About Sophie Legrand


She recently moved to Vancouver. Since leaving France 12 years ago, she lived in California, Spain, and London. Sophie is currently doing her Yoga Teacher Training.

Posts by Sophie Legrand:

Attention To Details

You know you are in an Iyengar type class when you hear a teacher say that ‘feet are parallel’ means second toes are in line with the middle of your ankle.

At the beginning, when I was practising yoga, I was addicted to Ashtanga. So, whenever my favourite teacher was substituted by an Iyengar teacher, my heart would sink, and I would itch for a Vinyasa.

Whenever I thought of Iyengar, blocks, straps, and injury rehab would come to mind.

[source: yogaasanablog.com]

My relationship to Ashtanga changed when one summer, I went to a Mysore class in Barcelona. The studio was really hot, and my body was overheating. For some reason, the teacher thought I was a dancer, and in the standing balance sequence, he lifted my leg way higher than it should go. That’s how my hamstrings were torn. I could barely walk for a few days, and it took a whole year for them to recover completely.

When I arrived here I went to a lot of different classes, and was exposed to many different styles of yoga. Although I still really enjoy Power Vinyasa classes, I really feel I’m working when I’m attending an Iyengar type Hatha class.

After almost 3 months here, I can already see how my mental checklist for each asana has grown – especially for downward dog. There are so many details that I’ve now added to my practise, and my body has already learnt most of them.

The more I get into the details of an asana, the more I feel focused, relaxed, and grounded. It goes for many things in life, the more you break them down, the more you understand them, the more empowered you feel.

I’ve now also discovered a great Iyengar trick to open tight hamstrings the other day; a lesson learned the hard way!

Create New Eating Habits – Part 2

After I finished my latest post on eating habits, many other ideas occurred to me, so I thought I would share them this week!

  • Special feature ingredient: each time you read a good review about a food, why not make it the guest star of some of the meals during for a week. You might find a special place for it in your diet!

[source: themagazineofyoga.com]

  • Drink more water: we never seem to drink enough water. One of my teachers told us the other day that it was particularly good to drink a lot of water after practices with deep twists. After a class this morning a woman told me ‘water has never tasted so good since I’ve been practicing yoga.’ I couldn’t agree more.
  • Less caffeine: I’ve noticed the number of coffee shops around since I’ve arrived here:) Chamomile could be a good substitute. It’s a good mood drink, as it helps to produce serotonin, which can be helpful to beat the January blues.
  • Make it from scratch: how much food can you make yourself?Try to challenge yourself. It’s a good way to cut down on additives, preservatives, salt etc. Did you know you could make your own ketchup for example?
  • Be more mindful: try to make every spoonful taste like the first one. If you are stressed at work and with little time for a lunch, try to make your lunch break a relaxing time, one to slow down and get grounded.
  • Be more ethical: one thing that we learnt from recent documentaries such as Food Inc or Our Daily Bread is that we need to be more discerning and informed about our choices when it comes to food. Reading labels more attentively could help you make your decisions.

Be Kinder This Year

It was New Year’s eve, we were in a pub, just past midnight. A friend asked everybody around the table what their resolutions for the year were. I hadn’t really formulated that for myself yet, so I decided to make them up on the spot, one of them was to be kinder.

Kindness, to me, is an important aspect on my yoga path. It’s a labour of love when you really want to be serious about it, in all areas of your life. It can be painstaking, but your time and thoughtfulness are never wasted. Some practice karma yoga and seva – selfless service – which is quite admirable.

There are many opportunities in your life to make more mindful decisions and be purposefully kind to yourself and others.

Here are a few reminders and suggestions :

  • Metta: why not practice this Buddhist loving-kindness meditation? You can learn it at your local Buddhist center.
  • You first: as Metta meditation teaches us, kindness starts with yourself. If you treat yourself well, you’ll treat others better. Be more aware of your inner judge on the mat, at home, at work, and practice acceptance.
  • At home: with your loved ones, be more understanding of their shortcomings, more patient and compassionate. Try to really feel how it is to walk in their shoes. Listen to them mindfully. Say yes more often: do things that are not your cup of tea, but that will make them happy. Cook them healthy and tasty meals!
  • At work: make tea, coffee and maybe home-made cookies for your co-workers. Offer your help if you see that they are busier than you are.
  • Your yoga mates: try to ‘shine your heart’, radiate positive energy and loving-kindness during your class practices.
  • Difficult people: I find ‘kill them with kindness’ quite harsh and rather passive aggressive. Compassion is a more constructive way, even if it can seem tricky. This post on Tiny Buddha gives good advice.
  • Animals and plants: adopt a rescue pet, volunteer at an animal charity, buy a plant and take care of it.

