Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 44 - Healing at Godspeed


I am starting to notice something truly unbelievable and totally unexpected. Allow me to explain:

I figured that in doing this crazy 108 day challenge, my body would likely face a much slower recovery time, because of all the strenuous practice and the fact that I am not taking any days off to recuperate for three and a half months. But, astonishingly, I am now experiencing the total opposite. I am healing faster then ever before.

As mentioned yesterday, the acute pain in my wrist, which affected me when lifting things and doing anything weigh baring on Saturday, completely vanished over night. What's more surprising to me is the speed at bruises and cuts are disappearing from my body. Last week, I got about a dozen deep, razor-like cuts on my thumb while moving an air conditioner, and I practically watched it heal in front of my eyes within 24 hours. What is happening to me is incredible.

I was slow to start my 108 practice today. Marianne, the manager of my studio, got into a major debriefing session about the CNIB event. By the way, the final count for our CNIB campaign is just over $2000. Thank you so much for your support.

Despite the office distractions, I managed to flow through my whole practice at the studio before coming home to a late dinner with Craig. Practicing with all those teachers yesterday at the Yoga Mala gave me lots of inspiration to explore new variations of surya namaskar.

As for today's photo, I got little creative with the self-timer and a slow shutter. This is me jumping from downdog to uttanasana.






Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 43 - Event hopping



This week has been insane. Since Wednesday, I've attended six events, hosted two of them, and did 540 sun salutations. I'm officially exhausted, but my wrist is feeling much better today.

It's Sunday evening, 9:30pm and I just came in from a Yoga Jeans™ photo shoot for CHARLIE*SATTVA*yoga- à-porter boutique on Bernard Street in Mile End. We shot five styles of jeans in three or four colors. In case you haven't heard of them, this Yoga Jeans™ line is all the rage now. Super stylish, super stretchy and super comfortable.

This morning, I joined the Yoga Mala event on Mount Royal. Hosted by two Montreal yoga teachers, Dawn and Bram, this annual 108 outdoor practice was held in support of Garde Manger pour Tous, a local non-profit organization that provides healthy meals and food education to underprivileged families in Montreal and helps new-immigrants. The 60 participants raised more than $7000.

There were yogis from all different disciplines and levels of experience. The practice was divided into 12 sets and each of the nine sets was led by a different teacher. I originally was just there as a participant, but I ended up teaching a set last minute, because someone couldn't make it. It was wonderful to practice outside with so many people. It would be nice to have a community practice every Sunday in Parc Jeanne Mance during the summer. But, alas, I think my schedule is pretty full over the next couple of months.

On the topic of bookings, I have three community practices coming up this week:
  • Mon, May 31 (2:30-4:30pm) -- 108 Sun Salutations on the waterfront just near my studio, Om West, 46 Ste Anne Street, Pointe Claire Village, H9S4B4
  • Thurs, June 3 (7:00-8:30pm) -- 54 Sun Salutations + Meditation, CHARLIE*SATTVA*yoga-à-porter, 260 Bernard Street West, RSVP 514-510-5788
  • Sun, June 6 (9:00am-12:00pm) -- 108 Sun Salutations + Veggie Potluck Brunch, Loft Crudessence, 5333 Casgrain, Suite 801, RSVP 514-271-0333
*FYI, for the month of June, I am raising money for the David Suzuki Foundation.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 42 - End of CNIB Campaign and a wrist injury


There was a good turn out for our Great Canadian Yoga Stretch Open House event benefiting the Canadian Institute for the Blind. We still have yet to calculate exactly how much money we raised, but prior to today my students and I raised more than $2500 just through sponsorship of our yoga stretch goals, which is pretty awesome.

The highlight of the day for me was definitely the Acroyoga workshop with Shawn Belliveau, a pilates/yoga instructor and circus artist from St-Eustache, North of Montreal. As one one looker pointed out, the postures we did in tandem are like using the human body as a jungle gym-- lifts, extensions, 'birdies,' and inversions. At one point, I was able to balance in navasana (boat pose) on Shawn's feet. It's hard to describe the postures, but it was lots of fun.

There were many other workshop style classes going on all day. I did one called "variations of surya namaskar." Outside, we served lunch, had a hammock relaxation station set up, a kids table with arts and crafts and even, a chess tournament organized by Penka, one of our yoga teachers, who is also a pro-chess player. A full on carnival.

On a less chipper note, I think I'm injured. Since yesterday, flexing my right wrist has become incredibly painful. Even picking stuff up with my right hand hurts. This is a tough one, because I'm prone to wrist injuries. I used to think it was because of weak forearms, but that's not the case anymore. In Chinese medicine, they believe that injuries have a deeper meaning, and apparently, injury to the right wrist means that the afflicted has an unresolved issue with a female. Perhaps this be related to the email I received from that female yoga teacher yesterday. Hmmm... curious.

Regardless, I had to seriously modify my practice this evening, which is an interesting opportunity. I did most of my sun salutations on my fists, which does not affect the wrist as much and I found that the sivananda sun salutation requires less weight on the arms because of the lunges and the way one transitions into cobra-- knees. chest and chin. I also did a few on my forearms. Post icing and practice, my wrist feels better.


If you suffer from wrist issues in your yoga practice, here are some suggestions, I've come up with:
  • Practice on your fists and keep the knuckles, wrist and elbow in line. (Double your mat, so your knuckles have more padding.)
  • Use a prop call a 'wrist-wedge' to keep the hand flexion at 45degrees as opposed to 90, or fold a towel under the heel of your hand for the same effect.
  • Step back into plank, bringing one knee back at a time.
  • Lower in chaturanga from your knees, so that there is less weight in the arms.
  • Do downward dog on your forearms.
  • If you are on your hands, spread your fingers to distribute the weight evenly.
  • If all else fails, focus on resolving your issues with other people, specially a man for a left wrist problem or a woman with a right wrist problem.
If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know.


Next up: Yoga Mala on Mount Royal, another Montreal yoga community fundraiser organized by yoga teachers Dawn and Bram. 10 am, baby!

I'm going to crash. Goodnight, my friends.






Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 41 - What is the spirit of yoga?


