Monday, December 13, 2010

Nude & vegetarian!

My dad's reaction on my voicemail this morning was pretty funny:
 "Hello, daughter.  It's around 8 in the morning and I'm sitting reading the Gazette and low and behold, I turn the page and there's my naked daughter right in this big, big picture with an article written about her. My goodness, gracious!"
Yes, there is a nude photograph of me in today's largest English Montreal newspaper, The Gazette, but it isn't gratuitous.  Plus, it's for a good cause. The cause of vegetarianism & eco-nutrition! (View article)

I'm Ms September in the 2011 Raw Beauty calender featuring healthy, athletic and NAKED vegetarian, vegan & raw food models. The Gazette article is about the calender, environmental eating, and the "controversy" over the pairing of food with nudity. (Eye-roll. Let's not discuss those poopoo nakedness. That's just ridiculous.)

As you probably know, eating a plant based diet is very important to me. I stopped eating red meat at age 11 or 12, and haven't eaten chicken in over ten years. I have been vegan on and off. Currently, I avoid dairy, but occasionally, eat organic eggs from a small farm near Montreal and the odd piece of goat cheese. I also use ghee (clarified butter), as part of my ayurvedic treatments.

My reasons for not eating meat have shifted over the years. I honestly don't remember why I first became vegetarian. I think it's because of my mom, who doesn't eat read meat. Now, I avoid animal products mostly for ethical and environmental reasons. In her article, Michelle Lalonde mentioned I speak about environmental sustainability and food, and that I believe that eating meat at every meal is selfish. All true.

My lecture was co-written by Brendan Brazier, my vegan friend, who is the formulator of Vega and author of the Thrive Diet. (Btw, the Thrive Diet is an excellent resource for people considering a plant based diet.) Here are some stats regarding animal agriculture from our Eco-Nutrition talk:

Due to erosion, the overuse of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, and other farming practice, the Earth is currently, losing arable topsoil at a rate of 75 to 100 gigatonne per year. If soil loss continues at present rates, it is estimated that there is only another 48 years of topsoil left!

Given depleting rates of fertile land, one would expect that the world’s grain crops would go to feed people, but instead most of it goes to feed animals. In fact, 70% of the world’s arable land is used to grow food to feed animals for our consumption.

This is a huge waste of land, because it takes:
  •  7 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef
  •  4 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of pork
  •  2 kg + of grain to produce 1 kg of poultry
The irony is that livestock food isn't even nutritious to the animals. Cows for instance are supposed to eat grass, not grain, so they emit flatulence, releasing tons of highly toxic methane gas into the atmosphere. I'm not kidding! These farting cows produce a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more destructive than the CO2 emitted by gasoline engines!

It is estimated that the animal agriculture in North America produces 38% more green house gases than all of transportation combined! This includes all stretched Hummers and jet airplanes...

Now water: It takes a minimum of 47.6 bathtubs full of water (2000 gallons) to produce one pound of beef. 

Not a very sustainable and efficient industry, eh?


Stay tuned for better options and awesome veggie recipes to try this winter.


* PS the Raw Beauty calender makes a great Holiday gift and is for sale online or at my Pointe Claire studio, Om West.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day


Today is December 1st, World AIDS Day. It's the official end of my Stephen Lewis Foundation fundraising campaign and I'm thrilled to announce that WE DID IT!!! Since the start of the Guinness World Record challenge in August, just over $10,800 was collected for SLF!

(I can now admit I was a bit worried that perhaps this fundraising goal was out of my league, because I've never raised that much money before.)

I'm so grateful to my generous supporters and sponsors. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is really special to me.

Radio Canada International had me on The Link today with Marc Montgomery to talk about my SLF campaign as well as the Guinness Record. It was fun. I brought Craig, who is a huge CBC fan and Jasmine, my new business associate in charge of press. Thank you to Seana Pasic, who was so nice to greet us and give us a tour of the studios. Also, thanks to friendly man at the reception who insisted on singing all of our favourite Christmas carols! Here's a photo Jasmine took of me talking to Marc, the host:



I've been trying to create a video of the interview, but my computer keeps getting choked up. So here's the link:

http://www.rcinet.ca/english/column/the-link-s-top-stories/15-46_2010-12-01-yogi-sets-guinness-world-record-to-help-aids-victims/

 *      *     *

In other great news, I spoke to my DVD distributor and it looks like we might release a series of videos for beginners! Very cool.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday!


Whether it's mine or someone else's, I love birthdays. Always have. It's such a great reason to see all your family and friends at the same time and celebrate. I'm all about that. It's sad for me to hear others trying to hide or poopoo their birthday, because deep down I think everyone wants to be acknowledged as the birthday girl or boy. (Thank God for Facebook. Now no birthday child is left behind!)

I turned 108 today! It was a great day.  But alas, I have a confession: no sun salutations... I had every intention of practicing my annual 108. However, a wonderful and late party with friends last night lead to leisurely lounging in bed until noon this morning followed by brunch, a walk up the mountain, and early dinner for 25 people at my parent's house celebrating four November birthdays, so I had little opportunity to sun salute. It's also a full moon, and traditionally, we're not supposed to practice at this time. Anyway, excuses aside, I figured I'd take it easy and 'go with the flow'.  After all, it's one day a year I can do whatever I want "because it's my birthday."

It's was a really lovely weekend and I was really spoiled. Friday, Craig and I went to the Centaur Theatre to see the stage adaptation of Don Quixote, which incredibly creative and highly entertaining. Last night, we had some friends over for homemade pizza. Great conversation and great spontaneous live piano music performed by Nico and Andrew. And tonight, it was nice to be with family.

Ok, it's late. I've been officially 29-- I mean 108 for 53 minutes! I think it's time for bed.

Happy Birthday Voltaire, Rene Magritte, Goldie Hawn, Björk, and Cousin Manela!

:)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to the Future of Yoga


Recently, I spent four weeks being my own receptionist while in between studio managers at Om West, my Pointe Claire yoga centre. I noticed within the first week of answering calls and emails that most people wanted the same thing: A course for beginners that would make them feel comfortable and where they would learn how to practice yoga safely without feeling silly.

So, I started teaching a new course this week: Yoga Basics for Beginners! It's a four week program designed to introduce new students to the fundamentals of the yoga practice. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but didn't get around to organizing it until now.

It's great. I have more than a dozen people registered in my Tuesday class and about the same in my Saturday class! Their enthusiasm and keen interest in learning about the practice has totally re-invigorated my teaching.

Having spent so many years leading people through intermediate and advanced practices, posture to posture, I realized I really missed teaching yoga 101. So, this Yoga Basics program is awesome for me as an instructor and great for my studio. After all, there more people out there who don't do yoga then there are avid practitioners. I hope to make this an ongoing thing at Om West.

