Day 4: Yoga Every Day

Working on lunges and warriors. Only :15 session today. But I got it in.

I have a long WARRIOR road to go.

I have a long WARRIOR road to go.

Day 3: Yoga Every Day

Easy Pose (yeah, right, tell that to my shoulders!)  AKA Sukhasana.

Easy Pose (yeah, right, tell that to my shoulders!) AKA Sukhasana.

I woke up this morning with a kink in my shoulders. I did a sequence that I learned at my former Yoga Studio.

Move slowly in and out of the poses; keep your breath smooth (this is a struggle for me sometimes); never strain or force yourself beyond your current abilities (clearly a lesson I have finally learned). Also, it’s best to practice on an empty stomach.

My sequence was Cow Pose (Bitilasana), Cat Pose (Marjaryasana), Then Easy Pose — tell that to my shoulders! (Sukhasana). As I gain more flexibility and strength on shoulder days I would then include Eagle Pose (Gahrudasana), followed by a Seated Twist (Bharadvajasana). Today, however, we stopped with Easy Pose.

I did my Yoga this morning; but, I can’t get the photo until someone is home to help me with it. So, that’s why I’m so late posting. Also, I thought I’d share this shot below with you for a bit of a giggle. My dog always wants to help me practice. Anyone else have this problem?

Yuki thinks she's a Yogi.

Yuki thinks she’s a Yogi.

Free-Range Fiction: Taking #TBT A Bit Further


Along the Serbian-Macedonian Border on Patrol.

A little back story. I posted this photo today for #TBT and then remembered I still hadn’t done a Free-Range Fiction. I wanted to participate in the weekly challenge at TerribleMinds.Com.  Regarding the photo:  I entered the service during a time of relative peace, but it didn’t last long. I started my Army enlisted career just as the Senior Bush president was leaving office and Clinton was taking over. I left during the Obama Administration. I deployed so many times, I lost count. It’s only recently that I am examining those times and mining the memories for stories. For instance, I was a part of this little known mission called Operation Able Sentry. We watched the border between Serbia and Macedonia, keeping the peace. We even got to wear the United Nations Peacekeeping blue beret.  I’m not allowed to tell you what we did on our patrols or when we were pulling duty on the mountain top observations posts. Just know that we kept things in check. But keeping the peace didn’t mean we could really do much to change the tension or the culture that the imploding of the Former Yugoslavia wrought. Our Macedonian hosts just didn’t want a Bosnian or Kosovo situation. We’ll leave it at that. I guess it helped because Serbia didn’t get aggressive with Macedonia and Greece didn’t have to get all prickly about that either.

Chuck Wendig, that word rascal, once again helped me focus and sit down and get something out.

Here’s what came out based on his prompt. It is a true story in less than 1,000 words.


by casondra brewster

We’d been outside of Skopje, Macedonia for months, almost halfway into our six-month rotation. One American Battalion. The Macedonia military was across the air strip. The Fins, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Brits, Aussies, and others got the good digs downtown. We were all a little stir crazy having spent the holidays away from home. The first signs of spring were hitting the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (that’s what you had to formally call it so as to not irritate our Southern NATO allies, Greece). So the commander, who played my Detroit homeboy Bob Seger incessantly to the point I almost swore off Seger forever, allowed us some R&R time. A good chunk of us got a two-day pass to go into Skopje or wherever. Some headed to Sophia, Bulgaria; some to Thessaloniki, Greece. The rest of us lower enlisted slobs just went downtown to party with our European Blue-Beret Wearing comrades.

There were two other enlisted women on the make-shift post. I was senior to them, both in years on Earth and years in the service. They played social director and I just went along for the ride. I was so looking forward to just being Casz and not Specialist (promotable) Brewster. I could pull my hair out of its tight braid and eat local food and drink local wine (and man, is Macedonian wine yummy!). We met some of the other Soldiers at a rally point close to the hotels we were staying in.  I have little memory of the hotel I stayed in because it was literally a small bed, a small bath, and a painted shut window. Communism’s footprint was still very evident in 1995.

This was the time before cell phone cameras. It took a lot to get a photo while out on patrol or deployed. These are kind of sacred images to me.

This was the time before cell phone cameras. It took a lot to get a photo while out on patrol or deployed. These are kind of sacred images to me.

At the rally point it felt a bit like a high school dance, since there were a few single folks. The plan was to get food, do some shopping, and then meet up with some of the other NATO boys for some drinking and dancing. But everyone was just kind of shuffling their feet and starring at the cobblestones of the square.

“I’m starving,” I said. “Can we find some food?”

“Brewster is that you?” one of the Prime Power guys said. No one recognized me out of uniform. Ever.

“A starving Brewster, yes.”

One of the combat engineers had heard about this great restaurant where they flame-cook the meat at your table. The group, now eight strong, agreed. So we walked from the central square and headed to cross a bridge that had been there since conquering Roman times.

One of my fellow soldiers snapped this shot before we left our camp to head in for that fateful R&R. I don't think I look anything like Madonna.

One of my fellow soldiers snapped this shot before we left our camp to head in for that fateful R&R. I don’t think I look anything like Madonna.

A group of eight Americans – even out of uniform – seemingly was unnerving to the older members of the Skopje population. They would move quickly out of our way and look down and scurry past. The younger populations, however, would come up to us and talk to us, in much better English than our Serbo-Croat, and ask us about American things, like popular Music, the NBA – basketball is big in Yugoslavia, I learned – or about our clothes.

“You look like Madonna,” an older teen boy said to me and my bunk mate. “You look like the Papa Don’t Preach Madonna,” he pointed at me. “You look like the Vogue Madonna,” he pointed at Pfc. Billy, the second of the three women in our group. We laughed.

