Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 25 August 2014

Our lives will never be the same

"Our lives will never be the same again," I told the Boatman the other day on our way home from a summer barbecue.

Now it is two weeks later and I haven't concluded this part of our lives with an eloquent blogpost.

Oh well. The big news is I finished my job at the Montessori school. Today I'm flying into Montreal so that I can go to Vipassana in Montebello. That means ten days meditating 10-11 hours per day. No whining. No talking. And no yoga  practice either.
Right around now is my seven-year traditional Mysore style Ashtanga anniversary. Seven years ago, probably to the day, I wandered into Mark Darby's mysore class at Sattva Yoga shala. I sort of knew what the primary series was and sometimes I sort of did it. But probably I looked like I didn't really know what I was doing. I remember Darby walking by me in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana as I trying to float my right leg in the air and balance on my right. He tried to show me how to push forward with the mound of my right big toe and make the whole thing more efficient. Despite his excellent guidance, my foot remained just four and a half inches off the ground and both legs shook as I sweated profusely. 

"Well," said Darby. "You're definitely working hard."
For the next seven years, working hard would pretty accurately describe my practice. Now, apparently all the cells in my body have replaced themselves. Mostly the photocopying process was quite an improvement. In other cases, well, hard to say.

But truly, I am happy that all of it happened.

Now I get to take a step back and wait for things to unfold.
It is my third time being signed up for Vipassana.

It's also my third time being signed up to practice Ashtanga in Mysore, India. That's the other part of the news. After visiting my family in Ontario post-Vipassana, I'll be flying to Bangalore from Ottawa and staying in Mysore until December 21. The Boatman is coming to see me off and then I won't see him until I meet him at the Boatman's Family Christmas in London, England.

So yah, world tour for the Exuberant Bodhisattva.

It has been a long time coming. Despite a few anxious frenzies, I have been rather surprised at my relative serenity throughout the preparations. That said, on Saturday, I did get a big overwhelmed about the magnitude of it all. This is me overwhelmed and houla hooping:

Grumpy and hoola hooping

The Boatman said that I made an adequate recovery. Now I am only crying a reasonable amount. We are about to leave for the airport in 15 minutes.
Michael Stone says that after you meditate you begin to look more like yourself. You become more beautiful. At home, after meditate, I always ask the Boatman, "Do I look more beautiful now?"

He always says yes.
I thought it would be fun to take a before and after Vipassana shot to see if I look more beautiful when I'm done.

We'll see what I look like after!

Thanks to everyone who has been part of my life, especially the Boatman, my family, the Boatman's family, friends, the down-and-out-club, yoga teachers, anyone I've practiced with, the folks at the Montessori School and L'Arche, and there are too many to name.

How lucky am I to have such a long list.
With deep love, Erica.

The End.

Hello from 2016: I guess I never took an official after shot, but there is lots where that came from.
Spoiler Alert: Life was never the same!

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt

The Vipassana Diaries: Bus
The Vipassana Diaries: Day Zero
The Vipassana Diaries: Food Belly
Vipassana Diaries/Ashtanga Memoirs: You Cling To Things Until They Die (Ham Wraps, S.I. Joints Etc.)

Why I Like to Pee Outside

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Move Your DNA, by Katy Bowman

I will remain forever grateful to Halifax’s belly dance star Laura Selenzi. Knowing how obsessed I was with my own and everyone else’s pelvis, one day Laura said to me, “You know, I think you’d really like Katy Bowman.”

The Dazzling Laura Selenzi
Check out Serpentine Studios for Laura's belly dancing classes in Halifax

So I rushed over to her blog, (now !) where I found all sorts of ramblings and the pelvis and the pelvic floor, as well as any other musculoskeletal issue you can think of. One of her posts is even called “Ramblingsfrom my pelvic floor.” You should read it. You learn how to make pelvises and penises plural. In more than one way.

Three years later, I continue to follow Katy’s work religiously.  What a delight it was to learn that she would be coming to Halifax to launch her new and highly exciting book, “Move Your DNA.”  Obviously, I attended. For those of you who have never met Katy Bowman, she glows and radiates. She looks like all the cells in her body are delighted.

Katy considers “Move Your DNA” to be her life’s work. You can usually tell when people are in the midst of their life’s work. Their cells radiate.

