Tuesday, 20 December 2011

connecting

"only connect"
        ~E.M. Forster

Mr. Forster wrote this quote in his book, "Howard's End". He spoke about choosing to live in fragments no longer. He spoke of how we all, perhaps, have many parts to our selves, and keep them isolated - the monk and the beast. He spoke of how, if we could stop isolating our "parts", we would no longer live in parts, but would be whole, and when that happens, "human love will be seen at its height".


what a lovely thought.


I'm going to wander in a different direction with his quote, "only connect". As we head into this season that is supposed to be about family, love, warmth, companionship, and generosity, I'm so aware of how easy it is to feel disconnected. This holiday season can be really difficult for a lot of people. Certainly for people who have lost a loved one, through death, or the break-up of an important relationship. Certainly for people who are estranged from their families. And, let's be honest, even if we spend time with our families, we know that most families have their issues, and spending time together is not always peaceful or wonderful. The holiday season can bring up such feelings of loneliness, in people from every walk of life: poor or rich, healthy or unhealthy, young, old, city folk and country folk, married with kids or single. Somehow, this season of love and kindness can leave us feeling super-disconnected.


Only connect


What if we set an intention, this season, to simply focus on connection?


Could we all take time, each day, to connect with ourselves? Maybe while sitting in the glow of the christmas tree's lights, or on your yoga mat, or in a corner of a room where no one else will find you, or perhaps even on a quiet stroll through the forest. A time, each day, to focus on breathing. To focus on connecting with and listening to ourselves. A time, each day, to draw inwards, away from the busy hustle and bustle of the season. Away from the stimulation of the senses, brought about by the barrage of colours and music and noise and commercial energy. (it's amazing how anxiety and frustration will fade away, if we take time to do this)


And, could we all take time, each day, to connect with others? Not simply to talk about the weather, or argue about family stuff, or bump into each other in last-minute rushes at the mall. Could we take time to sit with another, to ask simple questions about their life, to really listen and remember we are all really one, really connected, in this journey of being human? Could we remember that, perhaps, a majority of us struggle a little with this season, and the simple act of connecting can ease the pain?


only connect


To connect with ourselves, to connect with others, perhaps to connect to a higher power, if you believe in that. In connecting, we realize that we are NOT alone. That there is love, beauty, energy, that flows between us all. What a lovely thing that is.


Happy holidays, everyone. Please, if you have a wonderful connecting experience, share it here under comments!! I'd love to hear your stories!


Shanti. Peace.

Monday, 19 December 2011

uncertainty

"uncertainty is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom"
                                       ~Deepak Chopra

I am in such a strange season of uncertainty. Uncertainty about relationships, about jobs, about this path I'm on. Uncertainty about myself - who am I, what am I doing here, where is my life going? Why do I seem to go around the same mountain, again and again?

In my season of uncertainty, I respond in various ways.

First, I become a bit obsessive about trying to figure it out. Trying to figure out the right way, the right path, the solution to my uncertainty. There is a tremendous amount of anxious energy in this obsession of mine. I read articles, books, desperately question friends and wise people, strive, grasp at anything outside of me that I hope will bring me an answer.

Second, I become overwhelmed with all the inspiration and messages and directives on how to create the life I want - images, energy work, vision-boards, intention, and then I crash. Because these are just more things to DO. More actions, more messages that I'm not doing it right yet, that I should be doing something differently. Not that I don't believe that these tools are very powerful, and we do create our own reality. I do believe that. But in grasping for the answers outside me, I get more exhausted, more frustrated, more uncertain, it seems. And it doesn't feel like freedom to me at all. It seems like more tasks, more things to do.

But what if, WHAT IF, I could accept my uncertainty as a gift? Instead of thinking I have to have it all figured out (which I do... eldest child sydrome, maybe... maybe just some vow I made to myself somewhere along the way...), could I view uncertainty as a thing to be valued? If I could stop grasping for answers outside me, if I could go inside and greet my uncertainty, and welcome it as a gift, maybe, just maybe, the anxiety and depression wouldn't grab me so hard?

Because in uncertainty IS a freedom that doesn't exist, when you're buckled into a specific, particular way of life. When there is uncertainty, there is space to dream, to envision things I might not envision if I was on a certain path.

And really, if I'm honest, all the grasping, all the striving, all the painful obsessive thinking, doesn't actually change anything. My life continues to unfold, in lovely, simple, always-beneficial ways, as I can see when I take time to recognize that.

So, things in my life are uncertain. There are some things that are certain - each day that I get to wake up and breathe again is a gift. I am surrounded by loving, supportive people. I have a lot of love in my life. I am supported; I am taken care of; I am perfect, just the way I am.

And, for the things that are uncertain (jobs, relationships, etc), well, there is room for creativity and freedom. And I guess that's something to smile about :)

When do you feel uncertain? How do you respond in those times?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fireball!

Recently, I decided to go to a Power Yoga class. I have to confess, I'm a little intimidated by power yoga classes - I really don't like to sweat or hurt. And I feel that Power Yoga classes are wonderful for fitness, but they maybe aren't really conducive for the primary reason for asana, or physical postures, which is to prepare us for meditation. Jumping and flowing and moving quickly and sweating doesn't bring me to a place of quietness and stillness in my mind or body. That may just be my experience, but...
However, I thought I'd try this class, because I think it's interesting to try everything once, and I've heard this teacher was amazing and could still incorporate yogic philosophy into her Power class.

She began the class with a lot of focus on the breath, which right away felt wonderful to me. Then we progressed through a sequence of backbends, that really honoured the principle of vinyasa krama, or intelligent sequencing, that prepares the body for the poses that are to follow. I was personally delighted to find that there was not a lot of jumping and fast movement, but the power part came from holding challenging poses. Which I was on board with, cause I could still find stillness and quietness in holding. It was a challenge, no doubt about it, but I could find the loveliness of yoga throughout the class. She was a fantastic teacher :)

I had such an interesting energetic experience with the backbends in the class. The room was quite warm, as the sun shone in through the windows, and as we built heat through holding the challenging poses. I began to sweat. To feel just a little unbalanced and a little nauseous. I began to notice I was becoming very critical, and very angry. Critical of myself and those around me, angry at the poses, at the heat, at my struggle to hold things. Some of this came from the room being so hot - according to Ayurvedic tradition, I have a dosha that is primarily pitta - firey, passionate, doesn't like the heat, becomes critical and angry when out of balance... yep, that's me. Red-headed sparkplug - that was a common nickname of mine growing up. So the heat in the room triggered some crazy energy. Then, there is the fact that backbends are very stimulating, energetically. They build heat, they open up our heart, and often our emotions flow very freely when we open up that front body to the world and compress into our backs. Backbends are pretty vulnerable poses - your stomach, pelvis, hips, chest, organs, are opened up to the world. In the wild, animals curl into themselves to protect themselves, to cover that soft belly, to survive, and usually only open themselves to express anger or dominance (think of a huge male gorilla beating his chest). So, likewise, when we bend backwards, exposing our softness to the world, it can bring up feelings of fear, vulnerability, and in my case, anger and criticism.

