Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking a shot at poetry

I have never been much of a writer. English in school was never my strong suit. But over the years I have gotten better and better at expressing my opinions, feelings and ideas. Which has brought me to a bit of a crossroad. How much is too much to share? Should I really voice all of my opinions? What if someone is offended or disagrees? What if someone judges me for thinking a certain way? I think everyone faces these types of fears in some area of their life.

It is these fears that almost stopped me from writing this post. Last week I dabbled a bit in poetry. I have been reading more and more amazing poets lately but haven't written it since grade 9 English class. In an attempt to get out some emotions that I felt I had been holding in, I wrote a poem. Since then I have been struggling about whether or not I should post it. What if the person it is about reads it? What if someone is offended by the content or by the language? I had pretty much decided I wasn't going to post it until I read this amazing article over at Elephant Journal. Katarina is brilliant, that is all there is to it.

So this is for you Katarina. Thank you for giving me the courage and being my inspiration to share my art and my voice with the world.

Bleeding Heart
We fucked.
and fucked
and fucked
and fucked.

We reacted to each others bodies so naturally,
like two nuclei fusing together so forcibly
and exploding just as strongly.
You touched me everywhere I wanted to be touched and in precisely the right way
leaving me in a state of ultimate bliss underneath your sweaty bed sheets.
Your scent tattooed into my hair
into the crevice of my elbow and behind my knees.
So that later, when I was alone, I would be reminded of the tingle in my toes
of the way you kissed my face and my breasts,
of the rhythm of our bodies moving together like one.

But somewhere amongst all the fucking I fell in love with you
so deeply in love with you it made my skin hurt.
It made those tattoos burn with desire and passion
it made me want to be with you every moment of the day
and to run to the depths of the Amazon jungle to hide from you.
You pried open my chest and grabbed my heart with both hands
and you brought me back to life
You took a jackhammer to the walls that I had so delicately plastered
pushed them aside like they were nothing but Lego and play-doh.
You consumed me so deeply that I was gasping for breath
even though I wanted so badly to drown deeply in your eyes,
in your sweat,
in the pleasure of it all.

This kind of love is terrifying in the most real and inexplicable way
It grabs you unexpectedly and shreds all of your senses into tiny pieces
Before you know it you find your heart outside of your body
ripped from your chest and lying in the dirty hands of your lover
still beating..
As you lie there bleeding you can't help but wonder how is it still beating?
And what of those hands?
Will those hands belong to your knight in shining armor?
The one person that will hold you during your darkest nightmares and say "everything will be OK"
Will they be the one person that will look so deeply into your soul it makes your stomach hurt
and your intestines all squeamish.
Or do they belong to someone that will never really see you
Someone that will lose interest and toss your bleeding heart to the side
like an empty cup of coffee
high from the caffeine but in need of another fix.
Leaving you broken and bloody on the sidewalk.

This fear was very present at the creation.
Even you could see it there swimming beneath the surface
haunting me in the darkest of night and in the brightest of day.
Causing many nightmares and tension.
It would never fully leave me alone
but it would start to soften
the edges wouldn't cut through my skin anymore
the scabs eventually starting to heal
and as you rubbed the scars left behind by my internal war
I believed that this time it could be different.
But this realization was bittersweet,
the moment I decided to let you keep my heart and not fear it being broken,
was the moment you no longer wanted it.
The moment you decided that all of it was too much,
that you didn't have the desire to fight with me... or for me.
It required too much effort to be interested in my dreams,
you no longer wanted to come along with me for the ride on this roller coaster called life.

So you left me there, on the sidewalk,
broken and bleeding with my heart beside me
barely beating.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Things I have learned during 30 days of yoga

For the month of November I participated in the Moksha Yoga Dartmouth's 30 day challenge. The rules are pretty simple: practice yoga every day for 30 days. That's it. The purpose is to make your practice a habit. It is said that it takes 21 days of repetition to build a habit that is 60% likely to stick. Or something along those lines.

So I committed myself to 30 days of yoga. There were some ups and downs throughout the month but I stuck to being true to myself and my practice and learned a lot. Here is some of what I learned.

1. You don't actually have to do yoga every day. A lot of people that participated in the challenge will disagree with me on this one but hear me out. In our Western society, our schedules (for the most part) are dictated by our jobs. Mine being a Monday to Friday 9-5 type job, it does put restrictions on when I can actually practice yoga. There were a handful of days over the past month where after having a crappy night of sleep and a long day at work all my body wanted to do was sleep when I got home. And so that's what I did. I slept for 12+ hours. No joke. Straight through the night. I confess... I skipped yoga class and I didn't roll out my mat at home. Instead I listened to my body and my body told me to crawl into bed and close my eyes for an unknown amount of time. This is yoga. Listening to our bodies and knowing what is right for us in this moment. Whether that is not going to class or not going up into headstand when everyone else is. Be present in your life.

2. My body wants to be healthy. I have always been a relatively healthy person. Sure I have my days where I can wake up and have ice cream for breakfast. But for the most part those days are few and far between. When I am practicing almost daily though I find my body craves healthy foods. I no longer crave sweets or greasy foods. My body wants vegetables and fruits and real food. Our bodies are smart machines and if we listen closely enough they will tell us exactly what they need.

3. The ego is powerful. This one I feel is pretty obvious. For the first week of my challenge I was constantly looking around at other people in class. I couldn't help but compare myself to others. "Her heels are touching the ground in down dog" or "his upper body strength makes bakasana look so easy", etc. I found it so discouraging and distracting when I was comparing my practice to them. I recognized this at the end of the first week and made an effort to keep my eyes on myself, the wall or my mat for the next week. Of course my eyes would still wander but when I realized what I was doing I just brought my attention back to myself. Everyone gets that competitive feeling in class (even instructors) and that's ok. When it comes up for you just try to acknowledge the feeling and bring yourself back to your own mat. Don't be discouraged by it.

