morning napping and then a good part of the afternoon out in the park, laying in the sun listening to music and thinking.

It was a relief to slow down and think some things through, find some perspective.

I can’t believe that we’re already moving into the last week of July! The month flew by. I’m already beginning to look toward August.

It’s going to be an interesting and dynamic month. I’ll be working at a conference, doing some travelling and spending time with family. It’s my last month of a relatively ‘light’ teaching schedule. I’m planning to step outside my ‘comfort zone’ in some significant ways and shake things up a bit.


Today is an interesting convergence of days: Guru Purnima, the full moon and Guruji's birthday.

There are flowers on my altar today and gratitude in my heart for all the teachers who have guided me in my practice by sharing their experience and wisdom. I'm blessed with the skill and care of so many who have walked this path before me. They light the way and ease the obstacles. I'm thankful and blessed.

My heart is full of gratitude to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois for dedicating his life to sharing this practice. I, and so many others, have benefitted immeasurably.

Happy Birthday, Guruji.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I didn’t need to get up for the Shala this morning, but I was awake nonetheless. My body has a built-in alarm clock and I can’t seem to turn it off!

I took Princess Fur for a walk in the muddy park, then gave her a quick bath before hitting the mat for a casual backbending practice.

I started with some leisurely sun salutations and moved on to quadricep and hip openers. I find that I ‘m craving these ‘research poses’ - I’m hungry for ‘length’ and stretch in that part of my body and I’m starting to feel big changes! There’s a huge amount of movement and opening going on in my hips. My psoas has been talking to me (mostly complaining, usually in the mornings). My gremlin recently moved out from under my left shoulderblade and she’s been hanging out around the left side of my pelvis.

As I moved on to backbending, I noticed that my back was not very open today, compared to previous days. This may be the first time I’ve ever really noticed a day-to-day change in my spinal flexibility. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t practice Primary, or maybe doing daily dropbacks has just made me more aware, but I think fluctuation is a good sign!

Because my back was less open, dropbacks were more difficult than usual. I had trouble getting a decently deep hangback. The floor felt miles away. I didn’t even try to rock to standing because dropping back felt difficult enough!

The ‘Dropback School of Hard Knocks’ continues to deliver regular life lessons. Today’s lesson: DON’T THINK! During my second dropback, my silly brain decided, mid-drop, that this was a ‘bad dropback’. Instead of keeping my arms straight, my brain ‘abandoned hope’ midway down and I bent my arms on landing. *headbonk*


I could feel the pity party percolating in my brain, so I got right back up and dropped back again. This time, I silently chanted ‘straightarms...straightarms...straightarms’ to myself as I hung back, hung back and finally dropped. This was probably a ‘bad dropback’ too, but if my arms are straight, it doesn’t matter - straight arms give me enough ‘height’ to avoid head-bonks. Good to know!

I did 5 dropbacks in total - three of them were decent, but none of them felt good. I filmed one and noticed that I wasn’t getting a decent bend in my upper back at all. It makes me wonder if I should integrate some supine/restorative backbending into my daily routine. Maybe re-institute the hangbacks off of my blanket box? I feel like my back is very tense. I laid over my Manduka for five minutes this afternoon and I could feel the muscles along my spine begin to soften and my chest open.

I also filmed one round of rocking. Viewing the clip later, I noticed that my head was slightly lifted on the first few rocks, but during the last two, I pulled my head back toward my legs. I seemed to rock forward more easily then and get more lift (I’m pretty sure R has cued this head position before). I felt it at the time, but it was good to have this confirmed visually. I’ll work on head position next week.

I’ve decided to truly honour the Moon Day tomorrow and take a day off from any active yoga - no vinyasa, no dropbacks. I’m absolutely exhausted and I need to rest. I’ll do a restorative or Yin practice in the morning then relax for the balance of the day.

I need to replenish my energy reserves. It’s going to be an interesting, and potentially emotional week.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Another six day week is complete! This was a particularly long one, with ‘second practices’ and dropbacks every day except Monday. I worked hard, and I feel it too! My entire body feels weary and sore. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and having an easy morning, though I’ll probably do my dropback practice. On Sunday, I might drop in to JB’s class again - a fun Moon Day treat! Maybe I’ll show him my sloppy dropbacks and get him to assist me in some better aligned ones.

I rode to the Shala in the pouring rain this morning and I was soaked to the skin when I arrived. There were no teachers at the Shala this morning - a shalamate was there to assist. We were trying to find a lighter, then tealights to put in front of the photo of Guruji and the deities. No luck at all. The ‘emergency toolkit’ in my shala bag doesn’t have those things (just extra clothes, band-aids and the headbands I no longer use). Maybe I should add supplies for Bhakti emergencies! It felt a bit sad not to have the candles lit or the room cleared with incense.

For the first half of my practice, I was the only one in the room. I was carried along by the sound of my own Ujjayi breathing, which I could hear perfectly because there was no competition!

No futzing around today! I did the ‘Primary Express’ and moved through my entire practice, including backbends and taking rest, in less than 90 minutes.

I opted to work on the backbending on my own. I started with Urdhva Dhanurasana to warm up - six backbends with a brief break on the floor between #3 and #4. Then I worked on rocking. I wanted to find that ‘lift onto the fingertips’ that I was getting last night. Success! The second attempt was the best. By the third, I was already getting tired and I wasn’t moving my hips forward enough to lift my hands up.


My second practice was refreshingly ‘drama-free’ today. No tears. I simply moved through it. I was on the mat for 45 minutes, including finishing poses (which I always do to calm my nervous system down so I won’t be up all night).

Ustrasana was a joy! I *never* thought I would say that about this pose, but it was actually comfortable. I did some long holds, then tried some hangbacks in Ustrasana. I focused on engaging my legs to come up (hopefully creating some good muscle memory for standing).

The standing hangbacks felt good too. I dropped back against the wall and gave myself a little shove to move my hips forward, then pressed down through the feet to stand back up. More preparation work for standing. In these, I’m able to keep my heels glued to the floor!

I’ve instituted a new rule for dropbacks (to minimise the futzing around and psycho-drama): If I don’t feel confident dropping back right way, I’m not allowed to give up. I *am* allowed to ‘hang back’ and come up as much as I like. Today, I had to do three ‘hang backs’ before I successfully dropped back.

I’m starting to realise that part of this process is just training the the eyes to ‘register’ when the floor is close enough to drop back safely. As I was doing my hangbacks, I came to a point where my brain said: “Yes! It’s time to drop back now!” And I did. And it was fine.

It’s funny, every time I start one of these ‘second practices’ I feel stiff and my brain tells me that backbending will be impossible. It *is* difficult, very difficult. But not impossible. Still, I can’t imagine myself craving backbending or doing ‘little hangbacks’ throughout the day *waves at Susan* just because they ‘feel good’. It takes some time to ‘talk my body into backbending’.

Truly, learning to stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’m completely amazed that I’ve come as far as I have. A part of me *still* doesn’t believe I’m actually dropping back. And when I look at my most recent State-of-the-Backbend photo, I can’t believe it’s me doing that backbend!

