Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reflection and a fever of 103

I disappeared for a few days, and I mean disappeared.  I had a flu of some sort that took me out.  I slept practically around the clock for almost three days.   Feel much better now and looking forward to getting back to working out tomorrow.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share this experience and help others in search of health and balance.  Another was to share my ever present silent chatter with those willing to read it.  Today's post will live up to those two ideals as usual.

Lately I have seen, heard about, read posts and emails from friends and family getting into yoga and many hot yoga.  Many friends along the way have joined me on this quest for balance and health.  Sometimes they join me for one class, some times they start a new journey of their own. Each one is on their own quest but maybe just maybe I helped open a door or reinforce a choice.  

I know that in my mind everyone is reading this blog and is as jazzed up about it as I am.  In reality folks are busy, they have their own lives, challenges and dreams.  Yet when I see several of my friends talking back and forth on facebook about trying out their local bikram or sweating it up in Yoga it makes me smile.   This is not a solitary journey.  The presence of more studios all the time shows that this is a movement.

Recently at the shiva for my grandmother my cousin Robin and I connected on our love of 'hot' as she calls it.  Robin is a Dr. in private practice with three kids and a busy world.  She does 'hot' as she calls it three times a week.  From experience she recognizes the healing power of the practice.

A friend and previous work associate of mine, Beth, recently commented about sweating it up in her yoga class that she started attending. It is a class that is helping her gain flexibility and start her on the journey. She also is a busy mother with a demanding job and has begun to find time for yoga.

Mary, a friend of mine that practiced with me on the Yoga Road Trip has continued to do classes at her local studio as well as doing classes at home when she does not have time to fit in a class.   She is regaining strength.

Jennifer another mother of boys juggling a busy work world and life.  She started taking classes proving to herself how strong she is and what she is capable of.

Recently a friend of my Sarah joined me for a class in Columbia. She has been doing yoga for years but has just recently started trying hot yoga.  It was her fourth class and she made it through the entire class for the first time.  She rocked it out and is very flexible.

My brother Daniel has started doing water yoga at his local health center.  I regret I did not have time to try that with him when I visited.  However, I am so happy for him that he is getting into it.  It is a great opportunity for him.

Then there is Pam doing check ins at her local Bikram and other friends swearing to join her.  The movement is spreading.

Jeanne a great friend has been doing yoga for years and swears by it.  She has the best posture of anyone I have ever known.   I have not yet got her into a hot class but the day will come.  Mwhahahahaha (evil laugh)

Then there are the yogi's that I know:  Shelby an old high school friend living the wise life and running a studio back home.   Renata, and old friend from junior high living in Barcelona and running a studio while she also dances flamenco.  

Then there are those just getting started in learning.  A dear friend is in the final steps of signing up for a great yoga training in curvy yoga.  I can't wait for her to do that training so I can learn as many adjustments as possible.  

I know I am missing many people in this log.   I hope I am missing even more as more and more get into this amazing journey.  Enjoy everyone and keep me posted on your progress.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

North York Moksha.

Wow.  I had a great class today at North York Moksha.   I met a great person named Elliott.  He was working behind the desk and had a great aura to him.  More about his views on yoga later.   The class was a one hour pose class.  So over the last few weeks I have been able to do a 90, 75 and 60 minute Moksha pose only class.  I have really gotten an interesting exposure to it and now feel more comfortable with that concept.   I got the CD for the 90 although i think I would prefer the 60 with some added flow sequences.

During this class and yesterday's I learned an interesting modification.  When you are in butterfly instead of having your feet facing you can grab your feet and use your thumbs to kind of peal the feet open.  The pealing open accomplishes the knees pushing down without any pressure on the actual knees.  Totally cool.  A few good breaths lowering down straight back and then a few curling down to get a little lower,  all the while using your hands and thumbs to peal open the feet to the ceiling.  Great modification and allowed me to open the hips more and get lower.  

