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I love Christmas. I like the lights in the trees and cooking nice dinners. I like hanging out with family and getting cozy by the fire. This year we had heat and lights and hot water so we were extra, extra lucky. I am truly blessed, obviously. But I can’t help but feel like an addict who keeps stretching out the day she is going to kick sugar.

It is bad enough being an Ashtangi during Christmas, because I still get up to practice. But I am also vegan, which makes me the bummer at any family holiday occasion. Like, I know, it is probably hard to eat a dead animal across from David and I, silently judging.

On a side note, Holden has started playing a game where we quiz him about what he eats: Do you eat Pigs? NOOOOOOO! Do you eat dogs? NOOOOOOO! Do you eat tigers? NOOOOOO! Do you eat rice? Mhmmm……. and the last line of the game: DONT EAT ANIMALS! I blame it on this totally harsh vegan kids book I picked up at Farm Sanctuary last year. Holden insisted I read it to him every night with the Lorax for weeks (it was an issue-driven month, I guess). You just know that Holden is going to be a total bummer at most holiday dinners pretty soon.

All this to say, if I didn’t eat sugar – that would be weird and over the top and difficult to explain. Or at least junkie-mind tells me so. Because of course, there is really just one big holiday dinner with my extended family, maybe two.  Really, I start eating sugar early in anticipation. And by Christmas day, I am sort of a mess. Why can’t I just eat sugar like everyone else? People drink gallons of pop everyday and they seem fine – okay, they are  functioning – well, at least they aren’t total bummers at holiday parties.

Currently, I have a sty inside my eye which makes me look like I was punched and feels like I have a twig shoved in my lower lid. I saw it and knew: This was punishment for all the brownies, pies, cookies, and chocolate we ate.  I told David, no more sugar – I have something living in my fucking eye.

And then what happens after I put Holden to bed? I eat a baked good that was  around from the holidays.  David looks at me and says nothing. But what can he say? He missed work today because he has a stomach bug/flu – probably from eating all that sugar with me.

FUCK THE HOLIDAYS.

New Years Eve is Mercedes’ wedding. We are in charge of the dinner and there is, of course,  cake. I guess I HAVE to eat a piece! It is Mercedes wedding! I can’t be that asshole who refuses cake at her stepdaughter’s wedding! I will just be the asshole with the drooping oozing eyelid at her stepdaughter’s wedding.

So, I thought maybe I would kick then. But then my neighbour came by and invited us to a New Years Day bonfire with the kids. He is making bannock and we are bringing vegan marshmallows. So, looks like Jan 2 I am going to kick.

But then my birthday is January 7th. Thanks Mom – now my eye is totally fucked.

Sigh, I will see y’all on the 8th after I arouse from my diabetic coma with a glass eye.

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When I was younger and pretending to be a grown up, I got stuck in an ice storm. I was living in Montreal. When the storm started I was alone and far away from my house. The sky was grey, I was confused that the subway didn’t work and I walked home.

We had no heat or electricity. We went to bars and coffee shops and felt very much a part of something. I was happy that I didn’t have to write an essay. We shopped in grocery stores lit by candlelight. It felt romantic. We were all surviving.

My friend’s mother was staying with us. She had tried to leave but her train got stuck. She had to walk through a farmer’s field to the nearest highway to hitch a ride back to our ice palace. She made tea for herself by placing a glass of water over a candle. At nights, she volunteered as a guard for a retirement home. I was glad she was there because I knew if things got any worse, whatever camping situation we had set up would fall short.

Maybe three days in, I forget now, a policewoman skated by our house and told us not to drink the water. The filtration system for the city was broken.  The candlelit grocery stores had been emptied of food, with no new stock coming in until the roads cleared. My friend’s mother went out right away and procured two large bottles of water for us. I am not sure how, we were too stricken to act.

I was tired then. Tired of sitting in bed, and living on butter. I felt sad for the trees and for myself and I wished I hadn’t been so quick to rejoice over the schoolwork that I would eventually have to do. A couple days later the heat came on.

But really the storm had been a short respite for me. I was depressed in the never-ending Montreal winter. I was almost finished a degree that I felt I had no interest or passion in whatsoever. I had the strange feeling of being and acting outside of myself most of the time.

Today, we got stuck in an ice storm. I was reminded of my experience 16 years ago and how much richer and fuller my life is now and for the most part, how I love what I do with my time.

I am still, however, capable of plodding away at projects that do not hold my interest. I am still capable of getting so sad that the person I am is no longer present.

Today, I am grateful for the particular piece of dry ground that I stand on. Grateful, knowing that it can be slippy and shifting. And thankful, remembering that when it was icy, there was always someone there who quietly recognized my unsure footing and, saying nothing, helped me steady.