Vancouver Aquarium Otters - Loving and Kind

[source: http://defendingotters.blogspot.com]

  • Random acts: be a discreet hero, and be randomly – and maybe sometimes secretly – kind to strangers, friends, family. Why not signing up for daily suggestions?

Above all: mean it. Be creative and inspired, make it fun, and remember that sometimes the simplest act of kindness is just to smile more often! 🙂

Create New Eating Habits

If you shop at Capers, you might have noticed the ANDI scores list, posted in their different food sections.

Shops don’t really use the term ‘superfood’ any longer, because it is scientifically questionable.  ANDI scores seem to be another way of promoting healthy food. There is nothing wrong in principle with this, but I’ve read an interesting post on the subject. It argues that ANDI scores are calories based which makes them intrinsically flawed.

My experience with food is that if you eat well and you are active enough, you won’t have to count your calories. A lot of the foods scoring high in the ANDI system are indeed healthy for many reasons and the fact that their calorie count is low is just a bonus.

The main challenge can be to introduce healthy foods to your daily diet, so here are a few suggestions to create new habits this year:

  • Beans: why not try to cook a couple of stews each week: chilli with or without carne, chick peas and lentils stews are also an easy choice in winter. A big pot will cover a few meals, as you can also make a hearty and creamy soup by giving them a whiz in your food processor.
  • Whole grains: it has become easier than ever to avoid white starch these days. You can now even find brown rice Thai vermicelli. If you want to completely switch to whole grains, why not invest in this wonderful food bible:  The Rodale Whole Food Cookbook. You will learn how to make whole wheat pancakes for your Sunday morning brunches or whole wheat pizzas for DVD nights.

(c) Rodale Books

  • Meat: you might try grass-fed bison this year. It is higher in protein than beef  leaner than chicken, and naturally free range. It works well in stir-fries. I personally like it in Satay marinade.
  • Seeds and nuts: they are full of vitamin E and are good for your nervous system and brain. It’s really easy to forget to eat them, so why not buy an enticing glass jar and fill it with your home-made blend. Leave it in a strategic spot in your house or at the office and have a handful a day.
  • Dairy and eggs: eggs are wonderful and incredibly versatile. The recommendation is up to 6 eggs a week. Where I disagree with the ANDI scores is about yoghurt. Try to choose full fat yoghurt – and milk – as it increases the production of serotonin, the good mood hormone.

In general, try to think of the foods you need to incorporate into your diet, and find a way that works for you to make them integral to your everyday life.

Be Good To Your Bones

Last year in January, I decided to visit my lovely doctor in London, because I had been carrying a knee injury for too long. As I was pointing at my tibia, she instantly thought I had vitamin D deficiency. I protested, saying that I had a good diet and took oily fish supplements. She explained that Vitamin D deficiency is mainly due to lack of sun exposure.

I went for my blood test and the results were quite a revelation, I was severely deficient in vitamin D and also in calcium. It’s really common nowadays she said, there is a mini epidemic, and people don’t realise it until they experience bone pain.

[source: liveinternet.ru]

The pain in my tibia was due to my tendon pulling on a soft bone. In order to avoid further injuries, I decided to stop going to yoga classes until my vitamin D was back to normal. I practised a bit at home but I could feel how tender my back bone had become, so I stopped for good. My immune system was low as well and I caught a terrible flu. I felt like an eighty year old woman, very fragile.

The problem is that it takes several months of supplementation – almost six months in my case – to see levels of vitamin D rise to normal, which can be incredibly frustrating.

How did that happen? – I wondered. It’s quite simple, my skin is pale and over the last few years, I’ve hid from the sun as much as I could in the summer.

We’ve all heard that sun exposure is damaging to the skin, but due to this new outbreak of D deficiency, doctors are now recommending to get from 10 to 15 minutes of sun everyday, or as the NHS mentions in their website time “typically short and less than (…) needed to redden or burn”.

Vitamin D can also be found in oily fish, liver and eggs, but absorption by food is not as efficient.

I’ve noticed it rains quite a lot here :), so each time there is a ray of sunshine if you want to be good to your bones, go and sit on the beach for a while to stock up on vitamin D!

Also, if you want to read more, here’s the link to the NHS article on sun and vitamin D as it is recent and helpful.

The Sea Studio At Night

Now that I’ve practised in all the Semperviva studios, I think that my favourite is possibly the Sea Studio on Granville Island. I don’t go there as often I would like because I currently live a bit far out, but next month I’m moving to Kits so I’ll be able to go more.

