When opportunity knocks

We had just returned home following a wonderful day of adventure and sightseeing in Rotorua on our eighth day in NZ. On my way to the kitchen to prepare dinner, I sat for a moment at the dining room table and opened my laptop to look up a recipe for salad dressing. Facebook was open in another tab, letting me know of a new private message waiting for me, from a local fellow yoga instructor whom I met on Instagram. Her daughter was feeling unwell and she was desperately looking for a teacher to cover her 5:30 p.m. class at the local gym.

Before I had finished reading the message, a voice somewhere in my head protested, “I’m not ready!” and “I have never led a class at a gym before, let alone in NZ!” It continued with, “What will everyone think of me? I speak with a North American accent and they will immediately think that I’m an outsider who doesn’t belong at the gym. They will surely miss Melissa and might feel annoyed that I came in to take over her class.”

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I had worked for years to silence those old insecurities that once kept me tightly bound, holding me back from everything I wanted to do. When an exciting offer would arise, the timid girl would step back into the shadow, keeping her gaze at her feet, afraid to make eye contact with someone who might see her for what she truly is, yet at once also wishing so desperately to be seen, to be recognized. Let it be clear that I have always enjoyed leading yoga classes and have every intention to continue doing so in NZ. I simply did not expect an offer to arrive so soon following our move.

With a deep breath, before I could change my mind, I agreed to guide the class. Mr. Wanderlust happily treated the Wanderlust Juniors to fish and chips for dinner. During the drive to the gym, in a bubbling emotional cocktail of excitement and nervousness, I smiled in gratitude for an opportunity that found me so soon in my new home.

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One of the benefits of being a yoga instructor is that I am able to remind myself to breathe deeply as I guide the class to do just that. As I invite the group to move with awareness, I speak slower, more calmly. I chose to teach yoga to share its gifts with others, to allow them to enjoy the magical effect born from the synergy of the breath and controlled movement. In paying attention to the physical alignment of the clients in the room, I forgot about any insecurities I might have felt earlier. How silly I was to think about perceptions when it was never about me. Instead, I was there to create an enjoyable and rewarding experience for my clients, as I intend to do each time I step onto my mat to face those who have arrived to dedicate a special hour to themselves.

It might not have been the most successful class I have ever led. Later, I laughed at the memory of having cued the group to shift their right foot a few inches to the right-hand side of their mats in low lunge, or to keep their gaze a couple of feet to the front of their mats in Warrior III. I made a note to myself to use metric measurements next time.

Oh yes, there most certainly was a ‘next time’ the following week. Due to circumstances that benefit both Melissa and me, the Wednesday evening class is now a regular on my schedule. I am glad that I silenced the old doubts and fears and said ‘yes’ when presented with a special opportunity. I am also grateful for an accepting group with a great sense of humour, which I can confidently attribute to all the kiwis I have met here to date.

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When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to life while feeling unsure of yourself? How did you feel in the process? What was the outcome? Please share your story in the comments below. 

Thank you for reading.

Valentine’s yoga: new video

Some of my readers might remember the YouTube yoga channel on which I used to share videos. For several reasons, I chose to put the channel to rest after two or three years. Over the past weekend, I created a new YouTube home with the intention of sharing short but effective yoga practices with you, based on my personal practice. It is my hope that the videos will benefit anyone with a schedule that might not allow for a regular full-length practice. Once upon a time, I could not conceive of the idea that a yoga practice could be less than one hour in length. When the Wanderlust Juniors were born, I had to change that perception in order to fit self-care into an already packed schedule. You might choose to practise in the morning before work or before the children wake up for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or in the evening before dinner. Your practice is yours to coordinate into your schedule.

