Thursday, September 30, 2010

Here's to my yoga friends!

A year ago this week I started on my journey to becoming a yoga teacher. I can't believe it has been a year!
I did my training with YogaHaven, ( under the guidance of Allie Hill, over a 4 month period, starting with 2 weeks intensive training in Morocco.

A moment to relax at the pool!
The 2 weeks in Morocco were the most emotionally and physically exhausting weeks that I can remember. Before Morocco, I knew I loved yoga and that it was something I wanted to explore further. I had no idea that it involved much more than rolling out your mat and twisting your body like a pretzel for an hour or so, sweating profusely and then going home for a well earned shower! How wrong could I have been? I was so completely ignorant and feel so stupid for having had no idea about the enormity of the subject.
I struggled for the first few days. We were thrown in at the deep end straight away, which now of course I realise was because it is a subject that is so vast and we had a relatively short amount of time to stuff as much knowledge into our bodies and brains as we could.
After sunset practice
Sunrise practice from 6am to 7:30am, (over looking the Atlas mountains which made it much more amazing than it already was), then quick shower, delicious breakfast and off for lessons: History of  yoga, philosophy, breathing techniques, meditation, chanting, posture clinic, yoga principles, business of yoga, sequencing, you name it we covered it! Then we would have a sunset practice over looking the ocean - poor us!. This was usually a flow class, again, something I had never done before and being a dancer this was right up my alley! Dinner was always pretty fantastic and then we would grab a gossip over a peppermint tea and hit the sack by 9! Well, some of us did! Others stayed up having Jenga championships till all hours - the young ones!!!!

View from the yoga studio
When I say I struggled, it was because I felt so unprepared for the full intensity that yoga is. It isn't merely a way to keep fit, it is in fact that and so much more. The whole mind body balance thing was completely eye-opening. Of course I had felt that but I only realised I had felt it once I was told about it! I sound so thick don't I? I was freaked out by the chanting and contemplative walking and Omming! (not any more though! see "To Om or not to Om?")One particular afternoon early in the first week I lost it. I was in floods of tears thinking why am I here? I am not a deep heavy spiritual type? I don't think I can handle all this. My brain, body and emotions were on complete overload. Then my lovely new friend Terri pitched in with her words of wisdom. "Soph! what do you go to a yoga class for? A work out! so that is the kind of class you can offer and that is what people will come to your class for. If they want to chant and meditate they can go somewhere else!" She was completely right. Personally I would never choose to go a class that was full on hippy central! Please excuse me for my lack of political correctness, but as I said before, this is my blog and I can say what I like right?!
Neti Potting!
The most important thing, I soon understood, was that we have as much knowledge about yoga as possible. And do you now what, once I got that and opened my mind, the more I learnt and  the more fascinating it was.

Posture clinic - Toni?

Studying by the pool!
Outside the villa
Do you know yoga is more than 2000 years old? I mean that is mind blowing! And the ultimate goal of yoga is Liberation and enlightenment! Not, as I thought, a tighter bum and the ability to wrap your leg around your ear while standing on one leg! I am joking here but seriously it is one of those subjects that the more you know the more you realise there is to know and the more you want to know. You would need a couple of lifetimes to get it all. At only a year in I have a long way to go but I am willing and excited about it everyday!
I completely turned around from being freaked out and overwhelmed to being engaged and absorbed and that is mainly thanks to the support of the lovely people I met on my course.

At the Hammam, Agadir

So here is to yoga and the amazing connections that are made because of it. Here is to friendships that will, hopefully last a very long time. Here is to Terri, Shelley, Marie, Bec, Laurent, Krystal, Jane, Lucy, Victoria, Dinah, Danny, and all the others who came into my life last September. We all started this new adventure together and I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bloody gout!

