17 Dec

Holiday Fun

I tend to anxiously anticipate Christmas, but this year it’s flying at me at an alarming rate. I don’t even feel in the Christmas spirit yet even though I’ve finished my shopping, gone to Christmas parties, and put up a tree. And even though I’ve been extra festive this year by doing Christmas-y things like seeing the Nutcracker and going to Holiday Nights.

The Nutcracker

Nutcracker BalletMe and Victoria

My sister and I went to see The Nutcracker at the Detroit Opera House a few weeks ago. It was the first time at the ballet for both of us, and The Nutcracker seemed to be the most natural foray into the world of ballet.

Nutcrakcer

The costumes were gorgeous, the scenery was well done, and the dancing was impressive. Victoria and I marvelled at how anyone could possibly dance right on their toes and spent time the next day Googling pointe shoes and how they work.

Needless to say I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the next ballet that rolls into town.

Holiday Nights

This past weekend Matt and I and three other couples went to Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn for the Holiday Nights event which runs every year.

Holiday Nights

Greenfield Village is a collection of authentic homes, workshops, cabins, and other buildings from the 1600s to 1800s. In December the village is open at night for Christmas themed festivities in an event that sells out every night.

Holiday Nights

They line the paths with candle lanterns, and there are actors in period costume throughout the village including Santa and live reindeer (for those who thought reindeer were fantasy, they do exist).

There are special Christmas themed exhibits, displays, and demonstrations.

There are carriage rides and Model-T rides and a small ice skating rink.

Holiday Nights

Live carolers, brass bands, and mummers provide entertainment. When you get peckish there are stews (delicious!) and hot roasted sandwiches and chestnuts and cocoa and cider available too.

Holiday Nights

The night wraps up with a Fireworks Finale after which the whole place swiftly shuts down (and I mean swift) and you can’t get a beer anywhere. We tried.

I hadn’t been to the Village before (just to The Henry Ford Museum) but I’d like to go back sometime when it’s less busy so I can spend more time looking at the historic buildings.


You’d think that by partaking in such festive activities, I’d be fully ready for the holidays next week, but still I’m not quite there. I have presents to wrap and cookies to bake and a Christmas Eve menu to put together.

I am pleased to say that I have nothing to do all day on Christmas Day until dinner and Boxing Day will be completely free. That’s two whole days of chilling and doing absolutely nothing. Sounds great in theory, but can I handle such idleness? We’ll see in a mere week.

14 Dec

Links for a Sunday Morning

Second Cup Coffee Co. Gets and Overhaul – BlogTO

Here in Canada, Second Cup had been seeing financial losses for some time, and last February took on Alix Box, who held senior positions at Starbucks and Holt Renfrew, as new president and CEO. She’s been aggressively trying to bring new life to the company ever since; if this new location’s redesign is successful, all the franchises will see a revamp along these lines.

Why do Brits say Maths and Americans say Math? – Slate

Both versions are correct, if complicated by the fact that while mathematics sounds plural, it may actually be singular.

Relief for Tight Hamstrings – Yoga International

Back pain is not the only negative result of tight hamstrings. Many people suffer chronic pain deep in the buttocks, which actually arises from this tension in the upper hamstrings.

YOGA ON THE BIKE – Mantra Magazine

Cycling is a mindful mode of transportation. As you pedal, all senses are engaged in moving meditation.

How Successful People Stay Calm – LinkedIn

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance.

How to Stay Grounded for the Holidays With Yoga – US News

If you’re stuck in holiday traffic or a conversation gets heated, pause and deepen your breath. Use the yoga-breathing technique of inhaling and exhaling deeply through your nose and deliberately deepening your breath. This exercise trains your mind to respond rather than to panic or react negatively.

 

10 Dec

All I Want for Christmas 2014

All I Want for Christmas 2014

My 2014 Christmas Wish List:

Left to right, top to bottom

1) Yoga Mat Carrier- I loosely carry around my yoga mat like a chump. I have a Manduka black mat that weighs about the same as a toddler, so it’d be nice if I could carry it on my back from time to time. I don’t really need a mat carrier since I tend to not carry my mat any farther than the distance between my parking space and the studio door, but at least this will keep my mat from unraveling in the back seat of my car. (Go Play 2.0, Manduka, $32)

2) Compass - An epic hiking adventure just may be in the works this year and it requires a compass. I need to practice my compass and topographical map reading skills that I haven’t used since I was 14. (SUUNTO M?3DL NH LEADER BASEPLATE COMPASS, MEC, $28)

