Winter Solstice & Lunar Eclipse!

The Winter Solstice, December 21st, marks the first day of Winter and is when the Sun is farthest south.   It is a time when many feel the darkness of the days in their moods and energy levels as well as feel the strain of holiday stressors. Since the direct rays of the sun are at their farthest point away from us in the Northern hemisphere, it is the day when the sun is lowest in the sky, and the time between sunrise and sunset is the shortest. From that point on, the days will start to get longer. Tomorrow is also a full moon.

Tonight, there is also a lunar eclipse. This is the first time an eclipse has occurred on the solstice in centuries! A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth becomes perfectly positioned directly between the sun and moon. The earth’s shadow is cast across the moon, and it becomes red or orange. The earth’s shadow will start to move across the moon around midnight, with the end of the eclipse happening around 2 AM. Unlike a solar eclipse, you don’t need anything special to watch a lunar eclipse, except some breaks in the clouds.

Many of us struggle with the dark and short days of winter along side of the holiday stresses. It is a time when our yoga practice becomes even more valuable and helps us to bring light back into our lives. Other ways to ensure that the darkness doesn’t get you down and which the holidays are perfect for is spending time with loved ones and enjoying warm comforting foods.

The new season not only provides us with opportunities to preserve ourselves but to prepare ourselves for the new year ahead and take the much needed time to renew ourselves for Spring.

This is the first time in over 456 years  that a lunar eclipse has occurred on a winter solstice and it is believed that eclipses are a great time for transformation through meditation. Unfortunately with our cloudy, rainy Vancouver weather we are unlikely to see it. There are many different beliefs on the energizing or transforming power of a Lunar Eclipse, and after trolling the web I came across this;

“The main purpose of this years powerful energetic opening on December 21, is to assist you in fully opening your heart, mind, and physical body to successfully merge and align with the new energy. The benefit in this alignment is that it supports you in realigning with the original plan for your life, and the ability to fulfill this purpose. You are here on earth with a unique and special purpose, the astrological alignment of this year seeks to bring you back into full alignment with your unique divine path here on Earth.”

Eclipses are believed by many to be a time for great transformation through meditation it is said that our energies are magnified and more focused.  Whatever your belief on the effects and roles of the moons and the changing of seasons, there are some Winter Solstice celebration yoga classes around town, here are just a few!

  • Yoga West – TONIGHT, 6:30pm – Healing Ring of Tantra & Full Moon Meditation
  • The Yoga Space – Tomorrow (Dec 21st), 10-12, Celebrate the Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice to all of you and of course Happy Holidays!

The Kitchen Yogi

What is The Kitchen Yogi you ask? It is a company created by certified yoga instructor Karen La Du, and Amy Wolochowicz who were both inspired to spread the message of yoga through a unique form: asana shaped cookie cutter kits. Their goal is for people to learn about yoga and maintain a healthy & happy lifestyle, expanding their creativity –  all while baking and decorating delicious cookies!

Each kit includes a cookie cutter, recipe (offering organic, gluten/sugar free ingredients for those with special nutritional needs), and asana instructions.

You can place your order online and they ship to Canada. These would make perfect stocking stuffers this season (set of 3 kits for $20, or purchase kits individually for $7.50 each), especially to get children interested in yoga. Not a baker? Tie a ribbon around the cookie cutter and it instantly becomes a tree ornament! Also, crafty kids like to use them for tracing asana inspired art projects.

The great thing about The Kitchen Yogi is that they donate 10% of their profits to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, an organization that serves and educates about animals in need.  Yogis making a difference and putting a smile on peoples faces – who doesn’t love cookies!

Book Review: The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown

I was pleased to see a copy of my favourite yoga book at the Semperviva Sun Studio the other day. Now that everybody is in a Christmas list mode, I would definitely suggest it if you want to make a yogi friend happy.

The Yoga Bible (c) 2003 Godsfield Press

A friend gave it to me for my birthday two years ago and it follows me everywhere. I take it from one room to the other and has become a bit of a comforter blanket. Whenever I feel bored, I just reach for it and flip through it until I find something that draws my attention: a posture, a breathing technique, a mudra, or even the introduction.

It serves as a reminder of things I have heard or read many times, but tend to forget. It deepens my knowledge of asanas, gives me ideas for my self-practice and whenever I’m in doubt, I refer to it.