Here's an excerpt from my handout "Young Yogi here some things you need to know…"
  1. There is no right or wrong way to do yoga & anyone can do yoga-- Yoga is an art, a healing science, a lifestyle and mindset and ANYONE can do yoga, regardless of age and ability. The great yoga master, TKV Desikachar, wrote in The Heart of Yoga: “The starting point is never the teacher’s needs but those of the student. This requires many different approaches; there is not just one approach for everybody (…) It is not that the person needs to accommodate him- or herself to yoga, but rather the yoga practice must be tailored to fit each person.”
  2. Practice on an empty stomach-- Meals should be taken at least 90 mins prior to practice, so you digest fully and avoid eating heavy food. A small snack before practice is ok, especially for diabetics, hypoglycemics or pregnant women.
  3. “Don’t make and Asana of yourself," (David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga Master)-- The original intent of the yoga practice has little to do with yoga postures (‘asana’). Yoga postures are meant to build strength, stamina and increase flexibility so that the practitioner can maintain a steady pose for long periods of time without discomfort. So as senior yogi Hart Lazar says: “Let go of competition, especially with yourself at a younger age!”
  4. Breathe-- The breath is key. It's the life of the pose! In yoga, we breathe in & out through the nose during regular asana practice. My basic rule: if you can’t breathe in a pose, you are in too deep!
  5. Seek stability before flexibility-- Be sure that you are stable & grounded in a pose before seeking depth or a greater “stretch”. You don’t build a house without a solid foundation, so think of your postures in the same way.
  6. When not to go upside down-- Inverted postures, like shoulderstand, are not recommended during menstruation as there is a natural downward flow of energy during this time and reversing this flow can disrupt the cycle. (It can also cause a flood!)
  7. Keep the potpourri out of the studio-- Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne or essential oils when practicing with a group, because these smells get stronger the more you sweat and this can be distracting, not only for you, but also for everyone around you.
  8. About chanting-- Most classes begin and/or finish with OM chanting. “OM” isn’t a word. It’s a vibrational sound that helps release tension from the body and helps to connect to the breath and the body. Ashtanga classes traditionally start with an invocation in Sanskrit which pays tribute to the lineage of teachers past & present. Other yoga styles may also chant as part of the practice.
  9. What’s “Namaste”?-- Most yoga classes finish with a gesture and the saying “Namaste.” In Sanskrit this means: “I honor the divine spirit within you and recognize that this is the same spirit that is in me."
  10. Better out that in-- It’s possible to feel a little sensitive or emotional after your practice. This is normal, as yoga and meditation dislodge deep tensions from the mind and body. Clear the residual tension by resting, drinking a soothing tea/water, eating good food and practicing again tomorrow!
However, most importantly, find what’s right for you. Have fun and enjoy your practice. There are many different types of yoga and many different teachers. It’s important to discover what and who resonates with you, and this may change over time. In fact here some web directories to help you find yoga classes near you:
www.yogamontreal.com
www.yogadirectorycanada.com
www.yogafinder.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anti-Flu Yoga

Wearing a hat outside and choking down dozens of chewable vitamin C might help ward off the flu for a while, but if our emotions are out of whack, our immunity system is severely compromised.

I can't remember the last time I got a cold or the flu, but it recently hit me hard, and I know it has everything to do with the sadness I felt due to the death of our family friend last week. I stayed home yesterday and tried to rest, but I'm not really good at being sick. I think it's because I'm so rarely home that I get excited about the possibility of finishing a bunch of domestic projects. My boyfriend, Craig, is the complete opposite. He does nothing but sleep and sleep, when he has the flu. I have a really hard time falling asleep during the day, so I stare at the walls for a while, but then I get an idea and jump out of bed, regardless of how achy I feel.

Yesterday, I cooked Indian parakas, steamed a heap of veggies, made ghee, and lentil soup. I also watched a movie and tried organizing my computer. But I went to bed early and drank a litre or two of my mom's special Anti-Flu Elixir (recipe is below). This morning, convinced I was fine after a long night's sleep, I practiced yoga with Max, who insisted we wear masks to minimize the risk of sharing my cold.


It was kind of fun actually. The mask wasn't annoying. In fact, I appreciated the fact that it kept my breath warm and humidified. Max has also been feeling a little congested and has had a sore throat for a few days (maybe I caught his cold), so we worked on chest opening poses like dancer, inverted plank, fish, camel and bridge. These not only help to open the lungs (good for asthmatics, by the way), but they also bring energy to the throat area. Shoulderstand is also excellent for sore throat relief, as it promotes circulation in this region. We did a few sun salutations too as they increase circulation throughout the whole body.

In case you want to try this Immunity Anti-Flu Yoga practice, here's a sequence to try:

1- Restorative chest opening pose using a block or blanket under shoulderblades (3 mins)
2- Cat/Cow to warm up spine
3- Sun Salutations - slowly 3-5 x
4- Windmill - stand with feet hip width apart and twist torso right to left, keeping arms relaxed (6-10 x)
5- Triangle pose
6- Twisted Triangle or side angle pose
7- Wide legged forward bend, fingers interlaced
8- Dancer pose
*Transition to sitting
9- Boat pose (to increase digestive fire)
10- Inverted plank pose
11- Boat pose
12- Fish pose
13- Lying on back, knees to chest, head to knees
14- Down dog
15- Camel pose
16- Plank
17- Bow or Half box pose (also to increase digestive fire)
18- Down dog
19- Bridge and/or wheel 2x
20- Child's pose - head on floor or block
21- Shoulderstand (supported with blankets under shoulders) or legs up the wall
22- Kapalabhati breathing
23- Alternate Nostril breathing
24- Savasana or same chest opener as start - if coughing, rest on side in fetal position (5-10 mins)

* All postures should be held for a minimum of five breaths. This practice is approximately 60 mins. Do what you can. (Photo is of my student Amber in progressions of Camel pose.)

I'd love to hear your feedback on the above sequence.



And one last thing, here's the recipe for my mom's Anti-Flu Elixir:

In a cup of boiling water, add: 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a tsp or tbsp of honey, juice of half a lemon or lime. Optional super ingredient: 1/2 a 'thumb' of crushed fresh tumeric or 1 tsp of dried tumeric! (Can use ginger instead of tumeric.)

Drink this concoction at least 3 x day. Yum!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Death

It's Friday evening at the end of an intense few days.

Someone close to me died this week. She was 53-years-old. My aunt's best friend for nearly 30 years and a woman I saw almost everyday because she worked at the hair salon below my studio. She used to pinch my cheeks when I was little and her husband gave me first hair cut when I was one or two. My father took me to their salon, which was then in a big shopping mall. I was wearing overalls of a gender neutral color and I suppose my dad wasn't paying much attention, so they buzzed my feathery blond head, thinking I was a boy.

Even though they called the cops on my kids yoga camp this summer, our families are tight, so this death has touched me deeply.

She had bad migraines for many years. She tried a little yoga and said it helped her a lot, but then wedding season started and she got busy. Then she got sick. The doctors couldn't diagnose her. Meningitis? Tuberculosis? They ran so many tests, but nothing was conclusive. After a few months in the hospital, she got better and in July, she came back to work. She seemed very weak. She was back in the hospital at the beginning of September and it was determined she had "lymphoma of the brain." Her brain was "full of lesions."

Tragic, yes. But apparently, she died with a smile on her face.

* * *
I spent a long time contemplating death this week and the rituals surrounding it-- the wake, the funeral, the eulogy, the burial, the reception. The grieving process is interesting, because we spend our whole lives trying to avoid death and when it arrives, and there's a 100% guarantee that it will, we are so unprepared. I often wonder why.

Several years ago, I read this fascinating book called "A Year to Live." Written by Stephen Levine, a counselor and teacher of healing and meditation, it is about the process dying fulfilled and satisfied with the life we’ve lived. Having spent more than 20 years working with people in palliative care, Levine observed that most people panic at the face of death because of the feeling that they are unprepared and that their lives are somehow unfinished and unresolved.

Buddhists believe we should always live in preparation for our death, so that we leave no unfinished business behind.

With this as a premise, Levine decided to enact the ultimate New Year’s resolution: to live one year as though it was his last. After all, he writes, “No one knows the day on which the last year begins.”

Levine’s book is full of suggestions on how to do this, but his most important and most profound suggestion is to commit ourselves to the simple practice of forgiveness and gratitude.

This theme is also present in another amazing book I just finished. "Five People you Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom is such a beautiful story. Here's one of my favourite quotes:
"You have peace," the old woman said, "when you make it with yourself."



Thursday, October 28, 2010

re-Emerging

Hello my friends,

It's been so long since I've written and yet, so much has happened. In the past month, my studio manager quit/retired, I taught at the Vancouver Yoga Show and I hosted a major fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It goes without saying, but I've been busy.

