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Ok, so NaYoPracMo really wasn’t a success. At least not in the sense that most people hear it. I do believe that this month was pretty amazing for my yoga practice (not necessarily my asana practice), on a totally different level. But I haven’t practice once since my teacher training 10 days ago. To be honest, my stomach feels like it’s in my throat right now. Digestion is really difficult, and my breath is more shallow than usual, constantly (I guess it’s hard to breathe with your stomach in your throat). So no asana.

I’m still having moments when I doubt I’m pregnant. Or I read stories about miscarriages and empty eggs, and I worry. My first doctor appointment is on February 22 — in just 3 weeks. I guess that’s pretty soon, and then I’ll probably feel relieved and much better.

I need to at least get my morning meditation practice back. I lost it sometime before the holidays — I just couldn’t get up early enough to do it before work anymore. For a while, I couldn’t get up before 8:00 (I officially start work at 9:00… I would get to the office around 9:30). I’m gradually getting up earlier again. First it was 7:45, now it’s 7:30, hopefully it’ll be 7:15 and 7:00 again soon — To think one of my new year resolutions was to get up at 6 a.m. every day of the week!

So in short, I’m struggling with wake up time, nausea and various digestive problems (all day long), extreme fatigue and a non-existant asana practice… but it’s all gonna be sooooo worth it!

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I fell off the wagon. Big time. Missed practices 11 to 17. I couldn’t find the energy, or couldn’t be bothered, or a bit (a lot?) of both at the same time.

Early this week I felt weird, sick, dizzy, vaguely nauseous, and very space. My period was a few days late, but I didn’t want to get overexcited. I was almost 2 weeks late in November, with lots of imaginary pregnancy symptoms, when I finally got my period.

I took a test yesterday. It instantly turned positive. I took another one this morning, just to be sure. Instant positive. Bought another brand, which I took tonight. The test line hadn’t even appeared yet that it was a bright positive. I’m pregnant!

Dutchboy and I are in shock, and we certainly can’t realize what’s happening. I’m only 3 weeks into the pregnancy (5 according to the doctors), it’s so early still. But I had to tell my two closest friends, my sister, and a few colleagues. It’s too many emotions to keep just for ourselves.

A corporate yoga class started tonight, so I got my first practice in a week — and as a pregnant woman. Besides the fact that I was worried of working my abs muscles too much or doing something wrong, I had a hard time in the class. The teacher is a girl I know and she’s really nice, but I couldn’t stop but criticize her in my head during the whole class.

It was a mixed-level class: some people had done yoga before, some hadn’t. She didn’t ask who had and who hadn’t, she didn’t ask for special conditions, she taught a regular class with a lot of (what would be perceived by beginners as) complex movements, and two things that bothered me a lot: she spoke in “I” (I raise my leg, I tuck my belly…), and she did all of the poses at the same time as the group, sometimes looking in the same direction as us while being in front of the class (therefore not seeing anyone). Maybe it’s just the matter sinking in? Still, I should be more tolerant.

Did I mention that I am pregnant?

1. The start. What brought you to yoga?
To make a long story short, I had cancer (neuroblastoma) in 1980, at the age of 6 months. As a result of that cancer, my right ankle is partly paralyzed and I have a drop foot. Chemo and radiation also caused my spine to grow into a severe scoliosis, for which I had a spine fusion in 1993 (all my thoracic and lombar down to L3 vertebreas are fused together). With a body different from most people’s, I was always able to practice physical activities, but in my own way, and within my own limitations. However, after the surgery, I took many, many years to fully recover, always feeling pain or discomfort — if not in my body, then in my conception of my body. In 2003, after considering it for a while, I finally found the guts to call the local yoga studio, expose my situation, and ask it they thought yoga could be for me. The woman I spoke to on the phone had a very warm voice, very comforting, and told me “You don’t adapt to yoga, yoga adapts to you.” She recommended a specific class, I told her I’d be there, and so I went.