Gout! I have Gout for goodness sake!
In fact, this is the third episode of the dreaded condition in the last couple of years.
I woke up the other morning and thought, once again, that I had broken my ankle in the night. I know I get up a lot to pee and wander about getting endless glasses of water and to adjust the always falling out earplugs (John snores like a bear!) but I think I would have known if I had perhaps tripped and broken my ankle! The first time it happened, a few years ago, I was totally freaked out and hotfotted it (well, hobbled if the truth be known!) to the Doctor...excuse me right now but I have to go off on a tangent for a second.

Why can I never see MY Doctor? I always have to settle for "another Doctor in the Practice, because your Doctor is on leave Madam". Why is the NHS paying her bloody loads if she is never there? Too busy spending her cash on golf lessons probably or looking at private schools for her overindulged and rather disappointingly thick son!

OK, rant over!
So I saw a different Doctor who very quickly and rather too excitedly gave me the diagnosis. "Gout, definitely Gout!" Saying it twice was not necessary. If you are a doctor reading this take note. There are some things that people don't need to hear twice, like, haemorrhoids and chlamydia and bloody gout! Isn't gout something that fat sweaty old men get? Apparently not! Apparently incredibly fit and lovely yoga Goddesses are also susceptible! I was horrified, obviously however I felt so much better when my girlfriend told me that her boyfriend is a fellow gout sufferer. Thanks Luce! He is a fantastically tall, slim, athletic type in his early 40s. That made me feel so much better! So for the record, after some research, gout is a build up of uric acid which crystallizes in the joints and alcohol can be a cause! Say no more!

Talking of alcohol, I am so happy to say that I have found the best cure for a hangover... and gout!

I will give you one guess...

YOGA! Duh!

After the Gumbo incident, I was feeling very rough to say the least. I woke up with not only the "how did I break my ankle?" question but also the "Who shat in my mouth last night?" question! I had a horrible headache and the feeling that if I moved with any amount of force my head would fall off and the contents of my stomach would magically reappear on the floor!
So, you can imagine the thought of going to yoga was not filling me with much excitement. After slouching around the house most of the day the guilt set in and I felt compelled to go to class to make amends for abusing my body. I took a LARGE bottle of water with me and hoped I would not live to regret the decision.

It was a Power class! Oh joy!

Let me tell you, the beginning was slow. Well, I was slow, not the class it was one sun salute after the other followed by lots of standing forward bends, twists and heart openings. That was just the first ten minutes!
But listen to this. It was like magic! As the poses came and went and the minutes ticked by I didn't feel sicker and sicker as I expected, I felt better and better. My head cleared, my stomach settled and my ankle felt stronger. By the time we took halasana (plough) and matsyasana (fish) I was cured! I know, I know, I sound like one of those religious nuts - you know, Steve Martin in "Leap of Faith"- but I am telling you, yoga is pretty fierce in the healing department!

I skipped out of the studio revitalised, re-energized and feeling fab!

So next time you are suffering from over indulgence, don't reach for your Paracetamol or eat 8 Berocca tablets, just roll out your mat and do a few asanas.
You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We aren't all Hippies!

One thing that really annoys me is the whole bad rap that yoga has!
If I had a penny for every time someone said "Hippy!" when I told them I did yoga, I would not be needing to write this blog in the hope of getting a huge following, secure a publisher, a book deal and a substantial advance!
When your average Joe thinks of yogis, they are people with hairy arm pits who smell slightly sweaty and slightly of lentils. They knit their own peanut butter and carry a set of Indian bells with them at all times. They wear Birkenstocks and kaftans which they buy at their local Charity shops to which they walked as they ran out of cooking oil to power their car!
I am here to break the myth!
Yoga is the coolest hippest greatest thing you can do for yourself!
There ARE people like that who do yoga but I am certainly NOT like that! Though I must admit, I do like lentils and I also like to do my bit for the environment, however I wax my pits on a regular basis, I wash, I have just bought some Donna Karan skinny jeans (no I didn't start running I just bought a bigger size...much simpler!) and I smell of  Joe Malone's Pomegranate Noire!

