Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Or is it? I don’t know.

I always loved the atmosphere during Christmas Holidays and I do not mean religious-wise. I love the scent of burning wood, the ornaments on the Christmas trees, the smell of Christmas goodies baking, the Christmas lights and music on the street, the presents, the family and friends gatherings. I was always looking forward to all the small luxuries I could indulge in during these holidays: small trips in the country, going for skiing or ice skating, visiting hip clubs and bars, drinking champagne, eating a bit more, working a bit less and the list goes on. You get the picture.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Make your own Zafu Meditation Cushion.

Having my upcoming Vipassana Meditation Retreat in mind I decided I would invest in a meditation pillow. I will have to sit formore than 10 hours each day and it will definitely come handy after I come back from the retreat. However, after researching I found out that a zafu pillow costs anywhere between 40-60 euros, an amount of money that seems a bit too much to me. Being good with crafts since I was a little girl, I thought I should search for a tutorial and make my own pillow. And then I came across this article here:

"The following information was originally published by the Zen Center of Los Angeles and was found in one of their fine books, entitled “To Forget the Self: An Illustrated Guide to Zen Meditation” by John Daishin Buksbazen. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print. It is gratefully presented here as a help for those getting started on their own. 

A sturdy material such as a cotton/polyester blend

Kapok fiber, although buckwheat hulls can be used for those who prefer a firmer seat

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Swimming is Similar to Yoga? Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation in the Pool.

Swimming is my first big love. I used to train in a big team when I was younger for many hours every day, I was actually living most part of my life in or around a pool.  As life’s responsibilities grew more and more I had to quit since there was no way I would find so many hours to train daily. That is how I kissed my big dreams to enter the Open Sea category and participate in international events goodbye.

Well, this year I decided that since I won’t be running during winter time I should find a pool and go for  a swim 3-4 times per week. And I did. Going back after all these years was great but at the same time felt so different. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Food Blog

That's a really quick note to inform you that I have decided to move all my food related posts to a different blog since it seems I will be doing a lot of experiments with cooking and trying out a more vegetarian way of eating. I will keep the once-in-a-week-meat plan I have right now till I feel ready to drop meat and fish 100% and I will be publishing recipes and articles on the other blog. Any suggestions and recommendation are more than welcome.
The link to the food blog is Eat, Love, Yoga. See you there as well!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yogic Kitchen: Nutritious Vegetarian Diet for Yoga Practicioners

The yogic diet is mainly vegetarian, with a small amount of dairy products, namely milk, yogurt and cheese.  Based on fresh and organic plant foods as much as possible, avoiding preservatives and chemical additives. What are the benefits of such a diet? What do we gain by including the combination "rice, sabji, dhal" in our daily eating habits? 

The dhals are legume dishes (usually beans, red lentils etc) cooked with a specific combination of spices (basis) which assist and accelerate our digestive process.
The sabjis are vegetable dishes, cooked also on the same basis spices.  The vegetables used should be mainly seasonal since they are the fresher, cheaper and easier to find. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Acceptance is the Beauty of Yoga.

I love Fridays. Although I am really worn out from the whole week that has just passed, the evening led class is such a wonderful way to end the week. The effort I need to put in my practice is greater than any other day due to physical tiredness but the energy in the shala is lifting everybody up. 

So, last Friday we had another full primary series led class at the studio. It was probably the most demanding one I had so far since all the week was crazy. Christmas holidays are just around the corner and the daily work load has increased dramatically. To be completely honest, when I left the office I was really thinking to drop the class and just go home to rest. I had a debate with myself, one part of me was trying to get me home and the other one was convincing me to go to the studio which I fortunately did.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Switching to a Vegetarian Diet?

