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The biggest rollercoaster in a woman’s life has got to be pregnancy. It is almost unbearable to be feeling so many things at the same time, such opposite emotions. For the past week, I’ve barely been able to deal with it.

I am totally looking forward to becoming a mother, there is no doubt about it. I think I am a mother already. You can’t be feeling life growing inside of you like this and not automatically become a mother. So it’s not like I have regrets about embarking on this great adventure. But to feel so much love for something you don’t really already have, for something — someone — who will transform your life in the most important way possible, and have so much fear at the same time, is very confusing.

I’m someone who doesn’t like to feel in the first place. That’s how I came to yoga. I had to learn how to sit with my emotions and the sensations in my body. And this pregnancy is turning out to be the biggest test of all. There are so many things going on inside my body that I have no control over. Sometimes I want to lie down and calm myself down, but it’s impossible. Not because of me, but because of this little human being inside of me who decides it’s time to stretch and kick-box. I have pain in places that never hurt before. And I know the greatest pain of all — in all senses of the word — is coming up soon. But I don’t know when exactly, and that’s another thing that contributes to my anxiety! It could be tomorrow, and it could be in 5 weeks. How is a woman supposed to go through this last stage of her pregnancy while keeping her sanity intact?!?!

I’m feeling so many things at the same time that I don’t know what I’m feeling anymore? I don’t even know if that statement itself makes sense!

I have an appointment with my wonderful acupuncturist, then with my obgyn this afternoon. Even that seems too much to deal with right now.

We had our baby shower last night. I didn’t want anything too girly, I just wanted the people that I love — family and friends — to get together for one last time before Baby Audrey comes and completely turns our world upside down. My mom worked extremely hard, preparing a cold buffet for 20+ people and coordinating the whole thing. I had never had a celebration like this for me (I say “me”, but it was really for “me, Dutchboy and Baby Audrey”). No big birthday dinner or anything like it before in my life. And I had never had friends and family mix up. I was even scared that a bunch of people would just decide at the last minute not to show up. You know, when you think you’re unworthy of people’s love and time? Something like that. But all my family who lives within 90 minutes driving distance showed up, and I have friends who drove from pretty far to be there as well. Besides from the two people I knew way in advance couldn’t be there, everyone I wanted to see showed up. To have all the most important people in my life (or almost) in one same room for one night was pretty great, and overwhelming (everything is lately anyways!). I’m not sure I do feel worthy of everyone’s love and time after this, but I certainly feel extremely grateful and lucky to have them all.

I have to go get ready for my appointments now, and try to get my emotions (hormones) under control. Dutchboy is going to see a movie with colleagues tonight, and I’m thinking I might take the evening to go to the yoga studio. I haven’t taken a yoga class since June, I think, and I don’t know if physically I’m up to the challenge, but it’s worth a try. There are 3 classes being offered tonight — Hatha Yoga, Anti-Stress Yoga, and Strength & Flexibility. Sometimes N. does yin yoga in her Strength & Flexibility class. Or hip openers, or something relaxing and soothing like that. I could certainly do that. If not, there’s always the Anti-Stress class… It’s a 30-minute drive for me, but depending on how I feel, maybe I’ll go.

30 days to go before due date! God I hope I won’t be feeling so confused all this time. Life’s biggest rollercoaster, I’m telling you!

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Once again, I do not have much to say on the yoga side. It’s been too hot, I’m too fat and not used to just sitting down breathing in this body. Yoga is difficult — not to say impossible. I miss it though. I miss it so much. I’m dreaming of the day when I can do a real good sun salutation again (even uttanasana is now impossible… or well, my variation of it is actually called prasarita padottanasana!). And I won’t even mention how much I’m looking forward to doing a headstand!So instead of talking about my non-existant practice, I’ll let a few pictures talk for me.

First, Dutchboy and I made a deposit on a new condo, at the foot of the Jacques-Cartier bridge, in Montreal (I want to say “obviously”, but maybe it is not that obvious). It’s just East of the gay village, between Ste-Catherine and de Maisonneuve, 2 blocks away from Papineau metro station. We haven’t signed the contract yet, or requested a mortgage, so nothing’s official yet, but next week it should be… For now we reserved it and are just thinking about it some more. Dutchboy hesitates a bit more than I do — I am more passionate when it comes to these things. But chances are very good that this is our future home, where little Audrey will grow up and spend the first years of her life with mommy and daddy. Our unit faces the garden, it’ll be nice and quiet. We have a Juliette balcony where I’ll be able to grow some tomatoes and other herbs. It’s close to downtown, close to the metro, close to the shops, close to the river… I know that we will be very happy there. Here’s the plan of the unit we reserved.

Condo plan

I also thought some of you might like to see the belly (hell, I like to show it off! It’s heavy, it keeps me awake at night, it moves in all sorts of weird directions and I have no control over it… I should be proud of it and I deserve to show it off!). Here’s a picture of Dutchboy and I (and that’s Baby Audrey in there), taken at the Mont-Saint-Anne Canyon, near Quebec City, on July 22.

Mark & Julie - Canyon Mont-Saint-Anne

Also, just a nice picture of the canyon itself… Cause it’s pretty!

Canyon Mont-Saint-Anne

Will blog more soon… For now, I have to try to survive in the heat!

