Feeling Like an Egg – an Introduction to Thai Yoga


Gary Anderson

I would like to share with you a new kind of yoga that I “discovered.” Devoted blog readers already know I like hot yoga. A book sale event was the setting for this particular yogic discovery.

I was sitting at my table trying to convince holiday shoppers to add some eco-mystic romance to their lives when Gary Anderson stopped by. He was at the sale with his partner, who was trying to convince shoppers they needed some poetry in their lives.

Gary asked me if I’d ever had any bodywork done. Automotive-savvy Minnesotan that I am, my thoughts immediately jumped to car bodywork. But no, that’s not what he meant. He was talking about work on my physical body. You know, the one that lugs my meandering brain around all day.

I divulged that I get massages every once in a while but had none recently. At his Bodywise Studio in Duluth, Gary practices Thai Yoga, as in yoga from Thailand. It’s a combination of yoga and massage, which sounded heavenly to me. So Gary and I bartered an introductory session at his studio in exchange for two of my novels.

I had my session today. I arrived at his studio wearing yoga clothes. After introductions and taking a short history of my health, Gary had me lie down on a heated mat. Over the next hour-and-a-half, he worked from my toes to my head.

If you can lie down and breathe, you can do Thai Yoga. The most challenging aspect was allowing myself to be passive as Gary manipulated by arms and legs. I must comment that the man cuts an impressive figure. Well over six feet tall and fit, Gary nevertheless knows how to manage his strength and use his stature to best advantage in his work.

Gary combined rhythmic motions, palming and thumbing along my body’s energy lines with gentle stretching and breathwork. In addition to his hands, Gary used his legs and feet sometimes for massages and to guide me into yoga postures.

The work reminded me of the problem areas where my muscle knots collect, and Gary worked out some of those kinks. Afterwards, he asked me how I felt. I told him I felt great, like there was this circle – this egg of energy pulsing around me. “And how is that?” he asked. “Eggs are good,” I said.

Of course, the experience affects everyone differently, but if you’d like the opportunity to feel like an egg — a relaxed egg at that — I recommend Thai Yoga.

Someone Shat Upon My Fantasy Room

The culprit.

The culprit.


Inquiring minds have been asking how my new exercise room is going. I am happy to report that I’ve actually used it for its intended purpose, but not without a challenge. As with many of my fantasies, somebody shat upon it first. That somebody was my dog, Buddy, who was having a bout of gastric distress. It’s the only time he’s ever done something like that in the house, and of course, he chose the exercise room.

Although it’s not decorated yet, after a thorough cleaning, a few days, and several shots of Febreze, the smell dissipated and the room was ready to roll. Now the trick will be to keep my exercise rolling. Buddy even “exercised” with me. I had to install a sleeping pad that I use for camping so that he could have his own yoga mat in the room. Otherwise, he was going to take over mine!

Hope you are all having a great Labor Day Weekend, and that you are not laboring too hard.

The Fantasy Suite (er . . . Room)

Hmmmm. What to do with an empty room?

Hmmmm. What to do with an empty room?

Have you ever had an empty room in your house? I do, and it’s wonderful! Remember my temporary roommate? Although she moved out over seven months ago, I am still housing her furniture in my spare bedroom. She wasn’t making any concrete progress to find her own apartment (she’s still living with someone else who doesn’t have room for her furniture), so I decided to move her stuff to my garage. [Thank you friend who helped me move it!]

And now I have this echo-y empty room. What to do, what to do? . . . The possibilities are limitless. I don’t need to make it into a bedroom at this point, so I’ve decided to make it into an exercise and yoga room. Why? Because these lyrics of Paul Simon’s song, “You Can Call Me Al” resonate a bit too much with me: “Why am I so soft in the middle / The rest of my life is so hard.”

I’ve already got my yoga mat, hand weights, and stepping stair in there. Now I just need to drag the elliptical strider up from the basement. I figure there’s a greater chance I’ll actually use it if I see it every day. Sure, I could join a fitness center, but as a single mom with aging parents and a needy dog, the demands on my time are varied and great. My fantasy is that now, I’ll be able to just pop into my exercise room instead of making a big production of things by driving somewhere else.

It’s not like I need to lose weight (although dropping ten pounds would not be bad), I just need to get fit again. I sit almost all day at a desk job, which is the hardest thing a person can do to their body. And in the evenings, I often sit some more blogging and writing novels. Unless a person has some form of exercise, the sitting will catch up to them. I have already learned this the hard way in the past, and I’d rather not have those back problems back, thank you.

Maybe I can wire the room with a sound system for exercise-inducing rhythms or New Age yoga music. Add some mood lighting. Put some art on the wall. Here we go. Wish me motivation!

Why I am a Zumba Failure


For my birthday last week, I went to a free Zumba class and dinner with some girlfriends. A new Zumba studio had opened downtown and they wanted to check it out. I had taken a six-week beginners’ class a few years ago through a community education program, so I was game, even though I had some misgivings.