It’s simple to use and can be read in many ways. Its main section describes and illustrates over 170 asanas. The author always suggests ways to make postures more or less challenging depending on your level. I find the last section incredibly useful as it offers different tools: ideas for meditation, a selection of mudras, a guide to bandhas and drishtis, but also, ‘yoga with a special focus’ i.e. what asanas are more suitable if you suffer from insomnia, stress, indigestion, back pain, jet lag, etc.

Spine and covers are resistant to everyday read and tear and its format makes it easy to carry around everywhere: on the mat, on the sofa, on a road trip,  to the coffee shop, and to the beach in the summer!


All of a sudden the holidays have appeared out of nowhere, I have spent the last week thinking that we still had time, but alas there are only mere days left. Not only with the holiday season and the hustle & bustle, but we also have the daunting task of creating our New Year’s Resolutions as 2011 is right on our doorstep.

One trick I have heard from many people and one that I now practice myself is to write down these resolutions or goals, it seems to make them more doable. Not sure what to resolve for 2011? Here are some ideas;

Bob Clyatt’s Scorpion Pose;

  • Develop a regular yoga or meditation practice, perhaps you only make it once a week or four times a week, whatever your practice is, stick with it, or maybe even bump it up, perhaps you want to add a 2nd class to your week or even a fifth.
  • Go deeper into your practice, perhaps a pose that you want to play with for 2011, master or even perfect…things like headstand, handstand, scorpion, side crow…
  • Sign up for the yoga teacher training program you always dreamed about or take a yoga retreat vacation
  • Set goals for the rest of your life; work, family, health, happiness!
  • Take your dream vacation or at least plan it!
  • Practice Santosha, Contentment or Satisfaction, being content with your actions and with what one has, what one is, where one is, and with what one has done or what one is doing.

If you take a peak across the web there are lots of handy tools to help make your new year’s resolutions actually come true. Here are a  couple;

” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than be the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Yoga Socks

Yoga Socks

Yoga socks are becoming more popular these days, especially for those yogis living in cooler climates. I know I’ve wanted to keep my socks on during some cooler room classes here in Vancouver. However, regular socks just won’t cut it – as you’ll slip and slide on your mat. But not if you’re wearing ‘yoga socks’!

There are a few different companies out there that make socks specifically for yoga and pilates. Some are toe-less and others are toe-socks. They all have grip on the bottom, absorb sweat, and provide added comfort so you can stay grounded on your yoga mat.

Here are some options for yoga socks:

Yoga Stick-e Socks
Yoga Stick-e Socks

Yoga-Pilates Socks with Grips by ToeSox
Yoga-Pilates Socks with Grips by ToeSox

Yoga-Pilates ULTRA Sport Socks by ToeSox
Yoga-Pilates ULTRA Sport Socks by ToeSox

Have you ever worn yoga socks while practicing yoga?

Yoga Teacher Review: Susan Van Zaig

I always find it a bit daunting to choose a Hatha class when I don’t really know what the teacher’s style is. It can be a bit like the Goldielocks syndrome: too challenging, too quiet, too flowing. I was practising at Yyoga two weeks ago and I found their teacher’s profile section very helpful. So I went to Susan’s class on Tuesday at Flow Wellness, and it was exactly what I was looking for and more.

She started with an anecdote that served as a theme for the practice, drishtis, and we often came back to our gaze as we worked very thoroughly on various foundation asanas. I came out of that first class with the feeling of having learnt a lot. I’ve returned to Susan’s classes twice since and it has become one of my ‘can’t miss’ classes of the week.

Susan is a very elegant yogi and she takes time to illustrate postures in depth. She often pauses to prompt for questions and establish a dialogue with her students.  Her adjustments are spot-on and the way she makes us work through classic postures is very creative and fun.

[source: Yyoga Flow]

Susan’s class is perfect for all levels. Beginners can learn the postures properly from the start. More experienced yogis can deepen their practice by developing a better sense of precision, as well as by correcting all those little bad habits, picked up in years of automatic repetition. Also, if they are a nerd like me, you can learn interesting aspects of the mechanics of the body.

It has really changed my practice. I feel that by persisting every week, I will achieve greater progress without ‘cheating’ and by being honest with my body.

