Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pleased to meet you...

Some of you I connect with on a daily basis and yet, we know so little about each other.  So I came up with this little quiz to get to know you all better!  I'll start - by leaving my own answers in the comments section.

Please join in! Just copy, paste, and fill in the blanks.


Hello, my name is ________________.  People call me _________________.

I am a _______________ and a _________________ .

My favourite meal of the day is ________________, for which I like to eat _______________________ .

After that, I enjoy _________________ or __________________.

My favourite colour/s is/are: ________________, and you can tell because _____________________!

When I'm not doing yoga, I like to ________________________________.

One dream or goal I would like to accomplish is _________________________.

One dream or goal I have already accomplished is ________________________.

I looooooove _________________ , but I'm not really a fan of __________ .

Something that drives me crazy is ___________________.

My body is ________________, my mind is _______________ and my soul is _________________.

Oh, and one more thing: ____________________________.

Please to meet you!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

This is my yoga

The smell of rain.
Brushing my cat.
Being a good friend.
Getting lost in a moment of underwater magic, watching the life of fish.

Flowing through a vinyasa.
Getting a better understanding of a pose.
Adjusting a student and seeing the pieces fall into place.

Vocal harmony,
Stroking the skin of person I love.
Spending time with friends & family.

Sailing - the rush of waves, the power of the wind, the ocean all around, pulsing.


This is my yoga.  What is yours?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gift of Embodiment: Part II

My body is a gift.

My body breathes (oxygen absorbed, transferred, delivered, bonded, unbonded, CO2 bonded, released, inhale, exhale, wow).

My body moves.

My body makes popping noises, poofing noises and other funny noises!

When my body laughs hard enough, my belly hurts, my eyes run and more noises ensue. Glee!

My body tells me what it needs, my body eats, drinks and digests.  My body gets rid of what it doesn't need (why can't I do the same?!).

My body sleeps so I can dream.

My body stumbles and recovers. Sometimes my body falls, my body hurts, my body bleeds, my body heals.

My body heats me when I'm cold, cools me when I'm hot.  My body runs when I'm afraid, jumps when I am startled, stands still when I don't know what to do.

My body makes funny faces, has funny habits, twists my hair, rubs my nose.

My body grows all the time, skin, hair, fingernails toenails!

My body gets butterflies in its tummy when my eyes meet the eyes of someone I love.  My body gets tears in its eyes when I'm sad, and crazy big smiles when I'm happy, and faraway looks when I am far away.  (But I always come back).

My body puts one foot in front of the other.  Day in, day out.  Never fails.

My body allows me to experience the physical world.  My body loves to touch fluffy things, stroke silky things, press palms into smooth, warm wood still vibrating with the memory of trees.

I digress.

My body is healthy and whole, and for that I am grateful.
My body is a gift.  My body is a home.  My body is amazing!

Does anyone remember "The Big Orange Splot", by Daniel Pinkwater? 
"My house is me, and I am it, and it looks like all my dreams."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Water, water

Water, water, everywhere... (Image source here) We are told our body is between 60 and 70% water.  Our blood is mostly water, our cells, muscles, lungs and brain need water to function.  Water helps us to hydrate our body, carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells, removes toxins and waste, and protects our organs.  But the body is also constantly losing water - through urination, breathing, and sweat.  And when we lose more water than we can replenish, the body suffers from dehydration.

According to Dr. Google and, symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, daytime fatigue, constipation, lower back pain, and even chronic joint and muscle pain.  The skin dries out (read: you look older!), and a yellow or amber colour to your urine confirms the diagnosis.  I personally think that a lot of people suffer from mild dehydration without realizing it - and if you drink a lot of coffee and little water, you might be one of them!

I have become hyper-sensitive to dehydration.  I can tell when my headaches or moods are water related.  Drinking enough water not only clears my head but it helps me to be a nicer person to be around!  People also report that drinking enough water helps to relieve insomnia, curb overeating (Ayurveda tells us that at mealtimes the stomach should be 1/4 full of water, 1/2 full of food, and 1/4 empty), and keep their skin looking young and healthy.

Thirst, of course, is the most obvious symptom of dehydration but in fact, your body may need water long before you are thirsty!  So, how much water do we need to drink to stay hydrated?  [NB, about 20% of your daily water intake comes from food, but the rest we have to drink.]

