Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Living Yoga Studio | Urbana, IL

My "home" studio—when I'm not out on yogabout.

Sunday, May 25

Namaskar Yoga | Chicago, IL

LOCATION: Pretty straight forward directions through the Lakeview neighborhood to get to Namaskar and they had big yoga signs for you to see it right away too. Street parking only (some metered, but non-metered is nearby), and as with most Chicago street parking... Read your signs. They're near Wrigley, so show up early on game days to be sure you have a spot.  
$16 drop-in, cash or cards 
STUDIO: Loved this space—they curtained off the front 1/5 of the room for check-in and merch (which included boxes of free Toms Toothpaste, score!). Beyond the curtain was a narrow, long room with a bathroom, dressing room, water, and props at the back.    
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Yoga Hour: This energetic one-hour class is the ideal way to sneak in some yoga over your lunch break or between the day’s activities. Expect a good flow addressing flexibility, strength, balance, connection to the breath and mental focus. Recharge your spirit, reconnect with your body and leave feeling great!
INSTRUCTOR: We were suppose to have Jody, but she had a sub this day... Shawn is a certified yoga instructor who completed the 200-hour Yogaview Teacher Training under the amazing guidance of Quinn Kearney, Geri Bleier, Claire Mark, and Tom Quinn. She has also completed a 35-hour teacher training with Seane Corn and participated in multiple workshops with Sianna Sherman, Natasha Rizopolous, Ray Long and Maty Ezraty to continue to deepen her practice and the teaching element of yoga. Her fun, challenging and inspiring vinyasa flow classes, encourage students to become in tune with their bodies through strength, alignment and breath. Prior to becoming a yoga instructor, Shawn was in marketing and communications and holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago with her family and dog.
CONTACT: Namaskar Yoga

Girls day in Chicago! Girls day in Chicago! A couple months ago I asked two of my gal pals (and amazing yoga instructors) to join me for a day in Chicago. Since we all work for ourselves we could go during the week, which made the day all the better... like we were breaking the law or something :)

We started our morning off with a gorgeous day for a road trip north—blue skies, sunshine, music to sing along to at the top of our lungs, and enough conversation to fill up a 3-day drive if need be. First on our agenda was yoga at Namaskar—we chose it because of it's walking distance to all our plans, the timing so we didn't have to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to drive, and because none of us have been here before.

When I go to new spaces for classes, it's funny how often I have Hayli + Jodi's voices in my brain reminding me how to adjust in a pose or help out a class I'm not getting into enough (knowing I can modify to take it to the next level or pull it back to suit my body). To actually go to a class I'm going to review with them was a bit of a game changer.

When we arrived, Rachel at the front desk checked us in. She was awesome—I actually tried to recruit her on girls day, because you could tell she was good people. The instructor from the class just getting out was surrounded by students asking her questions. I figured that's a good sign, because she perked the curiosity of her class. As Rachel set up her mat, the three of us followed suit when the instructor said, "Is this how you normally set up the room?" I didn't realize she was subbing someone's class when I responded with, "This is our first time here, we have no idea."

She started us instantly in Balasana (child's pose). I definitely was missing the centering time common in a lot of classes, but starting in child's pose interested me because it's my favorite pose to open up my body. Stretching out the back and knees, recognizing if my hips are shifting to the left or right (usually the left), I always stretch my arms out to open my shoulder (again, my left shoulder is insanely tight, and child's pose opens up both my shoulders nicely), and resting my forehead on the ground is—for a lot of people—immediately calming. I think I'll make this part of my practice before the instructor comes in the room, while everyone sets up their mats.

Then the music started... an odd mash-up of current, American music with a familiar, Indian song. I enjoyed it until the lyrics ended up being english—and from there the music was 100% American. I tried to approach it as a challenge to tune-out the distraction, but when I find myself tapping my toe or singing along... the challenge starts to irritate me. This is why I like instrumental or lyrics in a different language—it doesn't take me away from my practice, it adds to it and guides it.

Shawn then took us through a whirlwind of poses during our hour with her. I found her instruction lacking—almost empty. There was no sense of nurturing coming from her, just an urgency to get through the poses as quickly as possible and run out the door (which is exactly what she did after class). Half the poses seemed to be back bends (so many locusts) with out any counter poses to balance out the body. I found myself going into forward bends on my own to protect my back. She did a few adjustments—one to my friend I knew was unnecessary (which made me cringe because she was adjusting an instructor).

We did a series that had us go from Trikonasana (triangle) directly into Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3). My other friend put it best, "Straight leg pose to straight leg pose isn't natural" and I believe it can lead to injuries if you don't know how to protect yourself. At that point my back was already sensitive from locust and lots of single-leg poses (ever since I hurt my sacrum, I know I have to balance out my hips if the class spends a lot of time on one leg... normally I know to do that regardless of instruction, but we were moving so quickly there wasn't really time for it).

Our last pose was an inversion option—this made me happy since I've been craving inversions. I opted for a modified forearm stand using blocks. I love this because you don't actually have to use much arm strength (allowing you to build it without injuring yourself) + my tight shoulders do not enjoy this rotation (so I can open them up gently this way too). Meanwhile, my back enjoys a massage + reversed gravity (so-to-speak) and, of course, the numerous other benefits that come with an inversion. I'm hoping to work myself up to kicking up, like the third picture, eventually. 
Then we ended with savasana, where I opted for my regular legs up the wall. Ever since I took a yin yoga workshop where the instructor noted legs up the wall as one of the most beneficial poses for your body, I've chosen this as my savasana (unless the instructor is more specific). Shawn woke us up with, what I believe was, a digital chime over the stereo. Which, honestly, was the perfect metaphor for this class.

Before I was done cleaning up my stuff the instructor apologized for rushing out the door. I like to think she had such a busy day she couldn't invest herself in any part of it—maybe it was a one-time thing? I don't know. I do know I'd like to try other instructors at Namaskar, because I feel our class was a reflection of the instructor's day and not the studio.