4. Yogis are not perfect. A lot of times yogis are labeled as being peace lovers, hippies, never get angry, zenned-out, vegan, etc. But we really are just regular people. Most of us make a conscious effort to practice things like ahimsa but we're not perfect. For me this is particularly obvious when I'm driving to yoga class. I try to have patience with other drivers but sometimes that just isn't possible. And that's ok. If you do 30 days of yoga in a studio like I did sometimes you might feel left out when other yogis talk about their vegan diet, their hemp clothes, etc. Remember that they are not perfect and some of them probably even rush home to sink their teeth into a big, juicy burger. Don't let their "yogi" persona bother you.

5. Finding teachers you like is key. I think anyone that is comfortable to stand in front of people and teach them how to move their bodies is brave. I have the utmost respect for all yoga teachers. But that doesn't mean I like all of them for my own practice. I have been to some classes that I find the teachers voice or demeanor is so distracting that I can't focus on my practice. Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to the "type" of yoga instructor they like. It is important to find instructors that you feel a connection with and stick with their classes.

6. Drink a lot of water. For the first ~two weeks of the month I'm pretty sure I was dehydrated. I drank the normal amount of water I have always drank. Instead I really should have increased my consumption. So for the last two weeks I increased my water intake and felt a lot better; more energized, aware and alive. My 30 days was in a hot room (for the most part) so I sweat a lot but even if yours is not in a hot room, drink as much water as you can handle. The water will not only keep your body hydrated but it will help your digestive system work more efficiently and flush out the toxins your organs sometimes hold on to. If you do sweat a lot in your practice make sure to also replenish your electrolytes. Some easy ways to do this is to drink lemon water (full lemon worth), coconut water (no sugar added) or eat a piece of fruit right after your practice.

7. Your body will get strong. I can only comment on my own experience but the difference in the over all strength of my body from Nov 1st to Nov. 30th is remarkable. I can now keep my legs straight when I lift up into headstand! Before I always had to bend them into my chest and extend from there. I know everyone progresses at their own pace but I have found that in one month my flexiblity and strength has improved faster than it has during any other period of time in my yoga practice. When you are practicing every single day you become very aware of your body. You will start to notice the subtlest of changes. Like maybe chaturanga isn't as hard as it normally is. Or warrior 2 doesn't burn until the 3rd time you do it instead of the 1st. Whatever the change is, it'll happen and it feels marvelous.

8. Emotions will come up. I can't speak for everyone but I found that after doing certain poses over and over again over the course of 4 weeks I would find certain emotions would arise every time. Towards the end of the month I found myself in a downward facing dog almost in tears. For some reason this particular down dog made me whole body overflow with emotions. Fear, doubt, joy, sadness, anxiety, hope, faith. All of it came out in the 5 breaths I spent in this pose. Thankfully it was a hot class so the tears were mixed in with the beads of sweat. I haven't had this happen to this extreme before but I have found that I will be peaceful and present in a pose when all of a sudden an emotion washes over me. My best piece of advice is to ride it out. Let it take it's course in your body/mind. Experience it fully and then let it go. Remember that nothing is permanent and you will get past that feeling.

9. Find your yoga vibe. One of the biggest things I learned this month is that a daily practice is just not for me. I missed 4 days in 4 weeks. Hence a 6 day a week practice is more suited for my life and body. I find if I miss more than one day in a row I am craving yoga, but I do feel like I need at least one day of rest a week. I think this will fluctuate for the next few months depending on what is going on in my life but for the most part it will be a 6 days a week practice for me. I have also discovered that I like certain styles of yoga more than others; I tend to enjoy Baptiste and Ashtanga style classes the most. There is no "best" yoga style though. There is only what is "best" for you. So find what style you like and stick with it. :)

10. Last but not least, yoga can actually help you through major events in your life. This month my grandmother passed away. Specifically, she passed away at 2:20am Monday, November 14th. Nan had been diagnosed with colon cancer in June of 2010. We knew that it would be terminal but had no idea how long we had left with her. She started chemo treatments around Christmas time of last year but by August 2011 there was nothing more they could do for her. I think her death didn't hit me as hard as it could have because I have been preparing for it since August when all of her treatments stopped (or I am in denial). When her treatments ended I started to dedicate every moment I spent on the yoga mat to her. This was my way of dealing with what was going to happen. To honor her I actually went to yoga class that Monday. It's funny how the universe works because Monday classes are with my favorite instructor in Halifax, Stefanie Winters. As usual her class was awesome and I'm so proud to have been able to dedicate it to my Nan.

The overall experience was fantastic. I can't wait to do the challenge again next year. I highly recommend trying this out if you want to deepen your yoga practice. Remember, it doesn't have to be in a yoga studio. Even committing to doing it at home will benefit you in so many ways.

"This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time." - The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 1:14

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to be alone

I have never handled being alone well. I'm a people person so I like having company around. Sometimes when I am left alone I end up running away with my thoughts and have to force myself to come back to reality. I have always viewed alone as a negative thing until I stumbled onto this poem a few weeks ago. I hope it helps to change how you feel about alone as well.

How to be alone - Tanya Davis

If you are, at first, lonely - be patient.
If you're not been alone much of if, when you were, you weren't
okay with it then just wait,
you'll find it's fine to be alone...
once you're embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places: the bathroom, the
coffee shop, the library.
Where you can stall and read the paper,
Where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there,

where you can browse the stacks and smell the books

you're not supposed to talk much anyway,

so it's safe there.

There's also the gym.
If you're shy you can hang out with yourself in the mirrors, you
can put headphones in.
And there's public transportation
- because we all gotta go places -
and there's prayer and meditation
no one will think less if you're hanging out with your breath
seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple, things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid-
being-alone principles.
The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by chow-
employees that only have an hour
and their spouses work across town
and so they, like you, will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat-lunch-and-run, take
yourself out for dinner,
a restaurant with linen and silverware.
You're no less intriguing a person when you're eating solo dessert
and cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger;
in fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where
you were.

Go to the movies
where it is dark and soothing
alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And, then, take yourself out dancing,
to a club where no one knows you
stand on the outside of the floor
until the lights convince you more and more
and the music shows you.
Dance like no one's watching
('cause they are probably not)
and, if they are, assume it is with best and human intentions,
the way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous
and affecting.
Dance until you're sweating
and beads of perspiration remind you of life's best things,
down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone and the trees and squirrels will watch
for you.
Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets,
there are always statues to talk to
and benches made for sitting
give strangers a shared existence
if only for a minute
and these moments can be so uplfting
and the conversations that you get in
by sitting alone on benches
might have never happened
had you not been there by yourself.

