A Letter to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2

cazbaz

Dear Jane and Jane

I’m so very sorry for all that you are going through right now and over the past while and all the circumstances that have brought you to file a civil suit against you-know-who. I can’t imagine what you are going through but I’m pretty sure it’s hideous. Literally unimaginable.

Sitting in the midst of my relatively comfortable urban professional life in London I can’t even picture how things would change if I was put in your position. I’d probably lose it completely.

So, I wanted to say hi and I’m sorry and thank you and congratulations and be strong and I hope you find light somehow and please know that if I knew you personally I would do whatever was in my power to help. As it is, this may be all I can do.

Since I heard – via a twitter friend – two evenings…

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“Keep your steadiness.”

“The terrain keeps changing, it’s not smooth all the time. So, don’t get disturbed by these things. You keep your practice. Keep your steadiness in whatever terrain comes into your life. Keep on practicing yoga. Never leave practicing yoga. That is how we balance ourselves in whatever difficult times or happy times. So I want you to enjoy that, keep that steadiness until I see you again. May God bless you all with lots of happiness–and sorrow, sometimes…”

~ R. Sharath Jois, ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ grandson

‘Do your practice and all is coming.’

I have found a new love.

There.  I said it.

I have finally fallen for Ashtanga yoga.  It took me awhile.  In fact, there was a point where I didn’t think it would really happen for me.  But something changed.

One day, after watching a few online videos to help deepen my backbends, I stumbled upon Ashtanga videos that piqued my interest.  I’ve attended a few Ashtanga classes in the past, but I didn’t really understand this yoga discipline then.  I had difficulty with the varied posture sequences from teacher to teacher, and my very typical Bikram yogi self struggled.  I’m used to structure.  I don’t do well with random postures.  Or spontaneity (that’s only reserved for travelling).

After some more research, I realized it wasn’t as complicated as I had initially thought.  Surya Namaskar A and B.  Primary Series.  Intermediate.  Etc.

Every time.

Six days a week.  First thing in the morning.  No randomness at all.  It was only random because I didn’t go to an actual Ashtanga shala.  Ahhh!

I was drawn by the discipline, the rigour, but also the accessibility of it.  I didn’t HAVE to do all of it?!  I can add one posture when I’m ready?  And I can take longer than 5 breaths if needed?  Yet it’s still all so organized and structured?  Holy cow.  The more I read, the more I was drawn.  Could I possibly do it at home too…?

Well, it just so happened that my mat was home for the day for some cleaning, when I usually leave it at the studio.

Serendipity.

After years of avoiding it, I finally managed a home practice.  Not with my usual Bikram series, but with the Ashtanga Primary Series.  And I haven’t stopped since.  I love how it motivates me to practice at home, even at 2am.  I love how challenging it is but you are never so far removed from experiencing a posture – modified or not.  I love the silence.  I love that it has given me a different sense of ownership of my practice – where I feel like I can practice anywhere, anytime.  As much as I love Bikram yoga (hello, I teach it), it has never excited me enough to do it outside of the studio except once.  Ashtanga is a completely different story.

While I haven’t quite reached a daily morning Ashtanga practice (balancing it with my Bikram practice is a bit tough), I am so eager and curious to keep going.  I feel a loss when I’m unable to practice which makes me even more hungry to get back on my mat.  I look forward to adding a posture each day.   I feel at peace – and I haven’t felt this way about yoga except for Bikram.

Here’s a video of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga master leading the Primary Series.  I’ve seen this video many, many times and it only *clicked* for me this time around.  The universe does have a way of finding us when we’re ready :).

***Please note that the video is not to be substituted for a trained teacher.  I am familiar with some of the poses from the advanced Bikram series to get me through, but I will eventually go to a studio when I can.***

Loosening the grip: The pain of slowing down

I’ve been missing my hatha yoga lately.  Bikram, as you know is my yoga of choice.  Work, studying, and teaching is the formula I’ve been running as of late.

Unfortunately, I’ve been practicing less and less so when I do get my chance in the hot room, I push as far as I can go.  I want sweat dripping and pooling around me.  I want to go to my edge in the postures so I can go further next time.  I don’t allow myself to sit.

