Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Days 6 & 7 of the (now) 15 Day Yoga (& occassional pilates) Challenge

I challenged myself in Day 6 by opting to do my yoga practice during 'siesta' time. Typically between the hours of 2pm and 4pm I have zero energy. Back in the days when I was teaching in the classroom, I dreaded a schedule where I taught classes toward the end of the school day. My mind is slower, my body feels more exhausted and my energy levels wane in the hours between lunch time and the end of the work day. It definitely is not the ideal time to do a yoga practice - at least not for me.
However, as I am preparing for the trip to India where I will be practicing yoga asana at various times of the day for a month straight, I thought it might be a good idea to get out of my yoga-in-the-morning & -late-morning habit.
What a challenge it was to just get the mat rolled out! Each time I thought to get started, that little voice in my head kept repeating, "C'mon Julie, let's go make a cup of tea and just sit down for 5 more minutes." With promises to myself of a reward of a cuppa if I just got though my daily practice, I rolled out my mat and got started.
I made a concerted effort to incorporate the cues I learned in the Ashtanga practice on Saturday which got my hamstrings and quads working much harder. That allowed my lower back to take a well-deserved break. It also helped to engage and strengthen those deeper core muscles that always seem to want to just sit back and take a nap when I'm doing any sort of physical activity. As I moved through the practice, I felt my energy levels rise and my mood lift.
By the time I finished the session, I was feeling great! I no longer wanted or needed a cup of tea to give me that late day caffeine pick-me-up and I found I had the energy to prepare a super delicious and healthy dinner.
On Day 7 I continued to get out of my comfort zone by practicing a little later in the day. This time I had spent all day marking exam papers so by half past five in the evening I was ready to move my body and stretch. No promises of tea rewards needed to get on my mat today!
So, I'm just about half-way finished with this particular challenge and I'm enjoying the changes it brings to both my mind and my body, not to mention my spirit. I'm beginning to feel more comfortable about not going 100% into every posture and just allowing my body to lead the way, rather than allowing my ego to tell me what I should be doing.
So much of yoga is about letting go: letting go of the past, letting go of the need to worry about the future, letting go of preconceived notions we have about ourselves and our bodies and especially letting go of our egos.
I'm not the perfect yogi, nor am I the perfect yoga teacher and through my practice I'm learning to let go of the desire to be the perfect anything.
I am enough as I am.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My 14-Day Challenge Is Now 15

Days 4 and 5
I've just finished Day 4 of Do Yoga Yoga With Me's 14-day Challenge. But in reality, it's day 5. Yesterday I opted out of the online challenge in favour of Walid's 75-minute Ashtanga Yoga class at The Hundred.  I normally don't do Ashtanga yoga so I wasn't sure what to expect from this particular style as it has a reputation for being physically tough. Wow! What an amazing session. It isn't often that I get to attend a class where the instructor offers loads of helpful hints and adjustments catered to my specific needs. I felt like a beginner but for all the right reasons. It was as if I was learning all sorts of new information about my body and the way I move. It helps that I've been doing pilates with Walid since September 2016, so he is familiar with my past injuries, my strengths and areas that need improvement. (notice that I didn't use the word "weaknesses"?) Then yesterday afternoon I attended swim training with Speedo Swim Squad. Dan, one of the coaches, was so great in helping me address some strength building in my quads and hamstrings. By the end of the session, I was feeling like a strong mermaid, speeding through the lanes...okay - strong and tired - but a mermaid nonetheless!

Today I applied Walid's cues and adjustments to my Day 4 (reality Day 5) online session with Fiji McAlpine and what a difference it made in my practice! The strength I feel in my body and the overall benefit and enjoyment I got out of the session is noticeable. I think this is a lesson to me and perhaps for others that sticking with one yoga teacher or style isn't always in the best benefit for your body. Change it up, listen to the cues and advice. Also incorporating other physical movement, like swimming, jogging, tennis, etc is a great way to get a deeper understanding of how you move, what areas need more attention and what areas need to take a break. For example, I often allow my lower back to do the work when really my hamstrings and quads should be the main players. The result has been thigh muscles that aren't as strong as they should be and a lower back that is overstrained. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
I'm looking forward to incorporating what I've learned in the last couple of days with my clients.
Onward and upward!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Day 3, The GetUpDressUpShowUp Day

Last night I slept less than 5 hours and those were very restless hours of tossing and turning where I woke up several times with pain in my joints, general discomfort and a busy mind. I finally gave in and got out of bed when I heard the call to prayer echoing through our neighbourhood around 6am.
Shuffling downstairs to make my morning cup of tea, I was tempted to give Day 3 a miss on this 14-day yoga challenge. I mean, I had plenty of legitimate excuses not to do yoga today: no sleep, swollen joints, painful back, and general grumpiness. The thought of skipping my yoga practice today was dismissed almost as quickly as it popped into my mind because I kept picturing myself at the ashram in India, day in and day out having to get up, dress up and show up no matter what. I need to prepare myself physically and mentally for the challenges of the 300-hour yoga teacher training which will begin next month. This was definitely turning into a get-up-dress-up-show-up sort of day.
Around midday after running a few errands and preparing what I hope will be a delicious vegan dessert for a dinner party tonight, I decided to roll out my mat for Day 3. Within the first few minutes and to my pleasant surprise, the practice felt more accessible than it has in the last few days. I didn't have to retreat to child's pose while Fiji led me through a brief yet powerful vinyasa flow session and I felt stronger overall. It's only Day 3! Imagine how I might feel at Day 10 or by Day 14!
It seems that getting up, dressing up and showing up was better for my yoga body and mind than hiding under the covers and staying in bed. My mood has brightened, my body feels just the right balance of strength and exhaustion and my mind is alert yet uncluttered. All of this and today's practice was only about 30 minutes long.
Bring on Day 4! 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Day 2