The other thing I really like about this practice is the beginning breathing exercise. Hard to describe but there is an opening sequence where you start with your hands in prayer and intertwine the fingers as you lower them down into an almost cracking your knuckles point at the bottom... total exhale archived.  Then you lift the arms by pressing out in front of you in an arch up to above your head total inhale archived.  Then you switch to prayer pose with your hands and slowly lower.  Repeat a bunch of time taking as long as possible to breath.   

So after class I got to talk to Elliott who was working the desk.  (Elliott, when you read this, if I am way off base please comment as your worlds were much better than mine.) I was picking up the CD when we struck up a yoga conversation, one of those deep meeting of the minds like the vulcan mind meld.  Anyway,  we talked about two subjects.  One was kids yoga and the other was a great bit about uncomfortable poses and their links to the introversion vs extroversion dichotomy.  

So firstly Kids Yoga.  Elliott teaches some kids yoga classes and was talking about how the kids get to really open up in a win win situation where there is no competitive focus.  In our world where the kids are battling everything from tops to dragons to Pokemon, Yoga provides a unique environment where kids can focus on personal practice and group energy and experience.   It strengthens them to resist injury, increase flexibility, and develop coordination.  My oldest Jordan has wanted to try yoga for some time.  There is a yoga place in columbia that offers kids classes.  I will look into it and report back in a future blog post.  

Then Elliot talked about in these classes he uses yoga to help reach those kids that are always active, talking, the extraverts and helps to teach them stillness and control while also reaching he introverts to help them reach knowledge and confidence.  He talked about the kid that spent the entire class watching the practice, did not participate but watched.  Then went home and taught it ot his parent.  This is the introvert that must internalize before action.  

We talked about the camel or big sperm pose where you lean back and open the heart chakra up to the sky.  Most of the time I leave that pose early feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable, unstable, maybe even mad.  The energy of that chakra has a lot to express.  So Elliot says he challenges his students to lay still after that pose and see if they can do it.  The extroverts will have a hard time with this, adjusting their clothing, hair, etc.    

He goes on to reflect on the skill that can be grown to push through the discomfort, angst etc with stillness and growing that skill to take-on out side the classroom. He talked about how instead of letting those feelings control you, you can control your reaction and harness positively, to help to deal with uncomfortable situations to gain strength and calm.  Using Yoga to grow strength and clam and balance in the outer world is a great benefit of practice.  He said it better but I can't remember the exact words.  It is the skill of not to react in dangerous situations like telling off someone at work or in a politically charged situation , if you can learn to control yourself there,  you can save yourself and everyone else a lot of trouble. I think I have the feeling of it and I can say 100% that I have felt the benefits of this in my world. I will try to work this the next time I do this position. Thanks to Elliott and my visiting practice in Toronto at Moksha North York.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Katie Flacks 1913-2013

Heading back up to Toronto as my grandmother passed away.  She was 99 years old and had the good health and luck to have been well and cognitive up until the last short weeks.  Katie Taylor was born in 1913 in Scotland.  She grew up there, married Louis Flacks, had three children, two boys and a girl.  My Father, at age 75 is the oldest child.  

My grandmother was the last of her line, the last on her husbands side as well  She had self admittedly outlived everyone she knew of her generation. Her husband had died 17 years prior when I was dating my husband and he was living on Dorsey in that broken down basement apartment that my Mother would not even walk into. LOL. I remember standing in that basement reading the mourner's prayer for my grandfather.  Along with other reasons, I did it because I knew my Dad needed it done and because the framework of mourning has ritual, structure and purpose.  It is proven by the test of time and the generations before us.  

Just think of the things she saw in her life.  In 1947 they moved to Israel to help the zionist movement.  They had experienced WWII with bombing raids and rations.  Moving to Israel promised more bombs, fighting and rations, however they did it anyway to help the dream become a reality.   After a number of years my grandmother decided to visit to her sister in Toronto as she could not handle the hardships of Israel's early days any longer.  A one month visit, became a three month visit,  having planted the seeds of a dream to move again.    Within a couple of years they moved to Canada before my father turned 18.  

