Turning 30 in NYC

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This week marks the close of both my third decade of life and my first year living in Manhattan!

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As I look ahead at my life as a 30-year-old person, a few goals/resolutions have come to mind:

  1. Write. I miss blogging. It’s such a great way to document life events and to share my experiences with friends and family whom I don’t have the fortune of living near. And I’ve got a lot to tell you all about — family and friends visiting us here in NYC; visiting people in California, Colorado, and Vancouver; sight-seeing in New York, Philadelphia, the Hudson River Valley, Asheville NC, Washington DC, and Mystic CT…and more!
  2. Photograph. Sean bought me a camera for Christmas so that I can take better photos and also learn a new skill. I know very little about photography, but this year I’d like to learn more.
  3. Run, Stretch, Strengthen, Meditate. New York has made me a serious walker, but I have lost sight of my identity as a runner and yogini. I have no regrets about taking a break from two activities that have always been part of my routine, but I’m ready to get back into the groove. Alison and I are planning to run a half-marathon in the spring, and strategically placing my yoga mat in the middle of my tiny living room has been encouraging me to practice more yoga (i.e., I trip on the mat, fall down, and figure I may as well do a chaturanga…you’ve got to start somewhere!).
  4. Cook. There is something about Manhattan that has made me less of a home cook. Could it be the long work hours? Could it be the lack of AC (at least in the summer)? Could it be the extreme availability of every food known to mankind within a five-block radius? Yes, yes, and yes. But Sean and I both miss the fun, creativity, and cash-saving that goes along with cooking at home. We’re making it a priority to cook at home more frequently, but of course we still have a checklist of New York restaurants to try! (It’s all about balance.)
  5. See. Sean and I won’t be on the East Coast forever, so we’re trying to see as much of it as we can while we’re here. Our next official escape from the city will be Montauk next month; we are looking forward to borrowing Alison and Cameron’s awesome car and driving to the very far East End of Long Island.

I just wanted to formally announce to the blogosphere that I’m back! Stay tuned!

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Finding My Guru

I graduated from the Vancouver School of Yoga’s 200-Hour Teacher Training on October 17. I decided even before finishing the six-week immersion course that post-graduation, I would be in search of a yoga mentor. Being new to Vancouver means that my first step is finding my “home” yoga studio and/or a regular yoga instructor whom I learn from regularly. So far, I have only practiced at Semperviva’s studios. There are a couple of teachers whom I like very much, but others whom I found aloof, pretentious, or simply ineffective. There are many other yoga studios in Vancouver, and a few that I want to check out are One Yoga for the People, the Chakra Wellness Centre (a sivananda studio), and the Iyengar Studio in Kits.

Back in California I was spoiled. I had so many excellent instructors whom I miss dearly. Now I’m in a new city, one that is infatuated with yoga, so I’m bound to find teachers with whom I click. It’s not necessarily about the teacher’s qualifications or experience; it’s really just about who speaks to me on a deeper level, whose teaching style melds with my practicing style, and from whom can I learn.

The word “guru” means “teacher” or “master” in Sanskrit. This word does not specifically mean a hatha yoga teacher, of course, and I when I say I’m seeking a guru I’m not looking for just a hatha yoga teacher. I also seek a spiritual guide — and I mean that in the most secular way possible. I have a burgeoning meditation practice, so I seek someone who can help me on my meditation path, as well as my physical yoga path.

In the meantime, I also need to keep up my teaching chops! So I’m in search of private yoga students (who could pay me with healthy paleo cookies or something)…

And my yoga journey continues.

Please comment below if you know of an awesome Vancouver yoga instructor I should meet, or if you are interested in private or semi-private lessons.

Pizza in Gastown with Yoginis

Tonight I am grateful for the women in my life, particularly the yoginis with whom I’ve been spending all my days. Five of us decided that, despite having quite a bit of work to do for our Yoga Teacher Training, we all needed to eat dinner and so we may as well do so together! Our school is in Gastown in downtown Vancouver, which is a food mecca; we are absolutely spoiled for options. After passing on a few establishments, we chose Nicli Antica Pizzeria, and what an excellent choice this was!

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Nicli Antica Pizzeria
62 E. Cordova Street, Gastown

We each ordered a glass of wine (the house red and white are both $5 and quite delicious), shared the Insalata Verdi, split three pizzas among us, and finished by sharing tiramisu and a decadent slice of flourless chocolate cake with frangelico, figs, and chantilly cream.

