Day Trips from Bordeaux – Bergerac

Bordeaux is a small, beautiful, French city that lies in the south-west region of France, you may have heard of the wine. Being that the city is not very big it is something to consider taking some day trips from the river city into the slow pulse of rural France. One such trip is to picturesque Bergerac.

Bergerac is quaint with gorgeous architecture everywhere (similar to Bordeaux). The town is accessible by car in an hour and 45  minute drive, or by public transportation by train. If you hire a car, then there are some fun châteaux a few miles from Bergerac that I highly recommend visiting, unfortunately, they are not possible to get to by public transport. A post on those châteaux to follow.

Bergerac

Those of you that studied French or French literature, may have heard of Bergerac in a French lit class, or at least may have heard of the famous character Cyrano de Bergerac. If the quaint architecture and cute shops don’t draw you to this little town, then maybe the statue of Cyrano will. It is situated in the cutest little European square surrounded by busy restaurants and an old church.

When you drive to Bergerac, park near the tourist office and begin your visit with a stop in the office to get a walking tour map of the town. They have them in French and English. The map displays more than 20 little stops to visit on a walking tour that lasts a little over an hour and takes you to old universities, statues, and the most scenic little nooks in the city. The architecture is historic half-timber, similar to a white Tudor house, but a lot more rustic. I read before visiting the area that in the past the space between the timber frames were filled with whatever materials could be found to save money and to use natural resources. They are postcard perfect.

 

Maison de Vin

IMG_20180904_123858.jpgWhile in the small town on the Dordogne, it’s worth a stop at the Maison de Vin. This little museum and gift shop has a some small displays and a video on the making of wine which plays in French and English, if you walk into the viewing room and it is in French, then check back for the English version. It describes the process of growing the grapes, harvesting (the vendage) and processing the grapes into wine. Once out in the beautiful courtyard, there is a wall of the history of wine from ancient days to the present, also in French and English. This is a great second best to those budget travelers who didn’t want to spend the €20 ticket price on the Cite du Vin while in Bordeaux. If you are looking for a spectacular wine learning experience, this will not be it, then you should go to the Cite du Vin, which looks great, but was beyond our budget and all of us agreed that we are not that into wine. Regardless how you feel about wine, I suggest stopping in to Maison de Vin. The entrance is on the waterfront near the river, there is an old entrance ona back street, walk around the building to find the glass fronted entrance way.

 

Chocolat Almondine

There is an old church in Bergerac that the walking map will guide you to. It is La Eglise Notre Dame de Bergerac. You can tour inside the church when the doors are open. Whenever there are open doors to a historic church or cathedral in a European city or town I go through those doors. There is always beauty within, with unfathomably high naves, intricate stone carvings depicting biblical scenes, and glorious stained glass. Of course, a self guided tour of a church is another tip for budget travelers, remember to respect any signage asking you to stay out of areas and remain silent.

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La Eglise Notre Dame de Bergerac is lovely, but there lies another gem near the church that is worthy of your visit, a pattiserie called La Mie Caline. I have to be upfront and tell you that this is a franchise. I prefer to support small, local businesses, but every time my husband and I go to Bergerac we visit this bakery and every time we have their chocolat almondine we grin from ear to ear, as much as is possible with a mouth full of flakey pastry and gooey chocolate-almond filling. Honestly, this was our first stop of our most recent tour of Bergerac with my visiting twin sister and her fiance, that has to say something for the franchise.

 

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Picnic on the Dordogne

End your day trip in Bergerac with a picnic along the Dordogne river, from which the region gets its name. Buying picnic supplies in France is simple, swing in any grocery store to get some cheese (€3-5) and fruit (€1-3) and while you’re at La Mie Caline, grab some baguettes, other options are saucisson (sausage) or pate. Of course wine is a welcome option and in this region you can’t really go wrong.

Take your picnic to the riverfront where picnic tables await. There is ample free parking, but the stairs down to the tables are very steep and fairly dilapidated, so use caution when descending and ascending. The view of the Dordogne is beyond charming.

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Long Layover, Lisbon

My husband and I recently took a cheap flight from Toronto to Bordeaux that had a long layover in Lisbon, Portugal. This was exciting for me because I had yet to visit Portugal or it’s capital. Here is how we spent our 20 hours in the port city for some takeaways for your next visit there.

24hr Metro Tickets

This may sound unromantic, but let me explain. Upon landing at Lisbon Portela Airport, my husband and I waddled around like chickens with their, well you know the rest of the expression, because we could not find wifi to get detailed directions to our Airbnb and we do not speak Portuguese. In situations like these, I always head to the information desk at an airport and I have never been disappointed, friendly, English speaking attendants have always pulled out maps and circled routes and bus stops for me when I’m unsure of exactly where I’m. The nice man in Lisbon carried on the tradition.

