Friday, October 31, 2008

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight (Again)

The past couple of days, I'd been craving chicken. But mind you, I'd been craving all kinds of other things too - like sugar and carbs, ie. all the things I'm not supposed to have on this detox.

The chicken was probably ME craving it. The sugar and carbs was probably the Candida fungus craving it. Gross.

So at work yesterday I mentioned that I was thinking of eating chicken again. My colleagues looked at me like I was mad and said "Why think so hard? Just EAT!"

So I listened to my body and made a yoghurt and lemon chicken, marinated overnight with rosemary, thyme and parsley (yes, of course it was from an internet recipe). I'm officially no longer vegetarian. Dee-lish!

The marinade was so good I used it as salad dressing as well.

1 Cup Plain Yogurt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 T. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 T. Fresh Rosemary
1 T. Fresh Tyme
1 t. Sea Salt
1 t. Black Pepper (optional)

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, add chicken and marinate at least two hours. Grill or broil chicken on medium-high. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Case of the Mysterious First Batch of (Soil) Muffins

I'm definitely going to try this baking thing again. I can't get over the disastrous first attempt. Heck, I've still got all the ingredients, might as well give it another bash. I've since found out that my muffins probably didn't rise coz:

1. I didn't sift the flour. (Don't even own a sieve; out to the shops again!)

2. I didn't beat the wet ingredients together with a whisk or hand mixer. I thought a good old-fashioned fork would do the trick. (Don't even own a whisk; out to the shops again!)

3. During the disastrous first attempt, I stupidly mixed the wet ingredients first, and after adding the melted butter, eggs and yoghurt together I realized I should've added the dry stuff first coz all the measuring spoons and cups were getting gross and yucky. So I put the half-mixed eggs and all aside, washed the measuring spoons and cups, then mixed the dry ingredients together first.

When I got back to the wet stuff, part of the egg white had clumped together (maybe it was reacting with the yoghurt?), and of course "whisking" it together with a fork didn't really help and the texture was liquid and runny like water. Hmm... I remember the last time I baked was when I was 14 in Home Econs class, and usually the wet stuff you mix together comes out thick and fluffy, not runny like water.

So, in a nutshell, my colleagues who bake were able to troubleshoot the case of the non-rising, soil-textured muffins. Coz (it is alleged), if I'd put baking powder in the mix (which I did), it should have risen never mind that I didn't use yeast.

Things that make you go Hmm...

I'm still making my way, or rather, gagging my way through the rest of the first batch before making a second attempt. Just 4 more muffins to go!

In the meantime, on the rest of my Quack Culinary Exploits, I found yet another highly-rated recipe off the net for people on the Candida & Parasite Detox (you'd think I'd be wary of internet recipes by now)... but had better luck cooking a Zuchinni Casserole for dinner last night. Very healthy and very yummy (even Kelly approved and had double portions).

1 Cup Cooked Brown Rice
2-3 Cups sliced Zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup Chopped Green Onion
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2-3 Eggs, beaten
1/2 TSP. Sea Salt (OPTIONAL)
1/4 TSP. Garlic Powder
1/2 TSP. Oregano

Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C.

Combine the ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Transfer mixture to an oiled casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until eggs are set. Enjoy!

I also added a bit of squeezed fresh lemon just before serving - seems to be the only "condiment" I'm adding to everything now that sauces and dressings are out of bounds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

100% Wheat-free, Yeast-free, Sugar-free Muffins

...taste as disastrous as they sound.

I found a highly-rated recipe off the net. Unfortunately with these things, there's only one way to find out - bake it and eat it. And since I was craving CHOCOLATE ANYTHING, that carob muffin recipe that was wheat-free, yeast-free, sugar-free sounded like a great alternative I could make myself. Damn this detox cleanse.

Thing is, I don't bake (heck - my cooking is barely passable, let alone the baking). But off I went to the health food store again today, armed with the internet recipe. Oh, also splashed out on baking equipment too since that was non-existent.

This is what the "muffins" looked like before going in the oven:

And this is what the "muffins" looked like 15 minutes later, when they came out the oven:


By the way, the crystal specks sparkling in the light are sea salt granules. The recipe said "sea salt", but didn't say anything about GROUND sea salt so I hadn't put them through the grinder thinking they would miraculously dissolve in the muffin mix. It's not even Baking 101, it's Baking Kindergarten.