As a teacher it is so frustrating that there is that "Yeah Man!" (hold up your "peace fingers" here!) stereotype and perhaps that is the reason why your classes aren't as packed as you had hoped! Everyone is afraid that they are going to be amongst the great unwashed in the yoga studio. How annoying when you think you are pretty trendy and have something amazing to offer everyone!

So I have taken on the challenge to try and dispel the myth and make my classes appeal to the cool, hip and beautiful crowd.
I want to get all those hippy-averse people in to my classes!

I am not the best at promotion and marketing - too embarrassed - but when you have something as great as the ability to impart yoga knowledge, why would you want to keep it to yourself?

I roped John into taking some pictures. (He loves it!) I decided they needed to be bright and fun and a bit different and that they should be taken looking at the poses from a different point of view.

A bit like how the world should look at yogis!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stir in the love

Very fragile today!

Last week I promised a gumbo recipe and I am happy to say I am here to deliver, though you have to realise what it took for me to get it - 6 hours of steady drinking, laughing, dancing and stirring! I am in a bad way with a terrible head and a stiff arm but it was worth the hangover as I now have under my belt the most delicious recipe ever! And because I am so lovely, dear fellow freedom lover, I am going to share with you the recipe for the best thing you ever ate this side of the Mississippi!

Now for those of you going "Gumbo? Never 'eard of it!" then let me enlighten you.
Gumbo is a creole dish, originating in Louisiana made of pretty much whatever you want and served over rice. The word gumbo originates from the African Kingumbo, which means okra. Yes, I know, you hate okra! Everyone hates okra! It is long and furry and snotty and you don't have to include it in your recipe but seeing as the word gumbo means okra it is almost like making a shepherds pie without adding the obligatory shepherd! Gumbo is spicy and healthy and so delicious and once you have made it you will want to bring that steamy aroma of richness into your kitchen all the time.
So, John's brother in law has been promising to teach me how to make gumbo for weeks and finally we got the nod. I made a cake as my offering for the day and off we trotted around 4pm to learn the secrets of the great gumbo! 

Let the gumbo party begin!
Well, it was a small party - 3 people and two dogs but we had a GREAT time!
The dogs were less than helpful if the truth be know! Max, a timid rescue dog yelped off to the bedroom as Talking Heads started to blare out on the kitchen stereo and Luca, a HUGE blockhead retriever who weighs about 150lbs and is still a puppy wanted in on everything! He was so excited, pushing his wet nose in between us when we were chopping onions or measuring flour, with a soggy tennis ball in his mouth wanting to play. We started the party with a toast to gumbo and I was presented with a book "The little Gumbo Book - 27 carefully created recipes that will enable everyone to enjoy the special experience of gumbo". Catchy title!
 My favourite quote from the book is a note at the end of one of the recipes: "Cook tillis done, den odd dem oysters an sassafras leave, maybe two/tree shakes hot sauce in dah bowl"!
The two things I learnt about gumbo is that all ingredients are estimated and you have to keep stirring in the love! 
The hours of chopping and stirring and adding and stirring and dancing and stirring and drinking and stirring were worth it and at 8 pm we sat down to a fantastic meal any salty old Cajun would have been proud of. And, fellow Freedom lovers, because I am so lovely, I am going to share this recipe with you so you too can experience this fantastic gastronomic extravaganza. Now remember, all the ingredients are optional and the amounts are up to you. 
Here goes...
First of all you need to make a roux. No self-respecting Cajun would dream of making a  gumbo without a roux. Add equal parts flour and fat (we used olive oil) into a pan and slowly cook it watching it turn brown and smelling the nuttiness as the flour cooks. The darker the colour the better the roux apparently but don't let it burn. According to the gumbo experts the colour should be mahogany or pecan! It should be the consistency of thick gravy. Now this roux can take 2 hours so start early!!!
Next we chopped a few large onions, added them to the big pot and mixed them into the roux. At this point keep the heat medium as you don't want anything to stick to the bottom. Add a load of chopped green peppers and don't forget after you add each ingredient, stir it in and add a little pepper and salt each time.
If the knives were sharper the chopping would be easier!
parsley, scallions and green peppers

