Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Art of Letting go

As we sift through drawers, closets, and forgotten boxes, the dust makes my eyes water and my nose stuff up. Emotions well inside. I remember the young student who gave me this red card with the embossed deity on it the cover. He was seven at the time he was in my kids yoga class, but he must be in Cegep now. There’s also an astrology book found in this collection of stuff. The instructor who gave it to me way back when doesn’t speak to me anymore because of a disagreement. In other box, I find every attendance sheet of every class I ever taught since 2004. I can’t believe that was eight years ago, and I really can’t believe I’m in the process of packing up and moving out of my studio.

This was my week to sort through everything at Om West and decide what stays, what to recycle, what to discard, and what to bring home. On Thursday afternoon, I sit on the floor of Studio 1 and sort CDs. There are a couple without labels. I put one into the player and the notes of Yann Tiersen’s theme song for Amelie begin. Suddenly, I’m lost in a cloud of memories and undistinguishable feelings. I stare at the window and try to regain my composure. “We’re almost done,” I tell myself. “Soon this will all be over.”

I’m not very good at organizing, so trying to figure out what to do with all these accumulated documents and materials is stressful for me. It’s a lot of small intestine work, my friend Nadia would say. I feel constipated, both physically and mentally. But miraculously, after three days and several car trips later, we’re done, and the studio has never, in its 15 years of existence, been more orderly. 

By 8:30pm, Craig, who all day was helping me sort and stay focused, is waiting by the door. The car is packed. But all of a sudden, I have an urge to sit and have a good cry. The lump in my throat has become so large, it’s restricting my breath, and my lower lip is quivering uncontrollably. It finally hit me— All the decisions I made here, all the people I met, all the events I’ve hosted… I never before realized what I actually created and did in this place. I don’t want to leave. I feel like going back upstairs and hugging every wall.  

Craig walks over and puts his arms around me and whispers things like, “Everything is still going to be here next week,” and “Think about all the you’re now going to have.” But I know I just have to let myself release emotions until I feel better.

We eventually make our way home. I am comforted by conversation with Antoine, the new owner, and a bowl of warm Thai curry that is delivered to our door.

So now the sorting is over, and it’s end of a monumental year.

Craig and I are in Bancroft, Ontario at Kat and Vito’s alpaca farm. My friend Jamie Lee, the artist, and Ron Obadia, chocolate yoga co-founder are here too. I’m happy to be celebrating the start of 2012 surrounded by beloved friends. We have a big bonfire planned tonight and I brought a box of paperwork to burn. This will be my way of symbolically letting go of the past.

It’s the dawn of a new beginning, and the start of a new adventure. I’m ready and I’m so stoked.

Kids Yoga Camp 2008

Practice your own letting go ritual this weekend: 
Write down anything and/or everything that has upset you. Then, as soon as you are done writing, destroy the paper by burning or shredding it.
Cleaning out closets and storage boxes can also be liberating. 
Then, take time to be silent so inspiration can come.

Happy Happy New Year. May peace and joy prevail.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eco-Christmas Ideas & New Year's Manifestion exercise

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

The Holidays have always been such a special time of year for me, and for my family. My dad is Mr. Christmas. He absolutely adores these festivities, and my parents home is the perfect setting. They live an gorgeous cottage just outside Montreal that is nearly 120 years-old. The living room has this incredible cathedral ceiling and a massive stone fireplace. Decked with twinkling garlands and a 10 foot tree, this room is Christmas personified. It's so nice to spend a few days here.

I am so grateful for all my blessings and my heart is full of joy and exhalation as we come to the end of a most memorable 12 months.  And an incredible year lies ahead! 2012! Amazing. A historic adventure, I'm sure. I pray for peace, compassion, and global tolerance and acceptance.

Made yesterday and full of Holiday cheer, here is my first video in a long time! (Yes, I'm a little rusty in front of the camera...) In this video, I'm sharing some of my own Christmas traditions-- my eco-gift wrapping ideas, my make-shift decorations, and a special Alternate Nostril breathing exercise designed to promote energy, happiness, inspiration and love, while relieving stress, fear, frustration and anxiety.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year full of inspiration, creation, light, love, health and wealth. 

Much love,

Monday, November 21, 2011

My 30th Birthday!

The police shut down my party on Saturday! It was a blast. Plus, I got the skeleton I wanted!

Today is my actual birthday. Thirty years old! Holy Moly!

Many people have asked me how I feel turning 30, and I have to say I'm so freaking excited! I cried on my birthday when I went from 12 to 13, because I thought that entering my teens meant I was no longer a child. Thankfully, I now know that childhood can last a life time. I feel like I am simultaneously 6 and 108, and this will never change.

In the last year, perhaps more so than in other years, I feel I've come into my own. I know and like myself much better than ever before. I attribute this shift of perception to all the knowledge I'm acquiring in Ayurvedic school. I am more understanding and accepting of the things I didn't like about myself before, such as my tendency to be a stubborn perfectionist. As my good friend Natalie predicted, I am now less interested in trying to be someone I think I should be, and more interested in enjoying myself and just being who I am. This has been an amazing experience, because not only am I more accepting of me, I am more accepting of others too. And I am having so much more fun!

Speaking of fun, I am so grateful to have been able to share my birthday celebration with my friends, family and teacher training students, who got me the six foot skeleton as a group gift (which is killer! Thank you!!). And even thought the police kicked everyone out of the loft at 12:30am, I got to wear a tutu dress and we really had a radical time. (The drums were awesome. James, you rule.)

I am also grateful to be passing my studio on to two lovely new owners and I am excited for what's coming up: Craig, my beloved, and I going to Paris for ten days at the beginning of Dec. and we will be moving in to our own place hopefully by Jan. 1. Plus, on the professional side, I have two dvds
coming out Dec. 6 in stores across Canada, and I now have my own jewelery collection with! So exciting!!

