Making it in Digby

It’s been about a month since I’ve been home. How did that happen?!! I think the harder part to believe is that I’m still trying to recuperate from traveling. At least that’s the excuse I’m sticking to. It still saddens me inside not seeing Cecilley on a daily bases, and waking up in a different part of the world, but as they say home is where the heart is. Only time will tell how long mine will call Digby home, again.

Don’t get me wrong, not all is lost in Nova Scotia. After sleeping away the first week due to pure exhaustion and power outages – what a welcome home. “Jill a hurricane is coming!” my mother enthusiastically explains just days after my arrival.  And sure enough a hurricane hit. We as many Nova Scotians and New Burnswickers did lost power for almost a week. Let’s say serious action is taking place in the Balser household for future hurricane prevention.


The hurricane is coming!

As the world has heard and now seen, my father is a born again mountain man. And in so many ways I love it. I believe my mother does too seeing how we spent her 62nd birthday stocking the freezer with, yup you guessed it, chicken meat. The chickens, well… what’s left of them, run around the yard all day everyday. Mom loves them so much! I, however, enjoy the company of the chickens, but choose to eat all the things possible in the greenhouse. I really have nothing to complain about here other than not having a solid work and fitness routine.

The hardest part about being home, as it was on the road, is getting myself into a routine. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming home, but it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Work gives you structure to go by. Knowing when you cannot workout makes you accountable for the time you can. I’m just starting to figure it out for myself. Hopefully next month will be a lot easier.

Having Erin visit definitely helped. I hadn’t see Erin since the day I left Toronto all those months ago. You can tell from her Instagram photos how delightful Nova Scotia really is.  Knowing Erin’s marathon training is starting back up should be enough motivation to get myself back in the swing of things too. I also picked up Brendan Brazier’s second book Thrive Fitness as another source of encouragement – I want to re-marathon train Vega style! I’m convinced it worked last time. My time at the County Marathon gives me enough reason to believe so.

Right now it’s not about kicking myself for all the things I should be doing. Instead it’s focusing on all the great things that have happened so far (and the things to come!). Another important lesson I picked up while travelling.


Me and the chickens! Post  Mom's birthday.

Me and the chickens! This was before mother’s birthday.


So, the job! Yes, the job that brought me home in the first place. You must be wondering how that’s been going and what I’ve actually been up to. I’m working at the Fundy YMCA. It’s keeping me somewhat busy, but it is filling that need to be active just a bit. The facility blew me away when I first visited. Digby and Annapolis County need a place like this – a family friendly, health and wellness driven community, and a place to be active and feel good about doing so. We take it for granted in Toronto having classes and studios at our disposal. But here in rural Nova Scotia it doesn’t exist. If I want to practice yoga I have to do it on my own or take class I’m not teaching. This has been a hard adjustment for me. Self discipline is a must here and something I’ve been lacking in more ways than one. Oh goodness, all the baked goods and homemade bread in this house is not good. If my goal is to run a fast marathon I don’t think it’s possible living at home.


July teaching calendar

My teaching schedule at the Y!


Being home has a lot of positives. It’s good for hanging out with the parents, reconnecting with old friends, family and the local folks – although Erin, Anne and my legacy as the Balser Girls is not working in my favour. Everyone here thinks I am Anne, fair enough given Anne is a national champion and the best golfer of the three of us. It’s clear now I’ve made a lasting impression. The pains of being the middle child, they’re haunting me all over again! Thankfully this weekend my cousin got married (congratulations, Glenn!) at least my family still knows who I am.

Distance Learning Project #6: Sangha Support

Balance In Bali yoga retreaters!

Balance In Bali yoga retreaters (I have to thank Mandy again for the picture)!

For those wondering ”what on earth is a sangha?” and how do you support such a thing, remember back during my two attempts at Living My Moksha, or as it’s now called, Grow Your Yoga, sangha means community. The network of supporters around you, the groups you associate with, or better yet forcefully submersed yourself into and wouldn’t go away… Whatever the case maybe (or how you came to be apart of your network of people) in someway, shape, or form you yourself give back to these groups. As a member of a club or society or gang, you’re a piece of that puzzle.

