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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


this is what happens when you're trying to get through life on a tight budget...

when i heard about the inaugural wanderlust festival in lake tahoe last year -- three days and nights of yoga and music -- i knew i wanted to be there. i wanted to get there so badly that i offered to volunteer any help i could give them in exchange for a pass to the festival.

they accepted my offer, but i found out sometime much later that my volunteer efforts would only score me a pass to the music events. to take any yoga classes, i'd have to fork over some money. and that would be in addition to the airfare to get to tahoe from LA plus any lodging expenses. i was looking at having to spend a good chunk of change. i thought about it long and hard and decided that i just couldn't afford to spend the big money. i passed.

frustrated, i tried a bit harder to get there this year. and i knew that i'd have to try even harder, because my tight budget got even tighter. i'd been unemployed for a year and a half and my unemployment benefits suddenly got cut off because of the holdup in congress. ugh.

little by little, the light at the end of the wanderlust tunnel became brighter and brighter. but not without a lot of waiting and wondering...

and up until earlier this week, i wasn't really sure if i could pull it together in time. talk about living life on the edge!

let's see... today is wednesday, july 28th. wanderlust runs from thursday, july 29th thru sunday, august 1st.

i found out on monday, july 19th, less than two weeks ago, that LA yoga magazine was finally able to score two media passes for the event. and yes, editor felicia tomasko was going to let me go with her. travel expenses would be on my dime, of course, but at least i'd get in for free!

entrance to festival. check.

i now had to find a place to stay. i contacted every person i knew who was going. they were either crashing at someone else's place or they were full up. with a week to go, i still hadn't found a possible roommate. and i definitely couldn't afford the pricey squaw valley room rates on my own. assuming, of course, that there were still rooms to be had.

then on thursday, july 22nd, with less than a week to go, i was having a random conversation with someone who was also waiting for yoga class to start. i mentioned that i was having a hard time trying to find a place to stay. and voila! she said she had room in her hotel room and i was welcome to stay with her and her friends! i confirmed the details with her the next day; i had a place to stay thursday, friday, and saturday nite. yay!

lodging at squaw valley. check.

in the meantime, i kept trying to find someone to drive up with. trying to fly to tahoe was out of the question; i really didn't want to pay for airfare and a car rental.

i found someone through the wanderlust rideshare bulletin board, but he wanted to leave friday morning. which meant i'd be missing two days of the four-day event. i had to keep looking.

on friday, july 23rd, i found out that another friend was driving up wednesday. on the way up, she'd be stopping first in san francisco for a meeting thursday morning, then continuing on to tahoe after the meeting ended. at this point i was willing to do anything to get there, so i decided to buy a one-day ticket to SFO, meet her there after her meeting, and we'd both drive to tahoe. and back to LA when it was all over. happy that she'd have a traveling companion to tahoe, she agreed to take me along with her.

the next day, she called and said that while she could drive me to tahoe, she couldn't guarantee that she'd be able to drive me back home. a friend who was previously iffy about riding back with her had called at the last minute and confirmed. and with other friends who were already on the ride-back list, her car was now full. desperate, i said i would take the chance and find my way home once i was in tahoe.

ride to squaw valley. check. ride back home. still up in the air.

on monday evening, right after i had purchased my one-way ticket to SFO, i received a phone message from a friend who had heard through another friend that i was looking for a ride. and it so happened that she was looking for someone to ride up with her... and back!

i called her back immediately, and once i confirmed that i had a roundtrip ride in her van, i went online and canceled my airline ticket (luckily, they had a 24-hour cancellation policy!). but there was a minor hitch; she wanted to leave wednesday right after work. and i didn't have a place to stay wednesday night. she said she would sleep in her van when we got there, and i said that would be just fine with me.

roundtrip ride to/from squaw valley. check.

we agreed that we would leave after rush hour traffic subsided. we'd aim for 7pm and play it by ear. she first needed to get a minor repair done on her van before we left, but it would be done by then.

8pm. i still hadn't heard from her and she wasn't answering her phone.

8:30pm. still no word. still not answering her phone.

9pm. i sent a text message, hoping that if she wasn't picking up the phone, she would at least check her text messages.

soon after, she called. the repairs had taken longer than she'd thought, but she was on her way to me. she'd be here in half an hour.

it's now 9:45pm and i'm still here.

i'll keep you posted...

9:55pm. she just called. she's half a mile away.

i can stop wondering now... i'm soon going to be on my way!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

i made it to the top!

i'm a top blog award winner!! woo hoo!!

i received a congratulatory email yesterday with the good news:

Congratulations! Your blog, The Accidental Yogist, has received our 2010 Top 45 Yoga Blogs award!