Society is afraid of alone though,
like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements,
like people must have problems if, after awhile, no body is dating

But alone is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless
and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands
with your partner
look both further and farther
in the endless quest for company,
but no one's in your head
and by the time you translate your thoughts some essence of
them may be lost
or perhaps it is just helpt,
perhaps in the interest of loving oneself,
perhaps all of those sappy slogans
from preschool over
to high school's groaning
were tokens for holding the lonely at bay.
   'cause if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and
alone if okay.

It's okay if no one believes like you
all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses
can't think like you
for this be relieved,
keeps it interesting, life's magic things in reach.

And it doesn't mean you aren't connected, that community's not
Just take the perspective you get
from being one person alone in one head
and feel the effects of it.

Take silence and respect it.
If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it.
If your family doesn't get you
or religious sect is not meant for you
don't obsess about it.

You could be, in an instant, surrounded, if you need it.
If you're heart is bleeding make the best of it

there is heat in freezing, be a testament

Sunday, October 30, 2011


It's raining.

Halifax doesn't get torrential downpours very often. It's more of a constant stream of rain. From where I'm laying on Andrea's couch I can see the drops falling from the roof, hitting the patio and splatting all over her door.

Something you may not know about me is that I love the rain. As much of a sun child as I am there are many days throughout the year that I ask the sky to give me some rain. Especially after a hot summer day. Nothing feels better on my skin after a day at the beach than to stand outside with my feet in the grass and rain drops on my skin.

I don't know what it is about the rain that has such a strong hold on my heart. It could be the way it feels on my skin. As long as it's not cold out, if it's raining you will normally find me outside standing in it. Sometimes with my arms raised to a "T" and spinning in circles. Face lifted to the sky.

Or maybe it's the soft, fluid melody that accompanies rain. Best enjoyed when relaxing with a comfy chair and fluffy blanket close to a door or window. I'm not big on silence but I can listen to the drip drip drip of rain for hours. I think the gentle sound comforts my heart. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own head that the sound of rain draws my attention away from my crazy thoughts.

It could be what the rain represents to me. My whole life I have identified with the phoenix. The mythical creature that is reborn over and over again from it's own ashes. Rain means something similar to me. When I pay attention to the rain I feel like it is literally washing away the crap in my life. It gets into every nook and cranny of my hectic thoughts and dissolves them. I always feel lighter, more clear of head after a rainfall. "Cleansed" if you will.

And what about the fact that rain is the lifeblood of Mother Nature? Without rain water would not get distributed over land. Our plants would dry up, animals would flee and we would be stuck in a desert world. Rain is literally what makes us grow.

Whether or not you agree with me doesn't really matter. Heck, there are days when after I do my hair in the morning I am cursing the rain for messing it all up or for making my mascara run down my face. But next time it rains, try sitting next to an open window (as long as it isn't sideways rain) and use the sound of raindrops as meditation music. Allow the rain to help you let go of anything that is weighing you down. I promise you will feel a little lighter after.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time for change

It's time for change in my life. For an embarrassingly long amount of time I have had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Really, I still don't. My track record goes a little something like this: lawyer, marine biologist, oceanographer, climatologist, accountant, photographer, wedding photographer, wedding coordinator, etc etc.. I'm one of those people that can find an interest in almost anything. So when it comes time to become an "adult" and choose a career path I get fidgety, my palms sweat and I distract myself.

What if the path I choose is the wrong one? What if I waste my time, other people's time and my money on something that I will end up disliking a year from now? What if I fail?

These questions have haunted me for years. So I have avoided them. I have distracted myself with a "job", not a career. I have distracted myself with a social life and sports and reading books. I have played around with ideas that never really stick. Sure they sound great but how feasible are they in the "real world".

Something else I do quite often is start projects and not finish them. This has added a lot of stress in my life lately. Unnecessary stress if I'm being honest. There is enough going on that I don't need to add more burden on myself right now. Therefore I am starting a change. I am tying up loose ends that have needed to be tied for a long time. Once this has finished you'll hopefully start seeing some changes on the blog.

I will admit, I'm scared to voice what I am considering doing. Not because it's bad, but because if it doesn't happen I don't want it to be yet another failed project. Something else that I started with good intentions but became tainted by my lack of commitment. Therefore I'm keeping this one close to my heart. I'm hoping that sometime soon I will have the courage to share with you readers what is happening. Until then my random ramblings will have to suffice.

If you have any requests for topics that I should talk about on this blog please feel free to email me at christinenewhook2 (at) gmail (dot) com or leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 17: Letting go of life

I'm not talking literally, don't get freaked out here. I feel like I need to admit that I have been slacking on the 24 day cleanse. I have done a lot but in the past weekish I have been side tracked. My Grandmother was put into palliative car last week so the cleanse took the back burner.I signed up for Moksha's 30 day challenge for the month of November and even though I may not be able to do the cleanse again every day for the whole month, I do plan on continuing the challenge into November. We'll see.

Yesterday's "item" was very unintentional. Every few months I get one amazing yoga practice. I know as a yogi you are not supposed to attach good or bad emotions to certain postures/practices but during these rare experiences I can't help it. Stefanie is one of the best instructors I have ever practiced with so it didn't surprise me that I would have this experience at one of her classes. She normally starts of class reminding us to be present. To let go of all our stresses, our worries, etc. Stop thinking about work, your family, what you have to do after class, your to do list. Focus on being present in this moment and allowing yourself the opportunity to just practice. For some reason last night this really resonated with me. I didn't look around the class at all to see what other people were doing. I was consciously aware of my breath at all times. I stopped thinking about Nan being in the hospital or about my need for closure with my ex. I stopped thinking about work and my to do list and books. Instead I focused on my body and my breath. The pauses in between your inhales and exhales. The burn in my quads in warrior 2. The strength in my arms in chaturanga. And it was what I needed. These rare euphoric classes leave me feeling re-energized.. almost high. I cherish these times on my mat. They are what feeds my soul and keeps me coming back to my mat day after day.

