I’m late with my letter today – did you think I forgot you?
Spring is here in my area of the world. No doubt about it. The car is covered in pollen and I am stuffed up with hay fever. Today I knelt on the grass to take a couple of pictures (in bare legs) and now my legs are covered in an itchy rash. It will pass. It happens every spring.
One of the differences that I am really appreciating between living in the Yukon and living in southern British Columbia is how green April is.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss a lot of things about living in the North. However, April in the sub-arctic isn’t one of them.
In the Yukon, March and early April bring some of the best cross-country skiing weather you could ask for.
Here on Shuswap Lake, people are already out in their boats.
Today, everything is green, green, green. The new leaves are popping out. The daffodils, tulips, heather and forsythia are blooming. The cherry trees are blooming. The magnolia trees will be in full bloom any day. I have mowed the lawn twice.
Can you blame me for appreciating this particular difference?
All this greenness has caused me to cast on a sweater in rich dark green wool. I’m thinking ahead here, folks…it’ll be my summer knitting project. I expect to have it finished in time for the next big colourful season: autumn.
Green is my favourite colour this time of year! And what better pose for today than the Garland Pose. This is a pose I sit in a lot, though I’ve actually never done it in a yoga class!
I naturally sit in this pose quite comfortably when I’m pulling weeds in the garden, or contemplating the layout of quilt blocks on the floor. I’m lucky to have flexible ankles and stretchy calf muscles, I guess. ♥
Here is a really nice video tutorial with modifications.
The nicest people will say the most extraordinary things without even thinking about it.
Like one time a friend was describing someone she wanted me to meet. I was told how well educated she was, how varied her interests were, how well she dressed. And then there was an awkward pause. “But she’s, well…you know…(insert hand gestures here) “a little large,” she said, apologizing for her friend’s dress size before introducing her to me.
Or the time I naively made the suggestion to a petite, hard-bodied enthusiastic gym exerciser who was bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t go flat out on the treadmill while she healed from an injury. “Are you kidding me? Yoga isn’t exercise,” she snorted derisively.
“Have you ever tried it?” I asked, thinking about how sore my butt was from the previous day’s class.
“Yeah, I went to a class once. I couldn’t believe it when this fat chick walked in. Then it turns out she’s the teacher. So I left. Jeeze, I could teach her a thing or two about fitness,” she sorted. “Yoga.” Another snort.”
I don’t understand why a person’s dress size should be factored into someone else’s perception of whether or not they can or should participate in fitness activities.
And I don’t understand why Yoga is so often viewed as being just for skinny white chicks. I mean, come on…
And since when is Yoga not “real” exercise? It’s just as legitimate an exercise option as cycling or walking or running is. A good yoga session can leave me sore the next day after working hips, thighs, bum, abs, shoulders, chest, back and arms – all hallmarks of weight-bearing exercise.
Yes, yoga is meditative. It leaves me feeling relaxed and centered: key factors in maintaining balance in a hectic life. But so does a good workout in the gym. It’s just apples and oranges, people.
Apples and oranges. Sure, there are a lot of bananas, but there are pears and watermelons there, too.
Fat people do yoga, folks. Get over it.
I take on-line yoga classes from Dianne Bondy. I’ll let this little video of Dianne flowing smoothly through a series of asanas to music speak for itself.
I’ve made two birthday cakes from scratch in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d tell you about them today. Because who doesn’t like cake? (I don’t see any hands raised…Everybody loves cake!)
I can make a cake from scratch, no problem – it’s the decorating that gets me. Just call me the queen of lopsided. Highly skilled in filling divots with extra icing. Nothing ever so bad that a good handful of sprinkles can’t make better. That’s me.
I was bemoaning the fact on Facebook last month when I baked a cake for M’s birthday, and here’s what my friend Val had to say:
These days, my heart warms to see a lopsided, real ingredient cake. More often, a perfect, symmetrical synthetic cake from the store is our effort to show love. Your handmade one is the real thing. It reminds me of the choices you make to spend your time on things that matter to you.
Isn’t that wonderful! It made me feel better right away. Because she is 100% correct. So pfffft that my sprinkle-drenched over-frosted-to-cover-the-divot cake was lopsided. It was delicious and I made it by myself for my son.
Today we’re going to a 59th birthday party for Mr C’s cousin who lives in Vernon. Feeling bolstered by Val’s wisdom, I volunteered to bake the birthday cake. I’m not sure how many people will be there, so rather than baking a two-tiered cake, I made cupcakes instead. They look very pretty on my wire cupcake stand. This is chocolate cake from scratch, with a chocolate whipped cream icing that is very similar to chocolate mousse.