We chatted with Rachel after class again + then headed off to the rest of our day. The three of us all seem to be on the same page with our experience. And to be honest, I felt bad choosing this class since I had friends with me... You know, when you plan the day out you want everything to be perfect. At the same time, when you're with such amazing women, if something isn't perfect it just adds to the story of your adventure together and you wouldn't trade that for the world. I absolutely adore Hayli + Jodi and I'm SO grateful I spent a full day with them in Chicago. I'll share our day in pics/captions below.

Thank you Namaskar and Rachel for a lovely start to our adventure—namaste.

Yum Yum (Hayli) and Ja Ja (Jodi) — my nicknames for them after today!
Props to the left // Water, bathroom + changing space on the right
Asado Coffee — I drink decaf, and it was so good I had to make sure it was actually decaf.
My elephant logo (NEOI + Mowgli) + Ahimsa (sanskrit for nonviolence toward all living things Ⓥ)
What an honor to design Hayli's tattoo—
(based on The Harmonious Brothers » Bird = Jodi, Monkey = Hayli, Elephant = Anni)
Our amazing tattoo artist (and Hayli's friend), Gentleman Joel
Chicago Diner!!!
THE best finale to our day—sharing this chocolate shake on our drive home

Friday, May 9

Gray Bear Lodge: Rest + Relaxation Retreat | Hohenwald, TN

LOCATION: Gray Bear Lodge | Hohenwald, TN
COST: $275-$425 (includes veg*n food, shared sleeping or you can upgrade to a cabin, yoga, and so much more)
STUDIO: They built a separate studio off in the woods that is possibly THE most beautiful yoga studio I've ever set foot in.
Their popular R and R weekends are based on our basic need to take time for ourselves. They are rooted in simplicity. During this time there isn't a specific program, but rather you'll have time to live and enjoy life exactly as you desire. Their attentive, caring staff will be there to nourish your body. Relaxation, tranquility beautiful evenings, rejuvenating days... all are waiting for you at Gray Bear.

Choose to join, or not to join as you see fit, your schedule is your own.
  • Daily morning Meditation and Yoga class
  • Luxuriate in our wood-fired sauna
  • Hike our trails, enjoy being in nature
  • Soak in the tropical paradise of our WATSU pool and stone hot tub
  • Schedule Massage Therapy, Thai Massage, WATSU or Breema
  • Spend some time journaling or just sitting in silence
  • Choose to sleep in, watch the sunrise, the stars shine and your spirit soar
INSTRUCTOR: Linda Mills was our instructor for the weekend, from Studio Mills in Kingston Springs, TN. Linda's passion of joyful body movement began in her early childhood years. Linda is now a certified yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance. She is thrilled to be able to introduce yoga and other joyful body movement and fitness classes.
CONTACT: Gray Bear Lodge

I'm going to be very honest with you... this weekend was so special, so sacred, so very my own that I'm going to have a hard time doing it justice in the review and... well... I don't want to share it completely. I feel like I'd be smoldering the magic + the mystery of Gray Bear if I gave you all the nitty gritty details. This place holds a special place in my heart, and I plan to visit them regularly. I know Gray Bear isn't all mine from the rest of the world, but in my world, it is. Does that make sense? So, I'm going to focus on our awesome yoga instructor and let you discover Gray Bear, for the most part, on your own.

I had a seven hour drive ahead of me. It was a frantic week of trying to get everything done by Thursday (with some major chaos the morning of my trip). But once I hit the road in gorgeous weather and found some really good radio stations to sing my heart too—all was well with the world.

The second I ever cross the border into Tennessee, I'm quite sure I'm home. I don't know what it is about this state that feels so right—there is no history here, short of driving through it back n forth to Florida or a couple of amazing trips to Nashville as an adult. It doesn't matter, I just feel at ease in the state of TN.

You should know there is no address for Gray Bear. It will not be in your GPS. So what I did was GPS to Hohenwald, then grabbed the directions Diann sent out. It suddenly becomes a little adventure of "take a left at the museum" and "turn right at the fork in the road". Street names, who needs them? As you get closer to Gray Bear, you will feel like you're driving on hiking paths—but it's a road and you keep following it. If you own a tiny sports car, I would recommend borrowing/renting something that can handle an off-road-like adventure. 

Diann and Adam actually greeted me at my car before I even parked. They got me settled in to my cabin and then explained a few things — where to go for dinner, where bathrooms were, etc. What little I got to see before it was dark had already won me over. 

Sacred Circle Opening
The circle of "tell us your name + say <insert instruction here>" is always a bit overwhelming for me. So many faces and names and bits of information I will never remember. But Adam started us off with some quiet centering and meditation. Then we shared a little bit of ourselves, and Diann walked us through a few of the things to expect.

Restorative Class
Linda didn't plan on doing a class on the first night, but when she offered up restorative we all jumped at it. I couldn't think of a better way to shake off the drive and ease into my first evening at GBL. It was a really nice class of gentle twists, reclined heart openers, and quality time focusing on the breath. Bliss.  

Saturday Morning Class
Before class started, I went in early to play with the Iyengar yoga wall. I've been craving some inversions and I thought I'd go in and play. Gathering more information on it now, I see I did my inversion so wrong—but it did the trick for me. I definitely wouldn't recommend doing this alone. Once I was upside down, I realized if something went wrong I was screwed for the next hour. Not smart.  

Linda started us off with what she called a circle dance—it was really great. We all formed a circle, we would inhale as our arms stretched up around us (like the start of a sun salutation)—gathering all the good mojo in the room into your heart, take a few steps towards the center offering your energy to the group, and then step back to start over again. We probably did this 5-7 times? I can't quite remember. It was a lovely way to start connecting with the ladies without even having a conversation with them.