Communities can fulfill us, empower us, give us peace (and sometimes stress us the hell out), but, for the most part, they keep us busy and happy. Supporting our sangha(s) in return seems only fair. This summer I had many sanghas I was apart of. I know what you’re thinking the summer and all the things that happened, including the running and the marathon, are all this girl ever talks about! And yes, I completely agree. But you know what they say, write to what you know. Apparently yoga, running, and work are the only things I know. That really isn’t all that surprising.

When it came time to figure out what I was going to do for this project, it really got me thinking. With all that happened I still had a pretty grand summer. I was pretty happy and I had amazing people all around me, my friends, my sisters, mentors, people I genuinely loved – so why wasn’t I fixated on the good stuff? I was living and breathing, biking everywhere I wanted to go, I provided myself with all that I needed to survive, such as good food and good company. It took me all this time to realize – that and leaving home and all these people behind – how lucky I was. It seems so silly now the way I acted. If only in the moments when we’re experiencing true happiness could we just appreciate it and not think of anything else. Because that would be too easy.

Thinking about my sanghas made me realize sometimes life is hard. And when life does get you down it’s okay to need support. It doesn’t make us weak or needy, it means we’re human with feelings and emotions. At some point or another we all need a little help getting back on track. I used this project as a way to thank all those people in my life who helped me out this summer, whether they knew they did or not. You all know who you are! But if you don’t, trust me you will 🙂

A sangha is a powerful thing. I am grateful to have more than one.

So what communities are you apart of? How would you give support to your sangha? Think about it, maybe give it a try. Because acts of kindness are so underrated.

Distance Learning Project #5: Live Green

Live Green, now this was the project for me. This project, and in particular this Moksha pillar, holds a lot of truth and a sense of realness to me. I love Moksha for believing in sustainability and caring for the environment – when something prides itself on how they are trying to make the world a better place, that’s something I can get behind! For this reason, and many more, differentiates Moksha as a yoga practice.

When it came time for me to Live Green I may have been a tad bit more excited to start this project then the others (thus far), but not to say the others won’t be great. Oddly enough the series of events in my past have lined up quite nicely with the order of my Distance Learning Projects which I have to say have made writing and blogging very complementary. But for this project, this one I knew I had in me.

You may recall me taking on elements of the Thrive Diet for my Be Healthy project. I derived the perfect plan, but if I was to hit two birds with one stone – linking healthy training with overall healthy living – I would need to think outside the box. I wanted to be healthy, yes, but more importantly how? That’s where the Living Green component came in. And so the focus of eating good quality foods in the greenest possible way would be the focus of my Living Green project. I made sure to buy the right foods, all the right ingredients for my shakes, smoothies, salads, and soups, I was ready to commit to making good food and reconnect with everything I ate in a way I haven’t in a very long time. And so I went to the local My Market farmers market (conveniently located right beside my apartment) each Wednesday and stocked up on my weeks supply of fruit and veggies. I’d bike (an excellent mode of green commuting on my part!) to Kensington Market for all the other ingredients I would require such a as cacao nibs, hemp protein, chia seeds, all the good things! And! I’d bring my own bags everywhere I went (zero plastic was coming home with me!). Not only did I implement green into everything I was doing I was also saving a lot of money by doing it. Buying things in bulk saves you a pretty penny and it cuts down on waste, and the clutter in your cupboards, big time. With all the pennies I was saving I would treat myself to dinner and a night shopping at Whole Foods every once in a while. Yes, this alone was motivation enough for me to stick with the plan. And so, this lead to many grand discoveries. One being the versatility of the Mason jar. Glass is better than plastic for storing and these babies are super multi functional. I apologize for those who already knew the wonder of Mason jars, I’m slowly catching up. But trust me, I will never own another cup or Ziploc container ever again. That’s a promise.