This morning, I received an email from an acquaintance, and fellow yoga teacher. In response to the note I sent out to friends and family about the 108x108 project, she wrote:
I wish you all the best, altho' I can't think of anything further from
the spirit of yoga. This is truly yoga the Western way!!
I'm not sure what she means by this comment, but I've been pondering it all day. Is there a "spirit of yoga" standard? Am I not meeting it? What does it mean to do yoga "the Western way"? Do I have a choice to do yoga any other way? After all, I'm not Indian and I live and work in Montreal.

I honestly don't mean to be ironic or defensive. However, I would like to open a discussion on this point: What is the spirit of yoga?

Yogis can be very critical of other yogis' spiritual commitment. (To draw comparison, it's like Christians arguing amongst each other about who loves God more and who is more Christian.) This may seem ridiculous, but it's quite common in the yoga world and, for the sake of full disclosure, I'm not immune to this banter. I have been known to judge yoga teachers who don't practice yoga or who got their certification in a eight hour weekend course at the YMCA. Nevertheless, since dreaming up the idea of doing 108 sun salutations for 108 days, I made a commitment to myself to learn from as many yoga teachers as possible and to expand my definition of yoga to include all the expressions of it.

In addition, one of the main reasons I decided to do this project is to unite the yoga community, so we can put an end to all our divisive behaviour. There is no yoga better than another. Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Anusara, Hatha, Power yoga--- the yogic message is the same: listen to yourself, explore your limits, connect with your heart and soul and connect to the world around you.

What do you think? What's your definition of yoga?

* * *
To switch directions, I had a lovely practice at Studio Bliss this afternoon. We were a small group. I was joined by my friend Mary-Margaret, who was in town from NYC and joined me, and Mario, a friend of a friend who is a dancer and yoga teacher. The space is beautiful and we had a fun practice. Mario showed us his creative interpretations of surya namaskar. Here a video of his sun salutation:

Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 41 - The Mario Salute

video

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 40 - How much is that yogini in the window?


It's a strange feeling to practice knowing people are watching you. You start wondering if you are entertaining enough and questions come up like, "Should I throw in the splits now just for wow factor ?"

Today, I did my 108 in the storefront window of Lululemon Ste Catherine St, which is located on perhaps the busiest block in the downtown core. Throughout my whole practice, people were stopping on the sidewalk just to stare. I've done many yoga demonstrations like this before and I used to be self-conscious. Now, I'm so much more at ease. I can focus easily, despite all the distractions and I totally have fun with the experience. Kids press their faces against the window and are all surprised, when I smile and wave to them. Adults are the same. But the funny thing about adults is that they stand two feet away from my downward dog and talk about me as though I can't hear them. They rarely say anything negative, but when I respond their semi-rhetorical questions like, "What is she doing?" or "What kind of yoga is that?", they are often more surprised than the kids.

I think people believe that when you practice yoga or meditate, you go into a trance whereby you block out your environment and don't hear or see what's going on around you. Well, it's not like that at all, at least not for me. In my experience, the deeper the practice of yoga or meditation, the more I hear, see, feel and smell. The difference is I'm just not bothered by or overly engaged with my surroundings. It's as if all of a sudden I become omnipresent and it's very cool.

The only thing I continuously try to keep in check is how my ego responds to all the attention of practicing in front of people. Sometimes I do get into those aforementioned questions. Sometimes I want to show off. But honestly, I mostly get those feelings when I want to demonstrate how cool yoga is and not necessarily how cool I, Yasmin-in-window, am.

Regardless, I had fun today. The staff is very nice and several of my friends and colleges recognized me sweating behind the glass and came in to say hello.

** FYI Tomorrow is a 54 Sun Salutation community practice from 2pm to 4pm at Studio Bliss, 3841 St Laurent, corner Pine. Come join me.

And there's still time to sponsor me for the CNIB Great Canadian Yoga Stretch that ends Saturday. Here's the link to my sponsorship page: http://bit.ly/amEge5

OH YEAH! There was a nice article written about my campaign in the Suburban newspaper. Check it out: http://www.thesuburbannews.ca/content/en/4046


Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 40 - The Prasarita B Salute

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 39 - Hotter Yoga


It was a record shattering 35 degrees in Montreal today. The last record high for May 26, was 28 degrees in 1951... So, if you still don't believe in climate change, please call me 514-905-8020. I'd like to know your explanation as to why spring has come so early this year and why it's so hot now.

On another note, this Saturday, my studio is hosting the Great Canadian Yoga Stretch Open House for the Canadian Institute for the Blind. (You should come!)

Since the beginning of May, many of my students have been working on their personal stretch goals, and last night I received this great email from Sarah. (Sarah is the one who joined the CNIB Yoga Stretch because her grandfather was visually impaired and required the assistance of the CNIB.)

Well, tonight was the night.

I dutifully went to my yoga class. Mid way through the class, my teacher Tara, wanted to hold crow pose for 30 seconds. Well, I flaked - but i was so sweaty (it was pretty hot today) my legs were just too slippery. BUT, when we did it a second time I was ready - chalked my arms and legs. I held it for 1 minute and 1 second! Woo-hoo!

There were three key elements that helped me do it.
1) pointing my toes towards each other (a tip from Yasmin, my teacher)
2) proper BREATHING - which is key for all yoga poses
3) I visualized the mid-line of the body and imagined everything moving towards that mid-line.

So, thanks to you guys who have sponsored me thus far - it's only fair that I give you the update.

If you're on facebook, you can watch my video from last week. The settings are public for the video.

And if you'd like, click to sponsor me on my page!

>> Namaste!
>> Om. Sarah

Cool, eh?

If you want to sponsor me for my Yoga Stretch Goal (108x108), you can donate online: http://bit.ly/amEge5



Here's a video of me demonstrating the Cooling Breath. Try it. It really works well.

video

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 38 - Hot Yoga


It was steamy today, humid with a high of 30 degrees +. Weather like this tends to do two things for me: it makes me feel irritable and lethargic. Plus, it makes yoga sticky.

