When I did my yoga teacher training in 2013, one of my goals was to ‘figure out’ how to meditate. I had been practicing yoga for many years, but there was a piece of my practice missing. And I was so desperate to calm my mind the **** down and find some stillness for myself after a couple years of health issues and and overall stress.
Instagram is probably one of my top five favourite things about the 21st century, so far. One of the reasons is that I have met so many lovely people via the app in the last couple of years; one of those being Shamiza Ali, girl boss and designer of a local apparel brand, Edna SMaK. Yep, Edna SMaK. Just the name made me want to further explore, and she designs lofely clothes that work for every body. She is a super sweet girl with a motivating entrepreneurial spirit, and I am so excited to share a little collaboration we worked on together for a pair of leggings. But first, a little bit about her!
Hygge is about getting cozy and creating a warm atmosphere to enjoy the good things in life with good people. That includes getting outside to enjoy nature, whether on your own, or with those good people. Something I don’t do as much of as I would like!
Hello and happy autumn! Along with Mother Nature’s changing colour palette, the weather in Vancouver has become a bit cooler and the rain we are known for has been making a few appearances. So it’s a good thing the Brit and I got one last summer hike in this past Saturday; this time at Dog Mountain at Mount Seymour Provincial Park. The weather was beautiful and as much as I am not a morning person (especially not on the weekends), the scenery was absolutely worth getting up early for. If it’s a clear day, make sure you stop to take a photo of Mount Baker!
Here’s the thing about hiking in the summer: the earlier you get your step on, the less crowded it is, and the temperature in the morning is much more pleasant (if a bit brisk!) for a hike. You also get to spend the rest of your day on the amazing endorphin high of your accomplishment. We weren’t the earliest on the trail by any means, but there were maybe 10-12 people at the top when we got there at 10:30. And when we got to the bottom, we still had the entire day ahead of us, including the all-important refuel brunch. We went to Tour de Feast, this cute little French Bistro on Mountain Highway. Highly recommend!
Dog Mountain is a pretty hike that is generally done June through October. At one hour each way, it’s a great option if you don’t have all day. It’s rated easy by VancouverTrails.com, but don’t go in thinking you’re going to sprint up. They rightly highlight it as on the more challenging end of the easy scale due to the trail path being heavily peppered with tree roots that can present a tripping or slipping hazard. So watch your step!
You will trek by First Lake at about the halfway point and it’s absolutely worth stopping to take a couple photos.
And then you’ll get to the top and see this:
I’m a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I mean really.
You’ll also see many furry friends on the trail; most of the dog variety as, very appropriately, dogs are welcome (on-leash). There were also some adorable little squirrels along the trail and at the top, but as the Brit was reminded by his photos (below), they are FAST! They also make this surprisingly loud and high-pitched rebel yell sound. (Think “Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye!) It’s quite funny.
Dog Mountain trail is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver. The entrance to the park is located on Mount Seymour Road just north of Mount Seymour Parkway in North Vancouver. As with all hikes, wear appropriate clothes and footwear, make sure you bring water and snacks, and if it’s sunny, wear a hat and sunscreen!
Did you get your last hike of the summer in the books? Where did you go?
(A big shout out to my guy, the Brit, for taking some pictures of me for this post and for lending me his Mount Baker and squirrel photos. Mwah! Check out his Flickr account; he takes a pretty picture, does my guy.)
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
Three years ago this month, I was on an epic road trip through Scotland and Northern England with my lovely Edinburgh friends, Lesley and Stephen. They literally took me everywhere and were the best tour guides. One of my favourite spots that we drove through at least twice, was Glencoe.
More recently, I stopped at Glencoe on my Highland Explorer tour, and again with the girls en route back to Glasgow to catch our flight to London. We were ending our Highlands road trip – taken in a Lexus Hybrid SUV, no less (thank you car rental company for the upgrade!) – and wanted to get a few uninterrupted photos of the beautiful Three Sisters hills while we could. (Click here to get directions to the Three Sisters car park.)
It had blessedly stopped raining for a bit so we could enjoy the very early morning peace and quiet of an empty parking lot and no noisy tourists. When I was there with the tour, there were so many people… Though I did get this nice photo:
You may have seen Glencoe’s dramatic scenery featured in many movies and television series, including the Harry Potter movies, Skyfall, and this little show you may have heard of: Outlander. The glen is free to visit and is wonderfully maintained by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). There is a great visitor centre (located just off the A82, 17 miles south of Fort William) that I visited in 2014, but it wasn’t open for the day yet when the girls and I were driving through. There is an admission fee and they offer guided walks and tours. If you want to explore unencumbered, there are some nice, easy hikes in the glen.