After the class, I had the expectation that I would be alert, bubbly, happy, ready to socialize and bounce through my day. Well, I did feel very alert, felt wonderfully open, but I had the deep desire to go home and curl up with a book, and not talk to anyone. Not at all the response I thought I'd have to a strong backbending class. But in chatting with the teacher after, she reminded me that 1)going to a Power class is outside my comfort zone, it was a risk, 2)the backbends do put us into very vulnerable positions, and 3)I had some pretty strong anger and criticism come up, and likely needed to draw inward to bring myself back to a balanced place. Interesting!

I love this yoga thing. I never cease to be surprised by it - by the difference between what I expect and what actually happens. By the complexity of my body and my reactions. By the beautiful things that are released, and then understood, through a physical practice.

Have you had similar experiences with a backbending class or a power class? What have your experiences been like?

Monday, 7 November 2011

childlike wonder

I just saw the most precious thing. I took a walk on my lunch hour, and sat in the sun in a park, that had a little concrete water fountain that is empty for the fall. There were a few little steps in the fountain base, each about 2-3 inches high.  This precious little girl, who I would guess was about 18-months old, was toddling along, as only little people can do, exploring the amazingness of being able to walk with her wee, stubby, chubby legs. She toddled onto the concrete, and discovered the 2-3 inch step. She looked at it, smiled and giggled, and took a step down to get to the next level. She turned around and looked at what she had done, and giggled and giggled! She looked at her mommy, and started clapping her hands, smiling the brightest smile possible!! She took a breath, and stepped back up to the original step, looked at what she'd done, and giggled away again!! This was repeated over and over and over again, as she absolutely delighted in the fact that she could take wobbly steps and go up and down in the sunshine.


I loved this moment - this precious innocent one saw something a bit challenging, went for it, loved how it felt to go up and down and conquor a challenge, and then celebrated herself, laughing, giggling, and smiling like it was the best thing ever!! How lovely is that! She conquored it, and then did it again and again, to feel the joy, to maybe prove to herself that she could do it again, and oh how she rejoiced!!


I'm going to embrace that attitude today. If I see something that's a challenge, I'm going to do it. Then I'm going to look at what I did, and clap and giggle and smile like I'm the best thing since sliced bread :) Then I might do it again and again, to prove I can, and to rejoice and laugh over and over. What joy :) We can learn such wonderful lessons from these pure souls. I love it!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Vata Season is upon us!

Hello! Happy November. What do you all think of this time of year? We're entering into winter, here in Canada, and I have to tell you, my body is telling me all about it! It's interesting, before I began this yoga journey, I was pretty unaware of my body, and it's cycles and signals and such. I lived, a little cluelessly, complaining when I felt bad, happy when I felt good, but pretty unconnected with how my body is a beautiful communicator of what's going on and around me. Yoga has really helped me connect with what is going on. Awareness is one of the wonderful results of yoga. Have you found that in your life and in your body?


So, right now, as we enter November, late fall, and into early winter, I'm very aware of the desire to get cozy, slow down, and draw inwards. I notice that my desire for foods has changed. I really don't want raw veggies, salad, or cool things anymore, things that I loved in the middle of summer. My body is asking for warm oatmeal in the morning, thick stews and chili, and warm, rich soups. It's asking for a few more carbs too, which I didn't think of, so often, during the hot months. I'm being careful not to go too heavily in that direction, but I think my body is trying to fatten up for the winter!! I'm becoming a bear preparing for hibernation!! 




According to Ayruvedic tradition, an ancient Indian tradition of healing and holistic living, the fall and early winter is Vata season - the season that is characterised by wind, movement, and coolness. And I see this, in so many ways. Our skin begins to dry out, due to the windiness and dryness of the season. There is a different energy to this season than in the summer - September and October are always such busy, moving, whirling months, as people get busy with school, work, activities - it sometimes feels frenetic. I find that as we head into November and December, my body is trying to find balance - to slow down, as I mentioned, to draw inward, to get all hibernatey. In the past, I would have fought it, I think, this desire. I would have judged myself as being lazy, depressed, a slump. But I think it might be the wisdom of my body, telling me the seasons are changing, and I need to go with the change. In the summer, I feel excited to be active, to swim and bike and walk and move and visit. In the early fall, I feel motivated to be busy, moving. But as we come into the next season, I notice a change. And I will accept that change. I will accept the signals my body is giving me.


Because, if you think about it, animals that hibernate need that time, to rest and heal and restore before the spring. Trees lose their leaves, appear almost dead, and become "dormant" during the late fall and winter, and during that time, there is rest and healing and restoration before the spring comes again. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure we humans are no different. We too could use this season as a time to slow down, rest and heal and restore, before the seasons bring us back to the busy active times. In our busy society, we push and move and stay active, book our social calendars to the max, work crazy hours, go go go. But if we take time to slow down, to be aware, and to listen to our bodies, they might tell us how to live the best way, for us, right now, in this season.


So I will embrace my hibernating cravings. I will eat well, healthy, and warmly. I will sleep, I will stay cozy. I will keep my body active and healthy, but it will likely look very different than how I live in the spring and summer. And that's ok :) 


What about you? Do you notice differences in your activity level? What's your body telling you?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I'm Back!

After a 2-week hiatus from teaching, due to Birthday celebrations, a break-up, and a cold from hell, I finally got back to what I love best, teaching yoga. ahhh... it felt so wonderful to be back. I have to confess, my body is a little stiff and tired and slow, after quite a bit of time in bed and on my couch. But it is delightful, to feel it begin to open up and heal and lengthen as I get back to my mat, as student and teacher. It's a bit of a slow road back, but I love feeling the creaks and pops and gentle sighs of my body, as I move slowly into postures that bring me back into alignment.

Last night, I taught a lovely group of people at the studio I love best, Upward Dog in Ottawa, Ontario (that's Canada, for my lovely readers around the world!). As we head into a chilly autumn and winter season, I am drawn towards backbends and heartopeners, poses that open us up to warmth and sunshine and love. But, just a note, backbends are stimulating, so it is advised to do these in the morning or daytime, not before bed! You might have difficulty sleeping after!


I set Camel as my apex pose, as shown above. In order to do this fairly intense backbend, there are a lot of body parts that need to be opened and stretched and warmed up. Lunges, salabhasana, cobra, and Warrior 1 are excellent for strengthening and opening up the front and back body, which is necessary for Camel.
The front of the legs, thighs, knees, and quads need to be warmed up, stretched, increased in flexibility, before going to Camel safely. Inverted table, quad stretches, and lunges will help with this. All of these poses also open up the chest, the neck, and the front of the shoulders.

When I brought students into Camel, I reminded them that it is a good thing to underachieve in yoga, and especially if this is a new pose or they feel stiffness in their body. It is crucial to have a long, open front body and spine. The spine should constantly be lengthening, as you begin to bring your hips forward into the bend. Hands can simply rest on the lower back, or come down to hold the heels, as shown in the photo above. When coming out of the pose, move slowly, bring the hands back up to the lower back, and thinking of that long spine, bring yourself up to a straight back.