As I set out to film the video, the Wanderlust Juniors were playing quietly in the basement. Toward the end, however, and in spite of the closed doors, the sounds grew louder, as they most often will when two school-age boys lose themselves in a game of pretend. The neighbour’s dogs likely became excited by the sight of a squirrel in a backyard tree, adding to the sound effects. As I reviewed the video, I started to note these and various other aspects that did not appeal to me. I started to become self-critical. The truth is, dear reader, I felt slightly nervous while filming. I considered not uploading the video, thinking it might be wise to re-film. I scrapped those thoughts for now. The video, as you see it, is honest, real, and almost completely unscripted. This is me, in my home, with all the sounds that surround me on a daily basis. I reminded myself that there I was, reviewing a video I made with a focus on self-love; I should walk the talk. Please do not judge too harshly. In the future, I will continue to play with filming while figuring out how to improve angles, lighting, sound, and more.

In the meantime, please enjoy this self-love practice, and leave a comment below this post or below the video to let me know the one thing (or more) that you love and appreciate about yourself. Please also remember to share this blog and video with your friends. Thank you for your support.

 

Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.

Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment! 


If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

Festive season yoga time-out

Have you been busy? Although it’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, the festivities often start in early December. On top of that, there is the seemingly endless list of things to do and people to see before and during the holidays. For me, this pace has felt too hectic and I am looking forward to slowing down, taking some time to spend in solitude. Yet, I also know that when we chase something for which we long desperately, we often end up tripping over our own feet. Instead, I have been doing my best to set aside just 10-15 minutes every evening to rest and recharge. I could tell you that I spend that time in meditation, but lately, I have been feeling restless. Restorative yoga postures, however, allow my mind to follow my body into a settled, peaceful state.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading a group of beautiful women through a restorative yoga and intention-setting workshop at the lovely, cosy Forward Motion Yoga studio. The ladies graciously allowed me to take a few snapshots of them relaxing in a few of my ‘go to’ poses. So, join me for 10-15 of silence. Simply choose one of the poses below, read the instructions, and enjoy breathing deeply. If you have more time to spare, try two or more of the postures below in the sequence in which they are presented here. Please note that you will need a bolster or two large, firm rectangular pillows. You will also require at least two blankets. If you do not have yoga blocks at home, books or rolled-up blankets should be sufficient. Lavender-scented eye pillows or towels are optional, but I highly recommend them for the delicate, soothing aroma.

Supported wide-legged child’s pose

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Place the bolster (or two pillows) lengthwise on your mat. With the knees wider than the bolster, or as wide as your yoga mat, bring the big toes to touch. Fold forward over the bolster and either rest your forehead on the mat or turn your head to one side. If your knees are sensitive, you may place a blanket beneath the knees on the mat and/or between the thighs and shins. I also like to place a rolled-up blanket between the lower belly and the thighs to allow my lower back to round. If the bolster feels too low, prop it up by placing a rolled-up blanket or block beneath the bolster or between your face and the bolster. Allow the shoulders to soften, and breathe.

Supported spinal twist

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Come to sit resting on your right hip with the knees facing toward the left side of your mat. The right hip and thigh should be snug against the bolster. Twist from the navel to square the shoulders to the front and start to walk the hands forward. Again, feel free to lift the bolster higher with the use of the blankets or blocks. If your neck is healthy and you would enjoy a deeper twist, you may turn your head toward the right side of your mat. Otherwise, either press the forehead into a blanket on top of the bolster, or rest on your right cheek. After about 5-7 minutes on the right side, repeat the twist on the left side for the same length of time. Twists are excellent for the muscles along the spine and for the digestive system.

Reclined bound angle pose

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This gentle backbend opens the heart and hips. Place one block (or a thickly rolled blanket) at the medium height at the top of the mat. In front of that block, place a second block at the lowest height. Then, set up the bolster with the top portion atop the blocks, cascading downward. Come to sit with your lower back snug against the bolster. Keeping the spine long, use your hands to recline over the bolster. It’s a great idea to place a cushion or rolled-up blanket beneath your head at the top of the bolster. You may either stretch out the legs in front, perhaps placing a rolled-up blanket beneath the knees for additional support, or bring the soles of the feet together and open the knees out to the sides, with blocks or blankets supporting the thighs. If the backbend feels too deep over the bolster, you may need to sit with your lower back a few inches away from the bolster and place a blanket or cushion between the bolster and your sit bones to support the sacrum. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and allow your arms to rest heavy on the floor, with the palms open toward the ceiling. Melt your body into the floor and props, feeling fully supported.