All my life my diet has been Mediterranean style with a little more meat (well I live in Greece, duh?) and I never ever intended to change it. I really like it. Or should I say liked it? If someone told me that I would stop eating meat I would definitely laugh at their face. No way, you can’t say that to a meat lover! Until recently, a common week would consist of 3-4 days of meat, 1-2 days of fish and 1-2 days legumes. All meals include plenty of vegetables and olive oils, fruits are part of the plan too. Then a few times per week there are eggs, dairy, pasta or rice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

30-hour Yoga Asana Immersion.

Photo from here.
Lately I have taken some private lessons with my teacher as I am really concerned on learning more about yoga philosophy and history while deepening my asana knowledge: what is the correct alignment for each asana, which muscles are active during each posture, what are the benefits if done correctly, what are the risks if done incorrectly, what modifications can be applied for different needs etc. Although I am not new in yoga and most of the primary series asanas are more than familiar to me, I didn't have a teacher that could provide this kind of  information to me in the past. My teacher not only helped me with all the above but also gave me directions on further book reading and even gave me some of his own material that he used in previous workshops.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Sun Salutations. Beginners' Tips for Suryanamaskar A & B

Sun Salutation A.
Photo from here.

Sun Salutations can be difficult when you are a beginner but there are some tips my amazing teacher has shared with me that have been valuable to me and helped a lot. It's fun how sometimes just a small tiny modification can make things easier.
As my teacher always says in each and every practice "You must not suffer when practicing Ashtanga. You must feel that your body is working but not too much, you do not want to make your life harder than it already is, you want to make it easier and better. So bring your intelligence in the classroom and modify whatever asana you need to or rest in child's pose whenever appropriate".

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yes! You Can Make A Difference! The Inspiring Story of Lou Xiaoying.

During a conversation a colleague asked me "How can I make a difference when I am just one person?" A numerous examples came to my mind but the one I chose to reply with was the story of Lou Xiaoying which came to the surface somewhere in the middle of the summer. I happened to re-read it a few days ago and although I was familiar with the story, tears filled my eyes.

For those who may not know, infanticide and infant abandonment is very common in China due to the harsh policy that allows only one child per urban family. Poverty and political pressure force the Chinese to abandon and even infanticide babies, especially if their first child is a girl since they think a boy would financially assist better the family when it grows up, something that is believed to be the main cause of China’s gender imbalance. There are every day incidents of forced abortions, infanticide and baby abandonment in dumpsters. There are hundreds of articles and shocking photos on the web and I could go on but my point is not to make you feel angry or ashamed for the mankind. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises by N. Kazantzakis E-Book

Writer, philosopher, traveller of the world, banned by the Vatican and condemned by the Greek Orthodox church, Nikolaos Kazantzakis is one of the most important and spiritually restless Greek writers of all times. Very influenced by Homer, Dante, Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche, he has written more than 50 books while his work has been translated in more than 40 languages. He travelled around the world, countries including France, Russia, England, Japan, China, Spain, Germany, Italy and spent prolonged periods in some of them, has even written numerous books about his travels.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Progress Requires Courage, Faith And Sacrifice.

“To reach a port we must set sail –
Sail, not tie at anchor
Sail, not drift.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is the quote that came to my mind a few days ago when, after having finished our Ashtanga yoga practice with relaxation in savasana, our teacher asked us to sit in a comfortable position and close our eyes guiding us through a visualization exercise which was something like this (me paraphrasing): "You are on a sailing boat at the dock, ready set sail. Straight in front you lies an exotic island where you have never been before. The scenery is so beautiful and the mystery of the undiscovered place feels you with a strong urge to get there so you prepare the sails and turn the engine on. The boat starts moving forward but a few seconds later won't go any further. You look back and realize that you have not untied the rope from the dock. At the moment you look back you are filled with hesitation. You love the place you are right now, you have explored it and know it well, you feel comfortable and safe there. Then you look ahead at the undiscovered island’s direction again. It seems so beautiful and you want to explore it. You have no idea what you will encounter there but you know that for a long time you will not feel as secure as you do in the place you are now. The decision is yours to make." In my visualization I cut the rope and set sail filled with joy. And when I get there what I discover is more beautiful and thrilling than what I have left behind.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Living Yoga - On And Off The Mat

