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…)
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!
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.
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.
I love getting mail. Not bills, obviously, but good mail. Occasion cards, postcards (my favourite!), or something I’ve ordered. The mail redirect from the recent move is working so that’s a bonus. I also like sending mail. As my friends and family know, I am an avid postcard sender. Mail, for me, is something simple, yet tangible and personal in a time where we mostly “LOL” electronically instead sharing that belly laugh in person.
My favourite piece of mail in 2014, aside from a letter from Pemberley(!), was a mala bead bracelet from Mala Collective. A small Christmas present to myself to help me start 2015 on the right foot.
(What are mala beads? In short, mala beads are prayer beads. They are widely associated with yoga and meditation; a great description can be found here.)
My choice of bracelet took a while – I am a Libra after all – mostly because I had to read all the descriptions of the gemstones the beads are made of on the Mala Collective website. Which gemstone and its healing properties could best represent what I needed and how I was feeling – and help me with my meditation? All of them. Ha.
In the end, I chose the Prana (breath) bracelet with green aventurine. A gemstone “known to protect, activate and clear the heart chakra… stone of comfort and balance.” SOLD. Having been reminded in August at my Kundalini teacher training in Greece that I am currently very firmly in said heart chakra, and for a few other reasons, this was my bracelet.
When I opened the parcel and put the bracelet on, did the world change? Did my chakras balance out and did the angels sing? No. But wouldn’t that have been nifty?
I have practiced yoga for a long time. But only in recent years has my practice evolved into being more than about having good muscle tone with a nice yoga bum and the lovely feeling of peace after coming out of savasana. A feeling which, of course, lasts only as long as you let it. (Surprise!) Like many out there, I have a hard time with quieting my mind: sifting through the junk and finding that elusive ‘zen’ place.
Meditation is difficult for me in the best of head spaces. (It is a good thing that I am a deep sleeper, because I think that sleep is the only time my mind is ever in neutral. If I dream, I have no recollection.) But I have come to appreciate and look forward to the eleven minutes a day where I show up for myself. And those occasional and really lovely juicy ‘nothing’ moments that come – and then go because I’ve realized that I’ve gotten to that place and am so pleased with myself.
In my ongoing journey of yoga teacher training education, I have had to, so far, do two 40-day meditation challenges as graduation requirements. Eleven minutes a day of the given mantra, for 40 days. The catch? If you miss a day, you have to start again! I’m fairly Type A, so this was a big deal for me, both times. I am that person who would not be great with having to start again. It just wasn’t going to happen when I had something to prove to myself, never mind completing the 40 days for graduation. Needless to say, I didn’t miss a day.
But now, if I miss a day – it happens – I just start again. And that is a lesson in patience and not being hard on myself. I’m still showing up; and that is 90% of the work. I wear my bracelet every day and while it’s not a cure or anything like that, the cool feeling of the beads on my wrist reminds me to stay in the moment appreciate the the simple things like the aroma of tomato bisque while it simmers or sending and receiving mail.
Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn’t pop. I’ll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them.
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.
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.
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!
I’m home sick today with a cold – yuck – and Sean is working. It’s been a really hectic few weeks and I know my body is telling me to sit still. A chance to take care of myself, catch up on the PVR, and nap. Can’t remember the last time I napped, so today is a blessing in disguise. And a chance to organize photos from the summer.
My friend Tia recently left the corporate world to go back to art school and follow her dreams of being a full-time artist. She also officially started her photography business. She is super talented and I am beyond proud of her for making such big decisions.
Tia was my pod-mate and fellow EA at work and we became good friends in our time of crazy calendaring, last minute requests, inconvenient technology glitches, gently rocking the corporate boat and always, ALWAYS having a good giggle.
Back in June, I decided to enter a photo contest my yoga studio was having, but I needed help. Tia was starting to update her portfolio and she very kindly and enthusiastically agreed to be the photographer for this endeavour. Tia and her fiancé, Dean (also a very talented photographer) took me down to Kits beach and took some amazing photos. I am very pleased to say that we won that photo contest! 🙂
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of getting my picture taken, but I had so much fun with Tia and Dean that day and I am so happy to share their work. They are really good together and their passion for photography is so apparent. As is the genuine interest in their subjects. (They did a shoot with Sean in I earlier in September and I will eventually share those too, because, aside from being beautiful photos, I’m shamelessly plugging my friend’s business – because she takes those beautiful photos!)
These photos also remind me what a beautiful place I am so fortunate to live in.