My husband and I carried our 40 liter backpacks to the metro and got in line. While deciding which tickets to buy we opted for the 24 hour metro tickets that worked on multiple forms of transportation and would at least get us back to the airport for our 8:30 flight on to Bordeaux the next morning if nothing else.

The metro in Lisbon is relatively easy to figure out, it’s relatively small, clean, and runs from 6:30 am (just in time to get us there in the morning, phew!) until 1am. Now the reason why a metro ticket has made it on to the list is because it includes rides on the famous Tram #28. I knew nothing about this tram until I started seeing pictures of it on magnets and T-shirts at tourist stalls. It is canary yellow and looks as if it is straight out of the 1920’s, and it very well may be.

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Although Lisbon was a small city and our Airbnb was conveniently located a 30 minute walk from the sights that we wanted to see, we still hoped the tram a couple of times while there, it’s a must. Having the 24 hr ticket saved us money in the end because each tram ride paid in cash is €2.90 ($3.36) and we rode the tram on two separate occasions during our quick stay.

 

Word of warning – it’s a bumpy ride so not for those prone to motion sickness. Also, not comfortable to germaphobes or those with claustrophobia as the drivers do not seem to have a concept of “full trolley” and allow people on continuously even if the tram is bursting from the windows!

 

Get to Graça

We had a kind Airbnb host who recommended that we go to the next neighborhood, Graça for sightseeing due to a famous church, beautiful architecture, good restaurants, and a viewpoint of the city. We heeded her advice and were not disappointed.

The church is called Igreja da Graça and it is free to enter. Like most cathedrals in Europe it impressed this American traveler with its ornate carvings of biblical stories and height of the naval. Not a lot of time is needed to tour inside the church, which is perfect for a quick layover.The overlook is directly in front of the church, two birds one stone, even better for a short stay and battle with jet lag!

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There is a room connected to the church that consists of the famous Portuguese tiles that depict more biblical stories and Portuguese history. Unfortunately all of the descriptions of the work of art are in Portuguese. Magnificent tile art can be spotted all over the city.

 

Wander

Lisbon is touristy, granted we were there on a Saturday afternoon, but the city was buzzing with life and it seemed that the majority were travelers. As previously mentioned the city is small, so wandering around getting lost is not all that intimidating. The city is fairly hilly, so head down towards the water or back up into the higher neighborhoods until you stumble upon a good restaurant or cafe. Being that it is steep, wandering down is far more enjoyable than wandering up, so hopping on Tram 28 is a good idea when wandering up!

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Lisbon felt safe, historic, and slightly tropical. As my husband noted it has a Central American feel to it, more so than other European cities. Neither of us could say exactly why, it could just be the weather and tropical fauna, but it felt relaxed. Make your way down to the port, have a seat and dip your feet in on a hot day.

There are food stalls, restaurants, and a large market near the port that reminded me of a mall’s food court, it wasn’t the most atmospheric of European markets, so we skipped, but it likely would be a good place to get food to go (skipping the plastic bags of course) and heading down to the water to enjoy.


 

No doubt there was a lot that we missed in our short stay in Lisbon, but we enjoyed ourselves. We did check out the exterior of the famous Castelo de Sao Jorge, but to save money and time we did not pay the €8 entry fee. We had one meal in the Airbnb that we picked up from a supermarket, the prices were cheap for cheese, baguette, and sausage. We also made ourselves get up from our afternoon nap and head back into the center for a meal out at a restaurant because we though it a shame to leave the city without having seafood, but it turns out that restaurants, or at least this specific one, charge per item, meaning each pat of butter we used showed up on the bill and what we thought would be a €20 meal total for two turned out to be a €35 meal, it didn’t break us but did surprise us! Not sure if that is common for Portugal, Lisbon, or just restaurants in tourist infested neighborhoods.

Lisbon was the perfect place to have our layover on our way to visit my in-laws and a beautiful re-introduction to the romance of Europe.

A Trip to Pittsburgh – What to Do

A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to see my all time favorite band in Pittsburgh – Radiohead. I won’t go on much about this, understanding that not everyone melts at Thom Yorke’s drones, but I must express that it was an amazing experience that my twin sister gifted me ten years after our first experience seeing the band. Not only did we get to see an amazing show (2 hours and 8 minutes of crooning Thom) but we also got to explore a pretty fun city. If you find yourself in the Pitts in the summer, then here are some things that you should check out.