And lucky you….I’m giving out the recipe! Now go eat some cake!
Nita’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe Mix together dry ingredients: 2 cups sugar 1 3/4 cups flour 3/4 cup baking cocoa (the dry powder) 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 tsp baking soda Mix together wet ingredients: 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 tsp vanilla Mix wet and dry ingredients together. Add 1/2 cup hot coffee & 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour into 2 cake pans (batter will be very thin). Bake @350 30 – 40 minutes until done.
Chocolate Whipped Cream Icing 1 cup whipping cream 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup cocoa powder 1 tsp vanilla Whip until stiff.
Now that you’ve eaten all that cake, you can work some of it off doing a bit of yoga during the April A-Z Blog Challenge:
Lay on your back with your arms down along your sides. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Scoot your feet up as close to your bum as you can comfortably get them. Push down through your feet and lift your bum into the air any amount.
Any amount means one inch, six inches, twelve inches – whatever feels good.
I like to press my lower back down into the floor and then slowly peel my hips up off the mat, raising my back one vertebrae at a time until I’m resting on my shoulder blades. I roll myself back down the same way. But that’s just me. You do what feels good for you.
Once you’re up there, you can wiggle around a little bit and get your shoulders underneath you. If you’re way up there, you can lace your fingers together underneath your bum and push your arms into the mat to help get more lift in the hips.
If this hurts your neck don’t do it.
You might find that bridge pose feels really good in your mid & lower back. You might find it feels really good across the front of your chest.
Here’s a short video tutorial so you can see what it looks like:
And because every pose should be adjusted for every body, here is a great modification using a strap for those of you who are blessed with abundant bosoms (so that you don’t smother yourself), or using a block for those of you who haven’t developed the strength to hold yourself in the pose just yet. 🙂
I wasn’t going to do it. Right up until supper time yesterday, I wasn’t going to do it. But then…I changed my mind.
Snap! Just like that.
I’m participating in the 2016 Blogging from A to Z in April challenge.
In the very first blog post I ever wrote, way back in 2010, I mused about how much I missed letter writing. Real letters, on beautiful stationary. Written with pen in hand and cup of tea at elbow, settled in at the kitchen table to compose a chat in which I would be spending the next hour thinking about and spending time with the letter’s recipient: you, my friend.
In that very first blog post, I wrote about how I hoped this blog would be a way to keep in touch with family and friends.
I still hope that. Especially now that I no longer call Whitehorse my (primary) home. I don’t know how many of my old friends or family read my blog. I know the blog has strayed away from it’s original purpose…letters from – and to – home.
I want to return to that original purpose, and so I’m taking the opportunity provided by the A – Z challenge to write a letter every day via this blog. I don’t know what I’ll say just yet. Maybe a bit of reminiscence, a short little personal essay or a simple up-date on my day.
Whatever I write each day, I’ll try to make it personal. A glimpse into what I’m thinking about, musing about. A struggle I’m having or something I’m celebrating. I hope you’ll read along and join in the conversation by leaving a comment. I promise to write back. 🙂
And since the rules of the A-Z Challenge are that you must blog according the the alphabet, I am going to include something alphabetical at the end of each post that is related to YOGA. Yup. Yoga. I’ve started my daily practice again, and it’s very personal and important to me. I’ll put it at the end of the post in case you aren’t interested in this part of my life. And if you are, maybe you’ll want to try doing one or two poses with me. 🙂
Today is a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining, the lake is literally a mirror, the first green leaves are unfurling and the birds are singing their hearts out. I am sitting at the kitchen table. When I lift my head and look out the window, this is what I see:The letter A: Asana
The Sanskrit definition of the word asana is to be seated in a static position. However, in the yoga world, it has come to mean assuming and holding any yoga pose. Yoga poses are, in essence, exercises that create strength, balance, flexibility and improved circulation in the muscles and joints in the body, and encourage serenity, patience and calmness within ourselves and in our interactions with other people. In short, practicing yoga asanas promote well-being in both body and mind.
In the spirit of the Sanskrit definition, to be seated, here is your asana for today:
Make yourself comfortable in your chair. Sit in a way that is the most relaxing to you. Close your eyes. Put one hand over your heart. Let your lips curve into a small smile. Breathe slowly through your nose for a few moments. Listen to the sound your breath makes. Notice your ribs and belly moving as you breathe. Feel the chair against your bum and your back, the soles of your feet inside your shoes or pressed against the floor.
