Thursday, 31 May 2012

Prasarita Padottanasana - Standing Wide Angle Forward Bend

This is a forward bend that allows for an inversion of head and torso.  It’s a great pose when you are tired, fuzzy headed, or have a head cold (sinuses).

Step your feet wide apart, toes pointing forward.  Hinge from the hips, keeping back straight, bend forward.  You need to be able to place your hands somewhere so if you cannot reach the floor, have a chair or some blocks handy.  Do not force the forward bend, keep back straight, soft focus eyes forward.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Slowly raise yourself upright using your glutes.  Bring feet together and rest for a few seconds.

Repeat pose.  If you are able, release forward into a deeper bend and relax head and neck.  Slide hands between feet and rest head on the floor or a height.  This can also be done if you can only go as far as resting your head at chair height.  Hold 30 seconds.

The first few times I did this pose, I felt like a wishbone.  You will eventually find all those muscles in your legs and buttocks to support you.  It just takes time.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Chili Corn Bread

I got this recipe out of a magazine years ago.  It was a favourite of my boss, Sheryl.  Great recipe for summer BBQs or winter soup suppers.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 15oz can creamed corn
4 oz diced chilies, canned or fresh, your choice mild or hot
1/3 cup (packed) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup (packed )grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly oil 9 inch square pan.
Mix butter, cornmeal and sugar in large bowl.  Add eggs one at a time.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together and add to batter.
Mix in corn, chilies and cheeses.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake about 45 minutes until tester inserted into centre comes out clean.
Cool to warm and cut into squares.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose)

This is a lovely pose for a couple of reasons.  First, it is easy to get into.  All you need is a wall you can stretch your legs up.  Also, it is a nice way to revitalize legs that are tired whether you’ve been through an exercise class or done a lot of walking or have stood still for a long period of time.

Sit facing a clear wall.  Try to get your buttocks as close to the wall as possible.  Swing your legs up the wall and lay flat on your back.  The first time I did this pose my buttocks were not touching the wall.  Now my hamstrings and hips have loosened up so I can now get to the wall.  If you are away from the wall and have a foam block handy, place the foam block between you and the wall so you have something to press into.  Legs are straight up the wall, your sacrum is flat on the ground, and your feet are bent at the ankle as if you are standing.  Arms are relaxed at your side with palms up.  If you head is uncomfortable, you can use a towel (single fold so not too high) under your head for a cushion.  Now, just relax.  That can be a challenge especially if some muscles are complaining.  Try to hold this for 1-2 minutes.  You can cross your legs (remember to alternate cross) for some variation.

When this pose becomes comfortable, you can then use a bolster, folded blanket, or foam blocks under your upper pelvis.  Ideally you should have the feeling your hips are gently cascading over the support.  Shoulder blades are still on the floor.  This will give more space for your heart and lungs.  You may have to play with the position of the support but once you find it, it is very comfortable.  

Monday, 28 May 2012

Flipping for Inversions

Inversions are an important part of Iyengar Yoga.  It can also be the most challenging and scariest series of poses.  Shoulderstand, headstand and handstand are the classics.  I can do a respectable shoulderstand after four years of Iyengar Yoga but I still push my legs off the wall.  I can even take my feet down to a chair for the plough pose.  My handstand practice is a downward facing dog pose placing my feet on height.  My headstand is a variation on dolphin pose with my hands clasped, head nestled onto a folded blanket and between my clasped hands, and walking myself forward to support my back and hips against a wall.  Still complicated but I am a work in progress.  I think this is one series of poses where a good teacher is necessary.  It is very important to never strain your neck.  You need to take your time and learn the techniques carefully.

So, with all of these cautions and concentrated work, why are inversions important?  Simply, it is giving the body a chance to enjoy the reversed gravity.  Your organs are given more space.  Your heart has the chance to have the blood flow from the legs brought down without pumping so hard.  The good news is there are poses a beginner can achieve that can give some of the benefits of the classic inversions.  There are two poses I will discuss through this week so stay tuned.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Quote from B.K.S. Iyengar

"Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open." 
  ~B.K.S. Iyengar

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Parsva Sukhasana (Seated Crossed-Legs Twist)

This is a nice simple twist.  First, start by sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Many of us need to sit on some height.  Your knees should not be above the top of your hip bone.  In a Iyengar Yoga class we have foam blocks to sit on so the height required can be added on.  I can sit down on the floor now but still like the comfort of a folded cotton blanket.  Folded blanket or towels can be used at home.  Now that you are seated, relax, and let your body adjust.  Sometimes my hips ache a bit and need a few moments to appreciate the gentle stretch of this position.  Inhale and sit tall without popping your ribs too far forward.  Exhale and slowly turn your body to the right.  You are trying to achieve a spiral effect from the lower left hip to the right shoulder.  Try to bring your left hand to your right knee and place your right hand on the floor slightly behind you for support.  If you are on a height, you may need something to rest your hand on.  Inhale, sit tall; exhale, gently deepen twist action.  Gently turn head but to not crank it around.  Turn from you torso not your shoulders.  Do not force the pose.  Hold for about 20 seconds (10 full breaths) and release forward.  Change the cross of your legs and repeat to the left.

If you cannot sit on the floor, this can be done from a chair.  Sit on the chair sideways so the back of the chair is on your right.  Feet flat on floor.  The actions of the body are the same turning yourself towards the back of the chair.  Take hold of the chair back for support.  Make sure you are turning from your torso, not your shoulders.  After you have completed the right side, turn yourself on the chair so chair back is on your left side and repeat actions to the left.  Again, do not force the pose.  It takes time for body parts to loosen so be patient.  We always joke in class we are on the 20 year plan.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Turkish Treasures

This is an exciting post for me!  I worked diligently over the weekend and completed a Squidoo lens on my Turkish vacation.  It's posted in the right-hand column along with two other lens I've done.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Really Good Yoga Book

We are using a really good Rodney Yee book in our Iyengar Yoga class at the Reh-Fit Centre in Winnipeg, MB.  The title is "Moving Toward Balance - 8 weeks of yoga with Rodney Yee"

Great information, great pictures of poses.  It is a wonderful reference book even if you choose not to do the eight week practice.  Rodney shows poses in different stages of ease (or difficulty depending on how you look at it).

The book is currently available through both and

Monday, 21 May 2012


My latest Iyengar Yoga class was about twists.  Twists are considered cleansing poses.  The squeeze and release of the body creates  a rush in circulation clearing the digestive tract and vital organs.  Not everyone likes twists.  For some it's easy and pleasant enough.  For others it is not just a matter of physical difficulty, it can stir up a variety of emotions that can leave you angry or outright cranky.
I like twists even though they can be a physical challenge for me.  I appreciate the pleasant stretch I get along my spine.  Remember to drink lots of water after doing twists to promote the cleansing effect.

The class did not seem like a twisting class but more a preparation for twists.  Susan had us do a series of seated poses;  Dandasana (staff pose), Baddha Konasana (cobbler pose), and Upavista Konasana (wide angle pose).  We held each pose for two minutes.  Then we did a series of one minute holds staff, cobbler, wide angle, cobbler, one pose right after the other, three times round.  We then did the same circuit of of poses three times but with only 30 second holds.  We followed this with Arda Navanasa (half boat pose).  These poses work your core, sides of the waist and groin.  Next was one-legged downward-facing dog pose.  We followed that with the Supta Padagustasna (reclined leg stretch) series;  1) right leg up with strap in both hands, left leg along floor, 2) same position and lift head and upper back, 3) same position but then extent right leg out to the right side as low as you can take it.  Repeat with left let up and right leg along the floor.  Three poses remained, Jathara Parivartanasana (reclined twist), Ananda Balasana (happy baby pose), and Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle).  More serious twist poses are to come.  Susan just wanted to warm us up.

For those of you who are not currently studying yoga and want to know what the poses look like, go to and go through their poses section.  I use it a lot.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Quote for a Rainy Saturday

"If you take up any noble line and stick to it, you can reach the ultimate. Be inspired, but not proud. Do not aim low; you will miss the mark. Aim high; you will be on the threshold of bliss."  
B.K.S. Iyengar  

Friday, 18 May 2012

Best Cookie Recipe EVER

My friend Traci gave me this recipe many years ago.  You can customize the recipe to suit any favourite combinations.  You make a basic dough and then add up to five cups of anything.

1 cup margarine                     2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar                 1 tsp baking soda
1 cup white sugar                  1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs                                              1/2 tsp salt (omit if margarine has salt)
1 tsp vanilla                            5 cups of anything (oatmeal, chocolate chips,
                                                         toffee chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.)
Cream margarine and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix together flour, baking  soda, baking powder, salt.  Add to creamed mixture.  Stir in your 5 cups of anything.  Scoop dough by the tablespoonful and drop on prepared cookie sheets.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Cool cookies on sheet 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.
Full recipe makes about 7 dozen cookies. Recipe cuts in half easily.

* To make a chocolate cookie dough, replace 3 tablespoons of the flour with 3 tablespoons of  sifted unsweetened cocoa *

Some combinations I’ve made:
Oatmeal, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, toffee chips, pecans
Toffee chips, slivered almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Oatmeal,  2 cups white chocolate chips, slivered almonds, 1 or 2 tsp orange zest
Oatmeal, almond paste, 3 cups toasted slivered almonds (replace vanilla with almond extract)
Try adding spices, different extracts, citrus zests

GLUTEN FREE - change regular flour to 1-1/2 cups rice flour and 1/2 cup potato flour
(Note - be sure to use certified organic oatmeal in gluten free cookies)

*Reduce sugar by substituting the 1 cup white sugar with 1 cup mashed banana or apple sauce *

Thursday, 17 May 2012


OK, I've been home three days now.  From the neck down, I am OK but from the neck up it's not so good.  My brain feels scrambled.  Sleeping patterns are off.  I wake up between 2am and 3am and it's not so easy to fall back to sleep.  My trick to relax my brain, even though I'm quite groggy, is to do Uttanasana (standing forward bend) at the edge of my bed resting my head on my mattress.  My Iyengar Yoga teacher, Susan, had a bit of a giggle the first time I told her about my technique.  Sounds kind of goofy but it works and I don't have to worry about losing my balance and falling over.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Finding Pits in the Bowl of Cherries

When I was working through my e-mails after being out of town for two weeks, I found an e-mail telling its readers that someone I’ve know for 33 years was living with stage II rectal cancer. News like that is a punch in the stomach.  The e-mail came from Cheryl Britton who will be walking as part of Team Siggi at CancerCare Manitoba Foundation 2012 Challenge for Life 20k walk in honor of George Sigurdson.  If you would like to make a donation to the cause or get more information, go to and click on the Challenge for Life box.  Wishing George a speedy recovery and go Team Siggi!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Traveller Returns

I have returned from my two week trip to Turkey.  I hope to get a Squidoo mini-blog done within the next week to share some of my pictures and adventures.  The worst part of the trip was all the flying time.  We sat on the planes for 13 hours per direction.  This is just the plane time, not the time spent between flights.  We encountered enough turbulence that the seat belt sign was on more than off so less walking about.  The first full day in Istanbul everyone had stiff hips and legs.  Walking was a chore until we got our kinks worked out.  The simplest thing I found that helped immensely was Sukhanasa (easy pose), a simple cross-legged position which I did on my hotel bed.  Another pose was Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) and my fav, Uttanasana (standing forward bend).  I found my recovery from the day of flights much faster than previous trips.  The longer I work on my Iyengar Yoga, the better my body is.  This morning I popped out of bed by 7:30am with the energy I needed to get back to my home routine.  It’s good to know that something I started four years ago continues to benefit me.  I anticipate more improvements as time goes on.