After ten minutes or so, add a load of chopped scallions (spring onions) and a large bunch of fresh chopped parsley. Next is a tin of chopped tomatoes and some white wine to stop everything sticking. Then chop up some garlic and add that to the pan.
Now it should be smelling gorgeous!
Inside the pot where the magic happens!
Take this time to put your shrimp in a plastic bag with some Old Bay Seasoning and let it marinate for a while.
Taking the tails off the shrimp
Then chop up a few spicy sausages and throw them into the pot. We had kilbasa and Andouille but I reckon chorizo would be great too. Pour in the rest of the bottle of white wine and 2 boxes (a litre) of chicken stock.

We couldn't get fresh okra so we had to buy frozen. We fried it up in a pan with some olive oil to get rid of the slime factor and then chucked it in the pot.
After a while we added a bottle of beer and a pint of water. We had a cup of flour and in it we mixed nutmeg, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. Chuck that into the pot and mix well to stop the flour from clumping. I think we also added some chilli pepper flakes but at this point I was quite pissed and we had Radiohead on the stereo so things are a little blurry!

I know we finished up with adding the shrimp, some lump crab meat, "Lee and Perrins" and Louisiana Hot sauce (of course!)
As I said the whole thing took about 4 or 5 hours to cook but it was well worth the wait.
We all peppered it with our love as we took turns to stir too which is really the best ingredient of all.
We served ours over brown rice and had a salad on the side.

All I can say is try it out. Every time you make it apparently, it will be slightly different, until you get the most perfect gumbo that suits you and your family. Then you too can pass it on to someone and share the gumbo love!

Happy cooking!
Let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leave Your Ego at the Door

"Focus on something to keep you balanced, preferably something that isn't going to move."
"Don't worry about anyone else beside you or in front of you, the only person you need to concentrate on is the person on your mat. You."
"Release, relax, let go!"
"Check in with yourself, your body, your breath."

These are 4 simple directions from my yoga class yesterday that resonated with me. "Hold on!", I said to myself whilst I was twisted like a pretzle, "These comments do not just have to pertain to my sixty minutes on the mat, they can go actually with me everyday."
That is what I absolutely love about yoga. It can be a fitness class, building strength, stamina, flexibility. You can sweat and feel your heart race and feel your body open up. But, it can also be, and almost always is, a lesson in living a better, easier life.

Don't worry I am going to try not to get too preachy! I just LOVE it!