Buying local straight from the source, among the other things I mentioned above, cuts down our overall environmental impact. I would then brag to all my friends and family what I was doing in hopes they too would do the same – support and buy local. It got to the point where I knew one farmer in particular (he was from Picton where my marathon took place) by name and he knew mine. He’d ask how my training was going each week and how far I’d run that day, or if I was coming or going. It made my week. I had something to count on, and something I felt super good about.

Taking my health and training and greenness very seriously made for a very busy summer, but it is something I plan to commit to long term. Hopefully my efforts may inspire you to do the same! Or perhaps take on a Live Green project f your own. The possibilities are endless and I have many more ideas I’d be happy to share.

Erin’s Marathon Training Day 2

I still bike-commuted, though. So I wasn't a complete wimp.

I still bike-commuted, though. So I wasn’t a complete wimp.

I was supposed to do speedwork yesterday, but the crappy Toronto weather led me to flipping my cross-training and my run. I’ll have to run in sub-zero temperatures along icy sidewalks soon, don’t worry! I also didn’t want to go outside again once I got home, so I put on the 45 minute Vinyasa Power Flow class from YogaDownload.

I haven’t done yoga since before I got sick. And oh, did I ever feel it. Every movement hurt and I popped and tweaked with even the simplest of movements. It’s amazing how much tension your body can build up — and how easy it is to ignore when you’ve got other things to deal with. It’s the morning after and my shoulders are sore. This is not a good sign.

So, first workout down. I feel like a schmuck having cheated on the first week of training but 1) it’s the first week of training and 2) we’re dealing with a POLAR VORTEX. What the hell?




Distance Learning Project #4: Be Accessible

A nice reminder why I love Moksha. I can Be Accessible. I really can!

A nice reminder why I love Moksha. I can Be Accessible. I really can!

This summer has been the summer of challenges, change, and trying to find compassion with myself as the craziness life continued to unfold all around me. I know, you’re probably thinking… “Projects? More teacher training business? I thought this was long over?”… Long over due more like it.

While I finally rallied up the nerve here in Tokyo – yes a lot of time has passed this is true – to actually finish this project, I realized I have not been open to accessibility at all. And having been confronted about what’s really been bothering me, I felt like a terrible person. How can someone be traveling the world and be grumpy all the time?! I’m in a funk right now and I don’t like it. A fitness funk, a life funk, and a down right “why am I not happy and stop being uptight” funk. Thank goodness Cecilley put me in my place. Someone needed to. I would have punched me if I was her and I would have totally understood why. Yes, it was that bad.

So back to Being Accessible. This project was perfectly timed then, but possibly even more so now, and made for an excellent theme to my life. Learning to be accessible to change was the focus of this project. And it could not have been more spot on.

Way back when this project was first underway accessibility was me letting out of my job and what happened. I needed to find closure with this in a way that would give me a peace of mind. For my last day I always envisioned doing a grand gesture of some sort like baking cookies or writing little notes to everyone, but something had to be done in order for me to move past this. I believe it was Cecilley who suggested the idea of teaching a yoga class for my former colleagues. It would be completely unique, real, and a very authentic gesture of gratitude from me. What an excellent plan! But, regrettably, this did not happen. Why you ask. Because I chickened out. I pushed and pushed this project aside, avoiding the thought of planning the whole thing, and distracting myself with anything else. I think I was scared or truth be told I didn’t really what to do it. Being accessible at this sensitive time in my life was a lesson for me to be accessible to my heart and my true feelings. I don’t have to do things other people expect me to do or do things people want me to do. Or even doing things just because. Yes there is a time and a place when you do need to step out of your shell and maybe go out that one time when you really don’t want to, but you shouldn’t feel forced into anything. Life is too short to not enjoy one minute of it.