PS If you are one of my lovely yoga students, remember it is customary to do 108 sun salutations on your yoga teacher's birthday! (Wink!)

PPS Thank you to Craig for all the organizational genius and to Miranda from Ahimsa Yoga for the great space! xo

Friday, November 4, 2011

Embracing Change

I have a big announcement... I sold my yoga studio.

It seems strange to see those words and even stranger to say them out loud. But it's true. After being the sole proprietor of Om West Holistic Centre for five years, I am choosing a new path. This is no doubt a huge change for me and it was a difficult decision. I have spent 17 years at this yoga centre.

My yoga life began in the dimly lit, carpeted studio at 46 Ste Anne Street in Pointe Claire Village, which is about 25km west of downtown Montreal. It was circa 1996 and no one cool had ever tried yoga expect maybe the Beatles 30 years prior. I'm an awkward teenager working part-time for Gigi, the owner of said yoga studio. With her encouragement/enforcement, my friend and I start practicing Ashtanga yoga with Mark Darby, who is fresh from India and impatient with awkward teenagers. (By the way, Darby is now a renown world-traveling yoga teacher, but he had his Western debut at Gigi's humble little studio, as did several other yoga masters.) For some reason, I stick with ashtanga yoga, although I distinctly remember not having much affinity towards it back then. 

A few years later, at age 18 or 19, I end up on a deserted island in British Colombia learning yoga from Claire, a spirited 24-year-old who had taught yoga in Costa Rica. I'm mesmerized by her soulful beauty and I wanted to be like her, so because of her prompting, I started teaching yoga to kids. The summer ends and I'm back in Pointe Claire. Gigi puts me in charge of the kids yoga program at her Centre. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I borrow a book from the library and I make it up as I go along. (Admittedly, making things up as I go is a tactic I continue to rely on to this day!)

Two years later and I'm in Australia for a year. I'm at RMIT university. I am teaching adult yoga, and I attempt to record my first yoga cd (alone in a basement radio booth). It's January 2003 and I'm back again at the Centre in Pointe Claire Village. Gigi convinces me to stay in Montreal and manage her centre. Good call, because in the year I was Down Under, North Americans go crazy for yoga. My evening classes quickly overflow. Pretty soon and I'm all over the place teaching 6000 classes a week and I LOVE IT, but I don't really have much formal training. So after briefly flirting with the idea of moving to Norway, I commit to living in Montreal for another year, and register for Mark Darby and Hart Lazer's 200 hour yoga teacher training. It's there I meet my best yogi friends Mark Laham and Jamie Lee. I'm extremely tempted to follow Mark's path of nomade yoga teacher, but when Jamie decides to buy Yoga Source, a studio in the South Shore, getting a studio of my own seems like a good idea. In 2005, Gigi offers to sell me her studio. I say, no. When she asks again in 2006, I say, yes, and acquire a bank loan.

I discover that owning a studio is a lot more complex than managing one part-time. Argumentative staff, a dissatisfied client, and big bills, there are moments I am sick with anxiety and stress. Someone says, "Why don't you try some yoga? Ha Ha," and I want to kill him or her. However, I then find Marianne, a wonderful mothery manager, who helps me get organized. A few years go by. The studio grows, and my responsibilities continue to increase. I'm overwhelmed and I really can't think straight. I need guidance. 

I find Lisa Lajoie, a spiritual mastermind, and she and I become pals. "I'm not sure if I want all these responsibilities, and I'm not sure I'm meant to be a yoga teacher. Sometimes, I feel like I poser..." I rhapsodize. Lisa and I talk a lot. But I still I don't know what to do. I pray for inspiration. I meditate. I write. I decide to embark on an inner pilgrimage, a mala of 108 practices. On April 15, Lisa suggests I start on the 108th day of the year, which is three days later. I protest I'm not prepared, but she shoots me her 'Don't mess with me' look, so I go home and freak out all night. Nevertheless, on the morning of April 18, 2010, I start my journey of 108 daily sun salutations in company of my friend Ron Cherilus and some of the students of Om West. 

Of course, what transpires next, are the 108 days of surya namasker that are already outlined in the pages of this blog. During this time, it becomes increasingly oblivious to me that I no longer want to run a yoga centre. But I feel like a mother afraid to admit she is too young to raise a child, so I keep my mouth shut, and force my way through hours of tedious administrative tasks. The 108 days end with a 32 hour consecutive yoga marathon at Om West. It's the most amazing experience of my life. I am doing my favourite thing in the world, I'm in my studio, and I'm surrounded by my favourite people. I am so in love with each moment. I don't want to let it go. 

Marianne and I part ways in the fall and Tasreen joins me as studio manager. Working with Tas is great. Along with my new business advisor, Blair, we implement procedures and systems. I'm learning a lot about business, and the studio is becoming busier. Sales are going up, but I still feel burdened with decisions and tasks. By Christmas, it's clear I need a radical change. At first, I think getting a partner would be helpful, and I toy with this concept for a few months. Unfortunately, a good partnership candidate fails to appear, so I start exploring other options. I sign-on, then quickly sign-off with a business broker. He doesn't understand the needs of the studio, and I'm determined to find someone who will care, really care about the well being of my Centre and the students who come there. My goal is to find new owners before I turn 30. I don't know the first thing about selling a business. With no broker and no leads, I worry, then I pray and meditate. 

What follows is rather serendipitous. One quiet Friday afternoon in May, I get a Marma Point Massage from Antoine. Afterward, we sit and have tea. He tells me how much he and his wife, Pamela, love Om West, and he says that if I ever consider selling it, to tell him first as they would be very interested. From there, we meet and exchange non-disclosure agreements. I spend the summer organizing more paperwork that I have in my entire five years of business ownership. But then things fall into place, and here I am. Pamela and Anotine will officially take my place as owners Jan. 1, 2012, and I will stay on to teach a few regular classes at Om West.

