Why I got hooked on hot yoga

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It wasn’t David Beckham, Lady Gaga, George Clooney or Gwyneth Paltrow who turned me onto Bikram yoga. It was my dear friend Melinda. She’s an accomplished executive in the energy industry, a mother of two and a devoted yogini. She touted the benefits of hot yoga, and she looked fabulous with her glowing skin and toned body. She also seemed at peace with herself and whatever life sent her way.

I did eventually make my way down to a hot yoga class and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. It proved to be the antidote to so many of my ailments from my migraines to a sluggish immune system.

For those of you who have never been to a hot yoga class, here’s what you can expect: the room is set to 40 degrees Celsius and it’s humid. Classes last 90 minutes, and during each class you methodically work your way through 26 postures. The classes are über-structured and there’s etiquette about when you can drink, blow your nose and pee (before and after class). Leaving the room is frowned upon.

You may pour sweat. Some people occasionally take the “wind-clearing” posture literally. During almost every class I ask myself, “Why am I doing this to myself?” I asked myself that every single day during a 30-Day Challenge I did a few years ago, but at the end of those 30 days, I felt like a goddess, albeit a sweaty one.

What I put into Bikram yoga is nothing compared to dividends it delivers. My attention span has improved, I feel more relaxed and I sleep better. I can better manage the stress of a demanding full-time job and my part-time freelance gigs. The classes also help mitigate the impact of cycling, running and weight lifting. I believe that practising regularly goes a long way to minimizing injuries and strains.

One of the other perks is the incredible people you’ll encounter. They are the friendliest, most supportive of group of people you’ll ever meet. They come in all shapes and sizes; there’s no body shaming.

I have heard about diehard Bikram yoga lovers just walking out of class one day and never going back. They’re burnt out on the 90-minute time commitment, the sweaty yoga apparel, and the repetition of the same 26 postures over and over and over again. I feared that was happening to me when I recently had a rough class and did the unthinkable: I left the room and didn’t go back for a few months.

At first, I enjoyed the break, but then I noticed my attention span grew shorter as did my patience. I started to experience aches and pains after runs. I also missed my sweaty family. I recently returned to classes and I’m not turning my increasingly flexible back on hot yoga again.

Practising Bikram yoga has given me things I lacked: structure, focus and discipline. I am a rebel and I hate being told what to do. But the rewards have been so immense and have trickled into other areas of my life. For 90 minutes a day, about three days a week, I do what I am told.

There’s a saying that if you can control your breathing, you can control your life. There have been times when it has been difficult to breathe in the heat and humidity, but I listened to my instructors and breathed through my nose and all anxiety dissipated. I have used that technique outside the hot room to control anxiety and anger.

I know that the 90 minutes away from my iPhone, my work email, my personal email, Facebook and Twitter has also changed my life. I shut the world out for 90 minutes in class and I don’t know if I could do this on my own. I have been known to text from the treadmill. You’d be surprised how much a 90-minute break from all the noise and constant communications will reduce your stress level.

I go to Studio 26 Hot Yoga, a well-respected studio in Winnipeg, because the instructors stick to the dialogue and sweat the sweat. Several of the instructors used to be professional dancers and the owner of the studio, Todd Miller, has worked in the fitness industry for 30 years and danced professionally for many years. I have a dance and gymnastics background and I appreciate the corrections I get from people who have similar training.

So I am officially hooked on hot yoga and will be getting my sweat on for years to come.

#TBT Poem

This is the first poem I published in a literary journal. This piece appeared in Grain in 1992. Under the influence of Lorna Crozier, I wrote this poem at the tender age of 21. I studied with her in my second year of university. She assigned my class a prose poem and the following poem is what I submitted:

men love women love men

Some men love bisexual women others love straight women who scream during sex, who leave tiger marks on their backs other men love women who wear black tank tops in the middle of the winter & dance on speakers in nightclubs  & some men love women with wild blonde hair, jeans that don’t lie, and kiss-me-red lips some men love women who write poetry about violence & sex others love women who give head and swallow

Women love men who won’t ask when the threesome is   other women love men who look at their faces during sex and kiss them & women with large breasts love men who notice the colour of their eyes other women love men who won’t talk of old lovers like a stamp collection & some women love men who won’t let them say fuck in the bedroom & women poets love men who read between the lines.

–Candice G. Ball

Q&A with Arts Promoter & Winnipegger Kelly Hughes

11796319_10152950300067051_7757043110665948378_nA proud Winnipegger and a passionate promoter of the arts, Kelly Hughes owned and operated Aqua Books from 1999 to 2012. Noah Richler described Aqua Books as “one of the craziest, most amusing and well-ordered second-hand bookstores I have ever frequented.”

The end of Aqua Books took its toll on Hughes, but he has found new ways to champion the arts and connect with musicians, poets, playwrights and artists. His weekly radio show, The Ivory Tower, on CKUW is just one of those ways. Hughes has no qualms about openly discussing both his triumphs and troubles of life after Aqua Books.