I added something to my dropbacks today: rocking forward. It seemed logical: If I can drop back then I should be able to stand up again, right? I thought the rocking might be easier in the context of a dropback. The first two sets were good! I was coming up on my finger tips and even getting a bit of lift in my hands.

After my third dropback, I rocked forward three times. The first two times, my hands lifted and on the third one...SURPRISE!...I catapulted up and over onto my knees! It scared the daylights out of me because I wasn’t expecting it!

This is the closest I’ve ever come to standing up! I’ve seen a shalamate do the ‘crash on the knees’ thing over and over again attempting to stand. I do NOT want to make this a habit because I don’t like landing on my knees. OUCH.

So, next I need to figure out:

1) How, exactly, did I manage to come up like that? (because truly, I have NO IDEA)

2) How can I turn my ‘forward catapult’ into ‘standing up’? (Susan, help me out here?)

But, sore knees not withstanding, I think this is progress!!!?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I think Thursdays are the hardest day of a ‘six day week’. Today, it all caught up with me and I was bleary-eyed and yawning as I got up and ran my salt bath at 5: 30 a.m.

I rolled into the Shala almost on time and started my practice in an empty room, as I was the very first to arrive. I always enjoy the quiet of the early morning. I’m soothed by the opening routine my teachers follow as they prepare the room for Mysore practice, especially the incense and quiet chanting.

I was feeling a bit disconnected from my breath in the standing poses, but I soon found my rhythm when I started the seated poses. I had a pretty good practice. Nothing new to report.

Prasarita Padottanasana C was a highlight today. I got the adjustment from R and it feels good to be back ‘on track’ with that pose. I feel like someone pushed the ‘rewind’ button all the way back to May, though, in terms of my flexibility.

R was trying to get my hands to the floor, but my shoulders have stiffened up. She held me there for a long time today I just hung out and breathed. But the pinkies never quite landed. It will come back in time!

As I was coming into Kurmasana, she asked me if I was ‘pushing the edge’ of the sensation (the injured area) in the pose. I started to describe specifically what I was feeling and she just rolled her eyes at me. R has little patience with my anatomical geekery - she just wants a simple answer, so I admitted that I was feeling the sensation near the site of the injury.

A few weeks ago, she warned me against this, but now she wants me to find the edge of the sensation, but go no deeper.

It’s interesting this came up today because it’s been exactly a month since I injured my hamstring. I have the six-week mark noted in my calendar (August 11). Six weeks is the minimum healing time for a ‘Grade 1 hamstring injury’.

Backbending was interesting today. There was a lot of it! I was able to get some rounds of rocking in on my own and the very last time I tried, I almost lifted my hands off the floor! It was pure momentum, though. I didn’t feel any of the engagement of the legs. Yesterday, I was trying to keep my heels on the floor. I can’t remember what my heels were doing today.

R pointed this out that I’m moving my head back and forth as I’m rocking. It’s hard to keep it still! If I keep this up, I might need to integrate some ‘air guitar’ into my backending practice! :-D

As I rolled up my mat, I glanced at the time and was astonished. I must have drifted off for awhile as I was taking rest! There’s no way my practice is running 2 hours and 15 minutes. Perhaps with the backbending, it’s longer? I need to hit the accelerator moving through those standing poses more quickly!


I didn’t teach in the evening, so I moved my second practice to the p.m. It was an intense one.

I started with some quad and hip openers and moved on to Ustrasana and variations of the pose against the wall. Then I started to get curious about Kapotasana.

I fully realise that this pursuit of the Intermediate Series is a bit ironic; I should probably ‘Be Careful What I Wish For’. Sure, I’ll have fun with the first 5 or 6 poses, but then I’m going to crash into Kapotasana like a bug hitting a windshield. SPLAT!

So I decided to try to walk my hands down the wall onto the floor from Ustrasana, al la ‘Kapotasana preparation’, and see what that felt like. Interesting! It felt desperately weird, like my body was being smooshed in a vice. Good times ahead!

I did some Urdhva Dhanurasana and some hangbacks. I’m still working on ‘rocking’ up to standing from the wall, mainly to get a sense of the action of my legs. Heels down! Heels down!

At this point, I realised that I was actually *dreading* the dropbacks, so I decided to get right on that. The first dropback was so difficult! I was incredibly frightened and had a complete meltdown. Why, why, why is this SO hard!? I think the hard landing yesterday spooked me.

I took a wide stance, focused on a slow, leisurely hangback and kept my arms very, very straight as I came down.

Susan has pointed out that I have very long legs and that’s true. I’m kind of a ‘small person’ in a long, long body. The floor looks far, far away. But if I keep my arms very straight and get a good arch going in my back, the floor is ‘closer than it appears’ because I’m landing on my hands, not my eyes. When I drop back, I try to remind myself that I’m actually about two feet ‘closer’ to the floor than I think I am. It’s less scary that way.

But this wasn’t a day for clever logic. After the fearful first dropback, I rocked forward three times, then lowered down and sobbed. After a minute, I wiped away the tears and did it again. And again, and again. I think I did about 7 rounds but by the time I finished, I was doing more backbending than crying, which seemed like progress.

And to my credit, every single dropback was solid, with deep hangbacks and soft landings. Each time I set up to drop back, I moved my feet a bit closer together so that by the last one, my feet were no more than 60 centimetres (about two feet) apart. Not bad! I’m getting there!

With the ‘hard part’ out of the way, I worked on prep for standing up. I pressed up into Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor and walked my hands in and rocked, trying to get the hands to lift as I moved forward. The hands were not entirely coming off the floor, but I was lifting solidly onto my fingertips tonight. Baby steps! I repeated this a couple of times until it felt solid.

I’ll try this again while practising 'rocking' at the Shala tomorrow. Let’s see if the magic is transferable to a new context...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Better practice today! I have some news. I was afraid to blog about this lest I jinx the whole process, but my gimpy hamstring is actually feeling better! The asymmetrical forward bends are becoming deeper on my ‘bad side’. I’ve been able to fold forward and grab my wrist again on the left side of the Janu’s.

The Prasaritas are nearly back to normal too. I’m spending some extra time in Prasarita Padottanasana A to allow things open up a bit in the wide angle forward bends. By the time I get to Prasarita Padottanasana C, I’m feeling ready for the adjustment in that pose.

I guess that means that I should stop skipping the post-back-bend Paschimottanasana and try to find a comfortable forward fold there again. I’ve been a ‘bad lady’, skipping a pose! It’s often not intentional so I’m sure there’s some psychological thing at work here (I’m ‘repressing’ the asana?).

Interestingly, I’ve been adding Tadaga Mudra before Sarvangasana and it seems to calm my nervous system far more than Paschimottanasana does. I actually crave it!

I think I just miss squishes, though. :-(

Today, I totally nailed the Bhujapidasana exit and the exit from Supta Kurmasana, at least from a vinyasa standpoint. Fun! Just wish my Bakasana was a bit better - my legs send up too far down my arms to do much of a jumpback.

