Q and A a Day, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Ham on Rye, Catch-22, The Best of Roald Dahl, Norwegian Wood

Why I Always Carry A Book Around

Personal, Wellbeing

A friend of mine recently asked me this question: “Why do you think we should always keep a book with ourselves? I personally feel that it a good way of staying in isolation and leading life with someone’s else’s experience. I love books and respect the fact that it gives lots of knowledge but I also feel we slowly become book worms and speak very bookish language and forget ourselves. What do you think?”

For as long as I can remember, books have been a hugely important part of my life. Throughout my whole career as a student, I always brought a book to school with me. I kept it on the corner of my desk to read whenever I finished a test early or to read during recess. I always have one in my purse, whether I’m going to a quiet social gathering with my friends or to some bigger function. Books are an essential and enormous part of me, and maybe because of this, I can’t fathom spending life as a non-reader.

Are Books Isolating?

I think that whether carrying a book around at all times depends on whether or not you think isolation is a bad thing or not. As an introvert, it’s always a comfort for me to have a book on hand so that if I’m feeling exhausted in a social situation, I can retreat into a book and find some privacy there. I don’t even necessarily need to read the book for it to be a comfort for me. Just having it around is nice. Furthermore, it’s usually the people that I’m closest to who I’m comfortable sitting and reading, enjoying companionable silence with.

I also don’t think that having a book on hand has to be isolating. In fact, I often find that it can be a topic for conversation when I’m out and about. I’ll get questions from strangers asking what I’m reading or if I see somebody reading something that looks interesting to me I’ll ask them about it. Books can actually serve as a way for me to connect with the people around me who I would normally be too shy to talk to!

Stories Make Us More Empathetic

Reading stories exposes us to the life stories, experiences, and emotions of the people we read about. There are many lives I’ve read about that I wouldn’t necessarily want to live for myself, but that I am grateful for having read about. By reading books written by different people and from their different perspectives, I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse into so many lives and am better able to imagine things from their points-of-view. If you want a little more info, check out this video

Books are one of my greatest joys, and reading is a very meditative experience for me. I don’t think there’s any thing wrong with being a bookworm or connecting with others over a story. Many of my friendships have been built through a mutual love for books!

class full of yogis

Yoga Problems: My First Yoga Class

Personal, Yoga

If you haven’t noticed, keeping the blog updated has been a bit tricky as of late. There have been some fun and new things going on lately, so I thought I would leave you with this quick update.

I got to do something super awesome about a month ago – I taught my first public yoga class! This was a huge and hugely scary accomplishment for me, and I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it will help any aspiring yoga instructors who happen upon this to feel more enthusiastic and better prepared for their own first classes. 

Tackling Stage Fright

One of the first issues that comes to my mind in regard to teaching is the dreaded stage fright. Something I may or may not have mentioned here before (Have I? Ugh, my failing memory…) is that I have a crippling fear of public speaking. This is one of the big reasons why I wanted to do teacher training in the first place. I know that I have things I want to share with people, but this is significantly more difficult when you forget how to speak English while faced with an audience. Even if it is an audience of one! I wanted to become more confident in myself, more comfortable and excited to share, and challenge myself to do something that I could hardly imagine myself capable of. And so I did it!

Preparation

A good teacher training program will help you feel ready to start teaching and your first class will feel like the next natural step. The program that I took was 4 months long, and we spent that time putting together our first classes and teaching it to one another in pairs and small groups. I remember when I first demonstrated Warrior II to a partner, I could see my front hand shaking uncontrollably. I wanted to smack it accompanied by a firm admonishment, “You stop that, hand!” While the jitters hadn’t completely dispersed by the time I taught my presentation class, they had died down to giant butterflies and profuse sweating. But at least the trembling had stopped! I felt ready (as ready as one can feel in that situation) to teach because of all the practice we had done both inside and outside of teacher training, aided by the presence of my amazing support system and the opening of my class with many a deep breath.

Have a Support System

My presentation class was composed of my fellow teacher trainees along with several members of my family and friends. The really cool thing about this particular group was, while I was busy agonizing and massively working myself up about it, one of the big things that helped to calm me down was the knowledge that I would be surrounded by people who love me. These people have been supportive and excited for me throughout the whole YTT journey, and they wanted to see me succeed. This was powerful stuff, for me, when I was truly struggling not to panic.