I have to say, it feels good to share this story. I am grateful beyond words to my parents, my boyfriend Craig, my teachers, my advisors, who have been there for me every step of the way. I have learned so much and grown so much. I feel I understand business now and I want to help other yogi entrepreneurs. I am a little nervous, but also excited, about what lies ahead.

I'm turning 30 in about two and half weeks, and apart from celebrating with family and friends, all I want is a skeleton. So if you happen to know where I can get one, or if you happen to have a spare, can you let me know? 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yoga Holidays


Thank you for following my blog posts and connecting with me. I am taking the summer off from the blog-o-sphere to work on my upcoming yoga dvds and to revamp my website. BUT please come join me on Facebook:

Everyday, I offer small blurbs via Facebook about food, germs, breathing, postures, blissful adventures, ayurveda, and more. (Btw, I finished ayurvedic practitioner school just two weeks ago!)

+ Alternatively, find me in person and let's practice together!

Have a wonderful summer!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Veggie Burgers Recipe ~ Burger végétalien pour l'été

Inspired by my friend Kat Guerrerio's veggie burger recipe, Craig and I created these burger accidentally and they are marvelous!  My suggestion is to make a bunch and freeze them.

  • 1 cup brown rice / 1 tasse riz brun
  • 1 cup red lentils / 1 tasse lentilles rouges
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt /  1/2 c. à thé sel de mer
  • 1 tsp tumeric/ 1 c. à thé curcuma
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter or olive oil / 1 c. à table beurre de coconut ou huile d'olive
  • 1 chopped onion / 1 oignon haché
  • 1 clove garlic chopped / Une gousse d'ail hachée
  • 1 cup finely chopped spinach or kale / 1 tasse d'épinards ou de chou frisé finement haché
  • 1/3 cup ground walnuts / 1/3 tasse noix moulues
  • 3 tbsp salsa (optional) / 3  c. à table salsa (optionnel) 

  1. To cook rice and lentils, bring 3 ½ cups of water to boil with 2 cups of grain, salt, turmeric and coconut oil. Then lower heat, cover and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
  2. While grain is cooking, sauté onions and garlic for approximately 5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Once grain is cooked add onions and garlic to the grain mixture along with spinach, walnuts, and salsa.
  4. After allowing mixture to cool for 1 hour in the fridge, make into patties and bake in an oven preheated to 300°F for 30-40 minutes. Flip them and cook for another 10-15 minutes at 400°F to crisp, keeping an eye on the patties so that they don’t dry out.
  5. Top with fresh vegetables (avocado is great on this) and your favorite condiments and enjoy!

  1. Pour cuire le riz et les lentilles, faites bouillir 3 ½ tasses d'eau  avec les lentilles, le riz, le sel, le curcuma et l’huile de noix de coco. Baissez le feu, couvrez et laissez mijoter pendant environ 20 minutes.
  2. Pendant que le riz et les lentilles cuisson, sauté les oignons et l’ail pour environ 5 minutes.
  3. Dès que le riz et les lentilles sont cuits, ajoutez les oignons et l’ail avec l’épinard, les noix, et la salsa, bien mélangez.
  4. Après avoir laissé refroidir le mélange pendant 1 heure au réfrigérateur, faites des galettes cuire dans un four préchauffé à 300°F pour 30 à 40 minutes. Les retournez et cuisez encore 10 à 15 minutes à 400°F pour qu’ils deviennent croquants, tout au long en gardant pour vérifier qu'ils ne brûlent pas.
  5. Garnir avec les légumes frais et condiments de votre choix et bon appétit!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So Hum Summer Solstice Yoga Practice

It was a glorious summer solstice!

For the fifth consecutive year, I am running my Sunrise Yoga by the Lake program this week and next. We meet at 6:00am on the pier in Pointe Claire Village near my studio, and begin with a 30 minute group meditation. The pier faces East and it's so heavenly. We hear a variety of birds and the water gently lapping the shore. It's not exactly the beach, but it kinda feels like we're on the ocean. The group then practices asana at their own pace. Mostly, they are my teacher training students, who are all working on the Ashtanga Primary Series, but there are a few other students that come as well. It's nice for them to have the opportunity to do a self-guided practice, as it builds their confidence and allows them to work on postures we might not get to in a group class. I am, of course, on hand to help with adjustments and answer questions.

Seeing as it is the Summer Solstice (and my grandmother's birthday and my half-birthday!), we decided to do 108 Sun Salutations. It was amazing. A beautiful flow. I love my teacher training students so much. They are such a great group of super enthusiastic nut balls and we have a lot of fun together. The sun salutations were their idea, but I was in to it as well. So we meditated first, using our personal mantras, which were presented to us individually in a ritual given by Chopra Center teacher, Sheila Southon, who taught the group the Chopra Primordial Sound Meditation course this spring. Those who didn't yet receive their personal incantation, followed the mantra of the universal breath "So Hum"-- sooooooo on the inhale and hummmmm on the exhale. It's a very relaxing practice, which I highly recommend.

Our Sun Salutations were done together, but in silence. Only the breath moved us. We did regular surya namaskar A, holding downward dog every sixth salutation. So awesome to practice outside at dawn on this special day. I must admit, I've been nostalgic about my 108 practices from last year. Although I doubt I could ever do 108 days of 108 sun salutations again, I have such fond memories of that time. Last year on this day, my mom and I joined the yogis from the Naada Yoga studio at the lookout on Mount Royal for a sunrise practice, which was also blissful.
(Link to last year's solstice blog post)

 After yoga, we have a picnic breakfast, which is such a huge treat. My student Bruce says that the fresh bagels I bring each morning from St Viateur are the reasons he joined the teacher training program!

I know it seems crazy to get up so early (4:48am to be exact) and practice, but as I've said a thousand times (or so it feels) this week, it's a lot easier to get up for yoga and meditation than it is to go to work. I suggest trying a week of consecutive practices at 6am. The benefits are enormous, as one practice builds upon the last.

