Thoughts

The Beauty of Grace

I came to my mat this morning and was reminded to let go of any judgements.

Maybe you are like me in that there is a continuous stream of running commentary throughout your practice.

Some days are better than others; sometimes I can completely surrender to my breath. I silence the “monkey mind”, let go and just appreciate the flow of my body, the steady in and out of my breath. Only a few comments slip out under my breath, but mostly I can forget about everything but the sound of my breath coming in and out of my nostrils.

Other times I am continuously judging my every move; where am I, how am I doing, comparing everything to yesterday’s session or perhaps the day before. This can get very frustrating as the more judgemental I get the less I seem to enjoy my class, I feel as if there is nothing I can do right.

Yet, if I just let go; if I can just practice Aparigraha by letting go of my expectations; letting go of all my worries, fears, and judgements – I will fall into the ease of just being.

Even the phrase sounds lovely… to just fall into being my true self. To allow myself to be who I am supposed to be without any expectations of being other that what I am at this perfect moment.

Have you found yourself comparing a previous class to one you are currently in and found something lacking? I have…

I compare the teacher to another. I compare how well I am doing; how the flow is going. So many things to think about, yet really…  why was that class more fulfilling. What expectations do I have of myself in this class; why is the class not working for me today?

Is it possible that I more fully surrendered into just existing; that I surrendered more deeply? That I allowed myself to relax, to let go of everything – with no thought as to how things should be, or how I want things to be.

Just the pure bliss of experiencing the present moment with no thought tied in yesterday or tomorrow.

If I can just admit that I am choosing not to be fulfilled in this present moment; that my expectations of this moment is what is holding me back from just being. If I allowed myself the pleasure of just experiencing I would receive the grace of just being.

Aparigraha reminds us to let go, to allow you the space to fill with grace.

(source: luna0729.blogspot.com)

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty Part 3

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When dressing for work, I noticed my pants’ zipper went up a little easier. Really? I thought. So I did what I very rarely do…I went to the mirror. Oh… what the hell. I lifted each arm and flexed my biceps – whoa, they look bigger. Not bulky, just leaner. One could call them pipes.

Pleased with my results, I lifted my pant legs to my knees, turned around, looked over my shoulder back into the mirror, and went up onto my tiptoes. I have calve muscles? And they’re defined?

Then, I went there. Hesitantly, but I was on a roll. I lifted my shirt to just above my hips and went for a grab at the sides of my waist – the forbidden exposure of the muffin-top. I couldn’t grab as much as usual…I couldn’t grab as much as usual! I have less to grab there! I would’ve never thought.

Running upstairs is easier and I sit up straighter. I can finally relax my shoulders more and touching my toes is a breeze. I feel more comfortable in spandex, less concerned about my future, and just plain better all around.

Sure, on April 21st, that final fortieth day after my fortieth class, I went home with a list of things I had to catch up on. My taxes, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping – the usual. I went away for the weekend and gave my body a long rest. But it felt weird. My joints were cracking, my neck stiffening, and my shoulders tensing. I need yoga. I miss yoga, my Kula. So after getting out of my yogic routine, I now cannot wait to get back into one…not every day, but steadily.

For some, forty days of yoga is minimal and part of their regular practice. For me, it was a challenge. A real challenge with much dedication and motivation needed along the way. But I did it and so did many others and it makes the daily challenges in life seem a little more bearable.

After all, if we can hold chair pose every day for forty days and come out feeling strong, I’m convinced we can handle most uncomfortable situations patiently with focus and come out stronger. All it takes is movement, momentum, and breathing. As one of my favourite teacher’s Ara Cusack always says at the end of each of her classes, “remembering that’s all that it takes.” I now understand what she means. Namaste.

Gratitude For My Mom

It’s mothers day and I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my wonderful mother, who continues to be my best friend, confidant, and so much a part of me that I pick up the phone whenever I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing.

My mother is my greatest teacher. Her example and her unhesitating and generous love (which are pretty much the same thing, really) is the bedrock of the choices that I make in my life. Whenever I am out of line somewhere in my life– in my thoughts, words, or actions– I ask myself what she would do.

Her quiet example teaches me to be better every day.

Her quest for freedom, to live the good life (in a Socratic, not a Kanye sense), gives me the freedom to find my version of that good life, even if it seems to change with the seasons.

I am able to recognize other teachers and learn from them because she taught me what to look for– honesty, openness, a sense of humour.

I am grateful for every breath because she gave it to me and because she taught me that every breath and every moment is sacred.

Because of her I know that the true nature of the world is love, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way.

