Mysore Practice

 

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5:30 AM Stepping out the cold dark night, I go up the stairs. In a dim studio, with lovely blond wood floors. I unroll my mat and step onto the grey surface. One or two friends are also stepping onto the mat as our Mysore assistant lights candles around the room. My toes push into the stickiness of my mat, grounding me and sending a rebounding energy upwards. Clasping my hands in prayer position, I silently recite the opening chant and send lovingkindness to those on my mind.

5:42 Sun salutations have begun to send energy through my body. I am counting breaths, and thinking only of breaths. (This is because my inner Dorothy Parker–the wise-cracking red wine-drinking dame I’m just not, except sometimes in my head—isn’t awake yet. Wine swilling glamour girls rarely are, at this hour).

6:04: In Ardha baddha padmasana (standing half lotus) Dorothy Parker suddenly jolts into life. As I painstakingly go into half lotus on the right, she wise-cracks….”some people are cool, and some people are Tragically Un-hip!” (Get it? unhip in a hip opener?)

6:31 In Marichyasana D, my teacher patiently helps me bind on the left side. My right obliques are on fiiiiyaaaaahh but I persevere. She calmly and safely holds me in the bind, and is kind enough to suggest I’m making progress.

6:36 I get my right hand and most of my left through in garbha pindasana, and roll clumsily up to my version of kukutasana, lifting my whole seat up as I press into my hands. Suddenly I feel strong. Dorothy Parker, however, would like to point out that it’s really probably only a 3 on the Kino-Index (Where 1 is a pile of kindling and 10 is Kino’s version of the pose, a joyful expression of strength and surrender to the Divine.)

6:52 Dropping back with my teacher’s help, I have an epiphany—LEGS! If you engage them properly they take the weight out of the lower back. Not sure if all of my dropbacks reflect this, but at least the penny has dropped. Or the nickel. Or whatever we’re calling that now. During the squish, my breath deepens. I am a sweaty but happy mess.

7:03 A fragile headstand, again with help. But held a full 12 breaths.

7:10 Clean mat, roll it up, go shower and go teach.

Why do I go to Mysore? Because it’s the heart of the practice, the best way to come to know yourself and the philosophy of yoga—compassion, truth, discipline— in your very bones.

Because the energy of the room is soothing and powerful, an ocean woosh of gentle breathing. Because my friends are all around me learning these same lessons, perhaps never suspecting how inspiring and graceful they look on the mat. Because our teachers and assistants are just the right amount of wise and demanding.

Because it has made me stronger in body and mind than anything else in my life. Because it works. Try it.

p.s. You may have noticed that the blog header got a little makeover. From now on, I’ll be trying to post more frequently, about three times per week. The poll below will help me figure out what sorts of topics you’d like to see here on bookishyogagirl.com.

Fall Books and a Question…

We have been rudely snapped back into the cold reality of autumn…14 degrees, charcoal skies. And the news—Franklin ship find, US takes on ISIS, Rob Ford falls ill—everything is happening so fast. Here’s a bit of Can-lit book news though, to balance out all the evil.

Fall Books….

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Girl Runner, a Novel by Carrie Snyder….Snyder, whom you may know as the writer of the quirky but brilliant Juliet Storiesis also a mother of four and a hard-core runner who blogs at Obscure Canlit Mamma. This book is the story of Aganetha Smart, who at 104 years old, is suddenly kidnapped from her nursing home by two young people whose motives become clear later in the story. Aganetha Smart grew up on a farm in small town Ontario, and became a member of the 1928 Olympic team. It’s a story about family, loyalty, and about running, “aimed towards a fixed point on the horizon that seems never to draw nearer.” Though it is not as literary as the Juliet Stories, Aganetha Smart has VOICE, a strong, reedy, unusual voice that crackles from the moment we meet her til the moment she vanishes into lost time as the story closes. Worth a read.

