Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Maya Fiennes A Journey Through the Chakras

Prior to this year, I had never even heard of Kundalini Yoga. I had always been a follower of vinyasa and its variants - yoga just didn't feel complete unless it involved a series of sun salutations.

When I developed ulnar impaction syndrome and a TFCC Complex tear in my right wrist (a common yoga injury, it's similar to traumatic arthritis), I couldn't do anymore vinyasa for awhile... in fact, I couldn't type, let alone do anything with my hands for awhile. I went through a low period, not really knowing where I would go, feeling depressed that I could barely do a chaturanga, let alone any headstands or arm balances.

Then, a friend recommended that I read Maya Fiennes Yoga for Real Life. Great book, with great recipes, and all these Kundalini sequences that to me, looked simple and really relaxing. Upon further research, I chanced upon A Journey Through the Chakras. It's a 7-DVD box set, and it briefly describes the function of each chakra before going into a series of kriya for that particular chakra. The poses look deceptively simple, perhaps because Maya executes them with such ease and grace. They are in fact, very vigorous.... one warmup involves spinning around in circles with arms outstretched, which got me very dizzy... admittedly it wasn't my favourite warmup and I don't attempt it much.

The beauty of kundalini is the use of mantras. Every set is interspersed with a mantra, and after a Kundalini sequence, you would be asked to sit and meditate. I thought this was a beautiful thing to practice. When the exercises became more physically challenging, she would normally ask for you to silently vibrate particular mantras, which I now apply to any other physical activity I am doing when I struggle, such as crunches. I love how Kundalini is described as a moving meditation. It makes it sound so peaceful and calming.

The exercises become less physical and more of a mental and ... for lack of a better word... pranayama (or more of the creation of a life force) exercise, as you climb higher in the chakras. My favourite DVD though is still the one that tackles the base chakra.

Best of all, every kriya sequence is unique. Nothing repeats, all the warmups have been specially drawn up to well... warm up that particular chakra. This is by far, my favourite yoga DVD.

Retail: Approximately $95 through Maya Space, possibly cheaper through other alternatives.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Yoga Journal Fitness Challenge

And so it begins. I started this a little late because I was finishing off the Tribesports challenge, and the weekend happened... Torchlight also happened... Anyway, Day 1 of this challenge officially began today. I have been impressed so far with what I've seen from the Yoga Journal emails. The challenge emails come with a 30 minute exclusive video, a suggested recipe for the day, and the occasional bonus video/tip. Out of all the challenges I've done this year, I highly recommend this one.

The challenge in a nutshell. Taken from
DAY 1: Pump it up 
Today's focus was on a flow sequence, intending on boosting the heart rate. Loved it, clearly explained, and beautifully demonstrated. Also loved the warming down sequence at the end before sivasana. The recipe for today is a yummy looking gingery quinoa salad, which I would have loved to have made today, but my tummy was playing up.

DAY 2: Awaken your core
Today's recipe is a Blueberry-Cucumber smoothie. I'm loving these Alexandria Crow videos. She explains really clearly, so most of the time, I just work on her aural direction without needing to look at the video. Today's core work session was hard, harder than the Tribesports challenge!!

DAY 3: Put some Ashtanga into your step 
This was the same video as Day 1, with a bonus video on ujjayi pranayama. Today's recipe, a Portobello Mushroom and Spinach Tartine with Roasted Garlic Spread looked really tempting, but my stomach bug unfortunately has not subsided. :(

DAY 4: Flex your muscles 
Today's awesome sequence focuses on the upper body strength, so lots of chaturanga and side planks, low planks and low side planks. And today's recipe? Green Tea Edamame! Unfortunately I've been too sick to try any of these recipes... I'm just having soups every day, but I've made a note of which ones I'd definitely try out and will blog about these when I do.

HIATUS: So... unfortunately, no progress in the challenge (which I guess means I have failed it :( ) It's the school holidays now, and my life turns topsy-turvy come school holiday time. My work hours change, I have holidays planned, and I catch up with life. So... I guess this means, this post will resume post school holidays. See you come Monday, 8 October.

DAY 5:Happy, Healthy Heart
Back to Video 1, with a beautiful white bean and arborio rice soup recipe attached. A bonus video on alternate nostril breathing. Never done this before? It clears out the sinuses, and claims to help balance out your body and calm your mind, while promoting wakefulness.

My attempt at the white bean and arborio soup
DAY 6: Unwind from the Week 
This is a slow-paced yoga for rejuvenation. Going into tabletop pose felt really good after a strenuous session of Pilates this week. And today's recipe? A Crunchy Green Tahini Salad.

DAY 7: Take it Easy 
I really like how they've incorporated a rest day into the sequence while still encouraging you to be healthy with a Pesto-Potato Frittata. Yum!

DAY 8: Align with Power
This week's cardio videos are done by Noll Daniel. I have to admit that I don't like his videos as much as Alexandria's. I've always had a preference for female teachers... I didn't particularly warm to Noll's voice nor words that he would use. That aside, it was a good sequence, definitely felt warm after the practice, although not sweaty even though it was a warm day. However, these delicious muffins are definitely a perk and I've added it to my to-bake list.
As it turns out, not as delicious as they sound. It tasted more like a fruit scone. 

DAY 9: Get Creative with Crunches
The strongest workout so far. Also by Noll Daniel, this focuses on the core. I'd rank the difficulty as intermediate-advanced, there are modifications that he introduces, but it's still a very intense workout (especially after yesterday's pilates). I'd say this is one of my favourite sequences, I will definitely be coming back to this in the future. Today's recipe is a Spicy Tofu Bento Bowl.

DAY 10: Staying on Track 
Just the regular weekly cardio video, plus a spaghetti recipe.

DAY 11: Feel like a Rock Star
This video had a strong focus on upper body strength, think bakasana, side planks, one legged pushups, pushups, one legged planks. I'd rate this as intermediate-advanced, depending on which modification you want to go with. Kim Sin, the yoga demonstrator, is crazily fit. Today's recipe is the Paprika Cauliflower Pita Pockets, which were incredibly yummy!

Pita pockets, mmmmmmmmm
DAY 12: Happy Body Happy Brain
The flow video for the week, plus a recipe for a veggie fried rice.

DAY 13: Cultivating Steadiness and Ease 
Back to the same rejuvenation video as Day 6, plus a recipe for Baked Apples with Maple-Walnut sauce.

DAY 14: Restore Yourself 
Another rest day, so no videos. There are however, suggestions for rejuvenation poses, such as legs up the wall, child's and corpse pose, and a couple of reclining poses. Recipe for the day is poached eggs on asparagus. What a wonderful breakfast idea!

DAY 15: Working with Breath
This is the flow video from week 1, which I really enjoyed. Another breakfast idea... Overnight Chai Steel-Cut Oats

DAY 16: The Core of the Matter
Same video as Day 9 so be prepared for another core workout. The attached recipe for curried lentil soup with lemon is simply delicious! In fact, best lentil anything that I've made ever.

Ok, so it looks like gruel, but I swear it's delicious!

DAY 17: Go with the Flow 
Flow video from Week 2 to shake things up! And a recipe for spring rolls with lemon ginger dipping sauce, yum!

DAY 18: Growing Roots 
I found this Alexandria Crow sequence really challenging, and I think it made my knee injury worse :( It was full of squats, and my left knee just couldn't take it. And a recipe for a chickpea, artichoke heart and tomato salad with arugula.

DAY 19: Advancing Your Pranayama Practice
Back to flow video from Week 1, with a short textual focus on pranayama. Recipe for the day is Quick-Brased Broccoli with Sun-dried tomato and goat's cheese.

DAY 20: Beyond the Body 
Noll Daniels rejuvenation video, plus ultimate vegan chilli recipe. This recipe does look incredibly yum and I wish I could make it, but the ingredients are very American and I can't seem to find them here. Help anyone?

DAY 21: You did it! 
And so I did, after way more than 21 days :P I did keep active in between though, with these yoga videos slotting into my workout routine instead of being done daily. We finish off with a Sicilian Swiss Chard over Quinoa.
The celebratory final meal
If you're interested in participating in the 21-Day Fitness Challenge, you can sign up here, or alternatively, purchase the DVDs. There are both intermediate and beginner challenges to opt for on the website. It's a free challenge (unless you buy the DVD), so go challenge yourself today!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Patience and Compassion

In a world where we rush to complete and achieve everything, I found clarity in this well-written and thought provoking article in the Yoga Journal

As a "Rushing Woman", I'm always in a hurry. Having always been blessed with the ability to learn things quickly, it grates on me if I find it harder than normal to pick up a particular skill (painting my nails for example...). I'm always too impatient, and I lack compassion for myself.

I am a product of this world, where I want results instantaneously, or I become bored or demotivated.

Definitely something for me to bear in mind in the future.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liebster Award Tag

I haven't done a tag since I was in high school, but Sarah's questions were quite fun, so thought I'd walk down memory lane a little!

The Rules
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you plus create 11 questions for the people 
you've tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. Remember, no tag backs!

11 Things About Me

1. I used to be a huge massive fan of the Backstreet Boys. I loved them so much I hated N Sync,
 just because they were not the Backstreet Boys. 
2. I have assymmetrical eyes. One eye slants up quite a bit more, one eye doesn't. 
One eye has a monolid, the other has a double lid. One eye is much bigger than the other. 
It's a pain to do eye makeup. 
3. I don't wear colour on my lips because I hate how my lips look. Ironically, MUAs love how my lips look. 
4. I exercise a lot, but I junk eat a lot too. 
5. I have pet rats. 
6. Since I was little, I always thought something amazing would happen when I reached 
certain age milestones. The first was 18. The next milestone is 30, and then after 50. Needless to say,
 I'm looking forward to turning 30... and I don't even know why. 
7. I used to have imaginary friends. 
8. I discovered yoga at age 22. It was the best thing to happen to me. I thank the ladies at
Somachi Yoga for wonderful inspiration. Now, I practice at home due to financial concerns. 
9. I play piano and violin professionally, cello competently, ukulele decently, struggle with flute and 
clarinet and classical guitar. And I sing reasonably well. 
10. I just discovered Guitar Hero not too long ago and I love it. Hopped on the bandwagon late. 
11. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. 

Sarah's Questions

1. What's the worst makeup disaster you've experienced?
Too much blush and spider lashes. I always thought spider lashes were a great look, until 
Michelle Phan debunked that myth... 
2. If you could time travel, which year/period would you travel to and why?
The 1800s France, just so I could meet Hector Berlioz. I fell in love with him after reading 
his memoirs, and wanted Somewhere in Time to happen. 
3. Do you prefer tea or coffee?
Tea now, mainly because my body suddenly decided it's super sensitive to caffeine.
4. What was your first pet?
First non-family pets were two hamsters. 
5. What is the most amount of money you've ever spent in one day on non essentials? 
(i.e not bills or groceries)
Err.... hundreds?? Maybe $600-700 on clothes? More? $1000? 
6. Do you know who chose your name?
One of my parents :P 
7. What is your best memory from school?
Being 12. I liked my friendship circle then before we all went our different paths in high school. 
8. What is the longest period of time you have gone without sleep?
48 hours. I had too much Red Bull. 
9. Your favourite brand of nail polish?
10. What made you want to start up a blog?
I wanted to keep track of my spiritual, mental and physical health. I could have made this a private 
blog... but figured some poor lost soul out there could benefit as well. 
11. If you could meet one celebrity, who would it be?
Shaun Milke from Alesana <3 Or Jesse Lacey from Brand New. 

My questions 
1. What is your fashion style? 
2. Medicine or naturopathy? 
3. Which one Youtube guru/Makeup blogger is your absolute favourite? 
4. Fitness junkie or couch potato? 
5. What is your worst food habit? 
6. How old were you when you first discovered makeup? 
7. Top 3 books 
8. How often do you buy beauty items? (eg. skincare, makeup)
9. How did you come by your blog name? 
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
11. Top 3 makeup must-haves 

I tag
9. Abbie from Shrinking Wallet
11. Georgia from Four letter birds

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Tribesports Challenge of the Week

This was trending on Facebook and caught my eye.

The challenge is to do this everyday for one week. I completed this this morning, substituting pushups for modified pushups. 6 more days to go. Anyone else in?


DAY 1 
Completed this easily enough, but confused raised plank with regular plank, so did raised planks for all the planks until I got to ... raised plank. And had some raised eyebrows... Realized after googling that I had been doing the wrong kind of plank.

DAY 2 
Woke up with my lower back muscles aching. Really aching. I couldn't work out what it was from, the bf suggested maybe I had been doing my crunches wrong. Wasn't sure if I would repeat this challenge today or just do some yoga to stretch out the muscles. Decided to give it a go anyway, and realized that my crunches were fine because my abs burned when I was doing them... and that my lower back muscles were aching from the 2 min bridge. Crunches were so much easier today than yesterday though, but push ups were a little tougher. 2 min bridge was hard work with the sore muscles, but did it anyway. Can't believe I'm saying this... but looking forward to tomorrow's workout.

DAY 3 
It was hard today... I found it tough to hold it in plank or raised plank, tough to hold it in bridge... my glutes burned... my abs burned in the first 50 crunches, then it got better. Pushups were easier today though. I'm starting to hate the idea of no rest day. However, I'm starting to see results... my abs are so much more toned! They are definitely more defined... in fact... impressively much more defined... I was slightly demotivated after the routine but after seeing results, I am so stoked!!

I missed out on working out on Sat and Sun, but that's normal for me as my weekends are normally chockablock. Resumed the workout Monday, despite feeling really lazy. Crunches are definitely getting easier, but plank is somehow getting harder. Attempted full pushups today, but decided they were still too strong, I could probably do 5 full ones without straining. Random sidenote: this workout really aids my digestion.

DAY 5 
First of all, I can't believe I stuck it through this far. Only two more days left to go. Plank today was super hard, no idea why. Bridge is getting quite easy although my calves feel a little numb in the 2 min bridge. Core is looking quite toned, so am happy... deciding if I should take an "after" photo shot or not... didn't take a before, but let's just say that it was a bit of a potbelly. Only two more days!!! Then, I can commence my Yoga Journal challenge. (Why am I so full of these....)

Surprised I was motivated enough to do this today... started gaming again, so nearly didn't have "enough" time to exercise. Glad I did though.

DAY 7 
It was a tough battle... between Torchlight and exercise... unfortunately, Torchlight won, and I found myself timepressed to do this. I did squeeze it in while waiting for my risotto to cook, but only managed half the set. Anyway, my shoulders are now sore from doing this all week (I think it's the crunches and the pushups), so I'm happy to give this a break. Awesome abs though.