‎”We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”
~Herman Melville

My mother lives this every day. This is how she is my mom. I know this is true because she showed me so.

KARMA YOGA: DO YOGA, DO GOOD

Yoga for Social Change! 

Karma (meaning to do or action) Yoga (meaning union):  in its simplest meaning literally translates to selfless service, the discipline of action or the union through action; which ultimately brings us closer to dharma.

A growing trend in the West, Karma Classes have been gaining momentum at a steady Vinyasa. More importantly, karma classes are finding their own place amongst social change makers and the Sports Philanthropy Movement; harnessing the Ying to the Yang in the therapeutic sense. This movement is designed to engage industry leaders and professional teachers in a dialogue about the value of sports/therapeutic philanthropy and aims to connect them with social change tools and causes that best fit their passions, recognizing their efforts to inspire others.

About a month ago I posted an article on Yoga & Activism, and karma class, my Yogic friends is the vehicle from which the compassionate-asana is driven! Karma classes also allows for a unique space, where the energy from inside a class is solely dedicated to a greater purpose!

From a business perspective the Yoga Industry can leverage their business in a socially responsible manner and showcase great grassroots initiatives/causes that can have a deep impact towards sustainable, positive change; both locally and internationally. More over; foster social change from a place of hope, opportunity and positive prana on a larger scale.

You can find a karma class at almost any Yoga studio these days, but if you are looking for a larger unified front, this has recently come across my radar and I felt compelled to share…

“Why stretch when you can reach?”  – The Engage Network

…is their tagline. Founded by Sean Crone, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling” Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM),” is a non-profit program of The Engage Network, and is dedicated to bridging yoga and activism and is geared towards communities around the world who collaborate for social change. Understanding the idea that we are stronger and more powerful together then we are apart, making a difference starts from the foundation, our roots.

As Yoga teachers and advocates for compassion, a karma class is an incredible tool in our toolkit to bring awanress to social change and connection to our global community!

Sources:

 The Engage Network: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/community.html

 Charter for Compassion: http://charterforcompassion.org/site/

 SAVE THE DATE: Camp Moomba Yogathon & Blissfest, July 24th Vancouver BC.

Practicing Ease

Are there times in your practice when you feel like you can give it your all and other times when you can hardly get on to your mat?

Our lives are so busy these days that adding one more item on to the list can feel over whelming. If you have a regular yoga practice you may have come to the realization that yoga definitely helps with dealing with the stress in your life. But sometimes you just don’t have the energy to get yourself to the mat.

I have noticed that if I can get to my yoga class, sit on my mat, start breathing that everything else in my life falls away, if only for an hour, but I end up feeling much better than if I just lounged on my couch for an hour.

The trick I find is to remember the reason why you have come to yoga. It is not to compete with your neighbour or even yourself. That is the Ego talking. The striving to always out-do yourself can not only add stress but also misses the true gift in yoga.

Peace or the gift of equanimity; a state of even minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response borne of reactivity or emotion, can come through a regular yoga practice. When you are always reacting to events and situations rather than just calmly observing these events stress is added to your life. By always striving to get better results there is no joy in life as you are never satisfied.

We live in a culture where striving for results colors our every endeavor. The chatter of our mind is constant; how much did I accomplish today? Did I meet /exceed my quota? Is there something else I need to do to make myself feel complete and purposeful? Why is it never enough?

Having a regular yoga practice can help you to recognize where, when and how you get caught up in the results. It also clearly shows your reaction/attachment to those results; either good or bad. When practicing your asana (postures) you might start to notice your internal running commentary; I got deeper into my breath yesterday, I had more energy, and I got lower in my Utkatasana.

All these judgments on yourself create stress and is counter- productive to your growth and ultimate happiness. If you allow yourself to step back from the experience; with all the things attached to it, such as; thoughts, emotions and pure sensations, by not getting caught up in a reaction which would have you identifying with those thoughts, emotions and sensations that would give you the peace you need.

To just purely experience things without attaching any emotional baggage gives you the ability to calmly remain balanced in any situation.

To practice with ease will bring you closer to the pure joy awaiting you in yoga.

Namaste

(source: topnews.net.nz)

Five Ways Yoga Can Save You Money

Erica Rodefer (from the Spoiled Yogi) recently wrote an article on the Yoga Journal describing five ways practicing yoga can actually save you moolah. If you’re new to yoga and broke, we wouldn’t recommend jumping into the discipline just to save cash, but Erica does bring up some great ways yoga saves your health, wealth, and the planet! Here is an excerpt from her list:

4. Shop less. Some people eat ice cream when they’re feeling down. Others just shut down. Then, there are those of us who buy new shoes to make us feel better about life. I’ve learned that the more yoga I do, the less “stuff” I need to feel happy and fulfilled. I don’t need a day at the spa or a psychotherapist to validate my worth.

