Geeta Iyengar and her lasting impact on yoga

Image description: Head shot of Geeta Iyengar, an older Indian woman,  smiling, dark hair tied back, bindi on forehead, white v-necked wrap-style top, blurred background.

With the death of Geeta Iyengar, age 74, on December 16th, yoga lost another giant. Geeta was the daughter of renowned yoga guru BKS Iyengar, and co-director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India.

My foundational yoga training took place under the instruction of Karen Major at Yoga Centre London, in London, Ontario.  Apart from the first class teaching, Karen regularly visited the Ramamani Institute as part of her ongoing teacher training as a certified instructor of Iyengar yoga. After her trips to India she always came back with stories of Iyengar himself, Geeta, her brother Prashant, and more recently  Geeta’s niece, Abhijata.

These family members dedicated themselves to extending Iyengar’s yoga legacy by practicing his methods and upholding his strict attention to the form and detail of the yoga asanas.

Indeed, Geeta was teaching classes and giving talks at Balewadi Stadium from December 3-14 as part of the celebrations surrounding the centary of her father’s birth.  One of the senior teachers attending the celebrations recounted a story in which someone asked Geeta what it was like to live in her father’s shadow. Geeta replied that she didn’t live in his shadow, she lived in his light.

In addition to being devoted to her father and his teachings, Geeta was a significant figure in bringing yoga to women and helping them develop their own practice. She wrote Yoga: A Gem for Women, as a guide for women, making specific practice suggestions for menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Geeta’s death came as a shock to the yoga community and Pune and to the Iyengar yoga community more generally.  To read more about her lasting impact and her legacy, see The Times of India, “Geeta Iyengar, renowned yoga exponent, passes away at 74″ and The Hindu,
“Yoga exponent Geeta Iyengar, daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar, passes away.”

I will be forever grateful to B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Karen Major, and all the other fantastic Iyengar instructors whose wisdom has benefitted my practice since 2000 when I was first introduced to this style of yoga.

fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · tbt · Throwback Thursday

On Pacing Yourself *During* the Holidays #tbt

We aren’t quite there yet and I’m not having any guests this year, but this post about pacing ourselves during the holidays seems like a timely #tbt nonetheless. Enjoy!


christmastreeI’ve just emerged from a couple of solid days in the kitchen (a treat for me, since I love to cook and don’t usually have time to make it a priority).

Sam posted the other day about pacing yourself after the holidays. But since by my count we still have a week of revelry to go, I thought it might not be too late to post about pacing yourself during the holidays.

I’m not talking about food, though of course there is that.  No shortage of magazine articles telling us how to deal with holiday parties and cookie exchanges and a time of year when it seems we’re surrounded by delicious food almost every where we go.  My advice on that isn’t all that helpful: eat it.

I’m more interested in pacing ourselves activity-wise. For some of us, when the routine gets thrown sideways, even by good things, it’s…

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Jet lag as a test of physical endurance

Tracy at the Great Wall of China on her big step day. Photo credit: John Hatch.

I’ve been in China for a week and I had some modest fitness goals while away: to do the hotel room workout my trainer gave me twice, to get enough sleep, and to walk when practical. I didn’t have any grand plans of using the hotel gym or trying to keep up with my running. I thought that if I set a low bar I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Turns out the bar wasn’t low enough. I haven’t done the hotel room workout once even (I could do it now because I’m awake and have been since 4 am). I haven’t slept well since arriving, getting at most 5-6 hours of intermittent sleep. I have walked when practical, including a big day on Sunday that included the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Judging by someone else’s step tracker that day was good for at least 25000 steps. But there has also been a lot of sitting in cars and meeting rooms.

And yet I feel physically taxed at the moment. The long days of meetings with Chinese partner institutions–which have all been productive and exciting–and totally reversed time zones (the part of China I’m in is 13 hours ahead of my usual Eastern Time Zone) turn out to be a brutal combo.

