Introducing the Way-Before-Breakfast Club for morning-challenged ashtangis

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The Breakfast Club: Five Strangers With Nothing in Common, Except Each Other

I’m old enough to have grown up in the era of Molly Ringwald movies. If you are too, remember The Breakfast Club? I’m optimistic that our Way-Before-Breakfast Club can bring together some strangers with nothing in common except a love of Ashtanga.

>>Coming soon: Setting up your own digital lounge for a group of morning-challenged ashtangis! 

Long story short, an email from Meryem in Toronto about waking up early six days a week to practice has turned into the establishment of the Way-Before-Breakfast Club designed for morning-challenged ashtangis.

Since writing about my rough start trying to wake up at 5:30 a.m. — six mornings a week — to practice after managing to maintain a six-day-a-week practice for a year, I’ve had a few responses from yogis who are in similar positions. The question is always how — but in the case of this particular email this past weekend from Meryem (who emailed me cold turkey, by the way — we don’t know each other), it was also about with whom? Meryem felt that perhaps a buddy system is where it’s at, when it comes to trying to start up an early-morning practice at home.

That most excellent suggestion sparked the idea of creating a password-protected section of this website for a small group of people who want to help encourage each other and sustain a good level of compassionate accountability for revving up a committed early-morning practice.

Ground rules:

  • Prospective members need to be committed to practicing yoga six days a week, and earlier than they want to (so you may work nights, and maybe 10 a.m. is your early morning. The key is that doing this means sacrificing something important to you — e.g., sleep, time for other things, etc. — to make this work).
  • Yoga does not have to equal Ashtanga every day, but it should have a strong Ashtanga mix. It’s not that I don’t want other styles of yoga here — I just think it’s better for a community to stay focused on the common ground of this practice. This too is relative — maybe you really sort of hate Ashtanga, but you want to like it, and and practicing it twice a week would feel like a ridiculously strong mix to you. If you already <3 Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, well, that’s a five- or six-day-a-week practice, I’m afraid.
  • Members commit to either joining a calendar feed or deciding to skip the feed, but committing to posting a progress update on the page at least once a week.
  • Members must commit to keeping themselves accountable, but not beating up on themselves for the days they fall short. We all have to have positive motivation for this . . . .
  • . . . . that said . . . . So, life happens. And we fall off the wagon sometimes. But if there comes a point when a member has to give up trying and eight weeks have lapsed, that person will be asked to take a hiatus from the group. This would be done in the spirit of keeping the energy of the group a motivating and focused one.
I have a hard time picturing a queue of folks interested in this, but it’s good to set parameters from the get-go, so I’ve decided that this group would be limited to a dozen (including me).
Why?

Since the page is password-protected, I’ll share some of the content from it:

Who/What

Welcome to the Way-Before-Breakfast Club, a cheerleading squad/support group for those of us who have a deep-seated desire to wake up at brutally early hours to practice Ashtanga yoga.

Why

  • Because we’re night owls.
  • Because we’re morning people when morning = 7 a.m. or something more sane like that.
  • Because we’re really busy.
  • Because we’re really, really busy.
  • Because we love to sleep.
  • Because we love to dream.
  • Because we live in cold regions of the world and it’s so damn cold at that hour.
  • Because we live in warm weather climates and even though it’s not cold at that hour, it’s still that hour, which is bad enough.
  • Because we don’t like to wake up when it’s pitch dark.

When/How

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have a password, so you and I have talked, and decided this club might be for you. We’ve gone over the option of you giving me your Google Calendar feed so I can add it to the calendar, my adding you to my Google Calendar feed, or you sending me your stats for the week, if we’ve agreed on going that route.

We’ve also gone over how the most important part is for you to use the comments section of this page to:

  • Share tips.
  • Announce your victories.
  • Vent.
  • Find commiseration for your less-than-stellar moments when you kept hitting the snooze button until you were eventually late for work, much less late for your pre-work practice.

How the system works:

I found a WordPress plugin that allows you to pull multiple Google Calendar feeds. This allows the flexibility for members to track their progress on their own calendar, which I can pull in. The plugin is called, simply enough, Google Calendar Events (god bless all the WordPress developers out there!), and I’m keeping it CSS-free and allowing it maintain its default look:

Way-Before-Breakfast Calendar on YogaRose.net

For each day, there’s a simple X/X system:

Key

[Name]: [Yes or No on did you practice?] [Yes or No did you practice at the early-morning goal you’ve set for yourself?] (Any other notes, such as any detail you want to give, or how Y/N was N/A because it was a moon day, rest day or a ladies’ holiday).