5. Conservation. One of the tenants of yoga is ahimsa, which means nonharming. While there may be some controversy in the yoga community about what exactly it means to practice ahimsa (mostly around the issue of vegetarianism), one thing we can all agree on is that we do less harm when we use fewer resources. The more we conserve, the less money we spend.

To read reasons numbers 1 – 3 of her list, click here.

How does yoga help you save in your life?

[source: yogadestin]

What Type of Yoga Is For Me?

Yoga is a tool to bring us closer to who we really are.

At first, the type of yoga we start with usually depends on our preference for being physically challenged versus a more gentle and relaxing meditative practice. I have found that the more you do yoga, the better understanding you will gain of the type (or types) of yoga that work for you.

There are many different styles and types of yoga taught today and although all of them practice the same asanas (postures), each have its own focus or emphasis.

Here are some of the types of yoga that I think are pretty popular today – perhaps an inspiration for you to keep going or to try something new!

Anusara: Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara yoga focuses on the physical alignment along with the positive philosophy derived from Tantra. These classes are typically focused on opening the heart. There is a lot of Vinyasa flow. These classes can typically be done at different physical levels hence props are sometimes used.

Ashtanga: Popularized by Sri Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga yoga is a strong and dynamic flowing sequence of sun salutations and postures. The Ashtanga method stresses daily practice using uijayi breathing, mula bandha, iddiyana bandha and drishti. There are six series to this practice. The first series focuses on realigning the body, building strength, detoxification, flexibility and stamina. Classes can be led or self-led. Ashtanga is a vigorous and disciplined practice where the student progresses at his or her own pace.

Hatha: Dating back to the 15th century, Hatha yoga is typically slow paced with an emphasis on Pranayama (breath work), deep stretching, relaxation and instruction.

Iyengar: Developed by living yoga master BKS Iyengar, this physical form of yoga focuses on the precise alignment within postures using blocks, belts, chairs and other props to help the practitioner open more into the posture based on their own physical strength and weaknesses.

Kundalini: Kundalini is an ancient form of practice that involves combing strong breathing practices with asana and can range in difficulty. This type of yoga goes beyond the physical practice and emphasizes breathing, meditation and sometimes chanting.

Vinyasa: This type of yoga covers a broad range of yoga asanas. The word ‘Vinyasa’ literally means ‘linking movement with breath’ where each movement is linked to an inhalation or exhalation. Classes typically involve Ashtanga asanas and can range in difficulty and style depending on the teacher.

Always remember to listen to your own inner teacher. No matter what type of yoga you choose, it help you to establish optimal mental and physical health.

Namaste.

Image credit-yoga girl: http://free-online-yoga.us/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Power-Yoga.jpg

6 Tips to Deal with the Elephant in the Room

Okay so I’m just going to say it! Many of us our ruled by our emotions! 

{Source: http://www.function1.com}

 There’s the over emotional, unemotional or those who deny emotion. There are the people that react or overreact or just act, or the people who are boisterous, quiet or confident all of which are tied to our emotions. Sure our emotions encompass our personalities, but they shouldn’t have to define us. Our patterns, actions and behaviours, that result from our emotions, can be “trained” without changing our personalities, but for some reason we seem to grow up with this disconnect. 

What are emotions exactly? Well, according to the dictionary; 

Emotion is the complex psychophysiological experience of an individuals state of mind as interacting with biochemical (internal) and environmental (external) influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves “physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience.”Emotion is associated with mood, temperament, personality and disposition, and motivation. Motivations direct and energize behavior, while emotions provide the affective component to motivation, positive or negative. 

Therefore, those individuals who say they aren’t “emotional” are wrong. They are, they just don’t see their anger or aloofness as an emotion. So what are we supposed to do with all of these emotions in our lives?