I was also been feeling a little down. Maybe it was the work load and the deep fatigue. But I think mainly it was the feeling of not being totally integrated.

In the last few months post 108x108/Guinness, I have been trying to establish a new rhythm for my life and honestly, it's been a challenge. My work is piled high and I'm still adapting what happened to me in during those 108 days. "How have I changed?" and "What's next?" are questions that continue to circulate in my mind.

I am aware that I have changed, but am unsure how to express it, which is probably why I haven't been writing.

People are really curious about how I felt physically after doing 32 hours of yoga. I suppose many think that's it's the body that undergoes the most strain during a marathon, but I would tend to disagree. Physically, I recovered rather quickly. (In fact, I was honestly more sore the day after a 45 minute run up Mont Royal than I was after the Guinness challenge.) But there was so much more mental, emotional and spiritual energy that propelled me through 108 days of sun salutations and 32 hours of continuous practice. And it's in this space, I am still recovering and trying to find my place.

I have made some headway. My meditation practice feels richer. I'm increasingly conscious of how I am feeling emotionally moment to moment, and so my gut instincts appear sharper. This is allowing me to make better decisions and is helping me overcome my fear of confrontation. I am no longer waiting to address situations that tend to upset me, and so, as result, I am feeling less burdened by heavy emotions.

This said, I am still doing a lot of inner clearing, and I need time and space to do this. So, fortunately or unfortunately, I have to let go of a few things. This includes our annual Eco-Fair, which will have to be put off until next or maybe the spring. I just don't have it in me to organize another big event before the holidays.

I am grateful for the support of my family and friends during this process and very excited to start working with my new studio manager, whom I just hired.

I have to share this very sweet note my dad sent me this morning from Turkey (my parents are on a one month post-retirement honey moon tour of Turkey):

Dear Yas,
I just thought it was time for me to remind you how much I love you and admire you for what you are doing and trying to do. Don't give up on your dream and be afraid to take chances. I know it is hard but you will succeed. I send you light and love,
Dad
PS Keep believing in your self


A photo of my mom & I at DARE 10.10.10., the Stephen Lewis Foundation fundraiser I co-organized with Ron Cherilus on Oct 10. We raised $5956!






Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guinness Group

Finally the Guinness photos are posted!

It was an incredible experience, but I couldn't have done it without these remarkable and supportive people. (And only half of team is in this group shot!)

That's right. In order to authenticate this record, it took a team of over 50 wonderful people to volunteer a minimum of four hours of their time to act as witnesses, timekeepers, stewards, or yoga teacher adjudicators! I am so so grateful to all of you. Thank you from my heart.

Now we relax... The work is done and the certificate hangs in the reception of my Pointe Claire studio, Om West Holistic Centre. Below the Guinness certificate is this beautiful drawing done of my 32 hour practice by Jennifer Herring during her witness shift. She is incredible.



Here are some other photos:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reversing biological age

I am always amazed and inspired by the stories I hear from students about their incredible transformations through yoga. It makes me so excited to know that this practice changes other people too and not just me. And what really blows my mind is that it isn't age specific.

Of course, we hear that yoga has all this great benefits for everyone-- improving posture, expanding concentration, reducing stress, increasing strength and stability, blah, blah, blah-- but to know and see that it's not just a bunch of marketing bullshit is the best reward for me.

Here's the example that I've been tripping over for a few days:

My 83 year old student Max, whom you met earlier in my 108 days, practices with me privately at his home two to three days a week. In the last eight months, we've added more pranayama exercises (translated as 'breathing exercises') to our 90 minute regime. I wanted to see if this would have a significant impact on Max's normal breath function, because Max suffered a bad pneumonia several years ago and was left with a hole in his left lung. Obviously, this alone severely impacts the dept of his breath. Plus, he is in his eighties.

To keep track of his health and breath capacity, Max sees a pulmonologist at least once a year for a pulmonary function test. Using a machine called a spirometer, the test is designed to determine the 'flow volume curve' of the patient (or the volume of breath inhaled and exhaled). This test last about an hour and at the end an average is taken. At Max's worst, his test scores indicated that his lung volume was at 65-- a healthy adult would score about 100 on this kind of testing. Last year, Max was up to 85. This year, his doctor wanted to him to retake the test because his result was 135! Apparently, his doctor could believe an 83 year old could have such a dramatic improvement in just one year. Incredible. He told me his was elated and immediately called all of his family members. I'm so proud of him.

Breathing is the most important aspect of life. The more efficiently we inhale and exhale, the better everything operates. I often tell my students that "Breath is medicine." When we are too deep in a pose and pushing too hard, we restrict our breathing and our activity becomes something other than yoga. Not everyone cares about this, but I do. Without breath there is no lifeforce in the pose and without this, there is no yoga.

* * *

Here's a link to an article you might enjoy. My mom sent it to me. It's about another 83-year-old yogi in Australia, dubbed "Yoga Supergran", who can still do mayurasana and teaches 11 yoga classes a week. ROCK ON!


ARTICLE: "The yoga supergran who can still assume the lotus position... at the age of 83"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Infinate space and possibilies = excitement + fear/confusion


After spending eight days in Maine (ironically on the property where Taylor Swift just shot her latest video "Mine," which premiered tonight), I returned to teaching full time this week.

Things have been a little intense. I find myself wondering all the time if this was all a dream. Did I really do 108 days of sun salutations? Did I really do 32 hours of yoga straight?

While I was away on holiday, I spent a lot of time staring out at the ocean, fascinated by the line that divides the deep blue water from the pale blue sky. I wondered for a brief moment why so many, myself included, find this to be one of the most captivating and desirable views on earth. I think it's the immenseness of it-- this landscape of infinite space and endless possibilities. It's simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

At the moment my current state of mind is like a bit like a boey without an anchor. Part of me feels free-- free from the obligations of the last four months and free with a floating idea of accomplishment. The other side of me is getting tired of treading water, not knowing which way to go next. I feel antsy and a bit confused, which can be a little frightening after having so much direction and purpose.

I guess this is the stage 'they' call "TRANSITION"...

It's weird. I'm having a hard time processing everything and figuring out what to do with my spare time, what to teach and how to express myself. In truth, I'm feeling overwhelmed. A couple of my friends suggested that I'm in some kind of denial because I have been reluctant to talk about the challenge even to those closest to me. It's not that I don't want to talk or write about it, it's just that I don't really know how to communicate the experience right now. Perhaps it just hasn't sunk in yet.

Nevertheless, I made some big progress today. After staring at the unopened envelope containing the "Official Guinness World Record Certificate of Approval" on my desk for almost a week, totally intimidated by it (please don't ask), I finally caved to Craig's insistence.

It's pretty cool. Everything is there. They even spelled my name correctly.



(But don't rush out and buy the next Guinness Book of World Records for me, please. I won't be in this upcoming edition, because it was already published by the time I challenged record for the longest yoga marathon... Maybe next year!)

* Oh, and save the date: Sept 19, we're having a reunion yoga practice and pot luck at my studio.





Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's OFFICIAL!

I just got the word:

Dear Yasmin Fudakowska-Gow,

Thank you for your recent evidence. We are pleased to confirm you have set a new Guinness World Record for 'Longest Yoga Marathon (Female)'.

A certificate has been couriered to you and should arrive shortly.


Yours sincerely,

Guinness World Records

WooHooo! I think I'm going to have a gathering of sorts at the studio sometime in September. Maybe a potluck party? You will all be invited, of course. :)

For now, I'm in Maine on a little beach retreat with Craig and my parents. It's lovely to wake up near the sea and do yoga outside. I am trying to practice twice daily-- a hour before breakfast and an hour before dinner. It's a good routine, but I'm allowing myself a little flexibility to do whatever I feel like. After so much busyness in the last four months, it is also great to spend time with people I love. I am enjoying being immersing myself in vacation mode, which involves plenty of reading, beach combing and food.

