Monday, August 24, 2009

How I get caught up in things and give myself headaches.

When Matt and I got engaged, I was very nonchalant about the whole wedding thing. In fact, I may have even bragged that planning a wedding wouldn't be too tough, since I'm pretty chill about it.

Dudes, it is exhausting. 

Every weekend I have off, we pack up a rental car and drive to Kingston. Since this is where my mother lives now (she moved there after I left for school), this is where the wedding will be. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm super excited! I love my dress, the church is adorable, the reception hall is old and gorgeous and right on the water. I'm just really, really exhausted right now. Also, I feel like I'm going to forget something big, like we'll get to the reception and there will be no cake.

Except I did order the cake from a really tiny, sweet Kingston bakery, and it's going to be chocolate.

We did manage to take some time out from planning to go out to the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area this weekend. It was really nice just to walk around and breathe fresh air and not worry about anything for a few hours. We saw a turtle, a couple of snakes, and a TON of frogs. Seriously, every step resulted in at least one or two frogs jumping out of our path. The picture above is of a tiny one that jumped into my hands.

I know this is supposed to be a yoga blog, but there's not much yoga going on this week. I'm still keeping up my home practice (although my handstand this morning was probably one of the worst I've ever done), but unfortunately I don't have much time for classes.

Friday I'm going to something called Fake Prom. It will be vintage dresses + nice people + booze. An excellent combination!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Awesome inversions and stormy savasanas

Who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned alliterative title?

Today was definitely better,  but by the time I got to my yoga class, I was exhausted. It always amazes me how my practice can change from day to day - yesterday I was feeling huge and strong and ready to take on the world, today I was feeling totally shaky in poses that don't generally pose a challenge for me.

My teacher today was the person I mentioned in my last post, Charlene Yeh. I've never taken a class with her before, and now that I have I can understand what all the fuss was about. She was really, really great. She led us in a gorgeous chant at the beginning of the class, and she's one of those teachers who gives you massages with nice-smelling lotion at the end of the class. 

And yes, the stuff that came in between the chanting and the savasana was good too. We did some neat inversions, including this reverse handstand sort of thing where you start out with your hands on the floor and your feet on the wall with your body making a 90 degree angle in the air, and then you slowly walk your hands back towards the wall and climb your feet up so that eventually you're in handstand while facing the wall. It's neat to have the usual way you do things turned on its head. Plus, I love inversions. These days I am all about inversions.

She also talked a bit during class about this Zen book she is reading, and what it has to say about the beginner's mindset. The book says that beginners have many options open for them, whereas people with a more "I'm advanced" mindset have a more narrow world view. Obviously, it's important to keep that beginner's mindset and try to stay open to learning as long as you keep living. This is something that I need to remember.

There had been a storm brewing all day, and the clouds finally burst just as we were beginning savasana. The storm came all at once - rain pelting the windows, thunder and lightning so close by that they were nearly overlapping. It was wonderful lying there, breathing deeply, listening to the storm rage outside. 

Unfortunately, when I got home I learned that the storm had turned deadly in some places. To the north, east and west of the city there have been tornadoes, with people losing windows and the roofs off their houses. At least one person has died. For a while, we were afraid that there would be a tornado in Toronto - the sky was a sickly shade of green for about half an hour, and the cats were looking extremely nervous. It's strange how something as fiercely beautiful as a summer storm can be dangerous as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today was a less-than-stellar day. It started out really well with an early morning ashtanga class, but it was pretty much downhill from there.

Work wasn't great, for reasons that I won't get into, and I really was not a happy camper. One good thing that I can take away from this day is that I managed to maintain my composure even when things were really tough. 

I'm usually the type of person who cries if you look at me the wrong way. I've definitely had my days where I ended up in the bathroom taking a tearful break. It's nice to know that I'm (hopefully) changing for the better and getting a firmer grip on my emotions. Sometimes it seems like I'm a non-stop feelings machine.