2. First class. Describe your first class(es) or practice and your reaction to it.
On the night of my first class, I was extremely nervous (I developped anxiety problems after the surgery), but I went nonetheless. I was greeted by the woman I spoke to on the phone, who introduced me to the teacher — who already knew of my condition and made me feel very at ease. I was instructed to put my mat at the back of the class, to have a better view of more experimented students. When the class started, to my great surprise, Helene (the manager of the studio, whom I had spoken to on the phone and who had greeted me), kneeled next to me and throughout the class, showed me variations of the most basic poses, that I couldn’t even do like a normal beginner back then. 90 minutes with individual assistance… It made me feel very cared for, and also very emotional. We did what they called “frog” pose; a preparation for downward-facing dog. I remember feeling all the blood rushing down to my face and, with it, all the emotions as well. In Savasana, again, I felt really emotional. After class, as soon as I sat down in my car, I bursted into tears, crying like a baby all the way home. I had never felt like this in my life: it felt like my whole body had released. Something happened. Something good, that brought up a lot of emotions. The next week, I was back, on my mat.

3. The addiction. How/why did you get hooked?
After two months, I was already going to two classes a week. The Wednesday night class, the first one I registered to, soon got very demanding, and I loved it. Of course, I was unable to do a lot of simple things. We were preparing to do poses like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Chandrasana with our foot up against the wall, and even that was something I couldn’t do (my foot won’t stay flat against the wall — just like it won’t stay flat if I squat). But I was also working out way of doing the poses in my own way, and reaping the benefits. My second class was on Saturday mornings, with another great teacher. Then, one week, I couldn’t make it on the Saturday, so I went on the Friday night. My first class with Nicole Bordeleau — it was another revelation. We worked so damn hard, but she had a way of teaching, of putting things into perspective, of adjusting people, of walking nearby, looking you in eyes and congratulating you on your courage (never on the perfection of the pose; this is not about performance). I started going every Friday night instead of Saturdays. It was nothing against the Saturday teacher. It was just that I needed to practice with Nicole, she was just the right match for me. In January 2004, I was going to 3 classes a week.

4. The history. Describe the development of your practice and history with teachers since then.
My practice of 3 times a week hasn’t always been consistent. It’s difficult to commit to that many practices when there’s university, work, friends, and boyfriend. But even when I’m not practicing, I’m reading about yoga, writing about it, or talking about it. It’s always been part of my life since class #1, and I feel extremely passionate about it. Within a very short time, I went from wanting to get out of my body (it would be so much easier if I was bodyless… just a floating head, maybe?), to wanting to be in it as much as possible. I discovered that being in my head was what made me suffer, and that when I finally integrated my body, I realized there wasn’t so much pain or discomfort as I imagined. I took a first yoga workshop, with Hart Lazer, reknowned Canadian teacher, in May 2004. It was then that I did my first supported Urdhva Dhanurasana — realizing that even with the spine fusion, the possibilities were endless. That was another moment when I came up and felt the tears rushing. Through my practice, I also realized that although some parts of my body were weak (my right leg, my back muscles), they also made me very flexible and I was able to do this a lot of people weren’t. I’ve been to a lot of classes where I was the only one able to bind in Baddha Padmassana; and Janu Sirsasana A on the left side is extremely easy, too. I’m very flexible in the hips — touching the forehead to the floor in Baddha Konasana is almost effortless, and the back stays straight by default (the steel rods give me an advantage!). I also found out that my arms were very strong. I do a solid Chaturanga Dandasana, and all the inversions are a lot of fun for me. I get a kick out of having my head upside down, and staying in downward facing dog for 5 minutes is more of a psychological challenge than a physical one.

Being encouraged by all of these beautiful discoveries, I started to attend as many workshops as I could — yoga or meditation, with Nicole or guest teachers. I soon started being interested by the possibility of one day teaching yoga, realizing that my “disabilities” could actually give me the tools to facilitate the well-being of others through yoga, in the same way my teachers were doing for me. Most importantly, I finally accepted my body and its specifics, and I was at peace with it. I was able to look in the mirror, see the spine deviation (not visible for many, but definitely for me), see the scars all over my torso, and my atrophied leg, and still find myself truely beautiful.

A year and a half ago, I moved to the city and had to get rid of my car, therefore studying with Nicole became difficult. I tried a few studios — going to place where teachers from Nicole’s studio also taught (it’s always comforting to be in the hands of people you already know). But these were Ashtanga studios — not the right practice for me. Too demanding, too much action, not enough explanation. What helps me in my practice is when the teacher stops and explains how the body is built (bones, muscles, ligaments, etc.), how the articulations work, and knowing that, how we can work in our practice. I found that in Ashtanga, there was too little of that, if any. Also, getting to the studio was always difficult. Lots of walking, taking the metro with your clothes, your mat, on top of your handbag and your lunch on your way to and from work… Lots of trouble, and I didn’t enjoy my new practice enough to make it worth it.