Imagine, you are about 38 minutes into a yoga class and here you go with a few balancing postures. You have sweat dripping in your eyes and are a little shaky from 12 breaths in revolving chair on each side and your head is a bit sparkly from not breathing evenly in your forward bend because you were thinking about the curry you have made for tea. Off you go into Yamanasana (standing twist) with your leg extended out in front, holding your big toe with your trusty peace fingers and wondering if the cramp in your ankle is going to allow you to go on as you open your chest up to the side wall. And your breath is starting to shudder and you start to get the shakes and the frustration kicks in and then you hear those words: "Focus on something to keep you balanced..." After you realise that you need to stare at an imperfection in the wall as the person whose ponytail you were looking at has just toppled over like a Weeble, all of a sudden, you are calm and strong and could stand there and balance on one leg for ten minutes if you had to.
Now imagine you are 38 years into your life and you have so much  that you want to achieve and you are suddenly in a panic that maybe you can't get it all done the way you want or that you don't have the money or you don't have the time. And so an so has the most amazing job and what's her name has this many children and...and...and your breath starts to shudder and your head gets a little sparkly and the frustration and panic kicks in. Then in your mind you hear those very same words "Focus on something to keep you balanced, preferably something that isn't going to move." Almost instantly your mind takes you to a place of security and you feel a little more calm and you can anchor yourself at that steady place of balance. You can breathe deeply and relax while you concentrate on the here and now and not worry about the what ifs and the unknowns.
Cool isn't it?
When I am in yoga I am pretty good. I carefully place my car keys, sunglasses, flip flops and my ego in the little pigeon holes at the front door and off I go. I don't compare myself to anyone else or compete with anyone else I just do it for me.
Because yoga is for you.
Why don't I have that mind set in life? I am constantly comparing myself to others. So when I heard those words; "Don't worry about anyone else beside you or infront of you, the only person you need to concentrate on is the person on your mat. You." Suddenly a light bulb dinged on top of my head. Of course! Not just in that yoga studio but everywhere. I don't have to answer to anyone but myself. I don't need to compare and try and keep up with the person next to me or push myself to look like the person in front of me. I just need to make sure that what I am doing is keeping me happy and fulfilled and balanced. Duh! Because after all, to us, we are the most important people right?
Now, that doesn't mean to say that you have to shit on all those around you or ignore people or become selfish. It just means that you don't have to keep up with the Jones'. Strive by all means but go at your own pace with your own body, mind and spirit as your focus. Free yourself from the stress of the challenge. Be who you are, who you want to be, not who the person next to you is.
And I get it now. You are allowed to relax. You are allowed to let go. You just have to keep checking in with yourself, breathing, and making sure that you are doing it all to the best of your ability at that particular moment.
And when I say "it", I mean, life. Doing life! Using all your assets, all your strength and courage and sensitivity and spirit and making it the most satisfying and rewarding experience.

If that's how I approach my hour yoga class everyday, why not my whole life?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Reality of Reality

I found myself plonked in front of the television AGAIN last night and remote in hand I mindlessly channel surfed. How come when I only had 5 channels to chose from back in the good old days, there was more worth watching than now, when we have 500+ channels? All it really says is, either I am very picky, which if you know me at all and have read my posts you will know is not true, or, the majority of TV is shit! I vote for the latter! The guide was filled with mostly reality shows and you will not believe some of the names...

  • "Pit Boss" about a midget mafia type who rescues Pit Bulls  from the streets of LA which are apparently over run with the blighters, who knew?
  • "Sister Wives", about a Mormon polygamist, his 3, soon to be 4 wives and his 13 children
  • "Kate Plus 8", about an opiniated celebrity hungry Mum and her immaculately groomed sextuplets and bratty twin girls.
  • "Hoarding, Buried Alive", about desperately troubled people who fill there houses with crap to the point where their house is uninhabitable.
  • "Quints By Surprise", about a Texan couple and their 5 identically ugly kids
  • "Little People, Big World", about a midget family and their struggles in everyday life

Then it struck me, all these programmes are about excess. Too many unloved dogs, too many wives, too many kids, too much stuff, too much shortness! (I know, but it's my blog, I don't have to be PC!)

And too many bloody reality shows!

I suppose the whole point I am getting at here is that we are obsessed with the excesses of life. And we want to hear about people whose lives take them to the extremes. Why? does it make us feel better to know that other people have got it tougher than us, worse than us? I am not sure! I think people are fascinating. I think anything where you can watch someone else's life unfold and know that yours isn't to that extreme in any way what so ever makes you feel so much better! I know I have watched, for example, the hoarding show and gone "Thank Christ I am not living in that house". Or sat aghast at "The Biggest Loser" counting my lucky stars that I have not let myself fall into the morbidly obese category like Dave or Judy or Butch! Think about "Big Brother". Do I have to? you ask. It's not about what they do it is about the extremes of personality that keeps the audience glued. I know we have all sat there squinting at the screen, mouth open, shaking our heads, thinking what the hell is this, a transvestite, semi-pro boxer with 6 toes, a degree in banking, 17 piercings and a penchant for toy poodles! So glad she's not anyone in my family!

People are brilliantly entertaining I suppose and real life TV is so much more, well, real!

Personally I am all for escapism. I want to see the beautiful, perfectly formed people with the great jobs and the perfect relationships. I am a fantasist. I live the real life everyday and I want to be taken into wonderful land of glitz and glamour when I sit down midweek and turn on the box.

