Breathe, practice, repeat

dancer pose seasonsI’ve had a really good yoga week. I went to a class almost every day. Yin, power, flow, it was a great mix of everything I love. This was a very welcome week after a couple of weeks of being sick and not having much energy.

Monday, I went out for lunch. I don’t do well with greasy foods, but I had a quesadilla anyways, and I felt icky all afternoon. I went to yoga anyways and told my teacher, Megan, that I was feeling a little sick and that if I was laying on my mat, it wasn’t because I was dead or her class was boring, I was just not feeling great. Not surprisingly, I spent part of the class in savasana, but felt a million times better at the end of it.

The rest of the week went much more smoothly and was filled with happy yoga moments.

– All kinds of supported fish variations. Supported fish might be my favourite yin pose.

– Seeing my friend Ichih, after she was away for three weeks. Bonus, she did not make me do any dragon pose/gecko variation in yin class.

– Leaving work earlier than usual for a flow class and enjoying every minute of doing yoga with the sun shining through the windows.

– Doing an awesome dancer pose to half-moon to warrior two sequence and not falling down during a power class.

Also, I’ve been feeling loved and supported all week. I made a video trying to explain how much I love yoga, to hopefully win part of the cost of my yoga teacher training tuition, and I am overwhelmed at how many people have viewed and shared the video. The winner will be the person who gets the most youtube views. It’s been a week, and I’ve gotten over 700 views! If you haven’t watched it yet, please do, it would help me a lot! Also, you can click on the link every day to help my views go up!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FymAS1je9o0

 

Lucky Star

You know how people say “I thank my lucky stars”? It makes sense. We wish on stars (well, I do), so why not thank them when we get what we want? You know what’s even better than getting what you want? Getting what you didn’t even know you wanted.

I write a lot about yoga and about Pure, the studio where I practice. It’s my yoga home, my happy place, my favourite place to be. But my love affair with yoga started long before Pure opened a year ago. I used to be a yoga nomad, wandering around, going to different classes at different studios.

At one particular class, a Madonna flow party, to be exact, I met Natalie. I thank my lucky stars I went to that class, on that day. Natalie is a yoga teacher who became a friend. She’s a big part of the reason I fell in love with yoga. I was already pretty into it, but practicing with Natalie felt like a perfect fit. I was challenged, I laughed, I discovered so much about myself and my practice.

Now that I practice at my happy place, I don’t see Natalie as much as I would like. She teaches at different studios. The perfect thing would be for her to teach at Pure. How happy I would be!

Today, however, I got to attend one of Natalie’s amazing ashtanga classes set to the music of Madonna. I’ve written about it before, here and here. I’m writing about it again, because it’s just so unbelivably incredible!

Imagine how open your heart is in a chair pose twist when you’re singing “open your heart to me”. I kid you not, that actually happened.

Natalie and I took a before class picture, when we all pretty and not sweaty. I wore my bow during the entire class. It got a little sweaty, but it’s the only time I get to wear a huge lace bow, so it stayed on. I brought Natalie a bow too.

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We also took an after class picture, where Natalie looks as fresh and lovely as when we started and I look like I went through a car wash. I do, however, love the way my hair ended up in a side pony. Very 80’s Madonna-ish.

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The only thing that kept this evening from being totally perfect was the fact that my friend Julie wasn’t there. We always went to these things together, but she’s busy being awesome in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully when she comes home for the summer, Natalie will have another funky Madonna flow!

Monday morning yoga

It’s Monday and I’m not at work. It’s March break, that week just before spring when teachers become human again, just in time to finish the school year.

I love my job and I adore my students, but a little break is a good thing. For me and for them. They deserve a teacher who’s well rested and patient. That’s what they’ll get. In one week. Until then, it’s all about me, me, me!

I wanted to go to a yoga class this morning, mostly because I normally can’t make it until late afternoon or evening. I woke up at 5:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was all “Go back to sleep! There’s no work today!” It took a while, but I got back to sleep just in time to wake up again for yoga.

This is probably very bad, but I didn’t have breakfast before class. I didn’t have time and I didn’t want to eat in the car, because that could have disastrous consequences during class.