Furthermore, in the practice of yoga, after a few months, I started to feel pain in my sacro-iliac joint. By January of last year, this pain was definitely inappropriate, and I couldn’t practice anymore. Every upward facing dog, every chaturanga, every backbend was difficult. I ended up going to physiotherapy and not practicing yoga for quite a few months. Ashtanga was definitely out of the question now, because I realized it was the fast-paced, not enough time for alignment, performance-driven environment that led me to get hurt in the first place. Ashtanga is supposed to be a very traditional practice, but I never saw much meditation or centering time, or any kind of teaching not related to the physical expression of yoga in the Ashtanga studios I visited. And they’re very recognized places, with authorized or certified teachers.

When I was ready to get my practice back, I finally tried another studio, a small place with no teacher that I knew, that I had never dared trying until then. And there, I finally found the feeling that I was when I was studying at my first studio. It’s a place run by a young woman, who teaches almost all the classes herself. She’s a great teacher, very funny, who integrates a lot of philosophy, meditation, pranayama techniques into the practice, and makes the classes fun and playful. There, I was finally able to get a 3-times a week practice back, and get a sense of balance in my practice, like I used to before I moved to town.

To me, a balanced practice includes active, demanding asanas, but also gentler sessions, sometimes restorative. The ideal week, for me, includes a fast-paced practice, Ashtanga-style, a strong Hatha practice with inversions and staying in poses for 15 or 20 breaths, and a gentler practice, almost beginner class. It’s always good to review the basics, and there’s always something new you learn.

5. The future. What are your practice goals for the future?
I started a 250-hour teacher training with Nicole last September. I’m learning — and embracing the fact — that there’s so much more to yoga than the asanas. And although I went into this training without the pretention of wanting to teach when I could come out of it, my view on things are changing at a rapid pace. At this point, I am seriously making plans of quitting my day job (which makes me more and more unhappy as it promotes a very stressful and unhealthy lifestyle, with values much different than my own right now) to try to make a living out of teaching AND going back to university to study kinesiology.

Pretty much since I started getting serious about yoga and realized how much it was helping me, I got interested in how yoga can help people dealing with disabilities or major pain: cancer patients, people with HIV, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, or just “regular” back or knee pain — basically anybody who could see their life quality enhanced by the practice of asanas, or meditation. At this point, I would like to study kinesiology, learn the scientific basics of the human body, to be able to integrate them with my ongoing study of yoga and help other people in the same way I’ve been helped. There was a time in my life when I wanted to escape my body. Now I want to be in it because it’s the best place to be, and I’d like to help other people discover that as well. Your body’s the most important thing in your life; it’s the only vehicle that’ll take you through it.

Since I started the teacher training, of course, my personal practice is more alive than ever. We’re supposed to practice 6 days a week (although that’s difficult to maintain when you still work in the “real world”), meditate every single day (easier to maintain than the practice, but still not always possible — yet), study the philosophy and history of yoga. The more I dig into, the more I love it, the better I feel.

Is it pretentious to dream of living off yoga? Or to think that *I* could bring a lot of people? Or even to think that I wouldn’t be the one bringing yoga to people, that I would just (gladly) be a channel for yoga? Should I just be happy of what yoga has done/is doing for me, and to each his own? Yoga has made my life so much better, and I know it can do even more for me. I want to follow that path. And I would also like for other people to discover what yoga can do for them. Of course, you can’t force yoga upon anyone. But you can give the tools to the people who are open to it to help themselves. That’s something that would make me happy. If that’s something possible is another issue…

In the meantime, I have my personal practice.

All I did this week, literally, was work, yoga, work, yoga, work, yoga, work. With two 2-hour workshops in the evenings, on top of my regular work-load, I feel rather tired now and I’m happy the weekend is almost here… and rather relieved that my teacher training has been postponed until next weekend because Nicole is down with the flu (but I hope she feels better soon!). I am really looking forward to a weekend of almost nothing.

So, to cut short to the blah blah and get to yoga, earlier tonight I predicted that this was gonna be a short, and gentle practice. I got into Viparita Karani (one of the ultimate poses for me)… and fell asleep there! Woke up 10 minutes later… and that’s it. I’m calling it a night. Sometimes yoga is knowing when you’ve had enough. Until tomorrow.