3) Cardigans – My life philosophy is that you can never have too many cardigans, or cookies. Chalk it up to the cubicle farm life where the temperature switches from sweltering to frigid faster than you can say “At the end of the day, it is what it is.” (Any cardi will do, but I’m partial to v-necks with buttons like this AEO Boyfriend Cardigan, American Eagle, $34)

4) Athleta Stripe Fast Track Tank – I tried this on months and months ago and I regret not shelling out the $50 to buy it. It fit amazingly. It was perfectly stretchy without being clingy, light, and comfortable. It doesn’t look like they carry my size any more but I need to keep an eye out for a similar tank and snatch it up. (Stripe Fast Track Tank, Athleta, $49)

5) Wool Base Layer Top - I could use a mid-weight base layer for the aforementioned future hiking adventure. I like merino wool the best because it’s warm and dries fast. I find good wool stuff is worth shelling out big bucks. (Oasis Long Sleeve Half Zip Hood, Icebreaker, $130)

6) Sweat Pants – Because I always dress to impress and sweat pants always impress. . . actually I just need something warm to put on over my yoga pants in the winter. (Pocket Original Sweatpant, Roots, $68)

7) AE Artist Jeans – I only wear American Eagle Artist Jeans. I currently have two pairs with holes in the crotch. I have nothing against other companies or jeans, but constantly re-purchasing a style that I know looks good means less shopping, and I hate shopping. You’d think I’d look for a new brand that’s a little more durable since my thunder thighs consistently burn holes in the groin area but, again, that means more shopping. (AE Artist Jean, American Eagle, $51)

8) Tea for One – I drink tea on my own and preferably with biscuits whilst watching British television. Making an entire pot just means it goes cold or, even worse, I drink it completely and spend the next hours making repeated bathroom trips. A teapot for 8 to 16 ounces would be perfect. (Brown Betty Teapot – 2 Cup, English Tea Store, $32)

9) Moccasins – I wasn’t going to put them on my list this year but I still don’t own any and I still would like to. I guess I’ll continue to put them on my list every single year until I get them.

What do YOU want for Christmas this year? Maybe I’ll buy it for you!*

*Under no circumstances am I obliged to buy you anything for Christmas.

07 Dec

Links for a Sunday Morning

If Eric Garner Were White – The Atlantic

His death would be a Tea Party crusade. Think about it. The police hassled Garner because he had a history of selling untaxed cigarettes. It’s the kind of big-government intrusion that drives Tea Partiers nuts.

The Case Against Positive Thinking – Wall Street Journal

Positive expectations are fine, and positive fantasies are too when you have no real control over whether something happens. But when it comes to something you want to achieve, and fulfilling these wishes, positive fantasies are problematic because they relax you. They don’t provide the energy and effort necessary to help you in your goals, because you feel that you have already attained the positive future.  They are dangerous when you actually want to achieve that future.

The Messed-Up Ways People Talk About Shia LaBeouf’s Rape – The Atlantic

Comments that LaBeouf’s claims are “absolute baloney” echo the all-too-frequent refrains aimed at female and male sexual assault victims alike who are told their rapes aren’t real.

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People – Podio

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time. – CHARLES DICKENS

Prescribing Vegetables, Not Pills – NY Times

Doctors provide families in the FVRx program with a “prescription” to eat fruits and vegetables. The families also are given nutritional education, recipes and, most important of all, so-called Health Bucks that are redeemable for produce at a local farmers’ market.

How to Really Understand White Privilege – Quartz

Here’s our real-world take on the concept of privilege, which turns out to not be so simple after all.

Quiz: What Style of Yoga Is Best for You? – Greatist

Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Yin. What are they all about?

Exercising but Gaining Weight – NY Times

Scientists have had little understanding, however, of why exercise helps some people but not others to shed pounds or whether there might be early indications of how people will respond to an exercise routine.

A Nationwide Conversation About Sexual Assault Has Begun. Finally. – Maclean’s

Too many women and men do not report sexual assault to police because they think it will be too painful to relieve the experience, their motives will be questioned, or their efforts will come to naught. We need to change the attitudes, beliefs and procedures that surround sexual assault to ensure each and every case is properly reported, investigated and dealt with appropriately by the legal system. But, most important, we need to ensure sexual assault is no longer considered everyday behaviour in Canadian society.

Is Meat Unhealthy: Part III – Whole Health Source

There is a lot of evidence we can bring to bear on this question, and not all of it is consistent.  This inconsistency is why we see different groups interpreting the research in opposite ways.
. . .So, does eating meat increase cardiovascular risk?  Yes!  And no!

02 Dec

Teacher of the Month

This is it. I no longer teach at Lifestyle. I’m very sad and a little lost as to spend my evenings now. I pretty much ran around like a chicken with my head cut off during the last few months working, weightlifting, cooking, eating, planning classes, teaching, sleeping, and repeating. Now I have two less classes and I feel like I don’t know how I’ll fill that time.