Katy radiating with a pelvis
(Photo Found Here)

Pretty much, the thesis of Katy’s book is that human bodies in the modern world have adapted to a life in captivity. Our cages are the modern conveniences of life-chairs, beds, cars, couches, houses, elevators, refrigerators, strollers, shopping carts and various electronic devices that outsource any physical activity you can think of. All the cells in our bodies have morphed to accommodate the movement that these modern conveniences demand of us. This means that our bodies are only equipped to do hardly any movement at all. This isn’t about simply preventing obesity. Our chronic “movement drought,” as Katy calls it, affects every cell in our body, leading to everything from cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, deteriorating joints, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. And you can’t just fix the biological repercussions of our life in captivity by going to the gym for forty-five minutes three to four times a week. (And maybe not even by doing yoga neurotically every morning at 5 a.m.)

So what can we do?
At the talk on Thursday, Katy generously gave us a few tips on how to get started.  

Step One: Most of the shoes of the world mess up your feet and your feet are really important.
From stilettos to sneakers, any kind of high heel distorts the angle at which your whole body touches the ground. This results in inappropriate loading that can damage every joint from the ground up. Shoes with stiff soles prevent your feet from accessing their full range of motion. And the only way to move forward with flip flops is to grip and scrunch up your toes which is not very healthy. Ideally, you should be able to spread your toes like a cave man, with and without your shoes on.  Katy devotes a whole section of “Move Your DNA” to her essential foot wisdom. Practice her strengthening and mobility exercises and you too will get your very own troll toes. If you want to go even deeper, I recommend reading Katy’s other big hit, “Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief.”  (Now available in a new revised, gender-neutral version: Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief !) I devoured this book in one evening and got hooked on the exercises right away.

Step Two: Try not to sit on chairs and furniture that call out to you and say, “Hey, sit on me and don’t do anything.”
I work at a Montessori school and the children I work with are mostly terrible at sitting on chairs. They wriggle around from one butt cheek to another, or they rock the chair back and forth, or they try to stand up. Getting kids to sit in chairs is a terrifying battle.  At least once a week, I like to rant about how sitting in chairs tightens the groins, weakens the lower back and puts children on an early path towards cardiovascular disease, pelvic floor problems, osteoporosis and very sore joints.

There are minimal health benefits to sitting in a chair, and yet, as Katy describes the typical childhood in her book,  
“After a couple of years, sitting still in your chair would be your most-practiced skill, trumping time spent reading, writing, playing games, and physical education in school. Like a ninja of sitting, you practiced sitting still in a chair more than any other activity, with hours and hours in training, with no other learned activity even coming close in time spent practicing.”

-Katy Bowman in "Move Your DNA"
It’s time to start practicing new positions. In her work, Katy cites physical anthropology professor Gordon W. Hewes study, World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits. Hewes examined 100 different resting postures from all around the world.  As fate would have it, almost none of these positions involve chairs.

Alternatives to sitting in a chair. From Hewes "World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits"
Notice how nobody's at a standing desk. (Here is what Katy says about that...)

Katy suggests exposing children to this poster to give them different ideas on how they can be still and focus. Perhaps having twenty kids sit at tables to eat lunch once a day isn’t the end of the world, but Katy encourages teachers and caregivers to be creative and “think beyond the chair.” The day after Katy’s talk, it was my co-worker who had the brilliant idea of helping the kids build a fort in the gym on a day full of thunderstorms. Giggling uncontrollably, all the kids crawled in and we passed them their watermelon and crackers, which they ate on the floor. I thought this was a happy ending.

Step Three: Spend more time outside
Katy says that our relationship to nature is essential. The broad spectrum of movement required to keep your body healthy spreads far beyond running on a treadmill for an hour in an air conditioned room. Goosebumps count as movements. Sweating counts. So does your skin’s response to the wind blowing your arm hair. Easy. Inside, your life can easily regress to staring at different sizes of glaring rectangles all day. But outside, you can look at the clouds, the chipmunks and the funny looking Nordic Pole Walking People. Your eyes have muscles too. For many people, these muscles are always scrunched into one position. Go outside and un-scrunch them.

Step Four: Walk more often.
Walking is great because it uses a vast majority of the muscles in your body. The best would be to walk outside. Then you can get your goosebumps and people watching in. Most of us have adapted to walking on flat, hard surfaces. Try to gradually vary your walking surfaces so that your cells can expand their range of motion.  And pay close attention to your footwear choices.

