Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The stories we choose to tell...

Whenever I read a blog post written in a melancholy tone, by someone who is wearing their heart on their sleeve without telling you exactly what that is - I always wonder. What's the story?

The blogosphere is a stange place. Our faces are pages and our stories are the ones we *choose* to tell. It's difficult to read about sadness and not want to hear the backstory too. Our hearts ask: "Why?"

Earlier this month, I gave Princess Fur her spring haircut. In the winter, I keep her body fur long for warmth, but in the more temperate months, I groom her like the almost-show-dog she is. She always looks gorgeous and turns heads. She was a half-inch too tall to show, but she'll always be my champion!

Clipping the winter fur from her body is like shearing a sheep. It's fun! When I flipped her over to shave the fur from her underside, something didn't look right. There was a lump. On her lower ribcage. About the size of a golfball. As I held her in my arms, open and tender with her little exposed belly beaming up at me, heavy tears dripped down on the dog, my arm, the clippers.

I was so afraid. Little dogs are not supposed to have big lumps. Big lumps spell trouble. I was in the last days of the Big Busy before spring break, but as soon as I could, I made an appointment with the vet.

And then I waited. And waited.

This story has a happy ending: The vet did his examination. The lump is benign and harmless (and it's still there - now commonplace, instead of terrifying). The Princess received a clean bill of health. We practicallly skipped home, stopping through as many dog parks as we could find on the way.

But I haven't forgotten that terror of Not Knowing, so I've been spending more time cuddling, less time surfing. I've been blogging less, personal journaling more. I've been sharing my stories privately with friends via email and over lunch.

I'm still practising, as always. But the ins and outs of my yoga practice seem less important these days. I just do the practice and let it go. I'm less attached, but the focus of my attachment has just shifted.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chasing sunbeams

Don't let that sunbeam Princess Fur is baking in fool you: spring hasn't sprung yet. We had a big snowstorm on Wednesday that left us buried in over a foot of snow and it's still on the ground, since the temperatures have been dipping below freezing (with a -16 windchill today).

This isn't doing much to raise my spirits. Do. Not. Like.

Last weekend, to add insult to injury, I was hit with a bit of a tummy bug. I've never been so thankful for a Moon Day in my life! I really needed that rest. I still wasn't feeling 100% on Monday, so I did the Suryas and fundamental standing poses then loafed around with my legs up a wall.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I did my full practice and I did Primary-only on Thursday morning.

On Thursday night, I did an additional Vinyasa practice at Studio East. By horribly incovenient coincidence, my LH started mere minutes before the class. I had so looked forward to this class, I was determined to carry on. I decided to tough it out.

So you can imagine my joy when H asked me to be at the *front* of the class (because the room was very crowded), then she helpfully pointed me out, as someone the class could follow for visual cues when she was busy with adjustments.

I cheerfully waved to the 27+ people from my spot in the very front, thinking: Yeah, just follow the cringing woman with the Buddha Belly and the raging PMS! I'll lead the way!

Thank goodness I wore black pants!

Actually, it wasn't bad at all and I had a fantastic class. That's my last bit of vinyasas-class-fun until the summer, though.

Friday was a horrific day for so many reasons. But the weekend was awesome because I could sleep in every day. Tomorrow is going to be very difficult! I'm back to my full teaching schedule and back to business as usual with my practice, at least for another week.

Because after that...everything is going to shift. Again!

Stay tuned...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2011

Furry, frightened and brave

(photo credit: Associated Press)

If you know me in real life, you're probably aware that I kind of like animals more than people. Friends have been known to complain that they get a mere 'hello' from me before I drop to the floor and enthusiastically greet their cat with effusive praise and chin rubs. I adore both dogs and cats, but I'm openminded about ferrets, snakes, birds, even lizards. I just LOVE animals.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, I was sad about the people, but I was more upset about the animals, especially the dogs (cats have a way of taking care of themselves). Pet dogs rely on humans so completely for affection, care and information. They are creatures of routine and when stripped of it, they become anxious.

If you haven't seen this video of two dogs who survived the tsunami, you MUST! It broke my heart a little:

I read one translation of the dialogue that implied that the dog was barking at the camera man to 'keep him at bay'. But that dog wasn't guarding his friend, he was seeking out help for him. I could read it in his body language; he was trying to draw attention to himself.