On a completely different note, for anyone who might be reading this AND living in Toronto AND wanting to take a fabulous class tomorrow (Thursday, August 20th), an amazing teacher by the name of Charlene Yeh will be doing a class at the Roots Yoga Studio (1073 Yonge Street). She comes highly recommended by a teacher that I really trust, and friends of mine who have taken her class say that it's amazing. She's a music student in Paris during the school year and incorporates a lot of music and singing in her classes, and the last one she taught at the Roots studio also involved chakra work. I'm excited!

Today's picture is one I took of a sunrise in the Annapolis Valley. It was pretty. It makes me happy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Whole World vs. First World

I am sitting out on my fire escape as I type this, enjoying a gorgeous summer night. I tried to take a picture of my view for you, but it was too dark. I'll do my best to describe it for you:

I'm on the third floor, on a wrought iron fire escape just outside my dining room window - my cat is sitting on the sill, giving me a very bewildered look. Our building has a courtyard out back shaded by several gorgeous old trees, and a few of my neighbours have set up patio furniture down there. A family from the next floor down is sitting out there right now - I can see the flicker of a lighter and hear the murmur of conversation. 

The rest of my view is taken up by the building behind mine, but I don't mind. Both it and my building date back to the 20s, and they are wonderful specimens of the architecture of this era. My boyfriend just poked his head out the kitchen door and asked if I wanted some ice cream.

I am very lucky.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. How lucky I am, I mean.

First of all, let me make a confession: I complain a lot. I complain about my job, about the heat, about my family, about having to wait in a line at the grocery store, about the rude man at the bank. I make a big production of it, sighing and rolling my eyes, hoping everyone will know just how difficult my life is.

It's not really that difficult. Not when I put it into perspective.

Lately I've been trying to classify my problems as "whole world problems" and "first world problems". Had to wait in line at the grocery store? First world problem. At least I have a grocery store to shop in, and I have money to buy food with.

My mother went out and bought favours for my wedding, even though I told her that I wanted cards from the cancer society saying that a donation had been made in my guests' names? First world problem. I am marrying the person I love, and my mother cares enough about me to help pay for the wedding. So what if I don't agree with everything she wants to spend her money on? She's doing it because she'd excited that her daughter is getting married.

I challenge you to think before you open your mouth to complain about something. Is this really an issue that will make or break your life? Children are starving to death, mothers are dying in childbirth from inadequate medical care, wars are raging around the world. Is it really worth putting up a fuss because the sandwich you ordered isn't made exactly to your specifications?

To end on a happier note, here's one of my favourite videos of all time, by Halifax artist Jenn Grant:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kula Shaker Part Deux

I did end up going back, of course. I really enjoyed this class as well. I'm not sure who the teacher was - on the website it says it was supposed to be Christi-an, but after looking at her picture I realized that it must have been a sub. Unfortunately, I didn't catch her name. 

Now for the exciting part - for the second time today, I got to do crow! And I held for even longer this time! I know!!!

Then I came home and demonstrated for my boyfriend, and made him take the picture above. I know it's not perfect, and in a real crow your legs aren't touching your arms, but still - it's a start. 

Project Halifax continues. I'm seriously sticking with it and being friendly with as many strangers as possible. Last night I ended up having a nice conversation with my cashier at Sobey's. It started with me asking her how she was doing, and ended with her telling me about the horrible summer cold she's been fighting and the antibiotics she ended up having to take. 

I know it sounds silly, and it's just one little interaction, but it still makes me happy. I feel like it's one extra little piece of humanity added to life in the big city. 

Today I saw a woman at the corner of Bay and Cumberland, right in the middle Yorkville, feeding pigeons. She had a plastic bag full of birdseed and she was scooping it out and throwing it all over an island in the middle of the street. Pigeons came from everywhere, but she didn't even look up. She just kept serenely scattering seeds. It was beautiful.

Kula Shaker

I have the day off from work and I wanted to try something new, so I decided to check out the Kula yoga studio in the Annex. 

First of all, I have to say that they have a gorgeous space. The whole place is very bright and open and clean, and the studio itself is beautiful. You can tell that it used to be a living space, because there's an old bricked up fireplace in the studio, which they've turned into a sort of altar with a statue of Vishnu in it. 