Photo from here.
One of the parts I really heart when I practice Ashtanga Yoga in a class is the fact that I am blessed with an amazing teacher. Each and every time we finish practice, right after Savasana, we will sit to a comfortable sitting pose and our teacher will speak for 4-5 minutes about something. That something ranges from some detail he noticed to the world around him, a thing that happened to him during his daily activities or practice, something he read and thought he should share, a personal thought or emotion… pretty much everything. The great thing is that whatever he shares is inspiring me to search inside me, it gives me food for thought and helps me understand deeply that yoga is not only about the hours I spent in class but is what I do all 24 hours of the day, every day. As he said: "It doesn't matter if you come here and practice in the studio everyday but then forget everything when you leave. You must practice yoga all day long. Help an elderly woman pass across the road, recycle, give a loaf of bread to the homeless person you run into every morning, feed the stray dog in your neighborhood, do things that benefit others without expecting anything in return."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

50 Ways To Do Something Good - Selflessly

 “Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that: It lights the whole sky.” - Hafez

Selflessness is the sincere interest for the good of others and is connected to love and empathy. It is connected to faith and to making a difference. You might be one person but you are unique. You may not be able to achieve everything, but you can do something. Just smile and enjoy the fact that you have the possibility to make a difference. And as BKS Iyengar states in Light on Yoga: “He who works selflessly for the welfare of others with love in his heart is thrice blessed”.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"I am what I am because of who we all are."

I read a post in a Greek blog today which I found really inspirational and would like to share:

An anthropologist asked the children of an African tribe to play a game.  He put a basket full of fruits under a tree and told the children that whoever got there first would get the fruits for himself.When he asked the children to run, they grabbed each other's hands, ran together and then all together sat down and enjoyed the fruit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vipassana Meditation Retreat

Photo from here
Reading Claudia's blog a few days ago I read a post where she mentioned Vipassana meditation. I had never heard of it before and I was curious to learn more so I Googled it. Visiting the official Vipassana Meditation website I read that this is a technique that was taught in India 2500 years ago which aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation, it is taught in 10-day retreats in centers all over the world and it is completely free, even food and lodging. Old students donate so you and me can have access to the technique.

Yesterday's Dream Is Today's Reality.

Hand to Toe Pose
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
I have only been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for a tiny amount of time but there is no doubt it feels that this is what I should be doing. Yesterday I had a wonderful led class in the evening. It was the first time I was so concentrated in my practice, no wandering mind, no random thoughts, no distractions. Just me on my mat, breathing Ujjayi breath, feeding the fire inside, trying to keep my internal body locks (Bandhas) and practicing the sequence of asanas. It was the first time I got so further into most of the asanas and the time completely flew by.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Time For Ashtanga!

After of a long period of self practice due to lack of funds and a few months unemployed I finally found a new job. I spent 9 months more before I finally signed up for an Ashtanga yoga class and during that period the first 3 months I did go on home practicing but the last 6 I didn't. Something really intense happened to my life and I went through a period of letting go of everything. I just went to work, got back home, ate and sleep. I even started smoking again, a bad habit I managed to let go years ago. After reaching bottom line I decided I had to do something for me. I stood up, gathered my pieces together and searched for a studio of Ashtanga. I talked with 3 different ones till I decide and this September I got my very first lesson.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hello Mr. Rodney Yee! Nice to Meet You Mr. Bryan Kest!

As soon as I quitted the Hatha Yoga class I took at the studio in my neighborhood I knew I needed to keep practicing until I find out more about yoga and studios and get myself a good teacher. That was when Mr. Rodney Yee came along.
The first DVD I tried was Power Yoga Total Body which I loved at that time. It was exactly what I needed. Challenging power yoga with progressing exercises, beautiful setting and great description of the poses and how to get into them. It was perfect for my level at that time and I used it for a long long time. 