Now I must go to bed, for early mornings require early nights!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wheat Free Blueberry Pancake Recipe

Photo by Craig Bannerman
After many months of searching for the right method for making wheat-free pancakes, I finally succeeded in making the BEST PANCAKES EVER. And I am now sharing the recipe with you:
(voir ci-dessous pour la recette en français)
1 1/4 kamut flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons sucanat (natural unprocessed sugar)
1 organic egg or egg replacer*
1 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
1/2 tablespoon coconut butter, melted
1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (or fresh blueberries)
Sliced banana
Maple syrup
    1.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sucanat. Then, beat egg and milk into dry mixture.  Mix in the coconut butter and fold in the blueberries.
    2. Set aside for 1 hour. (Important step! It makes the batter rise and makes fluffy pancakes!)
    3.  Heat a lightly oiled (with coconut butter) frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle. Before flipping, wait until edges brown slightly and bubbles appear through the pancake.
    4. Brown both sides and serve with sliced banana, maple syrup, and a smile!

     * Make them vegan! For egg replacer, mix one tbsp of ground flax seeds with three tbsp of warm/hot water. Stir until gelatinous and use in recipe instead of one egg.
    Crèpes sans gluten au bleuets
    Après plusieurs mois de recherche afin de réussier les cêpes sans gluten, j'ai finalement réussit à faire les MEILLEURES CRÊPES À VIE.  Et je partage maintenant la recette avec vous:

    Photo de Craig Bannerman
    1 1/4 t farine de kamut
    1/2 tsp sel de mer
    1 tbsp poudre à pâte
    1 1/4 tsp de sucanat (sucre naturel non processé)
    1 oeuf organic ou substitut d'oeuf*
    1 1/2 t de lait d'amande ou de soya
    1/2 tbsp beurre de coconut fondu
    1/2 t bleuets (décongelés ou frais)
    banane tranchée
    sirop d'érable

    1. Dans un grand bol, mélanger farine, sel, poudre à pâte et le sucanat.  Ensuite battre l'oeuf et le lait dans le mélange sèche. Ajouter le beurre de coconut et y plier les bleuets.
    2. Laisser de côté pour 1h (étape importante, ça fait lever la pâte et donnes des crêpes plus moelleuses!)
    3. Chauffer une poêle légèrement huilé au beurre de coconut à chaleur moyenne.  Verser la pâte sur la poêle.  Avant de tourner attendez que les côtés brunissent et que des bulles apparaissent au travers de la crêpe.  Brunissez les 2 côtés, servez avec des bananes tranchées, du sirop d'érable et un sourire!
    *Pour remplacer l'oeuf, mélangez une cuillère à soupe de graines de lin moulus avec trois cuillères à soupe d'eau tiède / chaude. Remuez jusqu'à ce que gélatineuse et l'utilisez dans la recette au lieu d'un œuf.
    et voilà, les meilleures crêpes à vie!

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Urban Goddess Retreat

    Les déesses urbaines!

    I had the greatest time at our Urban Goddess Retreat last weekend. We (myself and organizing partner Jasmine Goyer) couldn't have asked for better participants or a better location. There was fantastic group chemistry, lots of deep belly laughing, and great conversations. Perhaps I underestimated how amazing a gathering of extraordinary women can be. Our female attendees spanned four decades and came from a variety of professional backgrounds, from contemporary artist to YMCA kids camp coordinator.

    The setting was ideal: a beautiful spa in the country, just an hour or so from Montreal, with comfortable rooms, great treatments and delicious food. It was a serious luxury for me to teach in this retreat environment, where no one had to drive or go anywhere else after our meditations and long asana practices. The hospitality and integrity at Spa Eastman was really optimal.

    Coupled with our yoga and meditation sessions, Jasmine and I invited Vered Haiun to teach Dancerotek (sensual erotic-clothing-stays-on movement) and Masala Bhangra (Bollywood style dance). Let me tell you that Vered is one of my heroines. A dance instructor for over 20 years, she oozes "VaVaVoom" from every pore of her body.  Moving around all sexy-diva-like to super loud music was the FUNNEST!

    We also brought in Tracey Mackenzie, the no-nonsense-tell-you-like-it-is feng shui guru, to share some design strategies to help us improve the flow of energy in our home environment. Tracey is also incredible and she inspires me so much. In fact, when I go home on Sunday night after the retreat, I immediately reorganized my living room, threw out an old chair, took the desk I never use out of my bedroom, and scanned the rest of apartment for clutter. (Still a work in progress...)

    Anyway, I think the greatest gift I received over the weekend was the freedom to indulge my sensual, feminine, joie-de-vivre side that often gets forgotten when I get stuck playing boss or teacher. I was inspired by the other women on the retreat and I look forward to growing this project. We'd like to offer a monthly Urban Goddess soirée with different speakers and a retreat like this one every season.

    Do you have any ideas? I'd love your involvement, even if you live far away and can't physically join us.  (We are also envisioning an online community to share tips, videos, projects, discussions, etc.)

    Welcome gift basket with goodies from Vega, Manitoba Harvest, Pukka Tea,
    Energy Baths, Green & Black, and RSVP Magazine!
    Practicing tree pose overlooking the beautiful forest.
    The Urban Goddesses take Goddess Pose

    Jasmine Goyer and yours truly.


    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Death becomes us

    I'm sad.

    Remember that beautiful baby alpaca I wrote about yesterday? Well, this afternoon, I had the misfortune of walking into the barn and finding Walnut dead, crushed under the weight of his sick mother. I ran into the house to get Vito to help me move the mother alpaca, but sadly, it was too late. It appeared as though the mother had collapsed as baby Walnut was feeding and trapping him beneath her. The mother alpaca has been getting progressively worse and is expected to follow her baby soon. 