They're a green studio, using cork flooring in the studio and radiant heat panels for hot classes, among other things. One neat idea that they have is they offer mason jars as water bottles for students who have forgotten theirs at home. You can read more about their eco-friendly ideas here.

The class I took was "Anusara-Inspired" and taught by a lovely woman named Marinella. She had a very gentle, sweet style of teaching that I really liked. I didn't know much about Anusara yoga, but of course the poses were familiar, and I soon got into the rhythm of it. I find that attending a new style of yoga is like going to a church of a different denomination - even if the prayers or service are different, it's all pretty familiar.

Even though it wasn't a hot class, it wasn't long before I was a sweaty mess. From where my mat was, I could see the heating controls on the wall, and apparently it was 32 degrees in there. Not that I minded! I'm the type of person that doesn't sweat easily, so if something makes me break into a sweat, I actually enjoy it. Weird, I know. 

Another weird thing is that I noticed my left leg sweating way more than my right. I wonder if it has something to do with the plate? I know that, being metal, it heats up or cools down far faster than my body does.

Maybe it was due to the heat, but it was a fairly gentle class. We did get to do some fun stuff, though, including crow, which I was able to hold a LOT longer than I usually can. Maybe I'm actually getting some strength in my arms? One can only hope.

All in all, it was pretty great. I took advantage of the first week special, which is unlimited classes for eight days. I might go back for their five o'clock class, if I'm not too lazy. I'll have to bring my mat with me this time, since they do charge a rental fee. Which means that I should get a proper bag or strap for my mat. Which means that I should probably get a move on.

Have a gorgeous day!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's all about balance

My right side and left side are so completely different that some days it's hard to believe they belong to the same body. I know that most people differ from one side to another, and everyone has one leg a little longer than the other, and so on, and so forth. But please, bear with me and my complaining - this is a fairly new feeling for me.

A little less than a year ago, my bicycle had an encounter with a set of streetcar tracks (damn you, corner of Church and Adelaide, I will never be able to look at you without flinching). I was changing lanes, looking back over my shoulder to make sure that there were no cars behind me, and preparing to make a left-hand turn, when I felt the sickening slide of the wheel shifting into the track. I was already leaning into the turn, so I was totally off-balance, and I knew I was going to fall. I put my left foot down to try to stop it, and then the next thing I remember is lying in the middle of the street on my back, staring into oncoming traffic. It was kind of a perfect storm of cycling accident-ness. 

Fortunately, the cars were able to drive around me, and some very lovely people helped me out of the street. Unfortunately, it was about this time that I realized that I couldn't put any weight on my left leg. The people who'd helped me called an ambulance for me and waited with me until it came. One of them even locked up my bike for me and gave me his business card so that I could call him if I wasn't able to find it. If nothing else, at least I dispelled the myth that if you get hit by a car or whatever, Toronto people will just keep walking. It turns out that not only will they stop, but they'll be incredibly helpful too!

At the hospital I learned that I'd fractured my left tibial plateau (top of the tibia, part of the knee joint). It was broken (well, dented, really) in such a way that I required a bone graft AND a metal plate. Whee knee surgery! After that came two months on crutches, and two more months with a cane. 

These days I'm cane-free and getting close to pain-free, although it does still bother me after a tough practice or when it's especially damp outside. The thing that I notice the most, though, is the weakness on my left side. It's hard for me to hold any kind of balancing pose, or to keep the knee bent or put much pressure on it for any length of time. 

My strength isn't the only thing that's gone way off-balance since breaking my leg - I'm also all out of whack flexibility-wise. Because I now tend to favour my right side and hold more tension there, my left side is waaaay more flexible. 

So now I have my good side for strength, and my good side for flexibility. At least they're different sides. Right? I mean, right?

I was going to post a picture of my amazing scar (no, seriously, it is pretty cool), but then I thought it might disgust some of my (probably non-existent) readers. You can thank me later, imaginary people!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some days are better than others...