Moments later we reached the Vardar River and the damn Roman bridge that everyone had been talking about. I imagined how much history I was walking across. At the apex of the bridge sat two little boys on a square of cardboard. The youngest of the two did not have shoes on. He had the bluest eyes and the most jet black hair. They were begging for money. I don’t remember what I gave them, like 20 MKD (Macedonian Denar). It was like nothing. But the boys faces lit up.

“Blagodaram!” They tried to touch me, in a gesture of gratitude, but the heavy equipment sergeant stepped in front of them and said, “Nema! Stoj!” He was telling them, No, Stop. I smiled and winked at the two little beggars. The group kept walking. I followed. But, I was worried. It was cold. Couldn’t be more than 4 degrees Celsius.

As we continued to the restaurant and were waiting for the host to set up our table for eight, the motor pool sergeant gave me a hard time, saying the kids begged for money all the time and just went home and gave it to their parents, that it was a scam, even sometimes to pick pocket us.

“Brewster you’re a sucker,” he said. I said nothing. In my heart I knew I did the right thing.

The meal was awesome. We were fat and happy. We bought trinkets in the market. I have photos where we are all so happy, and clearly buzzing from the delicious wine. We needed to cross the bridge again to meet our NATO party hosts. As we approached the apex, the cardboard square was there and there was something curled up on it. Suddenly the thought of Roman Centurians ghosts gave me chills. A few steps closer and I knew the older boy was gone. On the cardboard was the little boy with no shoes. He was blue. The temperature had dropped with the setting sun below freezing. I touched him. No pulse. A Skopje Police Patrol was coming through at that moment, I called to them in my butchered Macedonian, “Pomosh! Policija!”

“Shit, Brewster! You’re going to ruin the night,” I don’t remember who said that, because later I would have punched them.

The Police questioned us. Again their English better than our Serbo-Croat. We told them what happened. Some sort of ambulance came and took the boy. As they put his curled-up frame in the vehicle, I saw clutched in his hand was the Denar I had given him.

I pointed it out to the mechanic, “I’m a sucker, eh?”

The ambulance left. The police left. All my comrades left for the dancing and drinking. I went back to that one-painted-shut-window room and cried.

Day 2: Yoga Every Day: Upward Dog

My back was bothering me, which given my three spinal surgeries is not unusual. However, it was at a level today that was higher than “normal” for me.

So I did a series of child pose, downward dog, and upward dog. I held the poses for much longer than a few breaths, which is different than the flow yoga I had been doing much recently.

Here’s proof:

I really need to find a better "yoga" spot. Also, I need a camera that does time delay better. I see now why  @Runswithdoggs has some interesting shots. That's hard. I need a go pro or something.  Go, go upward dog!

I really need to find a better “yoga” spot. Also, I need a camera that does time delay better. I see now why @Runswithdoggs has some interesting shots. That’s hard. I need a go pro or something. Go, go upward dog!










What yoga pose do you like for relieving back soreness?

P.S. RE: My shirt…If you live in Western Washington and are in the market for a good used bike, you need to check out Moon Motorcycles. They rock.

Yoga Every Day: A New Project

While wasting too much time on the internet recently, I came across a video I had seen before, but watched again for it is pure inspiration and incredibleness. Here it is so you have a reference point:

Never Give Up.

After watching it again, and I have seen this innumerable times, I wondered why I had abandoned my yoga practice. My mostly daily meditations (I’m not David Lynch yet), were continuing, but the physical part of yoga I had abandoned.

Then I moved away from that distraction onto Instagram. What can I say? I couldn’t sleep. That’s when I saw @runswithdoggs’ (aka Sarah) fabulousness of doing yoga every day and sharing her journey with the world. And my thoughts just went from there. Why wasn’t I doing yoga? My answer:  No one was holding me accountable. My self accountability only goes so far, apparently. More reasons:  I felt claustrophobic at my local studio anymore because many more folks in my small valley community had discovered the great instructors and space, too. Also, I had injured myself and then just never went back after I got better (see above reasons). Last, but not least, #LifewithAutism hit and I needed to concentrate on getting some stability with that situation. Therefore, Yoga took a back seat.

Next I wanted to know why I always kept coming back to yoga, why I was worried about stopping. Those answers were easy:  I want to live to see 100, because clearly it will take me that long to do all the things I want to do in life.

Before I knew it all this thinking was helping me give birth to a new focus in my life, a challenge, a goal, a project towards health: Yoga Every Day.

What does that mean? I’m attempting to do Yoga every day. Not the flow yoga of the studio where I was attending, but just concentrating on one or a couple of poses every day and fitting it in. I’ll either post a video or a photo every day. Don’t necessarily expect a long blog to accompany it, just a few notes on how I’m feeling about it, where I need to work, etc.  By this time next year I hope to be able to visually prove an increase in flexibility, strength, and grace. Oh, and likely living longer.

Below is my “baseline” video. I sat down and wrote out goals that I want to do and chief among them is to be able to stand up without using my hands from a sitting position on the floor. Please, please, don’t laugh. I’m being honest, real, and am vulnerable in presenting you the real me with no filters and hiding nothing.  No one should ever receive criticism for that.  I had the settings wrong and therefore can’t edit this particular video. I suppose my video skills and photography skills will get better as I do this over the next year. The quality isn’t the best and this likely isn’t the best place to do this, but this is what I could do today. I didn’t want to wait because I felt like it was no or never. I’m out of shape. I understand that. You don’t have to call me fat or ugly or any of that nonsense. I’m my own worst critic. But it’s easy to see why I NEED to do this. Without further ado…

Yoga Every Day, Casz’s New Project

Feel free to join me, post photos of your own as well. I’ll likely crosspost the photos on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there (@mamacasz).

Take care of yourself.