    We buried Walnut's body in the back of the property. Having had such a strong bond with the little alpaca, Kat was inconsolable. In his quiet way, Vito was also clearly deeply affected. In fact, we all were. 

    A sad lesson in the impermanence of life...

    As Kat put it, "I know death is part of life, but I don't know why it is still so shocking."

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Baby Alpaca in Bancroft, Ont

    The Buddha says, “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away, only how soon you come back.”

    So here I am. Back, after a few weeks of being conflicted over what to write about.

    I’m in Bancroft, a small town smack in the middle of Ontario. It’s our annual Victoria Day (Memorial Day for you Americans) weekend visit to our friends Kat and Vito’s farm. Apart from the black flies, it’s heavenly to be in the country with such good friends: Jamie Lee (artist extraordinaire), Jamie’s friend Sara (a fire dancing poi spinner), Jeanine Caron (blogger of Wonderings and Wanderings), and Kevin Gauthier, a chocolatier, who just returned from a six month tour of South-East Asia. Unfortunately, Craig could not join us, because he is preparing for his photo exhibit, which opens Tuesday.

    Last year, I was in the midst of my 108 day Sun Salutation project and Kat, Vi, and then two-year-old Gioia had just moved up here from the Toronto area. This year, their family has expanded and now features nine alpacas, a pony, two dogs, a cat, a rooster, a bunch of chickens, and ten-week-old baby Veda Flora.

    After touring an Art Festival in downtown Bancroft, we went for nice long forest trek, accompanied by an unusual gang: Invincible the cat, dogs Misty and Xena, and Walnut, the six week old alpaca personally delivered by my most amazing friend Kat. Kat is truly an inspiration. Not only is she capable of reaching her entire arm inside a birthing alpaca with newborn Veda and toddler Gioia at her heels, she is also the best vegan chef I know. Click here for a link to one of Kat’s recipes from my last visit her. And below is Kat’s recipe for Lentil Walnut Burgers. (Walnut as in the nut, not the alpaca...)

    I am very grateful to be away from the city for a few days. It’s nice to lounge and catch up with friends. Nature and fresh air is so soothing to us city-slickers.

    I’m also super excited and grateful that I get to be in the country again next week for our Urban Goddess Retreat at Spa Eastman. (By the way, if you are interested in joining us, there are a few still available. For more info, email Jasmine:

    Meet Walnut, a six-week-old alpaca

    Kat’s Lentil Walnut Burger
    ¾ cup dry red lentils
    2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    10 mushrooms
    1 cup fine chopped onions
    4-5 garlic cloves (minced)
    ½ ground walnuts
    1 pound of minced spinach (optional)
    1 tsp dry mustard
    ½ wheat germ or bread crumbs

    Cook lentils: ratio of ¾ lentils to 1 ½ water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 30 mins. Sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Once lentils are cooked, mash them together with apple cider vinegar, ground walnuts, mustard, and bread crumbs. Then add in onions, garlic and mushrooms.  Let mixture cool for approximately 30 minutes, then form into patties. (Patties can be frozen on cookie sheet for later or cooked right away.) Broil 5-8 mins per side, then dress with sprouts, avocado, tomatoes or however you’d like. Yum Yum.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    The Royal Wedding

    {Note to reader: For full effect, engage a posh British accent to review to this textt.}
    Countess Yasmina Krystyna Von Ashtanga Yoga here reporting on the Royal Wedding...

    What a lovely, lavish, luxury to be privy to this historical event today, this day, being the Royal nuptial of HRH Prince William and his beautiful bride Miss Catherine Elizabeth Middleton. A smashing dress, a bunch of trees, some Christmas carols, a quick kiss, and a three-year-old bridesmaid, who adoringly covered her ears, as the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace was just a bit too much for her to bare sans ear plugs. Shortly after the service at Westminster Abbey and the Queen's Breakfast (I sat with Elton), I begged pardon of her Majesty for I simply had to depart. I had pressing matters to attend to in my land of Om-West-alot The Monarch understood, of course, given that tonight, this night, in the grand land of Om-West-alot was shhhhheduled an extraooorrrrdinary Ashtanga Yoga Conference accompanied by the live performance of the esteemed Sir James Olmstead of Percussion. Graciously, the Queen lent me her enchanted Royal Winged Horse and I arrived right at the cusp of the hour in time to greet my court. And all was well and good.

    The End.


    All right... Jokes aside for now. I know all this Royal Wedding hoopla is over the top and super fromage, but with all the doom and gloom projected in the news these days, it's kinda nice to have something else to focus on for a day or two, I mean now that the Habs are out of the playoffs. Right? (psst: did you catch the hockey reference?)

    I'm really no wedding dreamer, and I don't even own a TV, but even I got a little caught up in the festivities today. (Clearly.) Here's what really went down: 

    After teaching a sun and moon salutations practice at a big, fun lululemon event in Montreal last night, I drove over to my parents' house or a sleepover. As mentioned, I don't own a TV, so my mom  had proposed a sunrise Royal Wedding date on her couch. At the crisp hour of 5:30am, we were up. Reluctantly at first, my dad joined us too, but he came dressed for the occasion. See the Gordie Gow English Wedding bonnet below:

    (Knock offs of the splendid Gordie Gow Royal Wedding Bonnet are in the works right now, says a source.)

    After the long anticipated kiss, we all enjoyed homemade pancakes fait par maman and then it was off to Om West for yoga teaching at 9:30am. But this time, I wore my best Royal Wedding Chapeau and pearls to the amusement of my students. (See adove and below.)

    Tonight was Ashtanga Yoga to live music played by James Olmstead. Another packed house, but this time no one had to practice in the hall.

    So all and all, a good day with a good excuse to play!

    What did you get up to?
    Your thoughts?