Well, the answer depends on many factors including the climate, your diet, how much exercise you are doing, and how much you sweat.  Someone doing 90 minutes of sweaty exercise a day will need to replenish more fluids than someone mostly sedentary.  Also, if you eat a lot of salty food, or drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, you will need to drink more water because these foods exacerbate dehydration.  Some sports drinks or 'enhanced water' drinks offer the additional advantage of including electrolytes that help to increase re-hydration.  But be careful, many of them also contain way too much sugar and other additives. offers this handy equation: Take your body weight in pounds, and divide that number in half.  That gives you the base number of ounces of water you should drink every day.   Then, add even more water if you exercise, live in an arid climate, or sweat a lot!  I did this calculation and it actually seems pretty accurate - according to the calc., I should drink about 65 oz, or 1.9 litres of water a day.  I reckon on an average day I drink between 2 and 4 litres, depending on how hot it is an my level of activity.

Some good tips from on staying hydrated:
  1. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
  2. Drink fluids slowly by constantly sipping throughout the day.
  3. Don't drink caffeinated drinks or alcoholic beverages, which can actually have a dehydrating effect.
  4. When flying in an airplane, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
  5. Drink water before, during, and after exercise--slowly!
  6. Carry a water bottle whenever possible, especially when participating in outdoor activities in warm weather.

Finally, let's not forget: there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  Avoid trying to drink your entire daily intake of water all at once, and check with a doctor if you have any kidney problems or other issues that might affect your body's ability to absorb water.

So readers, what is your experience with hydration or dehydration? How much water do you drink a day?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Loving lists

My busy project continues with deadline #1 met!  This week I've also been playing with unseasonal tropical deluges and urban flooding, and now, insect infestations - termites to be precise.  Just another week in the tropics.

I am a lover of lists.  And this week there have been some wonderful lists in the blogosphere!

And, not to be outdone, our regular list-posters:
  • Suburban Yogini brings joy to the web every Thursday with her "Things I love Thursdays",
  • And on Fridays, Roseanne from It's All Yoga, Baby, brings us the weekly scoop of what's hot and what's not with yoga in the media!
Do you love lists? What are some of your bloggy lists that you couldn't do without?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sound Signage

This snap was posted in the media recently and my partner giggled and suggested I should post it in the room where I teach my yoga classes.  I figure this is the next best thing! 

I've blogged about this before, but when I first began taking yoga classes, chanting used to make me extremely uncomfortable.  It sounded so cult-y and just weirded me out!  Now I have come to enjoy that camp-fire spirit, and how the act of singing or chanting in unison brings people together.

That is, of course, in the ideal setting.  Then there are those other times...  The times when you, leading the chant, fail to hit the right key, falter and croak... The times when that one person in the front row seems to think that the louder they scream "OM" the better...  There are the times when everyone in the room picks a different key, and it sounds like you are all participating in a giant cacophony rather than a symphony of voices!

But then, there are the moments when it seems that everyone in the room is on the same wavelength... When the chant is neither too quiet nor too loud, when voices meld perfectly until you are not even sure which one is yours, and you lose yourself in the unity of sound.

Maybe some pointed signage would help to encourage those harmonious moments?  What do you think?  ;)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brahma Mudra - a little stress relief

It has been a big week for me.  Since this time last weekend, I was bitten by a stray dog, I attended a traditional ceremony that included animal sacrifice and the President getting tipsy on moonshine, I worked all weekend (interspersed with some quick yoga practices and a great brunch with friends) and now I'm straight back into a working week.

I'm working on a big project right now, and still teaching my regular classes, and my yoga practice is suffering drastically - and that is making me cranky and even more stressed!!  The cycle of stress is just astounding - high stress = no sleep = no yoga = high stress.  Etc.  Working at a computer a lot also really gets into my shoulders and my lower back where my scoliosis is - I hardly ever feel it when I am more active but chair marathons just make it ache.

Anyway, here is one of my favourite little yoga tricks that is quick and gives instant stress relief.  It's also excellent for headaches and neck tension.

Brahma Mudra

Precede with 10-20 rounds of a calming pranayama, such as Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) or Chandra Bedhana (breathing in through the left nostril, out through the right).  Sit in easy pose, with your eyes open and focusing into the distance.  Ground through the sitting bones and from the foundation allow your spine to lengthen up, and then soften your shoulders back and down.  Establish a smooth rythym with the breath.