In yoga, it is so important to follow vinyasa krama, or intelligent sequencing. In a nutshell, that simply means that you identify what parts of your body need to be warmed up and opened up and strengthened before you go into your apex pose, and choose poses to do before the apex, that will prepare you for that pose, safely. The last thing you want to do is rush into a pose before your body is ready, or you can cause injury to your body. After the apex pose, it is also important to do poses that will balance your body, bring it back into alignment, and allow your body to return to rest. After our powerful Camel, students were asked to fold forward, and gently bring themselves into Child's Pose, where they could rest and bring their spine back into alignment after the backbending.
So, this is just a brief explanation of our fun backbending class. Hearts were opened, chests were expanded, and as we ended our class, we rested our awareness at our hearts, and said the following intention together, 3 times:

May my heart be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy. 

I hope you enjoy this intention. It's so lovely, this lovingkindness meditation. May your hearts be opened and may you be filled with joy in this season.
Namaste!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Just sitting with it...

Yesterday, I wrote about disappointment. I felt a little lost, unsure, sad. I know these are common human emotions, common human experiences. I used to run from my emotions, as fast and furious as I could. When feeling sad or grieving, I would turn on the TV, eat some junk food, grab a bottle of wine, and drink it all, do anything I could to escape the feeling. And it worked, sort of, in the moment... but the thing that was causing me pain didn't go away. It just got pushed down and repressed, and often came back up in ugly, unpredictable ways when I wasn't ready to deal with it.

In the past few years, through my path with yoga, and just my own personal journey, I have learned the importance of sitting with pain and sadness. And just letting it be. Allowing the waves of sadness and pain to come to the surface, observing, holding that space so my grief can come up. And in sitting, instead of running away, the pain eventually lessens. It just does. Because I have honoured it, I have sat with it, I have loved myself through it. And then it doesn't have a hold on my anymore.

To let you in on my story right now, I just went through a break-up of a new relationship. No details are needed, it's a common story, you know how it goes, and the sadness that brings up. I do feel real sadness about not having this particular person in my life anymore. But as I sat with my pain, as I let the tears run, as I listened to my thoughts and deep heart cries, I realized that the deep pain is about so much more - my issues, my deep fears, about being alone, about not having someone to take care of me, about having to "do it on my own" again. And though that was scary to face, as those deep fears and blocks came up, I felt such clarity, such stillness, as I faced the truth. As I saw my inner fears. And as I began to see how those fears have affected the way I've lived my life, the choices I've made, the patterns I keep living out, again and again. And amidst my tears and sadness, there was joy. Hope. Understanding. Compassion. Even though this relationship didn't turn out the way I hoped it would, it was such a wonderful, necessary part of my journey, toward becoming Fully Me. I sat with my sadness. I loved myself enough to sit, and not run from the pain. And wonderful knowledge and truth came up.

There is a wonderful article, written by Thich Nhat Hanh, at http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=1756&Itemid=0&limit=1&limitstart=0, which talks about this, if you'd like to read more. His article speaks particularly about anger, but I feel it's really applicable to any emotion. He discusses how meditation (sitting, being with something, observing) allows us to recognize our emotion, be aware of it's presence, accept it, and allow it to be there. He talks about the importance of embracing our emotions and showing tenderness to them.

"Once we have recognized our anger [sadness, grief, etc], we embrace it. This is the second function of mindfulness and it is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting, we are taking good care of our emotion. If you know how to embrace your anger [sadness, grief, etc], something will change."

 Oh, I also want to give a shout out to my most wonderful, supportive, loving family and friends. It is so important to sit with your emotions and process them. But it is also so important to reach out, and be held by others. I am forever grateful to the amazing people who are in my life, who support me, listen to me, shower me with love and affection, and hold me up in these hard times too.

So, dear friends out there, it's all ok. It's all part of the journey. The beautiful, heart-breaking, scary, wonderful journey. Sit with it. Love yourself deeply. We are all wonderful, amazing people.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

when things don't go as we plan...

Sometimes I think things are going a certain way. And then they don't. And then there is sadness. Disappointment. Grief even. And I think, hmmm, maybe I should learn this being-in-the-moment thing more, and not plan, and not anticipate, and not get attached to how I want things to go... because if there was no planning and anticipating, there wouldn't be this disappointment and sadness. But how? I struggle with that. How do you live life fully, in this moment, and NOT think to the future? Guess I need to do a little more meditation and reading and learning and sitting still. So for now, I am in this moment, sitting with my feelings of sadness and disappointment. And it's OK. I won't die from this. I know that this too shall pass. As with the seasons in nature, where everything is always changing, so there are seasons in my life. Where everything is always changing. And all I need to do is watch, observe, see the beauty, notice the pain and growth, and be very gentle and loving to myself in these times. OK.
Peace.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

a long life...

Here is an interesting commentary on breath, and how it can lengthen our lives, from the following link: http://www.yogabound.com/yoga-asthma-pranayama-yoga-breathing-for-asthma-relief/

Breathing and Life Span
Slow, deep and rhythmic respiration sublimates, and is stimulated by calm, content, states of the mind. When you breathe incorrectly it disrupts the rhythms of the brain. This leads to physical, emotional, and mental blocks. This in turn leads to inner conflicts, imbalances, personality disorders, destructive lifestyles and disease. By establishing regular breathing patterns through your Pranayama practice, the process is reversed, and negative cycles are broken. In yogic terms this is essential for concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana). In practical terms this leads to happier, healthier and more balanced states of mind.
In addition to influencing the quality of life, the length, or quantity of life is also dictated by the rhythm of the respiration. The ancient yogis and rishis studied nature in great detail. They noticed that animals with a slow breath rate such as pythons, elephants, and tortoises have long life spans. Where as, those with a fast breathing rate such as birds, dogs, and rabbits, live for only a few years.
From this observation they realized the importance of slow breathing for increasing the human lifespan. Those who breathe in short, quick gasps are likely to have a shorter life span than those who breathe slowly, and deeply. On the physical level, this is because the respiration is directly related to the heart. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger, and better nourished, and contributes to a longer life.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

lovely breathing

One super-important part of the yogic path is breath control. It's called pranayama. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words: Prāna, meaning life force or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and āyāma, to extend, draw out, restrain, or control. Pranayama is, essentially, using techniques to control the breath, or vital life force.

There are many different techniques that can be explored, and each one brings about a different effect in the body and mind. Some pranayama techniques can build heat and fire in the body, by accelerating blood circulation in the body. Some techniques bring stillness to the mind and reduce tension. Some techniques bring stillness and calmness to the nervous system.

I'd like to share some thoughts and a bit of teaching about one technique today, called Nadi Sodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. This is considered a balancing practice, which stimulates equally, the left and right side of the brain. Yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the body. It can improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, increase your mental abilities, and soothe your nervous system. Like to try it?

First, sit in a comfortable cross-leg position. Close your eyes and allow your awareness to draw inward. Allow your left hand to rest gently on your left knee.
Bend your right elbow, bringing your hand beside your face. Bend your first two fingers toward your palm, so the thumb, ring finger and baby finger are extended in the air.
Bring your hand toward your face. Place the thumb just above your right nostril, and your ring finger above your left nostril. You will use the thumb to close your right nostril, and your ring finger to close your right nostril.