Lesson? There are times when we have to have our thinking caps on. When we are problem solvers and are caught up in the stories of our lives. But be open to those moments when life just drops by the side and you can just be completely present in the here and now. These are the moments that feed our souls.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inspirational Videos

TED is one of my favorite websites. If you have never heard of it before TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading". They hold conferences all over the world where inspirational people will talk about an idea. The reason I like it so much is because there is a huge variety of topics discussed.

Today I would like to share with you two videos I found. If you haven't been able to tell by now I try to live an eco-friendly life which includes being vegetarian. I know that lifestyle isn't for everyone but watch these two short videos and challenge yourself to think differently about how you live and what you eat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shape Best Blogger Awards

One of my favourite bloggers ever has to be Danielle LaPorte. I think I have mentioned her before but if I haven't you have to go check out her blog over at White Hot Truth. She is funny, smart, beautiful, inspiring and an amazing writer.

If you like her as much as I do please show your support and head over to Shape 2011 Best Blogger Awards Site and vote for White Hot Truth :)

Day 10: Letting go of love

(Silly blogger ate my first post.. let's try again)

This past weekend was been very emotional for me. I did not let go of anything on the 8th or the 9th. I was more focused on other aspects of my life. Like my Grandmother. She is very, very sick. On Sunday (9th) my family went to her place for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was really apparent that her health had taken a turn for the worse. As hard as all of this is, I decided I no longer wanted to wait for change in my life.

My ex and I have been trying to work through some problems and decided to break up about 2 weeks ago in the hopes of spending time apart and maybe trying to get back together after a month or so. After seeing my Grandmother on Sunday I decided there is no time like the present. The result of that conversation with my ex is that we will not be getting back together. We tried everything we could to make it work but it just isn't going to happen. Monday I faced that fact head on and even though I have had weak moments since then, I know it is for the better.

Dave, I love you. I always will. And I wish nothing but the best for you in the future.

Day 7: Letting go of magazines

On the 7th day of this cleanse I decided to get rid of all my old magazines. Ok, maybe not all of them but most of them. I usually hold onto some Vogues or Ws for photo ideas/inspiration. It took a while but today I flipped through the majority of these magazines, pulled out photos that inspired me and then chucked the rest of the magazine. Now instead of a huge pile of magazines, I have a way smaller folder full of photo inspiration. I finished this process for all of my fashion magazines. Now I have to go through my handful of yoga magazines and do the same thing.

Make sure to recycle all of your old magazines if you decide to clean out your bookshelf as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6: Letting go of cloth

I read in a book not too long ago (don't remember which one) that a good use for old sheets, towels, blankets, etc is to either turn them into rags or to donate them to animal shelters. Since I don't have my own kitchen I don't really need that many rags so I have decided to donate two sets of sheets, a towel and a blanket to my local SPCA. I haven't used any of these items in over a year so instead of them collecting more dust in my closet I might as well put them to good use and give them to a cute puppy or kitty in need.

If you're in Halifax the local SPCA can be found at 11 Akerley Blvd., Suite 200A, Dartmouth.

Day 5: Letting go of debt

This will be a pretty short post since today's "thing" was very easy to let go of. Today I paid off one of my credit cards completely. Yay!! I really hate having debt so it feels like there has been a mini weight lifted off my shoulders.

For any readers out there that also have debt my best advice is to find a way to pay it off that works for you. I have tried different methods and some work better for me than others. The best professional advice I have ever received is to pay off cards/loans that are high interest first. That way you end up paying less interest in the end. If this doesn't work for you though, that's ok. Just create a plan that makes sense to you and stick with it :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 4: Letting go of electronic clutter

In today's society the majority of people have at least an email address. Most people have email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Although deleting emails doesn't take long, it still clutters up our lives. Today I took a few steps to rid my life of electronic clutter.

  • Unsubscribed from Groupon, Kijiji Deals, TeamBuy, etc.
  • Unsubscribed from almost all newsletters I have signed up for in the past (stayed subscribed to White Hot Truth and a couple yoga ones)
  • Deleted my "Deleted Items", "Spam", and cleaned out my saved emails
  • Deleted multiple applications from my Facebook account and turned off Facebook notifications
  • Cut down my google reader from 100 blogs to less than 20

Now all of this might not be much for some people but each time I pressed the delete button or the unsubscribe button I got excited about how many emails I won't have to delete in the future, about the smaller inbox I would have. This has to be one of the best days of letting go so far as I actually feel a lot lighter afterwards.

What subscriptions could you live without?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 3: Letting go of appearances

Not too long ago I started reading Adria Vasil's Ecoholic books. In the the first one she briefly touched on the topic of cosmetics and all of the nasty chemicals that are in them. One of the most surprising facts was that most nail polishes have traces of formaldehyde in them. Yuck. The amount of chemicals that we (women and men) put into our bodies from our soaps, styling products, cosmetics, etc is astounding. Just think about your morning routine. For me it consists of brushing my teeth, washing my face, washing my hair, conditioning my hair, shaving, washing my body, putting on moisturizer, putting on hair treatment, etc.

To cut back on the amount of chemicals in my life I have started to make my own products. But my bathroom was still cluttered with all of the yucky products I don't use anymore. So yesterday I cleaned it all out. Got rid of all soaps, moisturizers, nail polish, makeup, etc that I don't use or are past their expiry. I really encourage everyone to do this at least once a year. Many products that we use on a daily basis actually expire but not many people pay attention to this. Take a look in your product drawer and see if any of your products have the below symbol. It means that the product will expire in X months after it has been opened.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks because I plan on posting some recipes for homemade skin care products!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2: Letting go of emotions

Yoga has been a great tool for me to help let go or deal with emotions or situations in my life. I find it clears my head, grounds me and I get in shape at the same time. But I can't do yoga all day every day when there are hard times.