Next she did a Purna A.M. series. This was extra nice for me, because one of my favorite classes at a Yoga Journal Conference was a day-long workshop with Aadil Palkhivala (who is a Purna Yoga instructor). She followed this with some standing poses that worked up a nice sweat, and then we closed with a little bit of the restorative class we did the night before.

Sunday Morning Class
I learned a new series in today's class » The Five Tibetan Rites. It was a series of poses you could repeat up to 21 times during each pose—all the while setting an intention for your day, week, month, whatever called to you. Some of these I could do 21 times, some... not so much, but I really enjoyed this series.

We then did a 2 minute plank challenge. Lol, I lasted 45 seconds, but that was the first time I think I timed myself doing a plank, so I call that a good starting point!

Then we did a ton of partner yoga. I'm usually not a fan of this—which is just a reflection of me being uncomfortable and even more reason I should do it. Today, after this weekend, I was game for anything. We would move from partner to partner, so we got to share time with everyone doing a bunch of different poses. Working with partners is always great because they can add more resistance or help you breathe into a pose deeper (sorry, all I hear now is my friend Rich saying, "Boom. Encouragement. Yes!" and I'm cracking up... Ok, ok, pull it together Poppen).

Sacred Circle Closing
After our last class we held the closing in the yoga space—which was really beautiful. Again, Adam had us center ourselves in a circle. Focusing on our breath. Then, after some quiet time, Bliss (the reiki therapist) suddenly started singing Amazing Grace. I did not see this coming—no one did, I assume—but you should probably know a little something about me. Amazing Grace was my dad's favorite song, he whistled it every Sunday—whether we sang it at church or not. When I was a freshman in high school he actually asked if I would sing it at his funeral some day—to which I had to tell him I wouldn't be able to keep it together. So, when he passed in '98 we got a bagpipe player to play it instead—he loved bagpipes too. When Bliss started singing it this very special Sunday afternoon, I lost it. Tears. Tears. And more tears. I felt like my dad was sitting right next to me in this circle. Hugging me. Enjoying Gray Bear Lodge, right along with me. Wow. 

Other Bits of Gray Bear Goodness
Along with all of this... the food was vegan-friendly (97% vegetarian, minus one meal with fish—always with a vegan option) and SO yummy (they should do a Gray Bear Cookbook), there is wifi—but it's recommended you don't access it (you do need to ask for the password) and cell phones don't really work (you truly get to unplug from the world, or as Diann said, "plug-in to yourself"), the wood-burning sauna with a cold-plunge tub sitting in the spring water was incredible, the wood-burning hot tub they built themselves (they built pretty much everything themselves) was a beautiful way to star-gaze at night, the hammocks everywhere to read/journal/meditate/nap were bliss, the land itself was healing, and most of all... MOST of all, our hosts Diann and Adam were nurturing sages out of a dream the second I met them. They have built a very special oasis in the middle of—what I think is some sort of magical vortex—Hohenwald, TN.

I look forward to going back and enjoying some of the services they offer—Watsu was raved about most, I definitely enjoy Reiki, and who can pass up a massage ever?! This weekend I decided to upgrade to a cabin though + once you add in the gas money of driving seven hours too, I was out of funds for extra pampering. But I knew I'd be back, so I wasn't upset.

Linda, thank you for beautiful yoga everyday. All the people I met and were so lucky to share this weekend with—thank you for the heartfelt memories I will never forget. All the staff at Gray Bear—thank you for taking such good care of us. Diann and Adam—thank you for your generosity, for seeing what the world needs to heal and become stronger, and for creating what I definitely consider a slice of heaven here on earth. Namaste.

•••••••   •••••••   •••••••

I took so many pictures, I'm just posting the album straight to Facebook—feel free to see a little bit of Gray Bear through my eyes :)

Monday, March 31

My First Ever Juice Cleanse » DIY Style

We're doing our first juice cleanse! See how I said "we're" and "our"... boyfriend is joining me. In fact, it was his idea (as he shakes his head in regret). I've been working really hard to get back into a healthy routine at the gym and with yoga (successfully, I might add... pats on back), as well as keeping up with my acupuncturist's supplement requests (so many damn pills, I hate taking pills). I'm slowly starting to see an improvement, but with spring just around the corner (for real, it's around the corner—stop effing with us winter!) I started researching cleanses.

When I was sick over the winter I basically ate (Imagine) soup and drank (Naked) juice. I couldn't believe how amazing I felt while going through a sickness. It was the first time I thought that I might actually enjoy doing a juice cleanse. I had tried the master cleanse  (pre-vegan days, I don't do honey now) once in the past, for like a day and a half. I just couldn't drink the same thing all day long. It worked, but I felt like I was burning off my taste buds from over exposure to the mundane. But a juice cleanse, with a variety of flavors  all day, that gets my attention.

When you do a search for juice cleanses you'll find a slew of mail order juices in pretty packaging and with glowing reviews. I wanted to try all of them. And review all of them for you! Then I looked at the price. For one day, I would end up spending at least $65 for one person... times three days and we're at about $200. Now add in my partner in crime and we're looking at $400. He actually said, "I'll just drink orange juice or something, that's ridiculous!"

The lazy version of me started to pout over the realization that the curious version of me was about to take on DIY juicing for three days. It's happening! I chose this last weekend because it's spring break in our college town, so I knew boyfriend would be less tempted by his PhD/Master cohorts to go get lunch or bring food into the office (because he's the only one there this week). We also started on a Friday so the two of us would be working on (according to others) the crankiest day of the cleanse. Good distractions and some separation from one another so we don't get in a fight was good thinking on my part (I'm patting myself on the back a lot in this review, aren't I). And then we would have the weekend for flexibility, since neither of us knew what to expect.

I'll start with the recipes... Actually, I'll start with the grocery list. Which, when all was said and done (including the jars for storing), cost us a total of $125 for two people over three days. Way better than that $400 price tag from earlier, right?!