So, get rid of reality I say.

Well... maybe not the polygamy show! This I have to see!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Get motivated, watch a movie!

Thank God for September and the weather, that has finally dipped below 90 degrees. At 85 today it seems quite pleasant! Most importantly, September brings new seasons of all my favourite TV programmes! I am so excited about the new season of , "Dexter" the handsome and darkly funny serial killer who kills serial killers, and "Brothers and Sisters"  the always tear inducing drama set in California about the most fantastically good looking family and their endless personal and business failings! Not to mention of course, "Desperate Housewives", "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" get the picture! I have become some what of an addict here I must confess and there has been almost a month with zilch on the box and I have resorted to watching shows like "DC Cupcakes", about 2 women who run a cupcake shop - it is not about how to make cupcakes, but mostly about their trans-gender sales person and incompetent delivery man! I have even watched the News which is really desperate! 
The other night however I tuned into a film called "The Cove". Now I don't know if you have seen this or even heard of it but you must get a copy and watch it. It is a documentary (don't switch off just because I don't say Rom. Com!) that will have a profound effect on you. It tells the story of the dolphin trade in Taijii, Japan and it is horrifying. 

The fishermen in Taiji, go out in small boats to known dolphin migratory routes. Positioning their boats strategically, they space out to form a line and wait for the dolphins. When the dolphins arrive, the fishermen drop long metal pipes into the water, and by banging on the pipes they create a wall of sound. The sound interferes with the dolphins' ability to navigate - it disorients and panics them. The dolphins swim away from the sound, and the fisherman maneuver their boats herding them into a small shallow bay. Once in the bay, nets are drawn across the mouth of the bay to keep them penned in. The fishermen draw the nets in, forcing the dolphins closer to shore where they kill them by stabbing and slashing them with knives and hooks. The dolphins thrash about for as long as six minutes each as they slowly bleed to death, turning the sea literally red with their blood.
After the massacre, the bodies of the dolphins are taken to a slaughter house to be butchered. The meat contains toxic levels of mercury and is packaged up and taken to supermarkets to be sold with no warning.

The film documents the efforts by animal rights activists and marine wildlife organisations such as Ric Barry and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who are trying to stop this horrific practice by exposing the atrocities to the world. They are relentless and somewhat James Bond like during their covert missions with night-vision goggles and nerves of steel. Jumping fences, planting cameras disguised as rocks and diving down into the unknown with underwater sound equipment while constantly on the lookout for Japanese officials or worse, angry fishermen.

The very first "Yama" or ethical rule of a spiritual Yogi is ahimsa, non-violence or non-harming. Now of course you don't need to be a yogi to realise that violence is bad and that you should live as peaceful and harmless a life as possible. The slaughtering of these beautiful, highly intelligent animals is at the very least shocking and should be stopped. However as well as the dolphins being killed, the dolphin meat is killing people. That it is sold for public consumption at all is a disgrace; that it is sold without the Japanese government warning its citizens that eating dolphin meat is hazardous to their health is irresponsible and negligent.

I admit, I am not a huge animal fan. Not that I don't like them, I just never had the need to go all gooey over a kitten or got the urge to own a dog. This however is not a case of  "do you love animals?", it is a case of doing the right thing. It is a case of having a conscience about the planet on which we live and the things that have a right to  live alongside us. 
Watch the film, "The Cove" and go to and get involved. You don't have to donate thousands or fly to Japan and take on the government to help.

I know this isn't my usual light hearted, chatty blog format, but I feel so strongly about this, having seen the film and I needed to do my little bit to help. Hope you can too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

108 ways to get ready for fall!