I've just finished Day 2's 30-minute practice with Fiji McAlpine. Going into it, I felt tired and achy as I had unexpectedly covered a Yin class last night for a teacher who was ill and already had a challenging pilates session this morning. This afternoon's session with Fiji was spent going over some of the basics in alignment. I think that it is a wonderful aspect of life as a yogi that even after all these years of practicing yoga asana, there is always more to learn. The cues and reminders she gave helped me to benefit more from my practice. In turn they will also help my students as I will incorporate these insights and knowledge into my own teaching.
I often hear students make negative comments about being "Only a beginner" or asking "What do I need to do to be advanced?" Personally, I don't believe in these particular levels of yoga practice. Bodies respond differently everyday. Even the most flexible and well practiced -dare I say, advanced- yogi has days when he falls out of a posture or has difficulty getting through a basic practice. I see one's yoga practice like the ebb and flow of the tide. There are days when it seems effortless and smooth and other days when those waves come crashing to shore only to be quickly and almost violently pulled back out to sea. I definitely don't feel effortless or smooth today. In fact, it feels like months since I have felt that way. However, that is part of this life-long yogic journey. Getting through the crashing and pulling helps me to appreciate the days that my body smoothly moves from one asana to the next. Coincidently, those 'smooth days' are also the days when my mind is clear, my heart feels full and my spirit soars.
So, if you struggle to get motivated to move your body or feel frustrated with what your body won't do, take comfort in the knowledge that you're not alone. We're all on this journey together.  Why not try a class or one of the challenges on Do Yoga With Me's website? It's free, you can do it in the privacy of your own home or during your travels and there are plenty of sessions to choose from.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Getting Back on the Mat

Day 1
Over the past several months my personal yoga practice has waned. Whether it has been due to a tighter schedule, a desire to devote more time to my artwork or just feeling tired and achy, lately I seem to be able to find all sorts of reasons to leave my mat rolled up in a corner of the room to gather dust.
I still practice a once or twice per week with Liberty of Urban Yoga at HAPI or swing yoga with Deena, do pilates at The Hundred with Hened and Walid and continue to swim 2 days per week with Speedo Swim Squad but for whatever reason, I just could not motivate myself to devote regular time to yoga asana.
As a yoga teacher, I feel a sense of guilt and even hypocrisy not practicing asana at least 5 times per week.  The other day I swear I saw my yoga mat roll her eyes at me as if to say, "And you call yourself a yoga teacher?"  Last week during a conversation with a woman who was describing her 97 year-old mother who still lives independently and walks everyday, she quoted her mother as saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it!" 
With that phrase echoing in my head and the realization that I will be heading to Rishikesh, India next month to complete a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training course at Shiva Yoga Peeth, I was motivated to finally dust off the mat and give myself the kick-in-the-backside-asana. I'm a goal oriented person so being able to set even a small goal is an effective way for me to start good habits. I have used Do Yoga With Me in the past and they now have 14-day and 21-day yoga challenges so I thought, why not? It is a donation-based website so you can stream classes for free or chose to donate. You can also pay to download classes and take them with you, which is great when you're traveling. 
I've just finished Day 1 of the 14-day challenge with Fiji McAlpine leading the class. She has such a great way of giving cues and information and a really soothing voice. The practice was a very manageable 45 minutes but I must humbly admit that there were many times when I retreated to child's pose rather than do what Fiji was prompting me to do. But then again, yoga is not about keeping up with the instructor or with the other people in class, is it? It's about listening to your body, understanding what your body and mind need even if that is in conflict with what the ego wants. Now after that brief yet challenging first day, I find my yoga mat covered in hard-earned sweat, instead of dust. If she could, I think my mat might give me a 'high five.'
I'm looking forward to Day 2! 
Want to join me in this challenge? Check out and go to the 14-day challenge. If you don't use it, you'll lose it!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FREE Beach Yoga Discontinued

Over the past several weeks participation in FoYD's community based, free beach yoga classes has dwindled significantly. This is bittersweet as when I began offering free beach yoga classes five years ago, I knew of no other completely free regular group classes offered in Dubai. Fast forward to today and there are many, many community-based free yoga classes offered on the beach, in parks and in studios. You could literally participate in yoga every day of the week somewhere in Dubai without paying a single fil. It's wonderful and exactly what I had hoped would eventually happen.
So, now I am ready to hand off the baton, as it were, to my fellow Dubai yoga teachers.
I will continue to offer private individual and private group yoga classes but Wednesday night YogaWalk and Saturday Sunrise Beach Yoga will be discontinued.
If you would like private classes, please feel free to contact me. I offer the following types of yoga & meditation:
  • Hatha
  • Hatha Flow
  • Yin Yoga
  • Pre/Post-natal Yoga
  • Gentle Yoga
  • Guided Meditation and Walking Meditation
  • Yoga for back pain
  • Yoga for Members of the Military/Law Enforcement and for Victims of Trauma
Thank you for sharing the beach yoga practice with me. It has been an absolute joy to be part of your yoga journey and I hope to continue to share the practice with you in private lessons.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rain, rain and more rain for Dubai

17 Feb 2017
The rain is still coming down!
Due to the ongoing and expected rain, Saturday Sunrise Beach Yoga is cancelled for Saturday, 18 February 2018. Weather permitting, our outdoor yoga classes will resume next week. Namaste.