His actions spoke louder than any words. This dog spotted two humans. He ran a little bit closer to have a look, and yes! They're definitely humans! Humans (as all dogs are aware) have oposable thumbs and food. Humans can bring comfort. He barked once at the humans, then turned on tail and ran back, to lead them to his injured friend.

He patted the other dog gently with his paw. Maybe he was comforting him, maybe letting him know that help had arrived, or maybe he was using the gesture to bring human attention to the other canine (my dog has done this a million times - either tapping my arm to get my attention, or tapping her food bowl to remind me that it exists and it needs to be filled).

I burst into tears the first time I viewed it. I was moved by his survival, his compassion for the other dog and his courage in standing by and trying to get help.

If you look closely, you can see that he's filthy, wet and shaking. He's wearing a pretty chain collar with a fancy silver nameplate, obviously someone's beloved pet.

When something horrible like this happens, there is no civil alert siren for dogs and cats. They don't know what's coming and it's incredibly confusing and disorienting for them. Their worlds are literally turned upside-down. Emergency shelters won't take animals, so pets are frequently left behind to fend for themselves.

I know that there are thousands of humans suffering and many have died. And yes, I've made my donation to the Red Cross. But dogs and cats are suffering too and with the lack of resources and shelter space, it's rumoured that animals who manage to survive are being euthanized if unclaimed.

Below, I've compiled a list of organisation that are committed to helping stranded, lost and injured pets in Japan. A donation of 2000 yen is equivelant to $25 US dollars.

Please consider donating to one of these organisations. The first link offers information about the group, the second links directly to a donation page.

(photo credit: unknown, found at Huffington Post)

World Vets - donate

Animal Rescue Kansai - donate

Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support - donate

The Animal Humane Association has started a Japan fund. 100% of donations will go toward animal rescue in Japan - donate

Japan SPCA - donate

Japan Cat Network - donate

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Too much candy makes you sick

Wow, am I ever tired of the never-ending, when-will-it-die discussion of Scant Yoga Clothing. Just when I thought it was finally over for good, it popped up again in the blogosphere this week, just like an annoying relative who doesn't know when to leave.

Hey, Short Shorts! You've outstayed your welcome. Now scurry along and don't let the door smack you on your exposed buttcheeks.

I swear, I'm going to buy a pair of those miniscule shorts, then wear them the next time I go to Shala North and scare all my friends. Trust me, I'm NOT a person who should be wearing tiny shorts. My yoga shorts resemble granny-panties for good reason: I'm no longer twenty years old!

(although, I have to admit - the gentlemen pictured above are TOTALLY pulling it off!)

A few words about my practice...

I've been maintaining a 5-day practice schedule of Astanga. This week, I did my full practice (Primary, first 8 Intermediate poses) on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and went to a Bikram class on Wednesday. Tonight, I went to an evening Vinyasa class too, so I'm bone-exhausted.

I had a funny moment in the class tonight. All week, I've been teaching Galavasana in my classes, carefully chopping the pose into managable 'phases' so the beginning students won't feel too overwhelmed and I've also demo'ed the full pose for my students.

It's interesting the way this posture has popped up over the course of the week. I ran across a magazine article about the pose, then a friend who's fairly new to yoga wrote a FB status about learning the pose. Between hearing about it, reading about it, doing it and teaching it, by the end of the week, I was feeling pretty Galavasana'ed out.

As I headed to class this evening, I was thinking what a privilege it was to go to a class taught by a colleague and experience yoga as a student: "This is awesome! 90 whole minutes of 'me time' and fun vinaysa!" And almost as an afterthought: "I won't have to do Galavasana! Yay!"

Guess what the arm balance was tonight? Yup! What are the odds? This week, the universe was giving me more Galavasana than I could handle. I was so tired, I could barely manage it tonight! I totally tanked. My Bandhas said 'uncle'.

I'm SO glad I have the weekend off. Tomorrow, I'll practice Primary. With the Moon Day on Saturday and my regular rest day on Sunday, I'll have a two-day vacation from Astanga, though I may do a bit of vinyasa yoga.

Or I may not. Maybe I'll just sleep in! ;-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Near-miss

A flashback in time:
It happened during the mid-term exam period, my second year of university. I was writing my 5th exam in two days and I could feel a sense of lightness and relief washing over me as I inked the last sentence of my essay and closed the exam booklet. As I handed it it, my professor asked to speak with me privately.

"Is this your *last* exam?" she asked. I nodded. She put a steadying hand on my shoulder. "Go home and phone your family, hon. There's been an earthquake in California."

