Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And On the Second Day, She Had a Name...

I slept on it, stepped out the front door, looked at the bike this morning and thought: STILL TOO PINK.

On top of this, when I cycled to the Physio early this morning and dumped my stuff in the basket, I ended up with pink smears all over my favourite bag.

NO! NO! NO!

So I told my dude what happened and requested to please change the pink basket back to a regular black one. He was really sweet and apologetic about it and told me changing it to a black basket would be free of charge. That's what I call service! Seriously - if you're in the market for a bike in Amsterdam, check him out!

And I'm glad to report that having a black basket sure as hell tones down the Barbie-bike factor. Now... I can happily bedazzle the handlebars with rhinestones with no fear of being OTT. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Yes, I do realize the irony in my actions. I like to take the piss, even out of myself and the bike I ride... but within "reason". Heh.)

Here's what she looks like with a black basket. (Sorry, it's a bit of a crap picture coz I only remembered to snap the photo AFTER locking it. And it's a mission to unlock TWO locks. I have more stories on stuff I'm learning on bicycle-locks, but that's for another post).


So yesterday, EcoYogini suggested I give my bike a name to match her punk-rockness (EcoYogini's bike is named Veronica. Love it!)

I've been thinking about it, and I've decided to christen her Roxanne. HAHAHAHAHA! She's got a rocker-chick vibe... And after all, this bike is about 30 years old (does that make it vintage?), has probably gone through some hard knocks in life, and now that I've taken the bright pink basket off, she no longer has to "put on the red light". HAHA. That's a really bad joke. It's not even funny.

On top of that, Roxanne's a song by Sting... a fellow yogi. Right? ...See how all roads lead back to yoga? Eh? Eh? Eh? *On a bad joke roll*

Speaking of yoga... I've been a REALLY BAD YOGI - no real ashtanga practice in like... 2 weeks! Only did the 108 sun salutes last weekend. And er... I've been procrastinating and making excuses (and had legit excuses like Mother Nature's yoga-break aka ladies' hols)... So today since I have a bike already, I have no excuse that getting around town is a mission.

The new shala here is still in the intro phase with only evening classes (More excuses not to make class in time after work!)... But I decided to bring my gear to work so I could bike there right after. As it turns out, another one of my yoga-mad workmates invited me to a Vinyasa-Flow class he usually attends.

To be honest... the thought of jumping straight back into the Primary series after 2 weeks break was making me REALLY NERVOUS. Because... it's really obvious how much you've "back-slid" in your practice and I can't help feeling crap about myself because I can't help it, but yes, I compare what my practices feel like on a day-to-day basis. It's something I have to get over of course. But anyways... So when I had the chance to "jump ship" and attend a fun vinyasa class instead (and YAY! A yoga friend!), I went for it.

I'm glad I did. It's so superficial and not the point but seriously... I'm convinced the Ashtanga Primary series builds up so much strength and stamina. I promise you I would've been huffing and puffing through Primary today, but at a "Level 3" vinyasa-flow class, it was actually pretty manageable. And that made me feel good about myself. HAHAHA. Talk about SUPER EGO!

I'd forgotten how fun a vinyasa class is - all those mad twists and arm balances. This one started off with a headstand as the first asana. Like... HUH?!? It went backwards! We also had a flaming queen teacher who was barrels of laughs - I've never heard the F word so many times in a yoga class... Maybe from out of my mouth, yes - remember Laghuvajrasana? But not the F word from out of THE TEACHER'S MOUTH!! It was really fun and lighthearted though. Even through all his swearing, he was very enlightened. "Stop thinking about the pose! Stop thinking Ooh, I like this pose. Ooh, I hate this pose. Just shut the fuck up and DO IT!"

...I guess that's an extension of Guruji's "do your practice and all is coming." HAHAHAHAHA.

Another gem he had was "You think it hurts now? Wait till tomorrow... THAT's gonna fucking hurt!" I like a teacher who doesn't himself/ herself and the yoga too seriously. His bio page actually says he's writing a book titled "How yoga ruined my life?!" (HAHAHA. LOVE IT!)

So... I guess I'm easing back into some kind of practice. Hope it helps ease me back to Ashtanga! (The new shala's morning classes start next week). Whoop!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ta-Dah, Here Comes My Bike!

...And I'm halfway between "I FREAKING LOVE IT!!!" and "What the fark have I done?!?"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

So I have now graduated from my very first car, a classic shortfront Mini (complete with disco-ball hanging from the mirror)...