Shopping List:

6 grapefruits
36 carrots
2 chunks of ginger
18 green apples (should have done 12)
6 beets
6 sweet potatoes
2 pineapples
6 cups of cashews
60 brazil nuts
12 pears
12 cucumbers (only needed 6 because they were huge)
3 bundles of kale (probably could have done 2)
3 bundles of spinach (probably could have done 2)
1 nutmilk bag (I'm sorry, how do you not giggle at "nutmilk bag"!?) 
24 canning jars (we reused some)

Juice One was nicknamed the ABC Juice:

1 green apple
1 beet (peeled)
3 carrots

By far the prettiest of the drinks, but my kitchen looks like a murder scene.

Juice Two we'll actually drink this one twice a day (giving us 6 juices a day):

1-2 pears
1/2 cucumber (if it's ginormous)
handful of kale
handful of spinach

This one took some experimenting once I discovered my cucumbers were larger than the recipe was probably expecting. So I would start with a 1/2 of cucumber, do the 1 pear, then do spinach and kale, and then if there was more room do another pear.

Juice Three I screwed up + did the wrong recipe (a little disappointed about that):

1 sweet potato
1-2 green apples (was suppose to be 1/4 of pineapple in the original recipe—I followed the wrong one on my pinterest page)
2-3 carrots (depends on the size to figure out if you need an extra one or not)
1 square inch of ginger 

Juice Four is a nice first thing in the morning drink:

1 grapefruit
2 carrots
1 square inch of ginger

I gave my juicer a break after the first three and made the last two juices the following day (the first day of the cleanse). I'm pretty impressed that my dad's juicer from the 80s (earlier?) is still holding strong.

Juice Five is your bedtime drink — the others can be drank in any order:

3/4 cup of unsalted cashew nuts (soaked the night before)
10 brazil nuts (soaked the night before)
1/4 t vanilla
pinch of salt
I added in one of the pineapples into this one

Soak the cashews and brazil nuts in the fridge overnight
Rinse them off and put them in your blender with 2 cups of water
Blend for 3 minutes until smooth
Add vanilla, cinnamon and salt (and pineapple) and blend for another minute or so
Strain the milk through a sieve lined with a nut milk bag or muslin cloth (based on experience, I would recommend investing in a nut milk bag!)
Refrigerate to chill

Here's how we did...

Day One

What a rough start to our day one—we both woke up around 3am—Jafe with heartburn and me with cramps. Tums solved Jafe's problem, but I was up til about 7am until I finally fell back asleep. Once I fell asleep, I dreamed of eating food the entire time. COME ON!

All I want to do is eat everything in the house. It doesn't help that Jafe agrees and is naming the things we could actually eat in the house. But then we buckled down and agreed to make it through day one without cheating. Jafe left with three juices for his day at the office, I sat down to drink Juice Three (because I didn't have Juice Four made yet). Luckily, I slept in pretty late, so part of my day of wanting to eat is already behind me, hooray!

Yoga was a great distraction from feeling hungry, but now that I've had two drinks and I'm back working at home (surrounded by food) I'm not feeling satisfied... little nervous about that. But going for my third drink—ABC juice. Jafe sent a text to check in, that was sweet. I needed it.

No headaches, sweats, tummy issues... I'm just hungry. I can't tell if it's real or if I think I'm hungry. I need to drink more water though. Luckily I got to spend the late afternoon with my dear friend and her adorable family. Between cute kiddos to make you giggle, a sweet dog to make you feel so very loved, and catching up with one of your favorite people in the world... you just can't go wrong! My friend and her hubby make cute babies, right?

OK, we're both home... on what would normally be a dinner out night out for us. Ugh! I'm starving, but Jafe claims to be fine. I asked what he thought of the juices, the green was his favorite, the orange was alright, and the beet was too strong for him. I was surprised the green was as good as it was (but still the worst on my list)... honestly, it's not food so I don't even care what it tastes like.

I am happy to report I don't want to fight with anyone (which I usually get really cranky when I'm hungry)... seriously, we borrowed a phrase from our friend with the same affliction. They (and now we) call it hangry. Like hulk hangry. Anni smash! There should be specialized section in the greeting card aisle for it.

Day Two

I guess this is actually still a part of day one, but discovered on day two... My number one tip for doing a juice cleanse (yes, I already know it). Make sure you're not allergic to any of the ingredients before you use them. Seems pretty obvious, right? Unless you've never had an allergy your entire life and tried a couple brazil nuts before hand to be sure (because of a weak gut instinct to test it... trust those intuitions!!!!).

I woke up at 3-4am coughing and with THE sorest throat I've ever had. I immediately panicked thinking I had strep and was just around three little kiddos yesterday (Bridget is gonna kill me). I've never had strep before (that I'm aware of, at least), so I searched the symptoms. I kept thinking... I don't feel sick though. No fever, no aches, no anything but this horribly painful throat. Then I went to go say something to one of the cats (they were probably excited I was awake so early to feed them, because they are of course wasting away and completely neglected). I couldn't speak. I had no voice. Hmm. I've never had laryngitis (I'm starting to feel pretty grateful for all the ailments I've avoided over the last 37 years), so I look it up. It made way more sense as a symptom of something that wasn't a sickness. Wait, it says allergies. I don't have allergies. <insert slow camera move from my perspective of the phone to the half-full mason jar of nut milk.> I should also mention that I probably had about 40-50% of my breathing capacity available too. OK, I'm waking up Jafe... first I'm going to need paper + a pen. He knows me well enough that if I panic I will stop breathing all together, so he calmly said, "This is obviously from the Brazil nuts... let's keep an eye on your breathing. Has it gotten worse since you woke up?" No. "Good good... does this mean I get to go to Devon + Mark's house (our rugby friends) and get their epi-pen?" In large letter, underlined 12 times... NO! He uses his sense of humor to calm himself down. Luckily it was making me  giggle this time too. I drank some tea + took one ibuprofen (which was all I could get down my tiny little throat) and eventually fell back to sleep. When I woke up... sore throat was gone, I could talk again, and could breathe a little better too. BIZARRE!