 

The Frick’s Summer Friday’s

Pittsburgh is an old steel town and remnants of that history scatter throughout the city of three rivers. One historic reminder of the city’s past is a complex known as the Frick. The Fricks were a prominent family during the Gilded Ages of the late 1800’s that lived in a magnificently elegant mansion that is now open for tours as are an art museum and a car museum. If you are a history nerd yourself and would like to do some research into this time of American history before you visit the Frick, then check out this interesting PBS documentary on the time period which goes into the history of Pittsburgh specifically; at one hour in you can learn about a deadly gun fight between union steelworkers on strike and those hired do the job that they were refusing which was orchestrated by Mr. Frick because the bosses (Frick & Carnegie) were denying an increase in wages and in fact were dropping their wages as well as trying and succeeding to erase the unions. They didn’t tell us about that on the tour.

As a self-proclaimed history nerd I very much enjoyed walking around the old Frick mansion and listening to the experts’ knowledge of the home room by room. And although I assumed that the car museum would offer little to interest me, I was wrong. There was an exhibit on how the automobile paved the way for the suffragette movement the US and the old coaches and cars were beautiful in their own right.

 

Friday night is the night to go to the Frick in the summer months. The grounds are open, take a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy a live band. Ground floor tours of the Frick mansion run until 8pm, but no pictures inside. Don’t eat before you go because food trucks line the way up to the entrance of the grounds, do be sure to take your utensils with you though, food trucks create an awful lot of plastic waste. Fridays at the Frick run through August 31st.

 

Walk the Strip

The Strip is the downtown area of Pittsburgh buzzing with expensive tourist stalls to buy Steelers’ gear until your money runs out and bars and restaurants that lure you in with their industrial themed interior design. Parking was easy for us on a Saturday evening and no payment necessary during the weekend on the street where we parked, from the car we walked, and walked, and walked, about 20 blocks until we reached our destination of an amazing taco joint (yes, it was industrial inside.)

Our hungry bellies did not allow us many stops on the walk down to browse shops, but my nose did perk up funnily enough right in front of a Korean market where an ajuma was grilling kimchi-jeon, or something close to it – Korean savory pancakes with kimchi inside. My husband and I ordered one, each took a bite, and promptly ordered another, the greasy, spicy pancake transported me back to street food in Korea – I was in heaven. If you like Korean food and markets, then keep your eye out for the McDonald’s on the Strip, the kimichi pancakes can be found not far from there at Sambok Korean Groceries at 1735 Penn Ave.

Most types of food and drink can be found on the Strip. We passed seafood, Irish pubs, a Polish diner, etc. At the bottom of the Strip district there are many theaters, check out their websites ahead of time to find concerts, ballets, operas, etc. to entertain you during your stay. In my search for things to do in the city I was surprised to see how much comedy was happening. Lots of improv and sets, find out when and where by searching Facebook for events in Pittsburgh for the time that you’re there.

 

Bicycle Heaven & Randyland

These two sites to see are very near to each other and are by donation. Bicycle Heaven was two stories and hundreds (thousands?) of bikes. Bikes everywhere. Old bikes and parade bikes, facts about bikes, bikes in trees, Pee Wee Herman’s bike, the list goes on. It may seem like going to a museum of bikes would be for the avid cyclist only, but I recommend visiting Bicycle Heaven for everyone, from kids to adults. There is no cost, but donations welcome.

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Randyland is a colorful background for countless Instagram pictures so be sure to drag your #instagramhusband along! Bicycle Heaven are conveniently near each other, although were not aware of that and visited them on separate days. I suggest visiting both at the same time. What is Randyland? Well, it’s a building that has been painted in vibrant colors and is adorned with positive messages for visitors. Some of the art reminded me of Buddhist temples in Korea and as a whole Randyland could be described as a little brother to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

 

These are just a few things to see and do in Pittsburgh, and bonus, they’re all free! Perfect for a budget traveler. I’m sure that there is also great yoga in Pittsburgh, next time I’ll check out some studios and do reviews. Until then, history and art are pretty good ways to spend time when not doing yoga.

Teach, Don’t Guide

This is a short memo to yoga teachers out there. No negativity is meant by this message. The message is simple and differs only in verbage, while at the same time has a major effect on your students.

There is a large gap between teaching yoga and guiding yoga. Teaching yoga is necessary for beginners and students with injuries – most students will have injuries, chronic or temporary at some point or another, and often times there is no easy way to ask all of your students if they are working with an injury in a well attended class. In order to keep the students that choose to attend your class safe, teach them pose by pose, cue proper alignment and watch your students as the make their yoga shapes. Know that bodies differ widely and that your students may never look like pictures of BKS Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois. Even as a yoga teacher, you yourself may never exactly mimic classical yoga images, or to put a modern spin on it, you may never pop into a handstand the way Kino does, c’est la vie. It is far better to be kind to yourself and respect your unique limitations (and those of your students) than to push bodies beyond limitations which is when yoga injuries occur.