Here’s how it looks when the mouse hovers it:

Example of moon day entry

The idea is to have accountability, so I create each day as just a label (checking the all-day mark) and don’t worry about marking the actual time. Sometimes, though, I might add a little more detail. Like, the other morning, how 5:30 was destined to be a no-go because my husband and I were in Detroit until 11:30 p.m. at a sold-out (and awesome!) Dave Chappelle show. (In case you’re wondering, on days like that, I still practice — but later in the morning, which means I am rushed.)

If you want to join the Way-Before-Breakfast Club, drop me a line at ashtangayogarose [at] gmail.com, or send me a Facebook message here. Update 8/29/12: The group’s Google calendar is going strong, and we’ve created a digital lounge in which we chat about the practice — 99 percent practice, 1 percent posting 😉 — here on Mighybell, a new social network (I think of it as Pinterest meets private Google Group) created by the founder of Ning.

As I wrap this up — looking at the time, which is a very late 11:45 p.m. (yikes!), Hold Steady’s Stay Positive album is playing. This might have to be one of my top 10 albums of all time because it’s just so fun and inspiring. So I’ll say that if you’re trying to start that crazy early-morning practice and meet fits and starts, remember: You gotta stay positive.

‘Cause it’s one thing to start it with a positive jam
And it’s another thing to see it on through
And we couldn’t have even done this,
If it wasn’t for you

Whoahoho
We gotta stay positive
Whoahoho
We gotta stay positive
Whoahoho
We gotta stay positive

 

 

(Graphic credit: The Breakfast Club poster via this site.)

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Florence travel journal (part 5): Itineraries + essential guides + getting there

YogaRose.net travel journal for Florence, Italy
Part 5: Itineraries + essential guides + getting there

This is the final installment of the barely tangentially related to yoga 😉 travel series on my trip to Firenze over New Year’s Eve. This one is all about getting there and getting around. (I would have finished it by now, except I’ve spent much of the past week KO’d by a bug I’m convinced we picked up on the flight from Amsterdam back to Michigan. As I’ve said elsewhere — I’m not complaining about this. All I wanted was to not be sick in Italy, and I felt great the entire trip.)

>>Getting there (or, why we <3 our travel agent more than we can tell you)<<

So here’s the deal. Scott and I have never ever used a travel agent. We were under the impression — that, we have found, many of our friends were under as well — you have to pay travel agents to do things you can do yourself online. Not true. We didn’t pay a dime to book our flight and hotel through our travel agent — and here’s the killer part — we paid half what we would have paid on our own. Half. We went online and checked a package that included the same number of nights at our hotel, on the same flight (departure and arrival day), and I’m not kidding, this trip was half that price. So, had we done this on our own, one of us would have gotten to take this trip (we joke that we both know which one of us would get to go), or we would have been able to afford three nights rather than seven.

We worked with Classic Travel based in Okemos, MIch. Joy Thrun and the excellent team at Classic Travel literally made this trip happen for us. Scott and I can’t thank them enough. And part of the reason, I think, is that Joy and her husband, Tom, truly love traveling, and sharing that passion. Here’s a snippet from the Classic Travel website:

Time flies when you are having fun. Probably the oldest cliché in the world, but for us at Classic Travel, it certainly holds true. It does not seem possible that we have been selling travel and all the exciting things that come with it for thirty one wonderful years. And thanks to you, our well-traveled clientele, we have had the pleasure of sharing in your globe-trotting adventures for the past quarter century.

Over this time we have witnessed events that have changed the world and impacted our industry. Travel is our business, but above all, it is our passion. We believe that travel contributes immeasurably to the overall quality of life. No matter how well traveled you may be, each trip you embark on brings knowledge and new experiences. Travel is continuing education and we will never run out of exotic places to go. One of the most precious rights that we have is the ability to move freely around this fascinating world of ours. To experience the diversity and richness of far away places creating memories that will last a lifetime, we are proud to be one of the most experienced travel companies in the entire industry, but we continue to grow in many different areas.

We also have to thank Sara Metz, whose trip to Morocco with her husband, Will (catch him live here), inspired me to ask her about traveling. She promptly put me in touch with Joy.

So if you’re reading this and thinking you’ll never visit Italy, I want to say that I didn’t think I’d get there either — at least not any time soon. Life works in strange ways sometimes. Stay realistic, but hopeful, that you’ll eventually find a way to make the trips you dream about.

And if you do go to Florence, here was our itinerary, along with some tips on finding the right guides.

