Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bikram vs Laura

Conventional yoga wisdom says that if there is a pose or posture that you ABSOLUTELY detest, you should do it more often. Case in point, in your standard vinyasa (flow) practice you could do downward dog anywhere from 10-20 times. Most people hate their first downward dog of the day, it strains their wrists (which are stiff from typing and writing) it stretches your hamstrings uncomfortably (as they are used to sitting), it makes your arms and shoulders burn until you adjust to put more weight into your legs. The second downward dog however, feels a little easier, on top of that, it stretches your back wonderfully. You may take advantage of your second one to work your legs up and down to help loosen up your hamstrings, or maybe you'll wiggle your hips side to side to relax the tension in your lower back and enjoy as each inhale expands your ribs. By the time you do your last downward dog of the day I swear you will feel as though your vertebrae have all been stretched out a couple of millimeters and any tension in your back is gone. You love downward dog, you can't remember not loving it, but you did. The whole process will start again next class.

So, like I said, conventional yoga wisdom dictates that the poses you hate are the ones you should be doing, but what about styles of yoga? Should you do the one that you hate the most? On Sunday I blithely signed up for 10 days of unlimited bikram yoga at the studio near my house. I figured the heat (bikram is done at 40 degrees Celsius) would be nice, it would help with my flexibility and clear up my skin. I knew that they only did 26 poses over a 90 minute class so I figured it would help me work on my fundamentals.

I have only done two classes and already I hate it.

Firstly, I have learned that I'm not really a heat kind of person, I seem to be all about more temperate climes. I do not enjoy the sensation of sweat dripping down my face and body in tiny rivulets. I do not enjoy the sight of my beet red gasping face in the mirror. Gone is the elegance of yoga, gone is a half lotus pose or an upward dog (they don't do any of the "dogs" in bikram) of which I could be proud. Instead I was surrounded by thinner darkly complected women who's faces flushed prettily and who could hold the poses astoundingly well even though their limbs (like mine) were slicked with sweat.

I also did not enjoy the near constant feeling of nausea that lasted the duration of the practice. These days, in my other yoga classes, I don't have to go down into child's pose (or recovery pose) unless our instructor tells us to. In bikram I felt as though I could happily spend most of the practice lying on the ground, trying to breath that thick, hot uncomfortable air.

In terms of flexibility, it certainly made me more flexible but at what a price. I am so sore today lifting a laptop strains my forearms and climbing a flight of stairs virtually sucks my energy away.

Of course, when I'm not struggling I'm kind of bored with the lack of variety in the postures as well.

So the question is, if I hate it should I keep it up? Is it worth the misery?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Before I made the suggestion of a year long project based on self-help books, I naively thought that it would be encompassing a much smaller field. But no. It is huge, there is self-help in the kitchen, self-help (swimming) stroke improvement, self-help self hypnosis. The list is quite long. So yeah, what kind of self-help do I need? And also what makes these people experts? What is the qualification? As far as I can tell its living a good life.

It's interesting though isn't it? It's been enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence (I think, I'm nothing if not wilfully indifferent to everything grand and wonderful about American politics so please don't quote me) that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental right. In fairness since this was heavily inspired by Locke who was a raging libertarian capitalist if I ever saw one, the pursuit of happiness was probably tied into the accumulation of wealth (not much has changed eh?)

So yes, this is how we work in North America, we go to therapists, we read self-help (or magazines which are kind of mini, much more shallow self-help books), we take up yoga and we try and find a job that we don't absolutely detest.

Well that was depressing...

So yeah, anyway I'm pretty sure happiness for me lies some place in France, some place with good food, darkly good looking men, amazing wine and picturesque bicycle rides through the countryside while I look adorably bohemian in torn jeans comfy sandals and some kind of stripey, vaguely french t-shirt. Or maybe happiness for me is in a bakery, eating croissants and sipping a creme. Either way I know it's there, not here. So let's make the best of a situation, of the difficulty of being born on the wrong continent let alone the wrong country and see what people who are much older, wiser and in the possession of more degrees then me have to say about improving my life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My goodness, what an evocative term. It is a word that is just full of potential. It's up there with "Home-made chocolate". "Naked Male Models" and world peace. I went to my happy place today (well one of them anyway) I went to the book store. Now, I love looking at the new and hot fiction, I love looking at the cook-books, I love looking at the snazzy stationary that I AM NOT ALLOWED TO BUY UNTIL I USE ALL MY OTHER NOTEBOOKS, NOT EVEN IF ITS SUPER PRETTY.