One way is by turning my focus to the other classes that I teach, especially at Breathe Pilates & Fitness Studio which is where I am teaching 4 classes per week. It is also where I have recently been nominated as Teacher of the Month!

Here’s the bio that’s gone up on the studio’s facebook wall and on the literal wall in the studio.

BIO - Samantha Menzies

I’m so excited that I’ve been featured. It’s been great to see my classes at Breathe growing in number and the students growing in strength.

If you’re interested in practicing with me, check out my schedule on my yoga page.

30 Nov

Links for a Sunday Morning

I Don’t Have Babies But I’m Obsessed With Baby Names – The Atlantic

Unlike the majority of words—which possess, more or less, one definition—names are constantly changing with the era, stockpiling references, nuance, and weightiness in society’s mental bunker.

This is Your Body on Caffeine – Experience Life

Infographic: Here’s what happens when you down a caffeinated drink and your body gets hit with the jolt.

Achieving a Headstand in Yoga – News Press

“My toes didn’t leave the ground. My shoulders and upper back were on fire, and I was stuck in headstand prep.”

Americans ruined yoga for the rest of the world – Quartz

Yoga has been the place where the super-fit, super lean go hangout together. Only in yoga will people chant in a foreign language, oblivious to the meaning of the words and then closely examine their curves in pants now worn by porn stars.

Can meditation help keep you from getting sick? This study says yes – Globe and Mail

As an exercise physiologist, I would have bet that exercise would be more powerful than meditation for preventing the flu. I was wrong. Both meditation and exercise reduced the number of people who got sick by about 25 per cent.

28 Nov

Yes Means Yes: Why Affirmative Consent Matters

Here’s a little story to help people who have trouble understanding the importance of affirmative consent and why “No Means No” is not always enough.

Yes Means Yes

You’re in your front yard, doing some yard work (planting bulbs or trimming bushes or whatever it is you do) and your neighbour passes by on his way to the mailbox. You say hello.

Your neighbour takes your greeting as an invitation to stick around and chat, which is okay. He is a nice enough guy and you two have a cordial relationship.

After chatting about the weather and that local sports team, you get into some personal topics like what your relationship with your parents is like, the things on your bucket list, and your aspirations for your career.

You’re enjoying yourself and getting along well.

During a lull in your long and pleasant conversation, your neighbour takes advantage of friendliness, and says “It’s okay if I just pop into your house right?” as he opens your front door and lets himself into your home, leaving you standing on your front lawn with dirt under your fingernails and a look of confusion.

You don’t want him in there. Sure he was really nice to you, but you didn’t feel comfortable inviting him in. And, yeah, he asked if it was okay before he entered, but everything happened so fast that you barely had time to process it, let alone respond. He seems like a good guy, so he probably doesn’t have bad intentions but all the same you have a bad feeling about the whole thing.

Then, before you know it, your neighbour comes out your front door after rifling through your things and upsetting the balance of your home in a way that makes you feel uneasy.

“I really didn’t want you to go into my house. You shouldn’t have done that,” you finally find the nerve to say.

“Well, you didn’t say no,” he responds. He continues on his walk to the mailbox as if the whole situation were without consequence and leaves you to put back together the mess he just made inside your personal space.

This is why affirmative consent matters.
Yes Means Yes.

Consent is Sexy

25 Nov

Goodbye Lifestyle Family Fitness

This week is my very last week teaching yoga at Lifestyle Family Fitness, a local chain of gyms here in Windsor, and I’m pretty sad about it.

I had two to three regular classes at the gym with a core group of regular students that challenged themselves to get stronger, were open to trying new things, and were dedicated to their yoga practice.

I had a reputation for being a challenging instructor but over time I was told that my classes were getting a bit easier (though, still, not quite easy). They weren’t. The yogis were just getting stronger. . .

. . . And it’s been fascinating to see the gradual changes in their strength, mobility, balance, and most of all their focus. I learn something new from my students every time I teach and I am going to miss them.

I’m not leaving by choice. Well, not exactly. The gyms will all be taken over by GoodLife Fitness on December 1 and I may have had the choice to stay on as an instructor with GoodLife, but I haven’t. Their requirement of exclusivity would have limited the number of classes I can teach in a week, and it would have prevented me from teaching in other areas around the community like the prenatal yoga classes, the AAA hockey team, and the one-off workshops that I love teaching.

So this Sunday will be my very last class with Lifestyle and I want to thank all of my students and the community of excellent yoga teachers with whom I shared the schedule.