I worked hard in backbending today. I’ve had a bit of ‘The Lazy’ lately in Urdhva Dhanurasana - for the past few days, I haven’t really been holding the backbends for a full five breaths. Today I made a point of it. In backbend #6, P came over and pulled my hips forward. My legs were so tired, I could feel them burning. I toughed it out, motivated myself to breath through the discomfort until P told me to release the backbend. I'm trying to develop some of the 'mental toughness' I've always felt I was lacking. Backbending is a good area of my practice to work on that.

More rocking today. On the very last rock, P pulled me forward until my hands lifted, but this time I didn’t squeak! :-D

I was totally savouring my finishing poses today, taking long, slow breaths and sinking deeply into each pose. I got all blissed out in Karna Pidasana - I love this pose! I separated my feet so I could more easily get my knees to the floor, then found my Driste and settled in for a leisurely 8 breaths. P was all the way across the room so I figured he’d never notice. I was safe!

So you can imagine how VERY startled I as when, out of nowhere, I felt a hand reach out and grab my feet to push them together! It was like a manifestation of every small child’s worst nightmare...

Eeeeeek! There’s a MONSTER under my Manduka! AND IT JUST GRABBED MY ANKLE!!

The ‘Monster Under My Manduka’ was actually my teacher, R. She was practising right beside me and had just finished taking rest, when she sat up and spotted my improperly aligned feet.

She just couldn’t help herself! She leaned over to my mat and gave me a 'criminal adjustment’.

Can I get away with ANYTHING? No, I obviously can’t!!!

I was still laughing a bit as I took Urdhva Padmasana.


Nothing new to report with my extracurricular work. My second practice lasted about 45 minutes and included the same hip openers and backbends I did yesterday.

I had a bit of a ‘moment’ in Ustrasana. I’ve never liked this pose very much (no surprise there - I’ve never been a big fan of backbending in general). I could never understood why it was so hard to keep my hips forward, over my knees.

Today, as I was coming into the pose, I approached it like a dropback, engaging my legs and pushing forward actively through my hips as I arched back. Something just ‘clicked’ and it felt so much better, even easy, as I took my hands to my feet. I stayed there for 10 breaths and it didn’t feel laboured.

In addition to the ‘hangbacks’ against the wall. I’m pushing off against the wall and engaging my legs to stand up. I’m trying to mimic the feeling I get in my legs when DR is helping me stand from a backbend. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like my legs suddenly ‘come alive’ and everything pulls in and ‘up’. If I walk my hands about half-way down the wall and I push away just a bit (to move my hips forward), I can find it. I can only stand about 6 times before my legs start to give out.

The ‘Dropback School of Hard Knocks’ delivered a lesson today. I was a bit too hasty in my first dropback and didn’t set it up carefully enough. When I dropped back, I bonked my head AND landed hard on my left hand, tweaking my wrist. It feels fine now, but I was really angry at myself for not being more careful. I should know better!

Of course, I had to get right back ‘on the horse’ and do two more dropbacks so The Fear wouldn’t sneak back in!

I’ve been SO sore lately, especially my legs and, oddly, my arms. But there’s a ‘full body’ soreness too. I *must* be getting stronger from all this work, but it doesn’t feel like it’s making much of a difference in my Urdhva Dhanurasana, especially at the Shala. My teachers must think I’m spectacularly lazy! I tire out SO fast during backbending. But I don’t want to stop the extracurriculars because I can see the progress in my dropbacks and in the State-of-the-Backbend photos.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It’s been a rough 24 hours, but somehow I moved through it. I was nauseous and headache-y most of yesterday. I spent the evening sitting around and mostly doing nothing. I barely had the enough energy to walk the dog. I finally went to bed around 8:30, but stared at the ceiling for an hour because I was feeling too uneasy to sleep. At least I got a full night of sleep once I did drift off.

I woke this morning exhausted and I did NOT want to go to the Shala. This is turning out to be a tough week for my practice. I was still feeling the after-effects of the migraine. I was half-tempted to take something for it before I left, but I didn’t because I don’t like to ‘deaden’ my body before I practice. I want to feel everything.

I packed some pain-killers in my shala bag as a compromise (just in case). Then I roused myself with a hot bath and left 15 minutes late.

R asked me how I was feeling as soon as I entered the room. In a whisper, I briefed her on yesterday’s migraine and the lingering ‘hangover’. I wasn’t sure what kind of practice I would have, but it wasn’t too bad. I felt weirdly disconnected from my body for the first half-hour, but I felt the connection re-ignite in Bhujapidasana and it was smooth sailing after that.

I expected backbends to feel yucky and they were - VERY yucky. My quads, hamstrings and arms are still sore from the workshop. But I remembered how I felt yesterday: post-practice, I was regretting the wasted opportunity to really work on this stuff with help from my teachers. I resolved to keep working hard until I heard ‘Chakrasana’, no matter how tired I was.

It was a busy room this morning so I was on my own for all of Urdhva Dhanurasana. After my six ‘static’ backbends, I did some rocking on my own - two sets, actually. Then R walked over to help me with two more. The last time I rocked, my hands actually lifted off the floor and I squeaked in surprise. R laughed and I was giggling as I lowered to the floor.

I think I can see where this is going now. My teachers are taking ‘baby steps’ with me in this rocking thing, gradually bringing more and more of a ‘lift’ to my rocks to get me used to the idea. They’re kind of ‘coaxing’ me into it. A few days ago, just the heels of my hands were lifting up. Now my hands are coming off the floor.

We have lift-off: SQUEAK!

It still feels like they’re doing ALL of the work in the rocks, which is frustrating for me. I’m trying to use my legs, but that body-brain disconnect is an obstacle. I can’t remember what my feet were doing, but I’m almost certain my heels are still lifting!

I’ve been attempting to apply the tips that DR gave me in the workshop. When rocking, I’m trying to straighten my legs a bit as I push back into my arms on the exhalation, so I’m almost ‘springing forward’ on the inhalation, creating an energetic ‘recoil’ and momentum to stand up.

I had a great finishing sequence, a nice long rest and I left the Shala feeling happy.

After I took my hamstring for a walk, I came home and did a one-hour second practice in the afternoon. I worked on hip openers, quad stretches and timed holds in Ustrasana. Then I did some hangback work.

In DR’s workshop, we did hangbacks against a wall, pushing off against it to bring more weight into the legs (with a focus on keeping the hamstrings engaged and the gluteals muscles soft - this was a major theme in the workshop).

I did this same exercise today, but deepened it by walking my hands further down the wall in increments. With each pause, I pushed into the wall and straighened my arms while moving my hips forward (and trying to straighten my legs). I kept walking down until my hands were very near to the floor (at this point, I could feel the burn in my legs). Then come down, rest, repeat!

This was a good opening for my shoulders as well as my hip flexors (I could feel a deep stretch in my front hips as I pushed them forward).

I finished with three sloppy, funky, wide-legged dropbacks. They’re not beautiful, but I really want to keep ‘The Fear’ at bay. This is the best way to keep my brain on board with the whole dropping-back project. I plan to do it every single day.

Gradually, I want to shorten my stance in these dropbacks. I think this will happen naturally as my backbends deepen and my hips open. I also want to slow the drop back and find more of a ‘hangback’. Again, it will come in time. But the main point of these dropbacks is NO FEAR.

