It’s holiday party season and you are going to look fab in your outfit and party shoes. But your feet are going to hate you. Why? High heels, baby, high heels. There’s a reason your feet sigh with relief when you kick your shoes off. But I’ve got you with a quick, effective post-party yoga stretch routine for all levels that will decompress you from head to toe – and counteract the negative effects of your skycrapers.
(And gents, you aren’t necessarily wearing heels, but your dress shoes are also making your feet cry. Just saying…)
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!
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.