DIY Gifts #2: Mala Bracelet \\\ Cadeau-Maison #2: Bracelet Mala

(Version en français plus bas!)

Mala beads are really pretty and such helpful tools when working with mantras in your yoga practice or meditation routine. The only thing is that they are really expensive! However, the other day, at the art supplies store, I stumbled upon really beautiful marble beads. I fell in love with them, and they were in my price range at 10$ for 12 beads, so I bought two strands. Well, I made a really fun and nice looking mala bracelet with them, and I think these would make a really thoughtful gift for any yogi in your life.

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The process is fairly simple and does not require a lot of material. Plus, you can really personalize this to fit with your personal preferences and what you find in your area. The possibilities are endless!

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I kept this mala quite simple, but of course, you can find charms or tassels to  add to it to give it a different look. I made mine into a bracelet so that it would be more portable and cheaper, but you could also go full pledge and work on a 108-bead mala.

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Here is what you need:

  • 21 beads of your choice
  • solid thread that fits your beads (I used some bamboo cord, but hemp cord is also very strong)
  • A candle
  • scissors

Here is what you do:

  1. Cut the tip of the cord diagonally so that it is easy to thread the beads. Don’t cut the thread out (this means you don’t need to measure anything and you’ll be sure to have enough thread for your entire bracelet).
  2. Thread 18  beads and tie a knot after the last bead, leaving a 10cm tail.
  3. Tie a knot between each bead as close to the bead as possible. You can use a needle or a skewer to help you set the knot where you want it to be. Here is a helpful video.
  4. Cut the thread 10cm after the last knot.
  5. Pass both tails through 1 bead and tie several knots after this one: it is your marker.
  6. Thread one bead on each tail and tie knots after these. Cut the threads close.
  7. Lit your candle until there is a nice pool of wax. Blow it off and dip the two knots in the wax two or three times until they are well coated. This will help solidify your knots and prevent them from getting untied. That’s it! You’re done!

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I hope these instructions are clear, but I think looking at the pictures will help you a lot! Also, feel free to personalize the end of your mala to your liking. Placed in a pretty box, this bracelet will make the perfect gift and takes no more than 30 minutes to put together! Another perfect solution for last minute Santas.


Les bracelets mala ou les chapelets sont vraiment jolis, mais sont aussi des outils de pratique très utile pour le yoga ou la méditation. Le hic, c’est qu’ils sont souvent très chers ou très kitsch! C’est pour ça que lorsque je suis tombée sur des jolies perles en marbre à 12 pour 10$, je me suis dit, pourquoi pas! Une fois enfilées, elles forment un très joli mala, qui sera parfait à offrir pour le yogi de votre vie.

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Il est assez simple de faire un mala, et cela ne nécessite pas beaucoup de materiel. En plus, il est aussi facile de les personaliser selon vos envies ou vos préférences. Les possibilités sont infinies!

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J’ai gardé ce mala assez simple, mais il est bien sur possible d’ajouter des breloques ou des perles spéciales. J’ai également travaillé avec 21 perles pour faire un bracelet et un mala plus facilement portable, mais vous pouvez voir grand et en faire un à 108 perles.

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Voici ce dont vous aurez besoin:

  • 21 perles de votre choix
  • une corde ou du fil solide qui est à la bonne taille pour vos perles (j’ai utilisé de la carde de bambou, mais la corde de chanvre est aussi très résistante)
  • Une bougie
  • Des ciseaux

Voici ce qu’il faut faire:

  1. Couper le  bout de la corde en biseau pour faciliter le passage des perles. Ne coupez pas la corde de la bobine (cela vous permettra de ne pas avoir à mesurer quoi que ce soit et de ne pas manquer de corde).
  2. Enfiler 18 perles et faire un noeud aprés la dernière perle enfilée en laissant 10 cm après le noeud.
  3. Faire un noeud entre chaque perle le plus près possible de chaque perle à l’aide d’une aiguille ou d’un cure-dent. Voici un video qui peut vous donner un coup de main.
  4. Couper la corde 10 cm après le dernier noeud.
  5. Passer les deux bout de corde dans une perle et faire une série de noeud après cette perle. Ce sera votre marqueur.
  6. Passer une perle dans chaque bout the corde et faire des noeuds après celles-ci. Couper la corde après ces noeuds.
  7. Allumez votre bougie et laissez-la brûler jusqu’à ce que vous ayez de la cire fondue. Éteindre la bougie et tremper les noeuds finaux dans la cire pour les “bloquer” et les empêcher de se defaire. Voilà! C’est fini!