I ran back to my residence, heart pounding, tears streaming down my face. As I stepped into my room, I flipped the morning paper I'd tossed aside hours earlier and there it was, in bold headlines: "Devastating Earthquake Hits California". I hadn't seen it - I generally ignore the news, especially during exam periods.

I spent the next six hours frantically trying to phone my brother and my sisters in Crescent City. I still remember how frustrating it was, worrying and trying to get through the busy circuits.

I still have family in California, Hawaii and Japan. So you might think that I had a really stressful day today, but actually it was quite normal. You see, I still ignore the news most of the time. I usually don't even check the headlines in the morning. I didn't this morning.

In fact, feeling weary of the internet after the dramatics of the week, I didn't even check blogs or Twitter. I practiced the Primary Series. Then I wrote my morning pages and opened up a book.

At noon, I walked over to the private school to teach a class. I wasn't feeling up to cooking, so I treated myself to lunch opting, ironically, for sushi. That's when I heard the servers talking about 'the earthquake' and realised something was amiss. I pulled out my iPad and logged on to Twitter. A friend had just tweeted about 'devastation in Crescent City, CA'.

My heart dropped into my stomach.

So what did I do? I logged into Facebook, of course! I checked the pages of each of my siblings, plus my neices and nephews and stepmother. I was reassured by their statuses that everyone was safe. My sister says that her town is still evacuated. My niece is travelling. My other sister in Hawaii is out partying (probably) and my brother is *not* out on his boat.

They're fine.

I can't believe I'm saying this but here it is: THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK. The site was down for a span today. I wouldn't be surprised if it's because so many people were checking on loved ones, like I was.

Next, I followed the links to the earthquake and tsunami footage in Japan. I felt, like many of you, helpless and awed and sad. I grew up on the sea, on a small sailboat, and few things conjure up more terror in me than tsunamis (hurricanes take a close second). I'm very familiar with civil alert sirens and evacuations.

My heart is breaking for all of those who lost homes and loved ones today. Twenty years after moving away from the coast, natural disasters like this still feel like a 'near-miss', like it could have been me. I feel incredibly blessed to be sitting here in my small home, cooking rice, walking my dog, following the rounds of a normal life.

I'm so lucky. My hopes and prayers are with those who weren't as lucky today.

Update: It was 'closer to home' than I thought. The marina I lived in as a child was hard-hit by the Tsunami. Docks broke free, 200 boats are reported damaged. Viewing the footage was eerie.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Unfortunate Choice

I learned an important life lesson this week: When blogging about seasonal malaise, NEVER mention yoga clothing.

Especially shorts. Because, as small as they may be, they GROW. Substantially. Virally. GeezohmightyGawd!

Seriously, 'starting an Blogosphere Shitstorm' was NOT an item on my to-do list this week. I'm busy, people. Busy! Being depressed!

Just for the record, there are many, many things that make me sad right now. Losing work makes me sad. Financial stress makes me sad. Visits to the dentist make me sad (and broke). Potentially cancerous tumours in gentle little gray dogs make me sad. And (a tad selfish, but all the same) gaining a thick layer of fat around my middle because I've been eating myself into oblivon makes me sad.

But items of clothing? Not so much.

There's a promise I'm not likely to keep. *snort*


I feel like I'm sleep walking through life these days and I could go on and on about how glum I'm feeling, but I'm trying to keep it positive today. So.

Here are a few things that make me happy:

- Urdhva Dhanurasana: I know! It's crazy, isn't it? But I'm just SO happy that I can DO backbends, without pain. And I'm still walking my hands in. I walk in until my shoulder tweaks and then I stop. But it's AWESOME!

Over the weekend, I even did a dropback! It was late afternoon and I was feeling very open and figured I would hang back. I was so close, I just...dropped. It made me giddy-happy!

- Books: Since I don't do drugs or bungee jump, reading is my escape from reality. I've been devouring a book (or two!) a week since the new year. I just finished the Hunger Games series and it was *amazing*.

I'm currently trying to get into the Stieg Larsson books, but I'm stuck in the first chapter of the first book, trying to get interested. Is anyone out there a fan? Tell me it will get better, please?! I purchased the first two books on my Kindle, on good recommendation.

