Tag Archives: eating disorders

Coming Out: Eating Disorders, Veganism, Sobriety and Depression

2 Sep

Note: I did not realize that I hadn’t posted this entry from 2014! It expands upon some of the things I spoke about on my post from 9/2/16. 

“All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but unignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his speedboat, there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.”–Russell Brand

I have not written in quite a long time on this blog. I took a hiatus and was *sort of* working on a few other blogs, but mostly? Honestly? I have been intensely wrestling with a lot of heavy shit and not practicing yoga. Although I speak a lot about recovery on this blog, I am not always super clear and honest about how much I have struggled with bulimia and  intense depression since I got sober in 2007. I don’t even think I could admit to myself how much I had been struggling, and things had gotten especially tough with the bulimia since I moved to Austin in 2012. I finally broke down and admitted that things had gotten really bad and that I needed professional help outside of 12 step recovery. This was so hard for me. I was in total denial about both the bulimia and the depression. I kept trying to work my 12 step prgrams “harder”. And I kept getting worse. So yes, I am outing myself right now: I am in treatment for both an eating disorder and major depressive disorder and I am getting the help I need. If this blog post can help anyone out there to seek help, I figure it is worth it.

I am also outing myself again: I am still vegan. Veganism is not a part of my eating disorder. I am not longing for animal products and forcing myself to not eat them. I am not secretly bingeing on animal products and then purging (my dietitian asked me about that point blank the other day). During one of my first meetings with my therapist, she expressed her concern about my veganism. I explained to her that I do not feel my eating disorder and veganism are at all connected.  Veganism is not a way to restrict or control my food. Veganism is about living in a way that reduces harm to animals and people. She listened to me and then asked me something that I think I will never forget: What about harm to you? That stopped me dead in my tracks. And I suddenly had an image of geese being forcibly fattened for fois gras. I am basically stuffing myself forcibly and then forcing myself to purge. How is bulimia consistent with my ahimsa, my living without harm? It’s not. This was both a horrible and an awesome moment for me, because that was the moment where I realized that I really do not want to do this to myself anymore. I felt simultaneous hope and despair—hope that I can get better, and despair about letting go of the eating disorder that has been with me since I was a teenager. I have no idea what recovery looks like. I didn’t know what being sober would look like when I stopped drinking, either. I had to take it on faith from my sponsor and other sober people that I could get and stay sober and that I would have a much better life. And what that life would look like would remain a mystery for awhile. I think my life without Cruella (that’s what I call my eating disorder these days) is a very mysterious proposition, but I just keep telling myself it’s going to be OK.

 

 

 

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Off With Their Heads! Heavy Metta Link Round Up

8 Aug

Today I noticed on my wordpress blog stats analyzer thingie that apparently if you search for “yoga made me skinny”, my blog pops up. Not sure how I feel about that! I do not practice yoga to “get skinny”. I practice yoga as part of my spiritual, emotional and physical recovery from alcohol, drugs and a raging eating disorder.

Do I think that every single person who is overweight or morbidly obese has an eating disorder? No, just like I don’t think every single underweight person is anorexic. I don’t think that every person who “wants to get skinny” has an eating disorder, either. The difference, for me, was that I had an insane mental compulsion to binge eat and then “compensate”/punish myself through compulsive exercise, starvation, diuretics, laxatives, diet pills and sometimes even vomiting. It went way beyond “watching what you eat” or “trying to lose weight” into being The Mayor of Crazy Town. At some point, I crossed the line and things just got ugly. It resulted in surgery and me being in a wheelchair for six months because I pushed myself to such an extreme with my binging and compulsive exercising. It resulted in me being pre-diabetic, exhausted, injured, severely asthmatic and suicidal. I began having liver problems and PCOS/hormonal problems and existed in a general state of incredible unhealthiness. I also have a sneaking suspicion that my years of abusing diet pills that contained ephedra could have possibly contributed to the thyroid condition that I now have.

