Saturday, September 6, 2014

Xinalani Retreat - the arrival

I flew yesterday from Toronto to Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - where I was greeted by a friendly car service who took me to the marina and then on a boat to my final destination. I know it's rainy season, so I was surprised that it was partly sunny and a beautiful day. Two lovely guys loaded my bags on to the boat, threw an oldschool ugly orange pfd around my neck and off we went! It was super wavy and bouncy and I was pretty sure my bags were going to be on the bottom of the ocean but luckily they stayed out.

We passed a pirate ship and plenty of pelicans (yay wildlife!) and even some butterflies fluttered by as we weren't too far off shore. The destination? Xinalani (she-nah-lah-knee) eco yoga retreat. We plonked across the bay and there was one rain cloud on the other side, with rain shooting out of it. We *seemed* to be heading straight for this one rain cloud. Closer... closer... He asked me how to say rain in english - he played charades and held his fingers in the air and did jazz hand fingers in a downwards motion. "Rain" I said. They both repeated it. Then he pointed to the raincloud... "RAIN!" He said. I asked if we were going there, he said "Si".

It started to rain as we approached the cloud (obviously) so one guy covered my bags with a padded seat thing. Gracias - I thought it my head! At this point, I was wishing I had studied up a bit on Spanish. Oops.

We start approaching the resort, there are HUGE waves crashing in to the shore. Surfing waves - I'm thinking! Give me a board and I'll just ride to shore! Alas, no board on board. He changes his mind, we can go to the shore. We go around a rocky protrusion to the next beachy area and there are two more xinalani guys waiting... The boat rides a big wave to shore and I'm pretty sure did a nose dive into the sand, one guy tosses one of my suitcases off the boat into the other guys hands and nearly kills him in doing so... They run up the beach and disappear. The boat backs up and the guys seem apprehensive. We keep going... I see we are headed to a dock.

I get off the dock, one guy carries my other suitcase (smaller, but heavier - it's full of books - poor guy!) I say 'sorry' - I don't know how to apolgize in Spanish. I carry my small bag. We walk in the pouring rain across the beach, down a cobblestone street, past street dogs (HELLO PUPS!) I may have patted a few while he was clearly thinking 'come on loco lady!', we went past make shift restaurants, crumbling houses, one guy in a house with no roof, just a tarp, sitting inside on a bucket - watching TV! Anyways... Across a river. YES a river... ankle depth.... knee depth... WHOA! CROTCH depth! Hahaha, I'm laughing and he's laughing at me. Up a bunch of stairs, hair dripping, bags drenched, mascara running, giddy out of breath giggling... We made it.

They hand me a big fluffy orange towel that smells nice and a freshly squeezed lemonade. "HOLA!"

I check in and go over some details for my Yoga Teacher Training retreat that I am running at their resort over the next three weeks. My guests/students arrive the next day so I take my time unpacking, settling in, checking out the grounds, meeting the few guests who are already there, eating some scrumptious food and so on.

It's really humid so my hair stayed soaking wet right to the point where I went to bed. With earplugs. And I could still hear the crashing waves (awesome) and squeaking, chirping, buzzing, lunatic bugs (not as awesome!) I managed to sleep ok but woke up pretty early.

This morning I took my flashlight at 6am and walked up many stairs via many different winding paths, through MANY creepy spider webs, and past quickly out of the way scooting crabs, and scared myself half to death with the shadows my flashlight was making with the bushes!!

Then I remembered my mom's parting the words to me on the phone. "Don't walk through the jungle alone." Uh... I'm totally doing that! Well I did't get attacked my rabid monkeys or abducted by hidden pirates. Luckily. I meditated overlooking the ocean as the sun came up.

They blew the "meal time" conch and I came down for tea and fruit.

Then I went all the way back up and beyond, to the jungle studio, where most of my teaching and classes will be happening... Practiced, shot a video for my youtube channel (!!) then took a COLD refreshing shower (while looking at and listening to the crashing ocean - it's all open concept!) which I highly recommend.

