No pain, no gain

branch1This past month I got serious about aerial yoga, purchasing an 8-class pass and attempting to work in all of them in one month. With my schedule, it was understandably impossible (oh, how I long for the days before kiddos sometimes…), but I did manage to get in six, with a couple that trickled into May. And while I still execute many poses with an embarrassing lack of grace, I’m a lot more confident while dangling upside down, and there are a handful of maneuvers that I’ve gotten much better at doing. Because I’ve been practicing so much, the hammock barely hurts my hips anymore, which gives me even more latitude to sink into the poses. Depending on the instructor and level of the class, it can be a deceptively rigorous workout. My whole body is always sore the next day. And best of all, it is so much FUN. I’m the kind of person who has to be tricked into exercise. If it’s at all rote, I get bored and stop trying.

The one challenge (besides gravity) has been deciphering the Greek. All of my instructors know English, and they’re happy to translate if I need it, but I mostly have to look around me to figure out what pose we’re doing next. However, my studio just hired a new American instructor, and if I bring a friend or two, she’ll offer to teach the class in English. I didn’t realize how much better this is for me until we tried it for the first time. There’s so much explanation I was missing in Greek, and it was nice to finally be able to understand what was being said during relaxation.

With the onset of summer in Greece (it was a whopping 94 degrees on Saturday!), I thought it would be fun to get a pedicure. There was a place I’d been to before with friends, and while they were a little more…let’s say, thorough…than I’m accustomed to, overall I was satisfied by the experience.

But this time, I’m not sure what went wrong. The pedicurist laid out her tools, the same she used as last time, but this time around I started to think of them as implements of torture. There was your usual filing and trimming, but the under-nail care…God, I’m breaking out into a cold sweat just thinking about it. Granted, I’ve kind of got a “thing” about toes. You know those foot fungus ads that ran a few years back, the one with the animated germ lifting a toe nail to dive right in? Yeah, that kind of makes me want to vomit when I see it.

Anyway, I managed to survive the ordeal, and I figured I’d ask them to take it easy next time. But the aftermath over the past few days left me cringing in the shower as the hot water hit my sore toes, and I had to turn my socks inside-out so the seam wouldn’t irritate them. I got nervous I’d contracted an infection, so a friend recommended I pick up some Bactroban at the pharmacy. It seemed to do the trick…or at least put my mind at ease.

I asked around about this…are Greek pedicures always this painful? I got mixed answers. Some friends said they don’t even like to go to get their nails done in Greece because they are so rough. Others had no complaints at all. It may depend on who you see…and your threshold for pain.

At any rate, I think I’ll be painting my own toes for awhile, thankyouverymuch.

I bought pants at the Laiki!

Ever since we got our car back in March, I’ve been mostly navigating the city from the driver’s seat. With much infuriation and aggravation. Today’s unseasonably warm weather inspired me to ditch the car and walk over to my Pilates class, which according to Google Maps, would only take me about 35 minutes.

How refreshing to explore new neighborhoods again! My path took me through Filiothei, then trailed north to the OAKA (Olympic Stadium). I passed some amusing graffiti in Halandri.

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Eventually I found myself on a wooded path between two streets. As I walked along, I came to some random train tracks.

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Inspecting the ground at my feet, I could see two rails overgrown by grass and debris. Interesting. Athens is home to ancient and not-so-ancient ruins.

Further along, I spied a Laiki. I hadn’t planned to buy anything, but as I passed the clothing market, a pair of yoga pants caught my eye. My work-out wardrobe is almost embarrassingly shabby, and with my renewed interest in exercising (I’ve been looking at resorts in Belize all week for my girlfriends summer getaway this summer), I decided to give them a try. I usually like to try clothes on before I buy them. Of course you can’t do that at the Laiki. But for 10 Euros, I figured it was worth the gamble. Turns out they fit perfectly! Not too shabby, either!

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I may just have to pass by there again next week to pick up another pair.

After class I decided to stop in my favorite second-hand shop, The Mix and Match, which probably has a proper Greek name, but I haven’t figured it out. Anyhow, I got a fantastic deal: four tops and 2 hoodies for 15 Euros. Sweet. Now time to get in shape!

I lost my heart in Kifissia

I decided to give aerial yoga another go…this time at a studio in Kifissia that a friend recommended. I drove around a bit in search of parking, always a feat even that far out in the suburbs. I did manage to find a decent on-street spot just a couple of blocks from the studio. But as I looked to my indispensable google maps app to help me walk the rest of the way there, I realized I only had 43 cents worth of minutes left on my phone. I could look at a map, but I couldn’t get directions. No bother…I could easily find my way.

The class was…kind of boring, actually. That is until the knot came completely undone on my hammock and I went tumbling to the floor. Luckily, due to my ineffectual biceps, I was only inches off the ground when it happened.