Step 1
As you inhale, look all the way to the right hand side with your eyes, and then let your head follow, turning all the way to the right.  As you exhale gaze to the tip of your nose, and bring your head back to centre.  Repeat on the left hand side.

Step 2
As you inhale, look all the way down with your eyes and then gently lift your head up.  Keep looking down as you lift the chin all the way up.  Exhale, come back to centre.  Inhale, look all the way up and then gently bring your chin to your chest. Exhale, come back to centre.  [NB - I have also seen this with eyes up - look up, eyes down - look down.  I was taught this way.]

Repeat 3 times.  Follow by closing the eyes, or for maximum effect, with Savasana or tratak (candle-gazing cleansing).

I like to include brahma mudra at the end of my morning pranayama, but these days it's all I can do to sneak in a downward facing dog during the day, so it works well on its own!

What do you do to relieve stress?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yoga for Feet

Yoga is one of those activities that reminds us, hey, I have feet!  Hard to ignore when suddenly you are staring at them in a forward bend, or they are hovering above you in shoulderstand.  Jamie over at On the Mat blogged about her relationship with her feet in this post a while back, and the comments certainly showed that we yogis are feet-aware!

It's pretty incredible when you think that those two feet of yours walk about 7,500 steps A DAY!  According to WikiAnswers: "The average moderately active person takes about 7500 steps a day. Assuming every day the person walks, an eighty year old person who began walking at one year of age, would have taken 216,262,500 steps in their lifetime. An average person, with an average stride, living to this age of 80 will walk about 108,131 miles."  That's 174,020 kilometres for those of us in the rest of the world.  Woah.

Yoga is great for feet - and your feet certainly deserve it!  So here are few fun-foot things you can try to raise your awareness of your amazing feet:

Foot Awareness Exercises:

1.  Stand normally and start shaking your body - shake out the arms and wrists, the shoulders, the legs and, yes, the feet! (Or just do the hokey pokey and get it over with already. ;) )

Post-shaking, jump up in the air 3 times and then stay still as soon as you land.  No cheating!  Then, look at your feet and observe how they are placed:
  • Are they parallel, or do your toes turn in or out? Does one foot turn out more than the other (if so, this is probably your tighter hip).
  • How is your weight distruibuted?  Do you place more weight on the heel or on the balls of the feet? More emphasis on the inside or the outside of the feet?
2.  Bring your feet parallel, and try to evenly distribute the weight on the feet.  Close your eyes and feel your standing balance until you feel you are evenly grounded.  Then, opening your eyes, lift up the toes on your right foot and try to spread the toes apart.  See how wide they will go!  Then do the left side.

Now, try a Jedi mind-trick.  Keeping your toes spread wide, lift up just the big toe.  Then, try to keep the big toe grounded and lift up just the other toes.  If you are really brave, try to lift up the two middle toes and two smallest toes seperately.  (NB: this would be a REALLY good time to have a friend take a photograph of your face!)  What do you notice?  How do the two sides compare?

Yoga Foot Exercises

Yoga has a few lovely stretches to offer  for our poor, tired feet.  Here is a small selection:

Kneeling Toe Stretch

Begin in a kneeling position (Virasana).  Tuck your toes under, making sure to pull the pinky toe out so it touches down as well.  Spread your toes wide, and gently release your weight down onto your heels, feeling the stretch through the toes.  Breathe.  If you want to intensify the stretch, bring your knees about an inch forwards.  Feel that deep stretch and breathe into it.

Toe Stretching Forward Bend (from The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown)

Sit cross-legged with the left leg in front.  Lean forward and use the right hand to help you interlace the fingers of the left hand in between the toes of your right foot.  Then do the left foot the best you can.  Gently squeeze all the toes with both hands.  (A teacher I went to a class with once said that this squeezing was great relief for hot, achy feet, and also for insomnia somehow...).

Now flex the heels of both feet, and fold forwards, letting the elbows bend out to the sides.  On an exhalation lengthen the body and bring the forehead towards the floor.  Stay for ten breaths, inhale back up to sitting, and then repeat with the legs crossed the other way.

Half Frog Pose

(Caution: this pose can be intense on your knees, so please be very careful to respect your knees if you try it!)
Photo from YogaJournal - NB, she is doing this with the arm extended, the version I describe below is on the elbow.)