So here are some simple ways you can start to mobilize and transform the trillions of cells inside of you. As Katy says in her introduction, "this is a serious call to movement - serious, but not unpleasant."  She goes on to say that thousands of her readers and students "have found the physical, psychological, and emotional shift that comes with this material to be profound and delightful..." "Move Your DNA" isn't about frantically avoiding illness with a neurotic checklist, but rather looking for healing opportunities within your daily life. And the range of healing opportunities is huge. You don't have to throw out all your furniture and build monkey bars in your living room to experience noticeable benefits.  Although some people say that's kind of a fun time...
The End.

Thank you Katy, Penelope Jackson (Katy's excellent editor) and  Nurtured Products for Parenting for the extra fun evening. And to Laura Selenzi for her transformative recommendation.

Irresistible Photo Op:

I have some serious knee flexion in this photo. Well, my DNA makes longer shapes than Katy's does. Also, I am much more delighted than I look.
Follow Katy on Twitter: @NutritiousMvmnt

Katy's New Website:

A couple of Katy's books:
(She has written a whole bunch!)

Move Your DNA 
Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief
Whole Body Barefoot

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt

The Potty Party
Three Things to Make the World a Better Place
Business Ideas. On a Tuesday. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


In grade one, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Vanden Bosch. Every morning there was a special helper of the day that Mrs. Vanden Bosch drew from an envelope of cards with our names on them. The special helper of the day got to tell everyone about the weather and what day it was. Then the special helper picked out a question from another pack of cards that Mrs. Vanden Bosch kept in her desk. The cards had thought-provoking questions like “what is a private part?” and “what should you do if a stranger offers you candy?” I remember Mrs. Vanden Bosch holding out her arm. Her triceps sagged a little. “An arm,” she said. “Is not a private part.”

One day the question was, “Who is the most important person in the world.”

“My mom,” one little boy said.

“Jesus,” said my friend Ellen.

“You,” someone said to Mrs. Vanden Bosch. Maybe it was me. I was a nauseating teacher’s pet.

“No,” Mrs. Vanden Bosch said. “For Ellen, the most important person in the world is Ellen. For Cody it’s Cody. For Erica, it’s Erica.”

Now we were five or six years old, and suddenly we had become the most important people in the world.
Once I learned to write, I filled journal after journal with sappy suck-up letters to Mrs. Vanden Bosch. She wrote back saying how wonderful and special I was. So special that I got to go enrichment classes with a fellow social outcast. There we made picture books of stories that had already been written.  My drawings were awkward and one-dimensional, drawn in pencil and coloured in with pencil crayons.  They didn’t look that gifted. The first picture book I made was called, Mama, do you love me?  In the book with words, the mama would answer yes, and she’d describe how much she loved her daughter and it was something impossible.  The other picture book I made was Rumplestiltskin, about the miller’s daughter who was going to be allowed to be the queen if she turned a room of straw into spools of gold.  And the miller’s daughter wanted to be queen but she didn’t know how to turn the straw into gold.  Everyone thought she could but she couldn’t.

The miller’s daughter who wanted to be queen cried and cried in the room full of staw.   A little man came into the room and spun the gold.  There were three nights when the miller’s daughter had to spin straw into gold.  Each night there was more and more straw and the miller’s daughter cried harder and harder. 

The Miller's Daughter is sad.
I liked the story Rumplestiltskin because whenever the miller’s daughter cried she got wonderful things even though someone else did all the hard work for her.

In grade one I cried on Remembrance Day because we were cutting the green leaves out of construction paper and I didn’t understand what the shape was supposed to be. I was supposed to be this wonderful special enriched kid and I couldn’t even make a shitty looking leaf out of green construction paper. 

All the books I’ve ever read, it bores me to think of reading them again.  Except for Rumplestiltskin.  I want to read that story again.

Maybe you haven’t heard the story for a long time and you can’t remember what happened and you would like to hear it again too.