Without yeast, of course it's not gonna rise but I wasn't sure if it was done or not, so Kelly bravely went for the first bite.

He put it aptly "...tastes OK but the texture's like soil!"

I think he was being nice. Even the taste was WEIRD. Brown rice flour, carob powder, baking powder, eggs, stevia (I think I put too much of this - realized afterwards there's a difference in measurements for powdered vs. liquid stevia), vanilla essence, soy milk & yoghurt (instead of kefir)... And now that its cooled down, the stevia aftertaste is definitely VERY strong - put too much! Blechhhhhhhh!

Now I'm scheming of how to palm off the rest of this stuff without claiming (embarrassing) credit.

Maybe next batch I'll try to add bananas for more moisture and way less stevia. If there's gonna be a next batch, that is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Food Freak

It has begun. I'm turning into one of those food freaks. Y'know... the kind who reads every single label on every single product on every single shelf. I can tell you all about the difference between sucrose and fructose, and why you should really be consuming NATURAL sugar-alternatives like xylitol or stevia/ chicolin instead of white or brown sugar. And forget about chemical artificial sweeteners altogether.

And since I've been turning into this food freak, I'm starting to realize how much crap there is in every single product you buy from the stores. OK, technically because I'm on this detox cleanse, I'm only looking out for sugar, wheat and yeast and all their by-products... but practically everything is flavoured with sucrose, fructose, maldextrin, or has vinegar or tomato paste or yeast extract, or preserved in some form or other (yes, that includes everything with sulphur).

When we're out at restaurants, I have to order the simplest thing on the menu as goodness knows what they put into all those gloopy sauces and gravies - are the tomatoes in the Napolitana sauce fresh or canned? (No canned or preserved foods as they're likely to contain mould). Did they use starch, yeast or flour to thicken the sauce? Even a simple dish like a salad can't have any dressing (they're full of vinegar, sugar & yeast extracts), just a squeezed lemon wedge for flavour. I ended up picking out all the olives from my Greek Omelette coz I forgot olives were preserved (once again, coz preserved foods contain mould). And oh yes, I'm suddenly OK with eating eggs again. FREAK!

The up side to this though, is that I'm realizing now how FRESH, FRESH, FRESH everything you eat ought to be. Nowadays, everything comes in cans, bottles, powders, and with these shortcuts come more additives and other crap that shouldn't naturally be going in your body. DUH. But for someone who has never studied food labels as closely as I'm doing now, I'm amazed at the extent of CRAAAAAAAP I've been ingesting. Check out the crap in chocolate biscuits and French Dressing labels, found off the net:

At the same time, because I've also got to learn to regulate my blood-sugar levels and eat 6 smaller meals a day, I'm deathly afraid of over-eating (even though I'm liking the idea of eating so many times a day). So I'm also trying to figure out the percentage daily values. That's the other label on the side of all boxes:

For a Singaporean, and in case you didn't know - Singaporeans LOVE food and are passionate about everything to do with food! Or rather, Singaporeans are just plain greedy. We can be having dinner tonight and talking about what to eat for lunch the next day already. Life revolves around food - a typical greeting/ salutation could be "Hi, how are you? Have you eaten yet?"

So as you can imagine, the biggest switch I've had to make is to see food as medicine and fuel first, and a means to pleasure second. It's still a big mind game I'm playing with myself and coz I don't want to get obsessive about it (somehow that makes me laugh at the irony of it), and neither do I want to feel like I'm depriving myself of the stuff I like... coz that's when all best-laid plans go belly-up... I'm trying to find other natural alternatives. Hence the xylitol, stevia/ chicolin instead of sugar and carob instead of chocolate, 100% wheat-free, yeast-free Rye in everything to do with bread... and I'm still finding out about chicory instead of coffee and how that works... it's like an extension of yoga, being this completely aware of what goes into the body; aware of what's nutritionally good for my being.

It'll be interesting to see if I'll keep this up after the month-long cleanse is over. My love affair with experimenting with food seems to be never-ending... being vegetarian doesn't seem to be my thing, I'm O+ after all and there may be something in eating right for your blood type.

I've re-introduced fish and seafood about once or twice a week, and still toying with the idea of eating a bit of chicken or beef again. I'm still off the taste and texture of meat though, but when that day comes of course you'll hear all about it.

