Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Outreach Yoga Challenge - Day 1 Half moon smiles

After eating my own body weight in a delicious wholesome organic Thanksgiving dinner for seventeen Hungrymoose, my plan to start the Outreach Yoga challenge today with some introductory mobility yoga to start to open up the body goes straight in the bin. I have a food hangover, and memories of giving a friend ‘backie’ home at 1am on my bike, ten blocks with hills included, laughing our pinot noir filled heads off, are evident today in my aching thigh muscles. To make things clearer Ignacio is a friend of mine aged 45 <cough> not 12, and the last time I gave anyone a ride on the back of my bike, it was on my chopper and Tracy Morris was the victim of being convinced the ‘ramp’ I’d made at the bottom of the hill would make a cool jump for us. She wasn’t allowed to stay at our house for a while after going home broken and bruised.

So I balanced the karma by dragging my aching body out of bed, looking at the mountains, smiling with gratitude and biking to the midday Vinyasa Power Flow class at Semperviva at Kitsilano beach, my local Yoga studio. Vinyasa Flow classes are energetic, lively, and flowing, synchronising the breath with movement, they build strength, flexibility and concentration whilst cleansing the body and calming the mind. I got my ass truly kicked!
The class was busy, around 40 people, but the intimacy isn’t lost as our Teacher begins by asking us to introduce ourselves to the people around us on their mats. I lose the urge to squirm as a pretty face next to me says ‘I know you, you’re name is Michelle’ I immediately loosen up, why the resistance in the first place? I blame the hangover. The pretty face is a sweet Irish girl I met who works in Semperviva when I joined up, it’s amazing what being recognised and greeted with a kind face feels like for a stranger in a new city.  Kindness releases serotonin in your brain, the good feeling hormone, and that act of kindness works like a domino effect, releasing serotonin in someone else’s brain, yeah feels good huh? Smile at a stranger, pass it on, start a reciprocal vibe and spread those serotonins.  I remember the innocent love of the kids I met in Goa, India, so happy and eager to smile and be noticed and be loved back. Thats the good thing about a big yoga class, is all that kindness and love energy all in one room being generated bouncing off every wall from you to you, it’s a natural high J
‘A positive attitude to gratitude brings opportunities’

This sticks in my mind as our class ramps up to full flow, lots of 3 legged downdogs, lunge work, twists, side planks and movie stars, and way too many navasana’s, its empowered me to come to more of these classes not just for the physical challenge (although my ego struggled there) but for the rush of being amongst yoginis losing yourself to the present moment of yoga. The natural flow of movement my body finds with Vinyasa flow feels so good (aside from wobbling in Half Moon). We could all go to those challenging poses, the ones that we fall from, lose the ego and just try it, falling is a part of learning, learning is a part of laughing. Off the yoga mat, if you’re having a difficult day or something is bothering you, try doing something good for someone else, then
rethinking how you feel J I took savasana in butterfly pose on a flat back rather than traditional corpse, my hips really felt good being opened so much. Yoga is about what YOUR body needs, not the persons next to you, so listen to it, it will tell you and feel so much better when you listen and enjoy the meditation aspect deeper and free of the minds chatter J

Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana):  For those that are unfamiliar with Half Moon pose, stand in triangle pose and slowly press your front foot and hand into the floor and straighten front leg tipping the body forwards, whilst lifting the back leg off the mat parallel to the floor. Rotate upper torso upwards, most of weight should be on the standing leg with your fingers skimming the floor for balance, challenge yourself by moving the hand completely. Actively elongate your raised leg from your hip through your heel keeping it strong.  Look up to your raised straight arm to the ends of your fingers! Avoid locking your standing knee, avoid turning the kneecap of your standing leg inward – your kneecap should be aligned straightforward. This intermediate pose will strengthen your spine, abdominals, ankles, thighs and bum. It will stretch groin, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest and spine. It improves your sense of balance and can relieve stress and stimulate digestion, perfect for the Thanksgiving food splurge.

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? In the UK we have Harvest Festival, a time when the crops are harvested and childhood memories of donating food for parcels sent to the poor, I always remember mum giving us a tin of beans or something to take into school. Considering beans were mostly what we lived off, it was a generous donation J I’ve asked a couple of people what Thanksgiving means here, they too are unsure, aside from consuming way too much food and drink. Now is a good time to think about those who don’t have ‘enough’ food, what could you really do for someone like that? What would it take for you to help? You could start here and make a donation J http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=14769 . This charity supports many homeless hungry people, or you could give to other amazing charities like ‘Save a child’ the African appeal, or any charity that you feel passionate about, or take part in something proactive to encourage awareness. Maybe you could just start by becoming aware of ‘how’ much food you eat, ‘what’ type of food you eat, or even more importantly how much food we ‘waste’. Awareness is key and the start to awakening. What are you thankful for?

Some great nutrition advice for today and everyday is to drink warm lemon water, clean filtered water with half a fresh lemon, first thing in the morning to activate digestion and kick start your body with a citrus zing! This is the best way to start your day, before you eat your breakfast, or do anything J You can reuse the lemon all day, and have the same drink 15 minutes before each meal to ensure efficient digestion, and proper absorption of nutrients and vitamins you are nourishing your body with. You will really feel the difference in your body, lighter and full of life!
My evening was spent with Fiona Barry (Gav’s/Laura’s Aunt and Uncle, from Ireland but living in Deep Cove, Vancouver) and her family, watching a film made by her daughter in-law and son (who also co directed Twilight for all you Edward fans out there) at the Vancouver Film Festival. ‘Hamlet’, the adaptation, was shot in just 3 days and was superbly acted. Although I was expecting some brain gymnastics, it was actually very easy to follow and great to watch. An interesting raunchy sex scene in the first 10 seconds was uncomfortable being sat next to Uncle Derek whom Id only met once, but the steamy corridor frenzied romp was soon forgotten when the plot deepens into Hamlet’s madness. Then The Universe goes and delivers the relevance of life again when you might have not being paying attention for a moment;
‘To BE or not to BE, that is the question?’
BE. Everytime. All the time J
Thanks for following my challenge, hope you enjoyed Day 1! J

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