Even though last week when I saw it on the schedule I thought "Really? 108? In an Hour?...knackering!" I turned up for the Fall Equinox 108 Sun salutation class yesterday because I do like a bit of a challenge! 
In many circles in yoga across the world it is traditional to celebrate the changing of the seasons with this amazingly sweaty and fantastically energizing routine as an offering of peace and unity. This was of course the first day of Autumn and the idea is to shed the active summer energy and to start to draw our energies inwards. 
Well, I had endured a particularly killer class the day before full of core and hips that had a profound affect on my summer energy and I didn't know if I would have any left to tackle the walk from where I park the car to the studio let alone the 108 offerings to the powers that be! But as you know I am a determined yogi and of course I was there, mat in hand, ready to show the autumn just what I had in store for it! It turned out that all yogis within a twenty mile radius had felt the pull to "Downtown yoga" yesterday also, to start off the new season (and unburden the guilt of not having practised for a few weeks probably too!) so it was crammed in there and bloody hot. The one day I forget my towel too...don't you just hate that?! 
Why 108? you may be asking. Let me enlighten you...
The 'Mala', which is what the 108 Sun Salutations practice is called, refers to the number of mantra beads on a mala garland. In Hinduism, and in fact Buddhism also, Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra. For my Catholic friends, you are in good company. There are also 108 beads on a rosary.
108 is actually a really powerful and significant number across the cultures and religions of the world. 
A few to ponder upon...

  • 108 "Upanishads" in the Vedic texts
  • There are 108 different names for the Hindu God Shiva
  • There are also 108 names for Bhudda!
  • In Japan the New year is welcomed with 108 tolls of a bell
  • The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth
  • Odysseus' wife, Penelope had 108 suitors
  • There are 108 stitches on a baseball
  • 108 cards make up a deck of Uno
Who needs Wikipedia when you have me and my humble blog?!
So back to the yoga!
The class was packed and everyone was raring to go, mostly raring. Not so much the man next to me whose tight lipped wife had dragged him along because she thought he could do with a bit of spiritual cleansing. It was obvious the type of spirits he was looking to cleanse him where the ones made of malted barley! Anyway, we started all together with a great teacher who gave the modifications and variations of the 9, (or is it 11? The number varies with who you talk to!) asana or postures that make up the Surya Namaskar. And after a few all together, we were off at our own pace. And the energy in the room was amazing. Everyone inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling, with such purpose and vigour. It was like a room full of junkies getting their fix of their drug of choice and floating on the effects. Even whisky man seemed to be digging it!
My big toe got destroyed in the process!
me looking sweaty afterwards!
I know what you are thinking. Did you do 108 Sophie? Well, the truth is, I have no idea! I tried to keep count to start with but then I wondered what the point was. I was loving the whole experience, and the counting was just getting on my nerves. Really will the sun be cross if I don't do exactly 108? All I can say is I sweated my butt off and felt incredible for an hour where nothing else mattered but me and that short sequence.  At the end of the experience I felt spent but absolutely exhilarated...and in need of water! I highly reccommend it to all of you when the winter rolls around go for the 108 and feel the high.

In sanskrit, Surya means sun and namas means to bow or to adore. We were paying tribute to the sun, our main source of light but there is more. Each sun salute begins and ends with the hands together in prayer at the heart. The Ancient yogis taught that the heart is our inner sun and the seat of our wisdom. 
How about that?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Skinny on Running