No yoga = no prana. No sanity. No serenity. I need a spiritual connection today or I cannot live a sane and serene life. Yoga gives me that. Yoga keeps me honest. I cannot engage in my compulsive exercise behavior within the scope of my Ashtanga practice. My body can only do what I can do at that particular moment, and pushing will result in injury pretty quickly. The bandhas, drishti and breath keep me spiritually connected as well.

I have been avoiding the news lately because it makes me feel like a crazy person. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s some special sound bite on The War On Obesity with headless pictures of fat folk. Trust me, I have fought my own War On My Obesity and I was a casualty. Waging war is a losing battle. Ironically, I wrote this before I found the Christina Sell video that I linked to above. If you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor and get them.

The yoga world doesn’t exactly embrace plus sized brothers and sisters, either. “Core Strengthening Yoga”? I know what your shorthand means! And vegans? Fuggadabbout it! If you are a “fat vegan”, let the shame and blame begin. And often if you are overweight even by a little bit, no one thinks that you have an “eating disorder”. They feel free to say the most triggering and fucked up comments imaginable that quite frequently send me into a total tailspin. I have to guard my recovery and sobriety very carefully. I spend a lot of time on my yoga mat and a lot of time meditating. I go to 12 step meetings, surround myself with positive and loving people and read lots of spiritually uplifting books.

Yoga is so much more than a workout or a weight loss strategy.

Here’s some links that got me thinking recently:

Fat “papping”—how do they get those annoying Headless photos of us fat people anyway??

http://www.obesitytimebomb.blogspot.ca/2012/07/i-got-fat-papped-for-daily-mail.html

“Assana” my fat ass! Who makes a line of yoga pants called “Assana” and then sizes them only in SMALL and MEDIUM? Seriously? I call shenanigans! Things like this really grind my gears, thus proving I need to avoid most media lately.

http://assanas.com/firefly-yoga-pants/24-firefly-boot-cut-pants.html

Natala Constantine is one of my vegan heroines; this is another post from her. She now is an Engine 2 team member.  A post on being vegan, still being 100 pounds overweight and how she feels about that. As to whether you agree with the dietary suggestions part, take it with a grain of salt:

http://engine2diet.com/the-daily-beet/should-you-feel-bad-for-being-overweight-plus-12-tips-for-losing-weight/

Laura Dunn on what happens when yoga becomes 100% practice and 0% theory. It’s a fine line between “healthy” and “restricting”:

http://lauradunnyoga.com/2012/04/22/yoga-and-body-image/

Plus Sized Yoga: Heavy Musings, and a Middle Finger to Spanx

7 Jun

Dear Tender Readers: Um, *lots* of cursing is about to happen.

You know what comes up if you google “Plus Sized Yoga”? Either ads for clothes or people bashing the idea of there even being such a thing as “Plus Sized Yoga”. People be hatin’ on Plus Sized Yoga.  Like, what will the fat lazy people come up with next? Now they need their own yoga classes? So they can all be fat and lazy together and then go eat Cheetos after class? As a Plus Sized yoga chick  and someone in recovery from an eating disorder (actually, I am a size 14–which makes me too fat for the skinny people and too skinny for the fat people HAHAHA as usual, joke’s on me!), I know there is a need for Plus Sized yoga everything. You need to know how to do adjustments, you need clothes that fit, you need an understanding teacher, you need props, you need to be able to RELATE.  You need dialogue.

And I discovered via the miracle of Google search that people actually search for “Do Fat Vegans Exist?”. Why yes, they do, you ass clown. Oh wait, my SKINNY Italian Greyhound is actually typing this post. No wait, he’s sleeping and being lazy as usual and maintaining his size 0 figure.