Winners were chosen through a scoring system led by internet nominations, which came from your reader base!

the website link explained the voting criteria:

The 2010 Top Yoga Blog Awards are brought to you by Online Nursing Programs & Awarding the Web.

The award winners for this category were announced on July 19, 2010.

This award highlights the very best blogs about yoga on the internet as selected by the internet community and our judges, and is designed to thank the authors for their contribution toward the world wide web we all use & enjoy.

Awards candidates are selected using two methods:
- Audience nominations
- Our team of research associates scouring the web

After a list of candidates is compiled they are each scored by our panel of 5 judges. Each judge rates each blog across 20 different attributes providing it with a ‘subjective’ score. These ratings are combined into an aggregate, and the aggregates of the 5 judges are averaged to give the blog its final rating.

The ratings are then compared, and awards are given out to blogs in the 99% percentile (meaning the top 1% of blogs receive awards).

such an honor!! and i even have a snazzy new badge on my page to prove it (it's way down there towards the bottom of the right sidebar...)!

here are the other yoga blogs who made it to the top... congratulations to all!!

Daily Cup of Yoga http://dailycupofyoga.com/

The Yoga Resource Center http://www.a2zyoga.com/blog

Your Yoga Blog http://youryoga.com/blog

Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Krama Yoga at Home http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/

Barrhavenyoga http://www.barrhavenyogablog.blogspot.com/

Chai and Yoga http://chaiandyoga.com/

cyndisphere http://cyndisphere.com/

Damn Good Yoga http://damngoodyoga.blogspot.com/

E-Sutra http://esutra.blogspot.com/

Eco-Yogini http://ecoyogini.blogspot.com/

Elsie's Yoga Class http://elsieyogakula.wordpress.com/

Everyday Yoga http://www.ormonds.net/yoga/blog/index.php

The everythingyogablog http://www.itsallaboutyoga.com/

Kyle Miller yoga http://kylemilleryoga.com/

Mahamondo http://www.mahamondo.typepad.com/

Melina Meza http://melinameza.blogspot.com/

MommyOM http://www.mommyom.com/

Simply Yogini http://simplyyogini.blogspot.com/

Nadine Fawell http://nadinefawell.net/blog-posts

Namaste Interactive http://www.namasteinteractive.com/blog

Namasteph yoga blog http://namasteph.com/

PeaceLoveYoga http://peaceloveyoga.blogspot.com/

Shiny Yoga http://shinyyoga.blogspot.com/

Yeah Dave Yoga http://www.yeahdave.com/

Capriciousyogi http://www.capriciousyogi.blogspot.com/

The Joy of Yoga http://www.thejoyofyoga.blogspot.com/

Yoga Flavored Life http://www.yogaflavoredlife.com/

Yoga Nation http://www.joellehann.com/yoganation

YogaDawg http://yogadawg.blogspot.com/

Yoga Dork http://www.yogadork.com/

AnmolMehta http://anmolmehta.com/blog

YogaLila http://www.yogalila.com/

Yoga Addiction http://yogaddiction.blogspot.com/

YoyoYogi http://yoyoyogi.com/wordpress

Joy for Life http://joyyoga.blogspot.com/

Yoga Peeps http://yogapeeps.com/main

The Accidental Yogist http://blog.accidentalyogist.com/

Surburban Yogini http://www.suburbanyogini.com/

Aspoiledyogi http://spoiledyogi.blogspot.com/

YogaGalNW http://www.yogagalnw.com/

Meat and Yoga http://www.meatyoga.com/

Itsallyogababy http://itsallyogababy.com/

Blisschick http://www.blisschick.net/

YogicMuse http://brookshall.blogspot.com/

Yoga Demystified http://yogademystified.com/

Monday, July 19, 2010

on assignment... at a food truck festival!

if you've been following me and my crazy exploits around LA, you know there are things i'm hopelessly addicted to -- yoga, cycling, music, and, strangely enough, food trucks. so far, i haven't been able to find an event that has successfully managed to blend all four, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. or that i won't be able to find a way to make it happen.

until now... well, maybe.

let me take a step back, just for a minute, and give you some background information.

with the growing number of gourmet food trucks that have been hitting the street and the number of people who've been wanting to try them out, it was getting harder and harder for people to keep track of all the new trucks, much less figure out how to get to them.

a couple of enterprising individuals eventually put their heads together and came up with an idea: how about getting a bunch of food trucks together in one central location so that people don't have to go chasing after them? that idea eventually spawned the much-publicized and much-talked about 1st LA street food fest which was held in downtown LA last february. the plan was to charge a minimal $5 entrance fee to cover costs (and of course, net the organizers a nice profit); once there, the hungry and happy consumers would be able to buy food from as many trucks as they pleased.