Instead I write in a journal. I have always wanted to be one of those people that write in a journal every day but with my life/lack of writing ambition I have never been able to accomplish that task. That being said, when I'm really stressed or I'm not sure what to do in a certain situation I find it always helps to open to a clean page and just let go. I normally turn off my music, my tv, and go to a quiet place where I can just write. It's the perfect way to sort through mixed feelings or thoughts or to really solidify your opinion on something.

As I have said in previous posts I have been dealing with a lot lately. Or really I should say I haven't been dealing with a lot in my life lately. I have had writers block and have been trying to just use yoga to help with my emotions and thoughts. But it obviously hasn't been working. So today I sat down at my computer (since I can type faster than I can print) and let it all go. Having been to therapy before I can speak from experience, it felt better than any therapy session I have ever had. When you're writing to yourself you don't have to worry about judgements or hurting anyone's feelings. You can just let it all go. It was difficult and it took a while but it feels like a weight has lifted from my shoulders.

Writing in a journal isn't for everyone but I recommend at least giving it a try. I plan on making it a part of my routine throughout this cleanse. See if any other emotions come up that I should be letting go of.

Tip: Try not to judge what you write down or how well your grammar is, etc. A journal is not a literary piece of art, it's a place just for you, a place to sort through what goes on upstairs.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 1: Letting go of books

If you have known me for more than a couple of weeks or have been to my house you know I am a huge book worm. My parents say I have been like this my whole life. I was one of those weird kids growing up that loved school. Learning has been such an amazing adventure that I continue it to this day. When I'm feeling blue or something is on my mind I find comfort in Chapters. Walking the rows of books, smelling the dreamy scent of paper, cuddling up in a comfy chair to read a couple of introductions. It's almost as good for me as going to the ocean.

With the many times I have frequented my local Chapters store I think I have only left without a new book a handful of times. Therefore I have a lot of books at home. Some of them I adore and have read multiple times. Some of them I bought with good intentions but all they have accumulated is dust. So today I went through my collection and got rid of 22 books. That may not seem like a lot but it is a great starting point for me. The books were fiction, non fiction and even some old university text books.

My biggest tip for book worms out there is to find a used book store close to where you life. I have one I go to a lot in Bedford called "Buy the Book" and they have a great credit program. Bring in books that you don't need anymore and they will give you credit for them. The credit can be used towards half of your next purchase. I absolutely love this idea. It cuts down on the demand for new books and recycles your old ones.

Do you have any books that you could give away?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

24 Days of Letting Go

One of my favorite places to spend time on the web is Elephant Journal. If you haven't checked it out before please head over once you are finished reading this post. There are tons of articles about many different topics. One of my favorite yogi's (Kathryn Budig) is a contributor to this website.

Anyways.. Earlier this week I stumbled upon Marylee's post 24 Things: The Autumn Surrender. Four times a year Marylee goes through a 24 day cleanse of her life. Every day for the 24 days she gets rid of/gives away something that she no longer needs. After reading her blog it was made clear to me that what you're giving away doesn't have to be a physical item. It's about cleansing your life, letting go of old, possibly destructive habits. Opening space in your heart, mind and home to new dreams and goals.

There has been a lot going on in my life for the past two months (which I haven't decided as to whether or not I will be sharing on here) and this cleanse feels like it's the perfect thing for me right now. I feel like I need to let go of what is holding me back in life and create room and an environment for good things to come in. Therefore I have decided to participate in this challenge. From October 1st to October 24th I will be letting go of something every day. I will try to post every day about what I have let go of but I'm not sure what the next few weeks will bring. Please bare with me as I might just do some recaps along the way.

If you are interested in de-cluttering your life and want to participate in the Autumn Surrender here are some deets:

How to begin:
Day one: focus on what you want to call into your life, write it down in a journal or post it to a dream wall.
Try to keep it positive. Instead of writing “I want to lose 20 pounds” you might say, “I want a healthier, lighter body that allows me to live with more freedom.
The 24 Things experience allows us to call in what serves our highest potential as the clutter in our lives, hearts and minds falls away.
The Rules:
1: No purchases for the next 24 days. You can only buy necessities. If you see something you want, start a list. If, at the end of the 24 days, you still desire it, then go on and splurge. Chances are you wont even remember what it was you wanted.
2: ONE THING each day. Focus on letting go of one item or group of items each day. A daily practice retrains the mind, redirects the your subtle energy, and establishes a new way of thinking.
Resist the urge to pick 24 items and dump them in the first week.
3: Every day you will either nourish something that serves your highest good or let go of something that hinders it.

For more information please go to Marylee's website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

101 in 1001

If you have followed my blog(s) for a while you'll know that I have made 2 previous 101 in 1001 lists. Not long after making them though I always realized my flaws in what I included in them. The first one I made a few years ago I was with my ex. At that time we were relatively happy in our relationship so I included him in a lot of my goals. But when we broke up there was no way I was going to be able to complete the goals that included him. So I made a second one. When writing it I was fresh out of a breakup and wanted to focus on my success in the world. Therefore I included a lot of goals about making my photography business work. You can probably see where this is going. Now that I am not continuing with my photography business I felt like I needed a new list.

So I made my third and final list. Well for the next 1001 days it will be final. I tried to focus on me. I didn't include other people in it. I didn't focus on any goals for my career. This is 100% all about things I want to do for me. So here it goes :)

