Monday, July 9, 2012

Accidental Bikram

Arriving in Albania, I was coming off a good run of yogi commitment by attending a weekly class offered after work, as well as, regular classes at my gym.  For clarity, there is a significant difference between “gym” yoga and private studio yoga and I prefer the latter.  Gym/Palester yoga tends to be less personal, less forgiving and less effective in the whole mind-body-soul experience thing.  But when I’m already paying for a gym membership… frugality trumps preferences.  And doing something is far better than doing nothing.

What a convenient segway… recently, I’ve been more in the doing nothing category when it comes to my fitness.  And well, no big surprise here… there are effects of my lethargic ways.  General soreness, tight muscles, lack of flexibility and the fact that my abs are looking less and less like a Victoria’s Secret model.  (If you are asking….Did they EVER?  Just trust me, OK!? Everyone’s a damn skeptic…) Not to mention the mental malaise that accompanies inactivity.  So, I was due, or even overdue, to get back into a healthy routine.

This past weekend/fundjavë e kaluar (when I finally pried the crochet needle out of my hand) I dusted off and rolled out Old Faithful, my yoga mat.  It was during the summertime pushim (think of the Spanish siesta…2-4pm when its too hot to do anything so life shuts down for a mid-day snooze!) and my neighborhood was peacefully quiet.  Since I’m between major project work, no pressure of deadlines.  Conditions were perfect…. and so I got started.

It felt great to stretch again, twisting to align my spine, opening up my shoulders, and just getting moving again.  I was connected to myself and feeling centered (yes… I believe in that spiritual kind of talk, if you don’t…  go ahead and roll your eyes.  But beware, Kharma’s a bitch!).  I was in a zone, flowing through poses, using my oooo-gjah-eee ocean-sounding breathe and then something changed.  I could feel a bead of sweat/djersë rolling down my spine… a few moments later, another and then another. It’s quite distracting when you realize it’s so f@#*ing hot that sweat is not only being released from your pores, but in such a magnitude that it pools and then rolls off the body.  Wouldn’t you know….I’ve just created my own accidental *Bikram Yoga experience!

Temps in my “hometown” Elbasan have been hovering between 37-39° Celcius/98-100° Farenheit for the past few weeks with no end in sight.  And it’s STICKY too.  And just like winters….my apartment in the summertime is just about the same temperature INSIDE/brenda as it is outside/jashtë.  Which means, I’m also now becoming practiced in the art of Bikram Dish-washing, Bikram Typing, Bikram Web-browsing and my personal favorite, Bikram Napping.   Who knew the franchise could have such a broad range! 

So the way I see it…. if I keep up a moderate yoga practice and if I continue to sweat like a whore in church simply in stillness….then those abs I mentioned are gonna be back in Gisele Bündchen fightin’ condition real quick!  (You’re welcome, Jason.)

Peace, Love and Mercury Rising

PS…  While the included photos may not adequately represent the amount of sweat produced, it does represent some other interesting routines:
Cupboard doors left open - That’s my dish drying-rack.  I leave it open to help prevent mold. 

Multiple water bottles - Well, duh, Mama gotsta keep hydrated, what what!?

Tomato on top of the frying pan - Not really a routine at all… just that’s where I put it, but it seems embarrassing now that its captured on digital, so I felt like I had to acknowledge it. 

*Bikram Yoga, named for founder Bikram Choudhury, is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (≈ 40C) with a humidity of 40% and is the most popular form of hot yoga. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Intentions Back-firing

Historical perspective:  About a year before leaving for Peace Corps service…. I learned how to knit.  I was intrigued by the productions (hats, scarves, even scrubbies) of my co-workers (artistic types at Childsplay, of course) and wanted to learn the craft.  So thanks to their patience… I got started on scarves.  And I was hooked! For my friends and family, it was like being on Oprah….You get a scarf and YOU get a scarf…. AND YOU GET A SCARF!   (still need to diversify my skill sets to hats, etc.) Not knowing what to expect from Albania… and thinking a low-tech hobby would be wise, I purchased all kinds of knitting needles and crochet hooks, how-to books… know, The Works.  Dammit if I wasn’t gonna make some masterpieces during my time aboard!  Upon arrival in Albania and with nearly instant access to the internet and other technology… my crafting time fell to the wayside. 

Environmental perspective: Although MUCH of Europe (Take note USA!)  has banned the use of plastic bags for grocery or other shopping…. Albania has not yet embraced this concept.  Plastic is King.  Often times, produce vendors/shitësit perime want to put your tomatoes in one bag, plums in another and carrots in another!  One visit to a store could mean 5 bags/qese  for just little ole me!  (I’ll refrain from the environmental impact soapbox here….but you all know just how BAD this is!  And if not….just google “impact of plastic bags on the earth” and prepare to be horrified. )  Anyway….its a problem here for sure.  And while the re-usable canvas bag concept is being introduced here….its slow in coming.

Personal perspective:   I’ve been lazy about carrying my canvas bag for shopping.  Or sometimes I stop at the store on a whim un-prepared and therefore have amassed a fair collection of plastic bags.  Recycling is rare, so that’s not an option and I just can’t bring myself to throwing them away….too toxic, too damaging/ shumë toksik, shumë të dëmshme.  (Yes, that last word has 4 consecutive consantants…that’s nothing, the word for "future" has six!)  So, I store them in a kitchen cupboard with good intentions to do SOMETHING… SOMEDAY.  But recently, I reached the breaking point.  Each time I’d open that cupboard, they’d billow out onto the floor and I’d have a WWF style fight on my hands to keep them contained inside.   Imagine smashing them to the back and trying to slam the cupboard door closed before they expand out again.  Repeat multiple times before success.  Half-hearted success as there was always some baggie remnant hanging out.  Close enough!  Anyway….it was bad, and my boyfriend started making threats….   

Pending Break-up + Internet + Crafts + Trash >>> Creative Innovation!

Well…not exactly my OWN innovation, but innovation I can be part of none the less.  I found some websites about re-purposing plastic bags and found a great pattern for crocheting with Plarn, “yarn” made from cutting and tying together strips of plastic bags.  I certainly had the products and the tools/produktet dhe veglat.  Now… I needed the “know-how”…  Faleminderit Youtube! 

And within just a few days I transformed those plastic bags into…. well…err...  another plastic bag.  Hrumphf.  Ah hell, at least it’s a cute one!!! 

 But the good deed back-fires.  Just like I took to knitting and made a trillion scarves, now  I want to make more bags and give them to everyone I know!  So I need to make more plarn.  Which means I need more baggies!  The exact product I was trying to avoid has now become my most urgent need!  (Dramatic, much?  Just wait.)  How, painful....the burden of artistry!  Oh the cruel, cruel irony/Ironia shume e mizor! 

Well, here is my plan:  I’ll start using my new, stylish and eco-friendly bag in moderation while I collect some more baggies.  And I’ll ask my co-workers, neighbors and friends to save their bags for me.  I’ll And then… I’ll make bags for them and help them to develop good re-useable bag habits and THAT’s how I’ll do my part to put a dent in the Albanian plastic epidemic.  Just give me a little more time….and a few more baggies!

Peace, Love and Trash intoTreasure

PS…I’ve definitely become a crochet monster...granny squares and hexagon flowers galore!!  Maja, Katie McF., Yolanda, thanks for being my inspiration.  Now…I just need to run to the yarn store and get me some more supplies!  Ooo!  I bet the lady there will put my yarn in plastic baggies!  Win-Win!