(The book I'm reading right now is "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I highly recommend it. Very inspiring.)

* * *

I still want to meet my fundraising objective of $10,800 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation by Dec. 1. We're 22% of the way there. Anything you can contribute to this great cause is really appreciated. Please spread the word. Also, if you have any ideas for how I can continue fundraising, please let me know.

Here's the link to my online donation page: http://stephenlewisfoundation.akaraisin.com/p/yasminyoga.aspx

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reflections one week later


Hello my friends,

I just want to let you know that all is well with me. I am slowly emerging from the 32 hour yoga marathon practice and this blissful 108 day journey. I am unharmed. My muscles were a little sore last Wednesday, the day after, but all and all, I feel good. (Especially after being a sloth for a couple of days. Here's a photo Craig took on Aug 4th, the 'day after'. Jamie, Craig and I sprawled on the couch eating pizza and watching a movie.)

I am still processing the events of the last week along with all the attention my story has received. (An article about the marathon was published in The Times of India on Aug 4. And yesterday one of the editors from Yoga Journal called the studio to congratulate me. I have know idea how all these people heard about this, but it is very funny to me. I suppose this is my 15 minutes of fame!) The whole experience is still surreal to me. I keep finding myself questioning, "Did I really do 108 days of 108 sun salutations? Did I actually do 32 hours of yoga? How did I do this?"

I am currently going through all the footage of the 32 hour practice and listing all 1008+ postures I did. (I need to submit a final list of poses for my Guinness application, which is nearly complete.) This is a tedious process and I've been working on all day, but the more time I spend looking at the videos the more emotional I'm becoming. It feels like I am experiencing the whole 32 hour practice all over, at least the emotions of it. It's intense.

I've actually been getting emotional quite a bit lately. I am so touched by all the notes and messages I've been received. One woman who came for the last two hours of my practice told me after that being in the studio at the final minutes of the challenge made her think of all the unmanifested dreams they still have and how they too could be realized. I become teary every time I am reminded that this wasn't just about me. This was a shared experience that I would not have been as powerful if even one of those people visiting, practicing or volunteering hadn't been there. It was like an alchemy of the energy of everyone present. I really felt like I was simultaneously being lifted and grounded by the people around me. I feel so so so grateful for all your support.

At first, it was strange to practice knowing that there were about a dozen sets of eyes on me, watching and noting my every move. But then I moved into a different space, where I was so intently focused on every aspect of my body and practice and they, the witnesses, timekeepers, camera operators, spectators and practitioners, became an integral part of this journey. They allowed me to enter even deeper consciousness, one that helped me let go and dive into unknown waters of transformational bliss. It was very powerful.

The hardest part of the 32 hours for me was 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. One of the breaks got mixed up and I ended up having to do a four hour and twenty minute set, as opposed to a four hour one. It also seemed that at that point, I was still so far off my goal time and dusk was settling in. There were also a thunder storm, so it became dark very quickly, which didn't help

But, the night practice from 11pm to 7am was truly amazing. That's when, as Craig said, "All the rockstars came in." Len Blum, the reformed Hollywood writer of The Pink Panther, Howard Stern's Private Parts and other block busters, was the yoga teacher witness over night and he was so fantastic. He was alert the whole time and offered me several wonderful adjustments. My parents also came into the studio with their yoga mats in hand for the "2 am yoga class," and my brother hung out with us as well. The team of witnesses and timekeepers included some very cool people. However, the highlight for the night for me was when Miranda read Rumi poetry aloud for about an hour straight. She has such an amazing voice and she is such an intellectual. Marie-Marguerite Sabongui also joined us for encouragement. She was such a trooper. But alas, the MVP of the night, would have to be my boyfriend Craig. He was (and is) my right hand. He was so devoted to this whole project from Day 1 doing the photos, practicing with me, reading over my blog posts at night, and during the final 32 hours, he was champion. He dealt with and oversaw every issue that came up, he catered to not just my needs (smoothies, electrolyte beverages, etc.), but also made sure that every volunteer was comfortable at all times.

So now, one week later, it seems like a life time has passed since my 108 days. I admitted to Craig this evening that I'm a little nostalgic for the practice and the blogging days. He reminded be that this is a new beginning and that there is no reason to pause my blog. Very true.

I have been practicing here and there. I did 90 sun salutations on Sunday outside in the country, which felt amazing. My plan is to practice six days a week (Sunday to Friday) and do one 108 practice a week. As I said, I'd like to develop a practice that follows and supports the hormonal changes in a woman's body throughout the month. But first, I want to close this Guinness chapter and submit all my paperwork for their review. Hopefully, I will be able to send everything tomorrow and maybe go on vacation to Maine!

By the way, so far, we've raised close to $2500 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Thank you Thank you Thank you! My goal is $10,800. So, I'm continuing to fundraise until Dec. 1.

If you want to make a donation, here's the link to my online fundraising page:
http://stephenlewisfoundation.akaraisin.com/p/yasminyoga.aspx



PS I started writing this post on Friday, Aug 6 and finished it on Wed. Aug 11




Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 108 - Speechless.


We made it. 108 days of 108 surya namaskar. 32 hours of yoga... What a beautiful journey.

Lots to process.

It was a deep practice and an incredible experience.

I'm so grateful.

Thank you Thank you Thank you


(I may disconnect for a few days just to absorb, but I'll be back soon.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 107 - 15 hours, 51 minutes


I feel truly blessed to have a friend like Yasmin.

(That may be a cliche thing to say, but a warning to potential readers: this blog post will be filled with high sentimentalism. Don't know how to avoid it; it's just how I feel!)

So: I feel blessed to have a friend like Yasmin. And I feel honoured to have been asked to write this post in her stead, since she's busy breaking a Guinness world record today. I'm sure many of you, like me, have been moved, inspired, and motivated by this page over the last three months. She's really pushed herself to the limits physically, emotionally, and psychologically - and like Len Blum said to her a few weeks ago, the blog has been a major part of the journey. It has forced her to reflect on lessons learned. A lot of those reflections resonated with me - reflections about the pains of personal growth and of uncovering things you may not want to see in the process, reflections about dealing with criticism, reflections about moving past exhaustion while continuing to be good to yourself. And so, I feel fortunate to have a friend who doesn't shy away from digging deep. I'm going to miss hearing her written voice here.

I guess my blog post serves as a testimonial to her initiative. Tonight at 9 pm, 12 hours into the challenge, Yasmin sat in lotus and gingerly did a speakerphone interview with the Gazette. When asked why she's trying to break this world record, she said that for a long time her work has been to encourage others to push themselves beyond their imagined capabilities and to then witness their progress. She said that doing her 108 x 108 and culminating in this 32 hour challenge was her way of practicing what she preaches. She said she wanted to inspire others to follow her lead: to not settle for what they think they could do, but to set goals beyond their limits, and then exceed those limits. In a period of transition this summer between graduate school and 'real life,' I've been contemplating my personal limits a lot. Hearing her say that really shook me, and reminded me that (sentimentalism alert!) I would be doing everyone a huge disservice if I didn't just suck up my fears and try to make my own impact on the world. Thank you Yasmin.

For those of you who want a straightup factual update about how she's doing: we're at the half way mark. It's the middle of the night. There is a very supportive energy in the room, and aside from a few tense moments surrounding witness/timekeeper/teacher shift switches and confusion about breaktimes, the environment is pretty stress free. Yasmin is getting mellow now, but her energy is good, and we're all confident that she's gonna make it to hour 32, and do it with a smile. Craig is making sure she's well fed and Frances and Marie-Anne are making sure she's on time.