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A variation of the backbend with the legs stretched out in front. You may place another bolster or blankets beneath the knees for additional support.

Supported butterfly pose

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Like supported child’s pose, this forward fold offers a chance to retreat from the noise into this cocoon shape. Sit on a blanket to elevate the hips, bringing the soles of the feet together or an inch or two apart, creating a diamond shape with the legs. I like to place blankets beneath the thighs to support this gentle hip-opening pose. Place the bolster on top of your shins, elevating it with the use of blocks, if needed. A blanket can be placed atop the bolster for additional support for your head. Allow your forehead or the side of your face to be heavy as the weight of your body leans into the props. Relax, and breathe into your backbody, starting from the kidney areas and moving up toward the top vertebrae.

Legs-up-the-wall pose

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If you have been on your feet all day, or dancing for several hours at the office party, this pose might be just what the yoga teacher ordered. Come to sit with one hip close to the wall. Leaning back on your forearms, begin to walk the hips toward the wall while reclining back, placing a blanket or cushion under your head for support. It is optional to elevate the hips with the use of a bolster or blankets, simply sliding the bolster or blankets beneath the hips. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and soften your torso on the mat, allowing the palms of the hands to open toward the ceiling and the weight of the legs to sink into the floor.

As always, I invite you to leave a comment below. Let me know your favourite restorative yoga pose, and feel free to share with me your trusted time-out methods to which you turn during this season.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend who could benefit from this soothing practice!

Please remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new exercise program or yoga practice.

Balance, or what my yoga practice looks like these days

I would love to tell you that I wake up at 5 a.m. every day, feeling refreshed and wide awake, ready to hop on my mat and flow through a perfect practice. Go ahead, picture me in headstand, handstands, and various fancy arm balances. Some mornings, that’s precisely what I do. On other days, I choose to sleep.

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Beautiful Georgian Bay in Autumn

The Autumn season, though I love it, often leaves me tired, adding at least an extra hour to my sleep requirements. Tack onto that additional responsibilities at home and at work, and I often feel too fatigued by 9 p.m. to keep my eyes open for a chapter in the current book that I’m reading. In the mornings after less than 7 hours of sleep, I sometimes feel groggy when my alarm clock goes off and, realizing that there is no way I could possibly drag myself out of bed, I choose to sleep for an extra hour instead of using that time to work out. For me, sleep now takes priority over exercise. When I ignore my sleep needs and power through a workout, or anything else on my daily agenda, my immune system suffers. Such is the fate of the Vata dosha.

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Cosy local countryside views

Rest assured, I do make time for exercise, even if it’s 10 minutes of yoga or 20 minutes of yoga and pilates. Movement in the morning is what wakes me up, especially since I rarely drink coffee these days. Sometimes, if my schedule permits, I take a walk at lunchtime, which often gives me a boost for the afternoon at the office. And some nights, when I’m able to get to bed before 9 o’clock, I wake up at 5 o’clock the following morning, feeling ready for a vigorous cardio barre pilates and Vinyasa workout. Since routine keeps me in check, I do my best to be in bed before 9 p.m. in order to wake up refreshed at 5 a.m.

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This photo was taken two years ago by Mr. Wanderlust.

Each day is different, and I remind myself to make healthy choices as I go, focusing on infusing my day with the lessons of yoga, rather than leaving my practice on the mat. I practise Ujjayi breathing while seated at my desk. I remind myself to maintain good posture and stretch periodically while at my computer. I move as much as I can throughout the day, drink plenty of hot water and herbal tea, and enjoy healthy meals. This is my balance. I’m doing my best, and that’s enough. 