I’m happy to report that I dropped back to the Scary Floor without futzing around or worrying about it. If I can build confidence and practice dropping back, the rest will come.

Behold, the Sloppy, Funky, Wide-legged Dropback:

Monday, July 19, 2010


Well, THAT practice was a spectacular FAIL. I arrived at the Shala with a headache and it went downhill from there. The headache just got worse and worse.

Supine positions intensified it. I skipped nearly every Chakrasana.

The pain reached a crescendo during backbending. I honestly don’t know how I got through that.

During my mandatory two sets of Urdhva Dhanurasana, my entire focus was on breathing. I don’t remember walking my hands in at all. I managed to do two rounds of rocking with P’s assistance. He was ready to help me with a third, but I looked up at him and said: “I’m sorry. I just don’t have it in me today.”

I *never* flake out like that. Usually I don’t mind a nudge to work harder, so it was frustrating for me. I had really wanted to work on a few things that DR had suggested for rocking, to help me keep my legs grounded. It felt like a wasted opportunity.

I raced through the finishing poses (which I usually love and savour; shortest headstand ever) and gratefully covered up my face to take rest. Even that was uncomfortable.

At this point, I should have figured it out because the light coming in through the window was almost unbearable. But it wasn’t until I left the room and a shala-mate was taking something out of a plastic grocery bag that I really clued in: the sound of that bag was like FIREWORKS going off inside my head.

I had a migraine!!!

I haven’t had one in so long, I had forgotten how horrible they are. I half-rode, half-walked my bike home, took some painkillers and collapsed with my head under a pile of pillows for an hour. The nap muted it to a dull roar and then I headed out to teach my afternoon classes with a ‘regular’ headache.

I’m feeling better now, but I’m giving myself permission to take a ‘backbending vacation’ for the balance of the day. I think my nervous system is just fried.

*sigh* I hope this isn’t going to be one of those Bad Practice Weeks.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I woke with a feeling of dread and anxiety this morning. After yesterday’s failures, I felt weak and defeated-in-advance by the mere prospect of backbending. But I’m spectacularly stubborn! I never give myself the option of not going to the Shala, so I just go. I do my practice no matter where my head is.

Sitting outside on a bench, I closed my eyes and shook with the pounding of my own heart. Then I dosed myself with Rescue Remedy, took a deep breath and went upstairs.

I had a stiff, uncomfortable practice. Too many days off, too much Tamas, too much chocolate! I had to fight my way through the ‘Marichyasana slump’. I’ve lost some of my endurance! I could feel myself slowing down as I slogged through the last few poses of the series.

Backbending lacked brio today; I was tuckered. I did three quick backbends, another three, then plopped down. Given the changes in my backbending sequence lately, I wasn’t sure what would happen next. P was waiting patiently at the foot of my mat for me to come back up again, so I figured it was rocking.

I was right. Rocking is now a permanent fixture in my backbending routine. My teachers have raised the bar again.

Two rounds of rocking and I was done. I did finishing and then took rest, lingering a long time in a semi-conscious bliss state. At least I ended on a happy note!


I almost didn’t go to Shala North for the backbending workshop today. I was so frustrated by my backbending failures yesterday; it felt like a lost cause. I did this same workshop three months ago. I still have the notes. I still can’t stand up and drop back so what’s the point?

I’m REALLY glad I went.

I already ‘knew’ a lot of this information, but it was fascinating to observe which bits of it I had retained and integrated and which details I had dropped (and to pick those up again). There was also some new material and old material applied in new ways, which kept it all fresh and alive. I took fewer notes, but I understood more.

And this time I had a month of intensive ‘dropback’ work under my belt. I think I really *do* know how to drop back, my brain just doesn’t know I know. Today, I sent it a memo!

The first part of the workshop was spent warming up and going over basic concepts. The real work began when DR asked us to take a wide stance and do this crazy kind of ‘almost wrong’ dropback. I remember this from the workshop in April. The point isn’t proper alignment. The idea is to drop back any way you can and ‘lose the fear.’

Last time, I couldn’t do this without assistance. I kind of remember that I ended up working at the wall because I was afraid, then DR came over and coaxed me into trying it.

Today, I did this a few times easily with assistance! Spontaneously, I decided to try it on my own. My assistant asked: “You want a spot?” and I replied: “Nope!” And I dropped back, easy peasy!

Then I did it again, and again, and again! I was having a ball! :-D

As we moved on to the ‘standing up’ portion of the workshop, DR walked over to my mat and said casually: “Okay, just drop back!”, kind of waving his hand in my direction like it wasn’t a big deal. And I dropped back (like it wasn’t a big deal!). Then he helped me stand up.

This is really funny, because my brain doesn’t think I can stand up. Each I did it, my brain was all: “INCONCEIVABLE!” (my brain is a big fan of ‘The Princess Bride’)

DR seemed half-convinced that I would be able to stand up on my own today, but alas, no. But I could stand up as long as he was assisting, helping me root down through my feet and encouraging me to engage my legs. I did this over and over again with no problem (except my stupid brain).

I’m *strong* enough to stand up! When DR held my feet down and pulled my hips forward, I could come up on my own strength! The key is shifting my centre of gravity forward of my feet so I can get that lift by engaging my legs and my core. The adjustment offered a good bit of leverage.

I now have a pretty good idea of where I’m ‘stuck’. Those crazy lifting heels of mine are keeping me from standing up! As soon as my heels lift, my legs disengage and I lose the engagement I need to stand up. It doesn’t matter how much forward momentum I generate - if I’m not using my legs, it’s not going to happen. DR pointed out that my heels are glued to the floor when I drop back, so it’s not a lack of flexibility in my achilles tendons that’s causing them to lift.

There seems to be a disconnect in my brain, a lack of muscle memory for keeping my heels down and engaging the legs. If I’m static and grounded (and assisted), I can find that engagement and stand up. But rocking seems to trigger the disconnect.

I raced off after the workshop and taught private clients all evening, but when I returned home I unrolled my Manduka and did three wide-legged dropbacks to the floor, COLD. I had a bit of a meltdown before the first one, but once I did the first dropback, the next two came easily.

I hope this sticks!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Today, I discovered just how BIG a leap it is to move from dropping back on the nice soft, safe grass of the park to the cold, hard floor of my apartment.

When it comes to ‘scary’ things in my yoga practice, I find that I often get attached to context. Long after I felt perfectly comfortable doing headstand at home, I was still terrified to do it anywhere else, like a yoga studio, or my mother’s patio (or even the soft grass of the park!). Apparently, this same crutch applies to backbending. The grass in the park is no further away than the Manduka on my floor, but it feels like it is!

I swear my Manduka was mocking me! I’m afraid I didn’t take it very well. I had a little bit of a meltdown when I saw how FAR away the floor is. The floor could have been on the deepest level of hell for all the luck I had dropping back to it.

I can’t believe it’s this difficult! I was doing this so easily a few days ago. To be fair to myself, I only did a few sun salutations, three Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor and some hangbacks to warm up. And It’s not like I’ve been practising full Primary lately. I’ve spent the better part of the past two days lounging around on the balcony, eating vegan chocolate.