Aryurveda, ancient medical science of India, which I am currently studying, explains that my reactions to the heat is a result of too much fire and too much earth in the body. Provoked by the high temperature, too much fire causes our system to burn. When this happens, we are prone to emotions of frustration, anger, irritability and even aggression. Physical symptoms include skin rashes, indigestion, heartburn, and acidity. Although we all have the fire element in us, some of us, like myself, are more prone to having it go out of hand on hot days like today (and in hot yoga classes).

I've noticed that when I experience this imbalance, I need to relocate to a cool environment, avoid direct sun (especially between 12-2pm), eat watery things with electrolytes like papaya and melon and avoid spicy food. I also find this simple 'Cooling Breath' exercise very helpful:

The Cooling Breath
  • Slowly, INHALE through the teeth
  • Slowly, EXHALE through the nose
  • Repeat until you feel yourself 'cooling' down
(I also find this breathing technique useful in traffic.)

Also, to avoid feeling lethargic and 'water logged,' which is an result of too much water and earth (read mud), I'm best to drink room temperature water infused with coriander seeds or aloe vera gel with a little lemon. I have less experience with the coriander infusion that with the aloe, so I will let you know my preference in a few weeks.

Anyway, despite the oppressive heat, I completed my practice a couple of hours ago on my porch. It's way more comfortable to practice in the morning before ten, but today I had to teach early, then I had school. Perhaps I should try my teacher's suggestion to wake up at 4:30am, but I would have to really limit my evening teaching for that schedule. So, I may need a compromise.


Surya Namaskar Recipe: The Half-Moon Salute

Go through regular surya namaskar A, but from downward dog, transition into ardha chandrasana, the half moon on the right side. (Posture featured in today's photo.)
  • From downward dog, step the right foot forward and transfer your weight into the right leg.
  • Place your right finger tips on the floor (or on a block) in front of your toes, the distance should be the length of your torso.
  • Place the left hand on your left hip and raise the back leg.
  • Open up the hip, turn the left toes to the side, and push out through sole of the foot.
  • (A trick is to turn the right toes slightly toward the left in order to improve balance and reduce the required hip opening.)
  • Once you are balanced, you can extend the left arm and look up at the finger tips.
  • Stay for five to ten breaths.
  • To come down, bend you right knee slightly and step to the top of your mat and continue up to mountain to complete the sun salutation.
Repeat for the left side.





Monday, May 24, 2010

Video: Bancroft, Ont

Come back soon!

(This is where the video of my tour of Bancroft will go... It's being edited...)

Day 37 - Practicing on stable ground


It was warm and sticky today, but not as hot as in the city. I've learned that as the summer weather sweeps in, I'm best to practice before breakfast or after sunset. I did most of my sun salutations this morning, because I wanted to practice before leaving Kat and Vi's and there are less bugs at that time. I woke up feeling really stiff and sore in my lower back, so I spent about 20 minutes going very slowly through my first set of 12. I did a lot of cat/cow stretches to warm up my spine and then held the sphinx pose for while.

It not easy 'throwing down' sun salutations minutes after waking. Usually, I would prefer to wake up slowly, meditate and drink tea first, but I slept in again this morning and we were a little pressed for time, so I got right into it. Despite the initial aches and pain, I started loosening up once I reached the 36 mark. As I was practicing, I wondered what would happen in my body if I didn't spend this time carefully observing and working out the tensions. It was a good opportunity to focus on releasing the stiffness. I did feel much better after the practice, so much so that I relocated from the deck to a beautiful rock.

Practicing on a rock certainly changes things. It's uneven surface provides new challenges for balance, strength, and concentration. It was kind of fun. Here's the video we shot of me demonstrating The Twisted Side Angle Salute:


video


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 36 – Reflections of the journey 1/3 through


As of today, I will have completed 3888 sun salutations. My friends, Jamie and Jeanine, suggest contacting the Guinness Book of World Records and see if I might be a contestant for most sun salutations. That would be pretty cool, something to cross off the bucket list anyway.

I haven’t done my practice today, because I slept in until 9am again today and then we got right into making pancakes. (FYI, sun salutations on a full belly of banana pancakes isn’t awesome.) We have scheduled a practice for about 4:30pm and as of now, everyone is keen. I’m starting to better and better about practicing. I look forward to it every day. I get high on the feeling of gliding into and out of postures effortlessly. Just thinking about it gives me tingles up m spine. I love being in my own world, where everything stressful and seemingly important falls away and I’m left with clear and floating feeling. It’s kind of like sex actually.

My body is transforming, as well. Not surprisingly, I have become leaner and much more toned. I not bulky, but I feel do feel a lot stronger. I am able to open jars all by myself and my capacity to lift heavy objects has increased quite a bit. It’s rare that I feel sore and achy, and if I do wake up a little stiff, the feeling is gone after the first 36 sun sals. The other day I had big pain in my tibialis anterior muscle, which is located at the front the shin and is mostly responsible for foot flexion. It hurt all the way up into my knee, but after a couple of minutes in sputa virasana, the cramping sensation completely subsided.

My appetite has changed too. At the beginning of this 108, I was rarely hungry despite the amount of physical activity I was doing. I just didn’t feel like eating. Now, my appetite is much stronger. I love feeling hungry, because it makes me excited about eating and there’s nothing worse that being ‘blah’ at mealtime. I don’t go for typical junk food, but I do like ‘organic’ chips, salsa and homemade cookies. Lately, I’ve been enjoying soups, stews, tripped out oatmeal and Vega smoothies, oh and dark chocolate.

Speaking of food, I learned something new today. Kat, who is ever conscious of food production, taught me how to read fruit and veggie labels this morning: If the number on say the banana sticker starts with a #3, it means it’s genetically modified. If it starts with a #4, the produce was grown with conventional agricultural practices. And if the sticker begins with a #9, it means organic. To remember these numbers, Kat suggests thinking of it as a scale from worse to best— three is least healthy and nine is the healthiest. Here’s a link to an article about why genetically modified food sucks: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/campaigns/ge/

* * *
Did my practice outside this afternoon with Jamie, Vito and Craig. The black flies and mosquitoes were bad, but no excuse to stay inside, so I adapted my yoga outfit accordingly.
(Those mesh jackets work great, despite how annoying they are to move in!)



