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

 

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!

The yoga diaries

Last Saturday, I was sick and I did not go to yoga. I know! Crazy. But I needed a rest day. I want to make up the missed class, but I haven’t done it yet. I’m thinking Saturday’s my day.

I haven’t been blogging much, because yoga has taken over my life. I do realize it’s day 27, and I’ve been doing this for close to a month, but this week it felt like I had even less time for other things.

I thought I would give you all a little update, since I know you’ve all been dying to know about my classes!

Sunday

I felt better than Saturday, so I went to a yang/yin class with Edith. The yang part was obviously the most difficult, as I kept thinking “It’s so nice and warm in here, I’d really like a nap.” Also, when I had my head upside down, like in downward dog, I couldn’t breathe. Fun stuff. Also very attractive. Yin was bliss.

Monday

Power class with Jen. I was a little worried, even though I felt better. However, I worried for nothing. It was a-ma-zing! It had been almost a week since I had enough energy to actually enjoy a power class. We did dragon (yuck) but also that awesome arm-balance thing that I can actually do now! Only for about 3 seconds, then I fall over, but still, it’s fabulous!

Tuesday

Low-energy day. When I got up that morning, I had great plans to do two classes, but as the day went on, I realized that was not going to happen! I went to candlelight yin with Mark and it was just what I needed.

Wednesday

I also thought this might be a two-class day, but I had a headache at work, so I decided against it. It was yin again, this time with Ichih. It was the yoga hug I didn’t know I needed. I felt so much better after class.

Thursday

Today, I had a grumpy practice. I thought I had more energy and motivation than I actually did. So when class started and I realized I would rather be crashed on the couch than at a flow clas, it was kind of a shock. I tried to shake it off, but I was kind of like Eeyore. I sighed my way through chair pose and sat out side plank. Near the end, we did eagle and dancer, and although my balance was not great, it made me feel better.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is more Winnie the Pooh like, and less Eeyore like!

Yin by candlelight

Last night, after I got the time wrong for my yoga class, I was all “To yin or not to yin?” because the class was kind of late and I was worried I would fall asleep and maybe drool while everyone else got their yoga on. I decided to go, which, as it turns out, was an excellent idea. Not only was it a yin class, it was a yin by candlelight class. Doesn’t that sound romantic? Well, it’s not. But it was nice and relaxing.

I am learning things about myself already during this challenge. I don’t like dragon pose, I’ve made that clear. I don’t like his cousin, gecko pose, either. Stupid gecko. Let me explain.

Class started off nicely, with a wide-legged child’s pose and pigeon pose. I didn’t find pigeon quite as annoying as I did last time, maybe because I was expecting it. I hung out in rag doll for a while, then came the gecko. My inner voice was all: This is stupid. I don’t like this pose, it’s not doing anything for me. I don’t even want to be flexible anyways. Why am I even here? Do I even like yoga? Who comes to class at 9pm? I could be in bed by now, but nooooo, I had to come to yin. Stupid gecko.

Yin brings out a whole different side of me. If I were a superhero and my superhero name was Yogini Girl, or something equally awesome, I think my evil alter ego (or however that works with superheros) would be Whiny Girl. At least I only whine in my head. And on this blog. Lucky you!

Unlike pigeon pose the other day, where, as soon as I came out of it, I was fine, gecko wasn’t as easy to shake off. It took all of supported bridge and part of a twist before I felt human again. After the twist, we came into shoelace, which Mark, the teacher, warned us might be uncomfortable. I could have been all “Here we go again with the Whiny Girl attack”, but I actually like shoelace.

Here is a great picture, for all you visual people, like me. Ok, it’s not a great picture. It’s me doing shoelace pose in my pyjamas on my bed. Not the best place, it’s too smushy. I wanted a picture, so this is it. Also, it’s off-center.

Today is day 5 and I went to another yin class with Ichih. I love Ichih and her classes, but she was in Whistler teaching at the Wanderlust festival, so I haven’t seen her in a while. I was so looking forward to this class, because even though I did yin last night, I knew I couldn’t do a power class today.

It started off easily enough: table pose, some forearm stretches, leg stretches. Just as I was thinking “ahhh…I can relax”. Ichih sets us up for… gecko pose! Are you kidding me? Seriously? Seriously? What’s with all the reptile poses all of a sudden? I could just feel Whiny Girl getting ready to stomp on the next gecko she saw. Stupid reptiles. Ichih said it was normal to feel grumpy. At least I was normal for once..

Does he look happy? No. That’s because he has to live his life in this pose.

Thankfully, apart from my gecko induced Whiny Girl attack, I felt like myself again after fish. Then we did a six movement yoga something. Despite my very vague description, it was wonderful.

After class, my friends Dominique, Jacynthe and I got to put our sticker on the board. There’s a big board with everyone who’s participating in the 30 day challenge’s name on it and we get a sticker for every class we attend. I thought it was a little silly at fist, but I love getting my sticker!