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How guiding a yoga class differs from teaching is that when a teacher guides they flow along with their class and neglect to give individual attention to students; before I go into it further, I realize that there are times when guiding is preferred to teaching, for example when a class size is large or space is limited for the teacher to be able to walk around the room. There is also the belief that guiding and demoing every single pose for beginners is beneficial so that they have pose-by-pose demonstrations to look at and follow along with. This is completely valid and something that I was taught and sometimes utilize, but I sprinkle my class with walk-arounds and give students further cues or ways to use props to make the pose more comfortable and effective for them.

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Teaching yoga is not a yoga teachers time to practice yoga. If a teacher is guiding because they want to have a good practice themselves, then they are doing their students a disservice. As a teacher it is vital to make time in the day for self practice and to differentiate that time and the valuable time that you give to your students.

The advancement developed through self practice will translate to your students through your teaching. As teachers practice, learn, and feel their own bodies they are better able to serve their students. Recently, I attended two classes back to back at a studio. One was for advanced students, one was for beginners. I can only presume that the teachers trained and studied with the same teachers at the same studio because parts of their sequences were identical, although their classes were advertised as being for different levels of students. Were the classes good? Yes, but I can’t help but think that had the teachers stepped outside of their well rehearsed cueing and taught and watched and adjusted, that the classes would have felt more genuine and personal.

There are times to guide and there are times to teach. As both a student and a teacher, I much prefer to be taught than to be guided.

The Great Blue Heron Music Festival

Every year in early July there is a music festival near my hometown in western New York state – The Great Blue Heron. It’s a festival full of bluegrass music, zydeco, camping, dancing that goes until the wee hours of dawn, and so much more. Growing up I used to attend the festival as a high school student and college student. The weekend was late nights and late sleeps. Now in my 30’s I appreciate the festival for being so much more than cases of beer and no sleep.

At the most recent Blue Heron I made sure to fill my days with a schedule that had always existed, but that I had never explored, such as, you guessed it – yoga. There has always been yoga at the Blue Heron, but I never woke up in time to make a class. What a shame that turns out to be. The Revival tent where the yoga classes are held take place in the Revival Tent, a tent that kisses the end of a serene pond. Yoga is at 9am, which may not seem all that early, but to those bustin’ a move till 6am, that is an impossible time.

This year my husband and I didn’t attend the festival until Saturday morning and it was my primary goal to get to the Saturday morning yoga class, so we dropped our dear pup Fred off at grandma and grandpa’s house and arrived just in time for me to roll my mat out for class. Being that I had never attended a single yoga class at the Heron before, I was surprised to see that quite a few people set their alarms to get to the class. There were probably 20-30 people at the class and around the same amount of people attended Sunday’s class. Sunday’s class was just as good as Saturdays and both days offered completely different styles of yoga – Vinyasa and Iyengar, both were beneficial for heads and bodies aching from worldly pleasures of the day and night before.

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Another new experience for me was a sound healing, or a sound meditation on Sunday. A soft-spoken woman with an array of instruments guided a large group through a chakra balancing meditation. She encouraged us all to incorporate outside noises into the meditation, which was necessary since the festival’s beach area is practically connected to the Revival Tent which meant that sounds of children enjoying splashing in the pond were difficult to ignore, and then halfway through the meditation the truck that serviced the porta-potties (my husband and I playfully referred to it as the ‘Poop Truck’) arrived to the adjacent beach to service the porta-potties there. That was hard to peacefully incorporate, especially knowing what it was, but after a few minutes the hum of the truck doing it’s job did incorporate its way into my meditation.

It would be a long post to write about everything other than a party weekend that the IMG_20180708_122532.jpgBlue Heron offers everyone from young children to mature adults, but a short list includes a mushroom walk, star-gazing, activities almost every hour for the kids, vendors, a tent full of events specifically for teens, etc. Unfortunately the Blue Heron has a local reputation for being a drug fest full of ‘undesirables’. Is there a wide range of people at a festival of around 7,000 people – yes, so might there be people partaking in illegal substances? Yes. Are there also young families that come for a day or the entire weekend? Yes. The festival can be what you make of it. If you want to party till the sun comes up, do it. If you want to put ear plugs in and crawl into your tent at 11pm to wake up early for the 7:30 meditation and the 9am yoga, do it.

The primary draw of the festival is undoubtedly the music. The lineup has not altered much since my high school days or my last time there in 2012, and while that can seem mundane it also speaks to the artists that people enjoy their sets year after year. There’s something for everyone on the line up at the Heron, bluegrass and Americana cover people who love those styles as well as those that enjoy country music, which there are many in Chautauqua county; there’s also world music, funk, psychedelic rock, and so more.