It took me a very long time to listen to what that actually meant. Back in August I was also in the very early planning phases of my year of travel and this was more important than anything else at the time. I was uprooting my life and leaving town. I needed out. I needed change and travel and a sense of connection to something more than the life I created in Toronto. I have a lot of things to figure out with myself before I can give back. My heart was in a heavy place, I needed to be true to it and not brush it aside anymore for the sake of others. But I also didn’t mind brushing it aside with distraction and activities. But now accessibility is coming back to haunt me as I travel. When certain things don’t go according to plan, or when I think Cecilley is upset with me because of something I said or a decision I made, I have to be aware of the “why” and let it go. I hate being a person on edge and rigid and I’ve been such a stick in the mud for way too long. I’m surprised Cecilley doesn’t hate me – or maybe she does? Man karma, it really can be a bitch.

In time I will reconnect with all of my colleagues, my mentors, and friends. And when I do I will be ready and in a much better place. But for right now I’m going to stop letting the stupid little things bother me that I can’t do anything about, other then figure it out and move on, I’m going to tackle the bigger issues in my life causing me stress – these are going to take a lot more work but I need to start somewhere – and I need to be a better friend and travel companion to Cecilley. I owe her so much, it’s the least I could do given she is all I’ve got!

Although the project didn’t go entirely as planned, I did find accessibility, in a much broader sense and in a much truer sense. Now it’s time to enjoy it. There’s a whole world to see and I’m not going to get in the way of myself anymore!

Erin’s Advent challenge, day #1: gratitude flow

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December 1 marked the beginning of the month, and the beginning of my challenge. It also marked the day my sister Anne moved out of my basement and into her own apartment. My original plan was to go for a run before we got the van to lug her stuff across the city, but I woke up to rain. Yucky wet, cold rain. So instead, I spent a few hours helping her move, then did the Yoga Download 60 minute Gratitude Flow class in the evening.

It was the first time I had done a video class from Yoga Download. I found myself too focused on checking the video to make sure I was doing things right and not trusting myself enough. This class was okay — it has a lot of weird flows that my hip didn’t like. But it was good to get 60 minutes of yoga in on a very busy day.



Let’s talk about doing yoga in my kitchen

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So for the past few weeks, I’ve been doing yoga in my kitchen. A lot of yoga in my kitchen. Through the powers of the search engine that is Google, I discovered, an online community that offers yoga podcasts. I liked that the classes were plentiful and diverse and — best of all — they had several free 20 minute classes you could download and try out.

I immediately downloaded all the 20 minute classes that appealed to me. (Their list of free classes is here.) 38 in total. I haven’t yet to to all 38. My go-to is their 25 minute “yoga for runners” class. I’ve done their “mat pilates” class a handful of times. When I want something more chill, I put on one of the hatha flow options. It’s worked out pretty well (full pros and cons to be listed below), so when I got an email from Yoga Download saying their yearly membership was 30% off — which meant for $60 I could have unlimited yoga downloads for a year — I figured why not try it? Even if I got a handful of go-to classes longer than 20 minutes out of it, it would be worth it.

Since I’m now all-in with this yoga from the internet thing, I thought I’d share my pros and cons with you.

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Free classes, and lots of them: I never, ever would have paid money to give this a try. The fact they have free classes and a lot of them made it appealing — and gave me the opportunity to thoroughly assess their produce.

Convenience: When I’m training for a race, yoga is the first thing to go when I need to make time for other stuff. The fact that I can wake up, put on coffee and throw my mat down makes all the difference in the world. I don’t have to get dressed, walk to the yoga studio, check in, wait around. With a regular one hour yoga class, the class is an hour and a half of your life, minimum. With this, 20 minutes is 20 minutes.

Speed: I’m the kind of person who feels if I can’t sweat it out for an hour, it’s not worth my time. Having 20 minute podcasts — and only 20 minutes podcasts — taught me that it’s better to incorporate a little bit of yoga in my life when and where I can than not do yoga at all because I can’t make it to class. I spend more time goofing off on the internet. And doing a little yoga more often has helped my running: my knee problems disappeared when I started doing yoga 3-4 times a week, and, in general, I feel stronger and more flexible than I did when I was doing yoga only once a week. (Even if, by math, 3 20-minute classes is the same amount of yoga as 1 60-minute class.)