Pranayama (Breath Work)

The breath work we did at the beginning of class (and working to maintain long, even breaths throughout class) was also extremely helpful in soothing my nerves. Deep breathing is pretty freaking magical. Not only is it calming, taking some time during the day to take some slow and deep breaths offers all of these other amazing benefits you can expect:

  • Improved sleep, energy, and immunity
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved concentration,  memory, attention, and learning efficiency 
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Decreased feelings of depression and anxiety

Mistakes

I am sure I have many a lesson to learn throughout my yoga career, but here are some important ones learned during my first class:

  1. Don’t take your child’s pose while trying to teach it. Yoga mats, I quickly discovered, are a fairly sound absorbent material and will muffle the crap out of your voice.
  2. Things I felt I was doing really slowly went really quickly for students who were new to yoga. Vice versa, when I was teaching these things to more experienced students during teacher training, some of them mentioned that I was holding the poses for a bit too long. I also found that the length of time I was holding poses was difficult to gauge during my presentation class probably due to nerves. You can’t please everyone!
  3. Next time I teach, I might actually try looking at my  students while teaching! There were so many different things to focus on what with remembering my sequence and the cues to go along with it that I had trouble coming out of my head to check out what the class was doing. I know that all of this this will come with practice and I’m not too hung up about it. 

Now that YTT is over, I should be able to update more which I’m looking forward to! I also can’t wait to get teaching and to continue learning and growing this new part of my life.

Hope your holiday season is going swimmingly! See you in 2015! 
xxoo

 

yoga problems: tight hamstrings, annemariedixon.com

Yoga Problems: Tight Hamstrings

Personal, Yoga

In my so-far brief yoga career, there is one large and particular area that keeps coming back to haunt me: my impossibly tight hamstrings. In the few years I’ve been practising, I have noticed very little release and improvement in this region. I have always had very tight hamstrings. I know this because I have a clear memory of being the only child in my ballet class who wept when the time came to do hamstring stretches.

Flash forward to now: I’ve been in yoga teacher training (YTT) since September in which there have been some really wonderful opportunities to focus on improving our personal approach to and alignment in specific postures. It has really been an exercise of checking my ego at the door because as it turns out, my tight hamstrings have turned me into something of a contortionist. By this I mean that without even realizing it, I’ve been cheating my way into many a posture by taking the load off of my hamstrings and dumping them into some other more willing body part.

Our YTT session last Sunday, for instance, consisted of 5 hours of arm balances and inversions. I have a pretty strong upper body, so I’m typically quite happy and comfortable to be upside down and balancing on my hands. I found out on Sunday that while I’m able to “get into” postures like eka pada kundinyasana and astavakrasana (eight-angle pose), all this time I’ve been taking the brunt of the work into anywhere but my hamstrings! And don’t even get me started about how my hamstrings feel in my Warrior I.

I often catch my ego telling me, “Push! Get into that funky arm balance whatever it takes!” But I know that if I want to move forward in certain postures and avoid injury, I have to reign in my ego and focus on my alignment by putting the effort back into the right body parts, namely my hamstrings.

My goal is to spend more time focusing on my hamstrings both in classes, and in designing my personal practice at home. Today, I worked with this hamstring flexibility video, which I found quite challenging. The postures are simple, but my hammies were definitely fired and working. If you’re hamstrings are in need of a stretch, and you want to give this video a try, I would recommend doing some warm up beforehand as the video jumps right into deep stretching.

Do you have a trouble spot in your yoga practice? What are you doing about it? And if there are any hamstring helpers you can recommend, I would love to hear about them!

Until next time! xxoo

Oh She Glow's nutty granola clusters with yogurt and green apple slices

Ode to Autumn

Holidays, Personal

Autumn is my favourite season because there seems to be so much potential in the air. I don’t know if it’s the the remnants of childhood nostalgia for each new school year, but ever since I’ve always felt excited for fall. It could be because the colder weather tends to keep me cooped up inside that I don’t feel at all guilty for taking advantage of that time to do indoor activities like curling up with a book, or settling into a writing session with a cup of coffee. Here is my ode to autumn, a list of some of my favourite autumnal things:

Bundling. Layering. Nesting. Cuddling.

