Day 301: It’s all yoga baby!

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Family with two children is relaxing on the beach enjoing beautiful sunset

When my husband first immigrated to Canada he was very dedicated to his yoga practice. Meditation every morning, asana practice, mantra, japa… then we had a baby. Yoga slid to the sidelines. I was exhausted, I pushed myself and did yoga.  He was exhausted, he slept. I teased him a bit and he always replied with “Life is yoga“. I thought it was a cop out. I still kind of do. However, he has a valid point. We get a little caught up in “should” when it comes to our ideas of yoga practice. Yes, a regular practice makes the body and mind feel healthy and at ease but if it is a chore, a thing that brings dread, a tired body going through the motions… are we really doing yoga at that point?

I live in a town where there are tons of teachers, tons of workshops, tons of pretty damn awesome yoga stuff happening. I miss almost all of it. I have a family. Retreats just don’t happen in my life. Workshops cost a fortune. Feeding my family is more important. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out but then I remind myself. It is all yoga. My practice is taking deep long breaths while my daughter throws rocks in the water at the lake. My practice is a stretch on the porch at 5am when I let the cat out. My practice is hugging my teen son tight in my arms when he is going through a heartbreak. Yoga is about connection, union, being fully present without striving or envy. In my life that occurs in the sweetness of my home.

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Day 300: Sun Salutation free zone!

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nodogHave I mentioned I hate sun salutations? I mean… not so much now after many years and many teachers helping me sort out exactly how to do this sequence. But it still doesn’t feel great in my body if I do more than a few. It hurts my wrists. Yes I know the modifications.. yes I know… but actually none of them really feel good in my body.

It is pretty standard where I live to see a sun salutation taught in almost every class. I don’t really understand why. Even gentle beginner yoga classes have sun salutations. 50+ classes have sun salutations. Really??? I was shocked to hear it to be honest. When I started doing yoga it was sun salutations that were primarily what I did. Beginners = Sun Salutations. They gave me carpal tunnel. They gave me sore shoulders. They just didn’t feel good at all.

Yesterday in my 50+ class a student came to me and said she had attended another gentle yoga class but it had hurt her body. Sun Salutations. 6 of them in a row… I hear this all the time. I just don’t believe this is a gentle sequence especially for new practitioners. I have decided to declare all my classes “Sun Salutation Free“. Be free wrists!! We can lengthen, heat up, warm up, and move some other way that feels less risky.

Day 299: I know nothing…

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baby-yoga

I have been teaching yoga for a few years now… and honestly I can say.. I know nothing about yoga. Really. When it comes down to it I still have so much to learn. I am humbled, amazed, bewildered, fascinated and stunned by the variety of flexibility, skills, talents, needs, limitations and differences in bodies out there.

When I research how to teach yoga one thing that comes up again and again is to teach proper alignment. I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I sort of get it. Don’t lock your knees, don’t hyper extend, knee in line with, wrist in line with…. but all the bodies are so different. Many bodies I teach can’t even get into alignment in the classically instructed way.

My classes are slow. I feel like they have to be. I cannot imagine instructing a fast class. I feel like it takes time to describe poses. It takes time to listen to our bodies. To see if a pose even works at all… and to come out of it if it doesn’t. I feel like I have to remind myself and those in the class over and over. “Does this feel good? No? Then don’t do it”. Be gentle. Go slow. Be soft. Let go of any expectation. Explore. Breathe. In all honestly my two year old is teaching me more about body awareness and yoga than anything else these days. Her poses are loose, comfortable, exploratory. They don’t look anything like poses in the books.

I feel like a complete and total newbie again. I don’t think that is an entirely bad thing either.

