Chakra smashing

The title of this post sounds a little violent, but I can assure you, it’s not. Smash refers to smashbook, not smashing something because you’re mad, don’t like it, or it’s a really gross bug.

A few months ago, I started my first smashbook, which is like an anti-scrapbook. It’s not about looking pretty, or using a ton of pre-determined cut-outs that go together. It’s about being creative.

I used to have one smashbook. I now have eleven. I am a bit obsessed. There are many different styles, and every time I go to the store, it seems like one of them is on sale. I decided to use the purple one for any and all yoga-related things, ideas and thoughts.

I’ve done seven pages so far, one for each chakra. They’re not completely done, because I still have lots to learn and I wanted to leave room to add in new words and pictures.

Root chakra

Root chakra

Sacral chakra

Sacral chakra

Solar plexus chakra

Solar plexus chakra

Heart chakra

Heart chakra

Throat chakra

Throat chakra

Third eye chakra

Third eye chakra

Crown chakra

Crown chakra

Like I said, I still have a lot to learn about each chakra, but it’s a good start!

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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Pura Vida

You know that feeling, when everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be and you’re exactly where you should be? It doesn’t come around very often, but last week, while I was in Costa Rica, I felt it. After only two days, I knew I belonged there. It just felt right. I’m not ready to give up my whole life and move there, just yet, but I am already planning my next trip. A girl can easily get hooked on the feeling of knowing she is where she is meant to be.

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I can no more cover my whole trip, even though it was only a week, in one post, than I could count the books I’ve read. It’s impossible, there’s too much magic to squeeze in to one little post. I’m not even sure I can find the words to express the wonder, the joy, the excitement that this adventure brought me. But I will try.

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I stayed at a place called Peace Retreat Costa Rica. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I’m guessing they haven’t been to Peace Retreat yet. It’s owned and run by Hali and Kevin, two Canadians who moved their life and family down to this happy, beautiful, peaceful corner of Costa Rica. The place is amazing, but it’s their light and love that make it shine.

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Peace Retreat is located in the village of Los Pargos, which, I learned from a Tico, is slang for lazy people. I didn’t meet anyone I would call lazy, but the slow, easygoing way of life was definitely appealing. There’s a beach, called Playa Negra, and it draws surfers to it, like bookstores lure me in, like a mermaid calling to the sailors.

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The village is pretty remote, so it’s not a big tourist attraction. I loved that, even though, technically, I was a tourist. I say technically, because in my heart, I knew I belonged there, and when you belong, you’re not a tourist, are you? There are dirt roads and people regularly stop and ask you if you need a ride. No one wears shoes. Everyone smiles. No one says “I have a deadline” or “I’d love to, but I have to do all this work I brought home”. I’m not saying people’s lives there are perfect, because I’m sure they’re not. We all have our issues, but to an outsider, it all looked pretty amazing.

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I did yoga, learned how to surf and picked a lemon from a tree. I saw lizards, monkeys and I almost saw a crocodile. (I was happy I didn’t!) I took a stand up paddleboard tour through the mangroves, heard the monkeys every morning before the sun came up and got myself a custom made bikini (pink, of course). I went to Tamarindo, tried to do a handstand on the beach and leapt into the air every time someone said “Jump shot!”.

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Pura Vida means pure life. Life at it’s purest form should be, in my opinion, joy. And that’s what I found in Costa Rica. Joy. Bliss. Happiness.

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Aerial yoga

For Christmas, a friend gave me a gift certificate for an aerial yoga class. I’m also her son’s teacher, so it was my teacher gift as well. It’s the first time I ever recieve a present from a parent that has the words “pole dancing” on it! There wasn’t any actual pole dancing involved, but the class was at a pole dancing studio.

In January, just before school started up again after the holidays, four of us braved the snow and made our way to the studio. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect. I’ve tried aerial silks before, but I wasn’t sure if it would be the same thing or not.

Turns out, it was a good work out, a lot of fun and a great challenge! Our instructor made it look easy, but it really wasn’t. We started of kind of flying back and forth, which was nice, when you got used to the ribbon cutting into your stomach. I thought it would slice me in half, but that was just because it wasn’t placed right. Oh. My bad.

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We did some handstands too. Correction. The other girls did handstands. I developed a sudden fear of the floor coming too close to my face. Must get over it, as I would like to do an actual, unsupported handstand one day.

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Then we tried some sort of flying flip thing. Ha! That did not work. Not even a little. Not even at all. (See how I snuck part of that poem from 10 things I hate about you in there? yeah, I know. Awesome!) One of the girls did it. She must have been taking something to boost her performance, because it was impossible.

