Thursday, 5 July 2012

video by request

Teaching in Nepal we have a very transient group of students. Many are expats who live in Kathmandu for two, sometimes three years, but often times students are contracted to work in the fields away from our beautiful studio. After loads of requests to have a DVD made, I decided to just go ahead and start making really simple Youtube videos for those who go away temporarily or those ( like Hillary, the girl who begged for a video the most) who return back to their respective Motherlands for good. It's a super easy way to establish an at-home practice. This one is actually shorter than 7 minutes which makes it extra great!!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Tantrum Time!

The weather is hot. Scorching hot. It's so hot I feel I'm living inside of a heated Bikram Yoga studio 24/7. In Nepal most places do not have the luxury of air conditioning. Strangely enough, when I had the option in my former life as a Michigander I would always turn off the AC and shudder at the thought of artificially created cool air.

Lately, I've been feeling a lack of energy and a whining sense that is truly unattractive and completely counter-intuitive as a (relatively speaking) newlywed who's madly in love. At night when passion would be at it's peak in the winter months, I am feeling overwhelmed by the sweaty, sticky body entangled in my arms... the same body I longed to lay beside for a lifetime before! The mosquitoes crooning their miserable songs offer no consolation. Their incensing serenades make me double check our sleeping area tucked tightly underneath a navy blue mosquito net which only seems to add to the heat.


Then there are the rats crawling above our corrugated tin roof. They make an undeniably irritating sound as they shuffle through the night. Waking up at 5:50AM to avoid the line of family members eagerly awaiting their turn at our shared bathroom seems to only add to my crankiness. Lately I find myself longing to just belt out a massive scream, kicking and stomping my feet, flailing my arms, just generally partaking in hysterical behavior as a way of calming myself down. Maybe then I would get one night's worth of rest uninterrupted.
As fate would have it, this morning I was reading some articles on Yoga Journal's website and a brief mention was made of something new to me: Tantrum Yoga. There must be a God & God must've lived in a joint-family. Apparently, so many people were feeling stressed out from work or relationships that as proper adulthood loomed over their heads they longed for the days of childhood when one could literally kick and scream all they wanted. What a lovely release!

This afternoon I closed the door to our shoebox bedroom and stood in mountain pose with my feet about hip-width apart. Closing my eyes, with my hands at my side, I swayed gently from side to side. Feeling rooted with my feet firmly planted on my mat, I inhaled both of my arms high towards the ceiling and as I exhaled I shook my arms down letting out a scream. I did this three more times until my screaming turned into boisterous bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

It was probably the shortest Yoga practice in the history of Yoga, but ohhhhhhh man. It felt so good. All the tension building up during the past few excruciatingly hot weeks, the stress of a life without any solitude, every ounce of negative energy released in those few exhalations and screams. The laughter re-charged me to the core of my being and I was left alone, giggling like a little school girl at my own stupidity. Did I really need to read an article on Tantrum Yoga to realize that everything I've learned about life, I already mastered as a child?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Holy Shit.

Ladies & gentlemen, the Tuk Tuk Tempo

Summer is officially here. I figured this out while riding the Tuk-Tuk-Tempo this afternoon. For those of you who have never been to Nepal or live in Nepal, but have the luxury of private transportation you may be unfamiliar with this strange contraption. Tuk Tuks are three-wheeled iron death chamber-like vehicles that run half on electricity and half on gas. The front compartment has room for one driver and one passenger, though often times you will see three, sometimes four people. The back has room for two rows of five people each vertically lined in a manner where they face one another with a little aisle space in between for feet or bags. Usually, this total number of ten designated slots exceeds upwards of twelve passengers. Not to mention the teeny tiny iron ledge attached to the very back, the open entrance. On this piece of iron people, usually no more than one, but I have seen with my own eyes seven people, stand gripping bars on the side of the open doorway, hanging on for dear life. So, back to summer's arrival.

Yesterday afternoon while riding the Tuk Tuk I could smell the body odor of my fellow passengers. Each one wreaked of a completely foreign aroma. I rode for about 20 minutes and when I jumped off at my station (it's actually pretty comical to refer to my drop off point as a "station" since there are never even any markings) I noticed my obliques, hips and upper arms were drenched with my neighbors perspiration. Well, this'll be a the start of a beautiful day!

A random cow chillin' in the streets of KTM
Shuffling to cross the road during peak traffic hours, I found a group of people I could huddle with. Though Nepal is no longer an official Hindu kingdom there are still remnants of a regime where Hinduism reigned supreme. Cows are left alone regardless of how much they may be affecting drivers/jaywalkers/police, etc. Eager to cross the road and smack-dab in the middle of this random collective of people crossing sides, I didn't pay attention to my steps. I skipped up the stairs of Himalayan Java in Thamel to meet with my boss, Sam. In an exceptionally jolly mood--I was meeting with her to discuss a Yoga workshop for women I want to conduct--I ordered a banana lassi and plopped down on a plush leather couch and began chatting away.