I am realizing lately that the ongoing Putting The Ahimsa Oxygen Mask On Myself First Before Trying To Save Any Other Passengers Project is becoming more and more critical. As I continue with my healthy behaviors (eating plants, eating when I am hungry, not abusing food or myself, daily Ashtanga asana practice, walking, prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, etc.), things progress at their own very slow and organic pace. I am moving toward a body size that is healthy for me and is, in all likelihood, definitely not a size 0. Or even 8. Hell, I’m not even sure if it’s a 12. My old eating disorder voices like to crop up and tell me I am disgusting and lazy and blah blah BLAH, I should be in the gym, I need to not eat carbs, I should be fasting, I need EPHEDRA. Stat.

Then there’s the other side of the coin—people looking at me funny and saying with this worried voice, “Boy, you sure have gotten skinny”. And it makes me feel guilty, like I should apologize for having lost 82 pounds!  No, I am not obese anymore, nor do I think FOR ME that being obese is healthy. Maybe for other people it is OK for their frame and particular body, but for me it was living hell because my body couldn’t take the constant abuse. My knees, back, hips and ankles were in pain 24-7, my arches were collapsing and I couldn’t breathe. Walking 3 city blocks in New York made me feel like the Little Mermaid walking on knives when she suddenly grew legs. I was constantly exhausted and I was fucking miserable. My every waking thought centered around bingeing or purging, and I was full of shame and I was totally batshit crazy.

I still have back fat, dude. I am still overweight for my height, even if I am no longer technically morbidly obese. I don’t ever want to go back to being morbidly obese or even garden-variety obese, but I don’t want to Spanx myself into submission, either. I got more rolls than a Cuban bakery. And what is up with fucking Spanx anyway? Oh you naughty, naughty fat girl—you need a Spanxing! Let’s beat that fat into submission! It’s some sort of perverse clothing BDSM. Fuck that shit. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination and it’s OK. Being healthy, accepting myself on a day-to-day basis and making peace with the skin I’m in is a top priority for me more than ever. When I am in downward dog and I look down and see my stomach and thighs in their yoga pants, I really see them today. I am no longer hiding from myself in baggy clothes. I don’t turn away my gaze. Drishti has a whole different meaning when you are a plus sized yogi. My gaze guides my practice of acceptance.

Here’s a round-up of some posts about yoga, body image, plus-sized yoga, veganism and eating disorders that I found to be intriguing and juicy. Some I agree with, some I don’t. It’s all about dialogue:

Danielle Olson on wanting to be a skinny Yoga teacher and the danger of the Beauty Myth within Yoga:

http://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/im-no-skinny-minnie-yoga-teacher-but-oh-how-i-want-to-be/

Amber at Body Positive Yoga on why she quit dieting:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/why-i-quit-dieting/

One more from Amber on modifications for Sun Salutations for plus sized bodies:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/sun-salutation-modifications-for-plus-size-bodies/

Kasey, also a blogger for This Dish Is Veg (and a Floridian, represent!) on fat vegans and the shitty new shaming PCRM ads:

http://veggiemightee.blogspot.com/2012/03/fat-vegans-why-we-matter.html

Model Carre Otis on yoga, healing and body image:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4064/Q-A-with-Carr-Otis-On-Body-Image-Healing-Yoga-Meditation-Orgasms.html

Natala Constantine, Engine 2 Team Member and Inspirational Bad Ass, on being a still-fat vegan after losing 200 pounds:

http://veganhope.com/2010/01/11/yes-im-a-fat-vegan/

Joshilyn Jackson: My Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow–An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City:

http://www.joshilynjackson.com/ftk/?p=1675

Becky Shiles of Open Book Blog on being told You’re Too Fat For Yoga:

http://beckyshiles.blogspot.com/2007/07/too-fat-for-yoga.html

You’re never “too old” for an eating disorder–yoga helps a 70-year-old woman to recover from bulimia:

http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/health-4-you/2011/apr/28/yoga-helps-heal-70-year-old-womans-bulimia-ar-202998/

Ooops I Did It Again: My Top 10 Plant-Based Mistakes

2 May

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice”.–Albert Einstein

I have a lot of friends right now who are struggling with plant-based eating and trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle. Sisters and brothers, I feel your pain! I f’d up so many times on this path that I can’t even keep track any more. Do not give up on yourself! The rewards are worth all of the struggle. If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a far more struggle-free path for me. So here’s the top 10 mistakes I made along the way. I started this journey in 1994 and was not successfully vegan until 2010. If I can do it, anyone can.

