Follow my yoga quest at home and on the road…

A Dedicated Practice

A dedicated practiceA Dedicated Practice

21 June 2013 – My friend’s much loved father, David, passed away earlier this week, at the age of 90. Today was his funeral service.

The same friend’s beautiful, jet black puss – Ruby – also passed away this week. She was 21 yo.

I wanted to support my friend on this day. I needed to make a 4 hour return trip to her house. I wanted to make my asana practice before leaving home. The mind was full of ideas – about time, distance, the funeral, the pain of the family, guilt if I didn’t practice, etc, etc. I was fragmented, unfocussed – not present…

I decided to make some licorice tea, over which I would decide what to do. As I filled the kettle – I returned to the present, it was clear what I should do. Yeahh! I decided to make my practice as long as it took the kettle to boil… which turned out to be 5 minutes.

Following is my asana sequence, which I dedicated to David, and Ruby.

Urdhva Hastasana
Virabhadrasana I
Virabhadrasana III
Ardha Chandrasana

I then prepared to leave, and made the drive to be with my friend.

I want to share with you this reading from David’s funeral service:

Don’t think of him as gone away
His journey’s just begun
Life holds so many facets
This earth is only one
Just think of him as resting
From the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort
Where there are no days and years
Think how he must be wishing
That we could know today
How nothing but our sadness
Can really pass away
And think of him as living
In the hearts of those he touched
For nothing loved is ever lost –
And he was loved so much

Om Shanti

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Tips for the yogi on the move

When possible, I “checked out” potential yoga venues by reading reviews on sites such as yelp.com for the relevant city…

119Having recently completed a six week trip travelling in the USA, I am writing this post to share with others my experiences with regard to seeking out yoga venues, and undertaking asana practice, whilst away from home.

The majority of venues and class timetables were found via the internet. The final decision on where to go was usually made based on ease of travelling from accommodation to the studio – which varied, eg walking, driving, public transport.

Many of the yoga studios had websites which allowed students to register online, complete relevant information required before attending class, and make payment.
Also, some websites showed how many spaces were available in the class, the name of the teacher, name of the room within the studio, etc. All studios had mats that could be borrowed, or hired.

When possible, I “checked out” potential yoga venues by reading reviews on sites such as yelp.com for the relevant city, or judysbook.com. These review sites were useful in general, ie to hear about student’s experiences of various yoga venues, and they were also be useful when making final decisions on where to go if there were several choices available.

After the class, consider writing your own review.

I endeavour to attend early morning classes. This works well for me on several levels, ie, I am an early riser and a “morning person”, so it suits me to be standing on my head at 7.00am :); and, walking, bussing, etc, around a city early in the morning provides a different perspective to that seen during the day or evening.

Also, I enjoyed moving through the almost deserted streets in the early morning – I could literally see more of a city without the volume of people and traffic that exist during the day; and, I found photo opportunities that did not exist at other times of the day; and last, but not least, being the only passenger on a cable car at 6.30am is kind of cool – I used the time to meditate and enjoy in the early morning quiet and solitude.

I have tested out my yoga paws on several occasions. I am still undecided whether I really like using them, or not. I will take them on other travels as they take up very little luggage space, and using them is far better than a towel on the floor, or nothing at all.

I often saw signage for yoga venues whilst out and about sightseeing. I spotted a number of yoga venues whilst travelling on the top level of a double decker bus, and captured their details with my I-phone camera.

Almost daily, I talk to people that I have never met before – particularly when I am away from home. This is an ideal opportunity to ask my “new friend” if they know of any yoga venues. Ask shop assistants, doormen, reception staff, your fellow travellers… 🙂

Travel agents, online yoga forums, your current yoga teacher, friends and family who have already been to the destination you are going to visit … they may all be a resources for yoga contacts, venues, etc.

Check out yoga/fitness publications, and online forums.

Kimpton Hotels supply a yoga mat for guests to use during their stay

Kimpton Hotels supply a yoga mat for guests to use during their stay

Kimpton Hotels – this chain of American boutique hotels, amongst many other fantastic things, is yoga friendly. They provide a yoga mat in every wardrobe, and a TV channel devoted to yoga, and fitness. And, on request, they will provide guests with yoga props such as a block and strap.