Oh, being healthy is also pretty damn expensive. In the one week since I've been put on this detox cleanse, my food bill has doubled. Guess that's a small price to pay for a much healthier gut. Ha. But seriously, I'm starting to feel loads better already and it's only been one week!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Only in Africa Part 10: Interviewee's Chair Falls Apart on National TV

SABC's the national broadcaster (who probably needs to upgrade equipment), and the Finance Chairman's a pretty big guy.

Together, you get this:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Applied Kine-what...?

One of the great things about living in South Africa is being exposed to a whole different culture, on so many levels. Back home, "alternative" therapies such as reflexology, acupuncture, moxibustion, etc. are run of the mill, pretty much everyday affairs. People buy packages of 10 sessions just to get 1 free session!

While I was aware of other "alternative" Western therapies, it never occurred to me to check them out. Or rather, they were always less familiar hence never top of mind... stuff like homeopathy, bach flower remedies, kineasiology, etc. were treatments I wouldn't have thought to check out at all since the Eastern therapies were always there when I needed them.

(Somehow, pills, vials and flowers seem so much easier and gentler than needles and suction cups. Dunno why I never noticed this before?)

Yesterday, I went to go check out something completely new and alien to me: Applied Kinesiology for the diet. Wikipedia's explanation: here.

Don't you love how just because people can't explain something, they call it a "pseudoscience"? Or even, "alternative" therapy? My theory is this: Maybe some things just can't be explained. Yet. Or maybe never. ...if it works, it works. Period.

But I digress. My Applied Kinesiology session KICKED ASS.

So I went to see Dr. Anna Keating at Firdale Wellness coz she came highly recommended. I tried calling in January this year but she only had the next available appointment in March, so I gave up. This time around, I got an appointment 3 weeks from when I called. Dr. Popular! She's a Nutritionist by training, as well as a Chiropractor AND does food allergy testing through Applied Kinesiology.

The whole reason why I went to her was coz I was getting extremely confused about what I should or shouldn't be eating. Don't think the vegetarian route was working for me as I fell sick 3 times between March - June and was completely wiped out for a whole week the last time. Was also feeling extremely bloated often and everyone told me "it's wheat intolerance". And then I seemed to be showing classic symptoms of IBS, especially during stressful periods. It just seemed like my entire digestive tract was falling apart on me.

During the consultation session, Anna said her role wasn't to tell me whether or not to go vegetarian or eat meat, but through the tests she would put me through, I'd see which foods I have an allergic reaction to and which are OK, and along the way I'd figure out what works for me and me alone.

So I lay on her table and she got me to raise my right hand and push against her hand. Kind of like in this picture here.

Seemed easy enough. Then, over the course of the next 5 minutes, she turns and picks out various vials from the shelf behind her - she's got rows and rows of little vials with clear liquid in them. She then places these vials on my belly, and does the same thing with my arm pushing against her hand again. Sometimes I could push back strongly against her hand, and sometimes I had no strength to push back against her at all!

Those vials are filled with different food components, such as cow's milk, yoghurt, wheat, blood-sugar level indicators, etc. And the theory is your energy reacts with the energy of whatever's in those vials, so if it's a substance you're allergic to, it makes you go weak and hence your hand's unable to push against her hand. If it's something your body's OK with, you're able to push back strongly against her. It's the most bizarre, amazing thing.

Turns out my sweet tooth, craving for carbs, and frequent energy crashes are all related to the same thing: CANDIDA SYNDROME! (with extra parasites to boot, but more on this later).

When she said that, I almost fainted. I was like... EXCUSE ME?!? I DON'T HAVE THRUSH!! But she laughed and said it's a yeast-type of fungus which is present in EVERYONE'S digestive tracts. It doesn't necessarily always show up as thrush in your privates. (COZ I REPEAT: I DON'T HAVE IT!)

I have more than what I'm supposed to have in my gut (hence, my arm went limp and couldn't push back against hers), and feeds off sugar which explains why I feel bloated all the time. And along with this, she also tested for parasites and my arm went very limp yet again. YUCKINESS! I was absolutely grossed out with this.

Again, she says "everyone's got worms"... and it's microscopic worms and not the big fat tape worms I was imagining. Especially now with Spring and the changing seasons, it's apparently when they come out in full force. She reckons my entire system is probably still adjusting to the S.African food, water, weather especially since I've come from a warm, humid place to a damp/ dry, colder place.