Flexibility: I can now do yoga wherever I want, whenever I want. I’m already looking forward to summertime flows in my backyard. I’m also looking forward to having more options, time-wise. The classes as part of the membership range from 20 minutes to 70 minutes.

Choice: This website has so many classes, instructors and different kinds of yoga. I was grateful that I didn’t have to buy into a single instructor in order to get free yoga from the internet.


I feel less zen: Now, I’m not sure if this is because the classes I’ve done so far are only 20 minutes or because I’m doing yoga in my kitchen with cats clawing at my pony tail, but I have yet to get the blissed-out yoga feeling I have gotten at Kula.

No teacherly connection: The teacher is just a voice coming through my speaker. There’s no personality, no jokes, no special attention. While this doesn’t bother me that much (and isn’t that different from some of the generic classes I’ve taken), it’s made me realize the value in a teacher you create a powerful connection with.

No guidance: If you don’t know how to do a pose, too bad. If you are doing a pose wrong, too bad. Even the most beginner level podcasts expect a basic understanding of yoga and how to do the essential postures. I would not recommend these to a newbie yogi. This is also why when I put on a more advanced podcast, make no attempt to try the Bird’s of Paradise pose — I’m not going to risk my health and safety for the sake of a yoga pose. I’ll save that for actual classes.

I don’t work as hard: This is true for all fitness for me, not just yoga. Without an audience or a buddy, I’ll only work half as hard as I should, because I can.

In sum, these podcasts aren’t a replacement for my regular yoga practice. But they are a good stop-gap until life settles down a bit — and a good bandage for when I’m too tired/lazy/late for a traditional class. I just downloaded 25 new classes — we’ll see if fitting in the 45 minute classes in my daily life will be as painless and fitting in the 20 minute classes.



Distance Learning Project #3: Be Healthy

Coconut Carob gel with protein. Yummy!

Coconut Carob gel with protein. Yummy!

For my Moksha Teacher Training Be Healthy project I have decided to incorporate a new found life goal with a new-found determination to be a healthier all-around more fit person. How appropriate for my Be Healthy project, right? I also love blogging about all the things I’m doing.

So if you don’t know by now, I am training to run a marathon (the County Marathon in Prince Edward County on October 6, 2013 to be exact). And while I train and run, and train and recover, and run more but really, really far I will be incorporating elements of The Thrive Diet into my everyday life. Over the next two months, plus however many weeks I have from now until my race, I will commit to Being Healthy in the from of actual physical fitness and by adapting a healthy way of training. Hopefully I will find the perfect balance between the two to share with you all. That is the plan at least!

So why the Thrive Diet? The Thrive Diet author, founder of Vega and a super human Triathlete, Brendan Brazier, is super knowledgeable in the art of food and proper training. I have been a fan of his since my first Vega experience. I can’t help but be attracted to individuals who are out to make the world a better place, with such determination and stride – it kills me! I want to be like Brendan, and the many people like him out there in the world, who have found something they absolutely love and have made it their livelihood. I’m still searching for my thing, but I do feel as though I’m making some progress. I’m also struck by the amount of information and knowledge Brendan has about whole foods and fitness. Who better to copy than a professional Ironman? When I picked up the Thrive Diet for the first time I was hooked (again a big thank you to Morgan and living in LA). And so I decided right then and there this would be my training bible. Already a vegetarian this diet would be perfect for me to explore.


What we eat goes hand in hand with how we perform – which makes complete sense. The Thrive Diet breaks it all down in a simple and easy read, but the best part is the entire book includes recipes for pre and post-workout meals, energy gels, sports drinks and so much more! My plan is to make and consume all these things as I train for my marathon. The Thrive Diet – a diet revolved around only plant based foods – is also equipped with a full 12 week meal program making it that much easier to consume only plant stuff. As Brendan outlines in his book, it’s not for everyone (and that is important to keep in mind) and adapting to the Thrive Diet takes time and it should be done in moderation for best results. I will, slowly, over the course of my training and beyond, integrate his meals into my regime with a focus primarily on two of Brendan’s general principles: eat a big green salad everyday and drink a nutritious smoothie everyday. There are six principles in all which I will work up to, gradually. This is one thing I can’t jump full on into. Just yet that is. As mentioned before the main goal will be achieving proper hydration, fueling my body properly, and getting the necessary recovery needed to perform my very best!