Yeah. I’m not so sure about this aerial yoga thing anymore.

At any rate, about five minutes into class, I decided to take off my wedding ring and put it in my purse because it was making it hard to grip the hammock. I remember clearly zipping it up tight into a pocket where I store my keys. After class I went back to my car, fired up my old-school GPS because my phone was out of minutes, and started winding my way back home. About a half mile on my way I decided to grab my ring before I completely forgot about it…and It. Wasn’t. There.

Trying not to panic in the heavy traffic, I dug through all the pockets in my purse. I quickly pulled over to what looked like a passable parking spot, threw on my flashers (Greek for “ignore my automotive transgressions”), and really started scouring the car. When that turned up nothing, I started scouring my brain. Perhaps the ring fell out when I took out my keys?

I walked down the road a bit, trying to remember the turn I needed to make to get back to my original parking spot. With all the one-way roads and my phone out of commish, I figured I was better on foot. I stopped in a pharmacy to ask for directions.

“You need to walk down…that way…and…”

“Yes, and?”

“And…ask…again.” she struggled.

“Oh, you mean ask someone else? (Nervous laugh) Right. Ef charisto, then!”

Thankfully the Google Maps app still functions as a street map without internet, so after studying it a bit I was able to figure out how to trace my steps back on my own. Finally, I found my spot, which was of course taken by another car, and I nosed around the sidewalk and gutters up and down the area I had walked for several minutes. No surprise, the sidewalk was in terrible shape, with lots of cracks and bits of gravel to disguise a wedding ring.

No luck.

When I got home I called the yoga studio to see if perhaps I’d dropped it there. They didn’t find it, either. Seriously?! I went 12 years without losing it, and I manage to drop it on a public sidewalk in a foreign country.

Thankfully, the ring is insured, so assuming I can file a claim from here and they’ll mail me a check, I should be able to replace it. Of course, I’m kicking myself for not getting it re-appraised like they’ve been nagging me to do for years. It’s probably worth more than we paid for it 12 years ago. And the design I picked was kind of unique. I doubt I’ll be able to get one just like it. But perhaps that’s not all bad. When I fessed up to James tonight on FaceTime, he nonchalantly said we could get a new one with the insurance money at Christmas when we’re back in the States. I’m not really a shiny jewelry kind of girl…but SHINY NEW JEWELRY, yes, please! As sentimental as I am about that ring, there’s something appealing about getting a new one. My life has changed so much since we were first engaged. I mean, we live in freakin’ GREECE now! Maybe this is a sign from the Gods. Is there a Greek Goddess of wedding rings?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial Yoga in Greece

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I wasn’t sure about this at first. I walked into a room full of purple hammocks hanging from the ceiling. I felt like a beginner again, trying to adjust myself into unfamiliar poses while also trying NOT to fall out of the sling. The cloth pulled uncomfortably, but as the class progressed I noticed it less and less. Inversions have always been tricky for me. I don’t have much upper body strength, so unless I’m in great shape, I usually can’t master them. But by using the sling, I could almost effortlessly hold myself up. I think the more challenging aspect was getting the balance. And overcoming the fear of falling. Add to that the complication of the class being taught in a language you don’t know. It was a bit of a challenge. But the instructor could speak English, and she did help me out when I needed it.

Boy. My face sure looks weird upside down. It’s like I’m looking at a different person with disconcerting facial fatness. And the sling isn’t very forgiving of my muffintop. Anyway, I digress…

Soon enough it was time for Savasana. Now this was more like it.

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Obviously I found these photos on the internet. But you get the picture. The instructor gave me a gentle swing…like sleeping in a hammock on the beach. Pure bliss.

Yeah, I’m definitely going back. I have a feeling after I’ve done this a few times I’ll enjoy it even more. I’d never heard of Aerial Yoga before coming to Greece. Yoga peeps — do they have this at your studios in the US?

Yoga and Chance Encounters

Six months. Six months?! It has been six months since my last yoga class here. Seriously, what in the heck do I DO all day? Oh, yeah. Baby = Time Suck.

Anyway, now that school has started and I have our babysitter twice a week, I decided it was high time I get back into a yoga routine. I really enjoyed the class I took last time, but this tiny studio isn’t open weekday mornings, so I had to look elsewhere. I found a couple of promising studios: Prana Yoga at the Olympic Stadium, and Athens Yoga near a metro stop close to down town. The former had more weekday morning offerings, including Pilates, so I decided to try that one first. And with a drop in rate of 12 Euros, it was the most affordable one, too.