NaYoPracMo still on.

Got a lot to say, but it’s already 21.35 and I haven’t had my practice yet today. This will be very gentle and very short, but still yoga…

Had two Women’s Issues for Yoga workshops with Hart Lazer this week — I’ll post about them later. Yesterday’s workshop turned out being 2 hours of theory, but I still consider that I did yoga. Just because I wasn’t on my mat doesn’t mean I didn’t practice! Especially not when you spend a whole evening discussing pregnancy, menopause, and the effect of yoga on them in detail!

More over the week-end!

Sunday = rest day

In our teacher training, we’re instructed to do yoga every day from Monday to Saturday, and rest on Sunday. Since I never did a full month of practicing 6 days a week (hell, I don’t think I ever practiced 6 days in a row before this past week!), I only used it as another excuse not to do my practice.

Part of my NaYoPracMo plan, though, is to do yoga every day, and make Sunday my Fertility Yoga Day (I was given a practice that stimulates fertility, since we’re trying to have a baby). So today, I did my Nadi Shodana/18-minute meditation (no CD to guide me today, just the monk chants from Eternal Om), and then my Fertility Yoga.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up, meditate and have breakfast before I go to work. Practice will be in the evening, as I have a “Women issues for yoga” workshop with Hart Lazer tomorrow night (part 2 on Wednesday night). Should be extremely interesting, from the point of view of the young woman trying to conceive as much as from the point of view of the teacher in training.

Right now, I’m digesting my homemade pita-pizza (sun-dried tomatoes and basil for me, lots of meat for the man), and wondering how long I’ll be able to resist putting those molten chocolate cakes I bought this afternoon in the oven (served with raspberries… hmmmm…)

Drove 3 hours in the rain today to spend 3 hours with my grandmother. When I came home, I was tired — physically, and emotionally (my grandfather died last June and dealing with it is difficult, for her and for me).

Practice turned out being a 30-minute Yoga Nidra — during which I fell asleep.

There are days like that. But since yoga isn’t experienced only on the mat, and since there was consciousness of the body and of the breath, this does qualify as a yoga practice for me.

Tomorrow will be more active, I promise.

40-minute restorative practice, followed by an 18-minute meditation on compassion.

I was supposed to do it at 6:00 a.m., I did it at 8:30 p.m. Ahem.

NaYoPracMo still on, though!

See a trend in the post titles? I think we know what to expect for the next 27 days!

After another really bad night of sleep, I failed once again to get up at 6:00 and practice (I got up at 8:00!).

But tonight I came home and did my energic routine of the month, preceeded by 18 minutes of Nadi Shodana/So Hum meditation. In the first Adho Mukha, I thought this was going to be a tough one, but I managed to get into Urdhva Mukha Vrksasana (despite my fear of it), and 3 sun sal A and 2 sun sal B opened my body. The standing poses were strong, so was my Salamba Sarvangasana in the end. Nice practice, at a good pace.

Savasana was a bit crappy though — the phone rang about 2 minutes into it, and DB brought it to me (it was my sister). After I hung up, I did another 5 minutes, because I’m a firm believer in the importance of savasana.

I think tomorrow I’ll definitely get up at 6:00 for my gentle practice. What scared me when the alarm went off this morning was the thought of all these sun salutations and handstands. Tomorrow will be a gentler way to wake up, and a good way to start a new good habit… I hope!

Went to bed rather early yesterday (for my standards: around 11:30), but I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t sleep much of all night. I was awake at 6:00 this morning, but instead of getting up and making it to my mat like I had planned, I just stayed in bed for another 90 minutes, hoping I would fall asleep. Which, of course, never happened.

Not a good day for resolutions (no yoga and no breakfast before work)!

Went to work, which was no nearly as bad as I had anticipated. It’s still not the fun of being at home, relaxing and doing yoga every afternoon, but at least everyone I was talking to told me they hated being back at work. Reassuring.

Came home, cooked dinner (quiche and a salad), then did my practice: restorative yoga, routine from my teacher training. Then did a healing meditation (from Nicole’s meditation CD boxset), inspired by Stephen Levine. The meditation lasts 27 minutes; I almost fell asleep on it.

Hopefully, I’ll sleep well tonight and I’ll be able to get up at 6:00 tomorrow.

NaYoPracMo: I’m still in the game (so what if we’re only 3 days into?!)!