Before closing either nostril, inhale deeply, sensing the air coming in through both nostrils equally, and gently exhale, feeling the air leaving through both nostrils. Begin to develop a breath where the inhalation and the exhalation are the same length, maybe 5 or 6 seconds long. Try to keep this equal breath, as it will bring greater balance to the process.
After several balanced, equal breaths, gently close the right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Then close the left nostril, opening the right, and exhale through the right nostil.
Inhale through the right nostril. Then close the right nostril, opening the left, and exhale through the left nostril.
Continue with this rhythm - inhale through the left, exhale through the right; inhale through the right, exhale through the left.

Continue this for several cycles, working your way up to several minutes.
To end, make your last exhalation through your left nostril. Then gently release your right hand to your right knee, and come back to that equal breath, slowly inhaling through both nostrils, and exhaling through both nostrils. Do this a few times, feeling the energy and balance in your body and breath.

Keeping your eyes closed, just become aware of how your body and mind feels differently than it did before your began. Do you feel calmer, quieter? Do you notice a greater sense of balance? Do you, perhaps,  feel relaxed, and also energized? I use this technique off my mat, when I feel anxious or unbalanced. I've used it just before an interview. I've used it when I feel anxious about a relationship. I often teach it in my classes, after savasana, to bring students to a place of balance and quiet, before they leave the yoga room to head back to the busyness of their lives. I find it so healing and soothing and lovely. I encourage you to try it. I dare ya! And if you do try this technique, I'd love for you to leave a comment as to how it affected you!

Namaste, dear friends!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Restorative Yoga

Hi! I hope you've all had a lovely weekend. Here in Ottawa, the sun was shining, it was a glorious fall weekend. So grateful for warm sunny weather at the end of September! I want to soak it all in, while it's still around!

I've just begun a training course in Restorative Yoga, based on the work of Judith Lasater (http://www.restorativeyogateachers.com/learntopractice.html). It was 17 hours this past weekend, and there will be two more weekends like it, to become certified. What a wonderful, entirely different perspective on yoga! Restorative Yoga focuses on using props, to allow people to fully experience the rest and deep relaxation that is available in yoga. It is a practice that, to me, is all about compassion, gentleness, and rest. There is no movement, no striving, no pushing deeper into poses. It is about rest, deep relaxation, and the breath.



 We live in a society that is all about moving. About going, planning, thinking, learning, acting. Our sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight-or-flight responses) is always in action for this. Our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to deeply relax, rest, and heal, is often under-used, and begins to "forget" how to operate. Restorative Yoga brings people into restful postures, for long periods of time, and thus begins to activate that parasympathetic system. While this system is active, our bodies can reach that level of rest, where our bodies can heal themselves from whatever is ailing us. It's wonderful for anxiety, for depression, for burn-out, for recovery from surgery, for sleep-deprivation, for recovery from illness and disease.

Doesn't it look delicious and nurturing? I'm excited to learn more about it, and then begin to share it with the people in my life and my students. In the mean time, I will offer you this - find some pillows, get yourself cozy, breathe deeply, and allow yourself to rest!
Namaste.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sweet wishes for today

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love."  ~Mother Theresa

A friend sent this to me, and I wanted to share it with you all. Isn't it a lovely blessing? What rich, perfect reminders in here. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. Ahhh. On the mat, allowing yourself to be, in each pose, in each moment. Off the mat, knowing that what is happening right now, was meant to be. That there is no need to plan, figure it our, fix it - I am exactly where I am meant to be. That's beautiful and soothing to my soul.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. It's true, it is amazing and endless, what we are capable of. Really, it is only limited by our imagination. So by having faith in myself, ANYTHING can happen! By having faith in others, ANYTHING can happen!

What beautiful thoughts. I hope this blessing speaks to you in whatever way you need it to today. If you feel like sharing what this meant to you, I'd love to hear your comments!!

Shanti. Peace.

Monday, 12 September 2011

a new season...

Fall is upon us. Though the sun is still strong, there is a different feeling in the air. Evenings are cooler. The leaves are beginning to change. and the hours of sunlight are decreasing. I've had such an amazing summer, and loved the sun so much, I feel a little sadness at the end of the summer season. However, as the seasons teach us, change is inevitable. Nature changes all the time. Our beautiful world depends on these changes, to survive. There are times of obvious growth, times of hot, slow lethargy, times of wet stormy days, times of cold where the earth seems to draw inward and hibernate. I have to confess, I am a big fan of the greenness and growth of springtime, and the heat and slowness of summer. It suits my personality a lot. But I do appreciate the importance of the other seasons. Fall brings with it the change of colours, the sunny days where I delight in walking and feeling the sun on my face still, the cool evenings where you just want to cuddle. It also reminds us that winter is coming, the time to slow down and insulate and take care of ourselves in a slow, cozy way.


As seasons change on our earth, seasons change in our lives as well. It seems that nothing stays as it is for long. Everything is temporary. Jobs change. Relationships change. People come into our lives, for a time and a purpose, and sometimes leave. Sometimes we change where we live. How we eat. How we sleep. Our friends change, our lovers change, we change. It is inevitable. So, rather than fighting change, we might as well embrace it. Cause it's gonna happen!! When we're in a season that feels wonderful to us, we can enjoy it, savour it, live each moment fully. And when the season changes, and things feel uncomfortable, slow, stagnant, or stormy, we can observe it, notice how we feel, embrace it and allow ourselves to be. Knowing, in all seasons, that everything is temporary, and things will shift and change soon enough.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

just stay...


I have been a runner. Not athletically, but as a way of dealing with life. In my actions, and in my mind. I'm regularly thinking of what's next. Instead of reveling in the beauty of my life right now, I think of what I will do next, where I will move next, who I might meet next. I enjoy my life, enjoy where I am, but I am usually moving on to the next thing, at the very least, in my mind. Can any of you out there relate?

I left my cozy family home at 18, and have been on the move since then! University years, teaching in England, traveling the world while working on a Cruise Ship for a few years, I never stayed in one place for more than a year or two. I've now lived in Ottawa for 6 1/2 years, which amazes me. But even while my body has stayed in this beautiful city, my mind is regularly planning when and where I'll go to next. I'm a little bit of a gypsy, in my mind at least :) In my jobs and careers, while I take pride and work diligently at whatever I'm doing, my mind is thinking, planning, wondering what will be next, when I'll leave. And, to be honest with you, in relationships, I do find myself thinking, how long will this last? Who will move on first? Is it possible, or even a good thing, to find "forever"? And, (god, I need to do some more therapy, or deep meditation :)), what if I need to run?!

I am aware of these things in me. Loving all parts of me, I learn to embrace these parts with compassion. But it came up in a most interesting way, in my yoga practice the other day.

I was doing my practice in my living room, on my mat, facing my sunny windows with a gorgeous view of the Gatineau Hills. I became aware, as I moved through my asana (physical postures), that I often only hold a pose for 3 or 4 breaths. I thought, let's see if I can hold for 10 breaths. Let's see what happens, energetically and physically. It's fun to play with your practice.