I always like to notice the differences in my practice, depending on the time of day I find myself in the hot room. Now, I’m not very flexible, but this morning everything felt tighter than ususal. Is this a morning thing? Normally, I’ve been walking around all day before I practice, so my muscles have warmed up. This is my theory.

It was a flow class and I enjoyed every minute of it. Part of it had to do with the fact that it was a great class, but also, it was knowing that I had the whole day stretched out in front of me, with nothing that I absolutely had to do.

During a child’s pose break, I was trying very hard to stay connected to my practice, because it’s so much harder to get back into it if you let your mind wander too much. However, I was hungry and I started planning what I would have for breakfast (a smoothie with tofu and raspberries). However, when I got home, I wanted oatmeal with apples and cinnamon.

Now, I’m enjoying my free Monday. Bliss.

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My life as a pretzel

I miss writing about yoga. Lately, I’ve been writing about other things. Dresses, Christmas, rainbows. Great stuff, but it’s not yoga. I know you’ve been thinking it too, so here it is. My life as a pretzel (actually, it was just part of a class, but whatever.)

I went to a power class at Pure today right after work. I can’t often get away for the 4:30 class, but I think it’s my favourite time to practice. My work day is done, but I haven’t been home and crashed on the couch yet, so I’m still awake and energized (well, somewhat).

Class was with Jen. I love her classes because she always has something to distract me from the fact that I actually am tired. We started with some flowing. Lots of flowing. Like a river almost. Or maybe that’s just how sweaty I was.

On a side note, a bandaid on your foot during a hot yoga class will fall off. It’s a fact. But first, it will stick to your towel and get stuck between your toes. Just so you know.

After a blur of triangle pose and lots and lots of warrior 2 (warrior 2s? warriors 2?), the pretzeling started.

Now, when people have no clue what yoga is, the image they come up with is someone twisting themselves into various pretzel-like positions. This is not what yoga is about, although some poses involve a bind. In these cases, it is acceptable to use the term pretzel.

The first pretzel was bird of paradise. I like this one, especially if I’m standing on my right leg. If I’m standing on my left leg, it’s more like a chicken than a bird of paradise, but one side is better than none. I can get my standing leg strait (the right one), but the leg I’ve got my arms around hasn’t quite made it up.

I look like the first picture. I’m working on getting to the second one. I got the picture here.

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The second pretzel was a new one for me. You start off in bound extended side angle, just like bird of paradise, but instead of bringing your foot up to the front of your mat, you bring it about half way and get into a bound half moon. Yeah. Crazyness. I almost kind of got it. I think. Sort of. On the right side of course. I couldn’t get my whole foot up, just my heel, but the heel is the heaviest part of the foot, so I’m almost there!

bound half moon

Can you see how close I am? It’s amazing. That’s the power of yoga.

Baby it’s cold outside

This has been one of those weeks that wouldn’t end. My birthday was on Monday, and that was definitely the high point. After that, it was a long blur of sneezing, a runny nose and waking up each morning to realize it wasn’t Friday yet. On top of that, I lost a student today (but then I found her). I kind of felt like this all week.

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But today was Friday and that meant I could relax. I missed yoga. I didn’t go all week because I was sick. I felt much better today and I knew yoga would make me feel almost human again.

Walking into the hot room was the best part of my day. It was so cold today! Winter is definitely coming and I can see myself going to yoga more and more, just for the heat! It was the first time all day that I actually felt warm. Then hot. Really hot.

Class was amazing. It was a flow class, which was great. I’m not sure I could have managed a power class. I did a toe stand, then actually made my way into flying crow! It felt awesome. I tried to take a picture when I got home, but sadly, my inner crow was asleep. Or maybe dead. I fell down pretty hard and I think I squashed it.

This is what it looks like. Yes, yes. I looked as awesome as this. Ok, so maybe not. My head tends to get pretty close to the ground and I’m not sure what my back leg looks like. Also, I can only do it on one side. But I felt like I looked like this.

flying crow

I know, I’m fabulous. Namaste!

Hitting the reset button

Since October started, I haven’t been to yoga very much. Twice, to be exact. The first week, I was taking it easy after my 30 day challenge in September, so I only went to one class. But this past week, I’ve been feeling lazy and unmotivated. Every evening, I found a reason not to go to class.