What I concluded today is that I still need a bit of a ‘slope’ to feel really secure in dropping back, especially for my first few dropbacks. I’m also realising that there’s an entire psychological component that I’ll need to come to grips with. Stuff that’s easy for me at home grows another layer of complexity when I think about taking into the world. In other words, a new skill needs to be ROCK SOLID before I do it in my Shala practice.

Today, as my backbending went from bad to worse, I started to mentally beat myself up a little bit. Then I got a hold of myself and finally started to calm down. I remembered a quote I stumbled across recently:

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I resolved to ‘Fail better’.

I set up my futon to create a ‘slope’ and placed the anxiety-producing Manduka on the slope. This was enough of a boost to give me the courage to try. Once I had one good dropback on the slope, I forced myself to drop back over and over until I started to feel confident again.

Here’s the big lesson that emerged from my practice today: When I freak out, I lose control of the action and I allow myself to ‘fall’ instead of lowering back with control. I lose the ‘hangback’ and when I drop back too quickly, I start to panic and bend my arms to cushion the drop.

It ends up being very sloppy and feeling so scary that I fall into a downward spiral of ‘panic...bad dropback...more panic...worse dropback’ until I’m flaking out at the last minute and not dropping back at all. Drama!

After several successful dropbacks to the ‘slope’, I moved to the Scary Floor for a little while and *did* manage one or two good dropbacks, but the anxiety kept percolating, so I finished with three strong, controlled dropbacks to my ‘slope’.

I didn’t want to end on a bad note.


Tomorrow morning, I’m back at the Shala for the beginning of another ‘yoga week.’ I’m going to be stiff, but at least my hamstring is feeling better after the extended break.

After my practice, I’m heading up to Shala North for another backbending workshop. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my friends up there and perhaps overcoming this newly developed fear of dropping back to a yoga mat. ;-)

Context, context, context! It’s a brand new space to be terrified in. I’m branching out!

Friday, July 16, 2010


I didn’t go to the Shala this morning because of my Lady’s Holiday. *sigh* I felt bit sad and wistful not to be practising. The rest of the day felt just like a Saturday!

I slept until almost 7, got up and immediately started doing stuff. Yeah, I know I’m supposed to rest, but my Pitta likes to putter! I had an entire to-do list of things I’ve been putting off for ages so I dove right in. I cleaned the apartment, did three loads of laundry, scrubbed the floors, cleaned my desk and generally tidied up. It’s a joy and a relief to have a clean space again! It was beginning to feel a bit grimy in here.

I also clipped Princess Fur, who has been getting furrier and furrier as the summer has progressed. Poor thing! All that fur and it’s SO hot out! But I was afraid the extreme temperatures would cause the clippers to overheat. It was cooler this morning and I finished the task in a little over an hour. She looks great and so much more comfortable. Balled up, the fur I removed was bigger than a head of lettuce!

Then I restrung my guitar and played Beatles songs for an hour. :-)


I took a long walk, but didn’t do any backbending in the park - it was too hot. When I got home, I did some restorative yoga: hip openers and supported backbends. I goofed around with Laghu Vajrasana, hanging back into it and curling up slowly, lifting through the chest, head last (trying to visualize how this would feel while ‘standing up’ from Urdhva Dhanurasana). I stood up from a few (not particularly deep) hangbacks.

I didn’t do any dropbacks to the floor, but I’m definitely coming down more easily with the support of the wall - just one ‘hand tap’ and I’m there. That’s a HUGE change from even two weeks ago! I’ll bet I could do it if I was properly warmed up (and my silly brain would just shut up).

I came into a couple Urdhva Dhanurasana and did some rocking. I discovered something surprising: I really *am* rocking onto my fingertips! The heels of my hands are coming off the floor! Of course, my knees are bent and my heels are up, but I’m definitely getting some lift on my own!

Yesterday in the Shala, I was so certain that my hands were lifting only because R was muscling me into it. To be honest, I *still* think it was mostly R pulling me forward, but I *am* capable of doing this on my own. Exciting! Today is the first time I’ve observed any impact from my ‘park work’ on my backbending practice.

I also see some improvement in today’s State-of-the-Backbend photo:

In this one, I was trying to straighten my legs more and push my hips forward.

Yes, that’s Princess Fur on the futon. I didn’t forget that it’s ‘Princess Fur Friday’ :-)

Look how bored she is! She actually stretches out a little deeper as I come into my backbend. Oh, more backbending? SO boring!

Entirely unimpressed!

Ha, ha!


Finally, I know that not all of you read the comments section on past posts. I wanted to share a particularly good one with you. This is from KateR. She recently ‘cracked’ the whole standing up thing and offered some advice:

As someone who only recently has started coming up successfully from drop backs, I really can identify with your focus on this. Grimmly recently commented on how the way someone describes tips and advice can strike a chord with your own practice. I've been thinking about the 'formula' I use to stand up and in case it helps at all, wanted to share it with a fellow cyber shala student... just in case....

Here it is:

Drop back - but don't focus on anything except dropping back - put coming up out of your mind for the moment or it will spoil your drop back.

Land hands near feet as possible and pause.

Walk hands in until you feel that your belly has become weightless - a really strange sensation but this is how I would describe it...Your heels may lift to get you further forward, but that's okay - you can lower when you start to rock. Feet can also splay a little when you start this - you can straigthen them over time)

Start rocking - only allow three times though - try to stand on third attempt.

Focus when rocking is on moving knees and hips FORWARD (not up, but FORWARD).

When the hands lift and you feel the weight transfer to feet, change focus to UNFURLING THE SPINE (to steal Susan's brilliant comment). When i started this, I would lift off okay but then always fall back - and that is becuase I hadn't grasped the concept of curling the upper body up and back to a standing position. It requires a lot of strength though and I always have to tell myself, "Don't give up. Follow it through".

Best of luck and please let me know if any part of this helps at all.

Thanks Kate!!! I’m rolling this information around in my head and plan to put it into action tomorrow at the park! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


My Lady’s Holiday started today, almost a week behind schedule. In a few days, I’ll find out whether this weight I’ve put on is ‘water weight’ or the consequences of eating everything in sight for two weeks during my extended PMS. *burp*

I knew it was on its way when I woke up this morning. My practice was fantastic, but hours later I was doubled over in pain. I was so grateful to be able to squeeze in one more practice before my body fell to pieces. I’ve been miserable all day. :-(

Great practice! I received another adjustment in Prasarita C today. My hands feel like they’re nowhere near the floor. I guess I was wrong about that. I had to bend my knees a bit to keep the sensation out of the injured hammie (everything was just a bit stiff today; I’m blaming hormones). I still got a nice shoulder stretch and enjoyed it. I just love that adjustment!

I had a fun, non-yoga-related ‘lightbulb moment’ this morning. Each morning, right around the same time (usually after I’ve finished Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana) one teacher leaves. I hear the rattle of keys, then the door. I’ve always been mildly curious what this was about. I mean, it’s not like they’re going out for a smoke break or something! I’m pretty sure I have it figured out now: they have to move the car to another parking spot! Ah, city life! :-) Another piece of the Shala Routine puzzle has fallen into place for me!