I just dropped Dutchboy at the airport; he’s going to rock’n’roll-land until next Thursday. I thought I would use those days alone to spend some time with my best friend and my sister, but it turns out that my best friend is also leaving on vacation, and my sister has no time for me this week-end. Hm. I’m having breakfast and seeing a movie with a friend on Monday (national holiday here), but that’s about as far as it goes for social activities in the next few days. Guess it’ll be the occasion to read (I just started the whole Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles series — I enjoyed those books so much when I was in high school!), maybe go to the Jean Talon market, and go visit the Body Worlds exhibit on my own (I was waiting for my sister, but since you literally have to make an appointment with her these days…).

I haven’t done any yoga this week. I had a tragic encounter with a gigantic millipede (mortal for the millipede, very traumatic for myself) last week-end, and now I’m just scared of unrolling my mat on the floor and lying down on it. Seriously! But I’ll have to unroll it this week: Nicole asked me today if I would be available to sub for the anti-stress yoga class next Thursday night! Yay! So I’ll have to prepare for it and make sure I have the practice in my body.

Sciatica’s still doing good. It’s still there, but acupuncture’s definitely doing its miracle. I had two appointments this week, but I’ll only have one next week… hopefully a bit of yoga and swimming will help it stay under control until then.

Time for the last episodes of the first season of The Practice, I think!

Saw this on Zazazu’s blog, and thought it would be fun…

4 Things même

4 Jobs I’ve held:

  1. Data entry clerk for MasterCard
  2. Marketing assistant for a Paris cosmetic company
  3. Communications coordinator for a political/economy organization
  4. Advertising project manager

4 Movies I can watch over & over:

  1. Any Jane Austen novel-based movie
  2. Any Harry Potter movie
  3. The Sissi movies with Romy Schneider
  4. The Kill Bill movies

4 Places I’ve lived:

  1. Trois-Rivières, Québec
  2. Montréal, Québec
  3. LaSalle, Québec
  4. Saint-Constant, Québec

4 Categories of television programming I enjoy:

  1. Comedy (Friends, Cheers, etc.)
  2. X-Files (this deserves a category in itself)
  3. Medical shows (House, Grey’s Anatomy)
  4. Maternity shows (Baby Story and its French equivalent, Bringing Baby Home, etc. — guilty pleasure right now, but I have a good excuse!)

4 Places I have been on holiday:

  1. Paris
  2. Netherlands
  3. Dominican Republic
  4. Boston

4 of my favorite dishes:

  1. Pasta, pasta, pasta
  2. Desserts with chocolate (with a glass of cold milk… I know it’s bad, but it’s so good!)
  3. French bread with butter
  4. Raspberries (with a bit of whipped cream? hmm…)

4 Websites I visit daily:

  1. Cyberpresse.ca
  2. DefLeppard.com
  3. Mamanpourlavie.com
  4. A bunch of blogs

4 Places I’d rather be right now:

  1. Inside my big belly, so I could meet my little Audrey without having to wait for September!
  2. At the country home my grand-father built.
  3. Anywhere that includes having Dutchboy’s arms wrapped around me.
  4. Having tea with my best friend while discussing baby stuff (!!!).

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while already know that I’m a Def Leppard freak. Don’t judge me!! A good yogi doesn’t judge!! Just respect it. 😉

Well anyways, today’s been busy with both. Got up at 7.00 to go assist my first yoga class. For the first class, I just stood (or kneeled) at the back of the class and took a LOT of notes — mostly on the structure of the class. This is gonna be a very interesting experience. And in April, I’ll teach a karma yoga class on a Sunday. Gotta start preparing for that already!

So after the class, I came back home, went grocery shopping, and cooked two batches of chili (vegetarian for me, with lots of meat for Dutchboy) as well as maple muffins. Yummy!

And the Def Leppard thing — believe it or not, I talk about them a lot (difficult not to when your boyfriend works for the band!) but I don’t listen to them that much. But in the car this morning, I felt like listening to them, and LOUD! It was fun!

Then tonight, I take a few minutes break and watch a bit of TV. I come across the video for Armageddon It. Cool! Then again, later, I come back to the TV to finish watching Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver”. When the movie’s over, I flip through the channels: VH1’s Classic Albums is on, and it’s the Hysteria episode. And now, for the past hour, they’ve been playing Def Leppard videos non-stop! So I’m glued to the TV and I can’t change the channel. I DO have all of these videos on DVD, of course, and I never watch them, but not watching when Def Leppard is on TV would be a waste! Almost a sin! Really!

I’ve been doing a lot of introspection today, mostly stimulated by the fact that I found out that Zazazu also has a scoliosis with spine fusion; I’d never “met” anyone on my situation, and even less a practitionner of yoga. I mainly wrote my previous post to share my experience with her. And now I just came across this interesting bit of information:

In more than 22 years of research at the International Society for Music Medicine, studies of over 80,000 surgical patients have unequivocally demonstrated music’s capacity to reduce anxiety and pain.

Guess I could have been part of that study: when I had surgery for my scoliosis, I was in terrible pain. My body has forgotten how painful it really was, but I remember that I could feel if someone was just slightly leaning against my hospital bed… and I would SCREAM for them to get away from it! I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat, and the only way I would calm down was by listening to Jimi Hendrix or Queen, at full volume, in my walkman. Then, I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. I could even fall asleep to Jimi’s electric guitar. And how many times did I listen to Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever” (yes, I’m a drama queen)?

These two tapes (yes, tapes! It was 1993!), Queen’s Best Of, and Jimi’s The Ultimate Experience, stayed on heavy rotation for a whole year. One year is pretty much the time it took me to get my life back. Today, I can hardly listen to these albums anymore — too many memories. But thank god they were there back then! They probably worked better than morphine and demerol.

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.