Most mornings we have been meeting for breakfast around or before 7, and I’ve been awake already mostly before 4 without being able to get back to sleep. We have usually had morning and afternoon meetings. I’ve had more coffee than I usually do.

And by the time I get back to my hotel room for the night there has been no way I could possibly consider working out.

I consider that totally reasonable. Though I do like to keep working out when I travel, on these short trips across the world where there isn’t even time to adjust before heading back home, the physical endurance required to get the day’s work done is enough of a workout for me.

When I’m sleep deprived it makes matters worse. I’m told there are things that can make it easier. Staying hydrated. Melatonin. Using drugs for sleeping (not an option for me). So far I haven’t found anything that makes it easier for me. And yet I love traveling. I think I just need to go on longer trips with more gentle schedules!

Most of all, I’m not going to be too hard on myself for not making the already low bar I set. It’s been a great trip and I’ll get back on track when I get home, which is tonight.

What’s your best advice for managing jet lag across many time zones? Do you keep to a workout schedule or find, like me, that the day’s events are challenging enough?


Enjoy the festivities, eat the food

Vegan sticky toffee pudding. From

Holiday food anxiety is a thing. I’ve already started hearing about it from friends and co-workers. It usually starts around Halloween, when people are “worried” over eating their leftover candies from having over-purchased for the trick or treaters, or sneaking chocolate bars from their kids’ stashes while the kids are at school. But it intensifies through late November and early December, when we attend parties and social events and also contend with the leftovers thereof, which people like to bring to work.

I know food anxiety, having experienced my share of it in the past. But since my almost 30 year project of intuitive eating (see my post about finally becoming an intuitive eater), I no longer feel stress over holiday eating. One thing that has alleviated that for me is that I no longer treat it as an “indulgence.” Indulgences, guilty pleasures, “sinful” or “decadent” treats — these are all ways of insinuating that we ought to feel guilty for eating these things. Guilt is associated with wrong-doing, and so there is an underlying “I really shouldn’t” behind every bite when we regard eating holiday treats in this way.

I realize that in some sense, venturing into taboo territory can add an extra little charge of delight, but for the most part, it leaves us feeling worse in the end. Why not instead just eat the food, enjoy the food, and move on?

This makes it sound easier than it actually is for many people. And I don’t mean to sound flippant or to trivialize the agonizing internal dialogue that can ensue when a chronic dieter who has spent a lifetime monitoring their food intake and watching their weight. The level of preoccupation that some experience, and the self-recrimination afterwards, is hard for those who have never experienced even to fathom.

And yet the mixed messages of media–where we are bombarded with recipes for holiday treats, on the one hand, and cautioned against “over-doing it,” on the other hand–encourage this tortured internal dance.

I vote for giving ourselves permission to enjoy the food and realize that we are grown ups who get to make our own decisions. If it’s not easy for you to do, consider how life would be if you gave up dieting as a way of life and instead dealt with food on a more accepting level? For some, this may be the beginning of an experiment, starting on the path to thinking of food in a more neutral manner, and learning to enjoy what you enjoy in amounts that feel good and comfortable, knowing that you can make that choice again later if you wish. That’s in contrast to the diet mentality, when we consider the holidays (and special occasions) as “cheat” times before we go back to the drab day-to-day of incessant food restriction.

Enjoying what we eat isn’t indulgence. It’s completely acceptable adulting.

Do you enjoy holiday eating or find it stressful?

fitness · running · tbt · winter

Bracing myself for winter running…again #tbt

As I brace myself again for winter running, this post from last year seems a propos. Why does winter running always feel SO HARD at the beginning, when it’s not even as cold or icy or windy as it’s going to get?


winter runningEvery year it seems as if, despite the inevitability of winter, the running outside in winter thing comes as a sudden shock. I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post because I did a little search of the blog for past posts on winter running. That yielded not one, not two, not three, but four posts of my own on running in winter, plus posts by Susan and Sam.

