Friday, May 31, 2013

Cuzco, Our Final Day...

Here is the town of Cuzco, nestled into the valley below....


We spent our final two nights here.
At an elevation of approximately 12,000 feet,
it made sense that this was our final stop.


We toured the church you see across the plaza in the photo above.  No sooner had we stepped foot back outside than these two industrious ladies rushed in and shoved a baby alpaca into my arms.  Not that I minded, though.


Cuzco is a beautiful city and one of the most popular in all of Peru.


It's even prettier at dusk, I think.


Here's a the view from the courtyard of our hotel.
This was a really nice place and my favorite accommodation of the entire trip.


This is the walkway to our room.
Behind that couch is the yoga shala where we practiced.


And finally, Cuzco as seen from our window.


One thing you might not know is that Cuzco even has a Starbucks!  Steve and I were so happy to find something familiar that we rushed right over.  (Peruvian coffee is NOT the same as what we have in the states.)  I have to laugh at this picture though because once I got there, I still had no idea what to order that wouldn't further upset my stomach.


In the end, I decided it didn't much matter
and settled for my usual - a tall soy latte.

All in all, the trip was fantastic.  There were the challenges that come from being with a large group - like not being able to follow your whims and not being able to spend however much time you wanted in a given place.  Still, I couldn't have put together these excursions on my own.  Our guides were exceptional and the people we met and got to know were truly kindred spirits.  Our group already has a reunion party planned in a couple of weeks!  It was lovely to have a passion for yoga serve as the common denominator among every one of us and it was such a treat not to have to worry about how and when to fit in my practice whilst traveling.  Would I do it again?  You bet!  International Yoga is the best.

And on a side note, if you've been following along and reading my posts about Peru, you might be interested to know that I redid this post.  For some reason, my iPad blogging app mixed up and omitted several photos from that post.  It's all better now if you're interested.  Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Week in Practice

Practice this week has felt heavy and sluggish.  It's no surprise why...  After spending 12 days not being able to eat or drink much of anything, imagine my exuberance when I finally could!  Without going into detail, let's just say that it got ugly.  Once I started to feel "normal" again, I sort of approached my diet with a no-holds-barred attitude.  Not good.  Of course, my practice has reflected that.

The good news is that I'm feeling renewed focus and commitment this morning.  Prior to traveling to Peru, I've been working really hard to shed some weight and I lost a full 10 pounds.  Yay, me!  Whilst sick, I lost another 5 but subsequently gained that back this past week.  I'm still down the initial 10 though and feel ready to keep going.  Needless to say, the 10-pound drop in my weight has made a HUGE difference in my practice.  For example, I'm close to getting my jump through in one movement and I was able to bind by myself in Marichyasana B for the first time.  I also saw my doctor right before we left and I'm now firmly OUT of the pre-diabetic range.  Yay, again, for me!!

Perhaps you'd like to know what I changed in order to achieve that weight loss?  Well, I refuse to "diet".  I'm never going down that road again.  Instead, I've done my best to eliminate white carbs wherever and whenever possible.   I also reduced my portion sizes and focused on healthier snacks like fruit and nuts.  Steve and I substituted shakes for dinner approximately three times per week as opposed to going out.  Most of the time, we enjoy fruit shakes with bananas, spinach, kale, frozen strawberries, blueberries, and peaches with a protein powder and green superfood powder added (plus ice).  Occasionally, I'll make a chocolate peanut butter shake that tastes just like a decadent milk shake.  For that I use bananas, peanut butter, a few spoonfuls of Starbucks mocha powder, and almond milk (plus ice).  It's divine.

I hope you all enjoy the Memorial Day holiday this weekend!  I'll post my Peru wrap-up sometime next week so stay tuned for that...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two More Peru Posts Remaining!

After our day at Machu Picchu, we took a 2-hour train ride followed by an hour-long bus ride to return back to our home base at Urubamba.  I felt horrible.

The following day was a day with several activities planned, but they were small-group-type outings and basically arranged individually.  Thank goodness.  I tried to rally and make it to yoga that morning but collapsed onto my mat after about 5 minutes.  I returned to bed and stayed there literally the ENTIRE day!  I must have needed it.

The next day we traveled back to Cuzco.  Does it seem like we moved around a lot?  You're right, we did.  For those of you keeping track, we flew into Cuzco on the first day.  From there we took a bus to Urubamba where we stayed for several days.  The night before Machu Picchu we went by train and bus to Aguascalientes - to the base of the mountain.  After Machu Picchu, we returned by said train and bus back to Urubamba.  Two more nights there and then it was back to Cuzco.  Got it?

Here are a few adorable alpaca shots on the way to
another Incan ruin just outside of Cuzco...


Check out this guy.  I mean, does it get any cuter?!?!



Why yes, it does... when you put a hat on one of them!


Okay, now for the Incan ruins that we came to see.
(We were ALL suckers for the tourist photo op - not just me, okay?)


Yoga instructor extraordinaire Joan and me...


Can you imagine moving, carving, and placing these giant boulders?
Incredible to think about.


We made it to Cuzco and our hotel by dinner time.  
(Not that I could eat anything, mind you.)
More about our time in Cuzco to follow!

Monday, May 20, 2013

At Long Last... Machu Picchu!