as with many first-time efforts, it didn't quite go as well as many had hoped. the number of people who showed up greatly exceeded the capacity limitations of the location; after circling the neighborhood for a place to park their cars, attendees then had to wait in line for hours just to get in the gate. and for those who did make it inside the grounds, they found that they had to wait in even more lines to buy food from each truck, with some wait times as long as an hour. ouch. which meant that even if there were almost two dozen trucks plus an assortment of street vendors represented at the festival, most people were able to try only a handful of them, if they were lucky.

the LA times posted their take on the event the next day: LA Street Food Fest attracts thousands

i made it to that food fest and managed to have a fairly good time, only because i decided to bike to the event; cyclists like myself entered through a separate bike valet entrance, so we were able to bypass the delays at the main entrance and walk right in. it also helped that i was there specifically to try trucks that i'd never been to -- namely a couple of orange county-based trucks -- and because they were lesser-known trucks, their lines weren't as long. so while i can't say my experience was exceptional, i knew that i was witness to something that would be the start of many more food truck gatherings to come.

and since there was a 1st, you know there'd be plans to have a 2nd... which brings us to this coming saturday, july 24th: the LA street food fest's summer tasting event!

hoping to have learned from their mistakes, the same organizers have changed things up quite a bit. the only thing that hasn't changed is that food will be provided by street vendors, with the bulk of them being food trucks.

so what's different?

- the venue was moved from downtown LA to the rose bowl in pasadena
- the entrance fee was increased from $5 per person to $45; the cost now includes all the food and drink you can down in three hours (a VIP pass entitling the bearer to an early entry plus preferential parking costs $20 more)
- there will be ample FREE parking on site
- tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door
- attendance will be capped at 5,000
- instead of the usual menu selections, the food served will be limited to tasting-sized portions chosen by the vendors
- all food will be served from booths set up inside the stadium (which means that while food truck chefs will do the cooking on their trucks, they'll have to somehow transport the food over to the booths)
- there will be bands providing live entertainment while everyone's busy hustling from one vendor to another; there will also be contests, photo booths, and other things to do for those who've had their fill of food

so you'd think that after all the gourmet food trucks i've eaten at (at last count, i've been to around 115 different trucks!) and all the truck gatherings i've been to -- including the insanely crowded downtown art walk and the venice first fridays on abbot kinney -- i'd be tired of the food truck scene. and maybe so, because i'd decided that while i wanted to attend this sequel just to see how it turned out, i really didn't want to go so badly that i'd pay big bucks to get in. after all, i get to eat at these trucks on a regular basis without having to drive far from home. and the lines i stand in are usually negligible.

but there was this nagging need to be there... you know, just because.

enter felicia tomasko, editor-in-chief of LA yoga magazine, who heard about my dilemma. unbeknowst to me, she contacted the street fest organizers and managed to wrangle a press pass with my name on it.

there you go, she said, as she forwarded to me the confirmation e-mail. thanks for all the work you do for us... now go celebrate!

of course, media passes mean that i'd be there to cover the event, and since i was there to represent a yoga magazine, i had to find a yogic enough angle. hmmm...

so since a big part of being a yogi means practicing ahimsa, or non-harming, i've decided that i'd have to do just that. i'm going to limit myself to just vegetarian choices (even though i'm pescetarian, i'll be abstaining from fish and other seafood), get there via public transport and bike to reduce my carbon footprint, and bring my own reusable flatware and water bottle.

and despite all those restrictions, manage to have a great time :)

will i succeed? i'll find out this saturday. stay tuned...

Friday, July 09, 2010

warrior stance

a few weeks ago, i took a class with a teacher i'd just met (and who shall remain nameless) whose surya flow sequence involved a transition from warrior 1 (aka virabhadrasana I) to warrior 2 (virabhadrasana II) and back. and each time i changed poses, i'd shuffle the position of my feet to allow for proper hip alignment (forward-facing for 1, side-facing for 2). when she noticed what i was doing, she walked up to me and told me that if i kept my feet in the same position, i.e., in heel-to-arch alignment, i wouldn't need to keep shuffling my feet.

knowing that almost every teacher who's focused on proper alignment has told me to position my feet differently for each of these warrior poses, i decided to continue doing it the way i'd been taught rather than play the obedient student and follow her instructions. thankfully, she respected my decision and continued on with the class.