Recipe for Kat's Coconut Curry Sprout Soup


Kat's Awesome Coconut Curry-Veggie Sprout Soup
(Serves 6-8 people)
  • 1/4 coconut oil
  • 2 onions cubed
  • 4 cloves of fresh minced garlic
  • 1 'thumb-size' piece of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 'thumb-size' piece of fresh minced turmeric
  • 2 tbsp+ curry powder
  • 3-4 celery stalks (finely chopped)
  • 3 carrots (finely chopped)
  • 2 sweet potatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 can (500ml) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can of water (rinse and use tomato can)
  • 500 ml coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped cabbage
  • 1 medium zucchini (finely chopped)
  • 4 cups of sprouted lentils
In a big pot, sauté the onions in coconut oil until golden brown. Next, add four cloves worth of minced garlic, ginger and turmeric. (Kat's says you can also use the garlic press to mince the ginger and turmeric.) Stir in the curry powder. Then add the celery, carrots, sweet potato and stewed tomatoes. Sauté the veggies until they are a little soft, then pour in the water and coconut milk. Bring the soup to a simmer and add in cabbage and zucchini. Let simmer for until veggies are soft and 5 minutes before serving add 4 cups of sprouted lentils.

Serve as is or you can blend the soup to make it creamy.

It's really delicious!! :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 35 - long weekend in Bancroft, Ont


(Ok we'll see if this works. I'm attempting to blog from Craig's iphone.)

I am in Bancroft, Ont with bunch of friends. Craig, Jamie, and Jeanine and I made a road-trip out here to visit our good friends Kat and Vito and their two and half year old daughter Gioia Ruby. They just bought a 100 acres outside of town and are in the process of doing major renovations on the house, which was actually a big grow-op before the previous owner was discovered and imprisoned. Kat and Vito are amazingly wonderful modern hippies, (who had no connection to the former grow-op, by the way). Kat is incredibly artistic and a former pilates teacher turned raw food and vegan chef. Vito is a talented and creative handyman, who, along with Kat's dad is basically rebuilding their entire house. Their plans are to turn the place into a retreat center eventually. This is the first time we are visiting.

We arrived at about 10pm and I still had 108 sun salutations to do. I managed to get through them, despite having to share my mat with dog Zenia and Gioia, who, when she wasn't doing her variation of dog pose behind me or on me, was running around in circles screaming "The Wheels on the Bus" at the top of her lungs. It was certainly entertaining.

This morning, we took a drive into town and I made a little video of our tour, which I will edit and post as soon as I have a proper internet connection. It's actually a pretty cool place. There are lots of the little independent shop and cafés, and the people are really friendly.

I feel so relaxed out here, so much more at ease than I did yesterday. It's so nice do be away from the city and be with good friends. I practiced outside (again with Gioia hanging out on my mat for most of it, which was funny) this afternoon overlooking the forest. It was so nice to breathe fresh country air and be in the trees. The only issue is the bugs, but for some reason they left me alone while I was Sun Saluting.



I have a delicious soup recipe to share with you from Kat's kitchen, but I am being a little anti-social, so I'm going to post later.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 34 - The beautifully revolting process of self-discovery

As you know or as you've most likely heard, yoga helps you "discover yourself." Yeah well, sometimes it really ain't pretty. Sometimes it sucks and it's enough to make you ask, "why am I doing this anyway?" And sometimes, the old saying "ignorance is bliss" feels perfectly valid.

Take today for example. With all this yoga and all these ayurvedic treatments, things are starting to come to the surface. After venting to Marianne, the manager of my studio, about how unfair it is for me to work so much and pick up everyone's slak, I have come to the realization that I don't properly communicate, so I take on too much and micro-manage to the point where I end up doing almost everything myself. Then, I feel grumpy and frustrated. My tone can be sharp and aggressive, and then I feel guilty. I wonder if I'm hard to work with and if people dislike working for me. Am I an aggressive person? And does this make me a bad yogi?

I suppose it's better that I see this
, but it can also be destabilizing. It makes question why I spend so much time doing yoga.

Marianne and I finished our conversation on a good note. She thinks that because I'm a "creative artist" type, my vision is grand and can be difficult for others to grasp. She says that I need to surround myself with more people who understand this, so I can communicate with more ease. Hearing her say this, eased my guilt a little. Anyway, I think I need to percolate a little more.

Ironically, this morning I randomly opened Pema Chodron's book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, as came across this quote:

"Being a buddah isn't easy. It's accompanied by fear, resentment, and doubt. But learning to leap into open space with our fear, resentment, and doubt is how we fully become human beings...Taking refuge in the buddha means that we are willing to spend our life reconnecting with the quality of being continually awake. Every time we feel like taking refuge in escape, we take off more armour, undoing all the stuff that covers over our wisdom and our greatness and our awake quality. So when we say, 'I take refuge in the Buddha,' that means I take refuge in the courage and the potential of fearlessness, of removing all the armour that covers the awakeness of mine. I am awake; I will spend the rest of my life taking this armour."
I guess this says it all.
The reward of disarming the self is a dream, but so I persevere not know to what end I shall journey.

108 more surya namaskars x 74 more days... + about 80 years left for me to discover.


(PS I will be in the country for the next few days and I'm not sure it I will have access to the internet...)






Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 33 - Ayurvedic treatments for a "windy mind"


For the past two days, I've had treatments at the Ayurveda Centre from my teachers, Anita and Manu. It was recommended that I do three consecutive days of ayurvedic massage, warm oil therapy, and steaming in order to 'calm my Vata' and 'unblock my Pita.' In other words, my teachers suggested that because of what I'm undergoing with this project compounded with my duties of running a yoga studio and teaching 18 classes a week, my mind is like a kite in a windstorm, all over the place, and I have some inner frustration that's stuck in my chest, which prevents me from resting and communicating effectively.

I totally agree with their observations. My brain is constantly overworking just in trying to remember what I need to do in order to fulfill all my daily obligations, and to be honest, sometimes I feel really frustrated about having to carry so much responsibility at my studio, despite having a full staff.

