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.

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

Monday, February 24

Swing 101: Foundations for Flight | Yoga Downtown Tampa | Tampa, FL

LOCATION: This time it was extra easy to get to, as my mom just dropped me off. But, from my last visit to the studio, I know it's an easy drive close to the exit. There is free parking on the street over the weekends, but also there's parking behind the building that is free all the time (be sure to grab a business card off the check-in desk and put it on your dash). 
$20 each or $35 for two (which will get you a discount for 102 if you're in the area or returning). You have to sign up on line because they only have nine spots available, and I would be sure to do it a couple weeks ahead of time. 
STUDIO:  The studio is small and it was fun to see how it has changed since my last visit—the greenery has grown out front and the decor in the front section has changed. But the mural, swings, and bathroom/prop area are still the same. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Swing 101 + 102 are required before being able to take our regularly scheduled swing classes so you'll be prepared to fly in our regularly scheduled classes (this is obviously new since my last visit—or they were kind enough to let me into the last class. Regardless, I think it's a smart idea). This is the space to bring out your inner child, inner Cirque du Soleil performer, or just have some fun! Learn to work with the fabric and experience your practice in new and creative ways in this fun and supportive environment. We'll lay the foundation for aerial practice, starting from the ground and guiding you into flight! Release tension, build flexibility, and challenge your body and mind in new ways. You'll finish with an extended savasana as you float on air to leave you feeling deep bliss!
INSTRUCTOR: Monica completed her 200-hour Vinyasa Flow training with Frog Lotus Yoga International and my 500-hour advanced training with Asheville Yoga Center. She will always be a student of the practice and is deeply grateful for the wisdom her teachers have shared with her. In classes, Monica loves to combine fun music, creative sequencing, and a dose of inspiration to help you deepen your practice. She seeks to help others thrive in life by nurturing body, mind, and soul with yoga, and hopes you step off the mat feeling refreshed, nourished, and balanced.

Since I've put in an aerial swing into my garage I've been craving swing classes for some time. Then second I get home I suddenly only remember two poses from start to finish. Knowing I was returning to Tampa I immediately looked up YDT's schedule and was ecstatic to find they were hosting a 101 workshop!

Monica was such a kind instructor from start to finish—and start was online when I screwed up my reservation and she patiently walked me through that process (maybe this was a sign of my inability to follow directions for yoga in Florida? See A Yoga Village review or Green Locus review). She started us off my everyone introducing themselves and if they had done swing yoga before. Everyone was brand new to the experience and their stories were so interesting. One student had recently  conquered ovarian cancer and she was younger than me. One student was from Danville, just outside of where I currently live. Two ladies came in together and cracked me up during the class, as friends always have great side comments to one another when they're trying something new... or in general, for that matter. It was a fun vibe in the room.

We warmed up our bodies for some swing work, focusing on hands, wrists and forearms because of how often you use your upper body. Then we immediately got in the swings. She had us sitting sideways in a folded leg pose, pulling ourselves up to adjust our ability to straighten our spines. Just like a sitting meditation used to open most yoga classes, but this time hanging in the air in your own little cocoon.

Then we went to hanging upside down immediately. This was smart, because the first few times you do this you're scared of trusting yourself and the fabric holding you there. Monica showed us a couple ways to get into the swing upside down which moved the fabric in different ways around your body. We learned to let go and arch our body into a few poses:
Then we took our leg stretches to the swing with a little balance work too. By placing your leg in the swing (like propping it up on ballet barre for forward folds and twists) you work more with gravity not only for the balance but also by leaning forward and having gravity take over on your body (or controlling that by activating your core, which is equally great). We did forward folds, twists, pigeon pose, and the beginning of splits:
Then we went into some poses that really break or make the experience based on your toleration, really. Folding forward over the swing and doing downward dogs or core work by hovering in the air can really dig into your hip crease. Monica supplied us with blankets—which makes a difference, so if you feel the least bit of uncomfortable, grab one. You'll thank me the next day—I'm currently speaking from my own experience.

We did a little actual swinging—which I like the least, park swings always make me nauseous. And we would also dismount by leaning back from the swinging position until we were reclined parallel to the ground and were instructed to let go of our hands and hover. I didn't think this was possible for my body, but I caught air for a split second and that was enough for me. Just the act of getting my brain to believe it can happen is half the battle, right?!

Our finale pose was a shoulder stand—which this one I knew and I unfortunately got carried away (sorry Monica) and went into a couple other poses  that Monica then demonstrated to everyone else. I felt bad about this, I honestly didn't think anyone was paying attention to me and I could just sneak them in... I felt like a jerk student. But shoulder stand is awesome—the fabric is holding you by the shoulders and you work the core to stay straight upside down.

Monica lead us into savasana, a reeeeeeeeally long one, it was glorious. We're all tucked into our cocoons hovering into pure relaxation. So amazing, thank you for doing that Monica!

It's a bit Invasion of the Body Snatchers to see it from this angle—
but glorious from the inside (which the aliens would say too, uh oh!)
I definitely recommend this—no matter what level of yoga you're at. It's playful, it's a new perspective on traditional poses, and it does some great upper body + core work. I adore it and am impatiently waiting for some fly yoga to come to Champaign, IL!

Thank you for an excellent class, Monica, I look forward to 102 with you!

Sunday, February 23

Green Locus | Tampa, FL

It's been well over a year since I've taken a flow class, and I thought it was about time to get my lazy arse back to it.  