Nicli’s makes their pizza in the authentic Neapolitan style (i.e., at a blazing 900 degrees Fahrenheit in a wood-fired oven), their staff are genuine and friendly, and the atmosphere is sophisticated but unpretentious. We were very impressed by the quality of the food served to us tonight, from the freshness of the seasonal vegetables on our salad to the impossible thinness of the pies (with puffy, crispy, flavourful crusts), and the richness of the desserts. They frequently receive brilliant accolades, and now we’re among their most satisfied critics.

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My day started out with the dream of a truly good pizza, probably because my parents called from Naples this morning to brag about the cuisine they’ve been enjoying there! Nicli’s helped me feel as close to Naples as I’ve ever been; I’d like to think I’m sharing a bit of my parents’ authentic experience!

Cheers to my girlfriends, good wine, excellent pizza, chocolate, and the yoga that unites us!

Suddenly Feeling Like Teachers

Today marks the end of week four of my yoga teacher training. The last 20 days have been full of meditating, breathing, practicing, learning (teaching methods, anatomy, history, philosophy, Sanskrit, pre-natal yoga, business of yoga, and more!), self-discovering, and teaching. My 25 classmates and I have now taught several individual poses, a solo 30-minute practice, and a 60-minute practice as a group of six or seven.

We’re starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, we’ll actually be able to teach yoga in two weeks’ time. This is an exciting time, and I feel very fortunate to be going through it with such an inspiring and creative group of people.

This is also a time to reflect on my teachers who have brought me to this point. Readers, I don’t know where all of you are in the world, but if you ever get the chance to do some hatha yoga in Pleasanton, San Jose, Los Gatos, Thailand, or the Vancouver area, check these folks out!

Pleasanton, CA
*Kate Coughlin

San Jose/Los Gatos, CA
*Veronica Cruz 

*Prajna Veira

*Noell Clark

*Kelly Haller

*Amanda Amburgey

*Lirio Ohlson

*Joan Chanpong

Thailand
*Cerissa @ Yoga Elements in Bangkok

*Lae Ti in Hua Hin

South Surrey, BC
*Lauren Roegele

 Teachers, thank you for sharing your wisdom and your practice with me.

Namaste!

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Mindfulness Every Day

I am at the very, very beginning of my meditation/mindfulness/yoga journey, but I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me dive in deeper. While I’ve practiced the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, the yoga of asana or posture) on and off for 12 years, I’ve really only been exposed to the spiritual aspects of yoga for the last four or five years. And now that I’m in yoga teacher training, I’m delightfully immersed!

*A book that I’ve written about previously that really opened the doors, so to speak, to meditation for me is Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a simple, well-written guide to beginning a meditation practice. I absolutely loved reading it, and will re-read many times in my life!

*I like when I have a time limit and a person talking to me during meditation. This is a stepping stone toward being able to do it on my own for extended lengths of time. One great way to have both is to listen to the “Learn to Meditate — Meditation Podcast” put out by the Meditation Society of Australia. The FREE podcasts are usually 20-30 minutes and include a small talk and then guided meditation. I love them so much. One may download the podcasts through iTunes/the App Store or listen via their website (link above). Their website also has yoga class videos, email subscriptions for daily meditations, and more.

*In addition, I have found that I really like the [free] app called Headspace. I’ve just begun using their app, which as 10 days of 10-minute meditations, among many other features. I haven’t fully explored all that their app and website offer, but I’m looking forward to it. They have a meditation reminder alarm, interesting and well-designed videos, aesthetically pleasing infographics, and great information about the science behind mindfulness. Check it out!

*I’ve also just begun using an app called Transform Your LIfe by Cheri Huber, author of There is Nothing Wrong with You. I am not familiar with the author, but the app has daily thoughts to which a user responds. The app stores responses like a personal journal. Today’s “thought” was this:

“Let us be kinder to one another.” -Aldous Huxley

…and the “assignment” was: Today, let kindness direct your every movement. And then there is space to write thoughts, reactions, goals, etc. It’s quick, easy, and a great way to cultivate loving-kindness on the go!