The class was packed, way more crowded for a Tuesday morning than I would have expected. Usually I don’t like crowded classes, but because it was taught entirely in Greek (with a few helpful English instructions if the need arose), it was nice to have an array of bodies to observe and copy. I’ve been practicing yoga for…wow, like a dozen or so years…so I was able to follow along pretty easily. It helped that I know a lot of the Sanskrit words for poses. The instructor spent about five minutes at the beginning of class explaining…something in Greek. Whatever it was, he spoke it very quickly, and I was able to kind of lose myself in the rhythm of his words. We did some Ommms, some chanting, lots of poses I’d done before, and a few I hadn’t. We partnered up a couple of times, which was fine — everybody speaks English here!

So, funny observation. One of my pet peeves about yoga instructors is when they get their left and right mixed up. No judgement — I’m sure I would be horrible at it — but, still, annoying. However, when the class is being taught to you in a foreign language, you’re not even really listening to the words. I had no idea if he was saying “left” or “right” — I was just looking around and doing what everyone else seemed to be doing. I have a feeling if I go to enough yoga classes here, I’ll pick up a few words. I clearly heard the words for “inhale” and “exhale” and I already know that matia means “eye.”

All in all, I was pleased with the practice, and I look forward to going back. I’m going to give Pilates a try next time. Should be interesting to see how I fair following along in Greek. I’m not as experienced with Pilates.

Now for the chance encounter. As I was leaving, I spied a couple of moms with young babies walking back up to the complex. One mom in particular had the exact same color Baby Bjorn that I do. Inspired by the coincidence, I casually asked her if there was a baby class there…next thing I knew I’d made fast friends with a fellow ex-pat! She’s actually from Ireland, but it’s funny how, when living abroad, you’ll instantly gravitate toward other English-speaking foreigners. We exchanged info with promises to meet up again sometime soon.

Between Liam’s school connections, people I’m meeting at the embassy, and friendly chance encounters, my social calendar is filling up. Which is a good thing for me — I’m happiest when I’m among friends. But these new connections are somewhat bittersweet. Our time here is limited, and once we move on, I doubt I’ll have a chance to see any of these people again. But, hey, there’s always Facebook, right? And on the bright side, we’ll have friends to visit all over the world.

 

Greek Yoga

Liam taught me the Greek word for eyes: matia. So when I heard a string of melodious Greek words from my new yoga instructor ending with “matia” I knew she must have said, “Close your eyes.” The rest was, well, Greek to me.

The studio space was lovely, light and airy, and the class size was very small, just a handful of us. We started in Supta Baddha Konasana, a pose I’m especially familiar with from my prenatal yoga days, and one I easily recognized from Sanskrit. Kalliopi, the instructor and owner, talked us through the pose, kindly leaning down to whisper it in English to me as well. Each instructor has their own teaching style, and she threw in a few poses I’d never done before. But looking around, I could usually manage to figure it out. If I didn’t quite follow along, Kalliopi would come over to translate.

There’s something especially peaceful about listening to a foreign language. Greek, especially, has a lovely cadence to it, and I really enjoyed listening to the sound of her voice. The drop-in rate was a little high, 15 Euros, but I’ve probably gotten spoiled by the $10-12 drop-in rate standard in Wichita. The studio is only a 10-minute walk from my house, so I don’t have to ruin my post-yoga serenity by negotiating traffic.

One reason I prefer attending classes over practicing yoga by myself at home is the social aspect. I can chit chat with people, make some friends, get a little adult conversation during my normally kid-filled day. But here it’s a challenge: I know pretty much zero Greek, and so I can’t jump in on a conversation like I normally can. James says I won’t be able to take any Greek classes at the Embassy until October, so I’ll have to get back to working with my Greek lesson app. Many people speak English here, so I’m getting by ok. But it would be nice to at least attempt a conversation in the native language. If nothing else, it helps break the ice with strangers without sounding like a boorish American who refuses to learn another language.

Ommmm…what’s that smell?

It’s been aaaages since I’ve done a proper down dog. I did remember to pack my mat, but I haven’t had a moment to spare on the weekend to attend a yoga class here. One of my new mom friends recommended I try DoYogaWithMe.com. So I put Violet down for her afternoon nap and gave it a go. Mind you, I squandered most of her asleep time planning out our upcoming trip to Delphi (our first foray out of Athens, yippee!). With an hour to spare until Liam got off the school bus, I selected an intermediate 30-minute class with a focus on hip flexors. My favorite place to stretch! The pace was perfect for my now fairly inflexible muscles, and I was just starting to hit my groove when I heard the familiar sound of my baby stirring.

Pause…

After some nursing and a cuddle, I plopped her in her Johnny Jump-Up, right in full view of my yoga mat.

Resume…

And my little sweetie just bounced and smiled at me every time I’d look her way, especially if I was upside-down. Savasana wasn’t nearly as relaxing with all the baby babble, and she got a bit vocal right near the end. Perfect timing for a Namaste. Now, what’s that smell? Ah, yes, a little post-yoga gift. Namaste, indeed. I’m hoping the class I plan to attend on Saturday will go a little better. It’ll smell better, at least.