The annual winter running post idea (brilliant and original, I know!) came to me because Sunday was my first real winter run of the season. The kind with snow and wind and cold. And it wasn’t even a lot of any of them. But still, brrrrrr. Because even as a Canadian I have to acclimatize every single winter.

Once I do, it’s brilliant really. I mean, you can dress for most winter running conditions and be quite…

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Fit Feminist Challenge Group Update

One of Christine’s lovely graphics that she designed for our Fit Feminist Challenge Group.

Hey everyone. Remember way back in September when Cate, Christine and I started the blog’s first “Fit Feminist Challenge Group”? Well guess what? The first iteration of three month challenge group is winding down this week and it’s been a fabulous experience.

We kind of jumped into it not knowing exactly how it would go or even having a clear idea of what we planned. We were firm in our commitment to try different things and see what worked and what didn’t.

Most of all we wanted to create a supportive community where people could get ideas, focus their goals and strategize how to meet them, and feel the motivational and inspirational force of being in a group where people are happy to cheer you on. And in keeping with the blog’s feminist principles, we encouraged people to shift their focus away from dieting and weight loss and looking a certain way.

I’m happy to report that we mostly did that. Though not everyone who joined at the beginning stayed plugged in as a major presence (and there may be things we can do to prevent that next time), the community remained supportive and encouraging to the end, and we really didn’t need to remind people to steer clear of weight loss and dieting as conversational topics in the group.

For the first couple of months we stuck more or less to themes for each day of the week: Motivation Monday, Try This Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, Tag Thursday, Fun Friday, Sum Up Saturday, and Strategize Sunday. Cate, Christine, and I took turns posting to the group on the theme and invited people to share in the comments. Christine designed some colourful and fun images to go with each day, and things rolled along with one of us taking responsibility for a couple of days each week and rotating through every third Sunday.

Over time, we got more inventive (or maybe we felt the themes were getting old), drifting away from the set script and being more free with our posts when we felt like it.

We also tried a few things that didn’t work well. The main thing that didn’t work as we thought it might was breaking people up into small groups that were asked to check in with one another on specific days of the week. So there was a Monday check-in group, a Tuesday check-in group, etc. We thought this would give people a chance to bond with a smaller group, but instead it resulted in many people being confused about whether they could post outside of that weekly check-in, and hence they felt alienated from the larger group. That had never been our intention, so after we felt it not coming together, we did a little poll that confirmed our suspicion. Out with the small groups!

We also have determined that three months might just be a little too long to keep the momentum and energy going unless the facilitators have a lot of time and energy to doing just that (and even then, you really do need to switch things up regularly to keep everyone’s attention). The next versions of challenge groups will be shorter in duration and more focused in purpose. 

Overall, as I said in my post to the group for this morning’s “Talk about it Tuesday” (we morphed into that from Try This Tuesday after we thought it unreasonable to have people try something new every single week!), my greatest insight from the challenge group experience was how much I enjoy being accountable to and a part of a supportive group. It’s super inspiring to gain energy from the energy and enthusiasm of others.

Do you like the idea of online challenge groups as a way of incorporating more consistent fitness practices into your life? Have you had any experience with this type of support environment? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Moderate Fitspo Works for Me #tbt

Moderate fitspo anyone? I find these moderate messages to be a breath of fresh air and hope you do too.
Here’s to keeping it real!


mod fitspo easier betterA few days ago something wonderful went viral:  moderate fitspo from Lean Girl in  Training.   At first it looks like regular old (unmotivating at best, shaming and even dangerous at worst) fitspo.

But in fact, it’s not like that at all.  It writes over and adds stuff to the regular fitspo it cribs from. The message “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better,” has been scrawled over so that it now reads, “It does get easier & you also get better.”

And “four simple rules” have been changed into four simple “tips” that support moderation:

mod fitspo 4 simple rules

Yes, “Lean Girl in Training” has her height-weight stats and is trying to lose weight.  But in addition to the goal weights, she has another goal, which she thinks of as her ultimate goal:  “Ultimate goal: to be free from chronic tendinitis; to be able to write, lift, walk and run…

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