>>Itineraries<<

We flew out of Detroit two days after Christmas, stayed all seven nights in Florence, but took the following day trips (one-way travel time by fast train in parenthesis):

  • Venice (two hours)
  • Rome (1.5 hours)

In addition, we devoted an entire day to taking a 12-hour tour aboard a comfortable bus that allowed us to visit the following towns in Tuscany:

  • Sienna
  • San Gimignano
  • Pisa

I don’t have travel stats to bear this out, but I have this idea that Americans tend to gravitate more toward Rome and Venice. Before this trip, I had very little sense of geography of this boot-shaped country, and probably would have been happy to spend seven days in any of these cities. After this trip, I thought Florence was the perfect — truly, the best — home base for me. It’s a compact but lively, walkable city (apparently it was once rough for pedestrians but has, thanks to car-free zones, become quite pedestrian-friendly — though you still have to watch out for that crazy Italian driving!). Florence is home to the Renaissance and a cultural cradle. Seeing Michelangelo’s David in person is awe-inspiring. You’re a hop and skip away from fascinating and gorgeous Tuscan towns. All the culinary Italian specialties I’m so enamored of — like tiramisu and pappardelle — have roots in the Tuscan region. What’s not to love?

>>Essential guides<<

Rick Steves’ Italy 2012

It got to be a joke at some point that every American we met on our travels toted a dog-eared copy of the Rick Steves Italy book like their travel bible. We bought Rick Steves this time because his London guide served us so well last year, and his Italy book proved to be every bit as useful as the London edition. In addition to the overviews, tips and details you need from a good guidebook, I really appreciated the extras — like the appendix that includes an annotated copy of an actual train ticket so you know what each part of the ticket says.

 

Rick Steves’ Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary

This pocket book was the one I pulled out of my purse most frequently. I’d argue that you need this compact little thing even if you get the Rick Steves country book. The phrase book has a menu decoder divided by theme — desserts, wine, etc. — and sections on hailing a taxi, getting a room, and so on. There are also handy Italian-English and English-Italian dictionaries tucked inside. I was happy to see that this book included phrases such as “I’m allergic to” (“Sono allergico[a] al…”) and “Sorry for the mess” (“Scusi per il pasticccio”).

 

Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Florence & Tuscany

This slim number was a wonderful reference to check on everything from masterpieces of art located in the Uffrizi Gallery to masterpieces of the culinary kind brought to your dinner table.

Great Eats Italy

I really liked this book for the introduction, which gives some great tips for finding good eats throughout Italy. The book then provides specific recommendations by neighborhood.

Hotel concierge

A guidebook can only get you so far. The concierge at the Grand Hotel Baglioni got us a reservation at what was, hands down, our best meal in Florence (Buca Mario). (By the way, there doesn’t seem to be a standard recommendation for tipping for concierge services, but I recommend tipping, especially if they book something for you.) This hotel, which is ridiculously centrally located and a place we really enjoyed, would normally be way out of our price range — see the travel agent section above on how we managed that.

Your tour guides

I highly recommend paying the extra however many euros it takes to see the Uffrizi and Accademia Gallery with a tour rather than on your own. For one thing, you skip the unbearably long line and go right in with your group. For another, especially if you’re traveling as a couple, it’s a nice way to get out of your couple bubble and meet fellow travelers. We met a great family from Pittsburgh on our Uffirzi tour, and if we’re ever in Pittsburg, we’ll be dropping them a line. Maybe we just got lucky, but every single one of our tour guides were awesome — full of character quirks and full of passion for their beautiful city. Tour guides are also great sources for general tips and restaurant recommendations.

>>Random travel tips<<

Some of my random travel tips:

Tell your friends, family members, colleagues and travel agent about your fantasy trips.

You never know if a tip they might hear about and send your way could get the ball rolling for a getaway. If you have the kind of lifestyle where you could leave quickly for a trip, sign up for notifications about last-minute deals. Ask around for good travel agent recommendations, and let them know your parameters.

Barter presents at home for better meals abroad.

This year, Scott and I agreed: No Christmas presents. Believe me, every bit we saved on that, we spent in Italy. Knowing that our families would insist on getting us Christmas presents, we told them about our plans, so that they could get us something related to the trip, thus decreasing our expenses that much more. Scott’s parents got us fantastic luggage that could handle the abuse of international travel, and my parents got us the gadgets that we couldn’t live without (namely, the converter for our iPhones and iPad) and a great Italian Berlitz CD set and computer program that taught us how to properly say, “Parla inglese?”