Susan teaches at Yyoga Flow Wellness on Tuesday and Thursday and at Semperviva on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Yoga Teacher Review: Dan McInnis

It was Tracy’s birthday earlier this week, so the lovely folks at YYoga sent her a ‘you and a friend free class for your birthday’ email. (She also received a similar email from Semperviva). These must be recent promotions by the Vancouver yoga companies, since I never received emails for my bday a couple months ago. Tracy was kind enough to invite me to attend a class with her at one of my favorite studios, YYoga Flow Wellness. We thought the complementary classes would be a great chance to venture a different instructor and deviate from our usual yoga routine.

We chose a yoga teacher neither of us had practiced with before: Dan McInnis. We attended his Hatha class yesterday and absolutely loved it. He began the class by recounting to us how he was getting ready to come to work and started becoming really excited about the sequences he was going to get us to try. When your teacher is bringing forth such amazingly positive energy, it really sets the tone for the whole class. Dan is a very encouraging and supportive instructor who just makes you feel so good! His class was very well rounded, with a good focus on balance and core strength. We left class with openness in our hips, strength in our cores, and positivity in our minds.

Apart from YYoga, he also teaches Corporate yoga classes in Vancouver. Leave a comment below if you’ve attended any of Dan’s classes and know of other studios he teaches at 🙂

[source: YYoga Flow]

The Power of Yoga Speech

I’ve been attending classes in Vancouver for a month now and I’m starting to work out why I like practising here so much. There are so many aspects that I have enjoyed, that it’s been difficult to define them. This week I’ve finally understood one of the main features that make classes here so special to me: speech and stories.

Vishuddha chakra -

I love it when before we chant three oms, we sit in silence, eyes closed, and the teachers begin with an anecdote of their everyday life. They explain how seemingly insignificant events can illuminate some of the many mental habits that crowd our autopilot world.

The story could be the one of a teacher coming back from an eye test with blurred vision and drawing parallels with the drishtis; or another putting her winter coat on for the first time this season and feeling how we mentally wrap ourselves up  in cold weather; or one teacher remembering how sensitive she was as a child; or even teachers reflecting on recent readings, like an article on the brain and the stories we make up to ourselves.

I like it even more when the anecdote, the story or the article sets a theme, a guiding thread to the practice, a foundation to work on: drishtis, sensitivity, weaknesses in our bodies, breath, our inner narrative.

Most teachers are very gifted speakers with inspiring and calming voices.  The story and theme create a stronger connection between mind and body during the practice, it bolsters mental strength and physical endurance. We all become part of the story and embody it in each asana.

Stories linger with me sometimes for hours, days, months or years, and help me live more mindfully.

Can you think of a teacher’s anecdote which has helped you in everyday life?

Yoga Gifts For The Holidays

Unsure of what to get the yogi in your life for Christmas? Fret-not, we’ve rounded up some of the best presents any yoga enthusiast would adore. (Click on photos for information on how to purchase):

Sustainably constructed Adidas by Stella McCartney Yoga Performance 7/8 Recycled Polyester Tights are luxuriously soft while sweeping away heat and sweat:

Yoga Performance 7/8 Recyc. Poly Tights

Pre-shrunk, extra soft, bamboo/organic cotton, fair trade, and eco-friendly – “Practice Kindness” t-shirt:

Practice Kindness Eco Tee Shirts - Cherry Red

Eco Yoga Kit includes Stirlen Chi Yoga Mat Spray all natural cleaner, 5mm mat, blanket and blocks:

Eco Yoga Kit

Silk Eye Pillows with Lavender, come in a variety of colors and have removable covers – perfect to relax during savasana:

Small Silk Eye Pillow Lavender

A personal favorite of mine, and made in Canada, Yoga Jeans by Second Denim Co. come in a variety of styles.  I love their dark, skinny jeans as they really do feel like a second skin. And yes, you could practice yoga in them! I ordered mine online from Montreal company, Yoga-à-Porter:

Yoga for Wine Lovers

Yoga for Wine Lovers

While some yogis believe that we shouldn’t partake in alcohol, I personally do not. While anything in excess amounts can be harmful, a glass a tasty red wine, can sometimes be just as sweet as savasana, so for you wine, yoga lovers:

..too bad you couldn’t really pull this off….well maybe with a little practice.