1. Diet Mentality

Plant-based, healthy eating is not a diet. Veganism is a compassionate lifestyle, not a diet, and it extends to all areas of my life. When I start restricting my food and getting all crazy, the next thing I know I am skipping down the primrose path to hell, AKA the binge/starve and binge/purge cycle. I take the “Skinny” right out of “Skinny Bitch” really quick—go straight to Bitch, do not get out of jail free, do not collect $200. I need to eat well-balanced, adequate meals at reasonable intervals or I start making bad choices and I end up hurting myself. Just as I have compassion for the suffering of animals, I need to have compassion for myself. Dieting is not compassionate, period (no matter what the “Skinny Bitch” acolytes tell you).

2. Not Planning/Not Cooking For Myself

If I expect healthy vegan food to fall out of the sky and into my mouth, I am going to be sorely disappointed and I’m probably going to screw up. I go grocery shopping, I carry snacks in case of emergencies, and I plan my meals. ‘Nuff said. Get a cookbook, get in the kitchen and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I use the Happy Herbivore, the Forks Over Knives companion book and of course Engine 2 and they are all lifesavers.

3. Not Asking For Help/No Support System

It takes a vegan village to keep my ass out of trouble. I got myself a vegan mentor, I surround myself with positive, vegan buddies and I go to a 12 step support group for people with food issues. Invaluable.

4. Trying To Negotiate With Binge/Trigger Foods

This might not apply to you, but it certainly applies to me. Unfortunately, it applies to many foods that are 100% vegan. I find refined sugars, fried food/anything excessively greasy, crunchy shit in a bag and any kind of dairy product to be totally way too exciting for me to handle.  I asked for help *see #3) and picked up a whole bunch of tools for my food addiction toolbox. I think sometimes people dramatically underestimate the addictive power of certain foods.  I’ve got to quote the lovely Victoria Moran here: “If there was a stalker set on harming you, you’d notify the police and do everything in your power to protect yourself. Understand that any food you haven’t been able to eat reasonably since you cut teeth is as threatening to you as that stalker. The safest path to tread with a binge food is one that leads away from it. In other words, don’t eat it–not because I said so, but because you’d rather not socialize with a dietary hit man.”

5. Listening To Haters/Not Trusting My Intuition

I had to experiment a lot on this path to figure out which foods made me feel good and which foods made me feel like crap. Everyone’s got an opinion. I thank them for sharing, smile, and ignore whatever commentary is coming my way about protein, plants feeling pain, man being designed to eat meat, God giving us dominion over animals, don’t you want just one doughnut you’ve been so good, milking cows doesn’t hurt them, my actions being meaningless because animals are going to be killed anyway, blah blah blah. People have their own paths to walk, and I am not out to convert anyone nor do I need to justify the way I eat or live today.

6. Perfectionism

I had to realize that I am human, and mistakes are going to happen. I prefer to look at them as “experiments”…sometimes experiments go awry, but I always learn something along the way. Sometimes, especially at restaurants, I’ve accidentally eaten food that had animal products, added oil or sugar. Despite my every effort to make sure my meal did not include these things, I found out later that they did and it’s OK and usually I stay away from that place or food in the future. It’s not about my personal purity; it’s about trying to cause the least harm to animals, other people and myself.

7. Making Things Way Too Complicated/Getting Fixated On Unimportant Details

I need to eat my veggies, do my yoga, meditate, take an occasional B12 and my Vitamin D, take my medications as prescribed and move around as much as I can. Everything else is a bonus. Trying to do complicated, extreme eating plans, calculating every calorie and micronutrient I eat, crazy workouts or other excessively complicated nitpicky crap is unnecessary and just makes my head spin.