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We did a few upside down poses. That was kind of the point of this whole thing. At first, it was too much of a head rush and I felt like I was going to explode, so I didn’t stay flipped around for very long. But after a while, I got used to it, and could get into a few poses instead of just hanging there like a Christmas decorations.

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They made us keep our socks on, so I look like some sort of lumberjack aerialist. Those socks were never supposed to be in the pictures.

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Aerial yoga is on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so I’m pretty happy I got to do it. I would definitely recommend trying it if you like yoga, being upside down, flying and having sore hipbones and arms the next day. Because we also pulled ourselves up using upper body strength. I don’t have very much of that, so my arms felt like noodles the next day. But it was worth it!

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At the very end, we got to stretch out and relax inside the ribbon. It’s actually very wide. We hung there in our cocoons for a while, then emerged as beautiful butterflies. Ha! Just kidding. We emerged as sweaty messes, but smiling sweaty messes.

Winter Blues

I am not an equal lover of all seasons. I enjoy all of them, just not the same way. Spring’s got flowers, rain, dresses, rain boots and grass. Summer has sun, beach days, camping, vacations and ice cream. Fall is colours, sweaters, pumpkins, scarves, lattes and boots. Winter has snow. Also, it’s got snow.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about winter as well. Hot chocolate, reading wrapped up in a blanket, skating, tea and that quiet feeling when it’s snowing and all the sounds are muffled and everything is soft.

Another thing winter has is cold and dark days. The days are so short, it’s dark when you wake up, and dark when you leave work. This serious lack of sunlight is quite the downer.

The past few weeks, I’ve been having the winter blues. I’m bored, but I don’t want to do anything. I want to get out of the house, but it’s too cold to go outside. I want to see my friends, but I’m too lazy to move. I want something different, but I don’t know what.

I don’t hate winter, but I’m looking forward to Spring!

Since sunshine and daffodils are still a couple of months away, I’ve decided to make my own bright and happy days. Well, to find some. I’m going to Costa Rica for a week of yoga, adventure, sunshine, beaches, turtles, surfing and bliss. I’m leaving on Saturday and I am looking forward to it!

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Making over my yoga space

When I did my yoga teacher training last July, I learned the importance of having a home practice. Sure, it’s great to take classes, but it’s also good to have your own, self-guided practice. I didn’t have a special space dedicated to yoga, so I decided to create one in my spare bedroom.

My neighbours moved out, new neighbours moved in, and this fantastic, old, wooden, cabinet was left outside. I thought it was just being left out while the moving was getting done, but then I realized it had been out there for weeks, it had been rained on, and basically forgotten. I asked them what they planned to do with it, and they said “We don’t want it, it was left here, we’ll just throw it out.” My heart stopped for a second, thinking that this beautiful piece would end up in the trash. I asked if I could have it and they gladly gave it to me and helped me move it up to the third floor. Lovely people!

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It needed a lot of love. Parts of it were painted, parts of it were stained. The wood had swelled from the rain, the doors didn’t close, pieces had fallen off. It’s a good thing I was planning on saving it.

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I took the doors off and brought them to my dad. He fixed the broken mesh screen and sanded down the bottom of the doors so they would close again.

I learned how to use wood glue and clamps to try and get it back to it’s original shape. I used plastic wood. I cleaned and sanded it. And then I cleaned it again. There was a lot of dirt and a few bugs too.

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My mama came over for a few days to help me pretty it up. She brought the doors my dad had fixed and she had painted. We primed the whole piece with an oil-based primer, then hit it with three coats of sunshine.

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I also wanted a wall of picture frames. Different shapes and sizes, but all the same colour. I had a few already, then bought a couple more at a thrift store and one at a decorating store. I set them out on the floor to see what it would look like on the wall. I ended up returning the circular one in the top left corner and replacing it with a lace-like frame instead.

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I tried to just spray paint the frames, but it wasn’t sticking, so I primed them using the same oil-based primer I used for the cabinet. It worked really well.

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I spray painted the frames indoors, as I live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, but I would recommend doing it outside if you can. It gets pretty stinky. Thankfully, it was summer, so I had all the windows and doors open.

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Then, I pulled everything together to create a beautiful, peaceful, zen yoga space. I love it!

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It all came together beautifully. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I now have a place to practice whenever I feel like it. It definitely helps to have a designated yoga space if you want to build a home practice. Lately, it’s been mostly used for yin-type yoga, but I also use the space when I plan out the classes I teach. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my mat is calling to me!