How do you maintain a healthy balance when life picks up its pace? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Walk like Audrey Hepburn

May 4th is on the other side of the weekend, plus a few days, and it marks the birthday of the late Audrey Hepburn. You might ask yourself, dear reader, whether I’m a crazed fan who remembers the birthdays not only of her family members and close friends but of her favourite actress. The answer is yes. Yes, I am. I also remember Mozart’s birthday and admire his music greatly, but that’s beside the point. This week’s post is a tribute to the legendary Audrey Hepburn, or AH. I sing Holly Golightly’s Moon River to Wanderlust Juniors while snuggling with them at bedtime. I sing Sabrina’s La Vie en Rose while washing the dishes. I have been known to walk into hair salons and ask the stylist to chop off all my hair, à la Princess Ann in Roman Holiday. I have read and reread all the biography books that have been published about AH. She is an inspiration to me not only in style but also the lifestyle she led.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my transition from intensive HIIT workouts toward walking and dancing. These two forms of exercise have become my choices for exercise that does not feel like exercise. I recently started to let go of the more rigid and competitive forms of fitness that require me to work at high intensity for 20 minutes. In truth, no matter how little time I spend on bursts that bring my heart rate to 80-90%, I do not enjoy that time. Instead, I prefer to take a long walk – the longer, the better – in my neighbourhood, even if that means getting up even earlier than I used to. What all this has to do with AH is that she also was an early riser and, as her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, writes in Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit, AH enjoyed long walks with her dogs. Instead of dogs, I have a cat, who happily stays at home to nap or watch the world from a cozy spot on her windowsill, but I, too, enjoy long walks.

And so, after feeding Tigger, and following my daily yoga practice, I slip on my comfortable running walking shoes and head out for a 5 km walk, greeting the sunrise, allowing the bright golden rays to bathe my face as, at once, the cool morning breeze gently brushes my face. I watch as the world around me starts to wake up, listen to the serenade of the birds, observe people as they settle into their cars in the driveway, preparing to drive to work. Sometimes, I wear earphones to listen to my favourite music and focus on the melody, the lyrics. At other times, I allow stories to weave their way through my imagination as I let go of my practice of mindfulness, giving myself permission to play. I feel the solid ground as I firmly set down one foot in front of the other. I move, I breathe, I feel. Cold, rainy days beckon me inside to dance in the warmth of my home, but I mostly crave movement outdoors. And that is why I walk. I am not a runner; my knees don’t allow me to enjoy the activity. Walking provides me with the fresh air and movement for which I thirst. Earlier this week, I was away on a business trip during which I saw the world out of the tiny airplane window, then was surrounded for two days by the walls of the airport, the hotel room, and the office building, without an opportunity to step outside. It’s good to be back home with my family, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to return to my daily walks. Walking is my hobby. Walking is my calming cardio. Walking makes me a happier, grounded, lighter woman, mother, and partner. I suspect AH would have said the same.

Where is your favourite place to walk? Please feel free to leave a comment below. Do you know someone who might enjoy this blog? Please feel free to share it with a friend.

How Ayurveda is helping me change my approach to exercise

Several years ago, I followed the thought process that if the number on the scale rose slightly following the holidays and a few big dinners with friends and family, I would need to amp up my cardio routine, to work harder to burn the extra calories. Of course, yoga was very high on my list of priorities, but only if the routine was a challenging power sequence with hundreds of Chaturanga Dandasana variations. If I missed a day of exercise, the sense of guilt would permeate the entire day. Scrolling along my Facebook newsfeed and seeing the progress my friends were making with their runs or cross-fit training sessions would remind me to push myself harder to keep up with them.

Slowly and organically, as I continue to study and explore Ayurveda in relation to my lifestyle, my attitude toward exercise also continues to evolve. Today, I approach every form of exercise with the same frame of mind with which I arrive on my mat for a formal asana practice. I no longer judge my progress based on that of my peers. Instead of counting calories and allowing the number on the scale – in fact, I no longer use a scale – to dictate my daily workout, I crave mindful movement. Chaturanga variations are no longer high on my radar, though I do enjoy them once a week. I still love the occasional powerful core workout and arm balances because they leave me feeling strong and connected to my core power. Yet, stillness helps to create the right balance. I alternate dance with 20-minute HIIT workouts thrice a week – the jumping variations are fabulous for awakening the lymphatic system – but those are always followed by a grounding and cooling yoga sequence.