Avoid credit cards if it’s possible (and safe)

Credit cards typically charge you a percentage of each transaction (a small percentage, but it adds up quickly), so if you’re traveling in a pretty safe area, see if you can roll with cash. Exchange a chunk of currency before you go (in the Lansing area, we got great rates at Liberty Coin), limit the number of times you use the local ATMS, and try to avoid credit cards. Scott and I didn’t pull out our credit cards once in Italy — and again, every bit we saved on transaction fees, we spent on meals. :-)

Keep your info handy

Electronically saving your passport information via a scan using Google Docs, Evernote (thanks to Kate Tykocki for this idea) or by dropping in Dropbox, just in case you’re in a jam and need it. Perhaps online security experts will tell me this is a bad idea, but I think not having access to your info is also a bad idea. And hey, here’s a recent story about a guy who had to resort to using a copy of his passport scanned on his iPad to get back into the country — honestly, your personal odds of getting back into the U.S. with a scanned passport is probably a big fat 0.0 percent chance, but it’s an interesting tale if nothing else.

The little things

Ask your hotel concierge before you leave home how much a trip from the airport to the hotel by taxi should cost, so that you’re not scammed by drivers who claim a different flat fee (not all airports post the mandated flat fees).

Travel like you won’t be back

Rick Steves likes to say in his guidebooks that you should assume you’ll return. I think he’s saying it to encourage Type-A American travelers from rushing from point A to point B so much that they don’t actually experience the trip. I say, however, travel like you won’t be back — so if you are wondering what something tastes like, by all means, taste it. Spend the extra euros to skip the two-hour-long line to get into the museum, so that you’ll have two more hours to wander, explore and be surprised. You can eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for as long as you need to when you return to make up for the extra little flourishes that you’ll remember for years to come.

>>Smart phones and iPads<<

Verizon vs. AT&T

Finally, if you are considering an iPhone or an iPad and don’t know whether to go with Verizon or AT&T, you might consider how important it is to you to be able to use the device when you travel abroad. Verizon and AT&T devices are built on different technologies, and AT&T devices are more likely to use the the same GSM technology used in European countries. When I bought my iPad, I chose AT&T over Verizon, and that was one of the main reasons. Before we left, we added an international data plan and took what we needed from the Apple World Traveler Adapter Kit my parents had gotten us. For more on this issue, because I don’t have the patience to think any more about it, see The New York Times‘ “How to beat roaming fees while traveling abroad.”

>>Worth the trouble?<<

There’s alway that moment in a trip abroad when I am remember how much work it is to travel. How awkward it can be. How exhausting. And then there’s always that moment when I remember why it’s worth all the trouble — all the scrimping and saving, all the research, all the harried, last-minute (in my case) packing.

At the end of our Uffrizi tour, Antonio, a very proud Florentine who spoke with a heavy Italian accent, said, “May you travel a great deal. The best money is spent on holiday.”

He is absolutely right.

As for us…I know we said we wouldn’t be heading back to Italy any time soon. That is true. But when we do, we already know the area we’re most interested in making our home base for exploring — with at least a day trip to Firenze, of course.

Arrivederci!

(Graphic credits: Florence’s Porcellino: Via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PorcellinoFlorence.jpg, Why this statue? Tuscany map: Screen capture of map from http://www.italyguides.it/us/italy/tuscany/tuscany-italy.htm. )

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How do you spell community? #wcdet

My Martin Waymire Advocacy Communications friends and I today attended the second annual WordCamp Detroit, where I learned the following:

 

There was a lot of good information and a lot of campy fun. WordCamp Detroit is, according to its organizers:

…an event in which we can bring together the community to share and experience the power of WordPress. Organizing this event is just a small way for us to give back the community as a way to say thank you. WordPress has effected all of us in many ways and by leading this event we can connect local WordPress users and developers as well as introduce new people to the amazingness we all know as WordPress.

If you want to get a taste of this particular WordCamp, check out #wcdet, the Twitter hashtag used for the event, and see @redcrew‘s Storify. There were four other WordCamps held this weekend — in Caguas (“Para nerds, geeks y todos los demas”), Kenya (held, by the way, at a campsite), Denmark and Richmond. WordCamp Azerbaijan, also scheduled for this weekend, was postponed due to complications with the venue.

This blog is powered by WordPress.org, and if you’re looking for a great (I am biased) blogging platform/website content management system, I highly recommend WordPress — both the ready-with-a-few-clicks WordPress.com and the self-hosted WordPress.org. With WordPress, which is free (the price is right!), you get powerful flexibility. You can build beautiful websites or blog till your heart’s content — and if that wasn’t enough, you get a community ready to help.

Whether it’s Ashtanga yoga devotees, Radiohead devotees or WordPress devotees, there is always a sense of comfort for me to be surrounded by people with similar passions. That’s one of the benefits of community, right? People who understand — and can’t help but to share.

(Photo: The red WordPress tee that Dave Farinelli won during WordCamp Detroit’s WordPress Game Show and then gave to me (thanks again, Dave!), along with the cool, official WordCamp Detroit 2011 tee.)  

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.