*Lastly, for yoga teachers and serious practitioners out there interested in learning the Sanskrit words for your asanas, there’s a flashcard-style app called Yoga Quiz by Drishti (available at the App Store for $1.99). I strongly recommend taking a course, picking the brain of a Sanskrit-speaker, and/or paying very close attention to YouTube videos (like this one by Stephen Thompson) to learn how to pronounce Sansktrit words. I had my introduction to Sanskrit today, and it was quite challenging but very fulfilling. It is thought to be a divine language that, when spoken correctly, creates specific vibrations that can positively affect one’s mind and body, particularly when chanted.

I know you’re all super busy people, and you’re probably thinking, “Kate, you’re in yoga school full-time, so no wonder you have time for all of this!” The reality is that I don’t do each of these things every day, and the other reality is that I want to! If you want to make mindfulness more part of your life, you have to start somewhere and you have to start by carving out five or 10 minutes each day to practice. Maybe start with Headspace, which guides you through a quick 10-minute meditation. See how it makes you feel; you may be inspired to continue down the mindfulness path!

Questions? Comments? Other resources? Do share!

What A Week!

My first week of yoga teacher training was fantastic!

*twenty-six new friends
*lots of asana (physical yoga postures)
*lots of kriya (cleansing practices, like kapalbahti breath)
*lots of breathing and conscious breathing
*anatomy lessons
*philosophy & history
*Sanskrit
*opportunities to teach
*a loving and peaceful space where it is expected of us all to develop our own personal yoga practices

I am SO excited to be able to teach my own yoga students; it’s a little overwhelming, however, that I’ll be able to do that in just five weeks! Want to be my first student?!

This wonderful week ended with… 
*a birthday celebration for my cousin-in-law

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Happy Birthday, Tori!

*a lovely day running and eating and bicycle-shopping with my husband (no bike for me yet, but I’m in the market!)

*a romantic date night on the False Creek Ferries and dinner at a fabulous restaurant…all thanks to my new aunt, uncle, & cousin-in-law! (Taste Test below)
*a very successful 36-kilometre/22-mile run through Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, and UBC (marathon in four weeks!)

photo*an educational hour at Williams Sonoma with my mother-in-law and a friend from yoga teacher training; we learned about using a VitaMix. The free classes over the next few weeks will be all about Thanksgiving foods!

*spending Sunday afternoon lounging around (OK, homework and laundry too), eating a lot, and drinking coconut water for the electrolytes!

*watching The Princess Bride and eating sushi with Sean

*remembering that I can/should/want to do yoga at home now…especially after such a long run!

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Provence Marinaside
1177 Marinaside Crescent

What a lovely place! The staff, the food, the wine, the bread (and free tapenade!) were all fantastic. I had halibut, Sean had seafood linguini; our appetizers were roasted eggplant with tomato and goat cheese and caprese salad. It’s the perfect place for a romantic date night, especially on a nice night like we had last night. It’s very easily accessible from the marina at Yaletown. Sean and I took a False Creek Ferry (tiny boat would be a better descriptor…which made it much more fun and quaint!) from Granville Island, and we cruised around False Creek after dinner, just for fun. Thanks so much to the Miles family for our gift certificate and ferry passes! 

Yoga Work-Trade

I met my now good friend, Veronica, about four years ago in San Jose, California. She has an amazing yoga studio in the South First Street neighbourhood of a city that I was calling home for awhile. Downtown Yoga Shala is definitely a place to check out if you live in Silicon Valley or if you’re ever visiting that part of California.

I met Veronica after her studio manager at the time recruited me for work-trade. (Prajna Vieira, by the way, is an inspiring yogini and super talented kirtan singer. Check out her website!) Prajna knew that I was a student at San Jose State and that I lived close by, so she asked me to work at the front desk and help keep the studio tidy in exchange for free yoga. I can’t think of a better payment! I did work-trade for two years, and during that time I became part of a beautiful community of yoga instructors and practitioners. My own practice really took off, I learned a ton, and I had a blast.

Now I’m back in the work-trade field here in Vancouver! This week I’ll begin volunteering at a studio downtown. I’ll be doing laundry; washing, drying, and rolling up mats; sweeping; and generally helping keep this gorgeous studio sparkly.

This is really great timing because I’m about to begin yoga teacher training; I love how yoga is slowly taking over my life again! My mantra is: RUN*-YOGA-EAT-SLEEP-REPEAT! (With some quality husband time and reading and exploring BC mixed in.) Happiness!

*when my ankle is healed