It was tough to drag myself to class today. There were a few factors at play - I did a ten hour day at work, I was exhausted because I didn't sleep well last night, it was 30 degrees and beautifully sunny outside. None of these things made me want to shut myself up in a sticky, sweaty studio for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Of course, in the end I was glad that I'd gone. It was a karma class, so I wasn't sure what the pace would be like, but it ended up being fairly gentle. This was exactly what I needed. Last week's karma class was pretty tough, but this week the teacher went easy on us due to the heat (and a few beginners in the class).

My boyfriend (technically fiancé, but I hate that word) and I went out for a late dinner after class, and everything was going well until our walk home. We were talking about our upcoming honeymoon, and the destination that we picked will involve an airplane ride. I hate airplanes. I know it's silly but, seriously, I hate them so much. They make me cry. I hate that talking about something like my honeymoon, which should be a lovely subject, brings me to tears. I think that conversation probably spoiled any good work done by the yoga class.

Then I came home and watched this:

Seriously, how can you not watch that and smile?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eka Pada Sirsana

I did an Asana Intensive class at Octopus Garden on Monday. The pose we worked towards was Eka Pada Sirsana - leg behind the head pose. We spent most of the two hour class doing hip openers and back bends before attempting the (nearly) impossible. I actually managed to do it on my left (more flexible) side!

I love the rush of excitement and pride and humility that I feel when I finally manage to conquer a difficult pose. Before I started practicing yoga, I wouldn't have expected it to make me feel as humble as I do. I am so grateful to my body for working as hard as it does, for holding out a few more seconds even when I've reached my edge. I am constantly in awe of the changes that I see in it, the way it's  slowly but surely becoming faster, harder, stronger.

That being said, after the Asana Intensive (and after biking home in the stifling heat), I stumbled through my door, fell onto the couch and didn't move for a good fifteen minutes. 

All in all it was an amazing class, and I'm so glad that I went. My hips will definitely never be the same.

In other news, Project Halifax is going well. I smiled at everyone on the street as I walked to and from work and went out of my way to make friendly conversation. In a weird way, I feel like I can change things, one friendly interaction at a time.

In keeping with the Halifax theme, today's picture is one that I took while in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia back in May. It's of a fiddlehead fern, which are delicious in stir-fries and salads. I love the feeling I get from the picture, of something fantastic about to unfurl.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A little bit of the east coast in Ontario...

Lately I've been really homesick for Halifax. I miss how friendly the people are, I miss the music, I miss the trees, I miss the ocean, I miss the laid-back pace of life. So what I've been trying to do is bring a little bit of Halifax here to Toronto.

Today I:

- Smiled at everyone I saw on the street
- Had a conversation with a woman and her adorable young daughter on the subway
- Complimented a stranger on her gorgeous jade necklace
- Made my bus driver laugh
- Brought flowers with me to my ashtanga class to brighten up the studio
- Stopped to thank a fireman who was sitting outside of the local fire station (we recently had quite a bad fire in our building - one of my neighbour's apartments was completely gutted - and I've been meaning to thank the firemen for saving the rest of the building)

I suppose that it's not very good karma to list every good thing that you've done, but I wanted to make this list so that later, when I'm feeling like I don't do anything good or make any kind of contribution to the world, I read it and remember the random little acts of kindness that I've done. In fact, I'm going to try to list one Halifax-esque thing that I do every day.

The picture for this post is one that I took of the gorgeous St. Mary's Basilica last time I was in Halifax. Enjoy!

Obligatory Introductory Post

I've recently started a home practice, and decided that in addition to that I would join the cool kids and start a yoga blog. Ideally, this blog will be a way to reach out to other yoga people and share thoughts, ideas and experiences. 

Of course, I'll need a few people to actually read what I'm writing before any sharing begins. Hopefully this blog will be like the baseball park in Field of Dreams - if I write it, they will come. Or something like that.

For now, I leave you with a picture of one of my cats hanging out with my various yoga props. Ain't she sweet?