So, in an attempt to be proactive, I've had two days of these intense treatments. I've received ayurvendic massage, Shirodhara, which is a heavenly treatment whereby warm oil is poured over the forehead and scalp, and body steaming, which forces me to sweat out 'toxins.' This, along with my two hour yoga practices has been knocking me out. I am supposed to be resting more these days, but we have this big event at my studio next week and there are lots of deadlines to meet. Nevertheless, despite my excessively oil head, I do feel more energized and more focused, and I actually sweated today in my practice, which I rarely do. (Anita says this is because the channels that allow me to release 'fire', in this case sweat, are finally clearing, which I suppose is very good.) Tomorrow is my last day at the Centre and then Craig and I and couple of friends are off to the country for the long weekend to visit good friends who just bought land west of Ottawa. I can't wait. I am so looking forward to spending time with friends and walking in the forest. I love that.

I started my practice early this morning so that I complete most, if not whole practice, before my ayurveda sessions. I was quite proud of myself for finishing my 108 by 9 am. Craig took today's photos.

Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 33 - The Padahastasana Salute

Along the same logic as yesterday's Surya Namaskar, today we begin the basic A sun salutation with five breaths in padahastasana, the hand foot pose, where essentially, the hand slides under your foot. (You can bend your knees for this one.)


Benefits of Padahastasana:
  • Stretches the back of the legs & hamstrings
  • Increases the flexibility of the spine
  • Relieves tension from wrists and forearms
  • Calms the mind
  • Improves liver and kidney function
  • Stimulates digestion


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Surya Namaskar Recipe Day 32


I didn't have a chance to post this yesterday, but I wanted to share a new variation of surya namaskar with you. This one begins with five breaths in padangustasana, standing big toe pose (the first posture of the Ashtanga yoga sequence).

Benefits of Padangustasana
  • Stretches the hamstrings and calves
  • Relaxes the mind and helps to relieve stress
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Improves liver and kidney function
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Helps relieve headache and insomnia






Day 32 - Upcoming Community Practices & Fundraising update


108 update for today: My status? Tired, but happy. Yesterday's practice really knocked me out and today I joined my downstairs neighbours for a 108 starting at 7am. We did it Anthea's way: basic surya namaskar holding downward dog for five breaths every sixth sun salutation. It feels monotonous for the first half, but then you get into a nice rhythm and it becomes really meditative and effortless. As we were going through the repetition of surya namasakar A, I kept thinking about the conversation I had on the weekend with Antoine, a yoga instructor from the Art of Living Foundation. We were talking about the different ways I usually do the 108 and I explained how I like to change it up and do different postures so that my practice is balanced and so I don't get bored. He said smiling, "Sometimes it's good to get bored." He's right. It's a great challenge for the mind. It helps us train the mind to be stable and still.

Campaign update & Upcoming events: I'm still raising money for the Canadian Institute for the Blind until the end of May. I have a bunch for community practices coming up to help me fund-raise. The schedule is pasted below. Hopefully, you can make it out to one of the practices. If you can't and are interested in sponsoring me, here's the link to my CNIB fund-raising page and you can make a donation online: http://bit.ly/amEge5

Thank you. I really appreciate your support and encouragement. :)

Every Monday 2:30 – 4:30pm: 108 Surya Namaskar
Centre Holistique Om West, 46-3 rue Ste Anne, Pointe Claire, QC, H9S 4P8
(Bus 211 from Lionel Groulx)
T: 514-905-8020 * Yoga by donation ($10 – 20) to non-profit organizations

May 28, 2 – 4pm: Meditation & 54 Surya Namaskar
Studio Bliss, 3841 Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC, RSVP 514-286-0007
* Yoga by donation ($10 – 20) to CNIB/ Le Garde-Manger Pour Tous

May 29: YOGA DAY for CNIB (36 Surya Namaskar with Yasmin)
In support of CNIB & The Great Canadian Yoga Stretch Challenge
Centre Holistique Om West, 46-3 rue Ste Anne, Pointe Claire, QC, H9S 4P8
RSVP 514-905-8020 | events@westislandyoga.com

May 30, 10am – 1pm*: Yoga Mala (108 Surya Namaskar)
In support of Le Garde-Manger Pour Tous ($50 minimum contribution)
Parc Jeanne Mance-- corner Duluth/Esplanade
*If rain: Studios Lyne St-Roch, 103-4416 Saint-Laurent, 2 - 5 pm
RSVP dawn@dawnmauricio.com or bram.levinson@gmail.com

June 3, 7:00 – 8:30pm: Meditation & 54 Surya Namaskar
Charlie*Sattva*yoga-à-porter, 260 Bernard West, Montreal, QC
RSVP 514-510-5788 *Yoga by donation to David Suzuki Foundation

June 6 (9am–12pm): 180 Surya Namaskar + Potluck Brunch
Loft Crudessence, 5333 rue Casgrain, Suite 801, Montreal, QC
RSVP 514-271-0333 *Yoga by donation to DSF/ bring a veggie dish to share

June 12 (5:30 – 7:00pm): 54 Surya Namaskar by Candlelight
Lululemon Fairview, 6815 Transcanada, Pointe Claire, QC
RSVP 514-695-3613 *Yoga by donation to DSF

June 21-25, 6 – 9 am: Sunrise Sun Salutations + Breakfast
On the pier, one block east of Cartier St in Pointe Claire Village.
If rain @ Om WestCost: $120 for full week/ $200 for two weeks / $25 day
RSVP 514-905-8020 |
www.westislandyoga.com (part of proceeds go to DSF)

June 28-July 2, 6 - 9am: Sunrise Sun Salutations + Breakfast
On the pier, one block east of Cartier St in Pointe Claire Village.
If rain @ Om WestCost: $120 for full week/ $200 for two weeks / $25 day
RSVP 514-905-8020 | www.westislandyoga.com (part of proceeds go to DSF)


FOR DETAILS VISIT: www.practicebliss.com/calendar/
More events added each week!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 31 - Only connect... (Chakra #7)


I had an amazing practice this evening in Viateur Park near my house. It's a lovely spot with a little water canal thing running through it. The sun was starting to set, but it was still warm. I practiced all by myself for just under three hours. The time passed so quickly, I could have stay out longer as I was really starting to get into a deep meditation, but it was starting to get late and as I mentioned yesterday, I am trying to go to bed earlier. (Last night, I managed to sneak in before midnight, but only by about 25 minutes or so. Tonight I'm going to try harder, because I have a 7am practice date with my neighbours.)