For now, I try to go once a week for a Yin yoga class with Bernie on Thursday at 7.15. So far because it’s winter, I’ve seen the studio at twilight or night, and I find it quite magical. It is on the corner of a building overlooking the river and facing downtown, and the wall-to-wall windows offer the most beautiful views.

Before each session, Bernie takes time to light up a myriad of candles around the room by the windows and their reflection mirror the lights of downtown and of the boats that occasionally float by.

The interior, on two levels, feels organic and cosy, with natural fibre carpet and big wooden beams.

[source: www.yoga-gene.com]

One of my best classes there was when it was really cold outside and we were in savasana. It suddenly started to rain heavily and the drops were pounding against the windows. I lied there listening, in the natural darkness of that November night, and it felt like the most wonderful sound to accompany me in meditation.

I can’t wait to practice at the Sea Studio in spring or in the summer when it will be flooded in bright daylight!

Book Review: 1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom by Liz Lark

Book Review: 1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom by Liz Lark

I don’t know if you have thought about your Yogalutions for 2011 yet but one of mine is to read more books about yoga. I have now registered for my yoga teacher training starting end of January so I’m sure I’ll have plenty to read! In the meantime this is one book that I would definitely recommend. Along with The Yoga Bible, it is my favourites everyday ‘off the mat yoga’ quick-fix. Actually I would say both books complement each other. While The Yoga Bible focuses more about the physical practice, 1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom comes back to the mind and the infinite forms of meditation. Liz Lark has structured this book so that it can accompany your daily life from waking up to going to sleep. This gives her the opportunity to explore a whole array of situations and challenges you might encounter during your day at work and at home such as : relating to others, finding time for yourself, in times of trouble, joy and celebration, encouraging vitality and winding down.


You can open 1001 in any section that corresponds to your mood, dilemma, need for inspiration or time of the day. One of my favourites features is the wonderful quotes that she has collected from a vast range of sources.  You can find pearls of wisdom by Mahatma Gandhi, The Buddha or B.K.S. Iyengar but also by American or English writers like William Shakespeare, Herman Melville or Shelley. Here are a few to give you a taste of their wisdom: “Act with a spirit of detachment being equal to success or failure. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.” – Bhagavad Gita “…oil your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility; strength alone will not do…’ – Lord Chesterfield “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” – Lao Tzu

Yoga Teacher Review: Reno Muenz

‘Smile, it’s just yoga’ as one of my teachers in London used to say, especially when we would all be grimacing during an intense squatting series.

Reno’s Vinyasa Power Flow classes remind me of that statement. One of Reno’s greatest abilities is to help students step out of the drama during the most trying asanas.

It feels good to go to class with the reassurance that it will be dynamic enough but that Reno will get us through it with his calming voice and his inspiring music choices. I don’t know about you, but when confronted to a challenging sequence, my fight-flight response is triggered and for a split second, I can easily feel that the teacher is the enemy. I don’t think I would ever feel like that in Reno’s class. He knows how to diffuse this defense mechanism by offering warm empathy, and by finding a cue that will make you smile.

[source: Yoga for the People]

In addition, Reno’s love for yoga shines through clearly, and he’s all about sharing that love. He quotes his teachers, tells plenty of anecdotes from his experience or his readings, but also stories of ancient Indian mythology that speak of courage, dedication and humility. This all contributes to bringing mental and physical lightness to the practice.

Reno follows quite closely the Ashtanga’s primary series and also regularly works on handstand and headstand preparations. He always invites students to modify in a more or less challenging way, so this class suits every level of yogi.

Reno teaches at Semperviva on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, at Yyoga Yaletown on Friday and at Yoga For The People on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. So give this class a try and remember: ‘smile, it’s just yoga!’

Book Review: The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown

I was pleased to see a copy of my favourite yoga book at the Semperviva Sun Studio the other day. Now that everybody is in a Christmas list mode, I would definitely suggest it if you want to make a yogi friend happy.

The Yoga Bible (c) 2003 Godsfield Press

A friend gave it to me for my birthday two years ago and it follows me everywhere. I take it from one room to the other and has become a bit of a comforter blanket. Whenever I feel bored, I just reach for it and flip through it until I find something that draws my attention: a posture, a breathing technique, a mudra, or even the introduction.

It serves as a reminder of things I have heard or read many times, but tend to forget. It deepens my knowledge of asanas, gives me ideas for my self-practice and whenever I’m in doubt, I refer to it.

It’s simple to use and can be read in many ways. Its main section describes and illustrates over 170 asanas. The author always suggests ways to make postures more or less challenging depending on your level. I find the last section incredibly useful as it offers different tools: ideas for meditation, a selection of mudras, a guide to bandhas and drishtis, but also, ‘yoga with a special focus’ i.e. what asanas are more suitable if you suffer from insomnia, stress, indigestion, back pain, jet lag, etc.