  1. Get one of my photos printed on canvas
  2. Go to a social networking event
  3. Take a photo of me with my grandparents
  4. Complete a 50 self portrait project
  5. Organize my photos
  6. Complete my photo wall
  7. Go to the Calgary Stampede
  8. Read 150 books
  9. Take a homeless person out for lunch
  10. Make my own wine
  11. Paint a canvas
  12. Tour a lavender farm
  13. Go sky diving
  14. Take a yoga teacher training
  15. Plant a tree on Earth Day
  16. Knit an afghan
  17. Bake a vegan cheesecake
  18. Go vegan for a month
  19. Bike the cabot trail
  20. Get tattoos touched up
  21. Get sunflower/violet tattoo
  22. Make pottery
  23. Donate blood
  24. Donate plasma
  25. Send a balloon message into the sky
  26. Do yoga 6 days a week for 6 months
  27. Run a 10km race
  28. Pay off all debt
  29. Complete all 3 reiki attunements
  30. Learn 1 song on piano
  31. Learn basic Spanish, French or Italian
  32. Vacation down south
  33. Spend a long weekend in PEI
  34. Have a picnic on Citadel Hill
  35. Go to Treego
  36. Reach 500 twitter followers
  37. Make cake pops
  38. Make body butter
  39. Move out of my parent's house
  40. Change the oil in my car
  41. Sell something on Etsy
  42. Join a book club
  43. Build my own altar
  44. Make a mala for 5 people
  45. Build a snowman
  46. Skate on the oval
  47. Blog 3 restaurant reviews
  48. Host a giveaway on my blog
  49. Attend the midnight premiere of a movie
  50. Save $3000
  51. Plan a trip to India
  52. Photograph lightning
  53. Launch a new website/blog (revamp current)
  54. Ride in a hot air balloon
  55. Go mud sliding
  56. Go sledding
  57. Go tidal bore rafting
  58. Go snorkeling
  59. Build a bird house
  60. Volunteer
  61. Host a dinner party
  62. Go to a swanky New Years Eve party
  63. Sleep under the stars
  64. Do sky trails
  65. Keep a my day in 6 words journal for at least 4 weeks
  66. Learn to roll sushi
  67. Play hide and seek with at least 10 friends in Ikea
  68. Plant a window box herb garden
  69. Try 20 new recipes
  70. Make soy candles
  71. Make incense
  72. Send flowers anonymously to a friend in need
  73. Go swimming at night in the ocean
  74. Do a corn maze
  75. Go to a sunflower upick
  76. Have a book signed by the author
  77. Watch the sun rise and set in the same day
  78. Actually mail birthday cards for 1 year
  79. Visit the grand canyon
  80. Swim in another ocean
  81. Cook an Indian meal from scratch
  82. Buy a pair of cow boy boots
  83. Have a tarot card reading
  84. Spend an afternoon reading at the beach by myself
  85. Attend 10 mysore classes
  86. Write a letter to someone that inspires me
  87. Visit the Rockies
  88. Get a massage
  89. Complete my Style Statement
  90. Audit a class at Dal/any university
  91. Unplug for a whole weekend
  92. Go kayaking
  93. Host a costume/theme party
  94. Say "yes" to everything for 1 day
  95. Donate $3 for every goal not completed
I left the last couple empty so that I can fill them in along the way. The list officially started on September 15th, 2011 and will end on May 21st, 2014. I'm going to try to blog about as many of these as I can as I complete them and every couple of months I'll probably post an update about which ones have been completed. I challenge everyone to try this themselves. It can be a lot of fun to plan what you want to do for the next 2.5 years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Favorite Etsy Finds

Over the past few months I have made a handful of purchases on If you haven't heard of Etsy before it is "Your place to buy and sell all things handmade, vintage, and supplies". You can find everything from beauty products to clothes to furniture to food. I have spent many hours just browsing through the pages and favoriting items that I would like to eventually purchase or that inspire me.

One of the really neat things about Etsy is that they have a team called "EcoEtsy". This is a team of sellers that are dedicated to reducing, reusing and recycling. You can visit their Etsy profile here and their website here.

Another interesting thing about Etsy is that you can shop for sellers/items in your area. That way you can reduce your environmental footprint by shipping products less distances and support local entrepreneurs.

I haven't done a whole lot of purchasing on Etsy yet but I did want to share some of my favorite finds. These sellers are from all over the world and I highly recommend their products.

1. Christy Studio. Christy is from Malaysia and makes the best hand bags I have ever purchased. She makes her hand bags in lots of beautiful colours and has a style that can suit anyone's needs. The first bag I purchased from her was the Denise bag in a purple/fuscia color. She didn't have it listed in this color but when I messaged her she had no problem making the bag in the color. The second bag I purchased from her was the Anna bag in hot pink. The color is even more stunning in person than it was in pictures. It is huge as well. I have used it as a carry on bag when traveling and it fits everything I would ever need. Her customer service, speed and quality is absolutely amazing. I find a lot of bags I buy start to fall apart pretty quickly but these ones are built well enough that they can handle anything. She is one of my favorite sellers on Etsy and I will definitely be going back to her in the future. Click here to check out her Etsy store.

This bag is huge on the inside. There are 5 good sized books in there right now as an example. This is the Anna bag.

2. mylavendercottage. Kari is from Wisconsin and she is seriously gifted when it comes to paper. I purchased her 12 Month Planner and List Keeper stack with the 3-month and page marker add ons and layout upgrade. I had questions about my order and Kari responded to my messages quickly and with great willingness to help. Her handy-work is absolutely superb and I can promise I'll be going to her when this day planner expires. Click here to check out her Etsy store.

Kind of beaten up already but still in great working order.

3. cottonpurr. JoJo is from Georgia and she makes the most beautiful wallets/clutches. I think one of my favorite things about JoJo is that not only does she have different styles for different needs she has soooooo many different patterns. It took me a while to decide which one I wanted because there were so many that I liked. In the end I loved my decision and have received multiple compliments on it while out shopping. Her custom service was fantastic when I had issues with shipping (Canada Post strike for the loss) and was willing to do what it took to make the customer happy. Click here to check out her Etsy store.

Fits way more stuff than I ever thought it would.

4. soapwallakitchen. Rachel is from New York and has made the only natural deodorant that actually works. Well maybe not, but the only one I have been able to find that actually works. It smells fantastic and really does last. Even through a sweaty hot yoga class. The deodorant took a couple times to get used to because it is a cream not a stick but the cream absorbs into your skin really quickly so there were no problems. I bought two tubs with my first purchase and I can guarantee I'll be going back for more when I run out. Click here to check out her Etsy store.

Convenient size to fit in your purse as well.

5. tibetane. Cara is a little different from the rest of the above sellers. I guess I am kind of cheating here because she is no longer on Etsy. She makes stunning jewelry for really great prices. I originally purchased my earrings from her when she was still on Etsy. Since then she has closed the store and moved to a different website. I highly recommend you check out what she has up. She is super sweet and really talented in what she does. She also has new stock in frequently so there is always something new to see. Click here to check out her online store.