 

For musicians, professional and aspiring, there are music workshops on Saturday and Sunday so bring your fiddle and drum. I myself always enjoy bruising up my hands at the drum circle with my djembe, which a kind man tuned for me for a donation, saying that he considers his skill a gift to the world. Whatever your opinion of hippies are, they sure are kind and warmhearted.

The event as a whole can be described as happy, warmhearted, and sustainable. Event volunteers sort through recyclables which festival goers divide initially into plastics, compostables, and waste destined for the landfill. My environmental-hippy hat tips off to organizers for making their Rainbow Recycling program such a large part of the festival. To get waste to its proper place for 7,000+ people is a commendable task.

The Blue Heron is a celebration of American culture that I was excited to share with my English husband. It had something for everyone, even more so than I remember as a younger adult. If you’re looking for a summer festival next year, keep the Blue Heron in mind and mark your calendar for the weekends surrounding July 4th, the festival is always held on the weekend before or after the holiday. We’ll definitely be there, maybe I’ll see you at yoga.

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A Victorian Farm to Table Dinner

This spring our local history museum, the Fenton, and a local historical society of Busti, NY partnered up for the second year in a row to host a Victorian Dinner. These are some of my favorite things: fundraisers for good causes, local history, and delicious, local, real food. The dressing on the salad was that Victorian costumes were encouraged, my dream event, save if there was yoga, then it would have been over the top, but it was still quite fantastic without, reasons why below.

Victorian Costumes

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I love to get creative and dress up. The creativity comes into play by piecing costumes together with pieces that I already have and by borrowing from friends and family to pull it all together. This is an ethical decision to avoid plastic packaging and to not support fast fashion.

I knew instantly what I was going to wear for a Victorian costume. Years ago I bought a frilly white top from Zara (purchased before I knew about fast fashion) that I wore to my bachelorette Downtown Abby tea party and that would work for this event because the frills give it a perfectly Victorian feel. A friend had given me a hand-me-down long black skirt that initially I considered donating on, but I held onto it just for the Victorian Dinner and I am glad that I did, also, it grew on me so I’ll keep it for regular wear.

To perfect the look I knew I needed a hat. I spoke to a coworker about this because I had a hunch that she might be the perfect person to ask. She pulled through and delivered a magnificent hat complete with a red bird on it (Put a bird on it! Any Portlandia fans reading?) The hat was red, green, and black so it worked well with my long black skirt. Another coworker lent me a pair of black booties with buttons on the sides that fit the theme.

Others at the dinner wore their costumes and there were at least half a dozen big hats. One lady told me that she rushed around that day hot gluing fake flowers to her simple, black sun hat – I love it, another DIY costume maker! Even some of the men were in elegant three piece suits complete with pocket watches. Historical Halloween in May? Yes, please!

Farm to Table

The food was mostly local from the very first course which included apple cider which was pressed at the Busti cider mill last fall and kept frozen over winter, apple butter – homemade by our tablemates, and flour and corn meal ground at the Busti grist mill that went into the dinner rolls. Soup and salad followed. The soup was potato-corn chowder that had the ends of the bacon of a pig that the caterer had purchased and had butchered.

Mains included a pot roast beef and turkey and stuffing. At least the turkey was local as the event took place during turkey season here in WNY. Root vegetables and garden asparagus accompanied the meat. The meal was served family style and seating was unassigned. Not forgetting desert, although it would have been sensible to pass on desert after taking multiple servings of the first rounds, I am glad that I did not pass on it because it was scrumptious – pound cake with rhubarb compote from the garden pictured below. Make note of the lack of plastic, real cutlery, dishes and teacups.

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After desert was served the owner of the cartering service, 3 C’s, spoke about the food, where it came from, and how it was cooked in a Victorian way. As mentioned above, most of the food was local. The meat was cooked simply without any exotic spices. Given the season of spring, the root vegetables would have been stored in the root cellar. There was no refrigeration or frozen food in Victorian times, so we were spoiled by having tomatoes, corn, and the apple cider at our tables.

Education & Entertainment

Before and after dinner a local troupe of musicians played period pieces on stringed instruments, speaking about the songs that they played and their history. Instruments included fiddles, guitar, banjo, and stand up bass. The music was enjoyable and made me realize how quiet it was during dinner when the band was not playing. Today we’re used to music in restaurants and bars, sometimes it plays too loudly and conversations can barely be heard; it was nice to have silence for polite conversation over dinner.

Two men spoke after dinner about local history. The first man, our tablemate and one of the organizers of the event, spoke about the Victorian era and what the local town where the event was held looked like at that time. It had a tannery, shoe maker (who got leather from the tannery), carriage maker, creamery, multiple churches, school, etc. It’s romantic to imagine a time when communities were entirely involved and mostly sustainable, when everyone knew everyone else and supported each other.