She tested all kinds of other food too, and apparently cow's milk doesn't agree with me, although yoghurt is OK. Wheat is surprisingly OK with me... and now that I'm thinking back, I know I should've written this all down coz I can't remember half the stuff she said now.

She's put me on a "Candida & Parasite" Detox Cleanse for a month (yuck, I feel so dirty). So I've got to pop these pills 3 times a day, as well as pop good bacteria (pro-biotics like acidophillus) twice a day.

And yes, since it's a "Detox cleanse", it means I have to stay away from all kinds of food such as sugar, yeast and wheat as well.

Which sounds simple enough, but this means all of these foods are out of bounds: cakes, jam, pudding, golden syrup, molasses, honey, bread, pizza, pita, grapes, raisins, sultanas and most other dried fruit with sulphur, vinegar (and products with vinegar such as ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, worcestershire sauce), pickled, smoked or processed food (such as herring, ham, sausages), sushi/ sashimi (which probably caused the parasite overgrowth in the first place), no yellow or blue cheeses, no commercial fruit juices (as these may contain mouldy fruit), peanuts, pistachios... and while fruit is OK, no fruit with high sugar content such as melons.

PHEW! ...that's pretty much 2/3 of what's in our fridge that's out of bounds. No wonder my gut was in trouble.

I've since gone to the health-food store to stock up on wheat-free pasta. That's pretty much "bee hoon" noodles where I come from - rice vermicelli, which is an EXTREMELY cheap packet of rice noodles, but because it's packaged and marketed to be sold in a health-food store, somehow these guys think it's OK to rip people off at ten times the price it should be sold for.
This is regular bee hoon:

And this is the kind of packaging they've got in health food stores so they can charge an arm and a leg:

...I should really start looking into where the nearest Chinese supermarket is.

Also had to find a wheat-free, sugar-free (including honey and molasses-free), raisin-free muesli for morning breakfasts. Raisin-free muesli doesn't seem to exist, and there's no way I'm eating the alternative, plain oats for breakfast(YUCK!). Also stocked up on healthy (and even more expensive) health bars to prevent energy crashes between meals. I keep telling myself that change is good. Expensive, but good.

Anyhow, after a month I'm supposed to go back to Anna for her to test my allergic reactions again. After this detox month, the results would be more accurate since my body would be at its base level of optimum health. Right now, it's too full of gunk to give an accurate reaction.

It's only been one day but I'm already feeling the effects. Yes! My poo's come right! (Not that you needed to know). I'm just waiting for the "Die-off" reaction... apparently on days 2 - 5 of the detox is when the worse effects might be felt when large amounts of parasites get killed off and a large amount of toxins get dumped in the large intestines... causing some people extreme bloatedness and nausea. Yay.

So far so good... I'm also eating 6 smaller meals throughout the day, to regulate my blood-sugar levels. Seems to be working on Day 1... only 29 more to go!

*UPDATE: To check out the follow-up appointment, click here.

To make an appointment, call Firdale Wellness Centre: +27 21 423 0739

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dear Amy.M.Hart...

...So I received an email from an amy.m.hart, but somehow when I tried to reply to the email address it kept bouncing back. Amy wanted to find out more about the Africa Yoga course and since I can't send a reply back to her and I think she might have a feed to this blog, here it is as a blog entry. ;p

Hi Amy!

Thanks for your note. It's definitely a course I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend, it's absolutely brilliant! There are about 7 teachers on the course, each with different backgrounds and philosophies and they don't always agree with each other - which is what they wanted to share with us as well... that yoga is a system that's 5000 years old, with many different schools of thought, so no one way is the right way. They wanted us to figure out for ourselves which beliefs resonated with us as individuals, since each path is different. This is what I found refreshing since too many different schools preach that only their way is the right way... which isn't necessarily so!

The teachers also fill the course with so much love so it's a warm, safe environment for you to let your walls come down. And for me, that's what yoga's about. This course was based around the ashtanga system, and we also touched on vinyasa and sequencing vinyasa classes. Yoga Alliance accreditation falls under the ashtanga/ vinyasa category.

The course is run by Maria Taylor of Africa Yoga. Her website here:

She runs the course twice a year - in September and April, and there was mention on our course that the next April course might be in Uganda instead of S.Africa, I'm not sure what they eventually decided.

All the best, I hope this course is what you're looking for coz if it is, you're gonna have an awesome time! Let me know if you wanna find out about anything more!