8. Eating Things I Hate Because They Are “Healthy”

Life is too short to eat ugly food and it is too short to eat food that tastes like gritty hippie crap that someone cooked in a can over a bonfire at Burning Man. I have options. This is not the 90’s, people.

9. Trying To Transition Too Fast

I could not go from Sonic jalapeno poppers, frozen yogurt, cheetos, Frappucinos, veggie burgers, fries, frozen vegetarian pizzas and the occasional salad to kale/millet/aduki beans/gomasio/sauerkraut. That approach did  NOT work for me. I needed to wean myself onto some comfortable vegan alternatives, like Amy’s vegan pizzas, Tings, soy lattes, baked fries made at home, and So Delicious agave-sweetned coconut ice cream. I started adding more and more veggies to every meal and eating fresh fruit for dessert. Then eventually I weaned myself off of the vegan “methadone” and started experimenting with beans, whole grains and lots of new greens. Most of my meals now are whole foods based and very simple, but I couldn’t do that when I first started; my taste buds had to adjust. There’s a reason it’s called transitioning into a vegan diet, not leaping or lurching.

10. Unreasonable Expectations

I thought that eating mostly vegan would fix everything for me. And by “Everything”, I meant my obesity, all of my other health problems and my problems with food. And then when I lost a total of eight pounds in the first year, was still asthmatic and still had PCOS, I was pissed!  Where was my miracle cure, dammit? My energy levels were still sucky, I was still fat and I just didn’t feel right. First of all, I had to go all the way and really eat vegan and stop screwing around with dairy even just a “little”. Second of all, I had to do a whole bunch of other things (see 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9) before I started to see improvements. This did not happen overnight, and it takes as much time as it needs to. I can’t rush my body, but I can do everything within my power to help myself. Finally, I had to realize that just eating vegan for me is not enough, especially with weight loss. I had to really learn what “healthy” meant for me and do it! Healthy means balanced meals, lots of vegetables and not much crappy junk food, period.  I also had to stand up for myself with my doctor and demand answers for certain health problems and not just blame them on being vegan (or not vegan enough). I take my medications and do everything within my power to contribute to my overall healthiness. I do not fight myself. And it works—as long as I stay out of my own way!

Wiggle Your Big Toe

22 Apr

A lot of times, I feel exactly like Uma Thurman in the “Wiggle Your Big Toe” scene in Kill Bill. Sometimes when I am practicing, I am mentally telling my right leg to move forward into a lunge and it just…sits there. Stuck. Gristly. Stubborn. There are so many areas of my body that are a big mystery to me, and my entire right leg is the biggest mystery of all. I like that in Ashtanga, there is a system and it takes as much time as it takes for my body to open—no hurry, no judgement. Just acceptance of this is where I am today in practice, on the mat, breathing and listening to Slayer. Here we are!

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decode my right side. Sometimes I think if my right side could just get unstuck, I would have some kind of massive spiritual liberation experience. All the secrets to my past are locked in that leg, that hip, even my big toe…which is now turning in on itself and becoming more and more painful. The idea of having to have more surgery makes me want to freak out and smash things, especially surgery on my feet.

I worked with a personal trainer who was also an IFBB professional figure competitor and bodybuilder back in 2009. I was really stuck in the binge/exercise purge cycle, and the problems with my right side always flare up more when I train really hard. She told me that I either want to be healthy and fit or I don’t, and all of the spiritual hemming and hawing and hiding out in my 12 step programs were not going to fix the problem. She was like a ripped, beautiful female Yoda: there is no try, there is only do. I could not handle this mindset at the time, and the training was brutal. She suggested I read Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, which is NOT what I was expecting her to tell me! Louise Hay’s theory about problems with the right side?

Right Side of Body: Giving out, letting go, masculine energy, men, the father.