...To a Suzuki Jimny (when I got tired of driving stick-shift and wanted an automatic 4x4 with cup-holders. Hehe)...


...To taking public transport around in Sydney...


...To a push-bike. HAHAHA! Go environmentalism!
(Wait! Pictures to follow! I'm building the suspense...)

Getting a customized bike done is like working with a builder. It takes twice as long as they say it will. HA.

So one week became two weeks, but at least I've now got my bike. I picked it up this afternoon. May I remind you that all I did was give the dude references eg. "This is the kind of bike I like"... "These are the colours I like"... "Maybe this part should be pink, or that part should be black" etc. And away the dude went to source me a second-hand bike frame (knowing that I didn't want to get on a bike that was too high).

I had NO SAY in the frame he sourced, or what colours went where, since I kinda got the hint when I asked to take a look at work-in-progress and he said "You can pick it up in a week". He's a Monsieur L'Artist! So I left him to it and ventured over there today with butterflies in my stomach.

My initial reaction was "SUPER COOOOOOOL!!!"



I like how the frame's like a cross between a BMX and a Chopper. Kinda.

Check out the detail he went into with the bits like the pedal:


And my favourite part of the whole bike, the bell:


The dude was so sweet. He pointed to the hot pink rhinestone decorating the centre of the handlebars and said "I found that on the sidewalk and thought it would fit nicely."


Hehe, recycled through-and-through! Don't forget: My original plan is to add more rhinestones across the entire handlebars (the metal bits that are currently looking rusty). But now that this bike looks pretty LOUD as it is... I'm not really sure if I should! I'm feeling a bit chicken shit now. HAHAHAHA!

I have had loads of compliments from random strangers and people I know, and also gasps of horror from the boys at work (HAHAHA!) ...and now that 3 hours have passed, I'm slowly starting to get the sinking feeling of "HOLY CRAP! This bike is SO PINK!!!!" ...and I'm not sure if I'm gonna get a headache riding it around daily. Oh no, I'm feeling ill now. ("What have I done?!")

In a sea of dull, black bikes she sure is bright!


While parking the bike at home, I've already scratched part of the pink paint off the side of the basket. ARGGGHHHHHHHHHH!! ...Hmm, maybe I should just get the basket painted back to black. Maybe that's gonna tone it down just a little bit... Just enough for me to add rhinestones to the handlebars and not fear being OTT! Hahaha.

If you're looking for my dude, check him out at Recycled Bicycles. He sells and rents regular 2nd-hand bikes, and of course also customizes them if you want. They've also got a repair workshop with parts to service bikes. I like him loads - really friendly and a sincere vibe. To the point where if I decide to bring the bike back to get the basket sprayed back to black, I'm sure he won't mind! ;p

OK, I have to sleep on this and decide how I feel about it tomorrow. I like it. But it may just be a wee bit too much pink. ARRGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Edinburgh Film Festival

Greetings! Last week was a bit of a blur. Ladies' hols means no practice last week (too much information!) And when I was finally ready to practice, it was time to fly off to Edinburgh for the Film Festival. Hehe.

Yup! One of my BFFs, y'know, the one whose wedding in Bali I went to last year... She's just produced her first feature film (WHOOHOOOOO!) and it's been making its rounds in this year's film festivals. Don't mess with this chick; its international debut was at the Berlin Film Fest, no less! So she invited me to join her and her Director in Edinburgh for its screening there.

Her Director is such a talent. He wrote and directed the film, and it's also his debut film. Because I know he trawls the internet after each festival, I'm not putting his name nor the title of the film in print here. HA! Instead, here's a picture of the credits. HAHAHA!



It's a whimsically sweet Taiwanese film, filled with lots of laughs too. I highly recommend it (it also made it to the "Best of the Fest" line-up). I am super proud of the both of them. Feature films are such a monumental task, let alone an independent film and the very first one at that! To have such critical acclaim and commercial success (which this film did back in Taiwan) at the first go is such a job well done!

They were the film festival rockstars, and I got to be their groupie! HAHAHAHAHA! Although my friends were very modest about it, saying how it's nice that the Edinburgh festival is more low-key than the rest.