These days, before starting to move in the morning, I ask myself how I want to feel, and what my schedule looks like for the day ahead. Due to the fact that on weekdays, I spend eight to ten hours at the computer, I do choose a stronger heating but grounding practice. On weekends, when I go hiking, I choose a slower practice. In general, I gravitate toward slow-flowing Vinyasa, combined with Yin and Restorative yoga. It’s a question of the energy we need to balance at any given moment. Ayurveda teaches us that when we feel lethargic and heavy (Kapha imbalance), we need movement to stoke the fire element to help us wake up; when we feel irritable (Pitta imbalance), we should seek a cooling and grounding routine; when we feel anxious or scattered, a slow, warming, and grounding practice is the answer. The weather plays a big role in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. On cold, windy days (Vata weather), we are called to focus on grounding and staying warm. On hot, humid summer days (Pitta weather), a gentle, cooling practice early in the morning or in the evening is the ‘go to’ exercise. During my moon cycle, Yin or Restorative yoga, combined with a walk at a comfortable pace, allow me to remain grounded while pacifying the fire element. I start each daily practice with a few rounds of pranayama and a short meditation, and end with a longer seated meditation. The meditation component reminds me to clear and reset my focus each time, and also helps to set the tone for the day ahead.

No doubt, my approach to movement and my yoga practice will continue to evolve. My goal is no longer to burn calories, but to stay healthy and vibrant, physically, mentally and emotionally. My priority is not to exceed the standard set yesterday but to move in a way that allows me to feel grounded, light, open, and centred. I am following the intuitive cues of my body and my mind, adopting a softer, more feminine approach to exercise.

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I’m curious to know whether you also have observed shifting patterns within your yoga practice or workout routine in the recent years or months. Perhaps your body craves a different type of movement and you have been exploring new avenues. Please leave a comment below, and feel free to share this blog with a friend.

Feeling yoga

Sometime last year, a friend shared a meme on Facebook, depicting two images. The caption under the first image, of a perfectly polished young woman outfitted in sleek form-fitting fitness clothing, barely breaking a sweat, read, “What I think I look like when I run.” The caption under the second image, of an excited pug, reads, “What I actually look like when I run.” Have you seen that meme? In this instance, I believe the friend who shared the image meant to do so in mock self-deprecation. I wondered whether the number of ‘likes’ under the meme came from others who have ever gone for a jog, feeling pretty darn good until, when passing by a store window display, they inadvertently noticed their reflection in the dirty glass, opening a door to self-criticism.

There have been times when I was inspired by Instagram photos of perfect bikini-clad goddesses on a tropical beach, pressing up into a handstand. I asked Mr. Wanderlust to snap a few photos of me in different impressive inversions. I may not have been on a beach in a bikini, but I was in our backyard, wearing skinny jeans and a cute top. Oh, and there was a time when, for one picture, I inadvertently tweaked my knee while trying to push myself into Parsva Bhuja Dandasana (grasshopper pose), an arm balance that required deep external hip rotation. My hips were not open enough for the pose at the time, and I compensated by using my right hand to place my left foot atop my left upper arm. Thankfully, that injury didn’t take longer than a few weeks to heal.

Throughout that time, as I continued to practise, I started to pay closer attention to the types of practice I truly enjoyed. Instead of asking Mr. Wanderlust to take photographs of me that would allow me to check my form and correct the asana, I became more interested in how the poses and flows feel in my body. Gradually, I started to learn to let go of trying to achieve perfection and started to lean into my intuition. I do not have endless hours in my day to practise on my mat with the goal of achieving perfection, but I do have one hour to dedicate to moving in a way that feels right to me at that time. As I became more comfortable with the notion that different people are proportioned differently, I started to appreciate the differences in the clients whom I lead at the studio, as well as in myself. I no longer become upset with my hips, which are frequently out of alignment, having never healed properly following the birth of the youngest Wanderlust Junior. When Pigeon pose sometimes feels uncomfortable on the right side, I back away, breathe, and patiently meet the challenge wherever it happens to greet me today. Patience toward myself reminds me to be patient with my family when, throughout the day, something (or many things) will inevitably not go the way in which I plan.

I continue to step on my mat (on most days) because my practice makes me feel alive, vibrant, and grounded. It allows me to reconnect to my feminine source by reminding me to acquiesce, to accept, to melt, then marry it with the masculine source by reminding myself to remain disciplined. My yoga practice is honest, and sometimes it does feel perfect. My practice feels perfect on the days when I meet the challenges that arise from within, reminding me that they continue to lurk beneath the surface, and asking me to choose.

I choose to feel, instead of thinking about how the pose should look.

I choose to breathe when I sometimes want to give up.

I choose to melt into all my emotions.

I choose to forgive myself for my past.

I choose to accept myself as I am today.

My yoga practice makes me feel healthy, powerful, and yes, beautiful, even with sweat glistening above my upper lip. I don’t care how I think I look when I practise; I care about how my practice makes me feel.

What is your choice? Why do you practise? Please leave a comment below, and feel free to share this blog with a friend.

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When the mood strikes, sometimes I do pose for yoga photos on the beach.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Routine While on Vacation

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Several days ago, my family and I recently returned from a beautiful beach holiday on the shores of one of our favourite lakes. We spent a fun week building sand castles, SUPing, enjoying sunset walks and an exciting day trip that included a cruise on a glass-bottom boat to see shipwrecks. When away from home, our habits tend to change somewhat, as can be expected.

Did I drink beer several times throughout the week? Did I enjoy many s’mores by the bonfire and just as many servings of ice cream / gelato? You bet I did. And I savoured every moment. Not for a minute did I reprimand myself for letting down my guard. It was a choice I made mindfully, allowing myself to soften into the experience while trusting my intuition and maintaining a lifestyle of wellness.

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Here is how I navigated three of my regular healthy habits while on vacation:

Eating

My nutrition habits are relatively healthy, keeping to the typical 80/20 rule and enjoying dessert from time to time while making mindful choices about the nutrients that fuel my body. While on vacation, I continued to eat healthy foods but we did eat out in restaurants several times throughout the week. We balanced this out by visiting the local grocery store and farmers’ market and stocking up on fresh produce. August is a time of gorgeous fresh, local fruit and vegetables, which were in abundance everywhere we went. We packed those as snacks for ourselves to take to the beach and enjoyed salads for dinner.

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Sleeping

At home, I typically am in bed by 10 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. to work out and practise yoga. While away, we naturally put the kids to bed later, after enjoying the sunset on the beach or sitting by the fire. The parents’ natural bedtime was closer to midnight and we all woke up quietly, slowly at around 9 a.m., feeling refreshed and recharged.

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Exercise

When I sleep in, which doesn’t happen often, and wake up at the same time as my children, I tend to write off my workouts and yoga practice for the day. However, while away, I simply shifted my physical exercise to the siesta hour in the afternoon. An hour or two after lunch, the children would spend some time watching a favourite DVD while Pawel read a book, and I would head out into the backyard of our rental cottage to roll out my mat. Working out outside encouraged me to be resourceful, using whatever I had close by as props. The owners of the cottage left two skipping ropes for the children guests. However, I was the one who ended up putting the skipping ropes to good use for cardio. I utilized the wooden benches on the patio for tricep dips and the wooden stairs for lunges. Typically, my morning workout and yoga practice last approximately an hour. My siesta-time workouts on the grass were about 30 minutes in length. I didn’t try to time myself. I naturally moved in a way that felt good. Some days were slower, softer, and others left me sweaty, happily walking into the shower after a morning at the beach and an afternoon on my yoga mat. I also did a lot of running on the beach with the boys, walked everywhere, and SUPd.

