I admit it…yoga doesn’t meet the usual definition of working out. We aren’t racing our bicycles down the highway or dancing in a zumba class or running on a treadmill in a gym. We’re in our bare feet, doing what looks, to the uninitiated, like a lot of stretching. We’re sweating lightly instead of moping it off our faces with a towel. We’re slightly out of breath instead of gasping for air. When our practice is over, we lay down on the floor like we’re all taking naps together in kindergarten. We’re smiling and looking peaceful and trusting. We’re breathing with the effort, softening, looking inward, setting intention and releasing what doesn’t serve us.
I practice yoga for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is that I want to be strong. And happily, what I’ve have found since I’ve been practicing two to three times each week is that it’s working. I’ve been getting stronger. Physically stronger. Poses are easier to get into. I can stay in them longer. I can bend into them deeper.
Let me say it right out: Yoga builds physical strength.
Because we move through the poses using our own body weight, the muscles develop in a natural way … following the natural movements of the body.
This feels so much more natural to me than going to the gym and lifting weights, listening to the clank and clatter of the metal disks and the loud pumping music.
What I enjoy about building strength through yoga is that my brain feels just as refreshed as my body does when I’m finished.
I always feel as though the day has slowed down and I’ve slipped those 30 or 60 minutes into it, like a love letter into the envelope of my day. ♥
So, you remember a couple of days ago when I told you about the green sweater I wanted to knit? I’m so glad I decided to switch patterns. Somehow the way this sweater pattern is written reminds me of how I’m writing my novel.
On sweaters I’ve knit in the past, you start at one end and you knit until you’re finished, hopefully at the other end. A lot of writers write this way, as well. They cast on with the first chapter, knit up the body of the work, throw in a few interesting twists and turns (maybe a cable stitch or two,) then cast off with a nice, tidy ending. Hopefully, everybody lives happily ever after and there are no loose ends.
Well, in the Grace Cardigan that I’m knitting, the first thing you do is knit up a small piece, add some shaping, and then set it aside for a bit while you work on something else. While it’s resting in the knitting basket, you cast on another little bit, only this time using a technique called the “provisional cast on.” This leaves the cast-on edge “live” so that you can go back later, pick up those stitches and knit in the other direction.
That’s exactly the way I’ve been writing my first novel, Holding Space. I wrote a bit on the beginning, then set it aside and spent some time in the middle. Then I went back and worked on the beginning again. At some point, I picked up those stitches that I left “live” and knit/wrote them going in the other direction, until eventually the two halves met up. Then I worked on the ending.
Now I’m working on the polishing. That would be the knitting equivalent of burying the loose threads, sewing up the seams and doing the final blocking.
Gee, I feel very writerly for noticing that! (is writerly a word? Oh, who cares!)
Lord of the Dance
I chose this pose for the letter L today simply because I love the name!
Also because it’s a balance pose and I love balance poses. Maybe because I’m pretty good at them.
…although some days I feel like the little sister in this video… (It’s only 27 seconds long and honestly…ya gotta watch it! I dare you not to laugh!)
If you need to, use a chair or the wall to help you with your balance.
…or a horse, if you’ve got one handy…
God, this is fun! Balance poses are all great for working the core!
Oh, argh, I am frustrated with my green sweater and I’ve barely even started it. I wanted to knit this:
It’s knit using the brioche stitch. Brioche is a really cool stitch that’s very warm and kind of puffy…sort of 3D if that makes any sense.
Before casting on for the sweater, I cast on to do a gauge check and to learn how to do the stitch.
First stumbling block: I couldn’t figure out how to do the brioche stitch.
So in desperation (or chutzpah), I wrote to Ms. Budd! And she wrote back! What a lovely person she is! She explained how to do the stitch. The lightbulb went off and I was out of the gate & galloping! Yay!
Once I had the stitch under my belt, I cast on the sweater.
Second stumbling block: short rows. The sweater is knit from the top down and has set-in sleeves. The pattern calls for shaping the shoulder using short rows. Now, I’ve done short rows with varying levels of success when decreasing and shaping the gusset in a sock. But I’ve never done them when you have to wrap the stitch and then knit it on the way back and you’re not decreasing at the same time (and if that sounds crazy, it’s probably because I barely know what I’m talking about).
By the time I had the shoulder shaped, one side was 6 stitches wider than the other and had a pretty severe odd jog in it. And also, I’d messed up a bit on the Brioche stitch, so it was pretty sloppy.