Hmmm…

I am used to calling my right side “my bad side”.  I’ve also spent time working with an excellent Thai Yoga Massage Therapist here in Las Vegas, which was very helpful. She suggested that my right side is not my bad side at all. I was like, “Say What???”. Surely you jest.  I was so used to blaming all of my physical, postural problems on that side—it is the root of all evil! Jaime said that maybe my left side was weak and the right side has been picking up the slack all of the years. She said that both sides needed to be worked on, worked through and integrated. Demonizing my right side might just make it even more stuck. She suggested breathing into that side and sending it mental messages of love and acceptance.

Recovering from an eating disorder and going through the process of becoming a healthy body weight without resorting to my old tricks of self-abuse/dieting is strange and new. My weight loss is very, very slow right now. I lost a pound last month during the Ashtanga Experiment. Part of me was not happy with this progress, and part of me knows that I need to get acclimated to the size I am now before dropping more weight. I’m still not used to being 78 pounds lighter, never mind the next 50 pounds. I’m also getting used to a daily yoga practice and figuring out how my whole life and schedule works with that as a focal point. I want to squeeze in other physical activity aside from yoga, and it is not happening right now. Having a hard time with timing my meals, meetings, service, family stuff. There’s not enough room, unless I want to start not eating dinner or not sleeping!

Sending mental messages of love and acceptance to myself all day long is definitely a huge part of the process. Declaring war on my body and war on my remaining extra pounds does nothing for me at this point. The diet mentality for me is like a feudal lord trying to squeeze the last bit of tribute from his vassals, and the vassals have nothing left to give. They are in revolt and about to storm the castle.

A last thought about my right side from Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart of a Buddha: “When we abandon our body for our fear-driven stories about pain, we trap the pain in our body.”

 

The Ashtanga Experiment, Week 4

21 Apr

 

 

I can’t believe I made it a full four weeks of almost daily Ashtanga asana and meditation practice without imploding or something. Considering how much fear I used to have about Ashtanga, I am amazed at how kind of into the practice I actually got. Is it difficult? Yes. Do I have moments where I am thinking, “What the fuck am I doing on this yoga mat right now?”? Oh hell yes. I also spend quite a lot of time laughing, either at my playlists or at how godawfully inflexible I am. Most days, I am pretty eager to get home from work and lock myself in the Slayer Shala and get my yoga on. I actually bought myself proper yoga clothing, which is a miracle of miracles. For years, I was so screwed up about my body image and so engulfed in my eating disorder that I would not wear any form-fitting clothing, ever. It didn’t matter if no one was going to see it but me, it was not happening. I finally got sick of getting tangled up in my pajamas and in struggling with track pants that fit me 75 pounds ago and now look like a clown suit. If I am going to dedicate 5-6 days a week to practice, then I need to have clothes that are functional. I’m not saying I went all Lululemon and shit, but I did hit Old Navy and actually invest in the right size active wear. It still kind of freaks me out, but it definitely makes practice way easier.

I now do not have to go to me knees during any of the plank portions of the sun salutations, and I need to take fewer (ahem) extra breaths. I added some new asanas, and I am now doing up through the dreaded Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, which was my nemesis in Bikram and is still my nemesis. Sorry, I mean, I am making friends with this asana (yeah, right).

My body is still going through a phase of total rejection at the gym. The last time I went to lift weights, my right side seized up again. I was really annoyed and agitated about this. I was talking to a friend who is a yoga teacher and ashtangi, and I started almost sobbing hysterically when I told her that I think I have to give up lifting weights. I am terrified to do this! I’ve been lifting since 1998 and it is something that I truly love. Unfortunately, I think it is truly fucking me up right now and I don’t know how many more clear signals I need before I stop. Not lifting this week as an experiment (me and my experiments).

Things are certainly easier now than they were four weeks ago. I am going to keep going. If a 42 year old who needs to lose 50 more pounds can do this, then Pattabhi Jois was right—anyone can do this practice.

 

 

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