Reflections After One Month of a 6-Day Ashtanga Yoga Practice

sarah li cain -mumbled jumbles -reflections

I don’t know what made me do it, but a voice inside my head one day literally told that that this was a good idea.  To be honest, I had no excuses why I couldn’t. I know I had the time to spare.

I’ve wanted to further my Ashtanga yoga practice for a while now. Heck, I read enough blogs that talk about it! I remember looking all the Sanskrit names of random poses or theories and wanted to learn more. Maybe it was one of those things where if I wanted to talk the talk, I should learn how to walk the walk. So every morning, except for Saturdays and moon days, I dutifully rolled out my mat and practiced.

I started off by doing a shorter version of the primary series using David Swenson’s awesome DVD for about two weeks. After practicing with this DVD on and off for almost a year now, I had the nagging feeling that I was moving beyond the DVD.  I don’t want to say that the routine was too easy. Rather, I wanted to explore more poses and didn’t want to get too comfortable with someone doing the breath count for me. I found myself getting easily distracted because in the back of my mind, if I lose count, the DVD was there to do it for me.

I’m loving the self guided practice so far. I’ve been religiously looking over David’s Swenson’s practice manual on the poses and pouring over youtube videos. I think I am doing well so far despite the fact that I do not have a teacher helping me. I’m not saying it has been easy. In fact, quite the opposite. There have been days where I absolutely refused to get on the mat, but I did. There were a few times where I’ve lost count, or forget how to do a pose that I’m familiar with, or  what I had to do next. Those are the days I struggle and have to compose myself until I get to the end of my asana practice.

A month isn’t a long time, but I find that I’m getting more courageous by the day. I either try to go deeper into a pose or want to add another one. I get up earlier. I even do more off the mat. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching this past month and have finally pushed myself to do something I’ve been hesitant to do. And that’s a very exciting prospect. If I feel this way after a month, I wonder what other things will start to unfold a few weeks, months, or years from now?

I know the next step for me is to find a teacher. Maybe even a mentor, on and off the mat. I know at some point I will stall or hold myself back. I have a feeling I’ll need someone to push me towards something bigger and greater. I want to grow. I want to improve. One step at a time, I guess. One step at a time.

Our Neighbourhood – awesome haircut guy

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yes, those are ear covers in case hair dye gets on them.
yes, those are ear covers in case hair dye gets on them.

I’ve been rummaging through my photo collection and completely forgot I had taken these images a while back.  These people are some of the most kind (local) people I’ve met here.  They live in a modest little shop (they have a little attic where they sleep) and cut hair and sell veggies and fruit (it’s whatever they have available and the cheapest/in season I gather).  We stumbled upon this place while on our Sunday morning routine and we’ve gone back every two weeks when hubby needs his hair cut.

This is also my last post for a little while, as I’m headed back to Canada/USA to visit friends and family for 6 weeks. Might post sporadically here and here, but in-laws do not have internet access, so we’ll see.

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Thoughts on Food

Through my food allergies (I got over most of them through a much better diet!), I’ve really changed my views on food and I what I can do to help myself and loved ones go onto a path to better health.

Nothing said in this video is entirely original, but it really sums up a lot of what other foodies have to say, plus I will admit Jamie Oliver is quite a charismatic speaker. Go check it out:

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you are what you eat

I got my allergy test results back and discovered that I’m not allergic to most foods that I was heavily allergic to anymore! I’m quite excited, and have been talking to my husband about the foods I can eat now.  I’m still a little paranoid I’ll break out, so I’ve been thinking about what got me into this predicament in the first place.

So here’s what I’ve learned about my past eating habits:

-If I like something, I eat it literally all the time. I find recipes with the same ingredients over and over again. Which makes it easy to develop an allergy to that food.

-I didn’t have enough fiber in my diet, it was mostly refined grains, which doesn’t count.

-I didn’t eat a variety of foods (look above). I was pretty malnourished. I ate a lot to compensate for this I think.

-I ate many processed foods which resulted me in eating a lot of ‘filler’ foods, which were the very things I was allergic to.

-I drank a wackload of alcohol.

Did this result from pure laziness? Sure, it could have been. But maybe also because I didn’t know any better. Even though I am able to eat all the junk I want again, I’m probably not going to. I’ve developed some (I think!) good food habits I’m going to keep:

-eat whole foods.  I rarely buy premade sauces, but if I do, I make sure it has ingredients that I recognize and don’t have to look up in a dictionary.

-Increase intake of fiber. Tried to sneak quinoa, beans, spinach, nuts and seeds in smoothies and that has worked well.

-Eat more raw foods. We’ve made some yummy salads in the last two years!