As Resident Groupie (with a capital G), I got my own festival pass and got to watch the films for free. We had such grand plans to watch so many films... but it gets to the point where you realize: One can't actually watch THAT many films in one day. Er... especially film festival-type of movies. Maybe it's just me and my love of fluffy films. Heh. Although we did see a REALLY GOOD documentary, titled "Restrepo". It's a documentary about the experience of the American troops in the Korengal Valley in the mountains of Afghanistan. It's considered the most hardcore posting in that war - but what's even more hardcore were the 2 documentarians who spent FIFTEEN MONTHS in combat with the troop. It's pretty in-your-face; you're right in the midst of gunfire, and witnessing the troop advance on the ground. It's also a stark look at how POINTLESS and DESTRUCTIVE war is. I could go on, but I won't.

So anyway, on Friday when I arrived, we took a slow walk around town. Edinburgh is really pretty. BUT... in a really oppressive, medieval type of way. The rock walls on the buildings are really different, but I dunno what it is about the place that kinda didn't really "grab" me. I think it's the oldskool stuffiness of the medieval era that conjures up images of oppressed peasants that makes me really uncomfortable. I think.

My photos turned out beautifully though. Check out the Castle. It's right in the middle of town, high above the rocks. The "highlands". HAHAHA (no, that's not really the highlands, I don't think.)




The cobbled streets in town are also really charming.


It almost makes me want to yell out "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"

If I needed a defence lawyer, I would go to these guys.


We went and did a poncey thing: High Tea at the Balmoral Hotel. HAHAHAHAHA! They didn't have any cucumber sandwiches, but lots of roast beef, salmon and egg sandwiches. The chef very kindly made a separate plate of veggie only sandwiches for me. I like how you eat your way from the bottom of the tray all the way to the top.


Of course I had to have jam and scones. I dunno, are scones vegan? I made an exception. I also made an exception for the strawberry tarts coz they just looked too good. Oops. :)

And this being Scotland... What should you do but make your way through all the WHISKEY? I don't drink coz I'm allergic to alcohol, but I happily went bar-hopping with my Whiskey-mad friends. There are HUNDREDS of different brews. (Do you call them "brews"?)

Here's a pretty bar we stopped at the first night: Bennetts Bar.

(Those are ALL Whiskeys on display)

So I had the next best non-alcoholic beverage, only available in Scotland: Irn Bru. Pronounced "Iron Brew". It looks and tastes just like Fanta Orange. It's full of artificial colouring, flavouring and sweeteners. Super sweet!


The next day, we had the screening of my friends' film. Before they screened it, the Director was invited to give an introduction, so he went up to the front to speak. The two little Taiwanese chickadees sitting in front of us gasped in awe when they realized he was sitting right behind them. It was too funny! I took a picture of them taking a picture of him. HAHAHA!


The theatre itself is a rarity these days. Complete with oldskool columns.


And after the film, there was a Q&A with the Director. Here are my groupie photos in action.




Then we did more sightseeing afterwards, walking up to the Castle. On the way there, we spotted this Scottish bagpiper group in full regalia. (What are the odds?!)


Further up the trek to the Castle, there came a Marching Band through the streets. Yeah, someone made a comment "Is that the Queen?" which is why you hear me talking back. HAHAHA.

video

This is what the Castle looks like from right beneath it. I guess it must have helped fend off attackers back in the day!


Of course, when we got up there, we decided NOT to go to the Castle instead coz my friends wanted to stop off by "The Whiskey Experience". Yup... it's a tourist tour of... er... Whiskeys. HAHAHAHAHA! We didn't do the tour but ended up at the bar there instead. I snuck into part of the Whiskey tour and took photos of this jaw-droppingly beautiful room: WHISKEY GALORE.



That was apparently the largest private collection of Whiskeys in the entire world, and one of these big alcohol conglomerates bought it for an undisclosed sum, where it now sits in the middle of Edinburgh, as part of "The Whiskey Experience" tour.

This is apparently all the aromas in a Whiskey. Look at the bottom right - is that a pair of leather shoes?! In a Whiskey?!


Here's the bar we sat at. Again, another awesome display of ALL WHISKEY!

(Kinda makes you wonder: Are the Scots just drunk on Whiskey all the time? ...or maybe it was just my friends. HAHAHA!)

Another pretty street shot just outside The Whiskey Store.


Guess what we did after all that Whiskey? ...Er, we went to the pub! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! We found the one pub in town that wasn't playing the football. (to my American readers, that means: No World Cup!)


And we ended up going to the closing party of the festival at a space called "The Cave". It's a venue tucked under the bowels of a medieval bridge. A really cool space for parties, but it kinda smelled like mushrooms and was claustrophobically damp. Needless to say, we didn't last too long.