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Vegetarian Jambalaya - Good Friday Recipe

    Today, a student told me she was fasting for Good Friday-- no meat products or oils.  She asked me for a simple yet delicious vegetarian recipe for tonight's dinner. Now, I'm not really one to use recipes, but I recalled a great one that my friend Evan made for me ages ago.  It's a super tasty vegetarian Creole style Jambalaya and it's easy to make. I thought I'd share it with you folks as well in case some of you are also in need of a little vegetarian inspiration.




    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 chopped celery stalks
    • 1-2 chopped yellow, orange, or red pepper
    • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 cups eggplant, diced
    • 1-2 zucchini, diced
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
    • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
    • 3 cups uncooked long grain brown rice
    • 2 tbsps reduced-sodium soy sauce or Brags
    • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
    • ¼ tsp black pepper
    • 2-3 bay leaves
    • 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
    • Chili flakes to taste (optional)


    1. In ¼ veggie stalk or water and/or olive oil, sauté onions, celery, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, and zucchini in large non-stick skillet until sweet and tender. Stir in the tomatoes, soy sauce, parsley, and seasoning. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in rice and veggie stock/water.

    2. Transfer contents into a large baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 65-70 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

    3. Garnish with parsley and serve with a green salad and/or corn bread!

    Yum Yum!

    (If you try it, let me know what you think.)

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Pagan Full Moon Party

    Forgive me. It has been a while since I last posted a blog.  Lately, life has been moving far too quickly for me to keep up with everything. But here I am. 

    We have arrived at the 108th day of the year. Today is my last day of 54 chandra namaskar and it's a full moon no less! To celebrate, I am inviting students to join me at Om West for a practice of 54 moon salutations by candle light. I am really looking forward to tonight's practice. I made Almond Crescent Cakes that are traditionally served during Pagan Full Moon ceremony and have prepared gifts for my students, prayers, and beeswax candles.

    Throughout this 54 day journey, I was not alone in practice. I enjoyed the company of many students and friends, including: Bossa Pavkov, my trusty student of five years and 108 sun sal pal; Bruce Chase Dunn, who stayed true to his own 54 day yoga challenge (read his story below); And Erin Halpin, a close family friend and student, who, for Lent, did cumulative sun salutations for 40 consecutive days. I also thoroughly enjoyed sharing the moon salutation practice with all my students. 

    The last few days have been the hardest. You see, I've been at the Toronto Yoga Conference since last Thursday and I taught nearly 250 people over five full workshop. So I had difficulty finding time and energy to practice with all the travel and teaching. But I did it. Rather than killing myself with midnight asana that I clearly did not need more of, I visualized my entire 54 practice on Thursday sitting on the couch in our rented condo. It was very challenging, yet extremely gratifying. On Friday afternoon, I did the practice manually as I felt up for it before teaching. Saturday and Sunday practices were a combination of virtual salutations and physical one. (Special thanks to Craig for joining me last night and encouraging me despite my huge fatigue.)

    Here is the very sweet and nicely presented piece written by Bruce:
    (More photos and videos to come this week...)

    A prayer from a Wiccan Full Moon Ceremony
    Lady Moon bright and serene,
    Shining with the bounty of the Mother,
    Look down on us your Children of the Earth.
    Come, light of the Goddess,
    Fill us with your power.
    Lend us your blessings,
    Let your light surround us.
    Impart to us your light and blessing.
    Your love and grace, surround us.
    Surround us Goddess,
    Surround us with your love.
    (For more info about theses Wiccan Full Moon
    rituals and prayers, click here)

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Cookies & Music for yogis

    Things are progressing nicely with the Moon Salutations. I am actually working on a little video to show you a clip of my practice, but it's not ready yet.  So meanwhile, here's a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe from Emilie Brunet, one of my yoga teacher trainees at Om West:

    • 1 cup coconut butter, almond butter (or margarine)
    • 1 1/2 cup natural crane sugar (or brown sugar)
    • 1/2 cup applesauce
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 3/4 cup flour (spelt, whole wheat, or kamut)
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. In a large bowl, beat margarine, both sugars, applesauce and vanilla until well blended.
    3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
    4. Beat the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.
    5. Add the chocolate chips and mix well distributing them evenly.
    6. Drop balls of dough on non-stick cookie sheets. 
    7. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges have browned.
    Makes about 2 dozen cookies. Yum Yum.

    I've also been meaning to share my new favorite playlist of yoga tunes. This was complied by Bruce Chase Dunn, another teacher trainee. It's such an amazing mix. (Maybe one of you blog supporters might be able to create an YouTube playlist of these tracks or another cool playlist for us to practice to??? I hear this is possible...)

    Bruce's Radio Om mix
    1. Visions of you - Jah Wobble
    2. Walking thru babylon - Thievery Corp.
    3. Teardrop - Massive Attack
    4. The Stopper - Cutty Ranks
    5. I Hear Vibrations - Wooden Shjips
    6. Holographic Universe - Thievery Corp.
    7. One More Dub - The Clash
    8. Two Sevens Clash - Culture
    9. First Snow - Emancipator
    10. Clap + form your soul - Damu
    11. Lagos Communique - Thievery Corp.
    12. Regiment - Eno + Bvrne
    13. Angel - Massive Attack
    14. Seen + not seen - Talking Heads
    15. Keep On Runnin' - Cat Power
    16. House of Cards - Radio Head 
    17. Pink Moon - Nick Drake
    If you have any other cookie recipes or playlists to share, please post them. Craig is a cookie monster and I am forever looking for cool music to practice to.

    + April 18th is just around the corner. This will mark the last day of my 54 day Moon Salutations and the one year anniversary of the 108 x 108 day practice. I would like to do something really cool and I want you all involved. Any ideas?

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    My Baba & the Lineage of our Teachers


    In Ashtanga yoga, we say a Sanskrit chant before each class to pay respect to the lineage of yoga teachers dating back to Patanjali, the 'divine descendant', who, as legend has it, wrote the Yoga Sutras. 