-Avoid refined sugar. Keeping a food diary of that, so I can be more accountable.

I’m going to have my first sandwich (going to make sure it is whole grain or sourdough) in years soon! Yes, I am excited, don’t laugh.

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Allergy update

Ever since my allergy diagnosis, I’ve had to eat in a lot more. I’ll admit, it really SUCKED in the beginning.  Now, almost two years later, I’m taking the same test again (of course on the insistence of the husband) to see if any of my allergies have lessened.

If for any reason you suspect allergies may the culprit of whatever is bothering you, I highly recommend where I went, HK Biotek (I think they have offices in other parts of the world too).  They are a US based company which takes a blood sample and tests it against 96 different foods to see how severe your allergies are.  It can be anything from no reaction, need to rotate the foods, up to avoiding the food for 6-9 months. I know that after I got my test results and as soon as I started rotating my foods and avoided others, my ezcema symptoms went away, I had more energy, and I got a lot less colds.  I also ate a lot less processed foods, junk foods, and sugar as a result which also contributed to my overall health.

The test is a bit pricey (the delayed reactions test cost about HKD 2800, other tests, such as immediate allergic reactions and environmental allergens test cost about HKD 4000), but if you can afford it, do it for the sake of your health.  If you say a friend recommended you (you can always use me as a referral, just message me privately) I think you get a discount. I got 20% off because I had taken the test before.

Last week, when I called to arrange an appointment for the second test, I was told that I had to eat a variety of foods, and if there were any foods that I avoided for a long time, I should eat them in order for the test to be as accurate as possible. Hearing this, I starting naming all the foods I hadn’t eaten in a while and got very kind of excited about it, because some of the foods I didn’t have for over a year included the following:

-muffins/cakes  and pastry of any kind

-breads of any kind

-Caesar salad (which used to be my favourite)



-any type of pasta at restaurants

For the sake of the test, I ate to my heart’s delight. I thought I would have been relishing at this chance.  Tonight, after eating a lovely meal, I had a piece of chocolate cake. As I took my last bites, I came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if I can have any of these foods without any allergic reactions anymore. Simply put, these foods are still damaging to my body in the long run.  I’ll probably still feel tired. I won’t put my body at risk like that anymore. I’ve discovered a lot of simple, home cooked meals. They’re also cheaper, which is always a bonus. I love trying new things in the kitchen (yes, do bitch everybody and their dogs when it doesn’t work out, I am working on that).  I love reading and talking about food.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, I’m not going to go back to my old ways if my test results shows me I can eat whatever I want. I’m getting a lot of compliments about how great I look, and I want to keep it that way.

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complimenting myself

I’ve been feeling down about where I needed to head with my goals I forgot to look at how far I have come in the past year and a bit.  I’ve been down on myself about most things (mostly diet and exercise) so complimenting myself will help motivate me further

Here’s my list:

-Successfully cut out most highly refined/added sugar from my diet.

-Added new foods in my diet (dried beans, quinoa, eggplant, radish, I’m sure there is more)

-Reduced intake of beef

-Shopped more at local wet market (also called farmer’s market)

-Cooked more meals at home

-Stopped eating pastries/bread

-Ate more fruit in diet

-Drank more water daily

-Decreased dependence on nutritional supplements (only on dairy-free probiotics and calcium occasionally)

-Reduced caffene intake

-Ate less highly processed foods (instant noodles, premade sauces, potato chips)

-Ate less salt

-Used less oil in cooking

-Exercised 3-4 times a week even though work schedule is hectic

-Watched less TV

-Gotten very efficient with planning lessons and units at work

-Learned better ways to build rapport with students

-Through mimicking others and obessively reading menus, have improved my Mandarin skills to the point where I can have basic conversations with people (well, at least I can get by)

-Maintained a wonderful relationship with my now husband

-Improved my film developing skills, and taking images of people with heavy TLR

-Made better financial decisions

-Made diet choices and reduced/virtually eliminated ezcema symptoms

Looking at at this list, it sure is a lot! I should be very proud of myself.  I still have a long way to go until I am where I would like to be with my eating goals (trying to make sure 2/3 of our meals are vegetarian/vegan, weed red chillies out from most of my diet, weed out highly refined foods for good, eat seasonally as much as possible) but this is a good start. For a girl who used to indulge on anything and everything, and not caring about consequences of what I ate, it is very good. Granted, it was hard, but I am glad I made the choice (necessary or not) to get here.  I am also happy that I am more confident in what I do at work. I also feel more confident in my photography and feeling happy that I do have the leisure time and disposible income to afford film supplies for what I love.

I do have a pretty good life. And I am awesome :)

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