What did we do? ...Er... went for yet another Whiskey nightcap at the bar around the corner from the hotel! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

All in all, it was good times with good friends this weekend. I had such a blast. Have I mentioned already how much I'm loving this European experience? It's just so easy to hop from country to country and be in such a different place, I mean: country, altogether.

I've got more updates from this week (already!) but will save that for another day. Today's been a long post all about Edinburgh, so let's just keep it at that. Also... Almost 2 weeks with no proper practice (does the 108 sun salutes from like... er... a week ago count?) I am getting back on the mat tomorrow. YIKES! THIS IS GONNA HURT!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ups & Downs

I was in a complete funk last week. I blame the hormones. Of course.

I've got a summary of highs and lows, so here we go:

THE CRAPPY STUFF:
1. INSOMNIA
I've had a lot on my mind - grieving the relationship loss, loads of work pressure, interesting new developments at work, what I want to do next, etc. All good stuff in planning ahead, but this has resulted in more insomniac nights. As in: like clockwork, I would wake up without fail at 2.30am and not be able to sleep again until 5.30am. Practically every single night in the last week.

2. NO PRACTICE. BAD LADY.
This insomnia has resulted in a lack of yoga practice. If I've been awake for most of the night and only able to fall asleep again at 5.30am, there's NO WAY I'm able to wake up when the alarm goes off again at 6.15am for practice. And I've had late nights at work too, so... evening practices were out. I can assure you this lack of practice has also added to my black-cloud-funk.

On the other hand, some good things have also happened.

THE GOOD STUFF:
1. CUSTOMIZED BIKE
The bike I custom-ordered will be ready some time towards the end of this week. YIPPEEEE! I basically pulled together some references for the dude... and you know how I'm freaky-anal, right? I wanted to be pretty involved in the process to see what bike it was he finally found me and then figure out exactly what colours go where.

BUT... this guy is quite the artist you see... he just kept saying "See you in about a week to pick up the bike."

WHAAAAAAT?! I don't have a say how I want it customized? (HAHAHAHA!)

But then the more I thought about it, the more I figured "Feck it, I don't wanna be like the typical clients we get in advertising." You know them... clients who hire the agency for their expertise and then proceed to tell the agency to do everything as they want it - more often than not doing stuff that would really hurt their brand. It's called TRUST & LET GO. Leave it to the experts.

So, I think I'm gonna have to do the same with this dude. I like all his previous work, right? He's got references of what I'm looking for, right?

So... I guess... I could really love the outcome or really hate it. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Of course, I'll tell you all about it when I pick it up later this week.

2. WEEKEND BIKING
I rented one of the dudes old bikes this past weekend, just to ride around town. The first thought I had was: WHY DIDN'T I DO THIS SOONER?! The immense sense of freedom you get when you get your own wheels is indescribable (yeah, it applies to both four-wheels and two-wheels!)

I took photos of this crusted-up old rental bike, but I'm at work now and didn't bring the camera cable. Oops. You'll just have to wait till tomorrow for the photos.

All I can say is: I'm glad I got practice this weekend with it coz er... I fell over a couple times!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! The Dutch don't use front brakes (where you brake with your hands on the handlebars?) ...they use back brakes - where you need to back-pedal in order to slow down. It's counter-intuitive to how you would brake a bike, especially when you've grown up learning how to brake with handbrakes, not footbrakes! It's the weirdest feeling, especially going down bridges - you feel like you're gonna crash and die and your hands are gripping the handlebars for dear life thinking that could also help slow you down. Of course that doesn't happen!

The other dumb-blonde moment I had (apologies to my blonde friends, it's a figure of speech!) was for the first hour, I was riding around town thinking "Wow, for a small bike, this sure is heavy and extremely hard to pedal!"

...It wasn't until one of those riding-down-bridges-and-gripping-handlebars-for-life moments when I grip-clicked something on the handlebar and something in the pedals clicked as I was back-braking.

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! This bike has GEARS!!!!

I finally realized how to use the gears. And yes folks, before this I was riding around town for ONE HOUR in FIRST GEAR!!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! By the end of Saturday, my quads were absolutely killing me. I couldn't even stand up without them hurting. (And yes, it's the same muscles that ache when I'm in Laghuvajrasana. See how much more leg power I need?) I seriously had to stretch them out with lots of Virassana and Bhekasana prep (you know, when you pull heel to bum, stretching out each thigh before going into Bhekasana). Hey, who knew yoga had its benefits for biking mishaps?