Until I am forced to.

The crappy mix of little practice, lots of work, not enough rest, too much intensity has finally caught up to me in the form of  illness.  Twice.  In a month.

Naturally, I had anger and frustration, as this has taken away what little practice I could squeeze in.  I was a yogi.  A teacher.  I needed my practice.  So at first I didn’t let it stop me.  I dragged myself to class, when I could.  It wasn’t an ego thing, but more of a ‘maximize what I can in the little time what I have’ thing.  I cram as much as I can into my days, as if the days are shoeboxes being filled with old photographs.  Yoga was in that shoebox.

What I had realized after my last disastrous Bikram class, was that I have been spinning and running and working so hard that I crossed the line between dedication and obsession.  I’ve been so focused on certain goals that I had applied the same level of intensity into everything else around me including yoga.  And I’ve become unforgiving to anything and anyone that got in my way.

But like any grip that is too tight, or a plant that receives too much sun or water, intensity can be harmful.  Even Bikram says ‘too good is no good!’

It gave me some food for thought: are my struggles lately been because of too tight a grip on those goals?  Would I have more success if I eased up a bit?  Am I willing to take a chance that I’m not going to fail if I slow down a just a little bit?

My challenge now is taking a step back, see what I might gain.

Only time will tell, and I’m resisting the urge to shove that into the shoebox, too.

Humble adventures in urban gardening

Last year, I started my first balcony garden and loved it. At first I thought I was going to forego the garden this year, but the thought of a grey, dull balcony on a sunny summer day just did not sound appealing to me.

So here I am again, ready to get my hands dirty. I was a newbie (still am), and of course I made lots of mistakes.

Here are some of the things I worked with last year:

1. My balcony is very windy, so I was constantly working to keep my soil healthily moist.
2. My balcony faces north, so sun exposure isn’t as ideal as a south-facing balcony. Unless I move, there’s not much I can do. Luckily, I get part of the West sun so the afternoon sun sustains my plants fairly decently.
3. My containers were decent size but I think my plants could have benefitted from bigger pots.
4. I started my seedlings later in spring, which meant a later harvest.
5. I grew tired of the gardening chores by August, so I wasn’t as attentive near the end.

Despite my blunders, I did enjoy harvesting cherry and vine tomatoes (one plant even grew taller than me!), basil, mint, cilantro, and arugula. This year, I’m adding radishes, beets, hot peppers, Thai basil, and marigolds to the original crops. I’m considering more, but I think I have to keep myself contained before I go a wee bit overboard. My balcony isn’t that big!

As you can see, my urban garden is pretty humble. I don’t believe in spending a whole lot of money for planting stuff. I think gardening should be as accessible as it can be to encourage more people to discover their green thumbs which leads to a healthier environment. The only things I spent money on were for soil ($12), containers from the dollar store ($12), lavender and Thai basil seeds ($6 for both, which didn’t even grow!), starter plant for mint ($1.49), and a trellis for my tomatoes ($1). A friend sent me a big package of seeds that will last me ’til eternity and I used seeds from organic cherry tomatoes from my salad.

I’m also thinking of starting vermi-composting (composting using worms) to give my plants nourishment. Last year, I added dried seaweed (ground), epsom salt (diluted in water), used tea leaves, and ground eggshells to the soil every few weeks and the plants responded well to them. Imagine what good, yummy compost can do! I didn’t use any fertilizers because…well, I’m not a big fan of it.  I can’t justify paying a ridiculous amount for shipped worms so I’ve contacted local people who raise for worms for personal use to see if I can buy some from them. Plus, I don’t want 30-50 LBS of worms and castings. I have nowhere to put that.

I am reusing the containers, trellis, and have a ton of seeds left. I did buy a few more seeds, and of course soil. I used toilet paper rolls and used coffee cups for seed starters, and saving used cans as containers. I’ve offered seed exchanges, but to be honest, almost none of my friends/coworkers garden so I have no one to exchange seeds with :(. (If you’re in downtown Toronto and want to do garden/seed exchange, just leave a comment below.)

Last thing, something I am looking forward to is finally growing beets. I just love beets!

Anyways, thanks for stopping by. Here’s to a healthy growing season and hope to hear about your gardens soon.