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J’espère que ces instructions sont claires, mais je pense que les photos peuvent vous aider un peu. N’hésitez pas à personaliser votre mala pour qu’il soit unique et à votre goût! Placé dans une jolie boîte, je pense que ce mala fera un très beau cadeau qui ne vous aura pas pris plus de 30 minutes à fabriquer! Encore un cadeau parfait pour les Pères Noël retardataires!

The importance of giving yourself time

A few weeks ago, a mom asked me if I would give her 9 years old daughter French lessons. I accepted, however, we quickly realized that it was impossible for me and her to meet and be free at the same time. She had piano lessons, scouts meetings, math tutoring, Vietnamese lessons, and soccer practice to fit in her 9 years old schedule. This got me thinking about how I used to fill my time as a kid, and how I fill my time now. I realized that I am clearly an underachiever compared to this child. Yet, I am also rich with the most precious thing: boredom.

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As a kid, my parents were (and still are) ferocious believers in boredom. My dad always told me that boredom was the most precious thing to have because it meant that you had room for inspiration and creativity to settled in. That’s why I had the occasional ballet class, music recital, or swimming lesson, but mostly free time to fill as I liked. I spent countless afternoons at the library exploring old and obscure books, in the park inventing stories and playing with friends, at home drawing or DIYing something or another. Was that time lost? I don’t think so. In fact, I think this time was the most precious gift my parents could have given me because it made it possible for me to create and experiment at my own pace. It taught me to observe, listen and invent. It also helped me be comfortable with being alone with myself. As an adult, I think we often forget how important it is to give ourselves some time to be bored. Of course part of the reason is because we rush from one thing to the other because of work and our responsibilities, but the truth is, there is always time to be bored and listen to ideas as they start to occupy these empty bubbles of time. Here are some ways I like to fill mine up:

  • Move: When I’m in a rut and find myself whining about how bored I am, I like to roll out my yoga mat and start moving and stretching around. Every time I do so, I end my practice feeling refreshed, calmer, and more open to inspiration. I usually have one or two good ideas in my head ready to be used and put in motion as well.
  • Enjoy the outdoors: Even if it’s just sitting in my backyard or balcony and enjoying the sun or rain, connecting with nature always relieves boredom. Some people say that blue and green colors make your brain happy. I don’t know if that’s true, but being outside always seems to make me feel good. I usually also find something to do: take care of a plant, observe a bee at work, look at the clouds and invent stories, look for beautiful rocks. Of course, if I have more time hiking or doing sports outside is also a great option.
  • Create something beautiful: When I was a kid and I got bored, I would take some printer paper and my colored pencils and sit at the coffee table with the cartoons on low and draw away. I would create clothes and creatures and just enjoy this time to make something beautiful out of nothing. Of course, they were not museum worthy (not under the current standards anyways, haha), but they were pretty and fun to me. As a teenager, I discovered knitting and recently, calligraphy. Not only are all these occupations cheap, they are also quiet, calm and soothing to the mind.
  • Communicate: Some of my friends don’t understand how I have such a close relationship with my parents. We call each other every day, we send each other emails all the time, and we just love spending time together. As a kid, again, I would often seek out my dad or mom when I was bored. My dad would teach me how to draw, give me one of his books to read, go on a walk with me or simply talk to me. My mom would ask me to help her with cooking or shopping and would tell me stories of when she was a kid in Vietnam. Because I was not running from one activity to the next, I had time to get to know my parents and they had time to give me as well. Now, I like to continue to bug them when I’m bored, but I also seek out friends. Sorry about that!
  • Take care of my body: If everything else is going to make my brain explode, I like to pamper myself with a nice shower, using a fun body product or making myself a delicious meal or snack. Taking this time to take care of my body is so great because it gives it importance and recognition. It also gives me time to think and relax.

That was my too-bits on time and boredom. I hope they will help you next time you don’t know what to do with yourself!

 

A clutter-free mind

As we moved recently, I have been witness to the incredible amount of junk and clutter we can accumulate without noticing. These unused items take place, are magnets for dust, and make our living space smaller and cumbered. It’s fascinating to see how much more comfortable I feel when I enter a yoga studio where there are only a few objects, or how free and clear my mind seems to be after having cleaned up my desk. Of course, it’s easy to see how a clear space can help create a clear mind, but how can we keep a clear mind?

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Many things can make my mind feel foggy, negative, in a rut, dusty or disorganized. I feel like it’s my responsibility to take care of my mind, just like I would take care of clearing up my desk, bedroom or living space. However, it’s not always simple to know how to do so. I wanted to share my few bits on that today. Here are a few principles that I apply to make sure I don’t feel like there’s too much going on between my two ears too often.