It feels liberating to let go of a rigid schedule and preconceived notions about routine, giving ourselves permission to live in flux, allowing ourselves to put life on hold for a while but still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, when I feel relaxed, with no major responsibilities that I normally have at home and at work, I find that I naturally feel better and healthier, which leads me to make healthy choices. The key is to carry the calm mental and emotional state with us back into our regular post-vacation routine.

What healthy habits do you uphold while on vacation? Please share your tips in the comments below. You can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for additional pictures of our holiday.

What high standards mean to me

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I often say I hold myself to my highest standards. To some, it might sound like I am disciplined in my approach to everything in life. For me, high standards mean living with certain rules, but making intuitive decisions.

It means that I’m:

Working to move away from rigidity, learning to soften. I create my own guidelines, and feel free to bend certain rules from time to time. Other rules are golden absolutes. Some days call for strict discipline. Other days invite me to be more playful and perhaps even somewhat rebellious.

Listening to my body, heart, and intuition, and following their lead. This is true with nutrition, exercise, and various other lifestyle choices (more on this below).

Enjoying dressing up. I particularly benefit from dressing up when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. When I think I look good, I tend to feel great.

Giving myself permission to lounge on the couch in my pajamas, reading a book. I never have a full day’s leisure to lounge, but I can always set aside an hour or so to do that. Often, it happens in the evenings, after the kids are in bed.

Giving myself permission to wear yoga leggings while running errands. I’m probably one of the very few yoga instructors who believe that yoga clothes should be saved exclusively for the yoga studio, a gym, or a festival. Yet, I feel most sexy and comfortable when I wear yoga clothes, so if I have just finished teaching or taking a class and need to run an errand, I’ll do so comfortably in my funkiest leggings.

Spending most Saturdays doing laundry, cleaning, cooking good food, etc. Then, I spend as much time as possible on Sundays doing what I want to do (in-between tending to my family, of course).

Reminding myself to be stern with the kids about making their beds, brushing their teeth, and tidying up. Then, I overlook the mess they make while we bake cupcakes in the kitchen.

Choosing to be serious and responsible when I need to be. At other times, I crank up an embarrassing song and have a wacky dance party in the living room. And sometimes, I dance on my own in my bedroom, wearing something scandalously inappropriate. I laugh loudly at myself. Then, I laugh some more.

Giving myself permission to cry if I’m having a lousy day. I don’t try to talk myself out of it. We all have lousy days when the last thing we want to hear is someone telling us to ‘snap out of it.’ When I feel overwhelmed or sad, I don’t want to snap out of it. I want to face it and deal with it. I acquiesce to whatever it is I’m feeling and I sit with it, honouring that feeling for what it is, breathing through the sometimes excruciating discomfort. Then, slowly, I watch myself get out of a funk while learning more about myself in the process, learning about what liberates me.

Sticking to a healthy, plant-based diet 80% of the time. I choose to eat intuitively, asking myself what foods serve me best at this time. Some days, I want to eat an extra square (or two) of dark chocolate and have a glass of wine. Some days, I enjoy cheese and crackers, and maybe even a slice of toast with generously spread Nutella. On other days, all I want to eat are vegan salads and to drink green smoothies.

Choosing exercise that challenges me, gets my heart rate up, makes me sweat and my muscles shake. On other days, I choose to soften with restorative yoga.

Realizing that I have been ‘Type A’ under the surface and although I don’t enjoy this shadow side, I am learning to accept it, to recognize it, and to let go of the wish to be in control. I remind myself to let go and enjoy all the spheres that life offers me.

Recognizing myself as a whole person and learning to embrace all aspects of myself. There are certain aspects of myself that I am continuing to work on improving and changing altogether, with complete honesty and compassion.

What do high standards mean to you? What are you doing to uphold them? Where do you need to learn to soften?