Sam was extremely responsive to my idea and I was feeling great; so why did something smell fishy? Was my contract for the aforementioned workshop too good to be true? Along with sweat, did I also acquire the funk of my fellow Tuk Tuk passengers? I did a quick armpit check--the old, spread my arm wide across the couch, tilting my head to the side as if I spotted lint on my shoulder & sneak a smell routine--and nothing. Still, there was something very foul lurking. And there it was.

On the sole of my Tevas, a huge chunk of cow dung. Holy Shit. In Western society and even most Eastern countries cow dung is just the shit of a cow. In Nepal, it is considered to be very holy. People smear Cow Dung (Gobar), around the walls of their home's exterior to ward off evil spirits and ensure a year full of prosperity during Laxmi Puja--the ceremony to worship the Goddess of Prosperity & Wealth. In years passed I always scoffed at such an idea. Since being here almost a year, however, I'm starting to realize a lot of societal norms are just based on one's preconceived notions usually shaped during childhood. In short, it's all perspective.

My grandma reading
 her holy book The Mahabharata
Shit stinks. Or does it? The same cow dung I was disgusted by to an average Nepali person would seem like a blessing. In fact, the moment my boss agreed to my outrageous request would have been directly correlated to God's blessing: stepping on the Gobar brought me the luck and fortune that led to Sam's approval. That is how my 94 year old grandma saw the whole incident and she's old, experienced and extremely wise.

That evening as I sat in front of my MacBook to write up a synopsis of the workshop-in-the-making, I couldn't help but think of all the cows of Kathmandu. They're thought to be so holy and yet for the most part are completely ignored and abandoned except on major celebrations like Gai Puja. I thought of the Tuk Tuk passengers who all consciously chose not to wear any deodorant. In America bodily smells are such a cultural faux pas, at an early age citizens become indoctrinated to cover up their natural aromas.

Now, many studies are popping up with claims that deodorant may indirectly be a great cause for breast cancer. Though no sufficient scientific data supports these assertions, one would be foolish not to consider a minor possibility for a link between the two. Afterall, it is--though very pleasant to one's nostrils--unnatural to conceal one's sweat glands as they are a necessary function for daily life. Also, in India people are going through great lengths to prove the superior quality of cow dung. Apparently it is known to kill germs, bacteria and heal wounds. All of this begs the question, what is normal? Who's to decide what's smelly or sacred?

My take is, shit happens. We just have to continue inhaling and exhaling as that is the one and only cultural norm that unites us all; our breathe. Whether through your nostrils or your mouth if you are alive you are breathing. Enjoy every breath.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

what to do when illness strikes

Whether you are a Yoga Instructor or a Banker when illness strikes it ain't pretty! Six days ago I got a terrible case of Laryngitis. I was given strict orders by my doctor to take complete rest of my vocal chords by not speaking at all. For a person who's done the Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat lasting 10+ days you'd think this would be easy-peasy. Not so fast there, Skipper. In the real world, away from fellow retreaters it is really challenging not to talk.

At the moment I'm living with my Nepali in-laws. There are six of us who stay in the same home and our favorite pass-time is catching up.

"How was your day? Have you eaten? What did you eat?" A string of questions bombard each of us as we enter the door. Usually, ahem, I'm the one hurling questions left and right. You can imagine my grief when I was ordered to hush up. So, like the stubborn Leo I am biologically predetermined to be, I didn't listen to the advice.

I yapped away, laughing as usual. My voice began sounding lower, getting raspier each day. Teaching Power Yoga was like finding the balance/tipping point for my vocal chords. Hacking my lungs up to my throat as I tried my best to maintain a calm yoga voice, each day it seemed my voice was getting worse. Then yesterday I woke up and it was no more. My vocal chords quit and my throat killed.

Maybe it's time I rest? I thought as I rolled out of bed looking frumpy and feeling dejected.

I tried expressing myself to my partner but it was a disaster. Writing messages on my phone and displaying them to the whole family seemed to work like a charm... but how could I teach like this? I couldn't. I actually had to take a day or two off. I hate taking days off. Yup, I'm a yogini who uses the word "hate." Whaddya gonna do about it? So I tried to find a substitute, but when life happens it's hard to find replacements and I ended up canceling my class altogether.

I sat around watching old Simpsons re-runs and was analyzing the loss of my muscle mass by the hour. I started panicking--if I can't practice Yoga or exercise for the next few days, I'll lose all the strength I've acquired!

At the height of my anxiety I finally had to snap myself back to reality: for most problems there has to be a tangible solution. I started planning: this is what I will do to get back in shape as soon as I'm well.

Six Days of a set Yoga routine meant to gradually regain my strength. If you, yourself are not a Yoga practitioner, you can still apply this to your own life should it ever go into shambles. Maybe you exercise at the gym and got sick, or maybe you have a room that's gotten terribly disorganized and you're hoping to gain control again: whatever the case may be, map out a day-by-day strategy to get back to where you need to be!