  1. Your mind is like Hermione’s purse: The amount of information that our brains can contain and remember is incredible! I like to imagine that my brain is like the famous magical purse: you can pretty much put everything and anything in it, and it will stay there. The great thing about this is that you can choose what you want to put inside of your mind-purse most of the time. For example, you can decide to watch a heartbreaking documentary on Indian orphans or the documentary on the amazingly inspiring doctor who works with these kids. You can decide to look at pictures of tortured animals, or focus on the wonderful initiatives that exist all over the world to help animals. I strongly believe that no one needs to consume negative images, texts or films in order to be informed. It’s not denying any situation, it’s simply making sure that you take in positive information that will nourish your creativity and motivation. This is particularly important when you consider point #2.
  2. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat: According to many studies, 90% of our thoughts are repetitive. Wow! This is impressive. We think all day, every minute of every day, and yet we are almost devoid of originality when it comes to these thoughts. We repeat, mull over, come back, and look again over and over and over again. The way I understand this combined with point #1 is that if I subject my mind to negative images, for example, these images will come back to me again and again, influencing me even days after I saw the original images. I might as well nourish my mind with positive information.
  3. Unplug: I love the internet. You can find anything on the internet. But you can also find many of these same things in the real world. Libraries are still there, the sky is still there, people are still there. As a kid, before the internet took over the world, I used to spend entire afternoons curled up in a corner of my local library exploring books in different languages, discovering new possible hobbies and cultures and challenging my librarian to find the next book that I would bring home. Unlike the internet, my library was peaceful and commercial free. I didn’t have to like everything I saw, and I could be alone with my thoughts without sharing them with the world. This time alone gave me the chance to settle down and relax from days spent surrounded by noise and people. It gave my mind a chance to move at its own pace. So, I like to unplug completely regularly to force myself to go out and explore the real world.

These three points don’t seem like much, but they have helped me incredibly to choose what information to consume and what to do with my free time. As a vegan especially, I feel like it’s easy to be overwhelmed with information about animal welfare that is little more than horror stories and gruesome pictures. However, this type of information don’t help me become a better person, they don’t motivate me, they just make me feel unhappy and uncomfortable. Same goes with all the rest of the media. Anyways, I could talk about this for hours, so let me know what you think!

 

 

Yoga Mat Cleaning Spray

There comes a time when you do yoga when you realize that your yoga mat has different marks and grime stuck to it, no matter how clean and careful you are. This is what happened this morning. I took out my yoga mat, and realized that my footprints were visible. Ew! How disgusting! So I went in my bathroom and made myself a little cleaning spray. Super simple, effective and refreshing!

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Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 5 drops of tea trea essential oil
  • 5 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 1 spray bottle (preferably glass)
  • 1 small rag to clean

Here is what you do:

  1. Pour all the ingredients in your spray bottle. Close up and give a good shake.
  2. Spray on your yoga mat, working in sections, and whipe out with your rag.
  3. Let your yoga mat dry completely before rolling up.
  4. Enjoy a nice, clean and fresh mat!

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This is so refreshing! It took off all the grime that had accumulated over time, and my mat is like new! I think I’ll get in a more regular weekly cleaning routine so that I can keep it longer and always have a fresh mat to practice on. By the way, this is also a great room freshener spray. If you remove the vinegar and lemon essential oil it also makes for a very relaxing spray. And if you don’t have these essential oils, look around and try different scents. I went with those because they have cleansing and antibacterial properties, but feel free to explore! It’s so much more fun! Let me know how you take care of your mat!

I’m a mindfulness instructor!

I feel like I have reached a new level in “hippie-land”!

Joke aside, I have completed my 12 weeks training with Mindful Schools to be a mindfulness instructor this week. How exciting! As an end of training celebration, I’m sharing some thoughts on how this happened.

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Flashback to the beginning of the year: This year, I have been assigned with six groups of 30 to 38 students. I know most of them as I taught them last year too, and I know that many of them have a great potential that is hindered by their anxiety, stress, or strong feelings/emotions.  This is my problem because it makes it difficult for students to learn when their minds are busy processing all kinds of thoughts. It is also a personal problem because teaching is hard! You are dealing with so much more than the curriculum: student meltdowns, administrators, parents, and taking all this personal stress at home because you care for the kids in front of you. Add this to regular-human-being stress, and you are pushed off balance on a daily basis. So, this beginning of the year is hard, and I feel resource-less.

