Montreal, Fireworks, and Food

Two of my sisters and I just spent Canada Day, July 1, in Montreal. You may have seen the pics of us playing around in the AirBnB, doing yoga poses in the window well. We were “resting” between bouts of activity, but some of us (not me) can’t sit still, hence, yoga in the window.

 But I digress. It was Canada Day, a national celebration of Country. My cousins told us where to go for the firework display, which was luckily in walkable distance. (Remember the “not sitting still” thing? It connects with the ability to walk for miles and miles. So Walkable Distance may or may not have applied to you! Oops, digressing again.) That evening we had a lovely dinner outdoors at a very cool restaurant*. You enter through a gray stone façade, the front of an old building with no windows or doors, just openings. Inside is open to the sky, with trees, flowers, and tables. Very cool, with delicious and inventive food. Smallish portions, but enough.

 Which leads me to the real point of this narrative: People in Montreal don’t overeat. They don’t snack. They eat what they want, clean their plate, and move on to the next thing. No snacking until the next meal. (Generalizing, but taken from personal observation of strangers and my cousins who live there.)

 At the fireworks – you knew we’d get there at some point in the story! – we arrived early to get a good seat, plopped ourselves down where we could hear the music from the nearby concert, and relaxed for an hour. It gets dark later up north, you know, so the fireworks wouldn’t begin until 10pm. Families arrived and surrounded us, people of all ages sat down and arranged themselves. Kids ran around waving their lighted sticks and playing games on the grass. It was fairly typical except . . .

(Pick up here from email)

 . . . there was no food. Not a pretzel, not a hotdog, not a kernel of popcorn. No food kiosks or portable ice cream vendors. Nothing. Nada. Not even a juice box in sight! Kids had lighted sticks. They ran around. They sat. They played. Grownups sat and watched, or chased. I saw two water bottles at one point. That was it. Can you see how astounded I was, and still am??

 Unthinkable! How do they survive?! We all know kids (and grownups!) must eat every half hour or so, to keep up their energy! We all know a water bottle must be on our person at every moment of every day to keep us hydrated! We all know that fireworks are no fun unless accompanied by cotton candy!

 Yup, I’m making fun of “us”. But think about it for a minute. How often do you “have to” eat? Do you snack all day because you need to keep up your blood sugar? Really?? Why do you think that? Did your co-worker tell you that you should? Did you read it in a magazine? Well, read this: Except for a small percentage of people, the digestive system needs to rest during the day, and that cannot happen if you graze all day long.

Know this: The obesity epidemic came along with the message that we need to eat low fat foods. Because low fat foods do not satisfy hunger, we are constantly hungry and constantly want to eat. So we graze on pretzels and nonfat yogurt and at some point, break down and eat three slices of pizza. Ahh, full at last!

 And for those of you forcing yourselves to eat breakfast even though you don’t want to, relax. Don’t eat it. Eat later, it’s fine. You are allowed to listen to your body and not to the good folks at Kellogg.

 This is a big conversation. And since most of us have messed with our body’s true needs, simply tuning in to ourselves doesn’t always work – our body will insist it needs to snack and have constantly high blood sugar for energy. It will complain loudly when you begin to eat full and complete meals and nothing in between – too much, then too little, it will say! But underneath, a tiny voice will be calling you to persevere, to correct course, to remember that constant munching is a habit that hurts us more than we know. It will try to squeak out the message that it is okay for your stomach to growl. It will remind you that hangry is a symptom of too much sugar, and not of too little sustenance. Find that tiny little voice, buried deep under the bagels and M&Ms, under the lowfat pretzels and the nonfat yogurt. That tiny voice that is crying out for some real food. Awww, so sad!

Yes, a big conversation. But one that is well worth having. Treat yourself to finally feeling good.

Yoga is a good way to start this conversation. Ask me how I can help.

*Boris Bistro; Montreal, Quebec

2Zz1xOaZSlSbHtoRdmazdQ.jpg

Don't Stop Believing (in yourself)

My yoga journey began around the year 2000. I remember because the teacher, who taught from her home studio, would let us bring our toddlers to play in an adjacent playroom, and my youngest was not yet in preschool that first year. By the time the World Trade Towers came down in '01 I was a dedicated yogi, taking several classes each week. That disaster brought me, as it did many others, to a place of fear and a desire to be ready for "anything". I had a renewed purpose for my yoga, which was to build and maintain enough physical and mental strength so I could carry my kids to safety if the need arose. (Cue "Climb Every Mountain" with the Captain carrying his youngest on his shoulders across the alps...)

By continuing my yoga practice and the mindfulness that comes with it, those fearful feelings did not linger over-long; but I still carry the memory and, although I haven't put it into words, before, I believe that my purpose for being a yoga teacher and holistic healing practitioner derives from that experience. 

I have taught yoga to all ages, from kindergarten Daisy Troops to my 80 years young mom. The bulk of my clients, though, are women in their 50's and 60's, a point where the body can take a turn for the worse if one is not paying attention. It is these marvelous people that inspire me with their dedication and conviction: I will not listen to the myth of middle age and the belief that the aches, pains, pot bellies, and other discomforts are inevitable. I will give myself what I have spent my adulthood giving to my children and community - time to explore, grow, move, and think. I will continue to get up when I fall down, to learn new things, and to strengthen my body to a point that may well exceed the fitness of my younger days! I am woman, hear me roar! Well, maybe no roaring. A Cheshire grin, perhaps.

For all those who think they are past the point of no return, I say, dig deep, step up, and take care of yourself. There are few who cannot improve their fitness at any age or from any starting point. These historic times call for stamina, strength, and the ability to think clearly. Yoga and the holistic healing arts are a gentle and marvelously effective way to stand strong and live with ease and joy. At every age.

Maina Block Island.jpg

You Can't Beat a Yoga Class That's Near a Trader Joe's!

“Wow, you come all that way to attend my yoga class?” I was impressed and flattered. She would have passed right by at least 4 yoga studios on her way, and there were likely a few more in close proximity to her house. But she drives 20 minutes to come to my humble class upstairs at the church, and I don’t even have air conditioning!

 “Yes,” she said. The studio thing doesn’t attract me. Plus, you’re close to Trader Joe’s.” Well, there’s that . . . and I don’t mind being part of a two-fer!

I’m the yoga teacher for people who don’t think they can do yoga. I attract those who want a traditional class filled with less-traditional yogis. Some want to keep their socks on. Others want to know they will be supported and nurtured even if they spend half the class sitting back to rest. Those who always forget their hair bands appreciate my always having some looped on the closet doorknob. I present a multi-level class, and each person is encouraged to do their own best practice, whether that means taking Child’s Pose instead of Down Dog, or taking Down Dog instead of Child’s Pose!

I call the poses out in both English and Sanskrit, and try to offer a good mix of explanation and quiet. (Though some days I talk too much; ah, well.) Sometimes I demonstrate the asana, other times I lead with words. In each class I am working toward that moment of silence at the very end, where heads are bowed and bodies are finally relaxed; they raise their eyes and I can see harmony.

Some days there is immediate chatter after “Namaste” – that’s when I know I didn’t quite get them “there”, although at least they had a good stretch!

Familiarity mixed with novelty, old favorite poses plus new variations. Plenty of props and a supportive atmosphere. If this is how you would like to practice Yoga, let me know. I’ll help you choose an on-going class, or create one for you and your friends. If you prefer privacy and personal attention, Private Yoga is also available.

Blocks