Well, here are 6 tips to begin dealing with the elephant in the room; 

  • Be Aware– Start to take notice of how you interact with the world. Notice when you are acting or reacting or even overreacting. While in the moment your emotions may not let you see this, take a moment after a conversation or any social interaction and review how it went. Were you polite, interruptive, reactive to their thoughts, beliefs or opinions, this affects you and them!
  • Practice Patience –  While a fairly simple concept, be patient with yourself and others around you. Remember that everybody has to deal with their own emotions and while you may not like the way somebody interacts with you, remember you don’t know where they were or what happened to them 5 minutes before they saw you. Take a deep breath and let it go, maybe they are dealing with something really hard, don’t take it personally.
  • Keep a Journal – Keeping a journal is a great tool to “get it all out” or make sense of the clutter in your head. It is a great resource to say the things you wish you could say but feel you can’t, and to “let go” of everything that weighs you down.
  • Do One Thing a Day That You Love – Whether its yoga, or a hike or a run, or something a simple as reading a chapter of a book. Take that 10 minutes or 2 hours to do something for you! Your emotions and your soul will thank you and your presence will show that happiness to all.
  • Be Authentic –  There is a way to express your feelings, desires and emotions to those that surround you without causing them any ill emotions in return. Don’t do the things you don’t want to do if it doesn’t serve you, but let people know why. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Suess.
  • Breathe – You know in the heat of the moment that you are either angry or upset, take a moment to breathe before reacting. Remember that everybody has problems, challenges and obstacles in their lives and we can interact and still be our own person without being ruled by our emotions.

Our emotions shouldn’t define who we are, and while they can make all the difference in our lives by building lasting emotions of love and happiness, they can also make us live a life of bitterness or sadness. Remember, when you wake up in the morning you have a choice; choose to smile!

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty Part 2

I felt muscles in my legs I didn’t even know existed. I felt more ribs move with every twist. More pressure in my fingers with every downward dog. More strain in my Achilles tendons as I tried to perfect my Warrior one. I had to stop going to my weekly Kundalini practice to ensure I could maintain my strength for upcoming classes. My basement suite became dustier, laundry grew higher, bus rides seemed longer, and sleep time felt shorter.

As tough as it is to dedicate your body to practicing every day, it is even tougher to dedicate your time.

Was it awful to give up other routines and dedicate my spare time to yoga? Not at all. It was a challenge, but I grew to like it. My daily practice became what I looked forward to during each work day. Knowing I had a welcoming, comfortable, and relaxing place to be in a few hours made the dull days shorter.

That tired, restless feeling most of us get after a poor night’s sleep and an even poorer day on the job was eliminated during my daily practice. It energized me rather than drained. I spent less time wasted on watching mindless TV or checking email and more time being productive. My time was better spent because it became more crucial. Don’t get me wrong, I began to miss staring at the Food Network, but I put more effort into taking care of myself instead.

I enrolled in the course I never got around to registering for, I completed four cover letters for job applications I was procrastinating on, and I got myself into bed earlier and in turn, was able to wake up feeling more rested, despite that I could always keep sleeping.

Time became more precious, which I soon learned may be the point of this whole challenge. A focus on time, the now, and gratitude for the precious time we have.

But how about those precious physical changes? You know, the ones to our muscular frame. As much as I didn’t think it was going to happen, it did.

To be continued…

Mindfulness And Me (3 Tips)

I’m thinking about walking the talk more. As I work towards being mindful in my yoga practice, I’m exploring how to be more mindful in my life. It doesn’t make any sense to be committed to being conscious and thoughtful on my mat and then float through the rest of my day on auto pilot. So I’m going to take my mindfulness practice off the mat…

How? you ask.

I have some thoughts:

1. Turn off my laptop more. Can I do this and keep my identity? Probably. It may be hard, but I bet I could do it if I made more of an effort (“I am not my mind, I am not my mind, I am not my mind”).

Less time reading the New York Times online would probably be good for me.

2. Slow down. Looking out the window is not necessarily a waste of time.

3. Pay more attention to food and drink. I need to remind myself that eating is sacred, not something I do for entertainment, and it’s not just fuel. My heart loves to enjoy and savour food, but sometimes I forget.

So in May I am going to start living my yoga off the mat one mindful moment at a time…

(source: www.mindfulconstruct.com)

FOAM ROLLING, YOGA & THE BMO MARATHON… OH MY!

As a marathon runner and Yoga practitioner I love any opportunity to marry the two passions and with the BMO marathon right around the corner, many Yogis and Yoginis will be participating in this grand event. If you find yourself pondering, how do I know if I am effectively tapering and preparing for race day? Don’t worry, you are never alone! Let me offer some direction…

Foam rolling and soft tissue release can be very beneficial towards preparing your mechanics for any event, and truth be told; as a biomechanical coach I instruct my clients to use this tool as a warm up to their warm up, before any exercise; running, biking, Yoga and beyond!

Why you ask? What a great question, thank you …

Foam rollers have been gaining popularity as a much needed tool for soft tissue therapy and to treat somatic dysfunction; but they aren’t just for the clinic.  Foam rollers are popping up in most therapeutic modalities, sports teams and even in Yoga.