Challenges work well for me. I like the motivation they bring me. Without it, I feel a little lost. I convince myself I am too tired, or sick, or busy to practice, but that leads to me feeling worse, not better.

This morning, I decided enough was enough. I went to a noon detox flow class at Pure. I felt better just walking through the door. A fellow blogger wrote a post about finding your yoga home recently, and it made me realize how much I missed my yoga home. I missed the people, the classes, the energy.

At least five or six people said to me “I haven’t seen you in a while!” Another sign that I’ve been neglecting my second home.

Class was great. I thought it would be a little difficult, since it had been over a week since I’d practiced at all, but it made me feel wonderful. I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to forget how amazing yoga makes me feel about myself. That class was really like hitting a reset button. I’m going to forget about the last two weeks and just focus on what’s to come.

I kind of missed not getting a sticker after class, like I did during the challenge, but Jen gave me a Pure Yoga bumper sticker, so that’s even better!

I’ve decided to try a little experiment. The yoga challenge helped motivate me because I felt like I was being held accountable for doing what I said I would (even if it was just to myself). So now I’m putting it out there that I’m going to three classes this week.

Monday, 7:30 pm Power class with Todd

Wednesday, 7:30 Yin class with Ichih

Thursday, 7:30 Flow class with Jen.

I reserve the right to change my plans, but only if I make other plans instead, like dinner with friends. No cancelling yoga to sit on the couch and watch tv. Hopefully, this will help keep me motivated this week!

Have I been the change?

When I started this 30 day challenge on September 1st, I was in it for the yoga. When I heard about a challenge happening at Pure Yoga Ottawa, my favourite studio, I jumped on the chance to participate. I was pleasantly surprised to find out there was more to it than doing yoga every day.

I received daily e-mails filled with motivational quotes and messages from Megan, the creator of this amazing challenge, videos and tips for at-home practice from Megan and Mike, another teacher. There were nutrition tips and delicious recipes. I discovered new ways to prepare old ingredients and new foods to try. There was information about holistic healing. This was new, and interesting to read about.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my body is tired and needs a rest from daily practice, at least for a while. However, my mind and spirit will miss the daily motivation and encouragement. For this, I am sad to see the challenge end.

This challenge coincided with going back to work. Last year, I found the back to school period to be very difficult. I felt like there was always something more to do. I never had enough time to do it all. Once I realized I couldn’t do it all, I relaxed and enjoyed my work a lot more. This year, I was afraid of falling into the same trap. I was happy to have a reason to leave work at a reasonable hour, to take some time for myself and to have a way to find peace every day.

I realized one of the things I love the most about yoga is the quiet moment that comes after giving all I’ve got. Taking child’s pose anytime feels good, but taking child’s pose after going through several flows, side planks and chair pose is bliss. I was thinking about this during class today, when Megan said something that struck a chord with me. She said The vinyasa of our practice mirrors the vinyasa of our lives.

During a class, I might feel happy, frustrated, proud, discouraged, tired, curious, scared and blissed out. I feel these same emotions during my daily life. I try to approach challenges in my practice with an open mind and lots of laughter. I am trying to do the same with the challenges in my life. This is the change I did not know I was looking for. So yes, to answer my own question, I think I have been the change.

Today was day 30. It was the last class. I went to Megan’s class, which was perfect, because I started this challenge with one of her classes and also because without her, there wouldn’t be a challenge. I was very proud of myself for seeing this through all the way to the end. I got all 30 stickers on the board! Yes, they’re all pink.

I was also very happy to do this class with Jacynthe and Dominique, who are both collegues and friends. We did this challenge together and it definitely contributed to the motivation to make it to class every day!

And finally, it was great to meet some of the other challengers. We have become a community, linked by our desire to be the change. Thanks so much Megan for giving us the chance to find the best in ourselves. Namaste.

Busy weekend, happy me!

This weekend has been pretty busy. But it was the good kind of busy. The I-am-so-lucky-to-have-such-a-wonderful-life-family-and-friends kind of busy.