The instructor of the community education class was a belly dancer, and all her Zumba instruction seemed to devolve into belly dancing, with the requisite swaying of hips and jiggling of key feminine body parts.

Introverted me doesn’t feel all that comfortable swaying anything in front of anyone. I figured that was just the way she taught Zumba because of her background. I hoped this new class would be different.

We entered the studio, which was filled with women, blinking lights, and pounding music. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the community education class music and movements had been slow-motion compared to a regular Zumba class. There was also the requisite jiggling of the “girls” and gyrating of the hips.

Now, I have no problem gyrating my hips when required during certain intimate acts performed between two consenting adults, but that’s different than doing it in a room full of people. And it also goes against my genetic make-up. My hips are German, English, Irish, Scottish and some rumored Native American. When is the last time you saw an ethnic Irish dancer gyrate their hips? Try never. How about a German folk dancer? I daresay NO. Those hips remain straight and true with nary a come-hither twitch.

It might be different if I had some Latin, Italian, Spanish or other hot-blooded ethnicity inside me. But I don’t. And it shows. Even from the back row of the Zumba studio.

I also realized I’m too used to endurance sports where the goal is to move as gracefully and efficiently as possible — sports like swimming, x-c skiing, bicycling, and yoga. With Zumba, it seems the whole point is to be as inefficient as possible. There’s lots of jumping and prancing and pointless arm waving.

I’m sorry, Zumba. I suppose with enough time and motivation, I could adapt to you. The music is fun, after all. But I don’t want to. There are too many other forms of fitness better suited to my inhibited hips.

Beware: X-C Ski Starvation Can Lead to Impaired Judgment


I went cross-country skiing for the first time this season today. All the stars aligned this morning and pointed me in the direction of my favorite trail in the neighborhood where I grew up. I left my teenage son and his sleepover friend with some cinnamon rolls in the oven, waxed my skis, and took off in the car for the trail. I wanted to go alone because usually, my first seasonal ski is not pretty. There’s wheezing and fumbling, and it takes a while to work out the kinks and get back into the rhythm.

A few blocks from my house, I noticed sprinkles of rain on the windshield. Rain? It’s 25 degrees, how can it be raining? Come to think of it, the weather man said something about warmer air traveling over the snow and causing a chance for fog this weekend. I hoped it would just stay a misty sprinkle, because rain wreaks proverbial havoc on x-c ski trails.

As I continued driving, the rain gradually increased from a sprinkle to scattered rain drops. This is the point where a sensible person would have turned around and gone home. I was not sensible, however. I was cross-country ski starved.

For weeks, the beautiful snow had been beckoning, but other commitments caused me to ignore the beckoning. Our recent sub-zero temps also made my fingers not too keen on outdoor activities, especially after my snowblowing frostbite incident. But I love skiing. I grew up with it and desperately needed to do something to raise my heart rate above 70 bpm after falling into winter slothfulness.

So I kept going. When I arrived at the trailhead, I was heartened to see two other vehicles parked in the lot. I’m not the only crazy one. Plus, another car pulled in right behind me. A couple of snowshoers got out of one car, deflating my sense of joint craziness just a bit. Snowshoeing is much more sensible in this weather than skiing, after all. But it was re-inflated when another skier got out and started carrying her equipment to the trailhead. All right! A fellow crazy person.

I unloaded my skis and walked over to where she was putting on her skis. She had white hair and looked about ten years older than me — old enough to have much better judgment. We discussed the bad conditions but both agreed we wanted to try skiing anyway. I tested the conditions with one ski and quickly realized I needed to put on softer wax. As I was doing that, the lady skied down the trail but quickly returned, explaining her wax was not going to work in these conditions. I offered her the use of mine, but she declined, saying it was too slippery. She was going to give up and go home.

So maybe I am the only crazy one. Undaunted, I put on my skis and took off. It was slippery – I had to duck walk up the smallest of inclines. But I did have enough kick to get into a good rhythm on the flats. I snowplowed down the hills until I felt safe enough to get into the icy track for a slick ride down. I saw one other person going the opposite way and we both grinned at each other like ski-idiots.

I skied far enough to feel winded. When I returned to my car, it was coated in a layer of ice, and the rain had become heavier. No mistaking it for a sprinkle, now. I pried open the door and headed home. On the way, my car skated through one red light (at a thankfully empty intersection). I passed two cars that had crashed into snowbanks, and everyone was crawling along at half-speed.

But I survived and made it home. I can say I finally went skiing . . . and lived to tell about it.

Whaz SUP? Stand Up Paddleboarding in Duluth

Stand Up Paddleboarding

Proof that a 50-year-old can learn new tricks!

It all started so innocently. I was biking on the end of Duluth’s Park Point Recreation Area when I noticed the sign for Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) rental. I’d been wanting to try SUP for a couple of years so I stopped and spoke with the attendant. The price was right ($15 for an hour) so I made a reservation for the next day.