Unfortunately, I hate to play the age card, but as we get older, our joints start to lose their elasticity thus reducing the range of motion and mobility at the joint, creating sore muscles, week muscular chains and delayed movement overall; which is never fun when you are trying to rock your Yoga mat in a Vinyasa class or any class for that matter.

A few weeks ago we looked at Yin Yoga as a runner’s best asset towards balancing out their Yin & Yang! Yin Yoga as we know focuses on asanas designed to bring intention and relaxation to our connective tissue.

When gearing up for any small or large event, adding the roller to your movement prep can make a world of difference!

Foam rolling can help prep your body by addressing restrictions and soreness by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation and lymphatic drainage and breaking up fibrous tissue and by products. It also simulates the stretch reflex of muscles and connective tissue.

This year at the BMO marathon, I will be sitting on the side lines volunteering at the expo with my friends at IMPACT Magazine, but I am sure you can guess what will be in my tote bag – you got it; runners, my travel foam roller and my Yoga Mat!  Feel free to stop, drop and give the foam roller a whirl.

Join The Kula At Kushala Yoga In Coquitlam!

Join The Kula At Kushala Yoga In Coquitlam!

I move around a lot as my partner is in the military, but I have found a family in every city I have lived in. I find my family in yoga studios as they are filled with like minded individuals who are ready to welcome in any new student that enters their door.

I recently spent the last 4 months in Coquitlam, my hometown, to complete yoga teacher training. The first thing I did when I arrived was find a nearby studio to practice in. Thankfully Kushala Yoga studio is very close to my parents house, where I stayed,  and I was able to convince all my family members to join with me!

From the first class I went to at Kushala I felt like I belonged there, as opposed to just being a temporary guest. The yoga teachers are so friendly and approachable that I couldn’t help but want to engage in an after class chat with them. Even the students are beginning to catch on that Kushala Yoga is much more than just a place to practice yoga. During a Power Flow class I was greeted by another student who was introducing himself to the people on the mats around him and arranging an after class coffee. The yoga teacher/ owner half jokingly said that this student was the social coordinator for Kushala. The studio also hosts such activities as movie nights and Hike n’ Yoga to further foster their growing community of yogis.

Kushala Yoga has 2 locations, one in Coquitlam and one in Port Moody, with 2 more on the way. They offer classes for all levels from more relaxed classes such as Slow Flow and Restorative Yoga to more vigorous and advanced classes such as Power Flow, Hatha Core and my favourite Wild Thing Wednesdays with Andrew Colyn.

Weather you visit the warm, soothing studio in Port Moody or the bright and open studio in Coquitlam you are sure to find a class that suits your needs and make several new friends!

Tour of Kushala

Images from http://www.kushalayoga.ca/

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty – Part 1

smokefreewisconsin.blogspot.com

“Oh no, there is no way I can do that,” I respond to my best friend Brenna, the yoga teacher, when she asks me to do Semperviva’s Forty Day Challenge with her.

She looks at me calmly and replies, “why not?”.

The excuses flowed faster than a Vinyasa Power Flow class. “Well, I’m taking that night class and I have lots of homework. My weekends are tied up enough as it is. I won’t have time to cook dinners. My body can’t handle it – you know, I’ve had that sore hip for months. I don’t have a car anymore. I’m trying to find a new job right now. And I’m not good enough at yoga to do it that much.”

“Ok then,” she says unbothered, “I’m going to do it.”

In reality, if anyone doesn’t have time to do this yoga challenge, it’s Brenna with her schedule of volunteering, yoga teaching and training, overtime working, and wedding planning to name a few. Her question of “why not?” stuck with me the whole rest of the night. It’s called a challenge for a reason.

But why forty days? I asked. It seemed like an eternity. Semperviva’s website (www.semperviva.com) states, Yogic science confirms that it takes 40 days to fully develop a new life-promoting habit or to drop a current destructive habit. Knowing full well that I could use something to break the repetitive question to myself: “What am I doing with my life?” I chose to try and sustain my mind from all the foreseen opportunities within my future and focus more on the now. Something I do well temporarily, but making it last is a recurring problem.

I started off strong. The first week of March 13-20, with momentum and positivity, I counted every class with pride. A few friends and I were in it together and created a routine support network.

Slowly after week 2, fourteen straight days of yoga, I began to feel the benefits of practicing every day, but these weren’t felt without pain. Strong, rooted stiffness which I took as good pain, but pain nonetheless.

To be continued…

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