No matter how many times I go through the Highlands, I will never tire of the scenery. It’s such a majestic place and I feel humbled, happy, and at peace when I’m there. Everywhere you look is a shining example of the area’s beauty, though it does have a tragic historical event attached to it: the Massacre of Glencoe. The story made me tear up a bit when I heard it on my bus tour so I will just leave you to look it up.
In a way, the history helps romanticize the area, but I think the landscape does a good job of that on its own. You can’t tell me the below doesn’t make you wish you were in your own version of Outlander; even if just for a few moments of daydreaming. 😉
Glencoe was one of three NTS sites I had the chance to visit while on this recent trip. I look forward to sharing the others with you in upcoming posts as they absolutely merit their own spotlight!
Time for a stretch!
Being on a road trip obviously entails a lot of sitting in the car. Lexus or not, it’s hard on the body. Particularly the hip-flexors, which tend to get quite tight from constant sitting. Which in turn can make the quads feel tight. This also happens with lots of walking. Go figure.
A really great yoga posture for tight quads is Dancer Pose or the more traditional names: Natarajasana or Lord (or Lady!) of the Dance pose. It’s a favourite of mine, not just because it’s a fabulous stretch during road trip pit stops (or post-plane ride). It’s also a balance posture; good for the mind and body, and for keeping your ego in check. It’s also a lovely chest opener and back bend – also nice after having not so great posture while sitting in a car.
Dancer is a lovely, dramatic posture, but we are only going to visit the first two bus stops of the pose.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A strap of some kind – a belt or scarf will do in a pinch! (optional)
Your car, to help with balance (optional)
Bust Stop #1:
Stand on an ideally flat, even surface in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), equal weight in both feet.
If you are using a car for balance, place your right hand on the side of the car.
Transfer your weight to your right foot, keeping the leg straight and strong by lifting the kneecap.
a) Reach behind you with your left hand to grab the outside of the left foot and bring it up to your bum OR
b) Make a long loop with your belt or scarf and reach around to catch your ankle in the loop and bring the foot up to the bum.
To protect the lower back from compression, gently pull (not tuck) the tailbone towards the ground and pull the belly button in and up.
This is might be where you ‘get off the bus’ – it’s a good place to be when the quads are super tight.
Bus Stop #2:
Begin to lift the left foot up and against the left hand (or your belt), opening the angle of your bent knee as your thigh (possibly) becomes parallel to the ground. This will automatically tilt you forward into a bit of a back bend and open up the chest.
If you don’t care if anyone is looking at you, or are taking a blog or Instagram photo, lift that right arm up with the palm facing up. This will give a nice stretch on the right side.
Smile – you’re stretching your quads!
Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Dancer is a fun posture that can be a bit wobbly. So if you fall out of it (as I did in one of the below photos), laugh it off and get back into it. And love the happy endorphins your laughter gave you.
We were out and about last weekend and it occurred to me that it’s almost at the end of August. How did that sneak up so quickly?? Despite summer whooshing by, I can safely say that I’ve been properly enjoying my weekends playing tourist in my town. Having an ex-pat significant other makes for much discovery and re-discovery of my beautiful city of Vancouver.
Travel is hard on your body. Considering what you are doing (seeing amazing things) I know this sounds a little boo-hoo-ish, but the struggle is real. No one’s body feels good after sitting on a plane, train, or in an automobile for a long period of time.
You know what I mean. Stiff neck from sleeping at a weird angle. Sore back and shoulders from sitting in the awkward seats. Tight legs and hips from the same. Hands and feet feeling heavy. The interesting thing is that you can feel much of the same after playing tourist and being on your feet all day.
So what can we do about it? When we were on our girls’ trip, any time one of my friends said their legs hurt, I would say four words: legs up the wall. Usually, while I was about to do the exact same. It feels amazing when you’ve been out and about all day, or even just after a day at work.
Legs Up the Wall
Traditionally called Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall is one of my all-time favourite yoga poses. It’s great restorative posture that opens the chest and stretches the back of the neck and backs of the legs. It also helps release tension in the lower back and increases circulation by flowing blood from your feet back to your heart. Your heart won’t have to pump as hard and it’s an excellent way to relax weary legs after a day of exploring and the copious amount of stairways that seem to always be part of my travels.
What You Need:
Wall and floor space (No adequate wall/floor space combo in your digs? Use your bed.)
Yoga mat or towel (optional, but nice when on the floor)
Cushion or pillow for lower back support (optional)
Rolled up towel for neck support (optional)
Place your mat or towel with the short edge right against the wall. If using a cushion, place it at the wall.
Lie down on your side, with your head away from the wall and knees. Sit on your mat/cushion with your left or right side flush with the wall and use your opposite hand to support you as you lie down on your side.
Roll on to your back and extend your legs your legs up the wall. (There’s no way to be graceful about this. Don’t worry about it.)
