Pause and Explore – Dancer Pose in Glencoe

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:

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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. 😉

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Facts for the curious
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Rebecca taking one last shot
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The Three Sisters

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!

~

DANCER POSE

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.

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Dancer is a lovely, dramatic posture, but we are only going to visit the first two bus stops of the pose.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Yourself 🙂
  • A strap of some kind – a belt or scarf will do in a pinch! (optional)
  • Your car, to help with balance (optional)

METHOD:

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.

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This post was partly made possible by the National Trust for Scotland. As always, opinions stated are my own.

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Staring into a Scottish landscape, I have often asked myself why – in spite of all appearances – bracken, rocks, man and sea are at some level one.

~ Neal Ascherson ~

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Airport R&R

Flight delays. Or long layovers for connecting flights, usually involving flight delays. Not very glamorous and inevitable realities when travelling. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle and then you’re left a bit worse for wear in your gate area and having to kill however many hours.

(Click here for some flight delay survival tips for when things get fraught and chaotic at the airport.)

With energy levels incredibly low, I was recently walking to my gate area in London Heathrow’s Terminal 3. I needed food and a strong cup of tea, stat. And then I saw a sign that made me want to weep with gratitude: The rest and relaxation room near Gate 24. Yes, please.

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This was a happy discovery for me, as I had a few hours to while away before my connecting flight home – the third of three flights. I had just dealt with 24 hours of not being able to check into all of my flights to get myself back to Vancouver from Barcelona; being on hold and then frustrated when talking to the airline – 60 minutes of my life I will never get back; initially cursing what turned out to be the very smart decision of not sleeping before my 3:30 am Barcelona taxi pickup, and watching my taxi driver nearly get dismembered by another taxi whose driver was WRITING AND DRIVING as he was pulling into the airport taxi stand at a fair click (and then blaming my taxi driver for being in his way). Zurich Airport was a less chaotic experience, but that airport’s version of relaxing is a smoking room – of which they have at least two. No, thank you. (Although the idea of rolling out my mat to meditate amidst all the fancy watch and chocolate shops was tempting…)

But I digress. Back to Heathrow and me hot-footing it to Gate 24. The R&R room is decorated very much like the waiting room in a doctor’s office (if more brightly) but it was a sanctuary for me. Blessedly quiet with comfy couches, chairs and chaise lounges so you can lie back and put your feet up; outlets to charge your phone, a selection of books, and the all important flight info board. And most importantly, it’s free. So if you’re not an airline elite member with lounge access, or a day room is not in your budget, this is the place for you.

Everyone in that room is there for the same reason you are: peace and quiet. No keyboards clacking, phone calls or speaking loudly. (Except for the loud woman who didn’t quite understand the purpose of the room until she got shushed by those of us not impressed with her volume. Yes, we shushed her.) From what I remember, there aren’t any speakers the room, so if you do want a nap, make sure you set yourself an alarm for when you need to go to your gate!

I got cozy on a chaise lounge with my blanket scarf and spent an hour and a half with relaxing music on my headphones and a good book on my e-reader. I left that room feeling like a normal human being and I hadn’t even taken a nap. Not being on my phone or computer felt amazing.

As a usually solo traveller, my laptop and phone, or perhaps a book, tend to be my go-tos, which got me thinking about the Yoga Room in SFO Airport’s Terminal 2 (which was a much needed and amazing way to spend some time when I was there in January). And then about other ways that one can decompress and kill time before a flight – that don’t involve hunching over blue light electronics. Massage chairs (a nice #GetThrifty option and a great way to get rid of foreign coins!), mani-pedi, retail therapy. Enjoying a meal or a glass of wine while people watching – which is incredibly fun at the airport. If you’re with someone, conversation is a novel idea.

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Google tells me that there are a few more airports with quiet rooms like Heathrow’s, as well as yoga rooms. Airports are always under some kind of update construction these days, so hopefully the amenities follow suit!

It’s a wi-fi signal world out there. How do you keep yourself occupied and at ease while in transit? Share your tips in the comments section!

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

~ Gustave Flaubert ~


Travel Yoga: Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

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

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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)

Method:

  • 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.

If you are wanting something a thicker, check out this very thorough and well-researched list from Reviews.com of the best mats out there. You might also want a mat bag or strap and you can find some good options here. My current home mat is a Gaiam Premium print option (available in Canada at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca and in the US on Gaiam’s website), and I love Halfmoon Yoga’s studio mats.

Happy legs = happy travels! x

To keep the body in good health is a duty… Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

~ Buddha ~

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To connect or not to connect?

I have spent the last week in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to: Kythira Island in Greece. The purpose of my trip was for a Kundalini yoga teacher training retreat through Semperviva Yoga, which is a set of studios back home in Vancouver. It has been an AMAZING week. I come off the island having made a pack of fantastic new friends, eaten a lot of really good Greek food, and more importantly, learned a lot about myself (and that my brain does have an off switch for meditation after all) and a different kind of yoga that I previously hadn’t thought was for me. And I actually got a bit of a tan. See? Amazing on all levels.

Last day of walking on the beach. Yes, I did actually get in the sea, - more than once - but that's a story for another day.
Last day of walking on the beach. Yes, I did actually get in the sea, – more than once – but that’s a story for another day.

Gloria Latham is the director and owner of Semperviva (which is also where I recently finished my 200 hour RYT yoga teacher training), and one of the first things she suggested for the week was that, while there is wireless at our lovely hotel, it’s not super reliable, so why not disconnect from the outside world and electronics for the week? This sounded like a great idea for me, being the social media semi-junkie that I am. But then I got to my room and I had my own wireless router that was super reliable… To connect or not to connect?

I am proud to say that this was only a mild setback and despite the wireless access and my Europe travel pass for my phone, I didn’t post anything. For a week. Other than a quick “peace, out” when I got there and occasionally connecting with Sean via text, I didn’t do anything except upload photos to my blog server to go with the post drafts and ideas that I had ample opportunity to write. I loved it.

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I had a really great dinner tonight in the town of Rafina, where I am staying the night before I fly back to Scotland tomorrow, but more about that later. Actually, one thing I will say about my dinner is that the tzatziki rocked my world. YUM.

The week must be catching up with me as I am starting to nod off at my computer. Kalinýchta!