Diving Into a Hatha Yoga Class

After home practicing with the Power Yoga & Five Tibetan Rites DVD for a while I started needing something more. I accidentally found out that there was a new yoga studio just 5 minutes walking distance from my house and decided to enroll. I dropped by and  the teacher informed me that they had daily Hatha Yoga classes, beginner and intermediate level, and two times per week they had a Vinyasa Flow class while every other weekend they would do seminars on meditation, chakras, traditional medicine, ayuverda etc.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Power Yoga, the Five Tibetan Rites and How a DVD CAN Be a Starting Point!

Yoga. Such a magical word!

I will never forget the first time I heard it. I was around 18 and I had no idea what yoga was, I just overheard someone mentioning it on the street. And I felt something moving inside me. I knew I had to learn more! I read a little general information about it but at the time I knew I could not commit to it due to college and working responsibilities. Kept it on the back of head. 

Eight whole years later, in 2009, I had just came to the point describing in my previous post. I finally achieved being promoted in a managerial position which was my dream for years and felt that everything I did to get there was for nothing. I needed to start fresh, give my own self some time, get it all back together. I started again dance lessons (which I had dropped for 2 years in order to focus in my job and so-wanted promotion) and although dancing did make me feel a lot better I felt I needed something more. One day I got a free Yoga DVD with my local copy of SHAPE magazine, it was my first one ever. I felt that something moving inside me again. So I got home, put it in the player and watched it. It was a beginner’s power yoga sequence followed by the Five Tibetans Rites and a 15 minute relaxation in savasana. The setting was great, the background music was amazing and the voice of the woman featured in the DVD (famous local trainer that was one of the first to bring power yoga in my country) was peaceful and calm. I liked what I saw and I decided that I would try it on the first day I had enough free time.

That Saturday night I didn’t go out. I stayed home, made some space in the living room, lighted up 2-3 candles and an oil burner with jasmine incense, put a mat I had on the floor (foam mat I had for crunches, not good for yoga) and put the DVD on. As soon as I started I felt a strange kind of energy inside me, like electricity. By the time I finished relaxation I was feeling lighter, less worried, happier, tranquil. I could not explain how it was possible to feel this way after just one hour of practicing but I didn’t care. The fact was that I did. I was feeling that something is changing, I was feeling that what I did was right and that feeling was way too strong to question it. I went to the bathroom and looked at the mirror: you could see it in my face, I looked calm! 

Next day I ordered a yoga mat and I kept practicing with this DVD for a while doing my own ritual: turning off most lights, lighting my candles and burning jasmine . 

(Photo from here.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Beginning of the Journey – The Voice Inside Me

I believe that we all have a voice inside us which speaks of personal growth, self acknowledgement and inner self discovery. We just have to hear closely to actually listen to what it has to say. The daily life of most people living in western part of the world is so fast paced and demanding that we rarely have time to do so. However, this voice is so persistent that it never stops. And when the time comes that we actually hear it, it is our own decision if we will embark on this journey or not. We may then begin but somewhere along the way lose our path, forget our goal and abandon. But the voice will still be there and remind us that at some point, the point when we will be ready to hear it again, we must get back on track. This is what has happened to me the last few years. 


And welcome to my blog. I am very pleased to have you with me on my journey. I will use this blog as a journal in which I will keep my notes through the road to myself, the various paths I take and the crossroads I face. It will be a way of describing my inner thoughts and emotions, my hopes, my fears, my realizations, my drawbacks and my progress and I hope that some of you may find similarities and (in the future) some of you might get inspired of embarking on your own journey. Most of all I hope that through this journal I will have the blessing of meeting common minded people, co-travelers of a similar parallel trip with whom I can share, discuss, help and be helped in becoming better and taking steps further down this rocky path.


(Photo from here)