Day 298: Yoga workshop hangover

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spirituality-copyThis past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a yoga teacher training about creative sequencing. As usual I learned a lot but what I thought was interesting with this particular course was that I took away more from my fellow classmates than I did from the facilitators. In many ways the workshop was geared in that direction so it isn’t all that surprising. We had lots of opportunities for organic discussion as a group and many of the attendees have established teaching practices. There was a ton of great ideas and inspirations floating around the room. I felt very connected with the group. I realized I am a bit starved for this kind of community in my life.

Now I seem to have a bit of a workshop hangover. I feel blue. Despite all the inspiration and excitement things in my head feel a little low.  If I reach back into my memory though I realize that I always seems to crash after a training. I suppose part of it is because fitting 20 extra hours of anything in my life is a challenge. The house falls apart, the husband gets cranky with the extra load, the two year old gets clingy. I always walk back into a bit of a zoo after a teacher training…. The ideas are in there though, the stories and fun facts… I suspect after a day or two of self care all that I learned will start to solidify my mind and find it’s way into my teachings. Once that happens I will post a few of the cool things that came up this weekend on this blog.

Day 297: Be careful what you think

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brian.450I am offering a workshop this weekend on yogic tools for managing stress in our lives. Ironically I have just gone through a ton of unexpected stress in my life (job lay off and moving house). I am getting a TON OF PRACTICE using these techniques.

As I learn more about more about how our bodies react to stress I can’t help wonder why we, as a society, spend so much time focusing on achieving. We truly do encourage and congratulate the person who “does it all”. Multitasking is seen as an incredible skill but in my opinion having so many balls in the air just leads to mental and physical burn out. I am not alone in this… Study after study shows the same thing. Consistent stress is bad for us. Not just emotionally, it is also bad for our bodies. It ages us, and can cause high blood pressure, clogging of our arteries, headaches, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

The irony about all of this is that our brains get used to feeling stressed. They get “good at it”, sending this feeling throughout our whole body. When we live in a stressful state all the time and then try to relax our minds just can’t settle down. This is due to neuroplasticity. Our brains change and learn to adapt to what we feed them. If we are constantly bombarding our lives with a sense of doing, achieving, accomplishing.. rather than taking time to smell the flowers it becomes more difficult to enjoy the flowers. We lose our ability to shut off the noise in our heads.

Thankfully neuroplasticity also means that with practice we can train ourselves to feel joy, peace and a sense of calm again no matter how insane our lives may have gotten. A regular yoga practice can be an incredible tool to slow our minds and bodies down, which in turn not only improves the health of our bodies but increases our capacity for memory and stimulates creative big picture thinking.

Day 296: We are already whole, perfect.

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visionary_art_of_luke_brown_1When New Year’s rolls around there always seems to be this energy in the air of finally making the commitment to better ourselves. Usually people don’t keep their resolutions but for some reason the turn of the year makes most feel it is the time for them to change. Yoga classes are often busier in January because of this. I suppose people think yoga will fix them… or make them better somehow.

If I was to say what the biggest lesson I have learnt from yoga is that I don’t actually need to be fixed. Yes, yoga has helped my health, both mental and physical.. but ultimately what it has shown me is how to be quiet and sit with who I really am. And who I am is totally okay and perfect in it’s own delicately human way. I feel like yoga doesn’t change anything it just allows you to peel back the layers a bit so you can see the beauty inside. Ultimately we are all just a mystery… what we call our bodies are technically mostly empty space. We are consciousness experiencing itself living in an illusion of time and matter. Yoga teaches the dissolution of self. It teaches us that everything is one and that we have just gotten confused along the way with the identification of our bodies as our self.

There is something very freeing about this… things feel a lot lighter when the grip of self importance lightens a little. Yes, I still get caught up all the time in thoughts of “me” and “I”… but it is a littler softer feeling. I feel a bit more accepting of life as it is.