I had lunch with the lovely Rosa (new friend) who taught me some Spanish and then I sprawled on the beach for an hour, browsing through Sharath's new book for inspiration to start this journey. I walked down the beach and tried to feed an apple to a horse, but he rejected my moist delicious treat which I thought was weird?! I patted his nose instead which he accepted.

Now I'm waiting for my first students to arrive. It's sunny and the ocean is green. It's hot but they will adjust as I did - and take many cold showers over the next three weeks! This afternoon we begin. They will look deep inside of themselves and deeply into the tradition and practices of yoga. We will all leave this course more in tune with nature and ourselves - our TRUE selves, which is what yoga is all about. I can't wait!

Adios amigos!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The universe always keeps us humble

I have never cut dog nails before. I'm totally petrified because Raaji's claws are thick and black and you can't see where the 'quick' is (the super sensitive pulp of the nail with all of the nerves). I have made mistakes a few times with my cats and ferrets, cutting into the quick, and they jump and squeal and bleed like crazy. And every time I feel so bad. And sometimes cry and repeatedly tell them I'm sorry. While they sulk in the corner giving me the stink eye.

Up to this point Raaji has been going to the vet nearly every month for puppy shots, check ups, neutering, etc, so I keep asking them to trim his nails each time. But now that we aren't going to the vet as often I considered taking him to a groomer to do it. I'm sure it's only $20 or so, maybe once every 3-4 weeks.

This morning though, I got ballsy. I was in the pet store and there were the dog nail clippers. I thought, I can totally do this! I'll give it a try. The clippers were $10 so what is there to lose, that was cheaper probably than one grooming appointment.

I got home, ready to rock it. I rubbed Raaji's belly, gave him some kisses, massaged his feet and paws (he doesn't mind having his toes fondled) and grabbed the clippers and boom-boom-boom-boom, nail after nail I conquered his two front paws! 10 claws! Done! Yes! I only did tiny little clips to stay safe, but success! No bleeding or screaming or running away! I moved to the rear paws. He started to get wiggly. Hmm... I need to distract him. I got his favourite chewy toy and got him to go "down" (laying on the floor) and he started to nom the chewy and ignore me. Boom-boom-boom-boom (that's my successful clipping sound effect), all done! Every toenail clipped in one sitting, and the pup was calm as can be, despite my nerves being frayed! HURRAY! I can do this! No need to go to a groomer. YAY ME :) I'm awesome, I am the best dog owner ever! LOL

Then I thought, gee, I should totally conquer something else I don't think I can do today.

I've had a beautiful china mug sitting for months in 3 pieces waiting to get fixed. I CAN DO THIS! TODAY! I grabbed the krazy glue, put the pin in the tip to open it, checked how all of the pieces go together and then drop-drop-drop I loaded up one surface with glue and squeezed the other surface against it and wait.... And wait... It's not adhering, the pieces still come apart. Argh. I keep holding one piece in my left hand, I put down the other piece and put more glue on the piece I'm holding. I SOAK it. Then I press the other piece to it again and wait... wait... wait... longer... waiting... And they still come apart.

ARGH - OK, so not everything is easy and I'm clearly not rocking this. I sigh and put down the pieces. And then I realize that all of my left fingers are... Yes you are right... TOTALLY glued together! KRAZY glued together! Shut tight. Dry. Adhered. I have one human mitten hand. No spaces. Oh crap! It was funny but also worrisome. If I pull them apart will the skin rip off? I slowly slowly carefully pulled, waiting for the pain... But luckily eventually I peeled my fingers back to their original singular condition. Phew. But now I have that gross, dry, crinkly, thick glue coating on my fingers.

I think the universe put that annoying glue there to remind me that I'm not the queen of everything and that you win some and you lose some.

My head remains the size it should be today. Thanks to krazy glue.


Monday, June 2, 2014


I have posted a lot of photos, stories and thoughts about where I go to practice yoga in India and who my teacher is. But a video is much more descriptive and moving, I think. This was just released - it was filmed just after I left for the season, but a lot of my friends/peers who I practiced with in Mysore are in the film. I am re-inspired after watching it (twice this morning already). I miss the heat, the energy and the magic of practicing yoga there. In less than one month I will be applying for my third trip to study with Sharath. Now I really can't wait!!!