Spine and covers are resistant to everyday read and tear and its format makes it easy to carry around everywhere: on the mat, on the sofa, on a road trip,  to the coffee shop, and to the beach in the summer!

Yoga Teacher Review: Susan Van Zaig

I always find it a bit daunting to choose a Hatha class when I don’t really know what the teacher’s style is. It can be a bit like the Goldielocks syndrome: too challenging, too quiet, too flowing. I was practising at Yyoga two weeks ago and I found their teacher’s profile section very helpful. So I went to Susan’s class on Tuesday at Flow Wellness, and it was exactly what I was looking for and more.

She started with an anecdote that served as a theme for the practice, drishtis, and we often came back to our gaze as we worked very thoroughly on various foundation asanas. I came out of that first class with the feeling of having learnt a lot. I’ve returned to Susan’s classes twice since and it has become one of my ‘can’t miss’ classes of the week.

Susan is a very elegant yogi and she takes time to illustrate postures in depth. She often pauses to prompt for questions and establish a dialogue with her students.  Her adjustments are spot-on and the way she makes us work through classic postures is very creative and fun.

[source: Yyoga Flow]

Susan’s class is perfect for all levels. Beginners can learn the postures properly from the start. More experienced yogis can deepen their practice by developing a better sense of precision, as well as by correcting all those little bad habits, picked up in years of automatic repetition. Also, if they are a nerd like me, you can learn interesting aspects of the mechanics of the body.

It has really changed my practice. I feel that by persisting every week, I will achieve greater progress without ‘cheating’ and by being honest with my body.

Susan teaches at Yyoga Flow Wellness on Tuesday and Thursday and at Semperviva on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The Power of Yoga Speech

I’ve been attending classes in Vancouver for a month now and I’m starting to work out why I like practising here so much. There are so many aspects that I have enjoyed, that it’s been difficult to define them. This week I’ve finally understood one of the main features that make classes here so special to me: speech and stories.

Vishuddha chakra - http://www.tantramag.com

I love it when before we chant three oms, we sit in silence, eyes closed, and the teachers begin with an anecdote of their everyday life. They explain how seemingly insignificant events can illuminate some of the many mental habits that crowd our autopilot world.

The story could be the one of a teacher coming back from an eye test with blurred vision and drawing parallels with the drishtis; or another putting her winter coat on for the first time this season and feeling how we mentally wrap ourselves up  in cold weather; or one teacher remembering how sensitive she was as a child; or even teachers reflecting on recent readings, like an article on the brain and the stories we make up to ourselves.

I like it even more when the anecdote, the story or the article sets a theme, a guiding thread to the practice, a foundation to work on: drishtis, sensitivity, weaknesses in our bodies, breath, our inner narrative.

Most teachers are very gifted speakers with inspiring and calming voices.  The story and theme create a stronger connection between mind and body during the practice, it bolsters mental strength and physical endurance. We all become part of the story and embody it in each asana.

Stories linger with me sometimes for hours, days, months or years, and help me live more mindfully.

Can you think of a teacher’s anecdote which has helped you in everyday life?

‘Hi, I’m New In Town!’

I seem to have said this a lot recently. My boyfriend and I left our jobs, flat and friends in London and we moved to Vancouver a month ago to start a new life.

Downtown from Jericho Beach

I worked in publishing back in Europe but I’ve decided to make the most out of this change of continent and follow my yoga path further by taking the teacher training. I had heard that Vancouver is possibly the best place where I could train. Now, from first hand experience, I’m entirely convinced: it has so much to offer to yogis.

In less than 3 weeks, I have attended 12 classes, with 9 different teachers, in 5 styles. This has been incredibly exciting. Everyday I study class schedules and I’m often overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches.

In London, in my nearby leisure center, I had a limited choice of 3 fantastic teachers, one little studio and 4 classes a week. Suddenly here, I have plenty of marvellous teachers, different styles and big studios to choose from, and I feel like a spoilt child in a candy shop.

At Yyoga, I’ve opened my heart in Anila’s Anusara class, and rejuvenated fully with Mike’s restorative yoga. In Semperviva’s studios, I had a great Flow session with Alli, I found strength in a chilled atmosphere in Reno’s Power class, and practised deep awareness in Bernie’s wonderful Yin and Hatha classes.

So far, it has been a truly wonderful experience, and I’ve learnt more in three weeks than I would ever have dreamt, on yoga, on the mind, on my body and on myself.

Also, I’ve felt so warmly welcomed by teachers and students that somehow I feel a bit more at home here already.

Any other new yogis in town? I’d love to share first impressions!

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