Saturday morning started off with a hot flow class at 8 am. This was too early for me on a Saturday. I enjoy sleeping in. I qualify sleeping in as getting up later than I do during the week. I actually had to leave for yoga earlier than I have to leave for work! The class was perfect for a Saturday morning: the teacher had great energy, but she wasn’t too peppy, there was a good mix of flowing and stretching. Sadly, I spent most of class facedown on my mat or taking a child’s pose break.

Saturday afternoon was my cousin’s wedding and it was great to spend time with my family. I also saw some friends I had not seen in a very long time. I got to wear heels, which I love. Right after dinner, I got to change into my flats because my feet were killing me!

Some of my favourite moments:

Johanne and I pretending to eat our place cards because we were hungry while waiting for our dinner!

Elizabeth giving me a makeover.

My very pretty sister.

Today, Sunday, I went to the farm to have coffee with my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins. Elizabeth wanted us to do yoga together. She had a mat with her and she was dressed specially for yoga.

My cousin Annie, who happens to be Elizabeth’s mom, took this picture of us. I don’t know which one of us is having more fun!

I also got some great loot from the garden. I can’t wait to make it all into fall-tastic soups and muffins and brownies and casseroles and lots of good stuff!

When I came back to the city, I only had time to drop off my stuff, make a cup of lemon-honey tea (I have a little tickle in the back of my throat. I hope it goes away.) before I left for the yoga studio. I went to a karma class with Megan. The class was perfect! It exactly fit my mood and my energy level.

After the karma classes, Megan likes to have treats for everyone. This week, I offered to make healthy zucchini brownies. Seriously delicious and actually pretty healthy. You can’t even taste the zucchini.

The lovely weekend had to come to an end, but my challenge will keep going. I am aiming to find balance this week. I have to figure out how much to give to work, to my practice, to other people, and how much to keep for myself. I really don’t want to get sick!

I can’t fight this feeling

Day 9 out of 30 and I’m still loving it! When I started this challenge, I was worried I would drive myself nuts trying to cram too much into one day, but I’ve been pretty good about leaving work at a decent hour and making time for myself to relax a little at home, either before or after class. The week to come is sure to offer up it’s own challenges, however, as I have a birthday dinner, a parent-teacher meeting and a wedding cake to make. I’m trying to do all I can over the weekend to be prepared for the week and keep from going crazy.

This morning I went to a yang/yin class with Edith. It was a wonderful class, because just as I was starting to get a little tired and hot from the flow, we transitionned into a yin style practice. I’ve gone to the studio every day, so I have 9 stickers! As you can see, not everyone goes to class, some people opt for a home practice or another form of activity.

The flow part was great, although twisting in chair pose was tough. My arms felt heavy in most of the poses, like warrior 2 and crescent lunge. It’s like my body knows it’s Sunday and it’s trying to tell me to just relax and read a book.

The yin part started off with a nice long child’s pose. Bliss. Then we did dragon pose. Arghh! I don’t know what’s up with this pose lately. I feel like I’m always doing it, yet I don’t like it one bit. Edith was telling us how important it is not to fight the pose and fidget, but all I could think was “Let me out of this torturous pose!” A better title for this post might have been “I’m fighting this feeling with all I’ve got”. Part of it is physical, because, as one of my teachers says, I’ve been “blessed” with tight hips. However, most of the resistance is in my head. I’ve gotten so used to disliking this pose and the way it makes me feel, that as soon as someone says “dragon pose”, I tense up. I’ve got 21 more days to this challenge, so I’ll try to work on it!

On a more positive note, I did not lock my keys inside my locker this week, so added bonus there! Although, I don’t actually have a lock anymore, so I don’t have keys either, but whatever. Also, the girls at the studio bought some lock cutters because someone else did the very same thing as I did! This makes me happy because now it’s not just me.

Edith and I after class. She’s wonderful.

After class I came home and made a smoothie using protein powder for the first time. It’s got raspberries, strawberries, orange juice, tofu, green tea and brown rice protein powder. I’m not sure about the texture. I can taste the powdery texture of the protein and it’s not going down quite as fast as my smoothies normally do. Maybe I’ll cut the serving of powder in half until I get used to it. I know lots of people add kale to their smoothies, because it’s some kind of super-food, but I’m taking it one step at a time here!