The second man to speak shared historic items from the Jamestown Police. He himself a former officer, had a box that contained an old whistle, a sheriff’s badge, a police officer’s hat, and a photo of the police force from last century. Both short talks were interesting and tied the event together.

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Two sets of couples that sat with us at our table drove down for the event from about an hour away. They told me of other such historic dinners that they had attended throughout New York State, one a candle light dinner in an old mansion at Christmas time. It makes my heart smile to know that there are others out there that enjoy learning about and celebrating history. I’ll keep my ears to the ground for other such events and am already looking forward to next year’s Victorian Farm to Table dinner locally.

Guest Author – Ashley Ordines – On Her Health Transformation Through Yoga

Introducing another Ashley! Ashley attended a New Years Yoga workshop hosted by Kara Bemis Yoga in early 2017 and has never looked back since.

On December 31st, 2016 I made a new years resolution to try to become a healthier person. I had struggled for the majority of my life with weight control and mental health issues. The resolution I made came during my very first yoga class at Phoenix Rising Wellness Studio in Jamestown, NY, taught by Kara Bemis. I really enjoyed the class and knew that it was something I would like to continue to do, even though I remember thinking, “wow downward facing dog is SO hard!” This was huge for me as I had never found a physical activity I really enjoyed doing. It even seemed to be mentally beneficial; after only one class my mood had improved. I decided that my resolution for 2017 was going to be regularly doing one thing for myself that would teach me to be more mindful and self-aware, as well as improve my physical fitness, so I signed up for more yoga.

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I began taking classes at Sun Moon Yoga when it opened in a new location in January 2017 with Karen Hansen. Over the next several months I slowly learned to be more comfortable with my body and gradually began feeling improvements in my health. I felt more energetic, flexible, and overall more positive. I even began documenting the food I ate as a way to become more aware of what I put into my body. I consider this point to be when I really started making my journey about mindfulness, specifically relating to how I treat my physical and emotional self.  

I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, I have lost 97 lbs… most importantly I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Over the next 18 months I began to lose weight while gaining strength and confidence. I began trying other physical activities as well, and found that I also really love hiking. So for many months I continued doing yoga 1-5 days a week, both at class and at home, and hiked during the warmer months. I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, May 30, 2018, I have lost 97 lbs. I have lost over 10 inches on my waist, 8 inches on each thigh, and 9 inches from my hips. Most importantly, I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Yoga has taught me to accept myself where I’m at and to not be discouraged by not being able to do everything at once. I have learned patience and acceptance for myself and continue to work every day on loving myself for who I am right now. To anyone who has considered doing yoga but is afraid to try something new, I say do it. Even if you don’t want to lose weight or change anything physically, you can learn so much about yourself just by trying something new. One of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout all of this is that even when your life situation seems like the “end-all-be-all,” it doesn’t have to be forever. Be patient with yourself. Go through the steps. Trust the process. Just breathe. Downward facing dog won’t always be hard.


30595258_10211780662216373_1594345654740582400_nAshley Ordines is a freelance artist/illustrator living in Jamestown, NY. Her focus as an artist is mainly illustration, concept art and design. She is also a passionate environmentalist and hopes to bring focus to environmental issues through her art. Ordines is also an avid gamer and spends most of her free time playing video games or hiking.

Instagram: @ashordinesart @thtashtho

Facebook: Ash Ordines Artworks

Two Plogging Events, One Post

If you haven’t heard of the craze of plogging yet then you can learn about it in our previous post WTH is Plogging? which was posted to teach people about a Plogging & Yoga event hosted by Kara Bemis Yoga the day before Earth Day. That same week, Kara’s twin sister, Kayla, attended a Plogging event in DC. This is a special joint review of those two events co-authored by Kara & Kayla, and if this post inspires you and you’d like to stand up against single use plastic for the ocean, then keep your eyes out for events taking place in early June for World’s Oceans Day, June 8th, such as March for the Oceans in DC on June 9th.

Plogging & Yoga Event – Jamestown, NY

This event was promoted a lot leading up to the day of the event and due to the fact that it was free, was anticipated to have a number of guests. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the event was under-attended. Initially this was a sad slap in the face, but two people did show and those are two more people who now know more about plastic pollution, why it’s a problem locally and globally, and how to change habits.

5gyres_ambassador_rgbThe most important aspect of this event was the 5 Gyres plastic talk, followed by the physical act of collecting litter, and lastly the yoga. The talk was rooted in a 5 Gyres power point that included visceral slides and facts and statistics on the importance of the oceans and the detriment of plastic. Although there were only three listeners to this talk (my husband made it to the event just in time) it was a positive experience to give my first talk on plastic.

The four of us collected an impressive amount of litter in a small radius near the Chadakoin river in downtown Jamestown, NY. It was a sunny, warm day so walking and talking while picking up garbage was an enjoyable task, seeing how much we gathered made it even more worth it.