A closing thought: A few of us practiced with Yasmin in the last 4 hour segment, and as did our sun salutations I counted them down out loud for us. It was bittersweet. There is something grounding and comforting about moving through the salutations and counting them, something unifying about counting them down together. It reminded me of when I first came back home to Montreal and did 54 surya namaskar with Yas on day 30-something. I'll miss the counting but we've all come a long way. It's been a good journey.

(It took me a while to write, so there's an hour's difference between the time in the photo, and the time of this post)

Oh, right, I forgot. Hi! This is Marie-Marguerite, by the way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 106 - tomorrow's the big day (FAQ)


Donations for the Stephen Lewis Foundation -
People can donate online and receive an instant tax receipt. My fund raising page can be reached through the Om West website: www.westislandyoga.com or directly at:
http://stephenlewisfoundation.akaraisin.com/p/yasminyoga.aspx

Hello, it's Miranda again - Yas' frequent 108 companion. She asked that I write the intro to the blog tonight because, as you all know, tomorrow is a monumental day and the priority for this evening is: REST.

Today we practiced in the beautiful park near our house, the weather too gorgeous to pass up. It seemed strange going through those motions for the last time together, in this mission. I asked Yas if she thought she would miss it and she laughed saying she wasn't sure what she was going to do with all of her free time. But, truthfully, the real test is before her.

Tomorrow's challenge is a formidable one, but Yas is ready. Her journey through these last 106 days has brought about so much growth and awareness, priming her for an even vaster expansion of her practice, commitment to exceeding her own boundaries, and insight into herself. It is difficult to prepare for such a feat of human ability but, if anyone can do it, Yasmin can.

So, starting tomorrow at 9 a.m. and concluding on Tuesday at 5 p.m., the doors to Centre Holistic Om West will be open to all people who wish to practice with, show support for, or cheer on Yasmin. And, if you cannot offer your physical presence, send all the loving, supportive energy to Yasmin that you can!

And, some pertinent information and answers to those burning questions about Yasmin and the initiative (in Yas' words)...

Who am I?
I am 28 years-old yoga instructor, writer, speaker and activist. I started practicing yoga at age 14 and started teaching at 19, while in university at Concordia in Journalism and Communications. I am now the owner and director of Centre Holistique Om West (Om West Holistic Centre) in Pointe Claire Village.

About the project -
For the three and a half months, I’ve been on a ‘spiritual pilgrimage’ to complete 108 sun salutations for 108 consecutive days. Aug 2 and 3 are my last two days of this journey, which I’ve documented on here on my blog. To celebrate the end of this incredible adventure, I decided to do a 32 hour yoga practice, and in doing so, be the first woman to challenge the Guinness World Record™ for the longest yoga challenge and raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

What is the significance of 108?
108 is an auspicious number in many religions and texts, Hinduism and yoga included. According to an article on Yoga Journal,

"The number’s significance is open to interpretation. But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra—much like the Catholic rosary.

Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body."

Where is this all happening?
The challenge will take place at my studio, Om West, at 46-3 Ste Anne St., Pointe Claire Village, starting at 9:00am on Mon. Aug. 2 and ending Tues. Aug. 3 at 5:00pm. People are welcome to drop in and visit or come practice with me!

What is the current GWR record?
The longest yoga marathon lasted 29 h 4 m and was achieved by Michael Schwab (Austria) during the event Vienna Recordia, in Vienna, Austria, on 26-27 September 2009.

What is my goal?
My goal is 32 hours, although to get into the GWR book as the first woman, I need to do a minimum of 24 hours.

The Schedule of the 32 hours
Monday Aug 2
8:00 am Set up
9:00 am START
1:00 pm Yas’ 1st scheduled 20 min break
5:20 pm Yas’ 2nd scheduled 20 min break
9:40 pm Yas’ 3rd scheduled 20 min break

Tuesday Aug 3
2:00 am Yas’ 4th scheduled 20 min break
6:20 am Yas’ 5th scheduled 20 min break
10:40 am Yas’ 6th scheduled 20 min break
2:00 pm Yas takes a 15 min break
4:15 pm Yas takes a 10 min break
5:00 pm FINISH!
What are the GWR rules?
The activity must be continuous, the activity must be of a type that would be acceptable in a yoga class, the record breaker must demonstrate a broad range of postures, the attempt must be supervised by a yoga teacher.







Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 105 - final prep


Wow, I don't really know where to begin to describe how I'm feeling. Generally, I feel relaxed and ready for the challenge ahead, but undoubtedly, I'm also a little nervous. I couldn't fall asleep last, although I think it had more to do with the noisy neighbours having a dinner party then nerves.

I spent the day planning out my practices in blocks of four hours. I'm not quite done yet, but I'm enjoying the process of visualizing the practice and thinking about which poses I will do when and where. I am going into greater detail than I initially planned because I found yesterday morning that the Guinness World Records actually requires me to count and document all the poses I do, which I didn't realize before. I think it's better I plan this out ahead of time. So, I need a bit more organization, but I think that's a good thing. Plus, when I get tired, I may loose creativity and will need some guidance.

I've been listing all the variations of the poses I wish to do (and trying out a bunch), because each variation counts as a unique pose. This is lots of fun. It's allowing me to stroll down memory lane and dig up ideas from all the workshops I've been to and all the teachers I've studied with from myriad traditions from Anusara to Bikram. I'm also using the Dharma Mittra and Yoga Journal websites for a little inspiration. I even spoke to Leigh at Sea of Tranquility bookstore and I'm going pick up DM's famous poster of 908 asanas from Leigh's store tomorrow so I can hang it in the studio for motivation during my 32 hour practice. Leigh is also lending me a large Nataraj (statue of Shiva) to put in the studio.

So, everything is under control. I know what I'm going to eat-- Vega smoothies, Vega bars, avocados, bananas, dates, maybe even oatmeal raisin cookies. I know what I'm going to wear-- lululemon offered me a couple of tank tops and I'll wear my favourite pants. I know whose going to be there-- as of Thursday evening, we filled our volunteer schedule thanks to Frances! I know friends, family and students are going to be there through out the practice to cheer me on. And in my heart, I know this is a beautiful transformational experience and one I am meant to go through.


(Thanks to Craig for sharing his perspective of these 108 days yesterday.
He's my rock, you know.)

* Want to sponsor my 32 hour yoga marathon and Guinness World Record setting attempt? Donations for the Stephen Lewis Foundation can be made in person at Om West on Aug 2 & 3 or online anytime until Dec 1:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 104 - Anybody know 1080 different posses? To the Library...


Hi everybody, it's Craig writing tonight's post.

Yasmin sprang this on me at about 1030pm when I was falling half asleep to Planet Earth in the office. She asked me if I would be willing to write up something for her while she finishes her last set of 6 million headstands. I'm happy to help, although I will admit that I am not the best writer and my spelling is tearable, but I'll give it a whirl. I asked " what do I write about? what should I say?" Her response was to just write about how I feel about all this 108 stuff and what we are trying to do next week. Wowzers, I could write a book rather than a blog post about all that. So here we go. I have to be honest. Better grab a soy based coffee.

This started very much the same way it is ending, quickly with little time to prepare. I was with Yasmin when she found out that the 108th day of the year was only about a week or two away. I saw her eyes pop out of her head as she gazed past everything with all the wheels in her pretty head spinning. Right then and there I knew we were in for something big. This had been an idea for sometime, but it was a part of another project that fell by the wayside and was now about to be brought back to life. We kicked around some original ideas on how to present it, but most of which would of had us selling the studio and me turning tricks to fund those ideas. We continued to brain storm. She had said that she enjoyed the Blog (when she read it) I made while I was working the Olympics this last winter. I like to think it was sort of the archetype of this blog. Daily Photos, Write ups, News, Current events, and expressing the emotional roller coaster we all ride on a daily bases, but from a first person stand point. That's where things get tricky. Its not easy to put yourself out on display for the world to see. There are nay-sayer's who think you will be showing off, which is usually fueled by these people's own insecurities. There are huge sacrifices of time needed to do this, writing isn't easy for anyone-- think late nights. There will be restrictions on travel-- thank the gods for my Iphone or we wouldn't have been able to leave town for that one and only weekend in May. A photographer will need to give up his brand new camera so that when he's not around, cause he has a life too, you can take your own 'dailies,' but bring them home and yours truly will photoshop them every night before anything else gets done, because I rule, and you need my help. (Sorry drifted there for a moment).

