Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring Sadhana 2018

It's good to be back at sadhana, after missing both the spring and fall session in 2017, I return a prodigal student.

Beginning each day, for 30 days, with a 90 minute practise at the studio instead of my home practise. After 30 years the studio lease expired and the building is being torn down so condos can be built. Having done several years of sadhana here I really wanted to partake in the last sadhana at the Yonge and Eglinton location.

I like the spring sadhana, daylight hours lengthening and promise in the air. I can feel the earth awakening and keep looking at photos of my garden from last year. It will be green again.


It has been cold and snowing the first two weeks. Dark in the morning. We are reading selections from BKS about his own sadhana. Different questions arising: how sight may help you perceive something but you can't see yourself in the entire pose, so how to conceive what you don't physically see? how can the shape of the knee in tadasana be maintained in all asanas? how can you consolidate and integrate what is learned from one day to the next? From one year to the next?

Day 1, the first day, Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose),  two of my favourites. I felt I was coming home.

Day 5, and one of the biggest challenge so far is actually finding reasonably priced parking. The first day I found a free spot - it cost $30 at the end of the day, with the 'permit parking only' sign well-obscured by tree limbs. Ah, the price of enlightenment.

Day 7,  clocks spring forward and when we get out at 7:30 in the morning, the day is dawning!

Day 11, we reflect on the nature of Iyengar practise and the journey inward: mobility, stability, strength, alignment, assimilation, integration, penetration, consolidation.

Day 13, without expectation we enjoy a fully restorative class. Many delighted sighs can be heard as we gather the props.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Full Sap Moon: March

It may be known as a worm moon elsewhere, but as there are no crocus or snowdrops yet to be seen I can't imagine worms yet wriggling.

So full sap moon. Buckets on maple trees. Slow drops.

Bright moonlight woke me last night, coming through the skylight, so I sat up to enjoy the view. Safe and warm and under the covers, and all I had to do was open my eyes. What a gift!

illustration: Ketha Newman

The Know Maintenance Approach to Perennial Plant Gardens

Great talk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens with the author Roy Diblik. Know Maintenance was first published in 2014, which is probably why Diblik didn't dwell too much on the book itself. Still, I was quite disappointed when I went to purchase the book just after the talk, and all the copies were sold out. I arrived less than a minute too late, someone triumphantly holding up the last copy. Kind of funny, actually, the stampede to the store following the talk of anti-consumerism.

Roy talked about the industry built up around selling plants, chemicals, mulch, and how so much is truly unnecessary, if not out-right counter-productive. Wood chip mulch kills a lot of the nutrients and organisms in the soil, but many home gardeners are addicted to the looks of it, conditioned by magazines. Plants fall in and out of style, fuelled by trends and popularity - but well chosen and well placed, there is no reason not to use and favour the tried and true. The Northwind Perennial Farm lists16 of Roy's perennial favourites which he insists can be arranged in thousands of different combinations.

I enjoyed his sensibility about "coming to know plants" and observing how certain plantings thrive as social communities; natives and non-natives together. Diversity key.

Block out on grid paper plantings not just for their height and time of bloom, but choose companion plantings for growth rate.

Plants are like people, Diblik insists, so plant a garden community. Avoid including "aggressive bullies" who have a tendency to take everything over, or high-maintenance prima donnas who rely too heavily on chemicals for survival.  Take plants out of their pots and plant more closely together, so they can touch each other. (Planting in this way also helps avoid unwanted weeds).

For shade: sedges!

Alex and Penny have a garden that is opposite of mine: sunny and sandy. And they are happy to have me help create something in their backyard.  I'm inspired to try monarda, coreopsis, salvia, geranium, echinacia, allium, a "hydrangea meadow"...

These plantings are in the style of Piet Oudolf, a perennialist with an international following known for making meadows in public spaces like the U.K., U.S. (Battery Park, High Line) and Netherlands. Most of the successful plantings I've seen are larger in scale however I'm certain principles can be adapted for smaller backyards.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Living with my hopes for spring

The snow is melting after a week of cold rain, inches receding in days. Stubborn patches remaining where piles were shovelled. Is this a fast forward or a rewind? What does a sunny day look like? Feel like?

I'm not sure whether we have seen the last snowfall this season, but these past few days I've been looking for signs of crocus emerging from the frozen earth. Grass is greening in the brown. For my fix of a full spring palette I visited Allan Gardens last week.

Feb 24
Feb 11

Also saw a beautiful film called Flicker and Pulse, which used time lapse and real time photography to portray the life of an English garden over the course of the year, poignantly beginning and ending on the same shot - a bare branch with snow crystals.

Living with my hopes for spring. Canada Blooms will be here soon enough.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How did you sleep?

I picked up a FitBit in late December. It's been useful to track my steps, my blood pressure and sleep patterns, but not very informative in other areas - it doesn't have pre-sets for yoga or meditation, for example.

Wearing the fitbit to check out my sleeping patterns has been revealing. When I check in the morning I can see data on how many hours of deep sleep, light sleep, REM, and awake time was spent in the different sleep stages.

Previously I would feel short-changed if I only got 6 hours sleep, but then I noticed on those nights I often got the same hours - or even more - time spent in deep sleep. Recovering from sickness I allowed myself a good ten hour sleep one night, and then realized oversleeping may have yielded 'good' numbers but left me feeling groggy.

It was also reassuring to see how my numbers compared to others of the same age and sex.

On the negative side, the fitbit would flash a light and I thought it might actually be waking me up throughout the night. A couple of nights the data wasn't captured because battery life was low, and I felt a bit cheated. Even more of an issue was that syncing my device to answer the question, "How did you sleep?" became a morning ritual. Shouldn't I be relying on my body to answer the question?

So this weekend I took the device off entirely. I had  fabulous sleep - one of the best ever. I was a tad regretful I didn't have the data of my best sleep ever in a long time to compare with previous nights, but then I just had to laugh.