So I moved into Warrior 1, a lovely strong backbend. I focused on my balanced, abdominal breathing, and held. 3 breaths, 4 breaths, 5 breaths. And then something began to stir inside of me. Frustration. Irritation. I began to sweat crazily, and began to feel nauseous. I brought my attention back to my breath, and tried to talk myself through it. "Angie, you're ok. You can hold this. Just stay". It wasn't that I was in pain, that my body couldn't hold the pose. My body felt great. It was completely psychological and emotional! I wanted to move. I wanted to do what was next. I did not want to stay. My breath became rough and ragged, I desperately wanted to get out of the pose, I felt hot and bothered. It was such a crazy visceral reaction, to staying in one place! I breathed through it, held the pose for 10 breaths, and sat quietly, to regain my breath and my centre. What a funny experience! My mind became flooded with all these things I run from, the way I move through life, so quickly, always thinking about what is next.

What a lesson! Again, my asana practice revealed some funny patterns in my life, and in my mind! Man, this yoga is the coolest thing ever. I love all I learn from it. And as I become aware of the way I live, often unconsciously, I can allow those things to come up, and deal with them. With love and compassion.

I still want to run. Still want to move on to whatever is next. But today I am a little more aware than I was before, and that is one of the wonderful things about this yogic path. Because with awareness can come change.

Namaste.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A little fun article...

Hey all, I was featured this week on UOttawa's online magazine, the Gazette. See my interview on the left side of the front page. Just a little fun! Thanks for reading!

http://www.gazette.uottawa.ca/home/

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The gift of teaching

Last night, I taught a class at http://www.lenordik.com/, this lovely Scandinavian spa outside Ottawa, on the Quebec side. I teach there each Monday evening. It is such a treat to teach there, because of the beauty of the place. Nestled in the Gatineau Hills, it is a perfect place to unwind, with pools and waterfalls and fireplaces and steam rooms sprawled among the hills and trees. I feel so so lucky to be able to teach here. People come with the sole intention to relax and unwind, so it is delightful to be able to teach people who are there to find a bit of quiet and calm.


I had a very full class last night, 21 people. It was such an interesting mix of people. There were a few actors and dancers from a local summer theatre group. There were three chi-gong instructors in my class, one of whom is traveling around the world with her teachings. There were a couple of ladies who didn't bring any yoga clothes and hid out in the back of the room in their bathing suits, but were wonderfully committed to doing a class. I was really aware, and really thrilled, with the variety and mix of people in our class. I noticed a great joy in the class, right from the beginning. I believe each student brings their own energy into each class, and the energy last night was joyful.

We did a lovely class together, and students came into the apex pose of pigeon, initially sitting up in the backbend of pigeon, and then allowing their bodies to release forward into lying pigeon.


As I looked around at my students, I saw such releasing in their bodies. I heard some gentle sighs, saw muscles relax in backs and legs, and felt a release in the energy in the class. It is a challenging pose, and it can bring up a lot of thoughts and issues and such, because of the work that is done in the back of the hamstrings and glutes. But as I encouraged them to breathe through the sensations that were arising, there was a real sense of release. After a few gentle counterposes to this, students came onto their back, into apanasa, and eventually into savasana. I simply reminded them about releasing, letting themselves sink into their mat, and allowing their breath and mind to soften. And the most beautiful thing happened. They did! I could see it, across the room. People were letting go. Softening. Coming to that still, quiet place. People often wonder, what does the teacher do, while students are lying still? Well, I don't know about other teachers, but I observe my students. I observe their breath. I notice how soft their breath becomes, as they let go. I do watch, in case someone gets anxious or uncomfortable as they lie there. Yesterday, as I was observing my students lie there, I had such a sense that they were lying there like children, fully free, fully relaxed, not a care in their minds. I don't know if that's true, but that is what was radiating up from the group. An ease, an effortlessness, a quiet calm. A total innocence. It was so beautiful, and again, I was reminded what a gift it is to be a teacher. To have students place their trust in me, to lie there so simply, to make themselves vulnerable. I am so grateful. To be able to observe such softness, such innocence and peace. It brought tears to my eyes.

After savasana, students came to sitting, and we chanted Ohm three times, to close our class. The ohms were so beautiful. While, in our opening chants at the beginning of the class, there were voices and pitches all over, the closing ohms were different. They were so rich and resonant and all in the same pitch. The vibration was very powerful and very unified. For me, this is how I sense my students have been able to go to a lovely place in the class, when all our vibrations begin to match. It's such a beautiful thing.

So, again, I am grateful. For the gift of teaching. For the blessing of sharing the beautiful teachings of yoga. I am delighted. I am blessed. Thank you to each and every one of you who has ever been a student. You give back so much more than you know! Namaste.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Three Things...

I have just 3 things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.    
      ~Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, 6th century BC

Isn't this a beautiful thing? Just reading those three words makes me sigh deeply and sweetly. Oooh, I love the idea of living through these three concepts. In each moment of my day. On and off my yoga mat.

Imagine, a simpler life. It IS within our grasp, if we truly want it. I can simplify my schedule. I can choose to simplify my social schedule. I can simplify my thought life. I can simplify my yoga practice. Recently, I've gone to a couple of classes where there are complicated, sexy, twisty poses. And to be honest with you, some of them I can't do. And I find myself feeling insecure, and hear my inner talk getting self-critical. Right now my practice is quite simple. The classes I teach are quite simple. I truly believe that simple can bring wonderful, deep experiences of joy and calmness. But when I'm exposed to complicated, twisty, complex poses, and they look like fun, and I can't do them, I decide I must therefore be a failure. Hmmm. Maybe I'll try to bring myself back to being ok with simplicity.

Patience is perhaps my biggest challenge in life :) I want things done NOW. If things aren't the way I think they should be, I want to act, now. I want others to act, now. I go crazy when I have to wait. Whoooo, even writing that, I get all spinny and anxious inside. See, in my mind, I have figured out what my best life will look like. And I figure it should all happen right now, please and thank you very much. (oooh, I've learned to giggle at the thoughts in my mind :)) So one of my lessons in this life, I am quite sure, is to learn to wait. To be patient. Patience till the next bus comes. Patience till the man of my dreams comes :) Patience with others, when they're doing what they want to do, and not what I want them to do. Patience with myself, when I'm not quite all I want to be. On the mat, I tend to get impatient with myself, my body - I get impatient with myself, that I can't go from low plank to upward dog yet. Or I get impatient, when a teacher asks us to hold a pose and I want to move, to change, to act :) Ahhh, patience... such a gift.... I choose to let that grow and develop in me :)

The delightful trait of compassion is a gift you can't miss, when you've had it extended it to you. I hope you can take a moment to remember when someone showed you compassion. Remember it, feel it again. so warm, and lovely, and loving. The first person we all need to show compassion to, is ourselves, I believe. When we stop to listen to the thoughts that race in our minds, they are often very unkind, uncompassionate thoughts toward ourselves. With angry thoughts spewing at ourselves, how can we show compassion to others? It's that old adage, you can't give what you don't have. So take time to challenge those unkind thoughts toward yourself, and have gentle compassion for yourself. You are absolutely doing the best you can with what you have. And then, let that softness and compassion flow to others around you. Compassion for the people in your family. Compassion for the homeless guy you walk past every day. Compassion for the guy in the car that just cut you off. Compassion for the telemarketers who call you on Saturday morning (am I going to far?!?) The truth is, we are all doing the best we can, with what we have. So why not soften toward ourselves and each others? And to bring it back to the mat, show compassion to yourself, as you are in your poses. Compassion to your body. Yesterday I participated in a class, and it was a wonderful class with a wonderful teacher. But I pushed myself, too far in a pose my body wasn't ready for, and now my hip really hurts. That wasn't very kind toward myself. I knew, in the moment, that my body wasn't ready for what I was asking it to do, but I pushed forward, without compassion, and now I'm in pain. Hmmm. Lack of compassion causes pain. To me. To others. Hmmm.

So. Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. These three are the greatest treasures. I think I believe it!

Have a lovely weekend, and I wish you more simplicity, sweet patience, and overflowing compassion for yourself and those around you.

Namaste.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Do nothing?

Do less and achieve more. Do nothing and achieve everything.

Whoa. What does this crazy quote mean? How is this possible? Isn't this contrary to everything our society embraces? My active, spinning, busy mind rebels against this thought. My need to be in control rises up against this thought - but no, I need to do, I need to act, I need to take charge, I need to do something! I can't sit, and rest, and do nothing. Then nothing would get done!! I alone am responsible for making everything happen and everything work. (sarcastic, yes, but I think I really think this is true!! how kooky!!) I can't do nothing!! And how in the world could I achieve everything, by doing nothing?

Let's look at how this relates to asana, or the physical postures. Sometimes, we go into postures with a lot of effort. We're holding a pose, and we feel tension build in our body, and we begin to feel pain, but we're going to hold it anyway, because we are used to "acting", to doing. But the truth is, if we're in a pose and unable to find sthira and sukham (steadiness and comfort or ease), our bodies remain tense, and we can't fully experience the benefits of the pose. If we can back out of a pose, find that ease, and just breathe, we will actually go deeper into the pose and our mind will become quieter and more still. The less we do, it seems, the more we "achieve". After a physical practice, we lie in stillness in savasana (corpse pose). In this place of stillness, of doing nothing, our bodies, on a subtle, deep level, integrate the physical work that was done before. Our breath quiets, our mind comes to stillness and quietness, and perhaps, we drop into a deeper, altered state of consciousness, where only light and clarity and beauty exist. In this act of doing nothing, we achieve everything. Everything that is truly important. A connection with our true, higher Self.

The truth is, this is the opposite of what our society embraces. Our society values busyness, values doing and acting and moving, in order to achieve. Think of the people who have the title of "successful" in our society. Usually, they are A-type personlities, involved in a multitude of projects, high-paced, their days are planned out minute-to-minute, and even their holiday time (if they take holiday time!) is tightly structured. They are busy, doing much. And perhaps they feel they are achieving a lot. Certainly, career-wise and materially they may be! But with such busyness, and doing, I wonder if they come to a place of stillness and quietness, ever. If they ever get to stop, breathe, and appreciate what is in them, and around them. Maybe they do, and if so, I applaud them! But the people I've chatted with, who live such active, doing lives, never seem satisfied. There is always one more thing to be involved in, one more thing they should be doing. 

What do I know? These are just my observations. But take a moment to think about it, if you will. 

I know, certainly, when it comes to life things, such as relationships, and job searches, and friendships, there are things I need to do. I need to invest time. I need to send out resumes. I need to show the people I love, that I love them. But I'm sure I can simplify. And I KNOW I can allow my mind to rest more. I've written about this before - my mind spins and worries and tries to figure things out. And tries to act in desperate ways, to make things happen. But, when I let go, when I release, when I can breathe and trust, I seem to "achieve" more. When I can let go of all effort, when I can stop worrying and spinning and scheming, life evolves, naturally and beautifully and effortlessly. Probably in the way it would have turned out, with or without my worrying. Except I feel peace. And calm. And clear. And quiet. And connected. To Myself and the beautiful Universe and everyone around me.

And perhaps, right there, in doing nothing, I have achieved everything. Hmm.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Money Magic

I am feeling so very blessed and so very fortunate. I feel like I am starting to understand, maybe, how things can flow in our lives.

I have a car. I am grateful to have a car, because sometimes I need to get places, faster and further than my bike can take me. But, my sweet little Civic is aging... and cars can't do yoga to keep their parts healthy. So it's beginning it's decline, I feel. I need my brakes worked on, for a little fee of $700. Oh, there are other things that should be done soon, but this is an immediate concern. Brakes, yes, I need to be able to stop effectively and efficiently. My old patterns of worrying about money come up pretty quickly in these situations. Where am I going to find the money? How am I going to pay for this? Yikes, the panic starts.

And then. I stop. And I breathe. And I remember what I know to be true. That money is simply something that flows. It comes and it goes. So many times in my past, when I've needed money and put that need out to the Universe, the money has flowed in. SO many times. And each time I am amazed and so thankful.

So when I became aware of my panicky thoughts, I stopped, and I took some deep abdominal breaths (cause that stops the anxiety for me!), and I simply let that thought out - Beautiful Lovely, I need some money to pay for this. Please bring whatever into my life, to allow me to pay for my car. If that's more work, bring it on. If that's a gift, bring it on. I won't worry about the how - I trust that money is coming. Then I went to sleep.

Yesterday morning, I checked my bank account on-line. And there was an extra $200, just deposited by the Government for my overpayment of my taxes!! I had no idea that was coming, totally unexpected! Wow!!!

Then yesterday at noon I taught a yoga class, to my fabulous colleagues at UOttawa. It was a beautiful, hot sunny day, and more people came out than have ever come before. And they paid, and my cup was overflowing!

I am grateful. I feel a little weepy as I sit writing this. Because I know I'm ok. I know I always have been ok, I know I always will be ok. Things pop up in life that we don't expect. There will be expenses, there will be payments to be made. And there will be a flow of cash. Because I believe in a beautiful flow of energy. I believe that there will always be enough. I am beginning to see that this pattern in my life is a wonderful, normal way of the universe. When I'm in need, I will be provided for. I never know how, and I don't need to know. It's enough, for me, to simply trust.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Upward Dog!



I am dog-sitting for a friend. He's the cutest little fellow, part tea-cup terrier, part miniature Chihuahua. His bulgy eyes and underbite make him delightfully adorable, and I confess, I am in love. He's needy, wants to be on me or beside me every moment of the day and night. I forgot that kind of unconditional, over-the-top love you get from a dog when you come home from work!! He wiggles and giggles and jumps and smiles and moans the moment I walk in the door. Ahhh, to be loved that way, delightful!! :)


Yoga with a dog around is a different kind of experience! This morning, as I lifted up into Downward Dog, he came and curled under me on my mat. As I released onto the mat and went into salabasana (locust pose), he lay his wiggly body on the back of my outstretched legs. As I sat in seated twist pose, he made himself comfortable on my lap. When I lay in reclined twist, he curled into my right armpit. And when I lay, resting, in savasana (corpse pose), he felt the need to lie on my chest, tucked right under my chin.

Yes, he may have distracted me from focusing on my body and breath. But I certainly was very present in each moment, and his little wiggly lovey body brought me so much joy. It was really fun to laugh at this little creature, moving, adjusting, fitting into my postures. Delightful!