Bend your knees as much as needed to support the lower back. You may need to scooch your hips away from the wall a bit.
Arms can be by your side with palms facing up, or hands resting on your belly. Whatever is comfortable.
If your neck needs some support, roll up a towel and place it so your neck can rest comfortably in alignment.
If the feet get tingly, bend the knees a bit more.
To feel the same circulatory benefits in your arms while in this pose, loosely extend the arms up and reach for the ceiling.
To come out of the pose, gently bring the knees into the chest and roll to your left side.
5-10 minutes in this pose does wonders for my legs and my mind. I hope it can be helpful for you, too!
Looking for a travel yoga mat? Here are some great options that I use and have been recommended to me:
B MAT Traveller (2mm) – ($56 CAD) This is my current travel mat and I love it. It folds up nicely in my suitcase and it irons itself out within half an hour of my taking it out after a flight. It also feels quite cushy despite being only 2mm thick. It has more than paid for itself in the last two years
Halfmoon Yoga Travel Mat ($38 CAD) – I’ve heard so many good things about this one, and it’s a great price point. Also, it’s a Vancouver based company! 🙌🏻
Manduka® eKO® SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat – ($42 USD) My Kundalini teacher uses this as her travel mat, and she travels A LOT. Available online in the USA here and in Canada here.
As I’ve been preparing for my upcoming holiday (One week until takeoff!), I’ve been going through the photos from my last trip to Europe in summer 2015. (What did I see, what did I miss?) And I came across the photos from a sunny stroll around London that I absolutely loved.
My Airbnb was in a beautiful neighbourhood in an area called Lambeth, which leads on to the South Bank of the Thames from the Lambeth Walk. My good Edinburgh friend, Jim, travels to London a lot for work and had suggested an extension of my regular routine – with a few of his favourite stops – when I told him how much I love to walk along the South Bank. (And because he knows I am a long-time musical theatre geek. There’s a song called “The Lambeth Walk” from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl that was written about (three guesses!) Lambeth Walk. Needless to say, I had a little bounce in my step as I hummed my way along in my head. The locals must have thought I was nuts.)
Jim also gave me a destination that was right up my alley: the 300-year-old historical Twinings London Flagship Store. And so, from Lambeth to the Strand, this my South Bank Stroll.
Should you not be staying near Lambeth (or not be inclined to whistle or hum your way down the walk – it’s okay, I forgive you), and war history is your thing, a good starting point for this wander is the Imperial War Museum’s London branch (Tube Stop: Lambeth North). The Churchill War Rooms are housed here and the set of exhibits “tells the people’s experiences of modern war from WW1 to conflicts today”. Admission is free – a get thrifty bonus that you will find with most museums in the UK.
From there, get your step on for a 30-40 minute walk along the South Bank.
Never mind Big Ben and Westminster (though they are spectacular). I love these lamp posts along the Thames because they have such fabulous expression and character. They are apparently based on the Fontana del Nettuno in Rome.
While the lineup at the London Eye always deters me from experiencing it, I do love to photograph it. It’s also a good landmark for me if I ever feel a bit lost. This area is very touristy, but is a good spot to pick up some reasonably priced postcards or London themed souvenirs from the street vendors.
One of Jim’s instructions was for me to skip the Westminster and Jubilee Bridges, and though I’m quite partial to Westminster Bridge (the South Bank Lion makes my day), I listened and went to Waterloo Bridge. There’s a song by The Kinks called “Waterloo Sunset” that I was instructed to sing when I got there, but that was not happening. (Sorry, Jim!) Should you know the song, go for it.
When you get across the bridge, you might want to stop at Somerset House to see one of the exhibits. When I was out and about, I was on a tea mission (and it was way too nice out!), but Somerset House is on my list for this next trip. It’s a beautiful building, as is the very impressive Australian High Commission. (My photo does not do it justice…)
If you’re like me and send a million postcards, the post office is en route to the Twinings shop and museum. Pop your postcards in the mailbox and walk thirty seconds to enter a tea lover’s paradise – final destination: the Twinings London Flagship Store. Single tea bags? No sweat. Gift sets? Done. Make your own tea box or buy a fancy tea set? You’re in the right spot. The get thrifty portion of the day was officially over. I bought a lot of tea.
If you have willpower (clearly, I didn’t), initially ignore the things to purchase and march to the back to check out the museum portion of things and have a “cuppa” or tea tasting experience at the tasting bar. The classic Earl Grey is spot on.
I think I clocked about 25,000 steps that day. (At least!) Thank you to Jim for the suggested deviation from my usual Westminster Bridge stroll.
What’s your favourite stroll in your city or somewhere you’ve travelled?
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
~ C. S. Lewis ~
I’m incredibly excited to be going back to London in June, this time on a girls’ trip with my besties. Some exciting things have been lined up for this trip and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventures!