29 Jul

28

This weekend marked 28 years of my existence. 28 pretty damn good years, I’d say. Happy Birthday to me! I spent Saturday doing forcing people to do things that I want to do. . . because, unless you’re an asshole, you can only do that once a year so it’s best to take advantage of it while you can.

I started the day out by teaching yoga in the park. Since graduating teacher training I’ve been trying to get some practice by offering free classes to my friends and family and whomever else shows up. I’ve had surprisingly good turnouts and even had a whopping 11 people one week! If you’re local and interested in coming, check out my facebook page.

Saturday morning it was raining pretty heavily, but I was pretty stoked to see 4 wonderful students brave the weather! (Probably because I made them cookies to celebrate my birth).

I napped away much of the day then Matt and I headed across the border in the late afternoon to check out the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History which I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time now. (I’m kind of a history nerd).

Wright Museum of African American HistoryMe at The Wright

The museum building is stunning, with a huge domed ceiling that echos your voice when you stand in the middle of the rotunda. The place was surprisingly (or, I guess, unsurprisingly– this is Detroit after all) quiet. We were able to take photos in the main lobby but we couldn’t take pictures in the main exhibit, And Still We Rise, which takes you through the entire history of from the first humans to present day African Americans.

Wright Museum of African American HistoryAnd Still We Rise: Wright Museum of African American History

Once the docents kicked us out (Actually that’s a lie. They were really nice about letting us stay to finish the exhibit even though it was 20 minutes past closing time- woops!) we headed for dinner and drinks in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, which is, at present, most famously known for this most classic example of Motown ruin porn:

Train Station - Detroit

Dinner was burgers at the Mercury Burger Bar. The burgers were good and totally loaded with toppings (I love toppings! I say, the more toppings the merrier.) I thoroughly enjoyed the food, but I think the place was a little busier than it probably deserved to be. Then again, it’s basically one of two restaurants in Corktown.

Mercury Burger BarThe SW Detroit Burger

After dinner we crossed the street for drinks at Sugar House, a prohibition-style speakeasy with an extensive drinks menu of period cocktails. I’m not usually one to imbibe but, like I said, I’m a history geek so anything old-timey is going to appeal to my sense of nostalgia (even especially for a period in which I wasn’t even alive).

My dad, his ladyfriend Silvia, my sister Vicki, and brother-in-law Sean all met us for libations. The Sugar House was packed at 7:30 and we had to wait for a table for 6, but by 8pm a lot of the patrons cleared out. I guess people drink early here.

Sugar HouseDad, Victoria, Me

My dad, my (pregnant!) sister, and me

The place was super dark inside and it took a while to adjust to the low light. Needless to say, I hardly got any pictures inside the bar.

I was disappointed that the Plate of Cookies, which is on the online menu, isn’t available any more. (You all know how much I like cookies!) The drinks were good enough to satisfy us though. My sister was able to get a really amazing virgin drink. Silvia let the waiter surprise her and scored a really tasty cucumber cocktail. I thought the punch service was really cool, so Sean, Matt, and I split a half bowl of The Class Act tropical punch, which certainly packed a punch.

My sister kept our drinks bottomless so I proceeded to get properly fuddled. But hey, it was my birthday!

Punch Service at Sugar House

 

At 28, I have no goals or desires for my 29th year of life and I’m okay with that. That just means that things are going well for me. All I want is to keep doing what I’m doing. To keep teaching yoga (okay, maybe teach a little more than I do), to keep lifting heavy, to keep rockin’ bikinis, to keep travelling, to keep loving, to keep reading, to keep baking, and to keep being me.

25 Jul

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 6 & 7 Recap

With all the yoga I have been talking about lately you’re probably wondering how my weight training is going. Well, last I left you with was a recap of cycle 5 of the 5/3/1 for Women Training Programme, that I had been working through– a programme that focuses on increasing strength in squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press by increasing weight and decreasing reps each week. Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 Training

Cycle 6

Well right before I went away for yoga teacher training I squeezed in my 6th cycle of the programme and it was AMAZING.

Deadlift: 240lb Push Press: 115lb Squat: 225lb Bench Press: 135lb

I finally hit my big squat goal: 225lb!

I set this goal for myself back in January of 2012 so it’s been a long time coming. I recommitted to it on my 27th birthday and this time I accomplished it within the year! You can imagine just how happy I was to squat it for not one rep, but two! New goal: 300lb squat. In cycle 6 I also set a personal record in deadlifts. As for push press and bench press, I had to reduce the weight for cycle 6 since I missed my goals during cycle 5 and I needed to build up my strength in these lifts before going forward any further. For my accessory lifts– ie. the stuff I do other than squats, deads, and presses– I continued to focus on the complexes and circuits that I make up myself or steal from crossfit football. This helps me build power and get my heart rate pumping.

Cycle 7

Immediately after cycle 6 I dove into yoga teacher training and completely cut weightlifting out of my life for 3 whole weeks. So much strength lost in so little time. When I came back I tried to repeat the cycle 6 loads and I failed miserably at deadlifts and squats, feeling weaker and unable to lift for as many reps as I did just weeks before. It is disappointing, discouraging, disheartening. The big problem with strength training is that so much emphasis is tied to the numbers. You hit a goal and you’re over the moon, but when you can’t make a weight and have to decrease the load then your motivation plummets. In the life of a weight lifter there are few things as discouraging. I need to remember that it’ll take time to gain back what I’ve lost. Taking a page from the 5/3/1 book I’m taking two steps back for Cycle 8<%2

14 Jul

All About Chiffon Cake

Ooh boy, I haven’t posted a Baking Partners Challenge since April!

In May I was busy getting ready for my weekend in New York and June. . . well, that was an epic failure that I didn’t post it because I was busy doing the yoga teacher training thing. (The theme was eclairs, and mine turned out flat as pancakes. I blame the recipe because I’ve made eclairs before without consequence. The chocolate ganache filling, however, was impossible to stop eating.)

Previous themes that I did participate in were Chiizukeiki (also a failure), Super Soft White Bread, Macarons, Pie, Christmas Cake, Kaiser Buns, Cupcakes, and Cookies.

The theme for this month is Cake!

We had 2 recipe options to choose from. I picked Lemon Chiffon which looked like the simplest one. The other option, a Russian Honey Cake, sounded tastier but I was deterred by all the layers.

I like cakes that don’t take a lot of effort to make and are decorated with a dusting of icing sugar.
My level of competency doesn’t extend beyond dusting a cake with icing sugar.
When we get into real ‘cake-decorating’ territory my creations would even be rejected by CakeWrecks.com

Lemon Chiffon Cake

What is a Chiffon Cake?

The chiffon cake was created by an insurance agent, of all things, in 1927. It became an extremely popular dessert and the technique was carefully guarded until 1947 when he sold the recipe to General Mills.

Chiffon cakes are airy and pillowy in texture with the richness of butter cake and lightness of sponge cake. They’re similar to angel food cakes in that they are leavened with egg whites and are baked in an unlined, un-greased tube pan. Unlike angel food cakes, chiffon cakes contain egg yolks and vegetable oil which keep the cake moist, soft, and tender.

Once baked, the cake tin is turned upside down and hung over the neck of a bottle to cool for 3 hours or overnight which lets the cake set at its maximum volume instead of settling.

It can be nerve-racking to make a cake that you have to hang upside down because if it doesn’t hold you’ll hear a plop as your cake falls to its doom. You need balls to make it.

Here are some links explaining how to perfect a Chiffon Cake:
Chiffon Cakes: Tips and Troubles
Chiffon Cake Tutorial
Chiffon Cake Tips
Chiffon Cake Base – Simplest, Easiest Method (Video)
Lemon Chiffon Cake (Video)

Lemon Chiffon Cake

The Good

This Lemon Chiffon Cake didn’t turn out horribly, you guys!

I was worried about working with egg whites after the chiizukeiki debacle, but I paid close attention not to over or under whip them.

The cake is relatively easy to make and it retains it’s freshness for quite a while. It has a really nice, light lemony taste making it good cake for springtime when you’re so over all those rich chocolate desserts from the winter. (…who am I kidding, I’m never over rich chocolate desserts).

Side Note: I think it would make a killer trifle as inspired by ‘the improvement’ below.

The Bad

I did slightly under-bake the cake. It was getting way too dark on top, so I took it out prematurely when I should have just covered it with tin foil or something. This took away from the lightness that I was expecting from an egg white-leavened cake, but otherwise I enjoyed it and would make it again.

The Improvement

I liked the cake on it’s own, but holy goodness it was so much better when I made this yoghurt custard to go with it. (Coincidentally the custard requires exactly the number of egg yolks you’ll be left with after making the cake. Win!).

I added limoncello to the custard to keep the lemon theme rollin’.

Topped with the custard and some fresh blueberries, this cake was wicked awesome.

Lemon Chiffon Cake


Lemon Chiffon Cake

From The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Chiffon cakes are airy and pillowy in texture with the richness of butter cake and lightness of sponge cake. They are baked in a tube pan and, once cooked, hung upside down over a bottle to cool. (I made mine in a bundt and it turned out but I think it would have been worth it to dig the tube pan out of my dad’s basement, to get more rise out of it.)

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups / 225g cake flour
1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp. / 300g sugar
1/2 tsp. / 3.5g salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 – 2 tbsp. lemon zest

Wet Ingredients:
½ cup / 108g canola oil
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup / 156g water at room temperature
2 tbsp. / 30g lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 tsp. / 4g cream of tartar
2 tbsp. / 30 g sugar
7 large egg whites at room temperature

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325*F.

Grab a 10-inch tube pan with a detachable bottom (I used a bundt pan and it worked out okay) but do not grease it as the batter needs to climb up the sides.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the 300g of sugar and the lemon zest. With your fingertips, work the zest and sugar together until the sugar is grainy and very aromatic. Add the cake flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl.

If using a stand mixer, use the beater attachment and beat on low until the ingredients are well incorporated. You can also do this by hand with a whisk.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients and add the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix for about one minute on medium speed until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps.

In a second large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Do it slowly though, it’s not a race. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on medium speed until they reach soft peak stage. You will know your egg whites have reached this stage when the beaters start to leave a trail or when the peaks fall over when the beaters are raised. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and continue to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the beaters are raised.

Using a balloon whisk, add 1/3 of the egg whites to your cake batter and gently stir them until they are incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the batter and very gently fold them into the batter until they are incorporated and no traces of egg whites remain.

Pour the batter into the ungreased pan and run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.

Once cooked, take the cake out of the oven and immediately turn it upside down over a bottle* or similar to it until it is completely cool, 3 hours up to overnight.

DSCF2862
My bundt pan has handles so I jerry rigged it upside down atop 2 baking pans

Using an up and down motion, use a palette knife to loosen the sides of the cake away from the tin. Pull out the cake and use the palette knife around the bottom of the cake to release it from the base. Turn it over so that the base becomes the top and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar to serve.

Stays fresh for 3 days in room temperature, 10 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.

* I suggest you test some bottles when the cake tin is empty to make sure you have one on hand that fits.


BakingPartners

12 Jul

Five Years

It didn’t take me 5 years to figure out that being married doesn’t suck.

Actually, it has lots of perks like…

– saving on the cost of living

– using your spouse as an automatic excuse to get out of doing shit you don’t want to do

– benefits from your spouse’s employer (ie. reaping all the rewards without actually working)

– having a person to delegate tedious chores to, like vacuuming or taking out the garbage (I imagine this benefit will multiply when children enter the picture)

– being able to fold fitted sheets. Have you ever tried folding fitted sheets by yourself? It’s impossible.

– having an awesome vegetarian dinner waiting for you after you come home from weight lifting

– having another person to do fun things with!

. . .which can also be viewed as. . .

– forcing another person to do things with you so you don’t have to look like a loser doing them alone!

– company. Even when you’re in different parts of the house doing completely different things

Today is the 5th anniversary of our wedding in Domegge di Cadore in Northern Italy. So, happy anniversary to my favourite husband! (Okay, so he’s my favourite by default because I only have one husband, but I really, really do like him.)

domegge

Six months after Matt and I decided that we wanted to spend our lives together, we hopped on a plane for a destination wedding. We wanted our closest family and friends to be there, we wanted to get away from the demands of planning a big to-do, and we wanted to get married in a place with meaning. So Matt and I wed in my mother-in-law’s home town of Domegge di Cadore in Belluno, Italy;  Population: 2,675 (this number may or may not include the family donkeys). We were married in the St. George Church in front of our families, friends, and the local radio audience. (True story, our wedding was broadcast on local radio. Did I mention Domegge is a really small town?)

I had no idea what the church would look like, what kind of flowers I would be carrying, or who the priest was but I had the important things: my family and my fiance.

I was really excited to drive to the church . . . which was only about 100m away from my uncle-in-law’s place. But, seriously, I actually was really excited to hear all the church bells ringing.

the bells, they are a ringin'!

My dad and I outside of the 800 year old St. George’s Parish, pre-ceremony.

IMG_0404

The main event.

So many things went wrong in our ceremony it was hilarious. . . but I guess that’s what you get when you spend about 30 minutes planning your wedding.

Chiese San Giorgio

Hitched! They actually threw rice!

They actually threw rice, for realz.

Hitched!

Vicki, my sister/Maid of Honour.

Me and my sis

Family Photo! Sister; Brother-in-Law; Self; Husband; Nonna; Dad

The fam

Funny face pics at the mess hall where our wedding meal went on for, like, 6 hours . . . but was one of the most delicious meals I had ever tasted

Me, Sean(BIL), and Matt

Most hideous, yet delicious, rum wedding cake. Please don’t submit this photo to cake wrecks… I might cry.

wedding cake

We followed up our wedding with 3 glorious weeks of European honeymooning in Switzerland, France, and Belgium. It was THE most amazing time of my life.

I guess that’s another perk of being married—a honeymoon.

In the last five years since I married my favourite person in the whole wide world, we’ve gotten jobs, moved cities, bought a house, added a furry little bundle of joy to our family, and travelled the world. It’s all stuff that I could have, and would have, done alone but having my husband with me made it all that much easier. He’s a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and a support beam to hold me up when I’m under stress.

The life I have with my husband makes me happy.

 

CollingwoodMackinac IslandMatt & IBostonMatt & INorway FjordsMelting Pot (14)3rd AnniversaryChristmas 2011Matt & I

**This post was mostly a mash-up of my 2nd3rd, and 4th Anniversary posts, because what happened on the day of my wedding hasn’t changed neither has my love for my husband. Actually that last part’s a lie. (Cue the cheesiness factor:) I always seem to love him more.

07 Jul

Waist Goals Update 6–Yoga Teacher Training Edition

Every month or so I check in on my waist goals that I set in September to lose 6cm from my waist.

Goal: 77cm waist; 85cm belly.

Progress: (the measurements are waist/belly/weight)

Aug 15: 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/88cm/170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
May 15: 82cm/ 87cm/ 170.8lb
Jul 1: 79cm/85cm/ 164.0lb

Holy hell that’s progress! I actually hit my belly goal!

I wasn’t really surprised to see my weight and measurements plummet so much after spending 3 weeks of doing yoga twice a day, eating only 2 fistfuls of food at a time, not snacking between meals (okay, not really snacking), and soaking my clothes with sweat multiple times a day (I’m sure a lot of my weight loss is water weight).

My body was loving the 170lb and 82cm belly zone, but my change in eating and exercise habits over 3 weeks really had an impact on my body. Because these changes aren’t sustainable for my normal life (at least not the twice+ daily yoga part) I fully expect to put on some size and I won’t be disappointed if I do.

In fact, in the week since taking these measurements I’ve already added 2lbs and 1cm to each my waist and belly button.

Aug 31Aug 31Aug 31

The Start – Taken Aug 31

Jan 28 (1)Jan 28 (2)Jan 28 (3)

Halfway Through the Year – Taken Jan 28

 

2013-06-30 (1)2013-06-30 (3)2013-06-30 (4)

Current – Taken June 30

I definitely notice a little less softness in the belly region since my May check-in.

My Game Plan

My game plan to whittle my middle was to:
-opt for high intensity exercise
-increase my protein
-cut out white carbs
-plan out my late night snacks
-include a cheat meal every week (with dessert and/or white carbs)

How I Followed Through with my Game Plan:

I didn’t. At least, not intentionally.

Exercise was, obviously, not high intensity but 2 yoga classes a day was tiring and challenging and left me sweating buckets. I got a hell of a lot better at chaturangas but my weightlifting has suffered as a result. It’s funny how quickly you can lose your strength gains when you stop lifting for just a few weeks. And by funny I mean really depressing.

I cut out all meat from my diet (not that I eat a lot anyway) except fish. I wasn’t tracking my macronutrient intake but I know that it was very low in the protein department. But, as I mentioned, in my March and May recaps, I function better on a higher carb diet anyway.

Most of my meals were white carb free, so I did follow that protocol. I ate lots of beans* and vegetables and whole grains. I was eating really healthy! . . .Okay, so there was that one time that I bought a box of oatmeal cookies and ate them all in 2 days. It was only, like, 40 cookies though, you guys!

*For the record: beans + yoga are a dangerous combination

The biggest thing that changed for me was eating ‘Yoga’ Meals which have 6 guidelines:

-sit down
-don’t talk & chew at the same time
-take only 2 handfuls of food at one time and wait 5 minutes before going for seconds
-avoid distractions
-swallow fully before taking the next bite
-wait 2-6 hours before your next meal

I struggled with the swallowing before the next bite which sounds simple enough but not when you’re the type of person that just shovels food into her mouth like a garburator. The “2-6 hour” rule definitely put a kybosh on my frequent snacking.

For me exercise is easy to follow through with. I’ve added a tonne more yoga to my weekly exercise and, of course, I can’t say enough about the awesomeness of  that I’m working through right now.

I’m making some ridiculous strength gains and weirdly I’m not bored of doing the same exercises all the time. . . likely because I switch it up with all the high intensity cardio-style lifting I’ve been adding to the programme.

Going Forward . . .

Obviously I won’t be doing twice daily yoga practices anymore, but I will make a point to get in 3 practices a week, even if one of those practices is doing a few sun salute B’s in my living room before bed.

I’ve already jumped back into the 5/3/1 weightlifting programme that stole my heart these past few months. It’s been a struggle, but I’ll have to build up some of the strength I lost these past 3 weeks, and then, of course, build some more!!

I really want to keep up these yoga meals. I was a little skeptical at first but I think they’ve really been good to get me to stop eating so much, so quickly and mindlessly.

Mostly I want to keep myself level headed. I can’t allow myself to be disappointed if, in my normal life, I gain back what I lost (both in weight and size) in my teacher training life.


Waist Goal Recaps:

My Waist Goals
Waist Goals Update 1 – October 2012
Waist Goals Update 2 – November 2012
Waist Goals Update 3 – January 2013
Waist Goals Update 4 – March 2013
Waist Goals Update 5 – May 2013

05 Jul

If I Had 25 Hours Left to Live…

In my yoga teacher training course we had to write a series of essays. Not the kind with a works cited and MLA format* and a thesis; these were more like journals on a particular topic.

*Is this still applicable to essay writing? I studied math in university; we proved things with number and symbols not theses.

In our final ceremony we sat in a big circle and passed a candle from person to person as we all shared our last essay “If I Had 25 Hours Left to Live…” I wrote mine before I found out that the 25 was a typo, and before I found out that I would have to share it with the group. I thought about writing the obvious– spending my last hours eating a big meal with my favourite people– but it sounded boring and I wanted to think of something more awesome. That started up all these questions in my head which I ended up writing down and handing in as my essay, without really answering the original question.

I found out, on more than one occasion this past month, that people find me funny. My humour is entirely unintentional, so evidently my normal thoughts are something to laugh about (I’m still not sure how to take that). Anyway, my point is, my peers found my essay absolutely hilarious and made me promise to publish it. I think ‘hilarious’ is a stretch, but in any case I stayed true to my word.

bucketlist

If I Had 25 Hours Left to Live…

… I would have a hell of a lot of questions.  Mostly questions without answers. And given their philosophical nature I’d likely spend a good chunk of my brief time on earth in deep contemplation.

For starters, why twenty-five hours? Why not twenty-four? Every day of my life I’ve wished for an extra hour, so while perhaps I should be grateful, it seems like a cruel joke that God decided to finally grant me those sixty minutes on the day of my death. Figures, eh?

I also want to know how exactly I will die. Am I already in the process of slowly dying over these twenty-five hours? Will my body shut down a little bit at a time, one organ, then another, then another? If this is the case it would be a nice bonus to know the order of deterioration so I can organize and categorize my bucket list in the most efficient way possible. (I’d want to make sure I go on my dessert binge before my pancreas fails. Just sayin’.)

Am I going to die suddenly when the clock strokes 25:00 hours? That would give me much more freedom to tick off my bucket list. How great! …

… unless of course that sudden death is going to be some excruciatingly painful, horror movie situation. In that case I have to figure out a method of securing a solid supply of anesthesia or, failing that, I hear horse tranquilizers aren’t too hard to get your hands on.

And, good heavens!, why do I only have 25 hours left to live? Did I do something wrong? Was it something I said? Is this some sort of test? Do I have to do something good and kind and wonderful so that when 25 o’clock rolls around God says: “Naw, you’re cool. You can live to die another 25 hour day.”  If this is the case I wouldn’t even know where to start—doing good deeds is harder than securing horse tranquilizers! (Oh, maybe that’s why my hours are numbered!)

So assuming I fail the do-gooder test, I should probably start planning my funeral, getting all my finances in order, and maybe making a phone call to my lawyer before I address my bucket list. Work then play, so it goes in death as in life.

Now that everything is in order I realize I’ve just taken up an hour addressing all my questions and concerns. That 25 hour window is starting to make sense—smooth move God. So 24 hours left now and time is ticking…I guess it’s time to start actually writing that bucket list. With any luck I’ll get a chance to tick off a couple of items before the hour of my death comes.

01 Jul

Lifepower Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga certified, bitches!200 hours and 85,956 Chaturangas later…

It’s official! I’m a certified Yoga Teacher!

Yesterday was the final class of the 200 hour Lifepower yoga teacher training program with Jonny Kest and Jason Hulshof at the Center for Yoga in Michigan.

I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I signed up for the programme. I have always thought yoga was this freakin’ amazing mind/body exercise that everyone should do and I’m always encouraging (with a rather low success ratio, unfortunately) everyone I know to do it with me.

And what better way to share yoga than to teach it, right?

My very first time doing yoga was in my basement with a yoga video that I bought from Wal-Mart when I was 10, coincidentally, during my incense-burning, poetry writing, “hippie phase”. I thought it was so awesome because as a fat, out-of-shape, and uncoordinated child it seemed like a breeze of a workout. So, what you’re saying is, all I have to do is sit here and breathe? I totally got this! I breathe, like, everyday.

As much as I love yoga, the whole culture behind it is way out of my comfort zone, so the first four days were exceedingly awkward.

(You can get a glimpse of what my yoga teacher training days were like in my last post.)

Everyone spoke fluent Sanskrit and called the studio “The Centre”—I was getting a serious Cult vibe. It didn’t help that our first class of the day started with an invocation that everyone chanted together while I sat in the back corner hoping no one noticed the “what in the actual fuck?” expression on my face. This morning class was Ashtanga, a style which I don’t even like, and it started at some ungodly hour, which meant I arrived at “The Center” on a daily basis baggy-eyed, disheveled, exhausted, and then, upon hearing the invocation, ultimately creeped out.

Center for Yoga BirminghamYoga Teacher Training (1)

“The Centre” – Birmingham and West Bloomfield MI

I learned that every meal I’ve ever eaten in my life was wrong. Obligatory ‘yoga meals’ prevented me from enjoying my typical massive plates of food shoveled hastily into my mouth while standing up at the kitchen counter reading The Game of Thrones.

I had the chance to practice teach Sun Salutations and everything that came out of my mouth was choppy and nonsensical. I was terrified of teaching in front of the entire group and completely fucking it up, because the level of nitpickiness in the feedback sessions afterwards was out of control, to the point that students were pointing out single words that they didn’t like. And here I am unable to even form coherent sentences in my practice teaching. I never realized how hard this teaching thing could be.

Teacher Training (2)Chillin’ on the mat in anatomy class, excited to be the class Poster Child for Joint Compression

I found myself in the company of some seriously emotional people. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a cynical and unfeeling cyborg, so it was tough for me to handle all the sharing. So many feelings! I felt a bit like a man in a room full of women all experiencing PMS at the exact same time– bored, uncomfortable, and dying to get out. People opened their hearts. People shared some pretty deep shit. People cried. All the while, I tried my hardest to pretend like I had emotions too; it was exhausting.

I was physically exhausted by going from two yoga classes a week to two a day. I was emotionally exhausted from being so damn nervous all the time and from pretending to be emotional in the first place.

And then, on day 5, we had a day of silent meditation: an entire day of sitting in a dark room with our eyes closed and observing our breath. It was harder than it sounds. I put forth a concentrated and legitimate effort to do it right (since I felt like I was doing everything else wrong up to that point) and I relaxed myself so much that, despite efforts to fight it, I spent two thirds of the day bobbing my head back and forth ’cause I was fast asleep.

I needed that sleep so badly. After that day of meditation I went home and went to bed (turns out sleeping all day is exhausting in itself) and when I woke up the next day I had this inexplicable feeling of happiness and my fatigue completely faded away. I attributed it to all the sleeping, but there might have been something mystical about it too.

Cranbrook (6)We took a field trip one day to Cranbrook, a private school with unbelievably gorgeous grounds

The new energy somehow managed to carry me through the rest of the teacher training. Two classes a day? No problem. I might have even done three a couple of times. (3 classes a day: that’s how yogis let loose, FYI). I took vigorous notes during lecture and discourse. I spent every spare moment reading and doing homework and meditating and practice teaching to an imaginary person in my bedroom.

Most importantly I decided to be more authentic. I let go of trying to be someone I wasn’t. (Well, mostly. I did have to force my self to try and pass hysterical laughter off as sobbing during some deep “sharing” moments. And I did try to hide my “what in the actual fuck?” expression, just to be polite.) I was friendlier, because I felt more natural and I realized that all my peers were so sweet and fun. I learned more by allowing myself to take in as much information as I could, no matter how trivial I thought it was or how cynical I felt toward it. I just wanted to experience it and sort out my opinions later.

Practice Teaching (4)What’s Up Dog?

And suddenly yoga teacher training became awesome. I was living it, you guys! My awareness of how my body reacted to any situation became much more acute. I was calmer and happier. It was so weird. Hugging people became unpleasant instead of insufferable. Meditating became tedious instead of unbearable. I would drive home and only scream profanities at 2 shitty drivers instead of 20. And, I would call myself crazy for saying this, but I actually started to be aware of some underlying energy in other people. It was unreal.

In the last few days, I was really itching to get home. I wanted to see my husband and my dog. I had a severe jonesin’ for a hamburger. I wanted to do squats and deadlifts. I wanted to wake up later than 5:20am. Yes, I was having fun being immersed in yoga and in myself, but I wanted my favourite parts of my normal life back.

On day 21, our last day of training, I practice taught a full one hour Slowburn class to one of my peers. I was super nervous to do it and I worked really hard to come up with something awesome. After it was done, I thought a bit about the things I did wrong, but mostly I walked away from it thinking: “I can do this. I can totally be a yoga teacher.”

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Staying true to my authentic self, I celebrated my graduation with a burger and a hot fudge sundae. All while wearing my newly earned “Yoga Teacher” tank top. Don’t worry, Jason Hulshof, that burger is only one handful of food. The fries on the other hand…well, there’s a reason they’re un-pictured.