Stuck for gifts for the Ashtangi in your life? I compiled a short list for y’all

1. Toe skin: I remember seeing the tape around Sharath’s big toes in Goa and wondering if it was some sort of elaborate prop. Nope, I soon learned, your toe skin just peels off in large chunks and makes you bleed toe blood on your manduka when you jump back. You will wrap your toe in scotch tape, popsicle wrappers, anything, to stop the pain before going back in and jumping back on your bloody toe over and over again. And guess what? They don’t really ever heal. Or when they do , you get a short respite before you feel something one day catch on your sock and a shiver of pain goes up your leg and you realize your goddamn toe is splitting again. One day, David was teaching me the headstands in intermediate and I watched, as I slammed my feet down 7 fucking times, the trail of blood on my purple rug get thicker and thicker. Did I stop? No way! I was learning the end of intermediate – you wouldn’t stop either. Do you think this toe bleeding might be an alignment issue? Save it sister. Just get the Ashtangi on your list some baby soft lovely new toe skin to fuck up.

2. A night where everyone eats at 4.30 and then goes to bed at 8: Ahh, bliss! A big meal as the kids are getting out of school and then to bed while it is still light out. Perhaps a romantic night in a senior’s residence would fill the same criteria.

3. Coconut water IV drip: Ashtangis have been loving coconut water since before Madge got her sinewy hands around a VitaCoco. Maybe even from before Madge played a yoga teacher in that movie and did poses from Advanced A. In Mysore, the residents give major side-eye to the yoga students who sit and flirt at the coconut water stand all day because they think there is something nefarious going on. I am not saying there isn’t, all I know for sure is that you sort of NEED a coconut after practice. Last week I had a stomach flu that went through me quickly for one day. The next day I was excited because it gave me an excuse to buy a very large container of coconut water and drink it all myself. If you could somehow figure out how to put coconut water into an iv drip, that would be the best yogi present ever.

4. A life: Sometimes when you hang out with a group of Ashtangis they start to wistfully reminisce about when they had a “life”. Which I guess means the time in your life when you could eat or drink whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it and you stayed up late and slept in until noon. I think that is also part of not being 17 anymore, but what do I know?  On the flip side of senior’s residence night, you could take the Ashtangi you love for an all out full moon bender! Chances are he or she will be in bed by 8, but it is exciting to try.

5. Anything from this man:

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He is wicked funny and is an awesome teacher. He is also hot and when you buy his shit it keeps Mama Stan in bling (or in a small house on the edge of Scarborough) so I can write more super informative posts about Ashtanga. Win/win baby!

Alright. Ho Ho Ho! Don’t say I never gave you nuttin.

I like having pregnant people in my class. I like that they have to break all the rules. They get to bring water in, and I always shuffle students around so that they get the cool spot by the door. Often the cold wind created by leaving the door open in the middle of winter makes the room unbearably cold for everyone else – but no one says shit. And I think that is sort of funny and great. I like that they modify and skip poses, and the people beside them are extra paranoid about bumping into them. I also sort of love that the pregnant people breeze through this luxury like it has been that way for them.

Just to be clear, and this is not intended to be a story about how I walked five miles to school everyday in my bare feet, Sharath never gave me a good spot in the room when I was pregnant in Mysore. It vexed me to NO END. Like, WHY are you punishing me by giving me a spot right next to the swinging/baby smashing door of the men’s stinky bathroom? I never asked, but I am sure I rolled my eyes as I waddled over in a huff.

The other day, I was driving on a busy, fast-moving road and a pregnant woman started to jaywalk. She walked slowly, with her eyes fixed on the other side. As she approached the left lane of cars whizzing by, she held out her hand. She held out her hand in a “talk to the hand” fashion. The cars immediately stopped. And she made her way across.

When women tell me that they have 100 children, I sort of understand. I would also like to direct traffic with the wave of my hand, so I know why you would want to have that power over and over again. I suppose the swollen feet, the weird poos and the (yikes) baby you get at the end of it are not as enticing to me. But the ability to shut down rush hour traffic and still be a bit of a huff? Awesome.

Because I write this blog and I teach, and  – well – I have waddled next to the men’s bathroom in Mysore and busted out a practice, I often get asked about what a woman should do in her practice when she gets pregnant. Here is my top three suggestions:

1. Sleep: Oh I know it isn’t a bank that you can just deposit in for a month and then withdraw everything and leave it empty for two (twenty) years. But do you really want to be thinking about how you COULD have slept and didn’t?  I am saying this like I am going to really change a first time mom’s mind about how little she will sleep. But whatever, that is why you have another kid. So you can really sleep less and think about what an idiot you are.

2. Eat Out: Have you ever taken a 6 week-old child to dinner. It is easy! They just sleep. If you made the mistake of not going out to eat while pregnant you have a couple months to do that before you pick your restaurants based on the play area, or for us, whether or not they have a fish tank.