As far as the daily photos go, the visual part of this blog has been my favorite part. I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed having a new image to work on or set up to shoot every single day. We have had to switch things up and read literally into Yasmin's write ups, like tonight's. (Oh and I'm super stoked to get my Canon G11 back...I've missed you little buddy, but no worries papa's coming home.)

So, fast forward to today. Its been over 100 days and we are starting the last weekend of Salutations and ending it with a bang. When Yasmin first told me that she was going to try to 32 hours of straight yoga and try and set a Guinness record, I thought she was off her rocker or perhaps the heat had finally gotten to her. I was wrong on both counts, but, at the same time, I was not surprised. Yasmin can do this. Yasmin will do this. She just needs some help and I am so happy to be apart of it. I am more thrilled that so much help and support has been flowing in from you and the community. This is where I have to give a HUGE shout out to Frances Vicente and Natalie Riviere. These two angels have been doing the lions share of the work to get this thing even off the ground. Not to say that Yasmin has not been staying up way too late and pulling out her hair to gett'er done, but my goodness, Thank you Thank you Thank you, Frances and Nat! I couldn't have done it, wouldn't even know where to start. I've had the "easy" job: Keeping Yasmin grounded and not letting her freak out too much. (Here's a little inside knowledge you may have already picked up along the way. Yasmin and Craig are total opposites, which is a good thing. A really good thing. Yin and Yang, Hot and Cold, Light and Dark. Ya dig? We need each other so that each of us can archive more and in turn, gain more together. Yeah about that honesty part, I am more excited to get Yasmin back than my camera.)

Lets be serious here for a second, if you're reading this then you must be human too, and sometimes we have selfish thoughts and sometimes we need to figure them out. I have been having a rough couple of weeks myself with monster transitions in my own personal life. I've tried very hard not to feel like I am secondary to all this craziness, but to be honest I've felt eight-ondary from time to time. I like to think I'm a good bottle and that I can just put it all away, not so. So to you, Yasmin, I have and I will again apologize if I have turned your focus away from your goal. Its just that you have inspired me to set and achieve my own goals. Like we have talked about, that is a good thing. I just get a little antsy if I have to wait too long to start something. I can't wait until school is less than a week away. (I have one more semester of commercial digital photography school.) Boy, you'll be pulling me off the walls. But, you now have my undivided attention until we see this thing through. You are ready.

We are ready to (as I say) kick the shit out of this challenge. It's going to be hard, but we have everything in order and so much energy behind us, that we cannot fail. We've got everything from O2 tanks to Excel spread sheets already to go, plus an amazing group of people on board to help us out every step of the way. So lets everybody, enjoy Saturday with a big breakfast, coffees and list of last min things to grab or do before The Day Of Rest, then the Big Show.

Today's photo is Yasmin Yoga-ing with a stack of books and the internet planing out how to do 32 hours worth of different posses. I thought this would be a lighthearted image to start the weekend, and I'm driving this bus today, so I'm posting what ever I want.

Now that wasn't so bad now was it.
Thanks
Craig.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 103 - The nice things and the small hurts

I've had a really nice day.

I woke up at 7:00am next to the love of my life, which I always appreciate, did my prayers, grabbed a delicious piece of papaya and went off to teach my enthusiastic 83 year-old student, Max. Then I had a treatment with Mira, a lovely Body Talk therapist, who has been an amazing source of insight for me over the last year or so. She is so wonderful. When she pats my arm and says "It'll will be alright," she is so sincere that I immediately feel better.

After the Body Talk session, I walked over to this amazing park in NDG on Sherbrooke and Girourd to practice. It was perfect weather for practicing-- sunny, cool and breezy. I found a spot in the shade near the playground and began my practice which today focused on letting go of the small hurts I've experience in my life. Each sun salutation was dedicated to releasing any conscious or subconscious pain incurred because of the actions of a particular person or myself. So at the start of the surya namaskar I recalled an uncomfortable memory in my recent or long ago past, and then I consciously used my breath and movements to visualize cleansing the residual tension.

At times, I noticed the sharpness or the speed of my transitions varied depending on what I was thinking about and how fresh the emotional wound was, but ultimately, it felt good to acknowledge these negative experiences and then symbolically release them.

I made my way to a little cafe for a post practice veggie wrap and a wfii connection. I didn't get much work done because I ran into a good friend. We chatted for a bit then I had to rush off to ayurvedic massage appointment with one of my teachers. The massage was amazing. Just what I needed. While I was at the Ayurvedic Centre, I had a chance to chat with my teachers, Anita and Manu, who have been so wonderfully supportive of my 108 project and this big 32 hour Guinness thing. They shared some advice about what food I should eat and how I should prepare, and they told me that they were proud of me, which is special to me, because I respect them a lot.

This evening, I had dinner at a friend's house, despite my mandate to stay in this week. I'm tired now, but I think it was good for me to shift focus for a few hours and good for Craig to have some time on his own.

Ok, I apologize if this posting is so colloquial. I'm ready for bed.

Bonne nuit.





Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 102 - All beings everywhere


Things are really starting to come together. There were a few moments today that touched me greatly. One was finding out that a girl I haven't seen or spoke to since elementary school heard about my project, and made an online donation to my Stephen Lewis Foundation cause, which was beautifully unexpected.

Another lovely moment was finally doing yoga with my 90 year-old grandma. (Please don't tell her I told you her age! She'd kill me, for sure.) My glamorous and youthful grandmother lives in a retirement home. I visit her about once a week and do her nails. It's become our bonding thing. Plus, her memory is a little foggy, so she knows when I've been to see her by the condition of her manicure.

This evening we went for a little walk and she was complaining about the stiffness in her legs, so I got her to do a few stretching exercises with me, and I even got her to pose for some photos. I had fun with her. In the photo above, she is telling me, "You always do crazy things."

(If she only knew...)

* * *

Today's practice was dedicated to all the people I pass in my life without much notice.
Examples:
  • the postal carriers
  • the tax drivers that wait at the stand near my house
  • the people who take care of the Bixi stands
  • My grocer and his wife
  • the people who pick up the recycling and the garbage
  • the people who plant flowers in municipal gardens
  • the street cleaners
  • the man who fixed the leak in our roof last week
  • the owner of the cafe I like to sit and work in
  • the waiters and waitress and cooks at my favourite restaurant
  • the people who take care of my grandma
  • the people who take care of all grandmas and grandpas and other seniors
  • the patients in hospitals
  • the people taking care of the patients
  • the families of these patients
  • the police officers
  • the people in prison (my teacher's suggestion)
  • the families of the people in prison
  • the people affected by war
  • the people who are dying
  • the people who recently buried a loved one
  • the women giving birth at this very moment
  • the babies being born
  • ETC.... All beings everywhere!

It was really powerful. I was tired today, but this practice gave me the strength I needed to complete all 108 surya namaskar.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 101 - dedicated to the ones I love


At this time next week, I will be done. That feels weird.

For the last 101 days my entire life has revolved around these sun salutations and this blog. What will I do with all my free time? It will feel great to have some leisure time, but I'm not hoping this will end quickly or wishing it would go on longer. I'm happy where I am right now and looking forward to day to come. Craig feels differently. He says he's really looking forward to "having his girlfriend back."