At this point I'm scared of all the juices, so I just continue drinking tea and thought a cup of pureed soup is like warmed up juice, right? So I have some of that. Jafe is continuing on with his juices. We start to talk about if this is really doing anything... Neither of us are feeling more alert (I can't imagine why I'm not bright-eyed and bushy tail after my night), I don't think my skin is glowing, and we're both not too impressed with our juices. They're gross. We do both like the grapefruit one and the sweet potato one is pretty good too. Jafe likes the cashew + Brazil nut milk, which is good because he gets the rest of it. I was surprised that it wasn't as good as it smells, and am disappointed I can't use the left over pulp to make vegan dairy replacement products. What a waste of cashews.

We grab a couple juices for the road and find a distraction... the mall. We're not mall people, but we had gift certificates to Old Navy (which moved to our mall) — so we're going shopping! It was a pretty good distraction. Next we go to the grocery store, because I've decided I just can't drink the green juice anymore... it's disgusting. I'm buying naked juice to get me through the rest of this.

Once home we end up talking through the afternoon and researching more about juice cleanses. Jafe—who has been strong for both of us, because I would have quit this morning if he let me is starting to think this is all bullshit. I have to remind him that each person is different and maybe get great results out of their cleanses. To which he says, "Those people are stupid." lol.

We ordered pizza.

Yep, we're not finishing this cleanse. Though I did lose 2.5 pounds over those 2 days (which they say isn't the point of a cleanse, but when you're 40 lbs over weight and not losing an ounce for no clear reason... it sure is appealing). It was all water weight from not needing it to digest food, and the second I eat a solid I will retain that water again. BUT day two we also weren't as hungry, and I liked resetting my perspective on when I'm actually hungry and when I'm eating out of habit. Jafe on the other hand went through a mini great depression and now wants to hoard all the food in the house... I ate one piece of pizza — Jafe ate half of his pizza. Should we have chosen something else to eat? Of course, I was thinking that the whole time... But we didn't, move on.

Day Three

We both had juice this morning. Mine was with a piece of toast. Jafe's was with toast, eggs, and coffee. We plan on drinking the rest of the juice, so we're not wasting food... but we're going to do it with other food.

Jafe didn't realize I was going to review this (so the whole world will know we're failures?! No, no—the whole world doesn't read my blog, but thank you for thinking that!), so I'm asking him for one last tidbit of goodness. He says, "I like the taste of food." Lol. He also adds he goes through waves of eating and not eating, and thought this was a lot of effort for little reward. He agrees the second day was definitely easier than the first, and if we liked our juices we probably would have finished the cleanse.

So, there you go! We're gonna go to the gym now... and work off our pizza :)

Sunday, March 23

Rich Logan Workshops | Heading Om | Peoria, IL

LOCATION: Heading Om | Peoria, IL 
COST: Part 1 $20, Part 2 $35, Part 3 $15
STUDIO: Love this studio—the sturdiness of this old brick building, the home-like warmth of the interior, the friendliness of those who work there. All around a great experience.
Foundations of Mindful Vinyasa, 2-3:30pm
This is a wonderful opportunity to experience mindful vinyasa yoga from a seasoned instructor, Rich Logan. One of Rich's goals in teaching yoga is to empower his students, "I try to give people something they can do for themselves—create awareness in their bodies. I teach as best I can to the level of the student. All my classes incorporate a theme: spiritual, mental, or physical. I encourage students to do their own deeper work, i.e. emotional energetic, in the end, I want you to find out what works best for you but be open to the suggestions that come your way." This is an all-levels class for students with some vinyasa yoga experience. 
Adjustments & Anatomy Clinic for Teachers, 4-6pm
In this teacher clinic we will discuss a different pose type and the practical application of how to bring better alignment to our students through adjustments. From the opening meditation to the final resting moment we will explore a myriad of ways to be present with our students with mindful touch. We will look at anatomical concepts as they relate to honing our touch skills. Whether you are a new teacher or a seasoned pro, there will be something for everyone.
Akoustikirtan: Live Music & Chanting, 7-8:30pm
Accompanied by his guitar, female vocalists, harp, and more... Rich will lead us through an evening of call and response chanting with his traveling music ensemble. This spring session Kirtan will have space in the back for dancing, and floor/chair seating. The creatives at OM are adorning the space with new art and fresh perspective! A different combination of musicians with Rich brings us new experiences at OM. Songs/chants paired with explanations of verses/songs. An inspired and uplifting way to bring in the Spring among friends and community.
INSTRUCTOR: Rich Logan has traveled the world studying and teaching massage therapy and Yoga. He has been on faculty at the Chicago School of Massage therapy and The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. He teaches yoga anatomy for several teacher trainings in Chicagoland as well as workshops in the surrounding area. Rich has also been a guest speaker on Western massage techniques at the Auyurvedic College in Mysore, India. He has also taught adjustment and anatomy oriented yoga courses for yoga teachers in Hamburg, Germany. He has presented at Wanderlust Chicago, teaching well over a thousand students in Grant Park. He was also a featured yoga presenter at Bhakti fest Midwest in Madison, WI.  He also has been performing with Kirtan groups in Chicago since 2002 as a guitarist and fronts his own group with a revolving band of world-class musicians called Akoustikirtan.  A serious student of Yoga since 1998, teaching since 2001 and a meditation practitioner since 1978, Rich incorporates his knowledge of anatomy and physiology with a unique understanding of spirituality in the modern world. Rich has studied at the prestigious Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Madras, India with TKV Desikachar among others presiding, The Atma Vikasa in Mysore with Yogacharya V. Venkatesha and wife Acharye Hema, The Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center near Dharamsala with Sharat Arora.  Rich’s significant teachers have been, Kim Schwartz, Tias Little, Aadil Palkhivala, Gabriel Halpern and Ana Forrest. Rich has also assisted Tias Little in workshops as well as his Esalen retreat in '08. He continues to study at The Yoga Circle under the tutelage of the enigmatic and brilliant Gabriel Halpern in the Iyengar tradition.  Rich has an eclectic teaching style focusing on the seeming basics to allow for a deeper practice by sitting in some poses for extended periods and moving through other postures smoothly with deliberation attention on placing ourselves in the pose as opposed to habitual patterns and gravity running the show.  A mindful practice is focused on, bringing us to the edge of ‘experience’ to ‘witness’ the moment unfold and realize it is us who is the unfolding.
CONTACT: Heading Om