i later posed this question on my facebook page:

in all the years that i've been practicing yoga with many of the best teachers, i've always been taught that warrior 1 = heel to heel alignment, warrior 2 = heel to arch. recently, i took a class with a teacher who pointed out that i should be doing heel to arch for both. i politely declined, claiming that what i was doing works for me. what do you all think?

almost immediately after i posted that, responses started streaming in. here's what they said:

Sarah Ezrin (teaches power yoga at bryan kest's power yoga and the hub):
There's been an ongoing debate over the years about W2 and whether the pelvis should be squared (this is reflected in heel to heel vs heel to arch and sometimes even wider than heel to heel). In ashtanga we do all standing poses heel to heel. However, the thing with W1 is, it is not a question- the hips are squared and what prevents most peeps from squaring are tight hip flexors. Heel to heel alignment and more importantly the positioning of the back foot (which is at a 45 degree angle) is what gives peeps the space to be able to square. I have some students wider than heel to heel sometimes even to help facilitate that opening. But heel to arch in W1 in my opinion is BIG no no! You can torque your back knee and/or hip. That's my two cents ;)

Jodi Blumstein (teaches ashtanga at YW larchmont and her home studio):
i like the feet wider - too close is little hard on the sacrum. especially for warrior 1.....but i am a weirdo.

Michele Agosti (teaches vinyasa flow and prenatal yoga at lyfe yoga):
I think that heel to heel in Warrior I is a no no, but it depends on your body. I teach it either heel to heel or a little wider, I personally like my feet a little wider. For warrior II I usually do heel to arch, but when I teach prenatal I teach the feet about hips distance in warrior II to create more space for growing baby and hips.

Lady Li Isings:
I haven't seen both arguments as a rule fit for all. My natural position for both is heel to arch and some of my students are heel to heel for both while others make a natural shift while moving from 1 to 2. I've stopped teaching it as precise as this, more concentrating on the hips, if the alignment is there, then I'm only correcting the position of the feet when I see e.g that the knee moves too far out or in. This does more damage than the way the heels or arches allign.

the accidental yogist (aka yours truly):
i agree with sarah about the heel to arch in W1 being a no-no. at least it won't work for me, given the sacrum, hip flexor, and all other back/hip issues that i'm dealing with.

Ashley Wynn (teaches vinyasa flow at home simply yoga and bhakti yoga shala):
Joni- my thoughts....Our body is our truest guide...when we really tune in...and just surrender all the "teachings" we've had- to just flow into what feels right for you....then-in my experience that's what makes our bodies smile:)

Charlie Samos (teaches vinyasa flow yoga at YW main street and yogis anonymous):
very few people can actually square the hips. so heal to heal or wider is almost like using a prop. if that one person squares hips with no sacral pain, well then, consider removing the prop. that will be very rare. just a thought. peace

Ashley added:
also I was hit by a car while riding my bike last spring and also have lots of back/hip issues, and my warrior 1 is a strong warrior, that starts from the earth up....really take so much care, love, and focus and from the soles of both feet rise up into YOUR perfect warrior 1, really use your breath as your guide and with attention, yet softens move your back foot to a place where you feel rooted and strong....I like to imagine I am growing from mama earth into a warrior goddess:) And I def. feel spinning the back toes in 45 degrees to support your hips is a helpful tool:)

Daniel Overberger (teaches an ashtanga-inspired practice at runyon canyon):
I did my TT's in Ashtanga/Astanga. With the feet pivot for the L + R of each pose/asana you kind of have to be heel to heel. But this made me think of what I kept hearing the last time I was in Mysore. That asana is a very small and maybe, not the most important part of yoga. Joni this also reminded me of when you told me. “you have to remember who you are doing asana with” “is it fingers open or closed today.” om. Aum. Ohm. ;-) This is good.

Leslie Kazadi (teaches a therapeutic yoga class at truyoga):
Only you can say how any pose feels in your body and if one stance creates more freedom than another for you. a slightly wider stance, even broader than heel to heel, creates more space for the low back and is safer for unstable SI joint and less stretch on the back calf and is easier to balance and bend the front knee more, creating for psoas eccentric stretch; whereas, a more narrow stance, heel-to-heel alignment, is easier to find udyana bhanda/lift of the pelvic floor, but can create compression in LB and SI and requires more stretch of back calf and is more challenging to balance. the more you turn the back foot in, toward the front of your mat, the less likely you are to torque the back knee, the more space for the SI joint of the back leg side, more stretch for back calf and peronials... and the more challenging the balance. So unless you're posing for the cover of "yoga journal," I would investigate what feels best for you on any given day.