Do you have any fun yoga-animal stories? please share!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fun in Canada's Capital

It's such fun to live in Ottawa! Every Wednesday at noon, hundreds gather in front of Parliament to stretch their bodies and bring together a lovely energy.
I took my lunch hour today to go join this fun movement. Even though it was over 30 degrees out there, there were 340 people there! Today's class was taught by Marla from Empower Me Yoga in Ottawa. I thought she was wonderful! I imagine it was a challenge, teaching over 300 people, with a microphone and one little amp speaker to share her teachings. But it worked! The class was fairly gentle - there were a few sun salutations, lunges, back bends and chair poses, but she encorporated a lot of forward folds as well, to keep us cool. As I looked around, there were smiles on faces, as we raised our arms to the blue sky and glorious sun. I wonder if the long cold winters here in Ottawa make us delight so so much in the sunshine! Marla was a very articulate teacher, and with her words we knew exactly what to do for each pose. She also brought a lot of humour to her class, and kept it very light and joyful. I really enjoyed learning from her.

I can't say I really relaxed or came to a place of stillness and quietness in this class. For one thing, the heat was intense, with the sun beating down. Being surrounded by 340 yogis brings a wonderful, but not quieting energy in these surroundings. And, there were so many tourists wandering around our group, snapping photos, excited at what they saw. I think it is delightful we could show tourists that Ottawa is an active, alive, healthy city! All those fun, lively things about outdoor yoga make for a fun exercise experience, but not one where I can get my mind or body to quiet to that place of stillness. And that's ok! Each experience is what it is, a wonderful moment to be alive, to move and breathe, to notice and to be aware.

Man, was that fun!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Opening our hearts...

How many of us sit for hours a day, in front of a computer, or in our car, or on our couch, and notice that our shoulders slope forward, our chests become concave, and find it's difficult to sit up tall?

Last night at Le Nordik (a beautiful nordic spa in Chelsea, QC) I taught a chest-opening, backbend sequence, which aims to counter this. In my teacher-training, I was taught the importance of vinyasa krama - intelligent sequencing. In this, an apex position is chosen, and postures are chosen before the apex, to ensure the appropriate body parts are strong and flexible, before approaching the apex. Postures are also chosen after the apex, to balance out the body.

Last night, I chose the bow as my apex, a challenging backbend. But, as I tell all my students, it is a perfectly ok to under-achieve in yoga - each student should listen to their body, and move gently into each position.

Before this pose, I had the class do some lunges - both low and high. Arms were extended into the full expression of the pose, to allow the chest to open and the back to begin to stretch. We did Warrior 1, opening the chest and front body and back body. We did some arm stretches (eagle arms, cow arms), which opened the chest and shoulders. We did some quad stretches, allowing for greater flexibility in the legs. Salabasana and Cobra pose worked to increased the flexibility in the chest and front body and shoulders.

In the The Bow, students begin lying on their front, with the forehead to the mat. Students bend their knees, and bring their arms around, to grasp their ankles. Take a moment to feel the pelvis grounded into the floor. On the inhale, life the chest and chin off the floor. The backs of the feet press into the hands, bringing the legs off the floor. Try to keep your knees together. Students should press their shins toward the wall behind them. With each inhale, the body rises higher, until it is the navel that is pressing into the mat, rather than the pelvis. With each exhale, try to find ease and stillness in the pose. Deep breaths are important here, as you feel your front body open and your navel press into your mat with each breath. It is important to maintain a long spine, lots of space in the front and back body.

After this pose, it is important to bring the spine back into alignment. I brought my students into a child's pose, to rest and regain their breath. Downward Dog can feel delicious here. I then brought the students onto their backs, and did some slow, gentle dynamic bridges. Inhaling, they brought their hips to the sky and brought their arms over head on the mat. Exhaling, they brought their hips to the ground and brought their arms back down to their sides. After a few rounds of these, students came into apanasana, hugging their knees to their chests. Gentle lying twists gave a gentle massage to their lower backs, before coming into savasana to integrate the poses into the body, and allowing themselves to rest and release.

These backbends do open up our chests and the front of our body. Energetically, they are energizing and stimulating. They open us up to the world and all it has for us. They encourage rich, full inhalation. They build energy and strength. Physiologically, backbends stretch and release the muscles of the chest allowing circulation to flow freely to the heart and lungs. During backbends, the thymus is pressured, and then released:  this stimulation can aid immune function. The nervous system is stimulated, building heat and stimulating metabolism. The abdominal muscles receive a stretch, as does the digestive system.

There are a lot of benefits to these! But one word of caution for you - because they are stimulating and energizing, it's best to do these early in the day, NOT right before bed! :)

Do you like backbends? Tell me your thoughts!

Friday, 15 July 2011

On my head...

In my head I hear the words of teachers and books I've read, that it is best to stay unattached to performance - that in yoga it's the journey, not the destination, and that I am to accept my body exactly as it is, each moment. But I've had a little burning desire, to be able to do a handstand freely. It's been a big fear pose for me. For several years now, I've been terrified of this position. Over the years, I slowly worked my way into being able to do it up against a wall, but even then I would break out in a sweat, I would feel sick to my stomach, and when I came down I'd be shaky and hot in the head as I rested in Child's Pose. Whooo, it brought some stuff up for me! But I so wanted to be able to do it.

Some days, I'd have images of myself in a unsupported headstand, strong and happy. These were not images I brought to mind - they'd just pop into my head while I was in the grocery store or sitting on the bus. Maybe my subconscious practicing what I so desired to do? I hadn't thought about headstand in a few weeks. But last night, I had a dream. I had a dream I did a headstand against the wall, and then I did a headstand in the middle of the floor. And I was strong, and balanced, and solid in my pose.

This morning, during my personal practice, I warmed up into my shoulders, my back, my neck, my arms. And I thought, well, I dreamt about it, let's see what happens in my waking state. So, I positioned my arms carefully, rested my head between my hands, brought my hips to the sky, began to walk my feet in towards my head, and slowly brought one leg up to the sky. Then, with fear but excitement in my heart, I brought the other leg up to the sky. I got crazily nervous, and quickly brought my legs back down to the ground. Then I took a couple of breaths, slowly walked my feet back up toward my head, and with a strength I didn't know I had, was able to bring both legs up into a headstand!!! And I could stay up there, balanced, strong, quiet in my mind!! Whooo!!! I started smiling and laughing. I did it!

I think it is just lovely, to be able to see that in the last year, as I've become more regular in my practice, my body and mind have become stronger, more balanced, and less fearful. I didn't necessarily see it happening along the way, but today, I felt the results of the work I've been doing. And apparently, my higher Self was helping me, visualizing and dreaming about what I would be able to do. I rejoice in this little accomplishment. That may not be very yogic, and may be about achieving, but wow, I loved it!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Teaching!!