Of course, some accommodation has a gym, which would usually include floor mats. Quality and type of mats will vary, and they may not always be useful to the yogi. If you are up for the challenge, or would like to see this as a learning opportunity, it can be a lot of fun trying to undertake asana practise on a spongy/stretchy mat. Or, maybe not? Follow this link if you would like to read about my recent experience with such a mat.

When travelling locally I usually take my own studio mat. When travelling interstate, or sometimes overseas, I pack a lightweight sticky mat. If luggage space it at a premium I forego the mat and take my yoga paws.

Another option is making a choice of asana practice that can be accomplished without a mat 🙂

I take this opportunity to make a special mention of friends with spare closet space who are kindly willing to store a yoga mat. I currently have a mat in a closet in London, and Melbourne, waiting for my next visit.

For various reasons, you may not always be able to attend a class teaching your preferred style of yoga, eg venue is too far away or difficult to get to, no classes align with your availability. Be open to trying new/different styles.

Friends, family, colleagues... may well be a mine of information

Friends, family, colleagues… a mine of information 🙂

I always take two sets of yoga clothing when I travel, ie one drying, one ready to go 🙂 Yoga clothes can double perform as day wear, or an extra layer if it is cold. Plus, a shawl/large scarf is invaluable when flying, and also for savasana.

Self practice can be a challenge. The mind can find all sorts of excuses why practice can be delayed, or not done at all. I say these words from experience 🙂 However, I can also say from experience that if I physically get on to the mat that is a good start. And, usually, once I am on the mat in a seemingly short time I have completed an hour of asana.

If available, I find it useful to use resources such as a timer, I-books, hard copy books, write out a running sheet of asana, have props such as strap, blanket and block easily within reach.

Make your practice on that stunning beach, beside that crystal clear river, on a roof top under the blue umbrella sky, beneath the boughs of a majestic tree… Enjoy 🙂


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San Francisco – San Fran-tastic!


Prior to arriving in San Francisco I wrote a list of what I hoped to do whilst there. It is good to have a plan, as then you have something to amend…

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco was my final destination in the United States, at the end of a six week trip. I loved the “feel” of San Francisco. I spent five chillaxed nights (12-17 May 2013) in San Francisco (SF). Chillaxed… partly because it is chilly (LOL) and mostly because it was relaxing.

I had lovely accommodation at a yoga friendly Kimpton Hotel – The Hotel Argonaut. As promised, there was a yoga mat in the wardrobe, and a TV channel dedicated to yoga, etc. The hotel location – on Jefferson – was convenient to many of the tourist highlights, and it was also a short taxi ride/cable car trip, or a manageable walk to move away from the crowds.

I first visited SF around 25 years ago – I remember not being able to see much of the harbour due to mist/fog. Ditto on this occasion .

Prior to arriving in SF I wrote a list of what I hoped to do whilst there. It is good to have a plan, as then you have something to amend. Anyway, this is what I did, and didn’t do…Visited the Musee Mecanique – an entertainment blast from the past… from my own, my parents, and my grandparents. It was a great place for young and old alike. 017 - musee mecanique entrance sign

I went on a lovely long walk that took me to, and up, the Coit Tower. The view from the top was great (albeit a hazy day) eg Bay Bridge, G2B, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc. Interesting murals on the internal walls of the tower reminded me of murals and other artworks viewed in New York (five weeks ago), ie in and around the Rockerfeller Centre. I walked down the 400 steps from the Coit Tower to the waterfront. These steps lead me past lovely, lush, private gardens. I then visited the Ferry Building, and caught the tail end of the farmers market which is held there several times per week.