This after all will be my first marathon ever. I want to make sure I do it right! Here goes nothing.


Distance Learning Project #2: Wheel of Life


I am not a person who sits well with my emotions. I mean really sit and reflect why I’m feeling the way I am. And for what reason? I know it may sound completely bizarre because I’m an insanely emotional person who wears my heart on my sleeve, and perhaps is a little too sensitive to, well, pretty much everything. But as I’m slowly learning through unfortunate situations with friends, stuff at work, and with life in general, having an open heart is not a weakness nor is it a bad thing. We all have our strengthens and weaknesses, reflecting on why our so called weaknesses are just that, weaknesses, is important to do from time to time. It’s good to check in with yourself. Because as we age and mature – or not – these strengths and weaknesses of ours can change yearly, monthly, or even daily.

Like most people I imagine, I tend to hide away when I’m feeling sad or throw and punch things, in the privacy of my own apartment of course, when I’m angry. Or I anger clean my house. Which is kind of efficient really. I don’t like showing my sadness or anger, rather I try and cope with it. This is not the best solution because coping is not a way of solving the real issue, it’s more of a deterrent from the root problem. As you can imagine a lot of this mentality came up in training. Emotions would run high and low and all around because a lot of training – in the most subtle way hidden under all the practicing and lectures – was connecting with yourself.

After a month of practice teaching and receiving feedback for my classes project number one was complete! Project two, the Wheel of Life as they call it, was designed for us to open up to the experience and emotions teaching brought up, but even more so, we were to reflect with what was going on in our lives leading up to training. Boy, this is getting deep.

I won’t bore you with the details of what I wrote, but as I was writing I found more and more stuff come up. Like why I was so driven with my career and less interested in romance. And why I would beat up myself for not being a good friend, and what I need to work on in certain family relationships. It was kind of weird. But therapeutic.

Our wheel of life was divided into eight categorizes: Business/Career, Finances, Health, Family and Friends, Romance, Personal Growth, Fun And Recreation, and Physical Environment. For each category we had to grade ourselves and explain why. Like I said it was weird, but therapeutic. Then we had to create another wheel, but this time we had to show where we wanted each category to be. This was even weirder. And more importantly how are you going to go about bringing these changes into your life to improve your grade. Not so easy now, is it? Again I won’t bore you with any grueling details of my wheel, but if you’re interested (or just curious) I’d be happy to share!

What would your Wheel of Life look like? What parts of your life could you improve or work on? Give it a try and journal it. You may just surprise yourself with the kind of circle you create.



Yoga in the park


What: Yoga in the Park
When: Sunday @ 10am
Where: Trinity Bellwoods Park
Who: David Good

Every Sunday from 10-11, Lulu Lemon hosts a FREE yoga class in Trinity Bellwoods Park. I’ve been meaning to go all summer and on July 14, I finally did.

It’s a different teacher every week and this time it was David Good from Octopus Garden. (They have the teacher schedule on their Facebook page.) The weather was perfect, sunny and on the verge of a perfectly hot summer day. David led us through a quick moving classes, filled with lunges and flows. It was playful, fun and sped by very quickly.

There were a lot of people there, including kids and a few puppies. I was in a hanging-in-the-park kind of mood, so this added to my overall enjoyment of the class, but if you’re not a fan of dogs or kids, you’ve been warned. There was also A LOT of people in attendance  but thankfully Trinity Bellwoods is huge, so there’s room for everyone. David did a good job of moving through the class and demonstrating the poses and he was miked (thank goodness) so even when I couldn’t see him, he was easy to hear. There’s water (bring your own mug) and mats if you don’t have one.

Overall, it’s a free yoga class in the park. That can’t be beat.

Take this class if: You want to do yoga in a park for free. Obviously.