So, today we are discussing the seventh chakra. Located at the top of the head, the crown chakra, or Sahasara in Sanskrit, is associated with the 'color' white, and as mentioned last week, its sound is AUM or OM. This energy centre is kind of like the gate keeper for all the other chakras. When it's out of sync, everything else is affected. Not only does this chakra control the nervous system, but it also is the point of entry for spirit and the divine. It gives us a sense of being connected to "something bigger" or to you know, "G-O-D" or whatever you want to call it/him/her. So, when the energy in this area is balanced we have 'faith that everything is working effortless the way it's supposed to' and feel supported, reassured, confident, strong, creative, optimistic-- all this good stuff that we channel down into the other areas. This is my experience anyway.

I spent a bit of time last night and today contemplating how I could integrate the chakra into the practice, beside just OM-ing through another sun salutation. I thought about what make me feel connected to something bigger than myself and I kept thinking about nature and trees in particular. Then on my way to the ayurvedic school, I caught an interview with botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger on CBC's The Current about the magical properties of trees and everything made sense. In her discussion, Ms Beresford-Kroeger talked about the healing properties of trees and how trees communicate with each other. Did you know that if one tree is sick, the tree next to it produces an antibody for its illness? Crazy. The botanist also discussed how our genetic blueprints are so closely connected with trees.

I found the link to the interview. I highly recommend you have a listen:
http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2010/05/may-18-2010.html

Anyway, my thought process is that trees and nature remind us that we too are part of nature and that everything in life is beautifully connected.


Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 31 - The ONE Salute

Practice by yourself outside in nature under the canopy of some big, old trees. Take a moment to connect to your surroundings. Become sensitive to sounds, smells and feelings. I recommend you even loose your mat for at least part of the practice and take the time to feel your hands and feet and heart on the ground. Appreciate. You may even want to say a little prayer or ask for some divine guidance to channel its way through you.

TIPS:
  • Avoid practicing between 11am & 3pm (The sun is too strong then)
  • Bring a long sleeve shirt or blanket to wrap yourself in when you finish
  • Find level ground or not, if you want to challenge your balance!
  • Do it in bare feet without a mat
  • My friend Christine say to "stand on your head. Richard Freeman says, 'You are crowning yourself with the earth!'"
  • If buggy, wear thin long-sleeves and as my mom says, "Pray to the Diva of the Mosquitoes and ask to be left alone."
  • Turn off your phone and loose the ipod
  • Take time to watch the clouds pass by and the movement of the leaves in the trees









Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 30 - Sleep is powerful medicine (Chakra #6)


I went to bed at 10:30 last night and it was glorious. I slept so well and woke up so happy. I got right into organizing my week and made a lovely plan for myself and my staff. I'm not normally a 'planning' kind of person, but I don't really have a choice now that my schedule is so full. Plus, it feels good to get things down on paper.

After a quick lunch meeting with Marianne, my studio manager, I brought my mat down to the water. It was heavenly. I did my whole 180 outside looking the lake and then taught two classes outside. The warm sun, the soft breeze, the birds chirping... I was seriously tripping. Everything just flowed beautifully.

(Here's a picture taken this evening of my class in tree pose practicing in our 'studio by the lake.')

My goal this week is to be in bed before 11pm everyday. I'm sure it will make a huge difference in my energy and state of mind.


I am generally an optimistic person, but I am much more enthusiastic and focused when I sleep before midnight. In ayurveda, sleeping between midnight and 2 am is considered very important, because this is when your liver rejuvenates itself, and your liver is your main filtration system. If it's working well, we feel refreshed and positive and if it is sick, we feel sluggish and frustrated.

Speaking of sleep, today's theme is Ajna, the sixth chakra or the brow chakra, which governs the pineal and pituitary glands and is responsible for sleep. Also known as the third-eye chakra, this energy centre is associated with the color indigo and is also connected to our inner awareness and intuition. Its mantra is 'KSHAM.'

As my teacher points out, it's only effective to repeat KSHAM when sitting still and focusing on one point. So, I started my practice in meditation. Sitting comfortably, I relaxed my body, and took in my surroundings through my senses-- I listened to as many sounds as I could hear, I enjoyed the feeling of the sun and breeze on my skin, I smelled the scent of the nearby lilacs, tasted the fresh air and watched the light sparkle in the water. Then, once I was comfortable, I closed my eyes, focused my attention on my 'third-eye' at the centre of my forehead, and began to repeat KSHAM silently.

After about five minutes, I felt a shift. I felt light, calm and energized. I then began my practice with the intent to allow my intuition guide me. By this I mean, whatever I felt I needed to do I did, be it hold a pose or even invent a new sequence to release tension in a particular area, so for today's Surya Namaskar, I invite you to try this practice:

Surya Namaskar Recipe: The Inventor's Salute

With your eyes closed, allow yourself to be guided into a sequence you invent along the way based on what you need and what feedback you are receiving from your body. Be really attentive as to what feels good and go with that. (It's best that you practice alone for this one. Music is often very helpful.)


More info on the Third-Eye Chakra
(from Jamie Lee)

Ajna Area of consciousness for the celestial body
Relates to: Clear sightedness, the bringing together of opposites (ida and pingala unite at the point), inspiration, insight, telepathy, access to the Higher Self (Guru), the pineal, pituitary, brain, ears, eyes, realization of full potential
Gland: Pineal, Piuitary
Sense: Thought
Element: Electric or Telepathic energy
Personality: ‘I am who I am’
Balanced Energy: Charismatic, open to guidance, not afraid of death, not attached to material things, can experience telepathy, past lives or astral travel, self- fulfilled, can be celibate, may have experienced Cosmic Consciousness
Excessive Energy: Proud, religiously dogmatic, tyrannical, demonic
Deficient Energy: Non-assertive, undisciplined, weak-willed, extreme sensitivity to the feelings (energy) of others, afraid of success, schizophrenic


Recipe for Throat Chakra Smoothie


Berry Blue
¾ cup soy milk
¾ cup pineapple juice
½ cup blueberries
6-8 purple grapes
1 tsp E3Live™




Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that reduce free radical damage to the body helping prevent aliments like cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and even cancer. As well, the blue-red pigment found in blueberries supports and helps regenerate the capillaries and vascular system. E3Live™is another great ingredient in this smoothie. A dietary supplement composed of aqua-botanical blue-green algae; E3Live™ is abundant in nutrient dense chlorophyll and minerals that support the thyroid gland and speeds up cell rejuvenation. Use the powder or frozen variety.