Now I’m off to get myself ready for the week ahead, and hopefully do a little bit of nothing as well! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Rainy day yoga and cookies

Yesterday was day 7 of my 30-day yoga challenge. One week! I did it! I feel great. The only parts of me that are a little sore are my shoulders, from all the arm balances I tried to do on day 6. Every time I feel a twinge, I remember how much fun I had falling all over the place.

I went to a 7:30 flow class last night with Sacha. I’m not sure if Friday evening classes are good for me. I forgot my mat, so I borrowed one. Then I went to get set up and realized I had forgotten my water bottle as well, so I had to buy one. This made me a little worried about what would happen during class, but it was amazing! Sacha was great. We flowed, of course, but we also did a lot of balancing postures like dancer’s pose and some standing twists. I arrived feeling tired and frazzled, but I left energized and happy.

This what I looked like when I arrived.

And what I looked like when I left.

Today, on day 8, I went to a noon power flow class. I wanted to sleep in, but I woke up super early and could not get back to sleep. So much for that. The class was with Jen and it was fantastic. I pleaded with her to not make us do dragon pose and she didn’t! Woohoo! The class was still pretty intense and near the end, we did some weird, fun, one arm, one foot balancing thing. I can only do it on one side, but I like it!

As per usual, my spectacular visual.

It was pouring rain from the moment I woke up this morning, so I figured it was the perfect day to spend in the kitchen. Along with the yoga in this challenge, we get nutrition tips with yummy recipes every morning. When I log on, I click on that’s day’s link. However, I realized I was reading it all, but not actually making anything. The tips and recipes involve a lot of ingredients that I never use, so I don’t have them on hand. I’m trying really hard to not feel rushed all the time with work and yoga, so I haven’t taken the time to shop all week.

I’ve been looking at the website one day at a time. I know I could click on day 9 when I’m on day 8, but I always waited because it felt like one of those advent calendars, where you get a chocolate every day. Instead of chocolate, I’m getting healthy advice. This wasn’t helping me be prepared, however, so this morning I broke down and looked ahead a few days. After yoga, I stopped at the health food store, which is right next door to where I live. I stocked up and came home ready to attack my recipes.

Chocolate chip cookies

My appartment is starting to smell like the hot room, with my sweaty clothes and towels hanging all over the place. What better smell to replace that with than freshly baked cookies? This is not a challenge recipe, it’s from my friend Edith‘s blog. There is sugar and butter in these cookies, but I figured if I eat one every now and then when I’m craving something sweet, it will keep me from scarfing down a chocolate bar in the car on my way home from work, so they’re an investment in my health. Also, I used arrowroot flour, which was new for me.

Zucchini hummus

This one is a challenge recipe. It’s like regular hummus, but with raw zucchini instead of chickpeas. I made mine extra-lemony, because I wasn’t sure I would love the zucchini flavour. I usually only use zucchini in brownies or cupcakes, so this was definitely a change. It’s very tasty and I’m glad I tried it!

Tomato soup

Rainy days are perfect for making soup! I always make a huge batch of this soup and freeze it in round containers for lunches. The containers have to be round, because we eat soup in bowls and bowls are round. It’s perfectly logical, but it makes people think I’m weird. The recipe is pretty simple (it’s not from the challenge, but it’s really good!)

– 3 cans of diced tomatoes

– garlic and olive oil to taste

– fresh thyme

– piece of parmesan cheese

– 3-4 medium potatoes

– 1 cup of cream

Brown the garlic in the olive oil, then add the tomatoes and potatoes (cut in small pieces). Add fresh thyme and cheese. When the potatoes are cooked, blend it all together, then add the cream. That’s it, you’re done!

I went for lighter cream than I usually use, to make it more challenge friendly and it still tastes great.

Protein smoothie

I am a protein powder newbie. I’ve never used it. Kylie, who’s giving us the nutrition tips, suggested brown rice protein powder. I used to make smoothies all the time, until I developped an intolerance to bananas. I know, that’s weird. I find the texture of a smoothie without a banana to be very strange, so I tried tofu and it worked out well. I havent made my smoothie yet, but I’m ready for tomorrow morning. I even froze green tea with lemon into cubes to use instead of regular ice. Can’t wait for breakfast!

All in all, it’s been a perfect rainy day and now I’m more prepared for the next week of my challenge!