I'm gonna start mine on Sunday. Here's what it'll look like:
For those of you interested in following along, here are some links to describe each routine:
(traditionally practiced in Ashtanga Yoga)
(also practiced in Ashtanga Yoga)
 note that in this Ashtang-based sequence the back foot of Warrior 1-- #8 in this series-- stays at a 90 degree angle which is different from the instructions in the video.

Monday, 9 April 2012

New Year's Resolutions Revisited

Namaste Everyone!
If you're like me and you're living in Nepal then you know this is an awesome time of year to embrace East & West.

In Western society, most people frantically begin making New Year's resolutions around the last week of December. After all, the holidays usually get the best of us and we tend to over indulge in meals rich with creams, unhealthy carbs and pretty much anything else that has a horribly high glycemic index. In the East, particularly in Nepal, festivals with deserts heavy in sugar (kheer, rasbarri, laalmon, rasmalai, jilebi, etc.) reign supreme throughout the entire year. It is very easy to fall off the healthy bandwagon, especially in Nepal where families tend to take offense if you are watching what you eat.

Well, fret not fellow residents of Nepal. Whether you are an expat or a native, this Thursday, April 12th, 2012 is officially the Nepali New Year's Eve. What better opportunity to re-set any failed resolutions that may have fallen by the wayside around mid-January?

I first fell in love with Yoga once I realized how much stronger I felt. A skinny little 18 year old girl whose legs literally shook every time I tried to hold Downward Facing Dog pose, I soon grew muscles and was able to go from Plank to Chatturanga with such ease I began feeling comfortable in the gym doing non-modified manly push-ups! Who would've guessed it? Surely, not my former self.

My self-practice grew and so did my studies. I started reading books by BKS Iyengar, watching DVDs, going to different studios to learn under a variety of teachers... and then somewhere along the way I began teaching myself. Two, sometimes three classes a day. I stopped learning anything new and my own practice dwindled down to about 15 minutes on my mat. Most of the time I have to confess I only thought about teaching...

"Hey! This would be a killer set to include on Thursday night's class!"

...Well, yogi-bears, it's time now for me to set a New Year's Resolution. In the New Year I will take a minimum of 3 classes a week as a student. I want to fall in love with Yoga all over again and deepen my practice to regain a sense of balance that has been missing for several months now.

Who's in?

Much love & Happy Down Dogs,

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sharing: 91 year old yogi: Why should I ever stop doing yoga?

91-Year-Old Yogi: Why Would I Ever Stop Doing Yoga?

By MindBodyGreen
91-year-old yogi, Bernice Bates, began practicing and teaching yoga in 1960. Before even getting out of bed in the morning she does a series of seven or so poses to get her blood flowing -- how awesome is that?

Bernice tells MSNBC that she credits yoga with keeping her healthy and flexible:
"I think yoga is the best exercise there is. I've never had anything I had to go to the doctor for, except checkups. That should say something."
She says that yoga makes for the perfect mind-body connection:
"You’re not just standing on a treadmill and going, going, going and you get off and can hardly walk. Yoga itself means yoke, that’s to join. We join our mind, our body and our spirit in everything we do. Yoga gives you flexibility like you’ve never had before, and it makes you healthy because you’re working on the whole body, inside and out."
Back to Bates' teaching -- she now leads a one-hour class in a retirement center for adults in their 60s to 80s!
"We go over our whole body and tense each part, then we relax. It’s for everybody. There’s thousands of postures. You can pick and choose. You do what you can. It’s non-competitive, which is the best thing about it."
When asked when she would stop teaching, Bates replied, "Why should I quit? As long as I can do it and help someone else, I'll just stay as long as I can. I get a joy out of seeing someone learning."

Namaste to that!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Salute to the Mountains

Yogis often idealize about waking up morning after morning with the personal strength, discipline and motivation to complete a beautiful home yoga practice. What we forget in these daydreams, however, is that life tends to get in the way. That dream of waking up early to salute the sun crashes with the first buzz of the alarm clock. Rather than inner peace, your mind gets cluttered with questions like, “why couldn’t I just get up this morning? I always feel so good after yoga, why can’t I just let myself feel good?  I am way too tired to practice this morning and my bed just feels too good to get out it right now…” And, even if you have established a regular home practice, it’s easy to get lost in trains of daily laundry lists or lack of inspiration. Again, life tends to get in the way. 

Life also has the tendency to invigorate, and sometimes, all you need to find the inner will to get up in the morning is some new inspiration. Luckily, in Nepal, inspiration awaits you outside almost daily, especially during the autumn months. That inspiration is none other than the Himalayas, the most dreamed about mountains in the world. So, tomorrow morning, rather than staying in your warm bed, why not head out into the sunshine and salute the mountains? Get outside on your nearest rooftop, spread out your mat and your heart to the awe-inspiring landscape around you and live. Amidst the chaos of life, taking a moment to sit move, breathe and meditate in the beauty around us can help turn a grudging home practice into a day at the spa. Your heart, body and soul will thank you. 

For information about daily yoga classes in Kathmandu and yoga workshops and yoga retreats in Nepal, please visit