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


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!