Day 295: Grateful for the amazing people that practice with me

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floweroflifeIt has been rough month. All sorts of things have gone wrong and my stress levels have been through the roof. I even got an ear infection which has been making me dizzy when I shift my head position from upright to another orientation. No big deal right? Well, when you teach yoga your head ends up all over the place. No fun. I have been tired and planning classes has been challenging… but you know what? I always feel better after teaching a class. It is the weirdest thing. It is sort of like I choose what poses are going to happen during class but the whole room of people puts in the energy and intention.. and it seems to rejuvenate me… I think most of the other people get a similar thing. At least I really hope they do. I don’t feel much like I teach yoga at all honestly. I feel like I have the pleasure of sharing a practice with all kinds of amazing people and we feed each other with our shared focus. I know. That sounds all “flaky energy new-agey” but I swear it is what I feel like happens.

Day 294: Oh the irony..

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Polar-Bear-hiding-faceSo remember I said I hardly ever got sick anymore.. yes well serves me right to tempt fate. Within a day of writing that post I got horrifically ill. The sickest I have been in over a decade. Admittedly my yoga practice had been suffering, being pushed to the side because of other things. I was moving, preparing for Christmas, and then a few curves balls got thrown my way by my family. I got stressed. Really quite stressed. I could feel it boiling inside like some old demon I used to live with most of the time. And then presto.. I got dizzy spells, vertigo, then nausea, vomiting, chills….  Yup. It wasn’t pretty.

And I was supposed to teach. Yoga. In that condition. Obviously this wasn’t happening but a funny thing about teaching yoga is that when you are unable to instruct a class you have to find someone to replace you. Soooooooooo more stress, ill and on the computer and phone, begging for a last minute sub. Pleading. Offering more money than I make for someone to cover for me. Help.

It was all kind of terrible and very un-yoga-like. I feel there is probably some lesson in here for me about “balance” seeing as my balance is what completely went during this illness. I suppose I am going to have to sit with that for a bit and reassess my priorities… but first some staring off into space doing absolutely nothing.

Day 293: Seriously. I hardly ever get sick anymore.

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Water Lily XIn general most people think of the more active yoga classes as something they do for their health… and active yoga can be really good for you… but what I am realizing with my own life is that quiet yoga practices are insanely good for the immune system. Actually any sort of calming and relaxing activity is good for us (Watching T.V. doesn’t count, it works the body in a different way). Stress makes us sick. Calming yoga heals us.

Since I have been practicing mellow styles of yoga regularly I hardly ever get sick anymore. Really. Even when life gets bonkers my immune system seems to hang in there. In the past I was one of those people that caught everything…. I always used up all my sick days at my jobs. Now… I haven’t had a class subbed from being sick in almost a year. I still get colds on occasion. It is true. My health isn’t perfect. But I notice such a huge improvement in my own immune resilience I just had to share with all of you.

Next I am aiming on curing seasonal allergies with yoga and a healthy lifestyle. Wish me luck.

Day 292: McSpiritual.. Blugh.

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bobdobbsOkay so I have a rant. Maybe I am just grumpy because I am moving so I’m bit tired.. but I have to say that whenever I see “™” by someone’s spiritual teachings they are offering I want to barf. Immediately I just feel that their “teachings” are really just them brainstorming ways to get more cash. It reads to me like “This is my idea/solution etc and you can’t steal it… you better pay to know what I know”.

For starters.. most people steal, copy, and use material from other teachers all the time whether they are aware of it or not. Personally I think of it as “taking inspiration from” rather than theft. The yoga I teach is HEAVILY influenced by Wanda Scaravelli, Sarah Powers, Paul Grilley, Paulie Zink and Erich Schiffmann. Their words do filter into my teachings. I credit them often but sometimes I don’t even realize that it is their message coming through because it has blended so much into my own thoughts and descriptions in class.

If we really are so advanced spiritually, if we know we are connected and the same ultimately, do we really need to protect our teachings so fiercely? I am sure there are some blatant rip offs out there but so be it.  I just don’t think spiritual process is something that can be trademarked. I think it is odd to even try. Well… Unless you pull it off with the finesse the Church of the Subgenius does ; )