Enjoy xoxo

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Feeling cold and judgmental... and grateful.

My trip here in Mysore India is already coming to an end. How is this possible? How does one month go by so quickly? Wow. I am trying hard to soak up all of the sights and sounds and smells and feelings so that they can linger with me after I return home, at least for a while.

This morning I was out walking the dog and I was FREEZING COLD! It was 7:30am and maybe 18 degrees C. I laughed at myself, because my mom emailed me this morning and told me back home in Toronto today it is -23C, feels like -36C with the wind chill. Minus! HAHA! I better toughen up, and QUICK! I'm such a weather wimp. I think I will probably be in total temperature shock for a few days then I'll get used to it. Poor little Raaji, that is another story! Note to self: Shop for cute knitted doggie sweater asap.

Today is Friday so I was SUPPOSED to have led primary 6-7:30am. I woke up on time. Pressed snooze once. Sat up and felt so much pain in my back. Right in the deep down depths on my right side QL. Achy achy can barely move pain. My low back was totally seized up. On top of that, I still have major stomach cramps every morning and of course, diarrhea. Wow, what a pity party over here! I doodled around a bit, seeing if some moving around or drinking water would help either situation, but nothing was resolving. I hung out in bed for a while trying to decide what to do. I HATE skipping any asana practices since I only have so many here and I really want to take advantage of each opportunity and enjoy them. But I just thought it was the wrong choice for my misbehaving body. What a bummer! I thought that maybe by the 730am class I would be feeling more limber and intestinal-pain free. But then again, I don't want to go to the wrong class time and get in trouble from Sharath. Sigh. No asana for me today. I also considered doing just the sun salutations and standing poses on my own, out on my rooftop deck, moving slowly, but then I realized how "freezing" it was outside!

I still have chanting class at 1030am and Sanskrit class at 5pm, and Yoga Sutras chanting class at 6pm, SO technically I am still practicing yoga today, just not asana. RIGHT!? :) :) :)

I hope that by resting today and tomorrow (Saturday is off anyways) that I will feel at least OK on Sunday for my last practice of the season at KPJAYI.

Yesterday was my last Mysore style practice and I really tried to relish every moment and take my time. I got moved up to 830am, which is funny, since it's my last practice at that time but I was still happy to have to chance to get into the shala a little earlier. When I left there were still people sitting in the foyer waiting to practice.

My practice felt pretty good physically and mentally and I was trying to feel whether or not my back was going to allow kapotasana. I was also trying not to think ahead and just stay in the moment! I guess that is sort of my pinnacle pose right now, since it's where Sharath has stopped me, and over a few years now it has given me trouble and pain on and off. I had two really wonderful kapotasanas this season but I KNEW at some point my body wouldn't be so forgiving... Yesterday was the day! It wasn't a train wreck or anything, but my body definitely set a limit. The limit was just short of the full proper pose. I felt some back strain right as I began. My fingers touched down pretty close to my toes where they always do, and I walked, walked, paused, breathed, pushed into my legs, walked... Thought I felt my ankle bones sort of a little, plopped my hands over my feet and darnit, just barely touched my heels, definitely didn't grab them! 1-2-3-4-5... straight arms (ish) 1-2-3-4-5 and UP. Ugh. I was praying Sharath didn't ask if I caught or to see me do it again. That was enough for the day. I was sort of hoping for one more pose this trip, so next time I don't have to start by ending on kapotasana, but it's a good challenge for next time. And a great ego crusher!! I will be in NO RUSH next year to get past my first week of primary series!

On to backbending.

Last year when I came here I had MAJOR low back pain and sacrum issues, and by taking it easy and being very mindful that mostly healed while I was here and now only from time to time I feel a little twinge in that area. I think it was all about slowing down, being more patient, not pushing so hard, building up more core strength and using bandhas more.