Michele responded:
I think it's also different for men's vs women's bodies. A woman's body with fluxuation in hormones such as relaxin right before menstration and during pregnancy causes there to be more issues with the SI joint and more mobility happens naturally. That's why I think that for women it's better to have the stance wider a part. Along with everything Sarah said. And in pregnancy it's even more important to have the feet wider a part because there's an even higher chance of injury to the SI joint.

Gabriele Morgan (yoga student, referring to her mentor, annie carpenter):
In 11 years I have always been taught the same as you, and Annie C. was pretty clear about that and if Annie said it, it's golden.

Eden Goldman (yoga therapist, co-founder of yoga doctors):
The heel to heel, heel to arch debate is a B/S argument in my opinion...yogis will still be debating that in 50 years trying to say their school's version is "right." Who cares really? Schools teach it both ways. What is right is what's right in your body. How does it feel for you?!? OF COURSE, I do have my own constructive thoughts on it, too. Heel to heel (or even wider) is gonna put less strain on the groin, sacrum, pelvis and low back than heel to arch, but at least 7 out 10 "traditionalists" from Ashtanga and Power Yoga would probably say heel to arch based on what they learned from their teacher(s). Honestly, I don't even teach Warrior 1 anymore...just crescent...which from a sports medicine and Yoga therapy perspective is a much more effective and targeted stretch on your back leg's anterior hip flexors when done properly (i.e. with the legs in the same line as each corresponding hip and with the xyphoid process stacked above the pubic bone). There are over 10 variations to the crescent pose that can be applied depending on the practitioner's skill level and you get the extra added benefit of making it a balancing pose...balance being one of the first things we lose when we get older. This makes more sense to me since Yoga is now the 21st century's version of preventive medicine. While W1 adds an adductor stretch to the hip flexor stretch in a crescent, the torque produced by squaring your hips and trying to keep the outside of the foot on the floor makes it less specific to the targeted area of focus in the stretch and creates an energy leak in the kinetic chain of muscles. There are much more effective ways to perform an isolated stretch on the adductors, instead of trying to get the 2-for-1 value meal stretch in W1. Additionally, over time W1 can add rotational strain/distortion in the pelvis, create laxity in the pelvis' supporting ligaments and has the potential to jack up your SI joint and low back. Sorry to be so long winded, but those are my thoughts. O:-) Comments yogis?

Leslie replied:
Eden, I love crescent v. W1 for all the reasons you mention, but it adds a precarious balance element, even with the back heel up the wall for added stability (which I also love) for many students, esp. seniors, whom I specialize in teaching. also crescent adds greater risk of femur forward in the hip socket and wobbly knees and ankles. so "it depends" is more and more my final answer... and nobody gets to be wrong.:)

Nandanee Ramprasad:
I like heel to arch.

Kimberly Fowler (creator and founder of yoga for athletes):
In our trainings we teach “Heel to Arch” there are a lot of “Conflicting Cues” from style to style, so I guess it just depends on the style of Yoga you practice.

Phillip Dube:
yes there is different yoga styles I love heel to arch been doing it ten years.

Ashley again (referring to denise kaufman, who teaches restorative yoga at exhale venice):
Denise Kaufman said this: Every person has their own unique bone structure and in 2010, it's interesting that even in YOGA this is coming up....EVERYBODY'S BODY is different, ya feel me? I paraphrased, but this was the gist of it....If you want more check out Yoga for Anatomy with Paul Grilley (also Denise's rec.) http://www.pranamaya.com/grilley-afyd.html

the conversation ended there, although not without a funny footnote... while i was taking ally hamilton's livestreamed class at yogis anonymous the next day, she made a teasing jab at me and the facebook conversation when she described her preferred foot alignment in the warrior poses.

here's a link to that videotaped class; you'll hear her comment at around the 24 minute mark: http://yogisanonymous.com/VOD_test_viewer.php?id=25

please feel free to add your own comments using the link at the end of this post. since most of the input came from ashtanga, power yoga, and vinyasa flow aficionados, i'd love to hear from practitioners of alignment-focused yoga styles such as iyengar and anusara. i'm also curious to hear what devotees of bikram yoga -- which doesn't include warrior 1 nor 2 in the standard 26-pose sequence -- have to say...

more comments... this was emailed in:

Suzanne Strachan (teaches beginner and intermediate yoga at in the mudra):
I find that in order to not torque the back knee in W1, the back foot needs to be at about a 45 degree angle with the outside edges of the feet pressed into the earth. Toes, knees & hips all want to turn in the same direction. Trying to face your hip forward while your knees & toes are turned out can torque that back knee. Some students will need wider than heel to heel for balance & stability.