I love the crisp and chilly air this time of year. My current uniform consists of giant scarves, leg warmers, fingerless gloves and wool socks. My bed looks like a bird’s nest of pillows and blankets (I have, approximately, 7 pillows in my bed, 3 couch throws, and a duvet). This time of year begs for cuddling. It starts to get dark so early, which is perfect for spending many an hour curled up in my bed fort and winding down.

Side plank at Tiffany Falls, Ancaster, Ontario

Warm, comforting foods and familial feasting.

By the time autumn hits, I’m usually pretty over green salads. These days, I’m all about soups and stews, hot beverages, hearty salads (featuring warming add-ons like goat cheese, toasted nuts and seeds, roasted veggies, and whole grains), and comfort foods like this granola! I used the Nutty Granola Clusters recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out!

Oh She Glow's nutty granola clusters with yogurt and green apple slices

granola with nuts and dried fruit on yogurt

Florence + the Machine’s Ceremonials

This is my quintessential soundtrack to cold weather. There are elements of magic and fantasy throughout the whole album, with a tendency toward the sparkly and haunting. Florence’s voice floats effortlessly through a huge range of tonal qualities. Her voice transitions from loud and abrasive to quiet and choral, plus a bit of everything in between. My favourite song on the album is ‘Seven Devils’. There is a beautiful variety of songs on this album, but ‘Seven Devils’ is the stand out, in my opinion. I usually listen to Ceremonials in order, but I’m always excited for ‘Seven Devils’ to come on, though I usually do my best to resist the urge to skip through to it because I know it will be worth the wait. This song is filled with these big cacophonous sounds like someone is banging on the bass end of a piano, layered with some gorgeous dissonance and next level creepiness. Like, give-you-nightmares creepy. Which brings me to my next favourite thing.

Spooky Halloween stuff.

I love the air of spookiness that hangs around during the colder months. In addition to surrounding myself with creepy music, I love the Halloween decorations that people put out on their lawns and drape their homes with. I especially love a good horror novel, like my most recent read, “Let Me In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It’s this super dark and disturbing Swedish novel, and it’s an amazing read if you don’t feel like sleeping at night. 

I have to say, I’m a bit worried. I hope to enjoy autumn for several more weeks. I felt a pang of panic when I heard this morning that we’d be getting some snow this weekend. Ugh, I’m not ready. 

Bald Head Island: A Gratitude Journal

Personal, Photo Diary, Travel

I recently returned from a week-long vacation on Bald Head Island. If you haven’t heard of this magical place, it’s a small island off the North Carolina coast. There are very few cars on the island (police vehicles, garbage trucks, maintenance, etc); everyone gets around on golf carts and bicycles. It’s a relaxed, slow-paced, wonderful place to be. And these are some of the things I miss the most:

entering the harbor on the ferry to BHI

Living on beach time. 

the coastscoping out beach houses

Listening to my body – napping whenever it felt right, guerrilla yoga whenever I felt like it.

beach and ocean inspired decor

Beach reads. Gratitude journaling. Coffee. A little trio of perfection.

latte, gratitude journal, beach book

Daily ice cream runs. Duh.

key lime pie and meyer lemon cardamom ice cream sandwiches

chewy, creamy, refreshing, and decadent ice cream sandwiches!

Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Investigating jumping fish and discovering the cause of their jumping: a pod of dolphins making their way by! Throw in some tiny shark sightings and you’ve got a perfect day!

rolling clouds over the atlantic

sunglasses and beach hair

Creating amateur beach art.

heart-shaped seashell mosaic

Contributing to and partaking in delicious food.

green smoothie, breakfast wrap with black beans and quinoa

The coolest wildlife. Everywhere you look.

the smallest lizard I've ever seen

our local golf course  swamp gator

Stumbling upon a sea turtle nest excavation on our last night on the island. Unfortunately, most of these shots came out quite blurry. Baby sea turtles are squirmy little things, after all.

freshly excavated baby sea turtle 3 baby sea turtles squirming in the sand baby sea turtles struggling through the sand out to sea

Night after night of incredible sunset after incredible sunset. 

sun setting over the atlantic oceanAnd of course, spending the week having super cool conversations with amazing people. Miss you all already. xx