Lots of love and light, Jaime.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Balancing Act

Trying to find balance is tricky. Coz it's a constantly shifting, organic state.

It's been about three weeks since I've been back at work and come last week I'd already lost that shiny zen crystal bubble around me from the course. I was grasping to hang onto that little piece of calm inside, but work stress came back in full force and wiped away pretty much everything I had.

I've also been stressing about trying to find a yoga class to teach - the "kiasu" (afraid to lose) part of me's thinking if I don't do it now I'll get rusty and won't ever teach again. And hearing stories from the other graduating teachers about how some of them have already found classes to teach makes me both inspired and annoyed (yes, I have to let go of this competitiveness!)

I was feeling extremely frustrated earlier this week about trying to find a regular class to teach, plus handle being back at work (the stress, the irregular hours, the crazy client requests) and keeping up a 6-day a week practice all at the same time, but thank goodness for my yoga support group (all of us on the teaching course have been keeping in contact)... I'm learning that I'm not Wonder Woman and I'm actually OK with it.

Guess I was trying to go from first to fifth gear without learning how to change gears in between... I somehow had this idea in my head that in order to be a "proper" teacher, I had to be teaching a bigger group of people. But with the manic job I've got, it's difficult to commit to a regular, weekly class. Also at the same time, I'm TERRIFIED of teaching a bigger group of people even though I think I'm desperate to. The internal dialogue in my head of "Yes"... "No"... "Yes"... "No"... earlier this week was driving me up the wall.

In the end, after much pacifying and encouragement from anyone willing to listen to my moaning, I'm beginning to see that I was just putting too much pressure on myself and getting frozen in one position, not knowing what to do with myself or where to begin.

At the moment, I'm just comfortable knowing that it will happen when it happens... I'm just "being" at the moment... content that I'm still enjoying my almost daily practice and that at least I've got Kelly as a student.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Lavender's either Dead or Dying

Just before I left for St. Francis Bay, Cape Town was going through a glorious few weeks of hot, sunny weather and it felt like Spring was pretty much here.

The lavender thought Spring was here to stay, so she decided to come out in full bloom. While I was away, the entire month of September went haywire and Winter came back in full force - complete with rainy days, howling wind and freezing cold temperatures. This is what I came back to find on the balcony:

A half-dead/ dying lavender plant.

The easiest thing to do would've been to turn around and blame Kelly for not watering the plants... however, all the other plants seemed to be doing OK. The Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and the Polygala were both green and blossoming... so I can only assume the lavender got frost bite...? Or maybe too much water from the constant rain...?

2/3 of the plant has turned brown, all the flowers have wilted, and even the green bits that are left are intermittently brown throughout the stalks. I don't know what to do now. Google searches say you must NEVER over-prune lavender to the base as they'll never grow again... So I've pruned as much as I think I can to try and save the plant, but it's not exactly looking very good. I've chopped off entire stalks that looked dead.

And the plant's in a very sorry, bald state now. :(

Guess I'll find out in a couple weeks if the entire thing's a goner... any comments/ suggestions from people with green thumbs are welcome!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Super Fit Weekend...

Yesterday, I gave Kelly his very first yoga class of his life and he rather enjoyed it. (YAY FOR ME!) Considering what a fit gym-bunny he is, we had to take frequent rests during the Ashtanga series coming into child's pose, and we stopped at Navasana coz he was pretty spent. Fortunately, he actually wanted to go for a second session the next day. (DOUBLE YAY FOR ME!) Was afraid I'd turned him off yoga for good but I guess I didn't have to worry... :)

This morning, I went for a 1hr power yoga class and Kelly went to gym. Then, we went with Robyn & Margarita for a 2hr walk with their dog, Abby. (Jezebel the Maltese has a torn ligament so the poor princess couldn't come).

We walked from Clifton to the Sea Point Promenade, and Abby happily trotted along with us. She's a really cool dog who doesn't need to be on a leash except when crossing roads.

Found some random people, like this guy on the beach with his metal detector.

...wonder if his strange hobby has made him rich.

And the bird lady.

Abby wasn't really interested in other dogs and would politely sniff their bums if they sniffed hers, but she would happily trot along again within 2 seconds. No doggie dramas at all.