These workshops were a surprise as far as my dear friend + first yoga instructor, Hayli, said, "I'm signing you up... you have to go with us." Heart her. So at noon I headed to her house to meet up with another dear friend, Jodi, and a new friend, Lyndsey. Me and three yoga instructors were going to Peoria to take a vinyasa class, some teacher training (yeah, I infiltrated the system!), and my first-time kirtan experience. I'm gonna need some coffee...

Since I didn't actually set myself up with this class, I can only tell you what Jodi said about communication with Heading Om and setting up the workshop—which was glowing reviews on how tentative Tammy was to talking us through the day, making sure we took the right directions, and even offering up a place to stay that night if we didn't want to drive back. Upon meeting Tammy myself, yep, she's awesome—and overflowing with kindness (thank you SO much, Tammy!).

Foundations of Mindful Vinyasa, 2-3:30pm
Our vinyasa class started with Rich showing us the human skeleton and explaining the pelvis and how things move around with the hip, tailbone, and muscle structure. Then back to our mats, he started talking us through a seated meditation, a few Oms (which I like how he instructed us to om... inhale, and then just let the om come out, don't force it—which created a sweet way to enter into the sound), and on to vinyasa focus. Rich really slowed down the practice, completely surrounding it around pelvic floor—whether it was the shifting of the tailbone or the hips or awareness of mula bandha (a posture where the body from the anus to the navel is contracted and lifted up and towards the spine). We did a lot of work with a block between our legs—I've done this before, and it never ceases to amaze me how much you can understand the shifts of your posture when you have the block held between your thighs. Sounds funny, but it's true. When you place the block there and shift your tailbone down or pull your belly up and in... that blocks shifts. So when someone tells you how to shift the block, you ultimately are learning how to shift your pelvic floor.
We did this, working our way through vinyasa—pausing at powerful poses to really utilize the block being there. It was great to challenge myself to hold these poses while focusing in on my alignment—I was worried, being next to all these yoga instructors that I would stick out like a sore thumb... and you know what, maybe I did, but I was too busy to worry about it.

Two other poses we did that stayed with all of us was a hip + shoulder opener using our blocks. We stacked our shins in a seated position, but then stretch ourselves out over the blocks which kept us up a little bit higher, allowing us to open up the shoulders some. This didn't work with my shoulders on the first side, but on the second side I found something that felt good. In the image below you can see how the legs are stacked, but instead of reaching out hands out to the floor, we used our blocks. And... once our hips opened up a little more—we would reach to the left and the right, and then cross our arms to the opposite blocks... this is where the shoulder blades just wrapped around and opened up. Felt amazing.
The second pose was happy baby—this time, also with the blocks. Before you would go into the pose you would place the blocks on either side of your waist (not your hips), because when you go into the pose your thighs would rest on the blocks. It allowed my body to relax even more into the pose, since my thighs could rest on the blocks, my groin muscles stopped freaking out to protect me and I just melted into the pose. Pretty fantastic. Below I mocked up the image with an imaginary purple block :)
Adjustments & Anatomy Clinic for Teachers, 4-6pm
So... holy crap, I just signed up for a teacher training clinic, and I'm not a teacher. I'm not even close... surrounded by teachers... really good teachers... and me. I'm one part terrified and one part excited to peak behind the yoga curtain!

I kid you not—the entire time was spent in savasana. And I can't believe how much I learned—about myself, about the body, and about the beautiful energy our instructors put into our classes with us. Seriously, go hug your yoga instructor after you read this. They're even more amazing than you already know! So... how do you spend two hours in savasana? AND learn something? Here's how.
The first part was spent with a volunteer and Rich. He had the volunteer lie down into savasana. He told us what to look for—is one arm or leg closer to the midline? Does the foot rotate out more on one side? Where do the knuckles on the hand touch the floor? How does the hip bones look? Rib cage? Shoulders? Where is their chin positioned? And... what could all of those bits of info mean? AWESOME! That's just looking at the student. Ha!

Then he picked up the volunteer's feet while he was still close to the ground. He showed us how to elongate the leg while also "bending" the bone through an arching motion. Meanwhile, how are you sitting, are you comfortable? How are you working with your breath and what energy are you giving the student? Then he stands up, windshield wipers the legs while they're angled at about 45°—how does each leg resist or not? Then, how can you leverage your body weight and positioning to pull the legs and elongate the ankles... knees... thighs... lower back. Even the act of putting the legs back down was a beautiful dance of balancing the volunteer's foot on his own and slowly lowering it with his leg—allowing Rich's back to be protected while also watching where you place each foot. Does their back seem a little too arched? Pick up the legs to about 90° — let their lower back stretch out a little bit more — lower those feet back down in a graceful little balance again.

Next he focused in on the hips—finding the hip bone with each of his thumbs. He showed us how to move the muscle around for better alignment and then put his full weight into the thigh muscle, grounding the femurs (at which point, if you like, you can go into crow pose—what?!). Holding it down for 3-5 breaths, or longer. Letting the volunteer's exhales guide your pressure to aid in melting them into the pose. And he releases with just as much attention to breath and energy as he went into it. So nurturing.