Start lying face down on the floor, and then come up onto your elbows with the lower arms stretched out in front of you.  Bring the left hand towards the right elbow so the left lower arm is parallel to the front of your mat.  Then bend the right knee and use the right arm to catch the top right foot.  Point your toes straight forward, and on an exhalation press the foot forward and down, rotating the fingers forward so that the right elbow points up to the sky.  Press the foot down with the palm of the hand so that the foot comes down towards the outside of the right buttock rather than right in the middle.  Stay for 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Viparita Karani: Legs up the Wall Pose

The classic legs-up-the-wall pose is a fabulous refresher for feet!  Scoot your body close in to a wall with your legs up in the air resting against the wall.  Use pillows liberally under your back, shoulders and head.  Stay as long as you like, feeling the blood drain away from those feet.  When you come down, relish the sensation as blood flows freely back down to rejuvenate your lower limbs.


Hope you enjoy these!  Readers, how happy are your feet?  What brings your feet bliss?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sequence for Scoliosis - Guest Post by Suburban Yogini

This is a guest post by the lovely Rachel of Suburban Yogini.  As a fellow scoliosis-sufferer, I asked Rachel, with her experience at therapeutic yoga, to put together a short-but-sweet sequence for the spine that could be practiced daily to help relieve some of the discomforts caused by scoliosis.  You can read a bit more about her own experience with scoliosis here.

Yoga teacher Elise Browning Miller is one of the most recognized experts on the subject of yoga and scoliosis.  You can visit her website here for lots of helpful information on the different types and origins of scoliosis.  She has also written a number of articles for Yoga Journal on the subject: here is one about yoga and scoliosis, and here is one about teaching students with scoliosis.

So, on to our sequence, with a few wise words from Suburban Yogini's blog: "Yoga practice for back problems of any kind, or scoliosis specifically, should always be undertaken with a qualified teacher who understands the back problem and in conjunction with advice from a physical therapist. This said, yoga practice by its very nature will strengthen and stretch the back muscles and focus the mind on lengthening the spine."


Yoga Sequence for Scoliosis

Begin sitting back on the heels, spine nice and straight, tail bone tucked under.  Place one hand on the chest and one hand on the lower belly and observe the breath and the movement of the breath under the hands for a few moments until the breath has become steady soft and even.  Begin to visualise the breath moving up and down the spine from the sacrum to the crown of the head on an inhale, from the crown of the head to the sacrum on an exhale.  Visualise the spine as strong, straight and long.  Keep this visualisation in mind throughout your practice.

 1: Child's pose to Downward-facing dog
(Repeat 5 times)

Come into childs pose. As you inhale come to tabletop and exhale into Down Dog.  Inhale tabletop and exhale child's pose.  Repeat five times holding the final down dog for five breaths and the final child for as long as you need.

2: Warrior I and Parsvottanasana
(Repeat 3 times on each side)

When you are ready come to standing.  Turn the left foot out slightly and take a big step forward with the right foot.  Make sure that both hips are pointing to the front of your mat.  Exhale the hands into prayer position.  

Inhale bending the front knee and stretching the arms up into a modified Warrior 1.  Make sure that you look straight ahead rather than up as we are trying to keep the spine straight. Exhale fold forward over the front leg, keeping that front knee bent and the back heel down. Inhale the arms out to the side and back into modified Warrior 1. Exhale straighten the front knee and bring the hands back into prayer position. Repeat 3 times to each side.

3: Supine spine stretcher
(Repeat 5 times)

(Aurora says hello!)

Come to lying on the back with the knees hugged into the chest, feel free to roll out the back and hips here for a few breaths.
As you inhale stretch the legs up to the ceiling with the feet flexed and the arms alongside the ears. Make sure you do not let the tailbone lift off the floor.  As you exhale hug the knees back in towards the chest.  Repeat 5 times.

Finish the sequence with a supine twist and savasana.

The point here is to keep the spine straight but not stiff.  Concetrate on finding the balance between stength and softness within the vertebrae.


Thanks Rachel for such a great sequence for the spine!  Dear readers, what is your experience with your spine?  How has yoga changed that?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Living where I do, I'm pretty behind the times, but today I finally decided to see what the noise was all about.

Yep, I joined Twitter!  You can visit me at Yoga_Gypsy.

Now to figure out the next step - what on Earth is it for??!!  So I figured I would ask all of you.  Do you use Twitter?  If so, how?  Do you like it? Why or why not?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.  :)

PS - Bonus points to those who remember what movie I stole the title of the post from! ;)