How to do yoga in the jungle

I just spent a blissful week in Costa Rica doing yoga. I love yoga so, so much! Hot yoga is my favourite, so I wasn’t worried about doing yoga somewhere deliciously hot. I learned quite a few things about myself and my practice when I was there. I also learned some valuable lessons about doing yoga in the jungle and at the beach.

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1. It is not your jungle

You know who was there first? The ants! They were there to stay, but thankfully, ants don’t bother me at all. These weren’t some kind of crazy, biting ants, just yellowish, let me eat your picnic, ants. I also saw the biggest grasshopper ever, in the world. There was a praying mantis who caught my attention for so long, I was no longer paying attention to class.

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2. I am not a morning yoga person

I woke up every day as the sun came up and got up around 6:30. This was not difficult for me, it was actually enjoyable, which was a surprise. Meditation started at 7:15, and lasted 15 minutes. I enjoyed this as well. Not so surprised here. Yoga was from 7:30 to 9am. This was very difficult for me. Big surprise!

Although I love practicing, morning is not a good time for me. I didn’t feel like pushing myself at all and just kind of moved through the poses. I had very little energy and no desire to find any. I was also hungry, which didn’t help the situation. About halfway through class, I would find some energy and start to enjoy myself a little more.

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3. Monkeys trump yoga

During class one afternoon, someone saw a monkey. Well, it didn’t take long before we all got up off our mats and ran for the windows to see it! As an elementary school teacher, I’m usually on the other end of something like this, trying to teach when everyone wants to make sure they don’t miss what’s going on outside. It was cute, and it was swinging from a branch, acting like a monkey. I think he knew we were watching.

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4. Yoga on the beach is not really going to happen

About ten of us from the retreat went into Tamarindo for the day, with very good intentions of practicing yoga together on the beach at the end of the day. You know where we ended up? In a restaurant, eating and drinking! I have lots of pictures of me doing yoga poses on the beach, but I never did an actual practice. It was usually too hot. Also, when I’m at the beach, there so many sights, sounds and smells, there’s no way I’m staying present. What if I miss something, like a shark or a pelican?

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5. Yin wins

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of power yoga. After my week in paradise, I can confirm what I’ve been feeling for a while: I’m not much of a power person anymore. I like yin, with it’s melt-into-the-floor poses and passive postures. I’m not saying I’ll never do power yoga again, and I still love flow, but the afternoon classes, which were less power, more yin, were like candy to me. Maybe it was the slow pace of Costa Rica that got me all yin-like, or the fact that I was running around all day learning how to surf and stand up paddleboard with the crocodiles, leaving me with little energy for yoga at the end of the day. Yin was a welcome relaxation.

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The yoga studio at Peace Retreat had an open feel to it, letting in air, light, and the sounds of the jungle. I felt very lucky to be able to practice in such a beautiful setting. I can’t wait to go back and practice there again!

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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

 

Wild thing

Last night, I went to a flow class at Pure, my favourite studio. It takes a lot to motivate me to go to a Friday night class. My biggest motivation was knowing Sasha was teaching. She’s a great teacher all the time, but something about her Friday night class is pure bliss.

She had us do lots of downward dogs, of course, but we also flipped our dogs into wild thing. I love, love, love wild thing. And not just because of the name. There’s something about having my whole world turned upside down that I really enjoy!

While we were in wild thing, she said we could put our hand down and come into wheel. This is where I always get stuck. My hand is nowhere near the ground, and if I try to get it there, I usually fall over.

This morning, before heading to a power class with Edith, I decided to experiement and see if I could figure it out.

I started off in a regular down dog, then lifted my right knee up, making it the highest point. Three legged dog.

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Then, I flipped my dog, landing my right foot beside my left, and reached forward and up. Wild thing.

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I looked at the pictures, which acted as a delayed mirror, and saw that the fingers on my right hand were pointing to the front. In wheel, your fingers point towards your toes. I thought maybe this was my problem, so I tried turning my hand before flipping my dog.

Yeah, no. Didn’t work. Don’t do this. It hurt. Also, I fell down, but that’s nothing new.

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After all this time spent trying to get into wheel pose, I really wanted to do it. So I did. The old-fashioned way. From the floor! Wheel pose.