Meeting with Charity Bryant: At a teacher conference, I get to meet Charity Bryant who is a mindfulness instructor who started out as an English teacher. Her presentation is inspiring, and I feel like she is describing my students when she tells us about her own students and experience bringing mindfulness in the classroom. I need to know more so I write to her ,and she tells me about the online training given by Mindful Schools.

Training with Mindful Schools: I start with the six weeks mindfulness fundamentals and follow through with the mindful educator course. I feel very lucky to have received a scholarship because this training is very complete and thorough, but would have been inaccessible to me as I’m paying it on my own.   Not only does this training help my students, it also helps me face difficulties and deal with my emotions better. Things are still hard sometimes, but I feel like I have a better tool set to face them.

Introducting mindfulness at school: To give me courage, I start offering a mindfulness workshop once every two weeks for interested students. As the meetings go by, I gather experience and confidence with this ideal group. I then introduce mindfulness as a daily routine to my different groups. I am amazed by the curiosity and willingness to try that my students are showing. Most importantly, I feel that my most difficult, disturbing students are responding to this very positively. I also welcome their suspicious as to this “voodoo stuff” and discuss research and brain functioning with them. I really like how it creates an open, ready-to-learn environment where the students are taking time to slow down and connect before starting to work. Is it time lost? Not really. Since they are relaxed and available, I don’t need to bring them back to the activities as much, instructions and modelling take less time because their attention is there, and I can tap in to their new capacity to pay attention with a shared and understood vocabulary.

The results of implementing mindfulness in my classroom might sound magical and untrue. And yet, they are real. My students are still teenagers, but somehow, they are more focused, calmer and more available to learning, to their peers and to my interventions. I really love our 15 minutes of practice each class because it gives me a chance to teach them something out of the curriculum that is precious and truly helpful. I am really glad to have done this! Let me know what you think!

 

 

Meditation Prop: Small Bench

After completing my yoga prop cabinet, my boyfriend set out to make me a meditation bench. How exciting!

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This is really comfortable: it helps me keep my back straight while giving me support for the legs. Since I don’t sit with my legs crossed it is also easier on the knees, and it make it possible to sit for a long period of time. I have a really hard time staying cross-legged for more than a few minutes even when sitting on a pillow, so this is perfect.

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I really like how the wood has different colors and how sturdy this is. It is also really fun because my boyfriend made it at the perfect height for my legs, which means that it is unique and adapted to my body and posture.

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I really love working with this small bench! It makes practice feel even more special by creating a small ritual: I know that when I sit on this it is to be mindful and to give myself some time. Let us know what you think, and if you’d be interested in having one!

 

Yoga love: Wild and Roaming Leggings!

I usually don’t splurge on fancy yoga clothes: most days, I use a giant t-shirt and my pajama bottoms to practice. Because really, you spend most of your time with your eyes closed anyways, so who cares what you are wearing?

And then, I saw the Wild and Roaming leggings…

These are so beautiful! I love how the designs feature nature, and I find the colors amazing! (And they go so well with my mix-matched socks! Not ready to be a model!)

I love the fern design, and the sunset makes me happy! As a result, I couldn’t focus during yoga because I was too busy admiring my new leggings. Ah, well!

These are really comfortable, and I like the fact that they are made in Montreal, by a BC design team. They also give part of the money you pay to different non-profit organization, and you get to choose which one. Go Canada! I really love them, and I think I’ll be purchasing other designs in the future. Just can’t get over how fern these are…

New Yoga Furniture Excitment!

I am so excited to share this with you!

I had been accumulating yoga mats and accessories, and one corner of our bedroom really looked like a weird hippie was squatting it. So I asked my woodworking boyfriend to come up with something nice and practical.

Ta-dah!

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I now have a custom-made space to put my books, blanket, block and all my mats. Even a little Totoro! Amazing!

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I really like this piece of furniture, and it came at the perfect moment. Adriene from Yoga with Adriene just launched her January Yoga Camp. I first heard about her on another blog that I really enjoy reading.

Now this might be a surprising favourite as it is mostly about makeup and fashion, and frankly I don’t really care about those things. But, Vivianna’s blog is fun, I can relate to her, I love her British accent, and I love her style. And she’s fun to read and listen to. Much like Adriene who has a great sense of humour which makes each practice fun and truly relaxed.

I really enjoy Yoga Camp. The videos are clear, and there is something for every level of practice. Adriene is very clear in her instructions and is very funny and friendly. The videos are also not too long which helps make them fit into my schedule. But, most importantly, they make me feel good! The sequences are really well-thought, and each video has a particular focus both physically and mentally. Also, I really like having a daily yoga practice again. It feels really good to connect and to have time for myself.

You should really give it a try (really!) and let me know what you think!