We were pretty spent after the 2hr walk (and the incline all the way back to the house in the final 20 minutes didn't help our tired legs)... so I don't think we managed to squeeze in Kelly's second yoga class this weekend. Slowly, slowly...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Manduka Eko Lite Review: Part 2 (after 1 month)

OK, so after a month of intense ashtanga teacher training, with the mat suffering about 4 - 5 hours abuse everyday... I'm sad to say that there are little holes appearing where the feet and hands go on the mat.

The up side is that there are no flakey bits that come off, like the regular PVC mats that start sticking to your sweaty arms and legs. It just seems like the holes are appearing out of thin air. I reckon my problem is rolling over toenails from Chaturanga into Up-Dog, which causes the abrasions where the feet are, and dragging my feet on the floor in jump-throughs, which causes abrasions where the hands are. (Yes, I need to engage more core as I jump through. I'm trying!)

Not such a perfect mat after all. It's still fine to use for now coz it's not getting in my way, but at some point down the road I'll probably have to bite the bullet and get THE Black Mat. Except that it's 3kg. Sheesh.

(And for the record, my toenails are nice and short and kept pedicured, so I don't understand why they've got such ripping power.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Africa Yoga Teacher Training Experience

So I made it through the hardcore month of waking up at 5am most days (4.45am if our house was on cleaning duty), including 4 - 5 hours of physical yoga practice on most days (mainly Ashtanga), and reading like there was no tomorrow. I am now officially a yoga teacher and can use the copyrighted "RYT" behind my name (= Registered Yoga Teacher).(ie. if I now have the balls to teach in front of a mass number of people.)

But beyond all of that, it was such an amazing experience to have gone through - the 14 students and 7 teachers created a warm, loving, safe cocoon for all of us to start the individual journey of awareness. Each of us was confronted with all kinds of emotions from frustration, exhaustion, laughter, fear, courage, joy... for the first time ever, I had a couple of tearful moments on the mat from the sheer intensity of the course, and also for the first time ever I had the deepest, most relaxing yet aware Savasana - where I was actually floating inside my body in deep relaxation... there yet not there.

This course was beyond what I imagined it would be, and I think everyone else on the course would also agree with me. I think beyond all the teaching tools and yoga foundations etc. that we were taught, the most important gift we were given is that of Self-Awakening/ Self-Awareness. I've come back feeling empowered, inspired and motivated to do something with this gift I've been given (with no promises that I won't suck as a teacher!) Kelly's going to be my first guinea pig, so look forward to more stories of that first class!

Here are some highlights of the month, from an album of 255 photos.
My room:

View from my room, overlooking the canal:

My very '70s bathroom & walk-in wardrobe (yes, it walked into the thatch roof!):

And the shower that decided to go funny after a week, only dispensing hot water when it felt like it (some days we had to walk over to Patrizia's cottage for a shower):

The kitchen:

What was on my shelf:

No, there was no Woolworths. My heart sank when I found out there was only a Super Spar.

The exterior of the house:

Building regulations in St. Francis Bay require ALL houses to have thatch roofs or grey tiles, with white walls. While a thatch roof is extremely pretty, it gets flipping freezing cold, and all kinds of creepy-crawlies fall from the roof every now and again (found a red worm in my bag of Q-tips. Good thing I checked before putting them in my ears!)

So everywhere you walk, this is pretty much the sight you'll see:

It's kind of Stepford Wives meets Cocoon 2 (coz in the low season without the tourists, it's just full of geriatrics who live there!) With everything looking the same, it's got a strangely calming effect. The first time I got out of St. Francis was about 2 weeks into the course when we drove out to nearby Cape St. Francis (with no building regulation). And suddenly, I was aware of how messy and un-uniform everything looked outside of St. Francis Bay. Still can't decide if that's a good thing or not.

A typical day started at 6am for an hour of Pranayama/ Meditation, which meant waking up at 5am. However, if your house was on cleaning duty (twice a week), this meant waking up at 4.45am in order to get to the studio at 5.30am in order to light the fires, candles, set up the bolsters and blankets, etc. for the meditation session.

This was followed by 2hrs of Ashtanga for half of the group that was practicing and the other half that was adjusting or teaching, and the following 2hrs after that, we would swop - so whoever practiced first would then adjust/ teach in the later session.

This would take up till 11am where we had our first break for breakfast/ lunch. And traditionally, you're not supposed to have eaten anything before Pranayama nor Asana practice, since this means your energy would be spent busy digesting rather than moving towards higher consciousness. But I, the unenlightened, HAD to eat and always had at least 1 or 2 bananas before the morning Pranayama (Sorry, Maria!). Actually, I practically lived off bananas the whole time - scoffing at least 6 a day! There's no way I could've survived for 6 hours from rising without eating AND doing such a physical practice!