During my seated poses today, I received tonnes of great feedback regarding my vinyasas:

Jumping back:

-Hands closer together

-Flex the feet to bring them through

-Inhale on the lift, exhale as the feet go through


None of this is ‘new’ but it was good to have the reminders and to clean things up a bit; I’ve been getting really lazy. The shoulder soreness I was noticing a few weeks ago has faded, but I have to be very mindful of the positioning of my hands in the jumpbacks. I can feel the ‘twinge’ come back when my hands are too far back or too wide apart. Usually, I pause to correct this before the jumpback, but R wants me to get them right from the get-go, which makes perfect sense.

For jumping through:

-Lift the hips

-Gaze at the point where the feet will land

I worked very hard to integrate every cue. I was literally dripping with sweat and shaking with exertion from all of my not-lazy-jumps as I moved through my practice. And they *were* getting better. I had a few genuinely ‘floaty’ jumpthroughs!

Backbending: The bar is being raised again! I was given just *one* ‘monkey ass’ warm-up backbend opportunity before ‘Boot Camp’ started in earnest. There was no lighthearted banter today! Today, we were Very Serious about backbending! *eyebrowfurrow*

I only did two backbends for the first set but the holds were interminable. R was pulling my hips forward and she counted out the breaths for each backbend. Her counts are MUCH slower than my counts. I was in agony by count number five, but I stuck it out every time.

And you know what? I didn’t fall over dead afterward, my legs didn’t spontaneously combust or anything. The ‘pain’ I feel in these backbends is just the discomfort of exertion, nothing bad is happening to me, I’m just getting stronger. I’m starting to ‘toughen up’ and learning not to be such a whiny baby about it all.

After that, I did three backbends with rocking (three rocks), resting in between (breathe! arms at your sides! eyes open!).

R was really going to town with the rocking! Since my hands are not lifting through my own effort, she was literally pulling me forward until they did. I think she was trying to help me get a sense of what it feels like when the weight shifts into the feet. It kind of felt like my knees were moving forward and my belly button was lifting up. This reminded me of something Skippetty wrote in the comments, about ‘extending the belly button up to the sky’.

One final note: I was so tuckered out as I completed the finishing poses that I accidentally skipped everything after Sirsasana and went on to the closing prayer and laid down. It didn’t even occur to me until I was leaving the Shala that I hadn’t even done Uth Pluthi! It was a pure Space Cadet moment! :-D


I had a single goal for my Park Backbending today: Deep inhale while rocking forward. Proper breathing is a challenge for me and when no one is there to bug me about it I get ‘The Lazy’. To be honest, it feels really HARD to inhale as I rock forward. For some reason, my in-breath feels ‘blocked’. Today at the Shala, I noticed this, so I wanted to fine tune it on my own.

Dropbacks are going really well! I’ve been working against the slope exclusively for the past few days. This is allowing me to deepen my ‘hangback’ and practice the mechanics of dropping back without putting a lot of strain on my wrists. I’m sensitive to this because I have more than one friend with wrist issues.

Today, a thought came to me as I was hanging back: I wondered if I could stand up from the hangback! I could! With an inhalation. So I did that a few times. And this led to another thought: If I could just rock forward to the point where I’m ‘hanging back’, I could stand up!

And that’s as far as I got with that. No magic there, just thinking things through.

I did 10 dropbacks and rocked three times in each, really working the inhalation. My hands were lifting every time, but I’m on a slope so it’s easier. As I was rocking forward in dropback #5, I had a brief moment of ‘weightlessness’ and I was able to ‘pause’ the lift and hang there for a moment. Amazing!

I wish some of this work I’m doing outside the Shala would reflect more in what I’m working on in the Shala. I don’t feel like it’s really having any effect yet. I’m trying to just work hard in every way I can and be patient with the process.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I didn’t have a particularly outstanding practice this morning, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

The verdict on hands in Prasarita Padottanasana C: They’re nowhere near the floor, but I got an adjustment in the pose today! My first in weeks!

R watched me take that pose and asked how my gimpy hamstring was feeling. I told her she could give me ‘a little push’ and she agreed, but urged me to let her know if anything felt off. It was fine and it felt SO GOOD to stretch my shoulders! I was happy, happy, happy!

The rest of my practice was business-as-usual, but with lots of feedback and small adjustments. R is finicky about the finer points and I appreciate it. I always feel like my practice is improving when she fine-tunes it.

And there was a LOT of backbending! It’s been ages since R did the whole ‘Urdhva Dhanurasana Boot Camp’ routine with me. Today was the day!

For the first two backbends, I was on my own but as I came up into #3, R started issuing directions from across the room. Like a drill instructor! HUT!

For the second set of three, R pullled my hips forward to bring more weight into my feet and encouraged me to walk my hands in (again and again and again...oof!). During the last backbend, my legs were shaking like jello, but I held it, held it, HELD IT! I held it until R let go and TOLD me to come down. Usually, I wimp out well before that point, so I felt pretty good about that!

R said: “Good! That was better!” and walked away. I happily did Chakrasana. Then she hurried back and said: “No, We’re not finished yet!

I quipped: “Well, THAT was a wasted Chakrasana!” But I was smiling as I said it.

This time, she wanted me to rock. It’s been at least a month since I’ve done this at the Shala. It feels so different from the rocking I do at the park, so much harder! I think the physical adjustment throws me off. Also, in the park, the slope gives me a little bit of forward momentum to help me lift my hands. This morning, I wasn’t lifting my hands at all.

I thought we were REALLY done after this round. After Chakrasana (again!), I carefully laid out my rug and R walked back over: “WHAT are you doing?”


“No. We’re not finished! More back bending!”

I laughed out loud and said “Okay.” I wistfully put my Msyore rug aside and we did another round of rocking. Finally she said: “Now we’re done!” I did Chakrasana for a THIRD time and gratefully unrolled my rug for finishing.

It was a LOT of backbending and it was challenging, but I took it all in stride. I’m stronger now, so backbending is no longer such a trial. R lectured me a bit about ‘working hard’ but she’s being slightly more gentle these days and I’ve developed a slightly thicker skin. I smiled and joked as we talked. I was trying to keep things light. We laughed a lot.

Together, I think we found a good balance between ‘suffering’ and ‘fun’. I actually had marvellous time! I thanked her warmly as I left.


I was so tuckered out after ‘Urdhva Dhanurasana Boot Camp’, I cut my ‘park bendbends’ short. I did 10 slow and controlled dropbacks onto the slope and rocked three times in each, trying to lift my hands up as I rocked forward. My hands were lifting off the ground, but I haven’t yet managed to find that ‘micropause’ in the lift, where the weight shifts into the feet.

My poor legs were so tired that in my noon class, I taught the sun salutations while perched on a spinning bike!

Tonight will definitely be a epsom-salt-and-arnica night!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Another great practice at the Shala today. I don’t know why, but I’m in a very happy place with my practice these days. Even though my Primary Series is heavily modified, I’m taking great joy in it.