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When I got to the studio today, I aksed Edith what to do. She suggested playing around with the placement of my feet. She also said it was a good idea to turn my fingers in towards my toes, but only once both hands were on the ground. We didn’t do it in class and afterwards, I was completely limp and wobbly, so I’ll try tomorrow!

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I am very happy with myself right now. Yesterday, I planned out my yoga classes for the week. The first one was a power class today, and I did it. Success!

It was one of the most unusual yoga classes I’ve been too. Why, you ask? Well, maybe because Todd, the teacher, threw each person a red, rubbery, bouncy, ball. A little smaller than a volleyball. Kind of like a dodge ball. Actually, scratch that. I haven’t played dodge ball in 20 years, so I’m in no position to compare my red ball to a dodge ball.

It was kind of like this. Well, I’m not sure what size these are.

Everyone was so calm and adult about the whole thing. They just put their ball to the side and waited. Not me. I bounced my ball as high as I could. Then my ball ran away from me and hit the girl in front of me. She didn’t mind. Well, she smiled, so I think it was all good.

At first it was a regular class, but then we started working with the ball. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but red balls are happy and bouncy and it was not like that at all. No, that happy little red ball was for core work! Core! If you’re thinking, obviously, you know more about core stuff than me. Most people do.

I held that ball between my knees, pushed against it with my abs and also fell of it quite often. Good times, good times.

Actually, even if I felt like I had the core of the Pillsbury dough boy, it was great. I know I need to work on my core, and this was a fun new way to do it.

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!

Some like it hot

I started my 30 day yoga challenge a few days ago, and it made me realize how much I missed the hot room! I was an on and off yogi over the summer, but I am so happy to be back.

Yesterday was day 3 and I went to a noon power flow class with Amber at Pure. I was happy to sleep in a little and I might even have gone to a later class, but since it was a holiday Monday, there wasn’t one. It was a kick-ass class.

The energy in the room was great. It was a packed class and along with one of my favourite teachers giving the class, some of my other favourite teachers were being students. I just love practicing with people I admire, like Jen and Edith. The class was not easy (I don’t think Amber knows that word) but it was fun! The hour flew by and I enjoyed every minute of it. Except the core stuff.

Here I am with Amber and Jen, who are just awesome! Also, I am very sweaty.

Tonight, day 4, I was planning on going to a power class. However, it was day 2 of being back to school with my very small, very demanding, very energetic students, and I was exhausted. I changed my plans to a later yin class. I was just about to leave when I had a feeling I should check the schedule to make sure my mushy, kids-took-all-my-energy brain had the right information. Well. I was wrong. There is a yin class, but it’s later than I thought. It’s from 9 to 10 and I’m worried I might fall asleep on my mat if I go. If I don’t go, however, I’ll do a home practice. There are dangers of falling asleep there too.

If I do go, I have to leave in the next 10 minutes, so you’ll have to check in tomorrow to see how this turns out!

Parliament Hill Yoga

Today is the first Wednesday of my summer holidays. You might think it’s just a regular day, but maybe you haven’t heard of Parliament hill yoga. It’s a yoga class in front of the Parliament buildings. That’s right, the Parliament. Canada is awesome like that.

These classes started six years ago. The first one had 6 people. Today’s class had 768 people. We’re taking over the world! Well, ok, maybe not the world, but Ottawa anyways.

The first class this year was in April or May, I’m not sure. I just know that I couldn’t go! I had to work and I’m not close enough to make it to the hill, get my yoga on, and get back to work during my lunch break. I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time, and it didn’t disappoint!

It was a power class, and it was hot. The sun adds a totally different level to the term hot yoga. Thankfully, for the first half of the class, there were wonderful clouds blocking out the sunshine!

I went with some of my friends from work. It’s great to do things together that have nothing to do with work.

We did wheel, and my friend Lisa took my picture. I’m still impressed with myself everytime I do wheel. I was happy to have a picture, because it’s not a pose where you can ever see yourself in the mirror. If you’re in a studio and not outside, of course. So, I’ve noticed that I need to straighten my legs more.

There was still part of the setup from Canada day on the hill, including the stage, so it was a little strange. The lawn usually feels so much bigger. But it still filled me with amazement that these events actually happen and that so many people participate. My friend and teacher Ichih, who is the mastermind behind these fabulous classes, is teaching the August 15th class and is hoping to get 5000 people. Let’s hope we make it!

Peace out, yogis!