We move up to the shoulders and arms. Wrapping the muscle and skin around so that it rotates the arms out just a little bit more. Then he put his hands under the volunteer to pull the shoulder blades down (you've probably had this one done to you + can relate), but to see how much it adjusts people is pretty incredible. Once the shoulder blades were in a nice place, the arms evenly rotated out, he brought the muscles up around the ribs and then (this blew me away when it was done to me) he leaned on the volunteer's ribs. This gently forced the volunteer to breath in other parts of their body—back into their kidneys and down into the belly. With each exhale of the volunteer, Rich would hold that compression while they inhaled. And then, this is the cool part, when he slowly released the ribs... it was like breathing a deep breath for the first time. Pretty powerful.

Then he took himself to the head of the volunteer—sat down comfortably, suggesting a block or blanket to keep the instructor comfortable through all of this. He found some deep muscle spots to push his thumbs into shoulder traps—instructing location, how to feel around for the tense spot, and then to just lean in and hold. He actually did this to me during the vinyasa practice, it hurt so good. Then he placed his hands under the head, instructing the placement of finger tips, how to apply pressure and where. How it changed the angle of the chin, and what to look for in the student. He shared the spot (which I, um, call the bottle opener... that ledge at the base of your skull, lol) where if you apply pressure with the finger tips it helps relieve migraines. But you've also loosened up the neck leading up to that, so I think that's involved too. Then he started to bring the volunteer out of it slowly, first placing his thumbs at the volunteer's third eye—just holding, connecting, sharing energy. Next the thumbs went to the top of the head—Rich said this was a great way to connect your heart's energy with the student's.

He instructed the volunteer to slowly come back to awareness. Bending each leg, placing the feet on the ground, bringing the knees into one another. With ease, the volunteer then should roll onto their right side. Rich then placed his hand on the volunteer's back, connecting once again with the heart from the back. This also creates a safe space for the volunteer to come out of the blissful savasana.

Pretty delicious, right? Up next, we partner up and repeat all of this on one another. CRAP! OK, Hayli, will you go first so I can learn from you? These are things she's done to me already in yoga classes or through her massages. Which was one part great for me to learn from and one part scary, knowing I'd be doing this to her. Eeks! But, before you know it, I'm so enjoying myself I forgot to pay attention and just floated into my adjustments. When I was done, we chatted about where I was holding tension (confirming stuff we already knew) and where it could have been more comfortable for me... I have incredibly sensitive skin on my outer ankles, so when my legs are pulled on it feels great for my alignment—but pinching on my ankles.

Uh oh... up next, I get to do this for the first time in my life to my yoga instructor, my massage therapist, to my dear friend. I knew I was in a safe space with Hayli, so I just decided to go for it and focus in on my energy. How could I nurture Hayli the best way possible, breath into the adjustments, and let my heart just warm with love for my friend. It was incredible. The amount of heat my body created was intense—this was work! Watching how I adjusted her actually worked—was so satisfying. I checked in regularly with her to be sure she was comfortable and I wasn't torturing her—but she was so relaxed I knew I must be doing something right. The scariest part for me was actually working on her neck. Was I on the right vertebrae? Was I pulling on her hair? Was I pressing too hard? I would just go back into focusing on my breathing and Hayli's breathing too. Tapping into what I knew felt good on me.

When we chatted about her experience, I was relieved to find out she was shocked I had never done that before. I was grateful to explain what I learned about her body for the first time—returning the favor of comfort and nurturing after years of what she's done for me. It was amazing.

At this point—two hours and come and gone. Rich showed us how everything we had just learned in that savasana we could now apply to all poses—using trikonasana (triangle pose) on a volunteer as an example. Incredible!

Rich Logan is an amazing instructor—I felt so lucky to be experiencing this day. To learn so much from his wisdom and also enjoy his sense of humor reminding us all to not take this all so seriously. To enjoy our awareness and curiosity. So grateful. So very grateful. 

Akoustikirtan: Live Music & Chanting, 7-8:30pm
My first kirtan... a call and response chanting. Here we discover than Rich is also an incredible guitarist and singer. With his band of vocalists he regularly travels with, and three more who have only played with him once before or not at all—beautiful music was played.

Rich would start by teaching us the sanskrit pronunciations (he had a nice big projection for all to see—which was good, because the room was cozy and dark and reading a piece of paper would have been impossible without ruining the ambiance). Then they'd start playing, he'd sing and the vocalists with microphones would do the response so we could sing with them. Eventually the song would turn into the rolling jam band with everyone singing and people dancing or swaying and the room just bursting with music. Rich was amazing at bringing us back in to finish off the song—where we'd all sit in silence to meditate on the moment. This was pretty funny—the first time this happened Rich whispered, "For the first timers... this is where we all pretend to meditate. So if you just pretend like you're meditating... close your eyes and sit completely still... pretending like you're going in to yourself... pretend you're meditating... before you know it... you won't be pretending anymore..." Ha!

We then did this with maybe 4-5 more songs? I'm not sure. By the end of the first song I was already ready to go home. I was tired. I was hungry. I didn't know we were going to be here this late. I didn't want to sit on a tiny cushion singing and appearing to be taken away by the music. I wasn't. Others were, definitely, so I appreciated that it worked for them... I was raised playing music and singing, you would think this would actually be the perfect form of meditation for me. But, no, I like structure to my music. I like to be playing an instrument (maybe this would be transforming for me if I had bass in my hand or something)... and I don't like songs that go on for a really long time. I don't like not being able to hear myself because others were singing so loud. And though others were taken away by the moment, it then suddenly felt like it was their show... It's not their show! And then I realized I was being challenged with judgement once again—so grateful I have started to recognize this while still in the moment. How can I appreciate and enjoy others way of experiencing something while still enjoying it myself in a completely different way? How can I not feel like I don't fit in, when in reality there is nothing to be fitting into? I know I'll be challenged by my insecurities again in the future—and that's really some of the biggest benefits of trying something new. In this case, though, I will be grateful I tried kirtan and probably not do it again. It's like hot yoga to me... it's just not for me. Great for so many others, but not for me. And you know what, that's ok.