Between Gods, a Memoir by Allison Pick, author of the moving novel Far to Go. This is by far one of the most memorable books I’ve read in a long time. It is Pick’s visual and visceral recount of her conversion to Judaism. Her spiritual quest occurs as she recovers from depression, publishes her first book, marries and has a child. Thick with the curious grey fog from which the depressed are rarely released, this is a memoir of finding wholeness. Pick’s grandparents had been Holocaust survivors; once they immigrated, they had converted to Christianity and never spoke of their former religion. In reclaiming her Jewish background, Pick feels that she is not only redeeming herself, but her family too. Well but never over-written, oddly suspenseful for a memoir, and utterly engrossing. Read it 🙂

IMG_0134Delancey, by Molly Wizenberg, isn’t really a fall book (it came out this summer) and it’s not CanLit. But regular readers of the blog Orangette, and fans of Wizenberg’s first book, the foodoir A Homemade Life, will thoroughly enjoy this book. In her first book, Wizenberg details how she became a food writer, and through that, how she met her husband Brandon. A Homemade Life was a love story interspersed with wonderful recipes (really, everyone should try Wizenberg’s Banana Bread recipe!) which ended with a wedding. Delancey is the story we rarely get, the what-happened-after-happily-ever-after. In it, Wizenberg describes how her multi-passionate husband finally committed to creating the Seattle pizza restaurant Delancey, in which they both worked at as chefs. We are privy to everything–construction dust, assembling dough mixers, financing a restaurant, tremulous first days. We are also given a warts-and-all portrait of a marriage, one that survives and endures even when Molly Wizenberg decides that she can no longer work for the family business, and goes back to writing. Though it lacks the conventionally neat ending of A Homemade Life, Delancey feels more satisfying. It is brave, it is honest, it is real and loving.

And it leads me to my question…someone recently posted an info-graphic about happy marriages. After two failed relationships, I can honestly say I don’t know much about how this long-term togetherness works. I found the graphic illuminating. What do you think makes a happy marriage? Feel free to post in the comments. 

 

The Sweet End of Summer

Much gratitude to all of you who read and commented on my slightly ranty post about depression. Your support and understanding are truly appreciated.

It’s a bright day here, and a hot one too, the heat a paradoxical reminder that autumn and school are both right around the corner. But before we let ourselves be swept up in all that, here are a few ways to prolong the sweet end of summer…

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Walk on a beach with those you love…Along the Lakeshore in Toronto if you must. Or by the Canal in Ottawa. But preferably at Keppoch, or Brackley Beach on PEI. Preferably with the best parents in the world (my folks). Listen to the wind. See the white waves crashing along the shore. Feel the wet sand solid beneath your feet. Get lost in the peace of the horizon. While on PEI, don’t forget to eat Lobster, visit Green Gables, and make a pilgrimage to The Dunes, a quirky and beautiful pottery workshop, gallery and Buddhist garden near Covehead Harbour.

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Stock up on fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies. It’s raspberry, blueberry, and peach season. How awesome is that? Now, my feelings about peaches are similar to J.Alfred Prufrock’s….do I dare eat them in public? But peaches, with their sunset skins and runny sweetness, are one of the great, fleeting pleasures of life. They’re really only good about two weeks per year. So indulge…Slice one up and dollop it with Greek yoghurt and a spoonful of homemade granola…Or make Meghan Telpner’s Raw Peach Cream Pie. Et voilà, le déjeuner est servi !

IMG_0114Gear Up for Fall…Ok, so we’re not all scrubbing shelves, sorting books and setting up classrooms this time of year. (That’s the French book shelf in my Grade 6 FI classroom, and yes,  that is the LAST time this school year that it will be that neat. That’s good though, because when the bookshelf’s chaotic, it means the kids are reading. In French. SCORE!) But we can all revel in the fresh-start energy of September by taking a new class. Starting a new fitness regime. Setting small goals for ourselves. For example, two of my non-yoga, non-work goals this fall are to blog more often and to try two new recipes per week.

Lastly, I sometimes I think it’s ok to wallow in a warm bath of nostalgia. This was, in many ways, a brutal summer for me. It included endings, an important decision, a rigorous yoga training. It challenged me a lot. So perhaps I can be forgiven for wanting to harken back to a simpler time? A time of tapered jeans and big hair. A time of fluorescent colors and slap-on bracelets. A time when I was IN grade 6, not teaching it. 1989, to be precise. So here my friends is my secret (*covers face with hands and hangs head in shame*): I was a Roch Voisine fan. I will leave you with the earstwhile Acadian hunk singing Hélène, a song about a summer fling. I believe in 1989 we “studied” it with our new music teacher, a young man with curly hair who played guitar just like Roch. And when you’re in grade 6, these are the things that swoons are made of. Don’t judge. Just listen 😉