Tuesday, 8 November 2011


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?