What an amazing Saturday—experiencing so much, learning and navigating the new with amazing women. All under the guide of Rich Logan, a gentle and wise and funny leader. In a comforting and nurturing space. Glorious. Thank you everyone—thank you thank you thank you!

Also, I do have to mention, Tammy recommended we go to One World Cafe for dinner and it was SOOOOO good with options for all tastes. I had a thai noodle salad (substituting the chicken with some of the best tofu I've ever had) to continue my healthy day and a side of fries because I was effing hungry and was about to eat the table.  :)

cozy, cozy space — this is the check-in area (I forgot pics of the kitchen + bathrooms + well, everything)
gorgeous props — handmade eye pillows + cases, handmade bolster covers
my girls setting up
a picture with Rich
a giggling Rich, being busted out for smiling with a mouthful of cliff bar :)
Jodi + Lyndsey took advantage of the downtime with acroyoga
super talented kirtan musicians
my view beyond our table at One World Cafe — fitting

Wednesday, February 26

Dunedin Health & Wellness Center | Dunedin, FL

LOCATION: The location was easy to get to, but by following directions the parking isn't completely obvious on the first round. I drove pass the location, knowing it was it from pictures online, but unsure where to park. Once I turned back around I pulled into what seemed to be an alley, which took me to the other side of the building and there was free parking on that side (much more obvious if you're coming from the East, I'm guessing).  
$15 drop-in, cash or cards 
STUDIO: Although the website will tell you the studio is located upstairs (which may imply a different entrance), you walk in through the main entrance and check-in before you go upstairs. Kick off your shoes at the elevator which takes you to the second level and opens up into the practice space. The practice space is crisp with bright curtains over windows and a doorway that opens up onto a little balcony. It's a smaller space, with six of us and the instructor we filled it out comfortably (although we didn't stagger our mats at all). Props, mats, and even space for two on an Iyengar rope wall are available.   
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Hatha Level 1 is for beginner's and those who want to practice the foundations of Hatha Yoga to develop awareness.
INSTRUCTOR: Wade, I believe, has just started teaching classes but has been with the Dunedin Health & Wellness Center as a massage therapist for some time. I've included links to Wade's massage history and the Center's yoga page here, but I can't provide more info on Wade and yoga specifically, sorry.
CONTACT: Ani Yoga Studio (though this is the name, I didn't see it anywhere, which is why it's titled as Dunedin Health & Wellness Center in the title)

Walking into the Center was relaxing from the get go because our instructor, Wade, was at check-in answering questions. My mom laughed at me when I said, "This is the first time I realized Morgan Freeman would make an excellent yoga instructor voice." Though Wade's voice didn't sound like Morgan Freeman, it has that same soothing rhythm to it. He was humble and kind and in his approach to answering questions, and I immediately felt welcomed (in a nurturing way, some yoga studios welcome you in a more physically energizing way—this was more mentally energizing).

I turned around to find an elevator decorated with prayer flags and a stand with shoes already in place, so off went my flip flops + barefoot into the elevator I went. Which felt weird. The elevator opened up directly into the studio where a few students chatted and I quietly sat up my space in the furthest back corner. One of the students played with the rope wall, which I didn't realize I was in a Iyengar-based studio, so I was curious how this class would unfold. Once Wade entered in it was immediately meditative as he went directly into practice with no opening chit-chat. He gave us three requirements for the class:
  1. Relax the body for the entire class
  2. Allow the mind to let go 
  3. Let the breath move through your body like wind through a hollow bamboo reed
To focus in on our breathing he asked to silently repeat so hum to ourselves. So on the inhale. Hum on the exhale. He quoted Iyengar with his translation of, "I am that." I found myself returning to it regularly during this practice, it reminded me of the same sensation out of doing this with sat nam, I learned in my first class here in the Tampa area.

We started by warming up the body on our back. His instruction was very detailed, like I often find in Iyengar-based classes. Some people don't like this, it works well my mind-body connection. We did possibly a million hip opening positions from our back (ok, not a million, but Wade was thorough). We alternated bending one knee into the chest, eventually that led to straightening the leg, a reclined pigeon pose, to a straight-leg hip opener (reclined pigeon with a straight leg).

reclined pigeon via
The next sequence was a first for me, where we would go into reclined crow pose (bakasana), to reclined side angle pose (parsva bakasana) on both sides. This was an interesting way to activate the core and maybe rethink how you hold the arm balance when upright.Which went into a happy baby (ananda balasana) sequence including new version of reclined baddha konasana.
reclined (sleepy) crow via
baddha konasana via
We eventually stood up and went into a couple lunge sequences (after a week of my yoga classes focusing deeply on hips, I didn't even need blocks—which felt really encouraging for sticking with this many classes regularly). A warrior one (virabhadrasana 1) sequence. And then back to the mat, this time on our bellies for a low cobra (bhujangasana) sequence that included bent knee rotations (I can't find a picture for this one, so bear with me... You are on your belly, head resting on your crossed arms so the spine is straight. Kick your feet up in the air so you legs are now at a 90° angle. Make circles with your feet, so both legs are rotating together).

Then came some seated twists that eventually worked our way to savasana. What a nurturing experience, and a beautiful way to end my yoga practice in Florida. Though I did build up some heat in some of the standing poses and holding downward dog longer than usual, I would say overall this was a gentle class and an excellent introduction to hatha yoga for beginners. I'm not sure how long the class was suppose to go, but we were in there for just over an hour and a half. Wade did comment that he always goes over time, and if the students would let him he wouldn't stop. With that kind of class, I'd question what student would stop you Wade!

Thank you for such a kind class.

studio is above where you see the flags, but you enter between the plants on the main level
check in
elevator to the studio upstairs
the statue wishing you well on the way out