    My take on this tradition is that since yoga teachers have many forms and anyone who has touched our heart is a yoga teacher, the chant honors all the people who have guided us and contributed to our lives. In the prayer, we recognize the wisdom of our teachers, but we also recognize that the wisdom of our teachers comes from their teachers, so we also honor our teachers' teachers'  and teachers teachers' teachers'... And with this humbling intention, we begin our practice.

    It's in these tender moments that I always acknowledge my maternal grandmother, who in many ways influenced my path as a yoga teacher. She died ten years ago this weekend. She wasn't a yoga instructor per se, and as far as I know, she never practiced asana, but my grandmother was a guru, my guru. We called her "Baba" or "Babs." This was easier for us three grand-kids to say than 'Babcia', the Polish word for grandmother. (Ironically, "Baba" is also an honorific term used in Hindi and mark of respect to refer to Sufi saints.)  Nevertheless, my Baba's real name was Krystyna. 

    My mom and grandmother Baba
    To mark this significant anniversary of my Baba's passing, we are currently hosting an art retrospective of more than 60 of her paintings, graphics, and weavings at my yoga studio. It's was my mom's idea to transform Om West into a gallery, and the exhibit is incredible. Her talent is remarkable, and I am proud and honored to be able to present my grandmother's work to our community of yogis and friends.

    Born in Białystok, Poland on August 21, 1919, my grandmother was fiercely courageous, strong willed and direct.  She and my grandfather (who passed away in 1974) immigrated to Canada shortly after World War II and settled in Sherbrooke, two hours south east of Montreal, where they raised my mother and her two siblings. Baba loved her garden, her art, her cat, her family and coveted her independence and freedom.

    My grandmother taught me about nature, energy, creativity, intuition, and spirituality. Curiously, Baba was a clairvoyant. Although she would rarely talk about it, she did say that strong intuition was  a  gift that many of the women in her family shared.  Deeply spiritual, Baba was devoted to the teachings of Jesus. However, in later years, Baba was also interested in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and became a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian guru. As a kid, she exposed me to various meditation temples and ashrams, which was the ideal preparation for me as a teacher of yoga and meditation.

    Thinking of Baba now and observing her powerful artwork on the walls of my studio,  I'm overcome with emotion, which is hard for me to express. I wish I had asked her more questions when she was alive, but I am making up for it now. I talk to her in thought and prayer and I occasionally feel as though she is really close to me particularly when I'm sitting alone about practice, and oddly, when I taste dill, because she used to put it on everything.  

    As mentioned, at beginning of the Ashtanga chant, I usually invoke her memory, and sometimes I get so caught up in thoughts about her, I actually forget the words to the Sanskrit  ashtanga chant! Thankfully, my students understand that I'm a bit quirky when it comes to the order of things and discerning my rights and lefts, so someone is always quick to fill my long awkward pause.

    Me posing with Baba's abstract work from the 60s & 70s
    My brother Stefan, my mother Marta and cousin Kalil
    My cousin and I keep checking who owns what so we know
    who we have to negotiate with to acquire the pieces we want.
    Studio 2 features Baba's landscapes, which she switched to in the early 80s.
    Baba's landscapes from the 80s & 90s

    A portrait of my grandmother with a letter from Quebec Premier Jean Charest,
    expressing his condolences upon Baba's death.

    Kocham cie, Babs.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Day 27: alignment vs flow

    Today marks the midpoint of my 54 day moon salutation project. It's definitely a lot more relaxed than last year's 108 sun salutations for 108 days. Obviously, this 54 lunar flow practice is a lot shorter than the 108 surya namaskar practice and the fact that I'm not blogging everyday about the practice makes the whole thing seem a lot less intense. I'm certainly not analyzing the process as much. Well, at least not outwardly.

    But this practice still has it's challenges. It can be very difficult to find motivation to roll out the mat and do a personal practice, especially after teaching and demonstrating asana all day. However, that is honestly the best time for me to practice. Often when I'm tired, sore and don't feel like practicing, I end up surrendering my calculating mind to the flow of postures and let postures unfold organically. I stop trying to do things "properly" and I just let go. Sure, my alignment gets a little sloppy, but I've decided that too much alignment blah, blah can be tedious and sometimes even counterproductive.  Western yogis (myself included) have become super alignment obsessed, and although I agree, it's important to make sure the joints are in the right place to avoid injury, I also believe that if we focus too much on that stuff, we can missed the point of the practice. We can over think the pose and under experience the moment.

    This weekend, I taught a 16 hour workshop called "Essentials of Modern Ashtanga Yoga." The course was about how to adapt the traditional ashtanga primary and second series to modern urban lifestyles. Now, I'm an ashtangi by yogic birth-- my first teacher at age 14 was the then very strict Mark Darby, the first officially certified ashtanga teacher in Canada-- but I've since dabbled in various other yoga styles and even did a teacher training with a senior Iyengar instructor. So suffice it to say, I feel fairly confident in my alignment techniques and I usually inflict these principles on unsuspecting type-A, ashtanga students, who often prefer to plow through the sequence then listen to instructions about sustainable postures and foundational stability.

    Nevertheless, I had an 'ah ha' moment this weekend. I elected to play Sharath's led primary series on CD for the students to practice. (Sharath is the grandson of Asthanga guru Pattabhi Jois.) Sharath's teaching pace is much faster than mine because he offers no instructional details. He just says the name of the pose and then counts the breaths. There are no alignment cues whatsoever. Normally, this would concern me, but I was right there to adjust when needed and I knew it was important to give the students the chance to just move with the postures and breath. Although their postures weren't super calibrated, the energy in the practice room was a bit different. It was concentrated, excited and simultaneously, peaceful and quiet.

    Is that not what we ultimately search for?

    Perhaps alignment techniques are those things that train us to focus at first. They help us learn about ourselves, but after a while, it's time to let go of all that instruction (inward and outward) and allow the yoga to happen to us, one beautifully messy posture at a time.