Can you say riiiiiipppp it out?
This sweater pattern is currently over my head. That’s a fact. It isn’t the pattern’s problem – Ann Budd is a renowned knitter and pattern designer. The problem is that I am not up to the same speed as the pattern.
So…I also have this other pattern:
I really like it. It has some interesting features and it also has set-in sleeves.
But this pattern doesn’t require shoulder shaping with short rows (yay!)
Actually, there are new skills I can learn from this pattern. Skills I can then apply to knitting the brioche cardigan.
Since I just don’t have the skills to knit the Basic Brioche cardigan yet, and since I will gain some skills and a lot of confidence by knitting this simpler (but also challenging) Grace cardigan, I think that’s what I’m going to do.
I’ll save Ann Budd’s Basic Brioche for a future date when I have a bit more experience.
I don’t think it’s a cop out.
It’s like doing a difficult yoga pose using modifications and props to help out until you’re ready to tackle the full pose.
If you need help with this pose, support yourself on the back of a kitchen chair, or use yoga blocks or even a couple of soup cans.
For those who spend a lot of time sitting at the sewing machine, or knitting (!), or at a desk, this is a great stretch for the hamstrings. If you’ve been sitting for awhile, go ahead and get up, hold onto the back of the chair for support and give those legs a good stretch. They’ll thank you for it!
I’ve been thinking lately about how we identify with place. Last year at a gathering in Whitehorse, I was introduced as being from Salmon Arm, BC. Which, I suppose, is true, since that’s where I’m living right now. I had, after all, flown in for the event.
But at time, we had only been gone from Whitehorse for one year and I still very much identified myself as a Yukoner. So when the introduction came over the sound system, I had a very visceral reaction. A little twinge of adrenaline shot into my heart and I actually caught my breath. It felt so wrong! I felt, suddenly, like an outsider, a stranger in a place that was was so dear to my heart that I could still taste the air just by thinking about it.
I still can.
I’ve been living here in the Salmon Arm area for just over two years, now. And while I definitely feel more at home now than I did at first, I still don’t know my way around very well.
Forget directions that involve the name of whatever business was previously located next to the one I’m searching for. “It’s next to where the old yoga studio was before it moved up town.”
“And where is up town, exactly?”
“At the top of the hill, by McDonalds.”
Or how about this one: “It’s on 18th.”
(Avenue or street? West or Nortwest? I believe there are four streets that begin with the number 18 in Salmon Arm. there might be more, I’m not sure.)
When we spent a year in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, I met an elderly woman who took me under her wing a little bit. She lived in a nice little house in a nice little neighbourhood of “newer” homes in town. “Newer” meaning built in the 1950s.
“Would you like to see where I’m from?” she asked me one day.
“Is it far?” I imagined a day trip to some other small Manitoba town, maybe an hour or so away.
We got into her car and drove about six blocks to the other side of town, and parked in front of a beautiful old heritage home.
“My nephew lives here, now,” she said, pointing out the dormer window that had been her childhood bedroom.
We walked up the street and down the alley behind the house, admiring the gardens full of tomato plants, rhubarb, and peonies while she reminisced about her childhood.”I never in a million years would have believed I’d move so far away from home,” she said, sadly.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how we can live quite happily in one place and yet still yearn for another. I don’t know if I’d move back to Whitehorse. I like it here. And yet, I identify myself as a Yukoner living away.
And every time we visit the coast and I get a whiff of that salt air, I yearn to live by the ocean again.
If home is really where the heart is, then I guess one can be at home in several places at once. And that’s a good thing, eh? Because the moral of the story is that home resides within us. We carry our homes inside us like turtles carries their on the outside.
Home Yoga Practice
There are many ways to set up a home practice. If you’re interested in having one like mine, all you need is a space big enough to roll out your mat, a few uninterrupted minutes and a place to set your laptop (or a TV with a DVD player).
I currently practice with the Dianne Bondy on-line videos and with my Rodney Yee DVDs.
Here are some links to get you started. Have fun and choose what fits your style and your body. ♥
You can enroll with Dianne Bondy at Yogasteya. You can also check out her YouTube channel. Here’s a short sample:
There’s Curvy Yoga on YouTube:
And there’s Curvygirl Yoga, too:
My Aunt Margy recommends Jane Fonda’s yoga videos, which can be found on YouTube:
Last but not least, my all-time favourite DVDs are by Rodney Yee. Especially his Yoga for Beginners series. Here is a sample: