Saturday, March 14, 2015

Namasaturday 07: Back to basics, Downward Dog

Welcome to the first NamaSaturday link up! I can't wait to read yoga posts from all sorts of bloggers.

For this weekend I thought I'd take us back to basics and spend some time talking about Down Dog.



Adho Muka Svanasana or downward-facing dog pose.

Have you ever wondered were this head down, hips up pose gets it's name? Like many asanas named after animals, you only have to look at a dog stretching to see the likeness.


Following our furry friends' example, we can strive to reach our chest back, our hips up and our heels down.

When I first began practicing yoga, I was shocked to hear this posture referred to as a resting pose and dreaded when instructors would count slowly through the five holding breaths here during sun salutations. Often resorting to child's pose, my arms and wrists aching from the effort of pushing my weight back and up. My heels nowhere near the floor.

Over time however, as my strength increased, and I learnt how to ground my whole hand, pushing into the mat with each of my fingers, evenly distributing the weight, this pose did in fact become a resting place. In fact, often during flow-style classes, by the end of each pose you can't wait to stretch and lengthen back out into down dog.

(I should really be drawing my lower belly in further, but the sand was washing out from under my hands in front of me, making balancing interesting!)

Downward dog is the perfect example of how everything in yoga seems to work. At first you hold a new posture and it seems impossible, difficult, unimaginable that you would ever find comfort or rest in it, let alone reach its deepest expression. However, after days and days spent in practice, carefully breathing through the discomfort, one day you suddenly find the ease, and the pose opens up like a lotus.

Now I just need to keep this in mind next time I work on my Hanumanasana.

Now for the link up.

Please for this, the first week of our link up here, please feel free to share any post you have written on your blog about yoga.

And then take some time to read and comment on some of the other posts.

If you would like to write a new post, here's your prompt.

What does downward facing dog mean to you?



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hawaii Hiking Guide: Ka'ena Point

While I was in Hawaii last month, I wanted to get out and see some parts of the island of O'ahu that were a little bit off the beaten path. So I through on my Keens hiking sandals and got exploring.

Total length - Pink (leward side) - 4km one way, Green (north shore) -3.8km one way. 
Difficulty - Easy to moderate (Pink side)

Ka'ena point is a wildlife reserve in Ka'ena Point State Park, and is the North West most point on the island of O'ahu. The only way to reach the point is by hiking (or cycling) in along the trail, either from the North Short or the Leward side of  the island. I came in along the leward side (the pink line in the image above).

What to bring:
-Water
-Sunscreen (there is almost no shade on the point)
-Snacks
-No dogs - unless you don't mind not making it to the end
-hike can be done in running shoes
-Swim wear if you want to take a dip in the ocean
-Camera
-Binoculars

How to get there:
-The Pink trail head can be reached by driving north along highway 93 until you reach the end (there is a bathroom  facility here, but bring your own TP as it wasn't stocked or particularly clean)
-The green trail head can be reached by driving west along highway 930 until you reach the end

Timing:
There is almost no shade on the point, so avoid my mistakes and plan to hike either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.  The hike wasn't busy at all, and most of the people I met were locals, so no need to avoid piles of tourists. The hike itself (if you are only going to the point and back, along either route) takes about 1.5 hours, but the point is so beautiful you make want to plan to take time to picnic and hang out for a bit there.


As soon as I got out of my car and onto the trail, I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was. Although the leeward side of O'ahu can seem a little barren, with mostly scrub bushes, the ruggedness of this coast is breath taking. In addition the ocean was the perfect mix of blues and greens with tonnes of white crashing surf. You can't actually access the ocean along the trail as the coast line is made up of cliffs and boulder beaches and the crashing waves would tumble you in a heart beat.


The trail itself mainly follows the old rail road bed and is mostly flat. Some sections however divert from the bed where it has been eroded away. Before entering the reserve on the point you cross a fence though a double gate. No dogs are permitted past this point, as the area protected for shore birds nesting grounds.


Make sure you wear a hat and lots of sunscreen (reapply, reapply reapply), especially if you're hiking at noon like me! I did this hike alone, and felt totally safe the whole time. The trail was just busy enough that you were occasionally passed by or passing other hikers, but certainly empty enough that you felt by yourself.


If you visit the point between late October and early spring, you may get to see nesting Laysan Albatross. Be sure to stay on the trail here, obey the rules about dogs, since these birds nest on he ground, but otherwise the birds seemed happy to be photographed, and didn't overly mind the passing hikers.


Be sure to spend some time taking in the view at the point itself. Obey the signage about the endangered mung seals which come on shore and occasionally breed here. Apparently they're usually around in winter, I of course saw none. But what I did see was whales! Swimming by the island in the distance. I wish I had some binoculars with me, but if you watched the ocean you would see the occasional spout, followed by the whale breaching, and sometimes you'd even see the tale come up! It was completely serene, and the first time I have ever seen whales in the wild.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Runday!

Coming in under the wire for a Sunday Runday! well at least  for posting about it, I got out and ran just before sunset around 6PM tonight. It was such a beautiful day here in Calgary (I went out around lunch in a t-shirt and a scarf!), that I absolutely needed to get out for a run. The first one of the year for me (I'm a hibernating runner ok!) so it was just a slow 5km loop to the Crowchild trail bridge and back.


Look at that beautiful sunshine star bursting through the trees over the Bow River Running Path! How you could resist lacing up?


Lovely random sculpture along the way (I love capturing moments during my runs on my cell phone, plus it gives me an excuse to take a little break!


Taking a moment for a quick selfie on the pedestrian bridge at Chrowchild Trail!


Oh Calgary. Thank goodness for your beautiful Chinooks, makes me feel like I brought some warm winds from Hawaii back to Alberta with me. My poor family back home in Ontario is having one heck of a winter, with tonnes of cold and frigid temperatures. So naturally I keep telling them they should move out west with me (don't think they'll bite tho!)


While today was just a quick 5km, my legs felt heavy from just about the first step. I hard reminder that it's that time of year to get out for regular runs so I can do a couple races this summer!

You can head over to the Bex Factor to join in on Sunday Runday if you made it out for a run today!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Namasaturday 06: Rolling with my Omies

Back from wanderlust... and to be completely honest, I haven't done any yoga since I got home. Whether its just because I needed a well deserved break after doing 3-5 hours on yoga a day at the festival or (the way more likely reason) because I've been hugely distracted by yarn. Either way, I'm excited to unroll my mat today for some sun salutations.


What I did want to take a moment or two to share with you all, is that I will be hosting a Namasaturday link up here next week (and subsequent Saturdays). The link up will be an opportunity to share a post about yoga from the previous week, or to write a new one following a prompt, and to discover the many faces of yoga and yogis!

So look for the first Namasaturday link up next Saturday at 10 AM (mountain time). And in the mean time,

Namaste!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursdays are for Thinking Out Loud 01

Two posts in one day! What!! I must have been away from my computer for a while to have so much pent up bloggy goodness in me!


If you haven't heard of this before, TOL Thursdays are the brain child of Amanda over at Running with Spoons, a blogger link up that encourages you to write about what ever happens to be on your mind at the time.

So here we go!

1. I need need need to go to the grocery store... but was so not in the mood for it today, so I ordered pizza hut instead (Bad Sara). I'll chalk that one up to still being on post vacation jet lag. Seriously tho, I need to commit to eating better (in my world that means less carby goodness) over the next few months heading towards summer.

2. What! did I just say summer? and it's only March! well I guess all that sunshine in Hawaii, along with yet another beautiful Chinook, has me dreaming of another Alberta summer.


3. I cannot wait for Grey's Anatomy tonight... mainly because I've kind of been missing Derek, and I'm hoping he'll make an appearance.

4. Yes, I know, who even watches Grey's any more... me that's who!

5. I finished watching all of Friends today on Netflix. Things about that. A) I can't believe how young they all were in the first season. B) I can't believe how ridiculously skinny Monica and Rachel were too! C) I had forgotten about the nipples through shirt-ness of that show. D) Watching Monica and Phoebe's weddings put me in the mood for wanting one of my own. E) The best thing about watching old shows is seeing small roles played by actors who would later become famous in their own right.


6. The best purchase I have made in years was to pick up an HDMI cable for my laptop, so I can plug it in to my TV and use my TV as a separate screen. Either working on both, or running Netflix on one while I work on the other. Today I've been watching Wildest India while working and doing laundry.

7. I'm a full on yarn addict.... and lately that has led me towards spinning. Here's a peak at a current project.


8. If this post is about thinking out loud, then I can't help but mention the top thing that has been on my mind since yesterday at 10AM. Kevin matched to a Rural Family Medicine program in Medicine Hat, AB. Which means he'll be moving there in a few months, and once I finish my degree, I'll be following him. So here's to big, exciting changes in life.

What's on you mind today? Join in with TOL Thursdays at Running with Spoons and let us all know!

Wanderlands Camping is In Tents!


If you do have the chance to go to a Wanderlust Festival, make sure you take my advice on this one and book a campsite in Wanderlands. You really won't go wrong.

Initially my motivation for camping was to save some money, considering how expensive a room at Turtle Bay would be. But after booking it, I received an email from Wanderlust suggesting that campers bring prayer flags to liven up the camp grounds, and that we not be afraid to 'get creative'.

Well that's really all the permission I needed to decide I'd leave my traditional prayer flags up on the wall in my room, get out my crochet hook and get hooking!

I made three strands of flags over the month leading up to Wanderlust, and gleefully strung them around my tent. The details of the garlands will be shared over at the Yarn Lab.


And speaking of my tent, I picked it up for a shockingly inexpensive $20 at Canadian tire, and proceeded to spray paint large Oms on the fly in gold.  Thank goodness I did too, because I think it was only the blessing of the oms that kept my tent standing and dry in all of the rain and wind we had last week. The tent itself is not on the website, or apparently anywhere online, but according to the packaging is a Timberline by Kodiak 4 person Dome Tent.


The most amazing part of camping out at Wanderlands in O'ahu, was going to sleep each night listening to the crash of the waves, and waking each morning to watch the light of sunrise come out over the ocean. Although the waves could be a bit loud, and the strong winds coming in off the shoreline took down a few tents, I couldn't have picked a better camp site.


Wanderlands campgrounds provided all of our needs during the festival. With a large communal camp fire, clean outhouses, and cold water showers, you had your necessities covered. Importantly, they had very helpful campground managers camping near by, ready to help you out with tape or tarps should you run into trouble with your tent. They also had twinkle lights strung through the trees and a generator running all night to light up a tent where you could charge your phones and cameras.

While camping was a little rustic, I have to thank the generous staff at Turtle Bay Resort, as each one of us campers headed up to the resort to use the lobby bathroom, to freshen up and brush our teeth. Heck some people even shampooed their hair in the sinks (which to be honest, the hotel wasn't pumped about, and I can't blame the for it). They also put up with all of us campers spending our down time in the lobby while it rained outside, and providing us with free wifi, so we could keep in touch with social media of course!


All of this was great, of course, but the best part of camping was the people! Hanging out on the beach and by the campfire, you got to meet some of the best festival goers, who had flown in from all over the world with shared interests in yoga and travel.


Here's just a few of us hanging out in the lobby with some wine before dinner on our last evening there! In closing I have to say, I wouldn't do wanderlust any other way. Although a hot shower would be great, and a real bed would have felt amazing, the experiences I had on the beach were worth any small and temporary discomforts!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wanderlust O'ahu 2015

Well ladies and gents, I'm back in Calgary. I summoned the courage to say goodbye to tropical paradise, leave the North Shore behind and come back home to winter. And to be honest, it feels good to be back home. The kind of goodness that comes from being home with the people you love after having an amazing trip full of personal growth and experience and wonder.


I spent 4 nights in Waikiki, traveling around O'ahu on my own, then headed up to the fabled north shore, and Turtle Bay Resort for the yoga festival Wanderlust. If you have never been to Wanderlust or a yoga retreat, please take my advice on this, and make plans to go to one now. Even if you've never done a single downward dog in your life. Even if it's not located somewhere as beautiful as Hawaii. You will open your heart and bring in so much goodness to your life.


This was my first true vacation taken all on my lonesome, and just after my 27th birthday (on Feb 17th) it absolutely could not have come at a better point. The photo above is from my first morning in Hawaii at sunrise, I rolled myself out of my hostel bed, and headed down to the beach, wrapped in my own thoughts, breathing the fresh sea air. As I watched the clouds go from grey to red and gold, I contemplated being at a turning point in my life. This 27th year of my life will see me finishing up Grad School, Kevin finishing Medical school. He will head to Medicine Hat for residency and I will make the career choices that will set the tone for my future. And although I hate to focus in on age as a number, but there is certainly something about knowing 30 is right around the corner that makes you sit and think hard about your life.


So a trip by myself, at this cornerstone point in my life, was exactly what I wanted and needed. And I promised myself, there on that beach, to make this trip a celebration of me. To embrace the experience to its fullest.  To savor the solitude, and to in the lonely moments to grow as an individual.


And while I was raised as a Catholic, and I don't know what I am right now, I found more time for spirituality on this trip than I have in the last several years. Spirituality that took on many forms. By traveling alone, you are blessed with the ability to sit and contemplate yourself and the world whenever you feel the inner call to do so. Whether it be in the sandalwood scented silence of a Japanese Buddhist temple, or amid 400 other yogis in the rain and the mud at Wanderlust.


Traveling alone has so many rewards, although it can be lonely at times. So also important on this trip was to be open to form new relationships. And in that openness you might even find yourself blessed with the seeds of a new friendship. In an example of how truly small this world is, the girl who pitched her tent next to mine happened to be from right back home in Calgary. And somehow, in addition to having shared roots, we found we had many other things in common as well. So I get to take a little bit of my trip home with me, and hopefully in Alberta's fertile soil grow that friendship further.


Over the next several days I'll be sharing all of my trip on the blogs. So please come on back for more. In the mean time, I have a tonne of laundry to do, sleep to catch up on, photos to print and blogs to write.

From the depths of my heart,

Namaste!