Throat Chakra - Visuddha
The throat chakra is blue and is located at the throat. It is associated with communication, truth, trust and the thyroid gland.



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 29 - Express thyself (Chakra #5)


It's about 3pm on Sunday afternoon. The sun is shinning and it feels like summer. I'm sitting in Mount Royal Park with about 4000 other Montrealers. This is our inner-city beach without water. It's a giant celebration here every Sunday afternoon. We call this event "TamTams", because of the huge drum circle in the center of the Park near the angel monument. I thought I'd come here to write this afternoon so I can be inspired by all the wonderfully expressive people. This is fitting because today we are onto the fifth chakra, our throat chakra, the centre for communication and expression.

It's a wonderful atmosphere. Next to me, there is a group of people juggling bowling pins. In front of me, there are two girls painting. A little further on, I see some acrobats playing around and there is even a bunch of slak-liners practicing between the trees. (Slak-lining is similar to a tight rope walking, but the rope isn't tight.) There are people of all ages, lots of different kinds of pets, guitars, drums and tamborines everywhere. Of course, there also dozens of hacky sacs and frisbees being tossed about.

Craig is off exploring with his camera and I am gearing up to complete my last 48 sun salutations for the day. I'm having a hard time getting started. This a great place to people watch and the heat from the sun is making me feel a little sleepy, but I'll get to it in a moment.


This morning, I led 24 sun salutations at my Ayurvedic school for my teacher's Sunday group. I thought it would be nice to integrate the chakra mantras with surya namaskar as I've been writing about these last few days. But, Anita, my teacher, came in part way through the practice and said it is better to hold a stable position when repeating the mantra for the root chakra (Lam), the heart chakra (Yam) and the third eye chakra, which we will get to tomorrow. So, I will have to correct a few of the sun salutations I've posted. My suggestion for the Root Salute from day 25 is to repeat "Lam" in mountain pose while focusing on the stability of your legs and feet on the ground. Anita says this will be much more effective than saying the mantra throughout the salutation. She says the same for the Heart chakra Salute. However, Anita says it's ok to do sun salutations with the mantras for the second and third and fifth chakras as those energy centres need movement.

The throat chakra, or Vishudha, is located at the throat and is connected to our ability to express ourselves. When this chakra is balanced, we speak truthfully with compassion. When it is blocked or out of balance, we have difficultly communicating and taking responsibility for our actions. To effectively strengthen the throat chakra, repeat its mantra "HAM" in a meditative position while visualizing the color light blue. Another great way to clear this energy centre is to express yourself through writing, art, music and dance.

Drumming is a great way to express oneself and I must point out that drums are also very
grounding and good for the root chakra. Listening to the tamtam drums as I practiced on the mountain gave my sun salutations a nice earthy rhythm.

Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 29 - Express Thyself Salute (5th Chakra)

In an effort to open up and free my throat chakra, I substituted ustrasana, the camel pose, for cobra in the basic sun salutation. Ustrasana is known to open up the chest and throat and clear congested energy from the fifth chakra. Here's a description of the pose and its progressions:

Camel Pose {Ustrasana}

Camel is a back bending posture. It provides a stretch for the front of the body, groins, ankles, neck and thighs and a stretch the deep hip flexors. It helps improve posture by opening the front of the body and stimulates the organs.

TIPS: press down through the tops of your feet and bring your hands to your heels at the same time. You can also rest your hands on blocks.

Beneficial for:
  • Mild backaches
  • Menstrual discomforts
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Respiratory ailments
Not beneficial for:
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Lower back or neck injuries
  • Insomnia
  • Knee injuries
My dedicated yoga student, Amber is featured in these camel posture photos. She has been practicing at Om West for nearly three years and is currently in my Advanced Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program.



Recipe for Heart Chakra Smoothie


Mega Vega Green Smoothie for the Heart


½ cup apple juice

½ cup almond or Rice milk
1 scoop of Natural Vega®
1 banana
½ apple
Handful of sunflower sprouts
1 tsp tahini



For the Mega Vega Green Smoothie, I add sunflower sprouts for crunch and at least
one scoop of natural flavor Vega® for the chlorella protein—chlorella is fast growing vegetable protein that is highly nutritious and full of chlorophyll.

Heart Chakra – Anahata
The heart chakra is green and shines from the center of the chest. It is linked to feelings of love, compassion and forgiveness, and also with relationships and acceptance.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 28 - Listening to the Heart (Chakra #4)


This morning, it was really clear to me that night clubbing does not complement my current yoga practice and lifestyle. I don't recover well from going to bed at 2 am, especially considering I am now waking up to 108 sun salutations. Although I kinda knew this before, I felt compelled to join my friend’s 30th birthday celebration at some fancy new supper club. I put in a valiant effort too: I wore 3.5 inch heels, a dress and stayed out past 1 am. I only having one glass of wine, I’ve been feeling hung over and low energy all day.

I slept in until 9:30am, and so I was anxious as to how and when I would be able to fit in my practice, my photos and my blog today considering I had to be at my studio this afternoon for a workshop my friend Jamie Lee and tonight another friend is celebrating her birthday. But I decided that since today I am focusing on the heart chakra, the fourth energy centre, I was going to listen to what my heart is asking.

I've been in need of some alone time and some space. Instead of doing the yoga asana part with Jamie's workshop group, I took my mat down the street to the water and practiced there. It was beautiful. I sat for a long time just looking out on the water and up at the clouds and started repeating this affirmation: "I am letting go and allowing the universe to take care of me."