She lived in Toronto for the rest of her life spending winters in Florida for about 20 years in retirement.  She worked for a very short time when they first immigrated. I remember going to florida and sitting on her porch watching for alligators in the ponds counting and recounting the ducks. The last few years she lived in an extended care environment with her own apartment and meals provided downstairs.  She only started to decline recently with a growing cancerous tumor and various other issues. 

I remember she used to do lot of crocheting when she was younger.  She made the same big square blanket over and over always with acrylic.  As she got older she could not work the needle and gave it up.  I brought some yarn and needles to keep me occupied during the shiva in tribute. Keep the yarn flying fiber artists.  However, I refuse to use acrylic, not my style. 

About a year ago, on one of my summer visits I decided to record her conversation.   The 17 minutes of voice note will be a great reminder of the women that was, and the lives that have been changed.  II have passed that on to my folks.

For myself I am in travel wary state. What did this all mean for my family of origin? My father as the most devoted son, was always there for his mother, visiting weekly and always making his mother a priority as he does with all his family.   What does it mean to lose this last central member of his family unit of that generation. It makes you think about the family unit and how it evolves within different cultures and spans of time.   

My family like all are a mix of cultures and influences from passionate cultures and repressed ones alike.  Reflecting on that mix, along with expectations and realities has been my focus during my practice in Toronto.  I managed to do a practices at Moksha Thornhill, a 75 minute pose class which was wonderful.   Now that I know what to expect it is much more interesting.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bringing the modifications home

We arrived home Sunday night exhausted and rung out like an old schmata (Yiddish word for dish rag) after cleaning day.  I admit I was road wary, however very glad to be back in my world. I unhooked from parental control as my husband scooped in and took on the boys. They all missed each other and commenced male bonding rituals, like a good game of trap or attack Dad.

I walked around my garden marveling at how wonderfully everything was growing. Cucumbers dripping off the vines and lots of good growth proved that my husband had watered diligently in my absence.  It was great to see, as my garden is my other passion.  But that is a story for another blog.  

Last month at my Sumit they had an instructor training.  So I returned to lots of great new instructors that had struggled through a month of double work outs each day and lots of theory and training.  I am proud of them all as they worked really hard to get this done.   The thought of practicing twice a day makes me want to vomit to be honest.  

So I returned to my home practice and started to implement the adjustments I picked up on my Yoga Road Trip.  I have to say the work out kicked my butt anew.  It is hard to come back to hot yoga if you take time off from it.  Anyway, so here are some of the adjustments I have added in:

1) 1st forward fold adjustment: Instead of having feet together and grabbing heals, which I am no where near getting, I have feet apart and grab big toes.  It makes it similar to the second one but it works better as it gives me somewhere to put the parts of my body that will not get out of the way just yet.  

2) Prayer twist adjustment:  I have to adapt this as we do this in a lunge not a chair pose, so balance is key.  As you twist to the right you put your left fore arm across your left leg above the knee.  I grab on to my leg to help with the twist.  Then, as you twist you take the right arm and twist it around.  Take your hand, palm flat and put it flat on your back low by your waist with the fingers pointed down.  This allows the spine to twist without being restricted as you would be if your hands were in prayer.   Totally opens the back but takes some balance not to fall over the the side like an overloaded tomato cage. (Ohhh working in the gardening references. hehe)

3) Inner thigh lift and rotations.  So I learned two things about the inner thigh on this trip.  Now let me tell you that my inner thighs need some help, always have and always will.  So I am excited to see what this focus will do.  Anyway, so the idea is that in mountain and in leg lifts, as in flows, you have to engage the inner thighs.  At the Moksha yoga school they keep their heals a little apart in mountain.  This activates the inner thigh and makes it more noticable as you rotate the thighs in as you sweeze the butt.  Even without moving the heals apart you can engage this with meaningful concentration. 

In the flow poses, when you are in downward dog you lift your leg up behind you, straight up, parallel with ground squared down, or knee bent twisted back.  This seems to work best for the first two. When you are in your full extension of the pose, you rotate your inner thigh, on the leg in the air, in getting more reach, length and stretch.  It works a muscle area that is hard to reach, really engages the core as well. 