After two rounds of different antibiotics, I'm *FINALLY* feeling like myself again.  Thank goodness!  That gastrointestinal bug was NOT fun.  Of course given my IBS and generally sensitive gut, I knew I would be susceptible.  Still, I never imagined anything like this!  I'm just feeling immensely thankful to be mostly recovered now and able to eat and drink water again.  I had my first home practice since returning to California this morning and it was a lovely 2 hour and 15 minute expression of gratitude for my body's ability to heal.

And now without further ado, I give you Machu Picchu!....


The day broke with a heavy mist
due to the downpour during the night before.  
The town of Aguascalientes at the base of the mountain
felt hushed and eerie.

But luck was on our side because the thick fog lifted
just as we entered the site...


(I was really, really sick this day and all of the days following,
so bear that in mind when you look at these photos.)



Steve and I hiked two hours up to the Gate of the Sun.  
This is were the infamous Inca Trail connects trekkers to Machu Picchu. 



That hairpin road to my left is the narrow path the buses take
to carry you from Aguascalientes to the base of Machu Pichhu.
You can see the Machu Picchu site in the distance.

The views were breathtakingly spectacular!



The tall mountain behind the Machu Picchu site it Huayna Picchu.  That's a separate, more fear-inducing hike.  Perhaps you can see the steps and the people at the top?  Steve and I opted for the Gate of the Sun this time.  Perhaps next time we'll tackle Huayna Picchu.

And now, once again, I'll allow the photos to do the rest of the talking.
But believe me when I say this... they don't do it justice.

Not. At. All.





 









This day was one I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life.  I honestly don't think I've ever seen anything in nature more beautiful than this.  Standing in Machu Picchu proper and looking out at the mountaintops while clouds floated by at eye level - I can't even find the words.  Machu Picchu has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it in person.  What a gift.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Home but still very sick.

Please bear with me a little while longer...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tummy Troubles

Half of us got taken out by a really nasty stomach bug which started in Aguascalientes.  It has manifested in each of us in slightly different ways but, for the most part, the symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Like troopers, we made it through Machu Picchu, but it was a grueling day - followed by an even more grueling train and bus ride back to Urubamba.  I've been in bed for nearly 24 hours now.  Steve isn't feeling well either, but at least he's not as bad off as me.  I tried to rally and go to yoga this morning, but the knots and churning in my stomach forced me to collapse into a heap within the first five minutes.  It's now nearly 4 pm and I've slept the entire day away.

So all of this to say... please accept my apologies for a delay in the Machu Picchu post.  It was perhaps the single most beautiful thing I've ever seen and I want to share that - as well as the rest of the trip with you - just when I'm feeling better and can do it justice.

By the way, are these posts of interest to you?  Is anyone reading this?  I'd love to hear from you...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ollantaytombo

Yesterday we took the bus to the town of Ollantaytombo.




It is the site of yet another wonderful example of ancient Incan ingenuity.



Those two buildings on the rock face are where the Incans stored their grain and other foods.  They were fond of heights as a means of protection.




After spending the day here, we took a late afternoon train to Aguascalientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.  It rained hard in the night, but I'm hoping the weather clears for the day ahead.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Salt Flats

Yesterday was another full day.  With the exception of the first day, we barely have five minutes before it's time for the next activity, meal, or yoga practice.

Here is the path to the shala we practice in...


And the shala itself...



We has a really awesome, challenging 2 hour & 15 minute practice yesterday morning, which was the closest any teacher has ever come to my home practice.  It was wonderful.  Because of all of the mountains that surround us, Joan said that this space is very high in the earth element.  As a force, the earth element is very grounding and stabilizing.  I believe it because my balance - something that normally challenges me - was rock-solid straight through practice.  Oh, and I was able to grab and hold my foot - with both hands - for the first time ever in Lord of the Dance pose / Natarajasana!  (Usually I just barely catch my big toe and then it slips out in a matter of a second or two.)  It felt really cool to achieve that milestone here.

After practice and a bite to eat, we took a bus to the nearby salt flats...


Warm, salty water comes up from a natural spring in the ground.


(Can you see the lamb on the left?)

The water is then channeled into these flat pools
where it is allowed to evaporate,


at which point, the salt can be harvested.


Notice the guy carrying the bag of harvested salt in the lower right of the picture.  That gives you some idea of the perspective of this place.  It was huge!



Our illustrious group...


 We hiked past the salt flats and down the mountain,
back into the town of Urubamba.
 

In the middle of nowhere at the base of the mountain,
we arrived at this really incredible restaurant...



Seriously, this kind of luxury is NOT the norm for this part of Peru.  Most structures are half-finished (or half-crumbling) tiny adobe shacks like the one a few photos up.  I'll try to take more shots of the local life for a future post.

The group enjoyed a drink together and then we headed home.


After a quick 15 minutes to gather ourselves, Joan held a really interesting talk on Ayurveda in the shala.  I learned a lot and want to possibly seek out an Ayurvedic doctor when I return.  In case you're interested, I'm vata-dominant with a secondary dosha of pitta.  Steve is kapha-dominant, which is why we work so well together.  Opposites cure.  Pranayama followed.
 
We had a late dinner and then another body scan & meditation session at 9 pm.  Steve and I opted out of the latter because we really just needed some time to regroup.  We leave for Aguascalientes at the base of Machu Picchu this morning.

I'll leave you with a few candid shots from the day...




 


Our fearless leader, Joan.