At the suggestion of my teacher yesterday, I am dedicating my practices this week to the people in my life. Yesterday, I offered each sun salutation to a specific teacher. Today, it was for the people in my community, to you, to those who have been part of my journey thus far. I visualized each individual beside me during the surya namaskar. This brought me so much joy. I felt I could go on forever. It's a beautiful way to practice ONENESS and will be very important during my 32 hour yoga marathon next week.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 100 - A place of release and ease


I can't believe it's day 100... 10,800 sun salutations...

I feel so good. I feel grounded and relaxed. And for the first time since I can remember, I feel free from the conscious and unconscious need for approval. I have entered a beautiful space that is harmonious and pure. I full of gratitude.

This morning, I met with my teacher, who I previously mentioned said he strongly disagreed with what I was planning. Our meeting went really well. I was happy to see him. It had been a while. I knew he was going to ask me tough questions, which he did. I answered openly, honestly, and stayed genuinely positive. I felt really stable talking about the 108 days of sun salutations and the upcoming 32 hour practice. I even made him laugh a few times. He said he was basically concerned about two issues: my safety and my motivations. Both valid.

We talked about the safety concerns, and he was a bit worried because he remembers me as being quite flexible, but not very strong. I told him that in the last six months, I have been trying to decrease my flexibility and increase my strength, which I feel I have done. He said he didn't quite know how I should build a sustainable practice, but we ended up discussing a few ideas that make sense.

As for his concern about my motivations, I shared with him my sincere desire to follow my unique path of healing and self-realization to which this event has become a part of. I also said I was doing this publicly in order to raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and to share my experience with others. Nevertheless, he, quote, "hates yoga hype." That's ok. I understand this point.

Anyway, in the end, he offered some suggestions on how I should practice leading up to next week's big event and how to make the process more holistic.

Everything in its right place.

I feel at ease.

PS I now have a fundraising page, so if you are inclined, you can sponsor me online with a donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation and receive an instant tax receipt:

Thank you. I really appreciate it.




Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 99 - Rumi


As with many artistic souls, poetry has always been a source of inspiration for me. I am particularly fascinated by the work of Rumi, and one poem in particular has captured my heart since it was introduced to me at the beginning of my teaching path almost 10 years ago.

Here it is:

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.


Now my loving is running toward my life

shouting
What a bargain! Let's buy it.


Gamble everything for love,

if you are a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty.

You set out to find God, but then you keep

stopping for long periods

at meanspirited roadhouses.

Don't wait and longer.

Dive in the ocean,
leave

& let the sea be you.


Silent, absent,
walking

an empty road,

all praise.


These words have never meant more to me, then now...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 98 - Joys



One of the greatest pleasures this whole 108x108 project has offered me is the chance to connect with other people and to share the blissful, transformational power of completing 108 sun salutations.

Yesterday, Bossa did her first 108 and sent me a message hours later saying she was still glowing from the experience. I love hearing about other peoples revelations. It makes my heart soar and keeps me motivated.

This morning, Miranda and I were joined by Colleen and Jocelyn, two of her students. They had never attempted a surya namaskar practice before and afterward, they kept raving about how great they felt. Jocelyn said her stiffness in her back disappeared and that at one point, she felt as though all of her energy was radiating from heart. They also said that during the flow, it seemed as though all negativity in their bodies was released.

These reactions remind me why I started this project to begin with. I remember how powerful my first 108 practices were. In fact, I distinctly recall experiencing tears of amazement and realizing sacredness of this repetitive sequence after my first one. What I've discovered now is that this practice is never the same, but it is always transcendental in some way and always takes me to a higher place. I like sharing this with people and watching them make their own discoveries through the process.

I received couple of nice and unexpected notes today. My student Mary Ann sent me a "10 days left"email and said she is still keeping up with her practices of 36 a day since my first day, April 18. Also, Canadian Olympic Slalom skier Anna Goodman sent me a message today saying she's been enjoying this blog and could relate to the endorphin fluctuations I was talking about yesterday. Here's part of what she wrote:

I just wanted to wish you good luck with the whole thing. It seems like [the 32 hour yoga practice] will become a mind-over-body challenge, and I personally think that is the hardest and most rewarding part of sports for me. A lot of the time when I get overwhelmed I try to put skiing into perspective and step back and enjoy the moment, even if it is the biggest competition of my life. With the good days and the bad days, it's all about the journey and what you get out of it as a whole, and (for me) it's really not worth focusing on small bumps in the road, but embracing the great moments in your day! Which, by reading your blog, you obviously do!!

Anyway I guess I just feel like I can relate in some ways to your blog's journey towards your final goal!

Today your blog really rang a bell for me about the potential endorphin crash!! I've heard about that before as well, and I think I experience it after every ski season, but once you have relaxed a little bit and accepted and embraced what you have just gone through, there always seems to be more challenges, travels, adventures and inspirations on the horizon to stay occupied and motivated for future endeavours!!

Anna Goodman

PS I also experience a joy today when I finally figured out how to do the 'ashtang' (lowering down part) in sivanada style sun salutation. You are 'supposed' to lower knees first, then chest, then forehead, but the catch is your nose isn't supposed to touch the floor, which makes it really challenging. It felt good on my neck when I pulled my shoulders back and drew my chin in.




Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 97 - Endorphins: Highs... Lows?



My mom is concerned about me having an endorphin crash after these 108 days and falling into a depression. Have you ever heard of this? Apparently, when athletes stop their intense training programs, their endorphin levels decrease that they are susceptible to depression.

(Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that act as neurotransmitters and are released during exercise. Sometimes called a 'runner's high' their release creates a euphoric state in the body. Maybe that's the yogasm that I was talking about it previous postings.)

If this is true, my plans to do 108 days of couch surfing once this project is over may be affected! :) I'm kidding, but I am looking forward to have a few rest days after this is done. My friend Patrick predicts that I won't be able to stop doing 108 surya namaskars. However, I think I'll be ready for a change. I'm sure I'll want to continue to do a daily practice of some sort, but I'm not sure what exactly.

For a long time, I've wanted to explore how to create a series of yoga practices that would support women in each phase of their menstrual cycle. My idea is that each week there would be a different sequence that caters to the monthly hormonal shifts in a woman's body. Of course, men could also do these practices, but they would be specifically designed for women. I think this will be my next project, but it will require some testing and personal research.

* * *

My practice today was done with Bossa in her vegetable garden. It was the first time Bossa did the whole 108 practice with me. We did it in about two hours and Bossa was super proud of herself. In fact, she just sent me a text message saying how great she feels. I like hearing that.

:)


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 96 - Why we do crazy things


“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery - none but ourselves can free our minds.”

- Mr Robert Nesta Marley


A discussion with some friends over tea this afternoon ignited an interesting conversation about the crazy things people do and why. My friends, Michelle and Julien, live in Sydney, Australia and are in Montreal on there way to Paris where they are starting an amazing adventure of their own. They are planning to cycle through France to Turkey then along the Silk Road through the 'Stans' and Iran toward Asia. They have quit their jobs and have no idea how long their trip might take. "Maybe a year or two or three," Julien told me, laughing.

Now, if that's not nuts, I'm not sure what is. I think they are so brave and adventurous and I'm sure they will have the time of their lives. Having told them this, we started talking about what makes us chose to embark on unusual journeys like the ones we are each approaching. Julien thinks its our inherent 'nuttiness' that makes us think outside "the box." Michelle says that we decide to do these things because it is part of our path to self realization and discovery. I agree with both, but I also think has a lot to do with our curiosities about life.