I know I’ll see everyone’s beautiful smiling faces around in other yoga classes throughout Windsor’s small and tight-knit yoga sangha.

Last Week at Lifestyle

23 Nov

Links for a Sunday Morning

Every tool is a weapon
First Marathons and Extramarital Affairs – Runner’s World

The year before starting a new age decade prompts unexpected searches for meaning. People are more likely to run their first marathon or contemplate an extramarital affair.

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial – The Atlantic

One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood. . . Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes.

The Cost of Getting Lean – Precision Nutrition

Make no mistake, there are real trade-offs as you attempt to lose fat and improve your health. Consider how to get the body you really want while living the life you really enjoy.

Balancing Work and Life in 4 Quadrants – Marketplace

Consider work/life balance on a matrix with four quadrants, a customisable gauge of happiness and energy.

An Uncommon Guide to Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain – Summer Tomato

The holidays are challenging for everyone on the eating front, and self-compassion goes a long way toward letting you come out healthy and happy on the other side. Don’t let one or two frustrating events spoil the entire season.

2014 Good City Index – Good

A celebration of the 50 cities around the world that best capture the elusive quality of possibility. Each will share an underlying ethos of citizens creatively engaging with their surroundings with the expectation that, with a little work, things can get better.

10 Idioms from Around the World That You Probably Don’t Know – Dashburst

Whimsical illustrated infographics to share unusual idioms and their meanings from around the world.

Can’t Sleep? Maybe Thinking About Evolution Will Help – NPR

“In our culture, we have this very fixed idea that you should lie down and go out like a light. One of the problems with insomnia is that people become very anxious about it. If they relaxed, went with the flow, and perhaps took a nap during the day, maybe it would help.”

14 Nov

Nudity at a Japanese Onsen

An onsen is a hot spring that is used for communal bathing in Japan. Sometimes the water is pumped indoors at an inn, sometimes they’re natural outdoor springs, but regardless they are very popular among the Japanese. The Japanese love their onsen.

I discovered that, as with all things in Japan, there is a strict set of rules to follow for communal bathing in Japan that is nearly ritualistic to keep the bathing experience pure. The bath is for soaking, not for cleaning and thus. . .

-You must wash your body and your hair before entering the onsen and rinse thoroughly.
-You must not bring a wash cloth into the onsen.
-You must not use soap in the onsen.
-No splashing please!
-Bathing in any sort of swimsuit or clothing is frowned upon. Yes, that means naked.

Paul Cezanne - Large Bathers

I was cautious not to knowingly defy any rules while vacationing in Japan, because I respect their culture of obedience and conformity for the greater good.

But I badly needed to clean off the sweat and dirt from walking in the scorching temperatures all day, and communal bathing was the only option. . .

. . .thus, off went my clothes.

I’d love to say something romantic like “as I let my yukata fall to my feet to expose my body, I was immediately liberated” but, let’s be honest, I was way out of my comfort zone.

I started out by quickly showering myself next to a foreign girl wearing a bikini that made her look out of place. Then I joined the group of women in the bath, all of us nude.

I was more self conscious about etiquette than about my body with a million questions running through my head:

Am I doing this right? Should I tie my hair back? Can I make wrapping my arms around my chest to cover my boobs look natural? If I just stare down at the water does it look like I’m staring at the other women’s ladyparts?

But the women were very pleasant and welcoming and deeply engaged in a natural conversation. No one appeared to be uncomfortable so I tried my best to let my apprehension wash away with the water.

There is a saying in Japan, hadaka no tsukiai, which means ‘naked friendship’ that refers to both the literal nakedness as well as philosophically stripping away of formalities which provides an openness that allows people to get to know each other a little deeper.

That’s not the type of thing that exists here in the West. Here, physical nakedness tends to make us feel exposed in a way that makes us want to stay anonymous, hide our personality, and keep to ourselves. As I mentioned in my last post about spa nudity, the veil of anonymity is powerful. Nudity doesn’t bring us together, it drives us apart. It comes with shame and discomfort and even embarrassment.

It all makes me question, once again, how it has come to be this way?

Are we afraid that our bodies aren’t quite right because they don’t look like the images of bodies that we see in print and on screen? Are we afraid of being judged for our appearance? Are we ashamed?

When we feel that we need to cover up the implication is to immediately associate nudity with shame. The implication is to make us uncomfortable being naked, even among those of us that are normally confident with our bodies.

I’d love it if we could all take a page from the Japanese’s book and be open to the concept that communal bathing can strengthen our sense of sorority with other women, be one more place where we can socialize and get to know each other, and make us feel more comfortable in our bodies (not less).