Mural at Coit Tower

Mural at Coit Tower

I caught a street car from downtown, along the length of Market St to Castro. I had intended walking from Castro to Golden Gate Park, BUT found that the map I was using was not to scale, and was not topographical, ie the intended walk was much further, and much hillier than I had realised. As it was approaching late afternoon, I abandoned that adventure and caught a street car back to downtown, then joined a long line to catch a cable car to my hotel, at around 5pm. The cable cars are a popular tourist attraction – hence the line. NB catching cable cars at 6.30am to yoga is a breeze… more about yoga later.

Basking sea lions at Pier 39

Basking sea lions at Pier 39

On two occasions, I went to see the sea lions that gather on pontoons at Pier 39. They are an adorable, yet smelly, noisy bunch. They snuffle, snort and grunt as they jostle until they find a comfortable spot in amongst the pile of sea lions, that is, until someone decides to move…

I visited Union Square, and chanced upon a free blues concert. As I was en route to Biscuits and Blues to see Kevin Russell perform, I could not stop for long, however I enjoyed the music and atmosphere whilst I could. On to Biscuits and Blues… Kevin Russell sang the blues accompanied by a bass guitarist and a drummer. The club was underground, and intimate – the musicians were within arm’s reach. It was a great night out.

Kevin Russell played at Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

Kevin Russell played at Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

I attempted to catch the ferry to Saulsalito as I had heard this was a scenic trip, ie taking in views of the G2B, and the cafes were good The hotel advised me the time to catch the ferry, BUT their timetable was out of date and I missed the ferry…

I caught a ferry to Alcatraz – an interesting place to visit. The introductory video provided a good summary, and the audio tour for the cell house was very well done, the sound effects were graphic!

The weather ranged from cool to really cold, ie scarf, gloves, two jackets type of cold. I had thought I would be wearing shorts everyday by this stage of the trip. This was not to be

I noticed many interesting buildings in SF, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau trims and facades – ornate and amazing I, particularly likes the variety and styles of entrances to homes, eg welcoming vestibules with arches, multiple identical doors leading left, right and up to the respective dwellings, ornate steel gates, and decorative lights…

20130619-084528.jpgSan Francisco has many yoga studios that offer a variety of yoga styles. Following a search on the internet I chose to book three Vinyasa classes at Union Yoga. Union Yoga is located on the corner of Union St and Hyde St on Russian Hill, and was a short distance from my hotel. Initially, I had intended walking from the hotel to the studio… that was until I saw the gradient of that part of Russian Hill (!) Fortunately, a cable car stop was a stone’s throw from the hotel and the cable car passed right by the yoga studio – yeahh 🙂 I rode the cable car (CC) up Russian Hill to the yoga studio and walked back down to the Hotel.

Union Yoga studio is a bright, light space. The classes I attended were lead by Justin Montigne who is a very friendly, and welcoming teacher. It was easy to book and pay for classes on line. Classes were very reasonably priced at US$15 for a 1.5 hour session. Use of mats and props was included. There were changing rooms, and a space to store bags, shoes, etc in the reception area.

The day I left SF I was up early, and on to the cable car at 0630 – to attend the 0700 yoga class. As had occurred on my other early morning trips, I was the only passenger – which I quite liked.
The CC conductor remembered me from my initial early morning trip when I had asked for his advice of where to get off the CC for Union Yoga. As we got close to the yoga studio, he shyly asked me “What do you do in there? stretching?”.

The morning had brought beautiful, clear views of Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. I took my camera with me to yoga, and took a few pics of the aforementioned as I walked back to the hotel for the last time. I also walked down the crookedest street, ie Lombard St, and took photos of some of the nearby porches and vestibules.

The Rock - Alcatraz

The Rock – Alcatraz

I left San Francisco wanting more and hoping to return again some day…

Thanks for a great stay San Francisco, and thanks to Justin and Union Yoga for a lovely yoga experience


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A short stay in Monterey…

Om Studios, Monterey, Ca

Om Studios, Monterey, Ca

11th May 2013 – Whilst on an over nighter in Monterey, Ca, I attended 2.5 hour workshop with Austin Efurd, hosted by Om Studios.

Austin was visiting Monterey from San Francisco where he teaches at Urban Flow Yoga.