This is us pointing to our names on the board and Ichih pointing to herself because she’s such an awesome teacher!

I would like to end this post with a plea to Jen and Amber : Can you do something about the unnecessary reptlie poses please? It’s your studio, just ban it or something. Thanks!

Also, I would like to add that I wrote this post in two sittings. So my first rant about gecko pose was written before the next gecko pose even happened. I don’t know what this means, I just thought it was worth mentionning.

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!

Lock me up and throw away the key

Yesterday was day 2 of my 30 days of yoga challenge. Day 1 kind of kicked my butt, since I had not practiced in so long. My legs were feeling it (still are, actually) and I had a mild case of yoga brain. Well, I thought it was a mild case. Turns out it was a full blown attack!

If you’re not familiar with yoga brain, here is the short version: Yoga brain can be defined as a state of hazy bliss, following a yoga practice. The symptoms, which include forgetfulness, smiling and almost walking into traffic, usually appear after several days of consecutive yoga. However, a return to the practice, following a long absence, will usually result in extreme manisfestations of said symptoms.

Warning, people suffering from yoga brain look normal.

I was looking forward to class, I got there on time, chatted with the girls, then went into the locker room. Here is where the yoga brain took over. I got my mat, towel and water bottle, then put everything else in the locker, locked it and realized my key was inside the locker. The locked locker.

I told Edith, the teacher, and she said we could call someone after class and not to worry. I knew she was right , so I tried to forget about it. The first half of class was a yang style practice, so I flowed, downward dogged and upward dogged and basically tried not to fall over. My brain was pretty busy trying to keep up with my body, so I didn’t think much about the locker incident, as I started referring to it.

However, the second part of class was yin. Once I got in a pose and tried to let go, my brain had more time to wander and wonder if someone would actully come, it was a Sunday after all. I also realized I was not surprised I had done this, I was more surprised that it actually had not happened before. This is classic me, along with walking into walls, waving my arms around and hitting people when I talk and forgetting where I park my car.

I tried to enjoy the rest of class, as I really do like yin. Edith is a great teacher and I always leave her classes feeling happy. We did pigeon, and she said that we store feelings of hate in our hips, so we shouldn’t be surprised if some emotions came up. I thought this was a little silly. For about 10 seconds. After that, I wouldn’t say I felt hate, but I was thinking how dumb pigeon pose is and wondering why we couldn’t do a nice supine twist instead. The longer the pose lasted, the more ridiculous I thought pigeon was. Happily, when we came out of it, those negative thoughts went away and I felt great.

After class, Edith said she would try calling another student, who lives close to the studio and would probably have lock cutters. His number was nowhere to be found, however, and we thought we would have to call a locksmith. This was not good as I would surely have to wait, and pay lots of money for someone to destroy my lock and generally acknowledge what a spaz I was.

We decided to try walking over to see if the other student was home. He was, and he had lock cutters! Five minutes later, I was free! Well, my stuff was. I decided to have confidence in people and assume no one at the yoga studio is out to steal my stuff, so I’m not getting another lock. My brain has done this once, who knows how long it would take for it to happen again.

All’s well that ends well, but remember, beware of the yoga brain! It can strike at any time!

My meditation minute

Meditation is a scary word. I don’t know how to meditate. I’ve been hearing the word for years, but it’s always been something that other people do, not me. From what I understand, it’s the practice of quieting your mind. I’m not sure I understand how to do that. So, you see, meditation is not for me.

Or so I thought.

Last week, when I went to Ichih’s yin yoga class, she talked about how to start a meditation practice. She said to set up a mat, because if it’s there, you’ll do it, and if it’s in the closet, you won’t. Then every morning, just sit. Start with one minute, then add one minute every day. It takes 40 days to form a habit, so it’s a kind of 40 day challenge. I do love a good challenge!

I decided this was something I could try, because it didn’t seem too intimidating or impossible. I have a spare bedroom, so I thought I would set up my extra mat in there. However, the room looked like this.

Thankfully, I had the day off yesterday, so I moved some stuff around, got rid of lots of things I don’t need, including the computer desk, and ended up with this.

I was pretty excited and even tried out my new space with some of my favourite poses.

Last night, before I went to bed, I got all my stuff ready for morning, so I wouldn’t feel rushed. It’s only a minute, but it’s a mind over matter kind of thing. I thought I’ve got this.

I am not a morning person. I got up this morning and stumbled to my mat. I was rumpled, grouchy and sleepy. My meditation went like this.

I want to sleep! Suck it up, it’s only a minute. I’m tired. I can’t sit up straight. I feel all slouchy. Maybe I should wear my purple dress. No, my pink t-shirt. Has it been one minute yet? My back hurts. Ok, concentrate. On what? My foot’s asleep. Do I have a meeting today? Breathe in, breathe out. Ok, that’s it. I’m done.