Sorry this took so long to post. Hope you fine these options interesting. Enjoy your flow. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yoga Student of the Month - July

I wanted to share my joy in being named Yoga Student of the Month for Columbia's Sumit Hot Yoga.  I love my home practice and am a proud emissary of their services.   Below is my bio I submitted.  Boy is it fun to write about yourself in third person and sing on your praises.  Thought I would share it with you all.  

Laura Flacks Narrol has been doing Sumit Hot Yoga since December.  She is the Mother of two young boys, 6 and 10.  She is also a Faculty Member at Stephens College in the School of Strategic Communication.  She is originally from Toronto Canada, although she has lived in Columbia Missouri for 17 years.

Laura has struggled with weight throughout her life with little success until she found Sumit Hot Yoga.  In her Mid 40's she felt out of control and in a the negative progress of failing physical form and lack of strength.   She first started taking classes on the recommendation of a student and found that the practice was perfect to jump started her metabolism and worked on a low impact basis she needed.  She started taking one class a week and gradually worked her way into a successful 30 day challenge.   She can now be found in classes most days of a week making hot yoga a priority in her life.  .

The journey through hot yoga has inspired Laura to start a blog about that journey to health and fitness.  The blog can be found at and is a journey through both soul and body as the true transformational power of yoga is felt.  Laura discusses changes she feels in her body as well as realizations found on the mat, as Hot Yoga heals.  She also reviews other hot yoga locations as she goes on road trips to other cities and countries.  A new passion has been born.

Over the last 6 months Laura has lost weight, inches, inhibitions, and self doubt. She has also gained health, fitness, confidence, balance, flexibility and understanding.  Laura shares all these triumphs through her blog in the hope of encouraging others to find the healing power of hot yoga.      

Monday, July 8, 2013

Journey home and hoosier yoga

On the last step of our journey,I found myself visiting old friends from high school that live in Carmel, Indiana.  There is a hot yoga place in Carmel called The Yoga Center  They have a very interesting philosophy rather different from many places I have been.  The classes are various with different lengths, types and temperatures.  They have lower temperature classes as well as higher temperature. They returned to the methods I am used to of synthetic flooring and overhead heat blowers.

The instructor this morning, Stacy, indicated that each instructor gets to shape their class how they like. Different postures and no set script allow each instructor to shape the class as they feel their students need.  They also have free flow time in some classes where the instructor will build a flow routine, have everyone do it and then let people flow naturally thought those poses or others that they wish to do.  

My dear friend Mary decided to try the class with me.  We did an hour long slow flow.  The temperature in that class was between 85 and 95 degrees, however I feel it was closer to the lower end.  There were some new positions that I had not tried before, or were not included in my normal routine.  I managed to build up a good sweat, even though the room was a lot cooler then I am used to.  I found myself using many of the modification I have build up in my tool box over these last few months.  

For my friend Mary, this was her first class. Mary, in her early 50's, is extremely healthy and at times in her life has been ridiculously fit.  She is the kind of lady that is beautiful inside and out. After having a child in her late 40's, and moving from Cali to Indiana, she has had a hard time finding a workout that fits into her extremely busy new life.  She loved the hot yoga and has committed to giving this a good try.  She did a fantastic job on the class making it through the entire thing even though it had been years since she has been on a yoga mat.   

One other big difference in this location is, there are no mirrors.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No mirrors. OK, I have to say at first this set me off, not sure how I was going to balance with absolutely no reflection.   But then I did the class.  It forces you to focus inward the entire time.  The instructor encouraged you to close your eyes at times thus increasing that inward journey.  The feeling of that process went well with the aura of this yoga studio.  This also allowed the instructor to change the orientation of the class to face any of the four directions.  

The feeling of this studio and this particular lower temperature class felt like a hybrid between hot and traditional methods.   I am sure, if I had more time there and had a chance to do the hotter class, and many of their other selections, I would have had a more rounded opinion of their offerings.  I am very excited to hear from my friend as she ventures on her journey through hot yoga and all it's healing potential. I will keep you posted.      