It felt good to recognize what I need. I need to let go of my worries and expectations of this project. I know that what will be, will be, so why I am I still trying so hard to create a perfect poster, to give the most meaningful gift, to raise so much money for charity, to write interesting entries, and to top it off, why do I push myself go out
and be the life of the party, as well? I know and I don't know this answer, my friends, but I understand why solitude and simple rural living makes spiritual life so much easier.

I am letting go and allowing the universe to take care of me.

My practice wasn't perfectly clean, but it was pleasant. I didn't really have a plan as to what postures I would do and I didn't even use a mat for most of it. I wanted to feel my hands on the ground and at many points, I laid on my stomach, my heart on the grass, and it felt good.

The Heart Chakra
The heart chakra, anahata chakra in Sanskrit, is located in the centre of the chest and is associated with the color green. This is the centre for compassion, kindness and the immune system. It is also through this energy centre that we connect with one another in friendship and in love. When this chakra is balanced, we feel compassion and unconditional love for ourselves, for others, and for everything around us. In the workshop today, Jamie was talking about how we project our emotions through our heart centre into the space that surrounds us and back. Thus, how we feel emotionally, effects what we experience. For example, when we feel happy and positive, we send out this signal and more happiness and positive things comes back to us. The opposite is true when we feel negative and angry. In light of this, it makes sense for us only to do things we really want to do and things that are good for us.

Something I find helpful is sit quietly and assess what exact emotions I am feeling. Then I ask myself
Deepak Chopra's three essential questions: Who am I? What do I want? & How can I serve? I ask and then I wait for the first thing that comes to mind. For me, the answers are usually every abstract and symbolic. This practice can be done anytime, but it's nice to do it first thing in the morning so that you know where you stand emotionally at the start of the day.

Next, you can introduce mantra, if you'd like. The mantra for the heart chakra is YAM. According to my teacher, it is best to repeat YAM in a stable seated position with the eyes closed and hands on the heart -- right first, left on top. (She has advised me not to repeat YAM during the sun salutation, only when sitting still.)


Surya Namaskar Receipe: Day 28 - The Anahata Salute

To open and activate this fourth centre, I recommend doing a sun salutation that opens your heart and brings you joy. It can also be helpful to visualize the color green-- green like the grass, green like a lush forest.









Recipes for two Chakra Smoothies



Chakra of Creation- Swadisthana
The chakra of creation (also known as the spleen or sex chakra) is our second energy centre and resides below the navel in the lower abdomen. Linked to our reproductive organs, it is related to emotions, sex and creativity. Its color is orange.

Perfectly Balanced
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 Mango
  • 1 peach
  • 1 tsp camu camu berry powder
  • 1 tsp maca extract or 2 tsp maca powder
  • Agave nectar to sweeten (optional)
To stimulate this chakra, I use the brilliant orange and vitamin rich juice of carrots and other sunshine toned foods like oranges and mangos. Papaya is also nice in this smoothie. The power ingredients are camu camu berry powder and maca. The camu camu berry is full of bio-available vitamin C and other essential nutrients. Maca is a miracle root vegetable from Peru. It energizes, boosts libido, and balances the hormonal system better then any other product or food I know.



Solar Pelxus Chakra - Manipura
The solar plexus chakra is yellow and is located above the navel. Often described as the “centre of personal power,” it is associated with digestion, courage and self-esteem.

Mellow Yellow for Digestive Ease
  • ¾ cup almond or hemp milk
  • ¾ cup orange juice Pineapple (fresh is best)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice 1 tbsp grated fresh Ginger
  • 1 tbsp White Chia seeds

This delicious smoothie has tummy taming fresh ginger. As well, lemons and pineapples are beneficial in decreasing acidity in the body. Aside from being full of minerals and vitamins, pineapple also has pain relieving properties. It contains particular enzymes called bromelain, which digests food by breaking down protein. Bromelain is also helpful in reducing inflammation and relieves intestinal disorders. Another great ingredient in this smoothie is white chia. White chia seeds are easily assimilated and are high in iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are also a good source of fiber and are rich in essential fatty acids omega 3 and 6.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 27 - Crudessence Yum Yum (Chakra #3)

One-quarter done!!

Wahoo!
To celebrate, we had an amazing practice and dinner at Loft Crudessence, which is a gorgeous space overlooking the city skyline. Nice people + nice sunset.

Check out the View!




Be creative + Invite your own surya namaskar


I'm off to a party for more celebrating. This one is in honor of my dear friend Maya's 30th Birthday.

Ta ta for now ; )

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 26 - Finding the Creative Flow (Chakra #2)


The hockey madness has settled (a little) and the broken glass along Ste Catherine's has been swept up, so it's time to move on to a discussion about creativity and the second chakra...

The creative or sex chakra is situated just above the pubic bone. Its Sanskrit name is 'Swadhisthana' and it is associated with the color orange and the mantra 'VAM. It is responsible for our emotions, sex, reproduction, and creativity. When Swadhisthana is in balance, we are imaginative, creative and have a healthy sex life.

Today, I have two videos for you. One of my friend and artist Jamie Lee talking about
his new painting and where creativity comes from. The other video is my sun salutation to energize the creative chakra using its mantra, VAM.

video

To see more of Jamie's art, visit his website: www.mythirdeye.info

Other ideas to spark the creative fire...
1- Surround your self with books and images that you like
2- Make an 'I LIKE' list of all of your favourite things
3- Go to the museum
4- See Cirque de Soleil LIVE
5- Give yourself space to think: go for a walk alone without music or a cell
6- Take a candle light bath with lavender
7- Stage a bed-in with the one you love
8- Join an artist's exchange - everyone draws a name and you have to make a piece of
art for person whose name you chose.
9- Check out the websites of cool artists. Here are links to some of the people who
inspire me:

May I ask, who and what inspires you, my friends?
----------------------------------------

Surya Namaskar Recipe: The Creative Balancing Salute
VIDEO

video

(I know, chanting mantras can seem a little nerdy, but it feels really good after. If you are shy, find a quiet place, so you can practice without interruption.)