I also, (I confess) have a weakness for the self-help section. Why? Who knows, I'm sure its connected with my deep-lying perfecionist tendancies which are my main barriers against success and happiness. I'm sure it also has something to do with my love of books and my general admiration for the Published. My admiration is child-like and naive considering how many truly shitty books there are out there, nonetheless I continue to assume that if someone is smart enough to write a book they absolutely must be smart enough to fix my life and all my stupid little anxieties and woes which, when added up are nearly crippling and are certainly suffocating (at times anyway).

So... I had an idea. There are quite a few famous blog projects out there (and quite a few obscure ones I'm sure) Living Oprah comes to mind, the premise being that the author spent an entire year following Oprah's advice on everyone of her shows. She did this I think mainly to hold Oprah accountable for her frequent contradictions and her encouragement of rampant counsumerism amongst her housewife devotees. Another one had to do with following magazine advice I believe, and the most famous of all has a movie based on it (Julie & Julia). So, here's my wild and weird and abstract thought. I am a rampant perfectionist who is absolutely immobilized by stupid little fears, if anyone could benifit from self-help it's me. The theory being that my problems are not so grave so as to require psychiatric help (though I do enjoy making use of the school's counselling centre occasionally) but nor are they so minimal that I can ignore them. In my own wildly biased and unprofessional assessment of myself, I think I am the perfect candidate. So what I'm thinking is 26 books over the course of a year (1 every 2 weeks) follow their advice to a T and hope for the best!

So, I need to decide a couple of things:
  • How do I select the books? Alphabetically? At random? As around and see what other people have used?
  • What constitutes as self-help? Is it purely psychological? What about "lifestyle" books that incorporate health and wellness as well?
  • What about relationship and love advice? Or should it be purely me?

So what do you guys think? Fun project no? PLEASE let me know your thoughts (I've noticed a distinct lack of commenting going on these days, way too much lurking folks.)

Anyway, let me know loves!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Ok.. I have a confession to make. Are you ready? (deep breath) I Laura Scrivener, am a hoarder. Ok. I feel better now. Let me explain a little. It's not as bad as it sounds. I will not be on a reality tv show any time soon. It's not like you can't move through my room because it is full of mountains of crap that have cockroaches, mice, the occasional squirrel and maybe the odd squatter living under them. No, my problem is not nearly that bad. In fact, I think my problem stems from idealism or romanticism if you will. Take a notebook for example. A brand new, notebook with a pretty picture on the cover, maybe it's a picture of Ganesh a Hindu god with an elephant for a head. Or perhaps its a picture with a fairy on the cover, with a misty ship sailing to the moon, and nymphs frolicking in a pond. Or perhaps it is a plain leather bound "serious" looking notebook. It doesn't matter what kind it is because I can pretty much guarantee that I will love it. I love page one. I love the newness of it. Here is a notebook ripe with potential. I could pen a best-selling novel, write an awe-inspiring speech, plan out a business idea, sketch out witty little thoughts, write a poem, take down my favourite quotes from a book, scribble down future Mr. Fearless's number, the possibilities are endless.

Bags are another favourite. A bag as far as I'm concerned is an excellent friend. A bag will never make you look fat. A bag, can hold your life. A bag will still love you no matter what you spill in it. A bag, in short is the perfect, nay, the ultimate accessory. However, there is no denying the fact that I have too many. The problem lies in the fact that I have three go-to bags that I use ALL the time, and the rest are lucky if they ever see the light of day, I mean, why mess with perfection?

Ok, so I've justified my bad behaviour for you guys, very unconvincingly I'm sure. But, I have decided to solve it. Everything that I have too much of and am not currently using will be gone by the new year. I have decided to have a get rid of all the crap in my life party. A radical notion I know. Actually I believe if it is commonly referred to as a garage sale. The catch is that I won't be charging. Nope it'll be a good old swapping party but without the swapping, more giving. I couldn't be more excited!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I thought I was finished..

I stopped writing because I though I had said everything I needed to say. I'm sort of at a stalemate. My job is wonderfully predicable and meaningless. I hate writing papers and reading reviews as I don't see anything earth shattering in writing about a preassigned topic. I snap at my parents and my sister. I desperately want to smack the lady in yoga who moans every time we do a particularly effective stretch. My eczema is driving me up the wall. I'm finding far too much solace in McDonalds. I dyed my hair brown just to escape the monotony of it all.

To make matters worse, everything I learn depresses me these days. Political science used to excite me. I loved the intricacies of power. I believed with absolute certainty in democracy, government regulated capitalism, a welfare state, and all those other good Canadian values, but now I'm not so sure. I get lots of questions, we discuss almost constantly the way the government's gone wrong the bad things Western states have done to the rest of the world. It's wildly depressing because, no matter how often we discuss what went wrong, we have yet o discuss what the answer is.

Maybe I'm not finished. Maybe I still have more questions to answer, I definitely have a rut to climb out of. Wish me luck!

I'll let you know.