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Canada's Wonderland

I went to Canada's Wonderland with my kids Wednesday.  We did the 10 to 10 from open to close.  They are monsters.  This is so special for them that they just want to do and do and do.  There were two elements to this day. The obvious putting out the energy to show two different aged boys a good time, and the inner journey of watching the people around me.

At some points I felt like I was in the scene from the original Star Wars where there are creatures from all over the galaxy hanging out in a bar.  This is where they get Han Solo and his ship.  Anyway, so watching people in a big city such as Toronto is fascinating.  There were people from every walk of life speaking every language imaginable.  When I was a kid I used to marvel of how Toronto had so many culturals represented, each with their own area of town.  At wonderland it was all there waiting in line for the same rides and as various as plants in a botanical garden.

So as a women, I have to say that the number of muslim women in various stages of coverage was beyond what I had seen in the past.   There were women with head scarves, which I am used to. However, there were also women in full coverage with only a small spot of their eyes to peer out.   This was someone new for me.  Not that I had not seen this occasionally or in the Middle East during my travels, it was just surprised to see this at Wonderland.   

Two specific girls touched my heart.  My 6 year old son decided he liked the huge water slides this year.  So we went on them over and over and over.  There were two girls probably age 13 to 15 or so, that were going down the slides in the same pattern as us.  They were covered from head to toe with only their faces showing.  They had on pants, several long shirts, shoes, head scarves, and lord knows what else.  They were going down the slides like they were wearing bathing suites and sun screen.  They were so resilient and having the time of their lives, they were laughing and screaming with the rest of us.   

This was one of those moments where  I was proud of these special women that even within the confines of their faith and modesty, were not limiting their behavior.   Please don't take this as a rant against their choices, or an endorsement of the hypocrisy that leaves women hiding them selves, as it is not.  This is more of a endorsement of the resilience of these women.  Hopefully the freedom of Canada will seep into their world and help them become strong and free women, however until then it is great to see their spirt shine as they attempt to live life to the fullest they can.  

Now on the hot yoga side I was amazed at my strength.   At the water park during all these slide rides I had to carry both my son's tube and my own up these huge stair cases to the top over and over again.  The only way I could carry these tubes was holding them over my head in half moon pose with my fingers grasped and my arms straight up.  I did this over and over and over again.  Using yoga breathing to help myself up the huge stair cases to the top.  I know there was no way on earth I could have done this last year before I started hot yoga.  I was strong and powerful and it helped me show my son a great time.   Thank you yoga for the strength and balance to be super mom once again.

The second yoga experience at Wonderland was an experiment.  I tried to do yoga breathing when I was on one of the roller coasters.  I enjoy rides, however I had to ride a lot more then I would normally to escort my sons on these rides.   Now I have to admit the yoga breathing experiment on the roller coaster did not work well.  I tired to monitory my breathing but once we hit the upside down twirls it was over, all I could do was scream like everyone else.  There are limits to serenity.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Doing it in a city, Moksha on the Danforth

So last night I got to do another class at the Moksha on the Danforth. This is a city studio to say the least.  If you are familiar with Toronto at all the Danforth is the continuation of Bloor to the east end of down town.  It is highly populated and a very trendy area with lots of shops and restaurants. It used to be the Italian and Greek area when I was young but has certainly moved upscale since then.  

I went to this studio as my sister decided to join me and she lives close by.   My sister is in incredible shape being a P90X lady.  She is an actor and needs to stay in shape for filming and stage.  If you want to check out her work her web page is  We had talked about practicing together and luckily all the planets were aligned and we could get one in.  She had tried hot yoga many years ago but had not done in since then.

So we went to this studio. It was upstairs above some stores with the studio being on the third level.  The class had the same ceiling radiant heaters and had cork flooring.  The cork flooring was very soft and lovely but also held the heat like the bamboo does.  The people were really kind, with lovely insight into the class.  Michelle was the instructor and she really knew her stuff. Her roots were in Bikram but she felt her practice required more flexibility in positions and script, so she found a home in Moksha.