A Quote

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Happy International Women’s Day!!

fem·i·nist: [femuh-nist]
adjective
1. advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
noun
2. an advocate of such rights.

Happy International Women's Day!!

Artist: Mari Naomi

To all those who make the world a better place for the marginalized and the oppressed, thank you. Because of those who fought for our rights, I can vote, study, have access to abortion. Hopefully within this century, I will earn equal pay for equal work with my male counterparts.

Happy International Women’s Day!!

Article: How To Exercise Out Of Self-Love And Not Due To Fat-Shaming

I found this wonderful article that speaks volumes on women’s relationship with their bodies. It’s also heaps more eloquent that I could ever express my thoughts on the topic.

Thanks to Sarah Ogden (whom I don’t know personally) from Everyday Feminism.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Being a kind-of-curvy lady poses some challenges at the gym, where is where I do most of my exercising.  Most people assume that I’m there for the sole purpose of losing weight and would never consider that I might be there to take care of my body…

…The assumption that someone with curves would only exercise to lose weight is really harmful and hurtful.  It completely negates what we already know – that self care is a vital piece of survival and that bullying people into weight loss doesn’t work.

Study after study has shown that there are more effective ways to measure health than to just focus on someone’s weight and/or BMI.  And yet, when we talk about health, we usually discuss it in terms of these numbers.  But really, health and being healthy means so much more.  We need to move the conversation around exercise away from weight loss and shift the focus onto health and wellness.

Spot. Frigging. On.

“‎Our passion is always in pursuit of us.”

A busy bee this yogi is lately but I thought quickly I’d share a video I recently viewed. It’s worth a watch, I promise.

‘Turn towards those broken places and let those be the cracks that let the light in.’ – Stephanie Snyder

Food, unconditionally

resized

I’ve always loved food.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up in a culture where food is central to our traditions, customs, and norms.  While my family has worked hard to shield me and other relatives from hunger, I was a child in a country where having enough to eat was a daily struggle for many around us.

Even with poverty a real threat, nourishment was a priority.  Always.

But despite the scarcity of resources and the influx of cheap, processed foods marketed towards the poor, our people never failed to celebrate with our traditional foods.  Holidays, important dates, birthdays, a good work day, high marks in school – all have been reasons to busy the kitchens and fill our tables.  In fact, poverty has strengthen our value for food, so much so that leaving even just one grain of rice on your plate is a huge sign of disrespect.  Scarcity made us respect anything that is put on the table.

This is what food has always meant to me.  Culture.  History.  Traditions.  Celebration.  Respect.

I share with you this because as I look around me and the communities I belong in, conversations about food reflect very little of that.  Most conversations around food in the mainstream involve diets and health.  Worst of all, diet and health have been used as if they are interchangeable things – to which they are not.

But I’m not going to argue about what is healthy and what is not.  I trust that we are all  capable of making these decisions for ourselves.

Food, a symbol of bounty of nature and richness of the soil, has become a method of control: to police our behaviours, to make ourselves feel bad for a pound gained, to create a moral high ground through the condemnation others who eat differently.  With the exception of a very, very small group of people I know, this is the general attitude I have observed around me.

Being a yoga teacher also gives me an access pass to the yoga community.  I have seen just as much eating disorders with my fellow yogis as anywhere else.  Practicing yoga does not give you a health immunity.  In fact, I feel like the world is suffering from a big, giant eating disorder masked as health consciousness!  That is quite sad.

So I ask this question: Is this is where we want to be at?  My ancestors would shake their head.  I think yours would too.

If we continue to base our happiness on the number of calories we failed to eliminate, the minutes we spent exercising, the numbers stitched on the back of our clothing, this will only shape our relationship with food for the worse.  And food deserves more than that.

Instead, I ask that you remember what it’s like to love food unconditionally, to remember what foods makes you happy.  Strip it down to the basics, keep it simple.  Start from there and see where it takes you.

Oh and one last thing: I take a very serious offense to the naming of eating meat murder.  This is not only a narrowed view of the world, but has racist, xenophobic, privileged undertones…or overtones.  Please stop policing my food and focus on your own plate.