You can't tell from the picture but the turquoise is so vibrant.

As you can tell I like to shop. Hahaha. But honestly, I really do recommend all of the above sellers. If you've heard of Etsy before, do you have any favorite sellers?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunburns: Prevention, Treatment (Part 2)

To read part one of the sunburns posts please click here.

The next logical step after the last post is to talk about how to protect yourself against the sun. The first way you can protect yourself really isn't something you can control. In yesterday's post I talked a little bit about melanin. Just as a recap, melanin protects our cell's DNA from being damaged by ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Melanin is also what gives our skin brownish/tan pigmentation. Now there are two ways our body reacts to UV rays. When UVA reaches our skin it immediately oxidizes the melanin already in our skin and triggers melanocytes to release more melanin. This creates a quick tan that can last for days. When UVB reaches our skin it stimulates our body to actually produce more melanin. This means that we can still tan from UVB rays but it takes around 2 days for us to see the tan. (source)

All in all, melanin is our body's way of naturally defending itself against UVR. But this only works in moderate exposure. When we are overexposed to UVR we become vulnerable to the damages that it can cause. Which brings us to the second way to protect ourselves: not coming into contact with UVR/minimal contact. This is probably the best way to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of UVR. But it can be pretty unreasonable to never go outside. Therefore when you are outside, try to stay in shaded areas. Or wear hats and clothing that protect your skin. It is my personal belief that exposure to the sun is good for us but just like everything else in life, it's all about moderation. So next time you go to the beach, bring a big sun hat or sun umbrella to lay under when you're not swimming.

The third way to protect ourselves is to wear sunscreen. Now there is controversy online about sunscreen vs sunblock but for the purposes of this post I'm going to generalize it as sunscreen. Sun Protectant Factor (SPF) is the quantitative measure of a sunscreen's ability to protect you against the sun. The easiest way to explain how it works is to give you an example. If your skin burns in 5 minutes then a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will protect you for 30 times longer (2.5 hours). The higher the SPF the better in my books although I did find an interesting article online that talks about how SPF factor doesn't really matter since the differences in protection are so minimal. Some sunscreens claim to be water resistant/sweat resistant but I recommend reapplying after swimming or physical activity. You should also reapply after prolonged exposure to the sun (for me it's about every 2 hours). When purchasing sunscreen make sure to get a "broad-spectrum sunscreen" as these are the ones that will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. Some sunscreens will protect you against UVB rays and not against UVA rays. This can be deceiving since UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburns. So just because you don't have a sunburn doesn't mean you were completely protected against both types of radiation.

Two of the most common compounds in sunscreens are titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.

Titanium dioxide is found in almost every sunscreen with a physical blocker because of its high refractive index, its strong UV light absorbing capabilities and its resistance to discolouration under ultraviolet light. This advantage enhances its stability and ability to protect the skin from ultraviolet light. The titanium dioxide particles used in sunscreens have to be coated with silica or alumina, because titanium dioxide creates radicals in the photocatalytic reaction. These radicals are carcinogenic, and could damage the skin. (source) I was able to find an article on titanium dioxide that states that studies have shown it as being non-carcinogenic unless in the form of ultrafine or nano particles.

From what I have been able to find on zinc oxide its function in sunscreens is to absorb UV light. It does not get absorbed into the skin, instead staying on the outer surface. One natural sunscreen company states that they put ingredients that are high in antioxidants to counter any free radicals that can be created by the zinc oxide. Another thing you can do to help fight against free radicals is to eat foods that are high in antioxidants like blueberries and acai. Overall it looks like zinc oxide is better than titanium dioxide in toxicity testing.

Compounds like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are found in mineral sunscreens. They stay on the surface of the skin. Chemical sunscreens however are absorbed into our skin and can cause other damaging effects. To read more on chemical sunscreens please go here. For the most part I would stay away from chemical sunscreens whenever possible for a few reasons:

1. They are powerful free radical generators.
2. They often have strong estrogenic activity.
3. They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores.

Recommended Sunscreens

When I went down south last Christmas I stocked up on a bunch of sunscreen. Therefore I am still working my way through the current stash at home and haven't been able to test out any of the products listed below. I have found the below products using google searches and with the help of Ecoholic's article "What’s the greenest sunscreen on the shelf?".

1. Aveeno Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 55. This is the sunscreen stash I am currently working my way through. Taking a quick look at the label it has zinc oxide in it and no parabens. This formula does leave a bit of a white film on my skin but since I'm pale it doesn't bother me. The reason I liked this one so much is because it is non-greasy and provides really good protection. I missed a spot when I went to the beach lately and you could tell big time.

2. Aveeno Natural Protection Sunblock Lotion with SPF 30. This one I found on Aveeno's American website as it is not available in Canada. Although the website does not have an ingredient list posted the description states "contains MINERALBLOCK Technology with 100% naturally-sourced active ingredients...". I would read the ingredient list before purchasing though to make sure there aren't any nasty chemicals.

3. Green Beaver Certified Organic SPF 30 Adult Body Lotion. Only available in Canada Green Beaver's line of sunscreens are made with zinc oxide as the main protection agent. What impressed me about this product is that the website states it is "Organic Certified, Health Canada approved, Non-whitening, Waterproof, Fragrance-free, Non-nano, non-silicone coated". The website does also have the ingredient list posted so check out the link for more information as to what is in it and where you can purchase it.

4. Badger SPF 30+ Unscented Sunscreen. Again, uses zinc oxide as the active sunscreen ingredient. Website does have the ingredient listed posted and a quick skim through shows that it does not have any parabens in it. It also has cocoa butter and shea butter in it which will help keep your skin moisturized preventing wrinkles. This one is probably the next one I will test out.

Edit: My lovely friend Lisa reviewed Badger Sunscreen on her blog. Check it out here. Basically, it sucks. Don't get it!