The day dawned with perfect SUP weather – calm waters and gorgeous sunshine. But I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. Despite being half-mermaid, I’m a warm-water mermaid. The harbor water was 73 degrees – pretty warm for these parts, but what if I fell in? It would be shocking. And what if I made a fool of myself? Leave it to me to practice Fall Down Paddleboarding. Okay, this last one was only a slight fear. I’ve been on the planet long enough and made myself a fool several times over and survived. But still . . .

I went anyway. At the boat access, I met Heather with North Shore SUP. She had me sign a waiver (“SUP is an inherently dangerous sport,” blah, blah, blah) and read some rules, the first of which was, “Always SUP with a partner.” Guess I broke that one right off. I’d tried to find someone to join me during the past 24 hours, but my friends were all otherwise occupied. Heather let me go anyway.

Next, Heather’s partner Garrett gave me some cursory instruction. I could tell he’s given the spiel many times; he went a little fast for a newbie like me, but the other issue was that he was instructing me on land. I learn better by doing. But I must have absorbed enough because I’m still alive to write this. And, by the way, he’s one of the few certified SUP instructors in the country, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Heather introduced me to my board and instructed me how to get on it and stand up, and what to do if I fell. Then she cast me adrift. I’m thinking, Shouldn’t there be more to this? You mean no one’s going to come out with me for a few minutes to make sure I stay alive? Nope.

I kneeled on the board for a few moments until I got a feel for how it handled, then I took a big breath and stood. My first impression was one of tallness. I’m used to seeing the water from sitting in a canoe or kayak. My second impression was that it takes a lot of leg and core body power to make the board move. My legs began shaking in no time. BUT I didn’t fall.

Accompanied by distant cheers from a different paddling event across the way (the Dragon Boat Festival on Barker’s Island), I tooled along the shore, going into a bay where several sailboats were moored. I had this sudden sense of freedom. I could go over and see the sailboats more closely if I wanted, which I did. After a while circling the bay and enjoying the bright stands of purple loosestrife (a pretty, but invasive plant), I reversed direction and headed toward a nearby seaplane base.

Two balance challenges presented themselves along the way. One was a rock that my board scraped against and the other was the wake of a boat. Although not the most graceful, I remained upright. I made it part way to the base when my legs told me it would be a good idea to turn back and stop soon. So I did, enjoying the feeling of walking on water along the way.

Once I beached the board, I got to talk to Heather. She said that SUP can burn 500-800 calories per hour and that she is also a yoga instructor. She even teaches a yoga SUP class – imagine that! Both of my new interests combined. With the strength required for yoga poses combined with the workout of balancing on water, I bet a person must burn about 1,000 calories doing SUP yoga.

Heather mentioned she and Garrett used to run a whitewater rafting business out West. I didn’t get the chance to ask her what drew them to Duluth because another customer was waiting to buy one of their end-of-the-season boards.

Once home, my mom called me to be sure a storm didn’t blow me and my board away.

I guess the lesson is: don’t let your fears hold you back. Use common sense, but don’t sit out life!

Some Like it Hot


yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

I tried hot yoga for the first time this week. It wasn’t the “official” hot yoga – Bikram yoga—but since it was held in a 94 degree room, I’d say it was hot enough. The class was called hot flow yoga and it focused on alignment of movement and breath.

I’d wanted to try hot yoga (hereinafter referred to as sauna yoga) since some of my friends told me about it, and I read about it in the local newspaper, and since I took a Hatha yoga class where the room was so cold, we had to drape our jackets over us for the few minutes at the end of class meant for laying down and relaxing. Shivering is not very relaxing.

Although the snowbank at the end of my driveway is four feet high, the snow is melty and crusty, and cross-country ski season is ending. So I am looking for something to see me through until biking season. I suppose a person could start biking now, but they would have a wet and muddy line up their butt and back to show for it.

The class was held downtown in a brick-lined basement. The entrance was either through the restaurant above or through a road that services the backsides of businesses that line the main street. In the shadow of a street overpass, it was the kind of place where you expect tattoos to spontaneously ink onto your skin; gritty, at least by Minnesota standards.

I went with a friend and her daughter. Since we were some of the last to arrive, of course, the only spots left to unroll our mats were in the first row, right in front of the mirrors. Not a good place for an introvert, but what could I do?

I could sweat and contort, that’s what I could do! This class was more intense than the Hatha session I had attended, and my legs were shaking by the half-hour point. Because I was in front of the instructor, I got the benefit of more of her hands-on direction than others. Or maybe it was because I was messing up more (grin). When her attention was elsewhere, I confess to cheating on a few poses – resting my arms on my legs when they were supposed to be free-floating. But hey, I’m not used to sauna yoga! Ever the sweetheart, my friend accused me of not breaking a sweat, but my T-shirt was soaked by the end of the hour.

I suspect I’ll get the hang of it in a couple more sessions. I definitely think I will continue. Although I can’t see doing sauna yoga in summer, I can see the lure during winter. But ask me again tomorrow, once any stiffness settles in.