It was so hard! I’m not even sure I did one whole minute. I really did not expect it to be that difficult. But, I did it. I got up, and I sat. This meditation stuff is not for sissies. I think it’s ok that it wasn’t easy. If it was, the rewards wouldn’t be as great. I didn’t feel any different today, but I’m not expecting magic, either.

I’m going to try doing this every day. I’m not sure I’m ready to add one minute a day, however. I think I’ll focus my energy on having one really good minute every morning, before I try to make it longer. I don’t think it will work if I try to do too much at once. It will be impossible, then I’ll give up all together.

Do you have a meditation practice? Any tips for a meditation minute that will leave me feeling enlightened and energized?

Yoga withdrawal

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been to a yoga class? Well, actually, just a few hours. But before that? A week! One whole week. That’s like 6 months in dog years (or something). I’ve been fighting a cold and I’m still sniffling and coughing, but nothing could keep me away tonight. You see, I have been going through yoga withdrawal.

This is a very serious condition that happens when you go from doing yoga several times a week to not a all. There are certain signs to look out for.

1. You start doing yoga poses in random places.

– Tree pose while doing the dishes.

– Warrior 1 and 2 while standing at the copy machine.

– Dancer while hanging out in the park.

2. You become very impatient.

– At work.

– While driving.

– While watching random reality shows.

3. You feel like something is missing.

– That’s because something is missing. It’s called yoga.

So tonight, I decided I’d had enough. While my heart might have been in it for a hot flow class, there was no way my body would follow. I decided to go to a yin class. The best yin class ever, actually.

I picked up my friend Julie and I was so excited to be going to class that I could not stop smiling. Also, Julie and I were wearing the same top, which was not planned, but still fun.

When we got to the studio, I was still pretty hyper. I smiled and told everyone how excited I was to be there. Ichih, the teacher, told me she was excited that I was so excited. Happiness is definitely contagious.

The class was wonderful. It was exactly what I needed. It was yin, so no forcing or holding, but still challenging. A true yoga hug!

I think I used being sick as an excuse to be a little lazy. There were a few days where it would have been impossible for me to go class, but I think I might have felt better sooner if I had done more yoga. Also, I could have avoided the awful yoga withdrawal. Be careful, it could happen to you!

Yoga challenge, last day!

I did it! I still can’t believe it. Yesterday was the last day of my 30 day yoga challenge. I did yoga every day for 30 days. That’s just over 35 hours of yoga.

Since it was our last day, Julie and I decided to do two classes. Last time we did two classes in one day, we took the day off and had a two hour break in between classes. This time, it was after work, back to back classes.

We were so excited before class, because on day one, this day seemed so far away! It seemed almost impossible, on some days.

Our first class of the day was powerflow with Amber, which was perfect, since our first class of the challenge was with her too! If you want to do a challenge like this, find a place where you are comfortable and get to know your teachers. It makes a huge difference. Get to know the other people who work at the studio too. Chances are, they’re pretty awesome!

Also, don’t wait for a good time. This was a terrible time for me to do a 30 day challenge, and for Julie as well. But if you wait for the perfect time, you’ll never do it. It’s better to try for 30 days and miss a few, than not to try at all.

At the end of savasana in Amber’s class, she mentionned that two girls had just completed a personnal 30 day challenge. That’s when it hit me. That’s us! We did it. We’re so cool! I was so excited at that moment, because I always did one day at a time, and now it was like reaching a finish line.

After that first class, we relaxed for a while. We also had a snack.

Then, we did a yin class. Since it was the last day of our challenge, I did dragon pose instead of sitting it out. I didn’t like it any more than usual.

The girls at the studio really are wonderful. They even had a gift for us, which was so nice of them! We got tops with the Pure Yoga Ottawa logo. I think we look very pleased with ourselves, our new tops, our whole experience.

I thought I had learned a lot during my first week of yoga, but I learned a lot more after a month. Here are some things you might learn if you do yoga every day for 30 days.

– You will learn to love downward dog. Also, your heels will come down more.

– You will realize you might never be one of those super-bendy people. You will be ok with this.

– You will become really motivated to one day do a headstand. It doesn’t matter if it takes a while.

– You will realize that even if you miss your favourite tv show, you will be happy.

– You will be proud of what you can do. Hello, tree.

– You will never be able to use “I don’t have time to go to class” as an excuse again.

– You will figure out how to balance work, yoga and a social life. You might have to give up on housework.

– You will learn the importance of the buddy system. I couldn’t have done it alone.

– You will discover what type of yoga you love best. Hot yoga all the way!

There were some days during the challenge where I was super motivated. There were some days where I only went to class because of the challenge. But that’s ok, the challenge got me there and that’s what counts. Some days were easy, some were hard, but I never thought of giving up. I’m glad I did it all the way. I feel more amazing right now that I have in a long time!