 

 

The yoga itself was initially planned to be very beginner friendly as I was expecting yoga newbies to attend, but since all of the participants were returning students the yoga I taught was intermediate. The class was nature based including animal and insect poses. Of course vrksasana/tree played a part.

Moving forward from this event I plan to host more Plogging and Yoga events and offer the plastic talk to any group or individual who wants to hear it. Science classes, environmental groups, strangers on the street, anyone.

Plogging Event – DC

The event that I attended was presented by the DC Parks and Recreation (such an under appreciated governmental resource!) and a local gym called VIDA Fitness (VIDA) located on U Street. On the morning o Earth Day registered participants met at a recreational facility in my Petworth neighborhood. Attendance was high, nearly 40 people, which is not surprising considering that DC is the second healthiest city in America. Minneapolis stole our first place stance in 2017, hence the increased DC Parks and Rec events throughout the capital – we can win it back!

To begin, our hosts, VIDA’s Membership Consultant and a representative from DC Parks and Rec, gave an overview of the day, offered a guided stretching routine and gave an informative talk about litter control in DC. Most memorably, we practiced squatting for healthy trash pick up to preserve our ankles, knees, and backs before taking off. The DC government representative spoke for a new initiative at most DC park facilities, in which plastic trash and plastic recycling bags are available for year round plogging enthusiasts to utilize.

Each attendee was furnished with bags and plastic gloves, including a few clear recycling bags, which I was able to score. My boyfriend and I took the mission to heart and split a pair of the plastic cleaning gloves, wearing a single glove on our right hands for trash pick up and keeping our left hands air-accessible while holding our bags. The group ran, jogged or walked through our predetermined path grabbing litter along the two and half mile route. There was even some media coverage at one spot, check out the video here.

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In addition to the fresh air, meaningful community/neighborly time, environmental impact, health benefits and an increased feeling of well-being, I truly felt that our group was an inspiring view for those driving by or viewing us from their stoop. It was fun to feel uplifted by working towards a common goal with other environmental Washingtonians, and to see others smiling at our noble cause. Perhaps we influenced those spectators to do their share by snagging a few pieces of trash on their morning jogs or commutes.

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It was a really enjoyable way to spend a sunny day outside and honor the planet. I hope to see other similar events pop up in my lovely city over the coming months. In the mean time, I encourage everyone to independently do their part by plogging, decreasing their plastic consumption and trash creation and especially by participating in March for the Ocean (M40) on June 9, 2018, in celebration of World Oceans Day. Visit marchfortheocean.org  to find a rally near you, or for information on donating to help in protecting our planet and in efforts to eliminate plastic use.

Guest Author – Ashley Biekert on Her Yoga Journey – A Yoga Beginner’s Testament

Introducing Ashley, a new convert to the joy that is yoga. Ashley gives her experience overcoming the ever-common anxiety and nerves that come hand in hand with attending initial yoga classes and her transition to becoming a regular yoga student that has had success in health, both physical and mental.

Yoga…. to someone who has had extremely poor flexibility (like I couldn’t even touch my toes) for my whole life, this four letter word held a lot of intimidation for me. I mean, sure, I had tried a few basic poses at home, but the thought of a class where other people might see me struggle made me shudder. To say it was out of my comfort zone was an understatement to say the least. But the truth is, good things happen outside of your comfort zone, and once I was able to recognize this, I was able to truly embrace this wonderful art form.

I started my fitness journey in December of 2017 with at home Beachbody workouts. Yoga was my Sunday workout video, and this truly was my first introduction to any sort of yoga beyond those couple basic poses I knew. As the weeks went on I began to look forward to my Sunday’s but I still felt like something was missing from the experience. I looked around online to get some more info on the yoga classes in the area but was incredibly hesitant because I truly felt there was no way I could ever measure up to the people in those classes and that I would be the most inexperienced person in attendance. So I waited.

At the end of February my birthday weekend rolled around and I found out there would be a Restorative Yoga class at Sun Moon Yoga, and since this sounded more my speed, I convinced my sister to join me as a birthday gift. It was great! My instructor Karen made me feel so comfortable and there was something so different about the energy in the room when you have fellow practitioners with you. I was hooked. At the end of class, I signed up for beginners yoga that just happened to be starting that Wednesday, and I went for it!

Now, was a nervous showing up to class that Wednesday? Absolutely! It was a new experience and those always make me anxious. But do you know what outshined that nervousness that I had? EXCITEMENT! I was so thrilled about this new journey I was embarking on, and I couldn’t wait to see what I could learn.