- Meditation: I fell off the daily-meditation-wagon for two weeks and couldn't seem to make time for it anymore - except on Wednesdays before Bikram class. I was doing it then because it was so automatic. So I made some space in my regular morning routine for meditation, right before I practice Astanga. If it's easy and kind of not-optional, I'll just do it! (like my yoga practice).

I've said this before, but meditation seems to be an all-purpose remedy for me - for Seasonal Affective Disorder, for healthy eating, for enhancing productivity. I feel better overall when I'm meditating.

- 750words.com: I used to write 'morning pages', a free-association journaling method, in a paper journal every morning before I did my practice. I don't know why I stopped, but when I did, it seemed too difficult to reimplement.

I stumbled across 750words through Kath's blog and I'm *loving* it. I've always been a sucker for statistics and analysis (especially if someone else is doing the number-crunching for me). This website tells me how fast I'm writing, which words I use the most and gives me little 'stickers' for acheiving goals. There's a monthly challenge and if you know me (2-year-yoga-streak, hello?), you know I'll be *totally* doing it next month!

- And finally, this makes me happy:

(via YoginiStar)

How could it not? :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

This post is not about Tiny Yoga Shorts

Occam's Razor: One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything

Translation: The simple explanation is often correct.

Allow me to set the scene:
It's mid-March in Canada. The weather is pure misery with no sign of spring on the horizon. A series of difficult and unfortunate events have transpired, leaving the Reluctant Ashtangi feeling glum and defeated. So she makes it all better by eating an ENTIRE 1kg Cadbury chocolate bar all by herself (in under three weeks!), thereby gaining 10 pounds and saying buh-bye to her bind in Supta Kurmasana. Now, she sits by the window, watching a series of endless, despair-inducing snow storms rage through the city. She weeps.

Translation: Sometimes, life sucks.

There are several different explanations for her odd behaviour. Let's review them:

Option #1: Late winter depression and cabin fever has finally set in.
Option #2: The public perception of Astanga is at risk of being sullied by Bad Reality Television.
Option #3: Tiny Yoga Shorts.

Applying Occam's Razor, please choose the appropriate explanation and provide a concise analysis. Bonus points for creative mentions of human genitalia and the proper Driste. Automatic 'A' if you know how to wrap a dhoti.

Extra credit question: Does the internet have a sense of humour? Are you sure? VERY sure?

Answers will be graded on clarity and originality.

By a pug.

P.S. I practised today! :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tiny things that are VERY SAD


Well, hello there!

Yes, I'm still here, barely enduring the Cold and Ugly Season in the Great White North. To be honest, I haven't felt very inspired to write lately. It's probably due to a combination of seaonal ennui, boring practices and, oh yes, 'blogosphere controversy'. Last week, everyone was abuzz with a certain certified teacher and her (un)reality show.

I'm almost embarrassed to 'fess up to my reaction to that entire debacle, but here it is: I sat in my window seat and wept. There are a few different ways to interpret this behaviour:
~I'm a bit depressed
~I'm overly attached to the practice and my own idealistic conception of it

or (and this is my favourite!)

~teensy-weensie-tiny-yoga short are just VERY SAD.


Take your pick. ;-) Moving on...

I have been practising! Here's a rundown of the past...wow, has it really been a week? Yes it has.

Wednesday: I attended Peanut's Bikram's class. I wasn't feeling particularly energetic, so I was kind of 'going through the motions'. I don't imagine for a minute that Peanut doesn't notice stuff like that. And halfway through the class, he made a little speech about how it's possible to 'do the poses without *really* doing the poses'. It wasn't aimed at me specifically, I'm sure, but I got the message all the same: "If you can, you must!"

Thursday: In a nod to the Moon Day, I did my Primary-only practice. It was okay.

Friday: Moon Day. I didn't practice at all. I think this may be the first Moon Day in about two years that I've not done any yoga. I'm beginning to like this whole 'taking days off thing'. :-D

Saturday: I practised Primary and my Intermediate. I had an ordinary, but good practice.

Sunday: Day off! I didn't even take time to stretch my hamstrings (and boy, did I ever feel it on Monday!)

Monday: I attended Almond's Bikram's class in the morning. I really enjoy Almond's classes and I've missed going to them, so this was a treat. I like the way he cruises through the dialogue. His efficiency in teaching is one of the things that helped me break out of the 'futzing habit', both in Bikrams and my Astanga practice.

Tuesday (that's today!): Back to Astanga, I practised Primary and my Intermediate poses. My left hamstring was a bit sensitive, but I had a good, futz-free practice.