The class was only an hour but it worked me really hard.  I was actually wondering when it would end.  Not sure if it was hotter then I am used to, the city humidity, or the fact that it was 8:15 at night when it started, but I really felt it.  I usually practice in the morning so doing a night class was a shock to my system.   The class was different than any other Moksha class I had taken, with many of the same postures but also some new ones tossed in there.  It might have been part of it being a shorter class, as she combined some poses and did others that were more effective in less time.

The thing that for me was so unique about this class is it was a city class.   You could hear the city sounds outside the studio; a cop car speeding by sirens on,  a motor cycle driving by, general city people and traffic sounds.  Where I practice in Columbia, Missouri you hear nothing with the only incursion from the real world being the very rare smell of buffalo wings from the restaurant next door.   The references for poses also had the flavor of the city ingrained into them.  'Turn towards the Danforth' or 'turn towards the subway line', were instructions used to say which side we were facing.   I loved this as Toronto is my city of birth and will always hold a place in my heart.

I wanted to also say how great this was for my sister.  As she is my older sister she has guided me in many things in my life. She protected me from bullies as a kid and introduced me to sushi.  This was my chance to introduce her to something I love.  She did really well in the class.  Being a natural athlete, she rocked the class out of course.  However, after the class she was amazed by how it energized her, instead of wiping her out, like a usual work out.

She also was glad to have a live person to help make corrections to poses that she had been doing off DVD's for some time, such as her P90X work out that has a yoga portion that embraces the sun salutation sequence.   An example of this is that my sister had really tender knees that are prone to over extension.  In the first downward dog, the instructor Michele, was on it helping my sister to make sure she did not overextend by keeping a little bend in the knees.  She also had a few other adjustment as thing went on and all were with the immediate understanding my sisters body limitations.

After the class we got a great fruit smoothie at a local place and then walked through the city streets to my car.  It was almost surreal when we reached my Missouri plated car and I had to return to the reality of not being a big city person anymore.  The great thing is that no matter where I find myself, on this trip, big city, smaller town, I have found hot yoga to balance me and help my body heal.  Thank you Moksha Danforth.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

poses vs flows

I did my first pose only class.  It was my a Moshka 90 Minute class at the Thornhill location.  I did not realize it was going to be this way until half way through the class. I know that Bikram works that way.  I had taken four Moksha classes before however they were all flow classes.  So there I was in the class doing one pose after another trying to hold back some of my energy for flows. Each pose was held a long time as it was a 90 minute class.  Then the instructor mentioned that some people think that the pose classes are more challenging then the flow classes.  It clicked at that moment.  I took a little break and lay down for a few minutes to get my barrings.

Then I went for it.  I got up and moved from one pose to the other trying to maximize it.  The class followed a now familiar process through the body.  The instructor was wonderful and came by to show me some corrections and even alternative poses for a few that I had trouble with.

One correction I can adapt into the prayer twist I do in the Sumit Hot Yoga practice. It is for a prayer twist but your legs are in a chair position before you twist.  Due to my structure I can't do the prayer twist very well.  My chest gets in the way of holding my hands in prayer and getting an active twist.  So she showed me to put one forearm along the tops of my legs while the other one twisted to rest the palm on my back with the elbow pointing to the sky.  This allows me to actually twist that out well without limiting my range of motion.  I will try that in the crescent  variation we do back home.

Another great adjustment she mentioned was in the Awkward Position when you go up on your toes.  In stead of having your arms up in the air pointed up like half moon or out in front of you, she had us put our hands behind our heads like you are doing a sit up.  This opens your chest well.  The last adjustment I will mention is when you are doing a pose where you are interlacing your hands behind you and opening up the back.   I don't have much range of motion in those positions.  She suggested bringing my hands up the back to about half way sticking your elbows out to the sides.  Great back opener for those of us with limited flexibility there.

I guess I would say it is great to branch out and learn new things with the focus of taking those things I have learned home to my practice. A pose only practice really lets you focus on getting those poses right without the movement between positions being the focus.