Every week I walked away from class with more confidence in myself and more appreciation for what my body was able to do for me. I could see my flexibility increasing, slowly but surely, and I feel myself getting stronger. I was no longer intimidated by the thought of someone seeing me struggle or the teacher adjusting me. In fact, I fell in love with adjustments. These are something you very much take for granted when you are only practicing on your own. It was great to finally have someone showing me the right way instead of just guessing. I could feel the poses working for me instead of struggling to get them to be what I thought they should be. There was absolutely no looking back now!

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I no longer fear new experiences when it comes to seeing what my body can do. I’m not afraid to be the least experienced person in the room. We are all on different journey and we are all at different places in our journey. To compare yourself to someone else’s capabilities is so futile. I’ve learned to love my body for what it is today while also being excited for what it will be capable of doing for me tomorrow.

The biggest thing Yoga has taught me isn’t how to touch my toes or the proper way to do downward dog, it is to love myself always… To love myself through the failures and successes, and to embrace my imperfections and work through them. This is the only body I get, and I am so blessed to be able to use it for the short time my soul gets to inhabit this planet. I won’t waste any more time doing anything but wholeheartedly loving my vessel and working to improve it however I can.

 


image2My name is Ashley Biekert and I have been a resident of Jamestown, NY my entire life. I have been married to my husband Andrew for almost three years and I am the mother of my beautiful 1-year-old daughter, Rayne. I have only been doing yoga for a few short months but I have found a lot of love for it. I hope to continue to grow every day and see where my body can take me. The sky is the limit! You can follow me on my fitness journey on Instagram at @raynys_mama 

Jason Crandell Workshop Take Aways

It was two months ago that I attended my first (but not my last!) workshop with Jason Crandell. I traveled a far distance – ten hours round trip to be exact – to practice and study with Jason, a renowned vinyasa teacher. You can read about the studio where the workshop was held here.
No matter what style of class or where, I always take something away form the teacher, good or bad, and store it for future use and implementation. Let me clarify that I do not mean that I take sequences or any other sort of “intellectual property” but rather a word here and there or an interesting assist. These are my take aways from Jason’s workshops.

Humor

He was funny, and frequently, too. There were around 80 people practicing challenging vinyasa sequences together, energy was high and as much as it is repeated and known not to let the ego creep in and self judge in class, I’m positive that eyes were looking around the room to compare practices. Jason cracked jokes that dissipated thoughts of the ego, at least that’s the effect that it had on me. The mood was lightened during handstand practice, and the point was made that life is not ending if the handstand is not perfect.
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Float Around

There was a small raised stage with a glued down yoga mat, I’m assuming that that’s where the usual teachers teach from, and it is where Jason started his workshops from, but not where he was glued to. Throughout the roughly eight hours of flow, Jason walked around the room to give his sequences. I liked this. It kept everyone involved and the energy flowing.
Also, it literally brought him back to the students’ level. Something that I had never though of until I heard the idea on Andreah Ferrerrit’s podcast, Yogaland, is that as teachers we have an instant air of hierarchy and power over our students. To move around the room and give students equal attention, not just the advanced students at the front (because lets face it, beginners generally go to the back and it’s usually only the late comers who have to begrudgingly roll their mats out right in front of the teacher, or it’s the confident students who choose to be there.) Hear Yogaland’s podcast about this topic and yoga in the era of #MeToo here.

Demo to the Crowd

Usually in class I demo poses myself, but often times Jason had a student perform a posture while he pointed out adjustments or assists, never to the embarrassment of the student, he demoed students capable of the poses. Often times his assistants were called over to a central mat to perform the pose, as in the photo below.

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This is such an effective teaching tool. It brings the entire room together to witness a pose developing in real time. Questions can be asked and answered then and there. This is necessary to do when having students partner up, you have to make sure that they know what they will be doing and what their partner’s role will be, especially when the pose to be practiced is an advanced pose such as an inversion.
As mentioned in the intro, my first yoga workshop with Jason will not be my last. I have signed up for a morning workshop with Jason in early June, this time closer to home in Cleveland, OH. It was difficult to make the decision to attend only one portion of his weekend long workshop in Ohio, but my mentor and good friend, Mindy Sisco is visiting me during that week from South Korea, so sacrifices had to be made. Not to mention, I’ll be practicing with her all week, including in Cleveland, so I’ll still be learning and growing as a student and teacher.
If you are a yoga student who is getting more into the practice, then I highly recommend finding yoga workshops near you this summer; teachers, of course you know how beneficial workshops are. Workshops are better than classes, instead of a teacher simply leading you through sequences, the teacher gives you the technique and drills to be able to perform difficult poses in the workshop or down the road as you build strength. Then you can take those newly learned skills and apply them to your home practice or at a the next studio class you attend in which the teacher says,”… and now pop into tripod headstand if that’s in your practice.” because it will be in the practice now, a new skill gained from a knowledgeable workshop.