3. Talk on the phone with someone other than your mother: When the phone rings, my son says, “Grandma!” Yup. It be like that.

I have other suggestions, but you will have to come to class. Or read the book I am co-writing – which should be out in umm…. 2060.

Sometimes I feel the urge to say to pregnant ladies, “just you wait.”  But then I remember people saying that to me and wanting to show them the pregnant traffic-halting hand of doom.

Stan: I am so tired!

Some mom: Just you wait. You are going to be so tired.

or

Stan: Practice is hard when you are pregnant,

Some other mom: Just wait until you have a baby. That is really hard.

or

Stan: I can’t believe how little time I have.

Another mom: Just wait, you won’t have any time for the next fifty years!

You know what? I did wait. And you know what else? All you bitches were right. But I am going to do my best to not utter those words. No one wants to hear how much it is going to suck. And really, it mostly doesn’t suck at all. Mothers, I am asking you to bite your tongue when those “just wait’ words come bubbling up. Let’s enjoy how the pregnant people part traffic and students with a wave of their arms.  Smile as they sip water while we have to bind in Marychasana D.

When the baby comes out we will get to say, “Enjoy every minute!”

One moon day, David, Vanessa and I had time so we went to a class downtown. It was a beautiful day and the studio was gorgeous and well-designed. The class was great and the teacher was wonderful and if years of Mysore style practice hadn’t turned me into a OCD crazed lunatic, then the whole experience would have been entirely unblog-worthy.

But, alas. I am a total nut job, and even though I am a yoga teacher I can’t just GO to a yoga class and be okay with it like a normal person. I need hours of shivering deconstruction after 75 minutes of asana. David and I went to a class four years ago called “Eye of the Tiger” and we STILL talk about it. But it was called “Eye of the Tiger”, so we are compelled. Part of the problem is the style I practice doesn’t change in very fundamental ways. So, I think I am a bit of a dinosaur in the yoga community. I didn’t know there was a whole playlist creation neurosis for yoga teachers. Because I don’t practice with music ever it threw me off so much that I spent the whole class thinking about how John Mayer dated Jessica Simpson.

Mostly,  I hate the thing where you have to show up at exactly the right time. Appointments are for dentists!  I know for most people when you practice in Mysore, India you have to show up at the exact time minus 15 minutes. But I will let you in on a little secret – if you give birth you can come any damn time you please in Mysore. I know! Reason enough!

Actually, another little secret: when I was pregnant, Sharath told me to come to an earlier led class. But I didn’t want to get up at 4a and waddle down a dark street. Fuck that! So, I just came at the time I wanted to come at. I am pretty sure I would have been yelled at if I wasn’t pregnant. I wagered a guess that he wouldn’t yell – “You! Masala Dosa! What is your time? Your time is 4.30” at the pregnant lady – and the wager paid off. Since then the timings part of my KPJAYI card is left blank.

Dads, just so you know, David gets a time. But he likes it like that.

This year because we are Canadian and Ashtangis and we like to follow rules exactly, we put in our applications too late to go to study with Sharath and it was full and we couldn’t go. We were suddenly looking at the month of November – wide open. And so , we decided to go to Florida.

Not going to Mysore has this funny feeling around it. Like weirdly disconnected and jangly. I am more then happy not to make the flight, or to try to figure out what to do with a tomato, rice and cucumbers every night for dinner. But the longer the time stretches out between trips to India the more out of touch I feel with the international Ashtanga family. I think it is worse for my husband who has already started locking me down for months to go in 2015.

When we go in 2015, what will have changed while were were here in our little cold corner of the world? Somehow, I doubt John Mayer will be played from the Sharath’s office.  If the practice doesn’t change, then why do we go year after year? Why wouldn’t we just go one year, get the jist of it and then save ourselves some money and go to Florida and sit on the beach instead?

I think, every year I go, I have stood on my mat in that shala a different person. The first year I went, I didn’t have a daily practice. The second time I was pregnant and so brave. The third time, I had a little baby, I was sleep deprived and unhappy. The last time, I felt fulfilled and I wanted to teach. In 2015 – who am I going to be? How could the same technique taught by the same teacher have seen me through such dramatic shifts in my life? I often don’t want to go to India because I think it takes too much time. But that might why I should be going. I think practicing creates time and space in my life – at least some reaction time. The shala in India gives me time, whether I take it or not, to listen, breathe, reconnect with my teacher and my family.

Sometimes I think I am the constant, the steady the metronome. But, maybe I am actually very nebulous. And I am here to watch my breath so that I don’t waste it all in the time that it takes to listen to a pop song.

“The family weakens by the lengths we travel.”