Pay attention to the little pause at the top of your inhale and at the bottom of your exhale – a slight pause, a moment of stillness.
The rumble of thunder woke us up early. I lay in bed and listened to the rolling echo bounce between the hills across the lake, the rain drumming on the roof. We stayed long in our housecoats, had second cups of coffee, ate leftover dessert for breakfast. Later, when the rain stopped, Mr. C loaded the truck for an errand run to town and I rolled my mat out on the deck, ready for my daily hour of yoga practice, content with only myself for company. More thunder grumbled in the distance, the air fresh and clean and slightly cool, the sky blue and milky-white and blue again.
Bellydancers can benefit from including yoga into their personal fitness routine, and one way this is evident is in floor work. Floor work is an aspect of the dance that seems to be making a bit of a comeback very recently. At least, after seeing virtually zero floor work for about a decade or more, I have suddenly seen a few routines making an appearance in various shows over the last couple of years, and “how to” floor work DVDs are starting to appear on the market. Bellydancers in North America used to do floor work regularly in the 1970s & 80s. It was part of what used to be called the “standard 5- or 7-part restaurant routine. More on that in another posting.
Anyway, back to yoga. My yoga practice ebbs and flows, and sometimes I just don’t feel like working with my DVDs. Instead, I’ll spend some time on my mat just working through poses that I enjoy, trying out poses that I see in magazines or online journals, or working on poses that focus on areas I need to build strength or flexibility in (personal challenge poses). I have weak wrists, and there are some poses I simply can’t do because my wrists do not support me. I also don’t do the sword work that I’d like to do because the weight of the sword causes pain in my wrists, making practice difficult. In a fitness assessment last June, I scored low in the upper body strength category. That wasn’t a surprise, but it did cause me to refine my fitness plan. As a result, I’ve started to incorporate some movements to stretch & strengthen my wrists, arms & shoulders into my yoga routine. I’ve also added working with light weights, but I’m not as dedicated to that practice yet.
One of the personal challenge poses that I’m working on right now is the upward plank (purvottanasana). This pose strengthens the wrists, arms & hamstrings and is also a heart-opener (stretching the shoulders & chest). By the way, Purvottanasana translates as “intense Eastern stretch” in Sanskrit (the front of the body being the “eastern side” and the back of the body the “western side”). For some reason, that just tickles my little raqs sharqi (eastern dance) heart! I love word associations!
The upward plank pose is challenging for me to do with good form. Start by sitting with your legs together in front of you, toes pointed. Hands are behind you with your fingers pointed towards your bum. Press down through your hands and engage your legs to lift your hips into the air. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Your arms and legs should be straight. Relax your bum without letting the hips drop, and let your hamstrings & arms do the work. Ground all 10 toes and gently tilt the head back. If you can’t do it without “cheating” & using your glutes, then sit back up and bend your knees before pressing up into reverse table top position. When you’ve built some strength in your hamstrings, you can begin work on the full upward plank again. You’ll see right away why this is a good strength builder for wrists, arms & legs!
As a bellydance floor work movement, you can layer belly rolls & flutters onto the upward plank pose, being mindful to not allow your hips to drop. To recover, lower the hips back to the floor. Cross one ankle over the other and roll towards your audience onto your side, supporting your torso with the downstage arm. From here you can lift into full or partial side plank for more isolations if you choose (another powerful arm strengthener) or keep your side-hip on the floor as you focus on performing mesmerizing hand & arm movements with your free arm. To sit up, bend the knees & swing the legs around to kneeling. (Be mindful to not offer your audience any crotch shots. Always dance side-on or at a diagonal when on the floor.)
If you are balancing something on your head such as a sword, cane or water pot, you want to be very mindful of your balance & center. So, as you roll over, be sure to start the roll from the foot. Think of it like gently “wringing out” your body. The turn starts from the ankle and then proceeds through the lower leg to the inner thigh; then the hip turns, followed by the waist, the breast, the shoulder, turning the head last.
Here is a lovely photo ofAndrameda in purvottanasana, balancing a very heavy sword on her chin. She did some stomach isolations, followed by lovely snaky cross-over steps with her feet from this position. I hope everybody was suitably impressed with the strength required to do this movement and especially with the ease and grace with which she executed it! Brava, Andra, you make it look so effortless!