Take it to the next level

Last summer, I resumed freestyle lap swimming after a hiatus. I’m purely a rec swimmer and will never be super fast, but I still want to cut my 1000-meter time, 25 minutes. “What’s a ‘decent’ 1000-meter swim time?” I asked my yoga student who does triathlons. Here’s her paraphrased answer: It depends. A fast swimmer will take 15 minutes or less. A slow swimmer will take 30 minutes or more. Most of us have a comfortable speed. Swimming is not like running (at least to me). The time difference between my fastest and slowest swims is about two minutes, but I … Continue reading Take it to the next level

Aging well: Olga Kotelko

Nowadays it’s no surprise to see super fit and active 70- and 80-somethings. But beyond 90? I recently (and belatedly) read “The Incredible Flying Nonagenarian” by Bruce Grierson (New York Times, November 25, 2010) about Olga Kotelko, almost 95, world champion in track and field. Born in 1919, she grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, the seventh of eleven children. After moving to British Columbia with her two daughters in 1957, she had no time for sports until she retired from teaching in 1984. She first played softball and then, at age 77, tried track and field. Olga enthusiastically pushed … Continue reading Aging well: Olga Kotelko

Christmas day versus any other day

Is Christmas day a big deal to you? In what way? Reading “UPS draws fire after Christmas delivery breakdown,” I couldn’t relate to those who slammed UPS for ruining Christmas for them. Does it really matter if gifts arrive on December 25 or a week into the New Year? I might cut slack for kids’ disappointment, but I can’t fathom adults going ballistic about delayed gifts to other adults. When I was a kid, it was thrilling to open a pile of presents on Christmas morning. I’m no stranger to the commercial pleasure of this holiday. But I still recall feeling a … Continue reading Christmas day versus any other day

Yoga… and the rest of your life

A few years ago, I was walking along the seawall at Kitsilano Beach. There’s a segment where the seawall separates the path from a drop (Six feet? Eight feet?) to the beach below. A friend I’ll call MJ dared me to walk atop the seawall. It’s encouragingly over a foot wide. But would I risk toppling from a height greater than my own? “Hold my hand,” I said. “Then I’ll try it.” “That would be only for practice.” “You’ve got to be joking. No thanks!” At that moment, a man and his dog approached us from the opposite direction. The dog–a short-legged … Continue reading Yoga… and the rest of your life

When things go wrong

In June, I accidentally ate some Canadian bacon. It was hidden in the supposedly meatless frittata that I ordered. I’d eaten a few bites before I suddenly spied an unmistakable pink shred of… “What is this?” I asked the counter girl, whom I knew from prior visits to the cafe. “Bacon.” I was incredulous. I’d specifically asked if the frittata contained meat and then specifically ordered the meatless option. Who but a non-meat-eater would go through the trouble of asking? The girl apologized and offered me a salad. In retrospect, I should’ve accepted the gesture, to be gracious, to be … Continue reading When things go wrong

Reading, doing yoga, and other “essential” activities

Last month I found myself at YVR, awaiting a flight, oddly without anything to read. I skimmed the magazines and books, noting the jacked-up Canadian prices. Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, which I recognized from a review, caught my eye. Flipping through the book, I saw a reference to Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, which I’d read in June. He’s one of my favorite authors so, on a whim, I bought Schwalbe’s memoir. It turned out to be a gem (definitely worth my $20). Schwalbe’s plot is driven by his mother’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, but the … Continue reading Reading, doing yoga, and other “essential” activities

Where’s your psoas? Your sacrum? Your big-toe mound?

If a yoga teacher refers to your psoas, do you know what she’s talking about? The Iyengar method of teaching yoga is precise and detailed. Instructions are conveyed visually (through demos) and verbally (through words). Teachers sometimes discuss whether specific anatomical terms should be used. Is it better to say “hamstrings” or “back thighs”? Can students identify  “psoas,” “sacrum,” and even “big-toe mound”? The common wisdom is that teachers should not bombard beginners with overly specific terminology (which the average layperson would need to look up in an anatomy textbook). Having practiced law for a nanosecond myself, I can relate … Continue reading Where’s your psoas? Your sacrum? Your big-toe mound?

Regular practice in de-cluttering, yoga, and being a good aunt

After my thorough New Year’s de-cluttering, I was quite satisfied… for a few days. Then I saw books, notes, pet fur, and fresh debris re-invading my immaculate space. Banishing clutter is not an occasional project—it must be regular practice. I’m reminded of a yoga teacher’s anecdote three years ago, which I cited in Clearing the clutter. When San Francisco yoga teacher Joe Naudzunas‘s truck was totaled, he had to empty it out. It took longer than expected. “Do you clean your car regularly?” he asked. “Or do you let junk accumulate in it? Do you use it as another closet, just … Continue reading Regular practice in de-cluttering, yoga, and being a good aunt

Taking stock of the year

Whether New Year’s Day is a big deal or just another day to you, it probably prods us all to take stock of the past year. Imagine one of those “Major Events of 2012” articles written not about world news, but about your life. What would that list include? Of course, life comprises not only major events, but day-to-day work, relationships, activities, chores, and habits. The stuff we do most of the time. Maybe it’s the little things that really color our years. I keep a list of books I read for fun. In some years, the list is regrettably … Continue reading Taking stock of the year

Time to move on

Clean out closets. Purge paper files. Erase hard drives and recycle old Macs. Dozens of housekeeping tasks have been nagging me for months. Finally, with 2013 breathing down my neck, I’m getting rid of this baggage. It’s been weighing me down. But, while I’m inclined toward neatness and order, discarding stuff is painstaking. Why do I keep things that I don’t need, barely like, or rarely use? Why is it hard to let go? Seriously, why keep two pairs of running tights that never quite fit? CDs downloaded into iTunes? Jewelry once treasured but now not my style? Travel guides … Continue reading Time to move on

Secret ingredients

Ever seen cooking shows like Iron Chef America or Chopped? When I occasionally watch these cook-offs, I quite enjoy them. In well under an hour, chefs must whip up culinary masterpieces using “secret ingredients” revealed at the last moment. Their dishes must be creative without overshadowing the ingredients or sacrificing taste—classic yet extraordinary. Maybe I somewhat relate to the dramatic tension. In Iyengar yoga assessments (yes, there is a connection), candidates also face a list of “secret” poses 40 minutes before teaching them. Candidates also perform under time pressure, observed by a panel of judges. While candidates’ personalities differ, teaching points must … Continue reading Secret ingredients

In traveling, a companion; in life, compassion

Since I write for Lonely Planet, people assume that I’m constantly traveling. I’m often asked about where I’m going, where I’ve been. Actually, I take only family and work trips nowadays. This year my destinations were familiar ones: Hawaii, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. For required work meetings, I also flew to Atlanta, my first view of the Deep South. I haven’t had an open-ended journey in eons. I’m currently more focused on Iyengar yoga training and teaching in Vancouver. And, truth be told, I’m somewhat of a homebody. Even homebound, however, I could relate to a Japanese proverb … Continue reading In traveling, a companion; in life, compassion