We are all curious about different things, and some people are more curious than others, which is totally fine. I, for one, am driven absolutely mad by my curiosity about spiritual and human development. Sometimes I feel totally entranced by the need to discover and learn things for myself. After all, I cannot grow through someone else's experiences. I have to grow through my own.

Having said this, I also am profoundly aware that not everyone is willing to confront big challenges for the growth opportunity, which is also ok. It's a really scary thing, because inevitably when we outgrow the shell we're used to, we have to leave it behind in order to find something more suitable.



(Photo is of my rendition of the Bellow's Breath, also known as Breath of Fire.)


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 95 - The Great Unknown


I had a fantastic practice in the park this evening. At Len's suggestion, I did my 108 a much faster pace using a breathing technique called Bhastrika Pranayam (Bellows Breath). It's a slightly intense, deep in and out breath through usually done through the nose lifting the arms up and down. In the version that Len shared with me, he breathed through his mouth with the teeth almost touching and lips separated. This breath is meant to detoxify the body and stimulate the digestive fire. (Here's a link to video of this pranayam)

Also, going quickly through surya namaskar, allowed me to gather momentum and relax the muscles in my shoulders and neck, which was Len's point. He says I am holding a lot of tension there and also advised me to avoid chaturanga for a few days. My experience was amazing. I did pretty much the opposite practice as yesterday-- instead of spreading 90 sun sals over two hours, I did 81 in 35 mins. It's not what I'm accustomed to, but I feel super energized now, my neck is pain free and the headache I woke up with has disappeared.

In other news, I received an email from one of my former teachers last night. It was a reply to my email requesting his advice and his blessing for my upcoming challenge. Unfortunately, he is not supportive of me doing 32 hours of practice "and calling it yoga." This really bummed me out. But after thinking about it, I understand his point, as this is an unusual request and I haven't studied with him in a long time, so he doesn't really know how my practice has evolved over the last year and a half or so. Plus, he would not be a good teacher if he just threw around his blessings without hearing the full story of a student he hasn't taught in a while. After all, as a responsible instructor, he has to make sure his students are safe. Anyway, I'm going to meet him on Monday morning to discuss. I hope I'll be able to convince him of my sincere desire to honour the practice and myself through this silly project of mine. However, I also willing to go forth with my plans with or without his full support.

Sadly, I knew from the onset that my 32 hour Guinness challenge would insight some controversy, as do most great adventures that traverse the unknown.




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 94 - getting advice + a four hour practice


At this time in two weeks, I will be done. I will have finished my 108 days of 108 sun salutations and my 32 hour practice will be complete. It's hard to imagine, so I don't bother trying. I'm just doing what I've done before: simply focusing on one breath and one posture at a time.

Today, I did my first planned out four hour practice without a break. It was really nice. I loved being able to linger in certain poses and really take my time. It felt luxurious. The first hour I did pranayama, mudras (hand positions), mantras, and opening postures. Next, Miranda joined me and we spent two hours going slowly through the 90 surya namaskar that remained for the day. Then, in the last hour I did the seated sequence of the Ashtanga primary without vinyasa. I ended with a six minute savasana.

As I mentioned, I'm planning on breaking up the 32 hour practice in segments of four hours or so with a 20 minute break in between. I will outline what I want to do for each four hour practice, but I'm open to modifying it according to how I feel. After all, it wouldn't be yoga if I was just forcing myself into poses simply because they are on my list. I really want to explore the subtleties of different postures and see what I can learn from doing a focused practice for so long.

This evening I met with Len Blum, co-director of United Yoga Montreal and a highly respected teacher. I had asked if he would help me plan out the eight four-hour practices. He agreed, but first he wanted to question my motivations... and my sanity. He said I seem mentally prepared for this challenge and that he was happy that I am interested in exploring the practice and delving into different areas of it rather than just plowing through a bunch of asanas for the sake of it. Len suggested that an outline is good, but that I shouldn't be too committed to it in case things come up along the way and I need to change the plan. I reassured him that I am fine with this. He also offered to be the yoga teacher on duty during what will likely be the toughest part, midnight to 8:00am. I am so grateful for this offering, as I know having someone there to help me through the night will make a big difference.

On that note, I'm going to go to bed and rest. I need to take advantage of early bedtimes for the next couple of weeks.

Please send along your suggestions. I am taking all feedback into consideration.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 93 - Preparations


Deep breath... Deep breath....

I have to confess I'm anxious about this upcoming 32 hour Guinness yoga marathon. I had lunch with my friend Jamie this afternoon to talk about it. He used to do Ironman triathlons back in the day and used to coach top triathletes, so I thought he might have some advise for me on how to prepare. His words: "I thought I was well trained, but nothing prepared me for the Ironman. I did multiple four hour runs and eight hour bike rides, but it's something completely different when you put it all together in those conditions."

Jamie also shared stories of top pro-athletes he knew that got internal bleeding from over exertion during the 15 hour race, and how his own digestive system shut down during the Ironman and he needed two bags of I.V. at the end of it.

My reaction was a big GLUP, and "Oh god, what have I got myself into?"

But after we got the fear factors out of the way, he had some good suggestions like plan out my food intake ahead of time and make sure that I have 'real food' on had as well as all the shakes and sports bars, as the balance between protein and carbs is super important for extra long endurance events. He also thought it was a good idea to plan out my 32 hour practice in segments of 4 hours, which I planned to do any way, and to speak to our teacher Hart Lazer for his suggestions. Jamie also said he would talk to his friends who are still in the triathlon coaching business.

After talking to Jamie, I contacting one of my students who is a medical doctor to get his advice. He said stimulants like coffee and tea will help me stay awake at night, which is common knowledge, but that oxygen may also help. He said he would talk to people he knows in the respirology department at the hospital to get more info for me. He also told he thinks I'll be ok and that the current state of my physical fitness as well my ability to concentrate will get me through the challenge.

So, what's next? I am still doing my 108s, but I've handed my classes over to my teaching apprentices for the next two weeks, so I can focus. I need to speak to my friend pro-triathlete and Vega formulator Brendan Brazier for his take on my nutrition. I'm booking an appointment with the osteopath, and going to see my teachers for their advise. Starting tomorrow, I am also planning out eight practices of approximately four hours, so I know what I'm going to do when. I'm also committed to going to bed early and getting as much rest as possible.

It helps to have a good support system. The people at Stephen Lewis Foundation are very excited and are helping me set up a fundraising page so people can sponsor me online and get an instant tax receipt. And my parents are being amazing. Check out this nice email my mom sent out to her friends:

Hello Friends,
You may have received my email a while ago regarding our daughter Yasmin's Yoga Challenge. She has been doing 108 Sun Salutations for 108 days and the project is coming to an end at the beginning of August. The purpose of this major physical test is to unite the yoga community by challenging people to set themselves healthy goals (physical/emotional/spiritual etc.); she was also raising money for the Can. Institute for the Blind in May; the David Suzuki Fnd. in July and the Stephen Lewis Fnd in July/Aug. Of course she is also doing it for herself; to see if she can do it. You can check out her blog (yasminyoga.blogspot.com) and read her daily chronicles and see familiar faces if you go through the accompanying photos. She is ending it on Aug.2 and 3 with the equivalent of a 32 hour marathon of yoga. She is also aiming for the Guiness Book of World Records which has established a new category for her. It is like the yoga "Tour de France". She will try to beat the record for doing yoga for 32 hours non-stop! It is held by a man, and they (G.B.W.R.) have indicated that if she, as a woman, beats 24 hours, she'll make it. But there are conditions. She has to continuously have a team of non-family witnesses; so I ask you: would you be able to help? Secondly, she is asking for funding while she is doing this.
My lovely, crazy daughter will no doubt succeed in this endeavor barring any mishap. She is super determined and focused. As her Mom, I will do everything to help her succeed, including asking you for help.
Peace and Joy,
Marta