In general, I'm feeling better about my practices these days and Astanga is starting to feel like a place of comfort and healing again.

For the past month, I've been practising Astanga four times a week and Bikram's two, adding up to a six-day week in combination. Starting this week, I've decided to add on an Astanga practice on Friday to bring my Astanga week up to five days (continuing to practice Bikrams one day per week).

I'm also working towards a more consistent Astanga practice with fewer breaks. Toward this end, I'm going to try to go to my weekly Bikram class on Monday, so I can practice Astanga 5 days in a row.

And here's some good news: My shoulder is healing!

Evelyn asked if I was icing the shoulder. I do own one of those fancy-schmancy velcro ice/compression packs but to be perfectly honest, I haven't been very diligent about using it. It's so cold here, the last thing I feel like doing is curling up in the window seat with an icy ice pack resting on my shoulder. But all of my non-ice-related activity/inactivity seems to be working for me.

Last week, I upgraded my Granny Vinyasas to include the transition from Upward Dog to Downward Dog. This was a big trigger point for pain when I first injured my shoulder, but there's no pain as I move through it now!

Also: I grabbed my wrist on the right side of Marichyasana C today and I'm binding to fingers in Marichyasana D (and close to getting the wrist on the left side).

And the biggest news of all: I'm doing three Urdhva Dhanurasana in my daily practice. Even better, today I walked my hands in! I walked in once in the second backbend and twice in the third. This is HUGE!

I'm pretty excited, because this means that I can begin to work towards regaining flexibility in these backbends. My shoulder was mostly pain free (there was a bit of sensation pushing up). I was able to straighten my arms and my breathing was smooth and consistent.

Finally, here's a random photograph of manhole cover on a subway platform.

Wow. I feel SO much better now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Yoga Dog of Big City Canada

Once again, not a bad practice this morning. It appears that my dread and anticipation of getting on the mat is far more traumatic than the act itself. Silly brain! *eyeroll*

I'm continuing to work on my Intermediate poses, with modifications for my shoulder injury. Here's the rundown:

Pasasana: I can bind on the left side, but not the right (I'm limited in the same way in Marichyasana). I've been 'doing my best' on the bad side, which means working within the limitations of the injury.

Krounchasana: The left side of this pose is the last hold-out for my gimpy hamstring - it hurts. I'm able to come into the pose with care, but it's not deep. The right side is fine, though, full expression.

Shalabasana: Terrific and easy! Thank you, Mr. Choudhury :-)

Bhekasana: It's out of the question right now. That particular rotation of the shoulder triggers the pain of my injury precisely. Even doing one side at a time is painful. Instead, I'm doing Supta Virasana to stretch out my quads.

Dhanurasana: This is another pose that has benefited from Mr. Choudhury's yoga regime. Parva Dhanurasana aggravates the injury, though (I re-injured my shoulder about a month ago rolling over to the right) so I'm not re-adding it until I'm fully recovered.

Ustrasana: Pure joy! I can clearly remember a time when I hated this pose, but now it's a high point. My favourite part is the hang back, when I can feel my legs working.

Laghu Vajrasana: I'm making steady progress. I lost some ground during the early days of the injury, but I'm getting stronger now. Good thing I'm having fun with this one, because I'm stuck here for the foreseeable future.

I gave the Princess her Spring Fur Makeover on the weekend. The weather is warming up, so I felt a bit more confident cutting off 3 inches of hair from her body. It was a bit like shearing a sheep!

Do I detect an accusing stare?

The new haircut is in preparation for Princess Fur's exciting new project! She will soon begin filming the pilot episode of her new reality television series: "Yoga Dog of Big City Canada".


'Yoga Dog of Big City Canada' takes us inside the daily routines and dramas of Princess Fur, a miniature schnauzer with a passion for walkies, frequent naps and Greenies. A cold, drab, Canadian city forms a glamourous backdrop for the day-to-day adventures of our dynamic canine and her grumpy human companion, the Reluctant Ashtangi.

Follow Princess Fur's journey of self-discovery as she sleeps through the Primary Series, walks on the Ashtangi's Manduka mat without permission and begs for breakfast while her human companion is trying to 'take rest'.

This show will TRANSFORM LIVES, people!

No doubt her wardrobe will need to include eensie-weensie-tiny yoga shorts. Do they make these for dogs?

Stay tuned!

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