5. Kiss My Face Oat Protein Sun Screen SPF 30. Another paraben free, zinc oxide based sunscreen. Website has the full ingredient list posted. The description states "combines Oat Protein and Oat Beta Glucan, a dynamic duo of ingredients that help reduce irritation and inflammation and fight against damaging free-radicals as they moisturize your skin.". This is pretty cool in my books.

All in all there are lots of options out there. The best thing I can recommend is for you to go to your dermatologist for recommendations as they can assess your skin type and recommend something specific for you. You can also visit your local health food store. Just be careful to check ingredient lists as sometimes the products are listed as "natural" but actually have some nasty chemicals in them.

I learned a lot writing these last two posts and hope you have too. If you have a favorite sunscreen that you recommend me testing out please comment below.

(edited to include the following)

Sunburn Treatment

I have found that there aren't any products that will make your sunburn heal faster but there are some that help with the pain of sunburns. I always drink lots of water to keep the skin moisturized. This will definitely make you feel better and make your skin feel less like it's going to crack. I also recommend using 100% aloe which can be found and your local health food store or pharmacy. This literally cools your skin and helps treat the pain of the sunburn. Times when I have had a really really bad burn I have also used Vitamin E. This can get messy since it is a sticky oil but it again helps to keep the skin hydrated which will help with the healing process. I find the best thing to do is to put this on before you go to bed at night and wash it off in the morning. My only warning is that you might stick to your sheets.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunburns: Breakdown (Part 1)

This doesn't have anything to do with yoga but a lot to do with my life. As a red head I get sun burns regularly. Summer or winter. Sunshine or overcast. I am far from a specialist about sun burns but I thought I would share a little bit about what they are, best ways to prevent them and how to treat them. (edit: this post got pretty scientific so I'm sorry if any of this is confusing. Please check out the sources I have notated for deeper explanations.)

Originally I was going to start this post talking about ultraviolet radiation but I thought maybe I would give you some background on our body's way of protecting ourselves from it first. In the bottom layer of our skin we have cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin and insert the melanin into melanosomes (specialized cellular vesicles). The melanosomes are then transferred into skin cells in our epidermis. Once in a skin cell melanosomes accumulate on the cell nucleus where they protect the nuclear DNA from being damaged by ultraviolet radiation (UVR). (source) Melanin protects the nuclear DNA by absorbing UVR and dissipating the energy as harmless heat. (source)

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is produced naturally by our sun and artificially by sources like tanning bed bulbs. There are 3 types of UVR rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.

UVC has the shortest wavelength and the most energy, but it doesn't reach the Earth's surface because it's stopped by ozone in the Earth's atmosphere.

UVB light is between UVA and UVC in wavelength and energy and is the primary cause of sunburns. UVB light can cause direct DNA damage. Direct DNA damage happens when the radiation excites DNA molecules in skin cells, causing adjacent thymine bases to bond with each other, instead of across the "ladder". This "thymine dimer" makes a bulge, and the distorted DNA molecule does not function properly. (source). When this happens either type 1 cell-death is triggered, the DNA is repaired by our body or the cell is replicated with the damaged DNA. When the damaged DNA is replicated a DNA mutation will be present in the new skin cell. This mutation can result in cancerous growths. From what I can tell these growths form the two most common types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. For more information on skin cancer go here.

UVA has the longest wavelength, the least energy, and the most penetrating power of the 3 types. Of all the UV light that reaches the Earth, about 95% of it is UVA. (source) Studies have shown that increased exposure to UVA rays can cause pre-mature aging of the skin and indirect DNA damage. From my understanding indirect DNA damage causes malignant melanoma (for more details go here). Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer but it is the deadliest causing 75% of skin cancer related deaths (source).

Tomorrow's post will talk about sunscreens (what's in them, natural vs. artificial, recommendations), how they work and what to do if you find yourself looking a little red after a day outside.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yin Practice

I figured this would be an appropriate post after my last one since I struggle a lot with Yin.

Here is a bit of a background on yin yoga for those who are not familiar. Regular asana practice focuses on our muscles. On the strength and flexibility of these muscles. It isn't always but it can be a demanding practice. Poses like chaturanga and utkatasana focus on building strength. Whereas poses like uttanasana and prasarita padottanasana focus on building flexibility in the muscles. This is called our yang practice. Our active practice. Yin on the other hand is more of a passive practice. Yin yoga focuses on stretching our connective tissues, specifically our ligaments and tendons. It does this by holding postures for longer periods of time (anywhere from 2-8 minutes). When holding postures for this amount of time it forces us to become passive, to not use our muscles. When our muscles are no longer active we can get a stretch in our joints and spine. (To find our more about yin yoga go here) As with the rest of our life, yoga requires balance. Balance between our muscles and our connective tissues. Most asana classes will have a yin section at the very end but the poses are not held as long as in a yin class.

As much as I love how open and relaxed my body always feels after a yin practice, the practice itself, the whole 75 minutes is always a really hard struggle for me. One of the many reasons I love yang yoga is that you don't hold the poses for very long. Therefore my mind always has something new to focus on. On average a yin pose is held for about 5 minutes. This gives my mind time to a-wander or b-focus on how much I don't want to be in the pose. I'm not sure if everyone else feels this way during a yin practice but I know that I'm in the pose properly when it starts to feel like I'm old and I don't know how I'm going to get out of the pose. Which starts the ball rolling into a mini panic. I start to fidget and sweat a lot. I find myself saying "get out of this pose now, now, NOW!".

I want to clarify that I am never in pain in yin, you should never be in pain in any yoga practice. I just find it to be the hardest practice I can do mentally. I really hope this doesn't intimidate readers to try this out. Like I said above, I reap amazing benefits from my yin practice. I just wanted to throw my mental struggles with yin out there so that someone else will realize they are not alone if they have a hard time with yin as well.

And since I haven't posted any photos for a long time I thought I would show you some of the regular yin asanas.Anahatasana (image source) stimulates the meridian lines that run along the spine (urinary bladder lines) and along the arms. It especially helps to open our chests (heart and lungs). (source)

Dragons (image source) stimulates the stomach, spleen, gall bladder, liver, kidney and urinary bladder meridian lines. (source)

Saddle (image source) stimulates the stomach, spleen, urinary bladder and kidney meridian lines. (source)