Why did Aqua Books shut down?

We were shut down three years ago in the middle of the Fringe Festival. We didn’t have our occupancy permit due to a combination of factors. It wasn’t entirely the city’s fault, not entirely the landlord’s, and not entirely my fault. I was very desperate to get opened up. Aqua Books had been open since 1999. We were closed for maybe two months and we re-opened in a new space on Princess. I was concerned about losing my continuity.

At Christmas, I had booked a bunch of out-of-town Fringe performers. Even though I was up against some challenges, I couldn’t make the decision to say, “I can’t do it.” On the second day of The Fringe, an inspector from the City of Winnipeg saw that Aqua Books was a Fringe venue. He came across an ad and let’s just call him a stickler. We were shut down and I never re-opened.

What happened after Aqua Books closed?

After five months of various mishaps, I sunk into a deeper depression. It had been coming on for a while. I ended up in the psych ward at the Victoria General Hospital. I had lost my apartment. I’d moved out on December 31, 2012. I’d never stiffed anyone in my life, but I couldn’t pay my rent.

After I got out of the hospital, I held onto this idea that I might be able to get Aqua Books open again. I kept telling myself I still had a chance. I couldn’t talk about it. I’d put so much of myself so much into the place. I felt like if it didn’t exist, I didn’t exist. I just didn’t know what to do. I felt like I had nothing else to offer and I was done.

How have you been able to move on?

I’m in a better place now. It’s been three years since that whole thing with getting shut down. I really kicked myself. I felt like that was my fault and that I was a failure. I owed some people who did construction work money. I didn’t pay them for a year and a half, but when I had the money, I contacted them squared up. They weren’t mad. The only person who had kicked Kelly Hughes in the ass was Kelly Hughes. For the most part, nobody was being harder on me than me. Realizing that has helped me to move on.

Why are you so passionate about promoting the arts?

I really love to create new things. I don’t want to foist my vision on the world. I love to facilitate what other people are doing. I want to create a space for creative people to show their art.

There are never enough venues. I really liked to promote musicians because they needed a place where they could share their art and make mistakes. It’s a lot easier to book a gig if you’re a bunch of old guys doing cover songs than if you’re starting out.

Music used to happen at community centres, but it has become increasingly harder to find venues and book gigs. Musicians need that experience. Musicians used to be able to book weeklong gigs in Winnipeg. The singer and songwriter Steve Bell said on Monday they’d be terrible and by Saturday they’d be great.

At Aqua Books we gave Nic Dyson his first gift when he was about 17. He’s gone on and established himself and has put out two EPs and speaks out against bullying. That always gave me great satisfaction.

I do the same thing with my radio show. It’s ostensibly a music show, but I’ve probably had about 20 Fringe performers on the show. I am always interviewing people whether they’re musicians, fringe performers or poets. On Kelly Hughes Live, I’ve done lots of live interviews.

The CKUW radio show has been good. It’s a way of staying connected to the arts scene. I will admit that when I was coming out of the depression, it was sometimes hard to go, but I showed up and things got better for me.

Facebook was another way I stayed connected. It was a gateway back into the world for me. I posted a lot of introspective stuff. I am quieter on Facebook these days. I have actually been busier doing stuff again—I am in a different phase. You don’t want to be the same way all of the time.

What’s next for you?

I am working on something right now that I’m not going to be specific about. I’m still pretty shell-shocked from the way everything went down three years ago. I’m not working 100 hours a week. I’m trying to find a new way to work and participate more in the scene.

In the meantime, I am doing honest labour. I don’t mind doing that. It’s not bad for me because I need to lose a couple of pounds. My business is called Fat Man Little Truck. I do carpentry, renovations and junk removal.

I have a different plan. I think a person needs to be versatile. You need to be able to reinvent yourself—and you may have to do it more that once. I did ask myself the question: does Winnipeg need Kelly Hughes? Is there a place for me in this cultural scene? I decided yes there is. Stay tuned. You’ll be hearing more from me.

Lost

forest

All that we can be remains lost in the forest,
lingers among quivering pine trees,
wild mushrooms, moss-covered stones.

In the city, something wild
beats beneath my chest, wings
flapping   it is breathing. My lover can’t tame it
so I came to you.

Your cerulean eyes dishevel me
I forget my name, forget who I am
in this city I used to love.
Suddenly neon lights blur, hot pavement
becomes soil, crickets and loons drown
out crackling street lamps.

Tomorrow I’ll begin my journey,
but I know I’ll never find you.
You who forget to answer your phone
for weeks, hate traffic and streets crowded
with lonely people.

Where do the pine trees break?
Where can I see sunlight
streaming down on you?

When can I stumble towards you
my legs scratched and bloody
from wild roses and weeds?