LOCATION: Today I learned there was an upstairs to those charming strip malls set up to look like village squares. Getting to the area was easy, but understanding where the studio was located was a bit more of a challenge. I knew the address number, but couldn't find it anywhere and then I caught glimpse a little sign that stated the studio was upstairs. Parking was free, but limited. I did happen to find parking behind the buildings too. There is an elevator that takes you up stairs and then you follow signs to a long hallway of nothing, but keep an eye on the doors and you'll find Green Locus at the end just fine.    
STUDIO: This small studio is clean, simple, and organized with an entrance for check-in and dropping off your belongings. Then another door takes you into the classroom that has props and mats, a wall of windows, and a bright + airy feeling. $15 drop-in, cash or card.  
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Flow classes focus on a smooth transition of yoga poses connecting the movement with the breath. There is constant movement in these classes for individual looking for more fluid asanas.
INSTRUCTOR: Kerry is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) certified in Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ayurveda Therapy through the Yoga Energy Studio in St. Petersburg, FL. I am also certified to teach the Barkan Method Advanced Hot Vinyasa series as well as Missy White's Hot 108 series.
CONTACT: Green Locus

This will be my second occurrence of trying to "break in" to a yoga studio...Your graceful yoga reviewer, here for your entertainment. So, as you read above, I had some difficulty realizing the studio was upstairs, but once I parked in the back I saw a stairwell and set off to getting to the second level. At this point I'm already running late, so I was glad I parked so close to a stairwell. Until I got to the top, where there was a keypad to get in. What? Ok, I go running back down the stairs looking for another entrance. What's with me not being able to find entrances?! I'm calling it "breaking in" so it's a bit more dramatic and less idiotic—but let's call a spade a spade. Maybe this is why I enjoy doing environmental design so much—because if I create the signage for others, everyone will be able to see it!

Walking back to the store front area I looked around for another stairwell, but no luck. Then I realized I walked pass some mailboxes so I went back that direction when an elevator caught my attention (in my defense, it was hidden by a huge brick pillar—seriously, I'm not as flakey as I'm making myself out to be, am I?). I'm supplying pictures of my trek to the space below so you have visuals, but I'm guessing that will be unnecessary as you probably are capable of finding entrances and reading signs :) 

Once I walked down the bare hallway to the studio space, there was no one at the front desk (note: complete access to everyone's belongings hanging out there, so take your stuff with you into the classroom). I stood there not sure what to do and quickly getting disappointed that I was going to miss this class. I could hear instructor in the other room, but for some reason I just couldn't walk in—not on my first visit to the studio. I snapped a couple pics to sadly share with you all and quietly shut the door behind me—but a regular was showing up late (hooray!). I asked her if it was okay to just walk in, since I was new... she kindly fumbled through some response I took to be as yes. Then I couldn't find a yoga mat, and she let me know they were inside (thank you, kind lady!). So, just like my first class in Florida, I sheepishly followed her into the class room. I'm a dork. 

No idea how Kerry started the class, but I got there during some cat/cow stretches. We followed that up with a few seated twists and then immediately went into flow sequences. I have a love-hate relationship with flow because you just move from pose to pose with little time to sink into each posture properly (for me at least, I'm slow in aligning myself into the pose). At the same time, my heat kicks in fast and I'm sweating like crazy. In fact, it appears some instructors get concerned around me, but I think I just have years of toxins in me from my pre-vegan lifestyle. That shit has to come out! And I'm so grateful it does. 

The room was on the warm side, and I wondered if I found myself in another heated yoga studio (which I don't enjoy), but after talking to Kerry after class she said she didn't think we'd need the AC until we were halfway through class. Apparently we got the room up to 85°F on our own. Go us! I do think if I start to work flow back into my regular schedule I will invest in a yoga towel mat to layer over my current mat, because I sweat so much it drips and I start to slip all over the place. It's dangerous. 

Kerry didn't walk around adjusting us—oh! I almost forgot, at the check-in desk they have cards out for students to place near their mats. I thought this was genius. They simply said "no adjusting," which is such a respectful way to handle this for all parties. The student doesn't have to feel awkward requesting to not be touched mid-adjustment, the teacher won't find him/herself in the middle of making a situation tense instead of the intention of nurturing, and the studio makes everyone happy. I love it. I will never need it, as I adore being adjusted... but I love the way of making everyone feeling safe in their own preferred spaces. Anyway! Kerry didn't walk around adjusting us—which may not happen much during flow classes, now that I think of it, because we're moving so much. She did, however, give excellent verbal cues every second of the way. Kerry also offered up lots of variations for the vast levels in the classroom (and that was just with five students). It was cool to see a couple students going into some great arm balances why I happily held my triangle pose (trikonasana). 

We ended in savasana, came back to sitting and chanting a single om, and went on our way. I think this would be a great introduction to flow for all levels—I do still encourage beginners taking a first class ever to go to a beginner's class or gentle class to spend a little more time in the poses, but if you're a sweat junkie who can't wait... this would be the instructor for you! 

Thank you for a lovely intro back into flow, Kerry!

Here's a little visual walk through of how to get to the studio—for us sign-reading impaired ;)  

see, the elevator is tucked back + blocked by a beam. I didn't have a chance!
This is the door that is a little confusing... do you go in? Yes!
And if you need a bathroom, it's to the left once you walk in.
Loooooong hallway of mystery :)
check-in (those "no adjusting cards" are on the left with a green circle)