3. NEW AMSTERDAM SHALA!
YES, THAT'S RIGHT!! YOU HEARD ME!!

A lovely reader of this blog emailed to inform me that a new ashtanga shala would be opening yesterday. I checked out their link and whaddya know? They've got at least 3 morning Mysore classes during the week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and one on Sunday mornings too.

For the first couple weeks from today, they'll only have evening classes, so I'll try and see if I can make it if work allows. But otherwise, guess who's back to a regular shala in the mornings come July? :) :) :)

Yesterday, I went to the shala opening - they held a Puja blessing for the space in the form of 108 sun salutations. There were about 24 of us there, and the room could hold 2 mats facing each other. So everyone took turns calling out the next number as we did our individual 108 sun salutations, and the sun salutes were Surya Namaskar A version. I'd never done 108 sun salutes in a row before. It is AMAZING!!! Started out thinking "I'm never gonna be able to finish it, so it's OK to rest in child's pose if I feel like it". By the time we got to 88, I remember thinking "Woah, I could do with child's pose now... BUT... there's only 20 more to go!!"

So I pushed on and... yeah! I did it! Full jumpback each time, no wussy stepping back and stepping forward at all. Interestingly, when you do so many in succession, you start to get the hang of it. In some of the jumpbacks, I even felt a mini pause in mid-air before swinging the legs back. I never do this in regular practice (too lazy?)

You get into a super-meditative zone with it, and by the end of the 108, 2 hours had gone by. SERIOUSLY?!?!? I did 2 hours worth of sun salutations? That sounds like a truckload, but when you're in the midst of doing them, it doesn't feel long AT ALL. (Heh heh, I feel like the Incredible Hulk now).

I really, really like this new space. It's simply decorated, and feels warm, cozy and inviting. Had a cuppa tea afterwards and got chatting to fellow yogis and also finally met the reader who gave me the heads-up on this place. Apparently there's a group of them who had been practicing together in someone's living room when their old teacher left for Italy about a year ago. Bless! Wish I'd known about them!

So... all in all... it was a really crappy week last week, but it was topped off with a great weekend!

Apologies for the longwinded post. And with NO PICTURES! Gasp! This is what happens when I'm in a funk and don't feel like writing... everything gets squeezed into one super loooooooooooong post when I finally feel normal again! Have a great week ahead!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Physiotherapy Research Leads to Upside Down Yoga

I haven't been to an Osteopath or Chiropractor since I've been in Amsterdam, and I'm starting to feel the lopsidedness in my body start to act up again. (Also, remember when Teacher H could see how my left side was shorter than my right and pulled me straight again in backbends?)

The thing about living in a new and foreign place is - you've gotta start from scratch again with EVERYTHING.

Where the heck do I find an Osteopath here who also does dry-needling? I posed the question to my workmates who were all like "...What?! Talk English, woman!" I guess it's bordering on the WOO WOO stuff? (not really, not to me it isn't.)

...Thank goodness we're living in the day and age of Google.

The Dutch people seem to be REALLY into their physiotherapy. There are a GAZILION physiotherapists available here... so, I guess when in Rome... I mean, Amsterdam... Do like the Dammers do, right?

I searched high and low and finally found a Physio who also does dry-needling. WOOHOO! I've never ever had a physiotherapy session before, so quite curious to see how this will differ from Osteopathy or Chiropractic. (Thank goodness it's all also covered by medical insurance. OK, I see what my high taxes are going into now!)

What completely sold me on this place is - they also hold yoga and pilates classes... and not just any old yoga classes, dudes. They do AERIAL YOGA.

To be honest, I've heard of it but never knew what it's about (I assumed it was similar to Slackline Yoga). BUT... it's not at all! It's like yoga in a hammock! Check out the pictures from the physio's website!


That looks like incredible fun. And there's also this video on the Physio's site from The View.


Kinda sounds ridiculous right... One would usually go to a specialist based on other people's recommendations, but because this place does something as cool as Aerial Yoga, I figure - Hell Yeah! I'm gonna check you out.

My physiotherapy appointment is tomorrow and I'm gonna have a closer look and chat to them about their Aerial classes too - they've got one on Saturday mornings. Might be a nice break from Ashtanga, since that's the official day of rest for Ashtangis too. Get some upside down action going to lengthen out the spine!

What will they think of next? :)
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