I forgot to ask P where my hands are in Prasarita Padottanasana C. Today I touched my head to the floor AND I started bringing my head further through my legs and curling! I haven’t done this since I injured the hamstring! And I swear my hands felt like they were centimetres from the floor!

I was very careful moving through the Prasaritas, but my hammie felt fine in all of them! In fact, in these poses my hamstrings were craving the stretch and I was definitely feeling it in the belly of the muscle. Utthita Trikonasana felt better too. But the left side of Parsvottanasana is still difficult and Kurmasana is still miles away. Poor turtle!

Recently, I’ve noticed that my hamstring is feeling ‘stiff’ more than ‘sore’. I’m still being very careful and I’m in no hurry, but it really is fascinating to watch my body heal from this!


The park was newly mowed when I arrived for my backbending session this morning. Too bad! I was kind of digging the whole ‘jungle vibe’ of my outdoor yoga space!

There’s cut grass everywhere now! After a few minutes, I was covered in it. Tomorrow will be even more fun because it will be dry and prickly cut grass! I just know I’m going to spend the next month sweeping grass clippings out of my apartment. And probably breaking out in mystery rashes too!

Anyway, dropbacks: Today I regressed!

At Shala North last weekend, we were talking about the ‘Yoga Fairies’ and how they sometimes give you stuff and sometimes, they take it away (I wonder if they ever leave money under the Manduka mat?).

That pesky Yoga Fairy! He took away my pretty dropbacks! *whimper*

I did three dropbacks in the middle of the field, but I was rushing into the drop and bending my arms too much as I landed *headwomp* So I took it back to the hill and worked on slowing my decent and Pingu arms. Over and over again. Back to the field and it was better - not perfect, but better!

I discovered something very interesting in this work! Susan has mentioned that she likes the ‘hangback’ bit I do before I drop. Well, I think I really NEED to do that! Otherwise, I don’t come back far enough and I drop too fast. That little ‘hang back’ makes the difference between falling down like a tree and floating down like a feather.

I kept my standing-up attempts very, very modest today. My goal was two-fold: Strong, controlled dropbacks, drawing out the ‘hangback’ for as long as possible before bringing my hands down. And rocking forward into my feet so my hands do that little lift, trying to ‘hold’ the lift for a microsecond before coming back down. I’m trying to use the action of the legs, more than the momentum of the rocking, to initiate the lift. ‘Trying’ is the operative word here; I’m not having much success.

It’s so frustrating because when I watch video clips of my dropbacks and attempts to come up, I *look* like someone who should be able to stand up! But it’s so different when I’m there in my body, trying to make the action happen. I feel ponderous and awkward, like a tall, floppy mattress with no Bandhas.

Kevin talks about ‘cracking the code’ for standing up and that’s exactly right! It feels like my body is trying to speak a foreign language, one I haven’t learned yet. And even when I’m doing stuff like dropbacks, this still feels like a foreign language to me.

Today, as I was starting my dropbacks, my brain kept saying: “Dropbacks? Seriously?! YOU can’t do dropbacks!” Even after I did 10 of them, my brain was still saying “Dropbacks? Fat chance!”

I really wish my brain would get on board with this thing! ;-)

Monday, July 12, 2010


Shala practice was good this morning. After two days away, I was delighted to be back.

With my slowly healing hamstring, my practice has fallen into a steady, mostly unchanging routine. There have been no huge shifts in either direction. Every so often, the wrist bind on the first side of Marichyasana D will give me problems. Though I can take Supta Kurmasana fairly easily, deepening it further is out of the question until my hamstring heals.

I don’t get squishes anymore and few adjustments.

I’ve been working on my exit from Supta K though, and it’s getting better! I swung my legs back into Bakasana easily today. It was not a very pretty Bakasana or stable, so I set up a stronger Bakasana for the jumpback.

I’ve also taken the ‘Mayurasana cheat’ out of my Lotus jumpback and I’m trying to lift my hips up and jump back using the strength of my arms and Bandhas (I’ve had mixed success - my regular vinyasa jumps have not been spectacular lately).

The Prasaritas have been getting easier! In Prasarita Padottanasana C, I’ve been focusing on deeping the arms (since working the forward bend wasn’t an option for so long). Today, my head was on the floor! And I think my hands came pretty close to the floor too! I remember when I used to get the adjustment for this pose, I could feel air cool as my hands approached the floor. I was feeling it today! Maybe I’ll ask P how close I am during tomorrow’s practice.

In the Shala, I’m still doing six backbends (three in a row, rest, three in a row). It’s the same old routine: come up, walk the hands in, try to push the weight into my feet and bring the hips forward, straighten the legs, walk in some more...all the while, gazing at my nose and breathing deeply.

In the park today, I took another Big Leap of Faith with my dropbacks: I removed the training wheels! No more slope! Instead of doing ‘warm-up’ dropbacks on the hill I walked to the middle of the field and did three dropbacks on a flat surface. Success!

Then I went back to the hill to work on standing up. When I drop to a slope, I can rock forward and lift my hands off the ground, so I did a bit of that. Then I tried to stand up. I fell on my back: WOMPF! I’m not even close!

From the work I’ve done dropping against a wall and coming back up, I know that there’s a threshold I need to cross. There's a point where the downward pull of gravity lets go and the body floats forward/up. I’m not finding it right now. I’ll keep trying.


Audrey is feeling a bit uncertain...did she forget to put on deodorant today?

(apparently, the best way to check for this is to pretend that you’re speed skating!)

Checking-for-deodorant-asana. Does anyone know the Sanskrit for that one?

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I slept in this morning, then staggered out of bed with a tremendous ‘food hangover’. I even had a headache! I was not diligent at all about avoiding gluten this weekend and now I have mystery rashes all over the place. Who gets a rash behind her ears? Apparently, I do. Argh. That’ll learn me!!!

It’s a Moon Day, so the Shala was closed. But I was really keen to get out of the apartment and practice somewhere. I checked out Studio Central’s schedule and realised that a really cool Astanga teacher teaches a morning led class there. I spontaneously decided to check it out.

When I arrived, I introduced myself and gave JB a heads up about my left hamstring. We ended having a great conversation about hamstring injuries.

JB’s a friendly guy, great teacher, and really knows his stuff. I feel like I should nickname him ‘Shoulder Guy’ because almost all of his feedback was related to my shoulders (and relaxing them). It’s always valuable to have a new set of eyes examine my practice. I like this studio because all of the instructors are very alignment-aware and I almost always walk away with some good nuggets of wisdom.

The class was an hour-and-a-half, led half-Primary. My only gripe was the lack of Sirsasana, but everything flowed well and I had a really nice practice.


This week’s State-of-the-Backbend is a special ‘video edition’. Some of you have already guessed what my ‘secret project’ is and I feel confident enough about it now to ‘fess up:

I’m working on dropbacks.

I started last month by dropping back against a wall and doing some hangbacks. This was helpful for opening my back (and building core strength; that’s when I had the achy upper ribs), but it didn’t do a whole lot to help me overcome my fear of dropping back.