The workshop began with a lead meditation – which was fabulous. We began the meditation deep inside the body, then went on a journey that took us on a round trip to outer space 🙂 Meditation was followed by lead chanting – workshop participants echoed Austin with great enthusiasm.

The asana was flowing and energetic – I soon began to glow. I felt the vinyasa helped me release some of the toxins that had been building up in the body on this vacation – yeahh!

I found the workshop to be both challenging and rewarding. And, after a fairly low key approach to practice for the last month or so, a 2+ hour asana stint was invigorating.

The workshop was very reasonably priced at only US$25, and the studio kindly lent me a yoga mat.



Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I chose to devote the remainder of my time in Monterey to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium – I am really glad I did – OMG – it was fabulous The tanks are vast, and the sea life is beautiful, varied, and prolific. I watched several feeding sessions, ie in the “open sea” and “kelp forest” tanks, saw beautiful jelly fish, touched a star fish in the touch pool!, watched penguins walking about – did Charlie Chaplin copy them, or vice versa?

AND, my all time favourite… The sea otters – they are gorgeous… playful, energetic, captivating, endearing. Do you want to see these beautiful creatures too? Check them out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium via web cam.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thanks to Om Studios, Austin Efurd, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium


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Yo! Yosemite!

399I was – again- most fortunate to spend time in one of the USA’s fabulous National Parks – on this occasion I spent three nights (7-8-9 May 2013) in beautiful Yosemite.

I stayed at the historic Wawona Hotel, in the Washburn Cottage. The hotel, comprised of 6 buildings, was built in various stages during the late 1800s to early 1900s.

During my time in Yosemite, I made my early morning asana practice on the floor on the Washburn Cottage, following sequences from my i-book, Essential Yoga, by Judy Smith.

Of course, “everyday life”, provides opportunity to practise yoga – and being in amongst nature, in a beautiful spot such as Yosemite provided another dimension in which to enjoy, and practise. Hiking to the Chilnualna Falls, and along the Wawona Meadow Loop, wandering along sun dappled trails, surrounded by majestic trees and ancient rocks, passing by sun drenched meadows, and hearing the sounds of bubbling streams or rushing rivers, was meditative. I was very grateful to be able to visit this wonderful part of the US.

I made the one hour drive from Wawona Hotel to reach the Yosemite Valley where I went on a Valley Floor tour. The Valley is fantastic – wonderful granite rockfaces and cliffs, huge boulders scattered here and there, that had been moved to their resting place by a glacier, that was no longer to be seen. Cascading waterfalls, beautiful meadows, and groves of trees, eg Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pines, Cinnamon Cedars and Dogwood…

The guide/bus driver was full of information about the Valley, and rock climbing – which was his hobby. He drew passenger’s attention to five specks in the distance – fortunately I had binoculars with me, and I could clearly see that the specks were climbers suspended by ropes, making their way up the rock face.

I had intended taking a hike to one of the Valley waterfalls, but the weather had other ideas, ie large rain drops began to fall, followed by hail, and heavy rain, thunder and lightning. The climbers I had seen earlier would have been riding out the storm in the open.

The day I left Yosemite, I visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. As sequoias have a shallow root system, visitors are requested to maintain a respectful distance from the trees – and many of the trees are fenced off accordingly. I undertook a short hike to see The Grizzly and The Tunnel Tree. These majestic ancient giants are AWESOME! … Wide, tall, tessellated – if I could have, I would have given those loveable giants a big ole giant hug 🙂

I noticed cute little Chickorees – they are like miniature squirrels – darting hither and tither, and I also saw several groups of Mule Deer in amongst the shadows of the trees, nibbling on tufts of grass that had managed to push their way through the leaf litter.

During my time in Yosemite, I had hoped to see other wildlife, such as bears, or maybe a big cat. But, this was not to be. Maybe next time…


Wawona Hotel, Washburn  Cottage

Wawona Hotel, Washburn Cottage

Can you spot the climbers on the rock face?, and the hikers in the meadow?

Can you spot the climbers on the rock face?, and the hikers in the meadow?

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

... as close as I got to a Mountain Lion

… as close as I got to a Mountain Lion

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