—Candice G. Ball

Q&A with Winnipeg Artist Wanda Luna

wandaWanda Luna is a Winnipegger with Chilean roots who lives and breathes art. When she’s not making art, she’s posting or tweeting about art on social media—and she’s not afraid to engage in political debates.

A community-minded artist, Wanda founded The Dream Room Project (La Sala De Los Sueños Inc.) in 2009 with the mandate of transforming kids’ bedrooms into hope-filled spaces with her murals. She works with both children and teens who have experienced trauma and creates murals based on their requests.

Wanda met with me at Café D’Amour on Osborne Street to discuss her art, Winnipeg and her aspirations.

When did you know you were an artist?

As far back as I can remember, I have been decorating or making art. As a child, I’d draw on paper or I’d decorate myself with Christmas lights or whatever medium was around. Even though art has always been important to me, I didn’t start calling myself an artist until 2002. Up until then, I drew all the time, but around 2002 I started to work in particular themes and do research. I also started putting in regular hours at the studio. It became more structured and disciplined.

My first series focused on fat, smoking women. It seems today there’s more tolerance for all shapes and sizes. In 2002, things were different and being fat and smoking were both seen as very vulgar. I thought, “Why? Who cares?” I did large-scale paintings and the women would be lying around with a cigarette and chocolate cake. It was a decadent series and people bought them. One of the paintings ended up in Italy.

You are a proud of your Chilean roots. How does your background influence your art?

It was really important to connect the relationship Canada has with Chile. I thought it was great to create that space for an ongoing dialogue. Next year, Canada and Chile will celebrate their 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations. There are more than 40,000 people of Chilean original living in Canada and Chile and Canada are important trade partners. Canada imports precious metals like gold and silver, fruits, seafood and wine.

I am indigenous to Chile. I’m always exploring indigenous themes in my art. As with Canada, Chile has volatile relationships with indigenous people. In Chile, you were looked on more favourably if you appeared Spanish. In Winnipeg, I have connected with Aboriginal communities and recently gave a talk about making art at Neechi Niche.

Has Winnipeg been good to you?

I wouldn’t have the same opportunity back home. For one, the visual arts aren’t given a lot of regard. They really appreciate their poets and novelists. The poet Pablo Neruda is revered as is the fiction writer Isabel Allende.

We’re seen as pests. My artist friends are busking their art in the streets. It’s a hard living. I have a voice here. That’s what I love about Winnipeg. I can talk about these issues that in Chile I would never be able to address.

What are you currently working on?

I am doing a series on coffee. I am looking at the relationship Canada has with South America. People don’t want to know where their coffee is from. So we don’t really give it a lot of thought. A lot of coffee comes from farms in South America and the people who pick the beans are underpaid and exploited. They’ve probably never had a cup of coffee.

I am creating images that depict what a Chilean farmer looks like. The series features a 12-year-old farmer and the medium is paper collage over disposable paper cups. On top of the human exploitation, the industry is destroying the Andes, which is where I am from. I want the series to get people thinking about where their coffee comes from and generate awareness about fair-trade coffee.

Where would you like to be in ten years?

I would really like to be able to keeping doing what I’m doing. I want to continue to generate interest in Latin America and pay homage to my heritage. I will continue sharing the old stories that my grandfather told me. Many of the pieces I have done featuring indigenous cellos are based on his stories.

She’s Gone

moon

She comes to me after midnight
when my mind is nurtured be milky moonlight
my mind succumbs to the tune—
jazz trumpeting from the radio.

For four months
she fluttered
inside of me.

The blood stained our mattress—
the wound won’t heal.
The maternity clothes dangle, lifeless
on metal hangers.

Alone: you are driving away from me
towards moonlight on farmers’ fields.
The harvest. Stars go on forever.
Do you hear the jazz tune playing?

I want my butterfly child back—
her tiny heart beating beneath skin.
Even though she’s gone
she’s still closer to me
than you’ll ever be.

—Candice G. Ball

Genesis

UnknownI.

In the beginning God created light, but it wasn’t until he created coffee that morning came to be.

The beginning really began with coffee.

II.

Morning begins with coffee flowing down my throat —cup after cup—with just enough cream to prevent green teeth and just enough sugar to zap droopy eyes.

But it doesn’t end here.

III.

God knew coffee was good but he also knew it could be better. So from the heavens came espresso, Dark French Roast, Blue Pacific, and Turkish coffee.

IV.

Coffee is so good, and I thank God for it. Every night as I say my prayers while sipping freshly perked coffee, I thank the supreme Creator for coffee, and then for life.

V.

When I lie in bed visions come to me:

opening a vacuum package of Nabob…sipping a cappuccino…shooting back a row of espressos…touching Colombian Excelso, Kona, and Mocha Java beans mixed together in a large wooden barrel.

Even in darkness, coffee is good.

—Candice G. Ball