I love teaching yoga! I'm telling you, I can't get enough of it. I taught a twisting class today at lunch. Here are a few fun photos of the class. There were about 16 staff from the University of Ottawa (that's where I work my day job), on a beautiful patch of grass under some trees, right along the Rideau Canal, beside the Pedestrian Bridge. There were cyclists and roller bladers and the odd tour boat passing in front of us. The sun was hot, the breeze was perfect, the sky was blue. And the students in front of me were smiling. We did a lot of twists - some very challenging poses, and they built some heat. But somehow there was such a feeling of joy and enjoyment radiating off the group. I have come away from that class, feeling uplifted, so full of joy and positive energy, in love with my life. What a gift that is. I would like to express my gratitude to all my students for that. For letting me share the beautiful teachings of yoga, and for sharing their honest and pure efforts to pursue peace and health and wholeness. It is really a beautiful thing to see, as students explore their bodies, bring their awareness back to their breath again and again, and learn to rest in savasana. Truly, it is a delight, an honour, a privilege to be able to teach. Sometimes it brings me close to tears, this feeling of gratitude and love that flows up from me after I spend this precious time with precious students.
Shanti. Peace. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

This Moment

This morning I was thinking about how much time I spend planning, anticipating, worrying, hoping, thinking about what's next. I observe myself thinking about what I will do in the next hour, what I will do tomorrow, what I should do in the next week. I find myself thinking "When this happens, it'll be better" and "When I've got that figured out, it'll be better" and "Once this is done, it'll be better". But funny thing... how do I know it will be better? What if I never get to that place? What if that thing I plan doesn't actually happen? Or, what if it does happen, but I don't feel that magical feeling of "oh good, now it's better"?


Do you recognize this, even in your yoga practice? I sure do. When I'm in Warrior 1, and my legs and arms hurt, and I think "I can't wait to get out of this, it'll be so much better when I can rest". Or when I'm in Triangle and I try to anticipate, figure out where my teacher is going to take me next. Or when I'm supposed to be sinking deeply into savasana and I'm thinking about what I'll throw together for supper when I get home, cause I'm so hungry...


And wonderfully, I hear that loving voice reminding me to come back to this moment. To connect with my breath. To allow my thoughts to float away so I can be present in this moment. Yoga practice is such a wonderful way to learn this skill.


And then I can try to bring it into my daily life.


When I start thinking how life will be so much better when I meet the man of my dreams, I can come back to this present moment, take a deep breath, make a reality check that life might NOT be better, that I might NOT meet the man of my dreams in this life, and I bring myself to the delicious awareness that life is really really awesome, RIGHT NOW!!! That each moment that I get to inhale and exhale is perfect. There is nothing missing.


When I start thinking about how I'll feel happier if I lose a few more pounds, I can come back to this present moment, take a deep breath, make a reality check that I might NOT be happier if I lose a few pounds, and bring myself to the delicious awareness that I can choose happiness right now, and delight in my healthy, strong, lovely body. It is perfect, just as it is, right now.


When I start worrying about my schedule for next week, how I'll fit everything in, how I'll be able to please everyone, how I'll make sure I get enough sleep (I love sleep!!), etc, I can come back to this present moment, take a deep breath, make a reality check that everything I planned for next week might never happen, and bring myself to the delicious awareness that this moment is all I have. Really, who knows what the next moment, day, or week will bring. This moment is perfect, and it is all I have.


So I will choose. To be present. For sure, my mind wanders and plans and thinks and hopes. And those are all lovely normal things for a mind to do! But when those things bring unrest and anxiety to my mind, I'll come back. To this moment. To my body and breath and spirit, in this moment. It's all I have, and it is perfect just as it is!

Here are some fun quotes for you:

Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do.
Jean de la Bruyere

We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God's.
Henry Ward Beecher

Today is life - the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.
Dale Carnegie

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Yoga on the Road

Well, I'm half-way through my fabulous road trip along the coast of California. It is so beautiful here! I am amazed by the sights along the coast, and am fully enjoying the chilled-out vibe here - surfers and yoga and all things organic :)


I began my trip in Vegas, where I met my road-trip partner, a lovely friend from my university years. We began our trip with a yoga class at a studio there. It was labeled a stress-releasing class. It was lovely - very slow, very restorative.  A cross between a yin class and a restorative yoga class. There were lots of props to use (bolsters, pillows, blankets, straps). Props are wonderful, because they allow us to relax more deeply into a pose, sometimes. There were lots of long exhalations, holding poses for 2 or 3 minutes, and resting and releasing. The teacher was very knowledgeable, and very warm in her instructions. She gave a lot of adaptations, and really supported people on an individual basis. I learned a lot from her and her teaching. I am grateful to her. It was a perfect way to begin a vacation!


So far on this journey, I've been to La Joya, Encinatas (loved this, so many yoga studios here!!), stayed in Carlsbad, stayed in LA, hung out on the beaches in Santa Monica and Laguna Beach, and drove 9 hours up the coast, on Hwy 1, seeing such beautiful vistas of the cliffs and shoreline. Now, as I rest in a lovely home in Monterey, I can take a moment to appreciate all I've seen. There is such beauty here, such a vast variety of scenery, from desert, to lush greenery, roaring oceans,  mountains and flat lands. The people are... people. Generous, more relaxed than those I know in my regular city living, but simply people. 




Most mornings I've tried to continue my practice. Some asana, some meditation. I am very aware, as I'm away from my normal routines, that my body and mind are a little altered. It's challenging to find healthy things to put into my body, especially with hours and hours of driving. And sitting for so long definitely alters how my bodily processes are working!! But a few twists and forward bends and squats always help keep things moving smoothly ;). Meditation helps keep me centered and quiet in my mind, when I'm moving from town to town, energy to energy. It's different than it would be at home in my space. My body feels different, my mind is processing different things, I'm experiencing different situations and opportunities. And I think that's a good thing! It reminds me that everything is always changing. Everything is transitory. All we can do is breathe, and ride it out. And take in some gorgeous scenery along the way! 

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Here's a great article on how to breathe richly and deeply!

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/yi/Article.aspx?id=3472

yoga and travel...


I'm off for an adventure this week. Going on a road trip with one of my bestest girls, up the coast of California. I think I may have to check out some yoga studios along the way, and maybe do my practice on a beach some mornings. I'm so looking forward to this change, a change of scenery, a change of energy. So I wish you all the best, peace and joy, until I write again!


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Asana

One of the intentions of asana, or the physical postures of yoga, is to prepare us for meditation. The definition for the word asana is "seat" or "to sit". Asana practice serves to strengthen our body so we can sit still in meditation. It also serves to balance our body, breath and mind so that we can come to stillness and quietness in our mind.

But sometimes, it also just feels really good to move! To hold, to stretch, to feel strong, to feel energy flow. This morning I had some time to enjoy my asana practice, and I felt a great joy in moving and being in my body.

I began with some slow sun salutations, as my body slowly woke up from a good night's sleep. I was aware of every joint, every muscle, beginning to open up as I stretched. I felt some pops, felt some tweaks, felt my back come into alignment as I did my forward folds, cobras and downward dogs. And I enjoyed it!

I did some standing poses, triangle, parsvottanasana, and warrior 2. I felt my muscles begin to awaken, felt my side body stretch, felt my legs activate and energize. And I enjoyed it!

I did some forward bends, both standing and sitting. My hamstrings and glutes were tight from biking a lot the last few days, and it felt delicious, to feel them warm up and loosen. Yep, I fully enjoyed it!

I love the quiet, still moments of yoga. I love the sitting and "simply being" parts of yoga. But today, I was aware of loving the physical part of yoga. To be aware of how incredible the human body is, to feel muscles and tendons and joints and skin work together in movement. To feel energy flow through me as I move. I am so grateful for my healthy strong body. It is a delightful gift to celebrate!!