This year I have some mid back stuff (at least it's moving and changing right?!) that started about a month before I got here but I have still been able to do all of my backbends and drop backs without fear or pain. Like last year I have been able to walk in and touch my heels in assisted urdhva danurasana, but this year for the first time in my life, I've been able to actually catch (hold on to) my ankles/legs. I really didn't think this was in my cards, so it's pretty neat to be able to do something I never really even considered doing. There are some poses you look at and think - gee, I really hope I will be strong enough and flexible enough to do that one day. This wasn't one of those for me. Anyways, as my previous blogs detailed, the first time an assistant connected my hands to my legs, it was SO painful and I didn't want to do it again! The next guy who tried to get me to do that was met with total resistance from my body. Then the next few practices after that I just walked in. Then Sharath connected me and it felt easy and natural. Then a girl connected me and it felt good too. Cool, my body was opening and my mind was accepting.

Then, yesterday, I think my back muscles were starting to lock up and also my legs were SO tired and shaky, and when Sharath tried to connect my right arm, I just couldn't support myself and my elbow dropped to the ground to the point where I was resting on my forearm. He just brought me up after that, not even trying for my left arm. I laughed (as I do) but I was slightly disappointed. He seemed disappointed too, if that's possible! I think this also explains the pain today, in my right side only QL.

This demonstrates, I think, how non-linear asana practice is. It's never up-up-up OR down-down-down, it's a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and turns and flips and you never really know what you're gonna get from one day to the next, or one year to the next. In general though, with hard work and dedication over time, the general trend is upward. I am stronger, more controlled, more aware and more flexible than last time I was here about 18 months ago, even though I am not in perfect condition by any means. I wonder what my next trip will be like, and what my new challenges will be. We all hope it's a step up, but maybe it won't be. And if that's the case then that is where the real work comes in. The work of learning and accepting and making every experience positive despite what the universe throws at us.

Speaking of the universe throwing stuff at us, my last two Mysore style practices were beside the most distracting disgusting guy ever. I blogged about him LAST year too! What are the chances he is back here at the same time as me again! His clothing and yoga towel smell so bad, like he sweated in them, and they were wet, and then he put it in a sealed plastic bag for one year and then took them out to wear them again. EW! Mouldy putrid rancid old water smell. GROSS! He has stinky B.O. on top of that, but I can sort of handle that. AND he leaves his mat around 8 times during a practice to go to the bathroom. AND he grunts and pants like a dog. And he horks and sniffles boogers and coughs. Must I go on? It really is atrocious. I was in a row behind him at led class last week and smelled him. Then the universe decided to place me directly beside him for Mysore practice, not once, but twice in a row. I feel like I am supposed to get over it and stop being so judgmental. But come on! For a practice that is based on the breath, it's really hard to breathe deeply when you are inhaling Mr. Garbage Pants. I really wish Sharath would tell him he's gross and to clean up. Dear universe - you are going to have to try another method, because I am not learning the lesson. Sorry. *gag*

Sharath definitely has no qualms about telling people what they need to improve...

"Your practice is too long." - to me and anyone else who practiced past 11am

"Too much around your waist. No more chapatis for you." - to a guy who can't bind in mari C

"No chakrasana." - to someone who fell out of headstand

"No upavistha konasana in this pose." - to a girl doing drop backs with her feet and legs spread too wide apart.

"What are you doing? All wrong? Very lazy! Bad teacher teach you this. Very bad habit." - to a girl who was hanging out in a standing forward bend after her drop backs.

etc etc!

PS - despite my crabby silly blogging, I am still ecstatic about my whole time here in Mysore and what the journey has meant for me. I have learned more about myself, my practice, my body, the practice of yoga and ashtanga yoga in general, improved and practiced my Sanskrit and chanting... My heart and my brain are a little more full thanks to my time here. I have connected a little more with my teachers (Sharath and Lakshmish) and I have gotten more of a feeling for the people and customs of India. Mysore is starting to feel like a home away from home. I have met new friends who are really dear people. I have found a sweet dog who will be my best friend for many years to come. I have even tried a small piece of papaya this trip which I think I liked. I am very grateful. Truly I am.

Parivritta Pasrvakonasana - rotated side angle.
Of course I asked this sweet lady if it was ok if I climbed up on her bench before doing so!

Bharadvajasana - I didn't get to this pose yet on this trip, it's 3 after kapotasana, but I really like it! :)