I am thinking of starting running! 
No, I haven't fallen and hit my head I am seriously considering it.
Of course I am mainly thinking about it, not for the physical challenge or the being at one with the road or the getting out in nature, but because I have seen some really nice skinny jeans that I would look so nice in if I was thinner! Then I have to be very serious, and ask the question, how much running would I have to do to be able to fit into these jeans by the time the weather gets cooler? And is this feasible goal?! Would I be better off sodding the running and the skinny jeans and stay in instead, drinking wine in my pyjamas during the cold weather?!
Seriously, I have lots of friends who run and love it and look fantastic on it which makes me think I should partake. I mean I did a bit when I was younger, but mainly short distances and if you "run" now you can't go out for a 100 metre sprint or an 80 metre hurdle (the last time I tackled the hurdles however, I was 12 and broke my arm so maybe not a good idea anyway!). All my runner friends go for an easy 10k Sunday morning jog, or just a local half marathon up and down the Chiltern hills! Who are these people? Bloody, Joyce Smith? Paula Radcliffe? No they are normal girls like me. So, if they can do it, can I? I am fairly fit and very determined and I do like gatorade... I seem to have all the credentials!
3 of my friends ran the London marathon last year. What an absolutely amazing achievement! I was so in awe of them  not only for their determination on the day, to pound the pavements amongst the throngs of oddly dressed charity fund raisers and over achieving celebrities, but the months and months of dedication to their training. In all weather conditions, dragging themselves out the morning after a heavy night out, or after coming home from a long days work or when the dog is looking at them like, "Don't even think that I am putting that lead on!". That, my friends, takes huge strength of body and strength of character.

For goodness sake Lorraine Kelly has run the marathon!

OK so maybe not the marathon this month, but perhaps a reasonable goal of being able to run for a couple of miles without being admitted to hospital!
There are web sites that get you on a training programme working you up to your goal. And there is where you can plot your route and add pictures of the landscape and brag to your pals about how far and fast you can run and be all smug in cyber space! So it is all there for me, all the tools to help me, teach me,  ultimately allow me to join in the small talk at drinks parties about what my PB is for 6K and whether I over-pronate! And most importantly, maybe to get me into the coveted skinny jeans!
I think I am going to do it! I am going to run! All I need now is a new pair of trainers...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Om or not to Om?

I was so happy yesterday to hear that I had inspired someone with my ramblings on here. How cool is that? My lovely friend Ali took class with me last year and really enjoyed it, but she hasn't practised yoga since. I was talking to her on Skype and she told me how much she had enjoyed reading my blog and then she fanned out 4 yoga DVDs in her hands and said "you've inspired me! I am going to get up tomorrow morning and put one of these on." I wondered if she was going to put it on the TV and watch it whilst eating her cornflakes or if she was going to actually do? Well, I don't know what happened, but knowing Ali, she probably did do it and probably roped her boyfriend Steve into doing it too- She is Scottish and mad as a balloon with the most wonderful, positive outlook on life.
So this got me thinking about inspiration. What or who inspires me?

The word INSPIRATION has a few different meanings:
  • stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity
  • a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
  • immediate influence of God or a god
  • the drawing of air into the lungs
I think I am inspired daily by someone I talk to, something I see on TV, something I read on the internet. I am inspired to be a better person, more confident, happier, funnier, kinder. To be healthier, eat less rubbish, exercise more. To listen, to see, to act. I want to be the best version of me possible. And I love the fact that something somebody says in passing can make such an impact on you and can completely change you from there on. Not necessarily a life altering change but take you in a slightly different direction than you thought. 

I was at yoga on Thursday with a very calm gentle teacher who takes an all levels hatha class and we were focusing on ahimsa which is non-violence. So, being kind to your body and listening to it. Not pushing to where it's crying out in pain. And after the most serene and gentle 55 minutes we took a savasana (realaxation) and then we sat up and "Omed"! Now I am not a big "omer" myself. When I was learning to teach we would always Om 3 times before practice and 3 times at the end and I was sceptical I must admit. Why are we doing this? Am I completely off key? Is everyone laughing at me? So I have not being partaking in the Om-fest! However after Thursdays class I am INSPIRED! Laurie, you inspired me to Om! I had never really got it before you see and I think I was so relaxed and so content right then, that as I inhaled, my body filled up with light and joy and as I exhaled with the Om, I felt the vibration through my whole body. It felt powerful, yet serene and at that moment I was completely motivated and self assured and energised. 

So it took an inspiration to get inspiration! (see definition #4). And I am going to go forth and Om with conviction from now on. Sod the fear and the embarrassment and the nervousness. The benefits are well worth all of that. 

And back at ya Ali, you have inspired me. You have inspired me to keep on writing!