Well, as it turns out, everything was the Miller’s fault.  He told the King that his daughter could spin straw into gold.  And Rumplestiltskin didn’t do it all for free. First the Miller’s daughter gave him her necklace, and then her ring.  The third time she had nothing to give.  Just like the Little Drummer Boy had nothing to give to Baby Jesus. The Miller’s Daughter, the Little Drummer Boy, they were both empty-handed.  Rumplestiltskin said he would still spin the straw, as long as she promised him her first-born child.  A prince made by the miller’s daughter and the king.  She said yes because she had no other options.  She didn’t consider taking off her clothes and fucking the little man.  Miller’s Daughters don’t think of that.  And maybe the little man wouldn’t have liked that anyways.  Or maybe that's what he wanted all along. All that time, the Miller’s daughter didn’t know Rumplestiltskin’s name.  She just called him the little man.  When he left her with the spools of gold, she forgot about him and married the king and got rich and fucked the king until one day she made a baby.  Promptly the little man arrived and tried to claim the child.  The Queen said no.   First she laughed, then she cried, then the little man said that the only way he would let her break her promise is if she figured out his name.  She had three days.  Once again the Queen/miller’s daughter didn’t do her work for herself.  She outsourced, sending out messengers in the kingdom who tried to find all the names in the world.  None of the names were the little man’s name.  Then on the last night, a messenger saw a strange small man dancing around a fire. He just happened to be singing this song:

"Today I bake, tomorrow I brew, then the Queen's child I shall stew. For nobody knows my little game for Rumplestiltskin is my name!” Easy.  The messenger told the Queen and the next day the Queen told the little man his name. He got so mad that he broke the earth with his food and then he hurt his knee and then he snapped in two.   Perhaps he was annoyed that the Queen never fulfilled any of her responsibilities by herself and still she got the gold and the kingdom and the child.  But I guess it was all her father the miller’s fault so maybe that excuses her.  I wonder if the king ever found out that she was never able to turn straw into gold and if he did, I wonder if he cares. 

The End.

The Boatman has never drawn Rumplestiltskin before, but he has drawn this little man:

"Little People Living in Your Platform Shoes"
by The Boatman


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Selfies on Happy Stairs

At the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, the Happy Stairs are where people sit and consume their strawberries or burritos or breakfast pizzas and bask in their own and everyone else's Happy Market Delight. Today there were fiddle and bass players who entertained the Happy Stairs People in our consumption.  Children bopped around to the music and everyone sighed and marvelled at how adorable they were. We even got a surprise man in plaid pants who indulged us in an impromptu tap dancing performance. 

The Happy Stairs, at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market
The tap dancer in plaid shorts danced away before I could take another unskilled photograph

It is fun to look around and absorb the Magical Market Faces. I saw a man with bright blue eyes and a very Magical Market Face. I wanted to take a picture, but the Boatman said that I could hold him in my heart, instead of on my phone; in my emotional data, and not my cellular data. The Boatman was very proud of this clever line of his. He was also very happy with his sausage.

Boatman with Sausage

I judged the parents who imprisoned their large children in strollers, but I did not judge the Boatman for eating a sausage. For my Happy Stairs consumption, I ate some strawberries, an apple and an oversized espresso gluten-free cookie.

I can't remember when I started eating apple cores. So far I have not died of arsenic poisoning.
Now we are becoming like the despicable people on Facebook who are always posting themselves consuming or about to consume some immaculate and delicious food. How smug of us.
Our visits to the market always fill us with deep joy. To add to our joy, on our way out we ran into the marvellous musicians Rich & Kate. This lively duo combines clarinet, accordion, kazoo and vocals clarinet and accordion into a performance that is delightful for both ears and eyes. The Boatman met Rich & Kate at the White Rabbit Art Camp where he built things out of mud, made a bunch of drawings and also got an infection in his foot.
Here is the Boatman's Drawing of Rich & Kate:

More Boatman drawings of Rich &Kate on Tumblr at
Follow Rich & Kate on Facebook

We watched them with love in our hearts as the Boatman finished his cappucinno, the kind he always buys at the Steve-o-Reno's booth.
The Selfie Series may or may not be over.
To conclude this segment, here are the beautiful doughnuts that my friend Shayna posted on Facebook in response to the first narcissistic selfie post, in which the Boatman and I prepare to eat market brownies on a Sunday morning. Shayna travelled a long distance to obtain these doughnuts and once she brought them home, she took a bite out of each one to see which one she liked the best. Like the Boatman and I, Shayna is not planning a wedding and she has no babies.
The End. 
Shayna's doughnuts.
Much love and thanks to the market vendors and musicians, and to Shayna for buying the doughnuts.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvic floor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

Selfies with Brownies
Why I am like Jane Fonda