    After all, yoga isn't all about making perfectly aligned asanas of ourselves. There are seven other equally important branches of the eight-limbed Ashtanga yoga tree. (More on that later.) Above is an artwork by Bruce Chase-Dunn, my teacher trainee, of the eight limbs of the ashtanga (meaning 'eight limbs') yoga system. Note that there is no hierarchy to the limbs. Everything can be experienced all at the same time.

    Here's a link to an interesting interview with Sharath: Click here

    I like what Sharath said when asked what consititutes a good yoga student:
    "Students who understand yoga, that is very important. Their body might be very flexible, they can perform all the asanas but they are not able to understand what is yoga. The student who understands what it is, who understands what is parampara, the lineage, that is very important. Lineage, and who are able to understand what is yamas and niyamas and try to perform them in their daily life - I think that is a good student. Many people they don’t understand what is yama, niyama, ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha. Not all yoga practitioners, asana practitioners I should say, are able to perform these or to understand what these are."

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Relationships & yoga

    Photo by C. Bannerman
    "Oh Yeah, I blog," is the sentiment my boyfriend Craig expressed on his blog after being away for awhile. I can relate.

    Sometimes I make blogging into this big thing in my mind, so I just don't always get to it. I think it needs several hours of thoughtful expression neatly laid out on a page in order to be published, and often, surprise surprise, I don't have time. It's that "what am I going to write about?" issue that leaves me somewhat paralyzed at times.

    In other excuses for not writing in over a week, I'm 23 days into my new 54 days of 54 moon salutations and I'm in the thick of a new wave of inner transformation. All these questions about my direction and personal happiness have all but totally engulfed me. Poor Craig. I suspect, or rather I know, he is getting the brunt of my mental meanderings: "I need space. Now, please hug me. Now, go away and let me work..." I can't be an easy person to live with right now. Luckily, I'm with probably the most patient man on earth. He just adapts. He ebbs when I flow, and flows when I ebb. It's this little dance we do in order to accommodate the creative minds of one another, but more recently, it's the little dance he does in order to accommodate my creative mind. We definitely need our own place to work, but we also need to be fairly close, because we need to bounce ideas off each other as we create. I ask to read stuff aloud to him all the time and he asks my opinion about the images his working on, although lately, my sharp critiques about the political views he reflects in his photography have been uninvited.

    Recognizing each others expertise, we do ok when we work together. I do words and he does photos. Sometimes our sureness over the end result conflicts, but generally, this gets sorted fairly quickly once we each produce our necessary components and we take a moment to be objective about the project.  

    Speaking of joint ventures, we are now working on a collection of images from the 1008 asanas I practiced during the Guinness marathon in August.  Here's a sample. (Craig really is a master of lighting, and my six week gaffer course I took in film school really should stay out of his way.)

    Photo by C. Bannerman

    And in other news, the Montreal Gazette interviewed me for an article about men and yoga. It was published last Thursday. Check it out, and note the gentleman on the right, my Craig...

    Photo by Peter McCabe, The Gazette

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Surprise Party

    Let me tell you about some fabulous people I know: My mom, Marta and my dad, Gord.

    They are turning 60-years-old this week. Yes, both of them. They were born a day apart on March 8th and 9th respectively.  They are the most youthful 60-year-olds I have ever seen. Active, energetic and still visibly in love even after spending 30+ years together, my parents are something else.

    Last night, their ski friends threw them a surprise party, but not just any surprise party. It was themed, because their parties are always themed and a Jay Peak party is not a party without a theme, I was told when I asked why I must were "gym/sports attire" to the chalet. You see, my parents are recently retired physical education teachers and belong to a wild and vivacious group of close knit friends that weekend in Vermont, tearing up the slopes of Jay Peak ski resort. Most have cottages in an area called Alpine Haven, all walking distance from one another, which mean apres-ski festivities are always in close range and held regularly.

    I'm a bit of an outsider. Yes, I can ski, but, having concluded that winter is just not my season at age 10, I am rarely seen at the cottage, much less the hill. The running joke among my parents' friends is that they have a talented freestyle skier for a son, who is always around, and make believe daughter, whom few have met. Of course, I do show my face down there from time to time, so the joke is getting a little old. Anyway, this surprise party was an important event and there was no way I was going to miss it. 

    Craig and I picked out some great costumes-- Craig, a competitive swimmer and me, an eager aerobics instructor-- and as my brother drove, we worked on decorating the pinata he had carefully papier-mâchéd earlier that day. 

    It was hands down the best party I've been to in long time.  To say my folks were surprised is an understatement. They were told they were being taken to a restaurant by the people they share a cottage with, but after cocktails at another friend's house, they returned home to "pick something up before dinner". We waited inside the doorway and then popped out screaming "surprise". Both mom and dad began crying almost immediately. It was very sweet.

    The evening progressed nicely. Those people really know how to have a good time. The chalet was decorated with a basket ball hoop, streamers, countless balloons and a giant blow up snowman named "Buddy." (Apparently, a party isn't party without Buddy.) The "Alpine Haven Glee Club" performed several songs dedicated to my parents' aging and the pinata was a hit, litterally. There was tons of food and lots of dancing.  Mid-Lady Gaga, my dad turned to me and said, "I wanna dance like this at your 60th, ok?"
    The party only ended because the organizer slipped outside and cracked her head open on the ice. Although clearly concussed, she'll be ok.

    As mentioned in my last blog posting, I'm hardly a party animal, but I really did enjoy myself. It was  special to see how beloved and supported my parents are by such a great group of people. 

    Despite the fun, I did manage to slip upstairs unnoticed and complete my 11th day of 54 moon salutations. Although this may seem a bit unsocial, no one seemed to mind and it was pretty cool for me to practice amongst all that lively energy.

    Speaking of practice, it's near midnight, I am eager to roll out my mat, so good night, my friends.