After a half-hour or 1hr break, we'd go onto either technique of poses or adjustment classes which would require hands-on practice with each other, followed by a short 1/2hr or 1hr mini-flow class where we'd practice those adjustments in the context of a flow class.

Another half-hour or 1hr break would follow, and then we'd have either an anatomy/ physiology class, a marketing class, or a yoga history/ philosophy class.

On alternate days, we would end off with another 1.5hr hatha class with strong emphasis on alignment, Iyengar-style. This is pretty much how we were feeling after a week into the course:


We had some pretty cool classes with the use of props, partner yoga, and sequencing classes - all tools to help us become more creative and dynamic as teachers.

We started the course during the new moon (symbolizing a new phase in life), and 2 weeks into the course, during the full moon (symbolizing when self-realization comes full circle), we made the transition from yoga students to yoga teachers (coz we would start teaching proper for the next 2 weeks). We had a yoga trance dance session to celebrate this... basically an indoor rave without glowsticks! We got dressed up and put on bindis and basically danced the night away to world music.

(Course director: Maria, and Teacher Phil)

The only food provided on the course was fresh fruit and rooibos tea. And when the cartons of fruit were delivered, you knew the yogis were in town!

Without Woolies and their easy, pre-packed, fresh organic produce, I was kinda lost, but made do with brown rice & quinoa salads.

But a week into the course, vegetarians like Lisa and me started craving fish and started eating fish again (anchovy pizza, here we come!), and meat-eaters like Chloe started turning vegetarian. It was kinda bizarre how the body goes haywire... and of course when you put a bunch of yogis together, they're invariably going to talk about 3 things: Yoga, Food, Poo. Not necessarily in that order.

There were discussions about vegetarianism, wheat-free and gluten-free food, IBS, farts (during classes too!), eating meat, etc. the point where I'm feeling like my little vegetarian experiment might now be over. Well, at least I'm completely confused about what's right for ME. I've since booked an appointment to see a Kineasiologist who specializes in nutrition and food allergies just to check out what I should/ shouldn't be eating since every body is different and I'm not sure if being vegetarian is right for me.

And of course no yoga course is complete without injuries (although as a teacher once told me "It's not yoga that causes injury - it's ego that causes injury")...

Pleased to say mine were all minor injuries, and the chronic shoulder knots I had which I thought were yoga-related were GONE for the entire month (which means they're completely work-related stress knots).

Injury #1: Broken toenail

Injury #2: Blood blister from dancing barefoot on wooden floor at Yoga Trance Dance

Injury #2.1: The day after (blood blister turned purple)

(yes, I know I need to moisturize those feet too!)

Injury #3: Blister on foot from dragging foot on mat during vinyasa jump-throughs

Of course it wasn't all work, work, work... we managed to get out on Sundays (the only free day every week). Checked out the infamous Jeffreys Bay (er, it's just a beach. What's the big deal?) and had brunch at Wax Cafe there with Sam & Marinus.

Also checked out the "Surf Museum" upstairs of the Quiksilver store.

On another weekend, Talitha, Marinus & I went to have brunch at the lighthouse in Cape St. Francis. There's a penguin rescue project there and all proceeds from the coffee shop go to saving the penguins.

And we also climbed the 308 steps up to the top of the lighthouse (after signing an indemnity form in case we decided to jump off at the top).

We never could fully relax on Sundays though, as there was always another assignment to complete or more reading to do, so every now and again if we finished early on a weekday, we'd also take a quick drive to Cape St. Francis to buy carrot cake, or watch the surfers/ kite-surfers.

We had our graduation/ water ceremony at the end of the course.

(My roommates: Sam & Lisa)

Adjusting back to regular life is quite weird now, especially going back to regular yoga classes (my body's saying "only 1 hour? That's not enough practice at all!") and I'm missing all the beautiful adjustments from everyone in practically every single pose. It's interesting to see what will happen from here, and how we'll take this experience and make it a part of our lives from now.

I'm already starting with Kelly this weekend - he'll be my first student (aka guinea pig). And then let's see what happens from there, but I'd love to share this gift of yoga!

For more info on the course, click here
More pix in the online album. Click here:
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