Among the many suggestions for moving through my hamstring injury (And those suggestions were coming fast and furious - evidently EVERYONE has an opinion about gimpy hamstrings! Even my hair stylist weighed in!), one of the simplest was just to *walk*. Susan suggested this and I was skeptical, but something Grimmly posted on a forum confirmed that walking was helpful to him and I heard from a few others as well.

I started walking to the Big Park every day to exercise my hamstring. And the Big Park has HILLS! A couple years ago, I tried dropping back onto a slope in the park. Even with that little bit of height, it was terrifying and I never repeated the experiment. I wasn’t strongly motivated to.

But now I am!!! Last week, I decided to give it another go, and I was happy to discover that it’s not scary at all!

Every day, I’ve been walking to the park and dropping back on that hill. I’ve gradually reduced the steepness of the slope by moving downhill a bit each day.

Five days ago, I got *really* brave and decided to drop back without the hill! It wasn’t pretty, but I did it! And I came perilously close to womping my head on the ground too! Susan’s feedback was: “STRAIGHT ARMS!” And she was absolutely right! I was bending my arms too much on the landing. Need more Pingu!!! ;-)

So I moved back up the hill to a steeper slope and worked on keeping my arms straight on the landing.

I’m rarely ‘Bad Driste Girl’ at the Shala, but I do sometimes spy on my teacher, R, as she’s dropping back. She’s amazingly graceful and has so much strength and control as she drops - her hands are practically hovering over the floor when she finally lands. This is the image I’ve carried in my mind as I’ve worked on my own dropbacks.

For the past few days, I’ve been focusing on the straight arms, of course, but also on hanging back as I push my hips forward, shifting weight into my feet for counterbalance as I bring my arms back behind me, then trying to hang for as long as possible before dropping.

It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting the knack! Today, I made little video. Here it is:

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Last night’s potluck was great! Travelling up to Shala North via public transit was half the fun. ;-) I packed the dessert-y things into plastic tubs, which fit into my large knapsack, along with the plates and serving spoons. I heated the stew at home, then sealed the pot lid with plastic wrap and wrapped the whole thing up in a towel, which I then carried in a canvas bag (it was still warm when I arrived).

I lugged all of this onto the subway, during rush hour, with one transfer! I know Ganesha was looking out for me, because I got a good seat on the northbound train! Thank you, Ganesha!

The food at this shindig was amazing! I ate and ate and ate and ate, then ate some more. There wasn’t a single untasty thing on that table. I’m glad I brought the vegan stew! At the time, it seemed like such a dull thing to bring to a party, but when I arrived, it was one of the few entrees and everyone enjoyed it.

(Before I forget - Does anyone know who brought the Vegan Carrot Cake? Can I get the recipe? Or find out where it was purchased? It was *amazing*)

But as amazing as the food was, the people made the party! I had a great time talking with everyone. After the unbearable heat of the past week, the coolish air on the balcony was the best thing ever and I basked in the breeze and the great conversation. What did we talk about? All sort of things, but I specifically remember a long and involved conversation about various injuries and openings. ;-) Talking about this practice is endlessly fascinating to me. This was definitely an Astanga party! ;-)

DR and S were there with their beautiful baby boy and it was an honour to meet him. He’s such a chill little dude! He’s a calm and happy baby and didn’t fuss at all as he was passed around the party from person to person, like a baby-bucket-brigade. S looks fantastic - she’s a serene and confident mom. DR is SO in love with his baby son - it was incredibly cute watching him with that baby!

It was dark when I finally headed home and that was a bit disorienting for me! For the past few months, I’ve been going to bed before dark. I felt like a rollicking party animal walking home from the subway at 10:30! *rowr*

As promised, here are the recipes for the treats I brought to Shala North Potluck:

Vegan Stew


1 cup of tomato juice or vegetable juice

1 cup water

2 cans of Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 can of chick peas

3 medium potatoes, unpeeled and cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 each, green and red peppers, seeded and chopped

3 medium carrots, cut into julienne strips

2 tablespoons of chili powder

Additional Ingredients:

(Add during the last few minutes of cooking time)

1 package of frozen spinach (thawed)

2 tablespoons of chili powder

2 teaspoons of basil leaves

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

In a large pot or crock pot, combine all ingredients. A crock pot can be left overnight, or about 8 hours, on the ‘high’ heat setting. If cooking on the stovetop, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cover, allowing it to simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the additional spices and spinach during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Raisin Muffins


3/4 cup soy milk (unsweetened is best)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 medium ripe banana, mashed

2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chopped almonds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 deg. F (205 deg. C.). Grease 12 medium muffin cups.

2. Gradually stir the oil into the mashed banana, then add soy milk and mix thoroughly (it will be a bit lumpy)

3. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, then stir in the wet mixture until just combined (don’t overmix!)

4. Fold in apples and raisins.

5. Divide batter equally among the muffin cups.

6. Bake until the tops begin to brown slightly, about 17 - 20 minutes.

7. Immediately remove from the pan, allow to cool.

Gluten-free Vegan Double Chocolate Brownies

These are so easy, it’s almost scandalous! They are moist and rich!


Bob ‘Red Mill’ Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Egg Replacer, equivalent to 1 egg

3/4 cup of vegan margarine

1/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips

Follow the directions on the bag. :-D I bake them for the full 25 minutes because they’re too gooey otherwise.

Vegan Double Chocolate Brownies

I follow this recipe to the letter. It’s never let me down! Vegan chocolate chips make them 100 times better!

Scrum-diddly-umptious Vegan Brownies

Vegan Blueberry Crumbles

I found this recipe on the amazing Vegan Thyme Blog. I’ve been dying to try these and they didn’t disappoint!

The ingredient list looks kind of overwhelming, but they’re super-fast to bake up:

Blueberry Crumb Bars


Practice report, plus more food, more fun!:

This afternoon, I had the great privilege of attending Shala South’s 10th anniversary celebration. Though I’m not a regular part of the Shala South community, I’ve enjoyed the classes I’ve attended there and I have great respect for the skill of their teachers. It’s a great community! It was so much fun seeing familiar faces. Their warm welcome made me feel right at home.

The party started with a 2-hour long yoga class, led by various Shala South teachers. It was incredible moving to practice with 150 people as the different voices led us through the postures. I had a rich and satisfying practice. When DB took the microphone to lead us through the finishing poses, my whole body fell into ease. I just love her teaching! It was also fun to be led through some asana by my chanting/philosophy teacher. I can’t believe I’ve never been to one of her yoga classes! She’s really terrific!

The practice was followed by still more stunning vegan food (this has been an EPIC weekend for food!). I enjoyed hanging out with my blog-reader-turned-friend, S and meeting some new people too.

By far the best part of the evening was meeting M, a blog reader, who came over to introduce herself. She wasn’t sure she recognised me until...wait for it...I came into Urdhva Dhanurasana during the class and then she *knew* it was me! (all of those State-of-the-Backbend photos!!!) It was such a pleasure to just sit and chat, sharing thoughts about the practice and our experiences in various Mysore rooms around the city.

At one point it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be there, talking and sharing with these amazing women, if it wasn’t for this blog! I’m very grateful for technology and the Cybershala for helping me to build real-life community right here in my own city. My practice is enriched by these encounters.