And that got me thinking, what a brilliant idea. A yoga retreat at a winery…the best of both worlds. And low and behold…a wine yoga retreat in a French vineyard…sounds lovely, The “Vin et Vinyasa” Package, picnics, wine tasting, meditations and vinyasa classes all in the french countryside or of course, something a little bit closer to home, Yoga in the Vineyard located at Niagara on the Lake.

Now somebody just needs to start one in the Okanagan & summer vacation here I come!

‘Hi, I’m New In Town!’

I seem to have said this a lot recently. My boyfriend and I left our jobs, flat and friends in London and we moved to Vancouver a month ago to start a new life.

Downtown from Jericho Beach

I worked in publishing back in Europe but I’ve decided to make the most out of this change of continent and follow my yoga path further by taking the teacher training. I had heard that Vancouver is possibly the best place where I could train. Now, from first hand experience, I’m entirely convinced: it has so much to offer to yogis.

In less than 3 weeks, I have attended 12 classes, with 9 different teachers, in 5 styles. This has been incredibly exciting. Everyday I study class schedules and I’m often overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches.

In London, in my nearby leisure center, I had a limited choice of 3 fantastic teachers, one little studio and 4 classes a week. Suddenly here, I have plenty of marvellous teachers, different styles and big studios to choose from, and I feel like a spoilt child in a candy shop.

At Yyoga, I’ve opened my heart in Anila’s Anusara class, and rejuvenated fully with Mike’s restorative yoga. In Semperviva’s studios, I had a great Flow session with Alli, I found strength in a chilled atmosphere in Reno’s Power class, and practised deep awareness in Bernie’s wonderful Yin and Hatha classes.

So far, it has been a truly wonderful experience, and I’ve learnt more in three weeks than I would ever have dreamt, on yoga, on the mind, on my body and on myself.

Also, I’ve felt so warmly welcomed by teachers and students that somehow I feel a bit more at home here already.

Any other new yogis in town? I’d love to share first impressions!

Blissful Burbs; Hari Om Yoga

Whoever says that you have to drive to Vancouver to experience a fantastic yoga class? Well they are wrong! My love for yoga was greatly affirmed as I ventured out to experience Hari Om Yoga in Langley.

Run by Cormac McCarthy and Valeria Pongracz, Hari Om Yoga has made a name for itself in the Burbs. After an invitation from Cormac to come out, I made my way out to Langley this weekend. Living in Coquitlam, the studio is only about a 15 minute drive from my house, which is nonetheless perfect! While I’m not very direction oriented, and after one presumptuous false turn I quickly and easily found the beautiful studio located just off of 200th Avenue.

Hari Om - Retail Space & lululemon gear!

With a 2,000 square foot retail space that includes all the gear you could ever need, from lululemon hoodies, pants, tanks, shorts to Jade & lulu Mats, to bags, to other various yoga gear, it’s a shopping haven, now there is no excuse for forgetting your pants & not making it to yoga!

With the smell of freshly brewed tea, and a corner library with a fire and Yoga Journal’s galore, to the cuddles & snuggles from Charlie the cat, Hari Om Yoga has made itself into a community, that you just want to be a part of.

The yoga studio, is located above the retail space, and is absolutely breathtaking, with a large window at the front of the room with views of Mount Baker & the tree tops, the scenery helps to take your mind off the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and find depth in your practice and is a little bit of Yaletown in the heart of the burbs! The studio caters to every body, with students ranging from 9 to 80, and offers a wide variety of classes from Kundalini, to Hot, to Core, Power and Restorative. Not only do they offer a wide variety of classes, but workshops, Kirtan evenings and Teacher Training!

I attended two classes this weekend; Saturday morning was the Luna class, a nice change to a sometimes hectic life that reminds us to take a moment and SLOW down! To the Form of the Pose class on Sunday morning that helped you take a deeper look at the foundations of the poses and the mechanics on how to go a little deeper. The Sunday class was filled with their current teacher trainers, who you could tell from their energy were excited and elated to be a part of such an experience.  The teachers were fabulous offering detailed instructions and reminders about our foundations our poses and our breath, I left feeling alive and rejuvenated.

The Hari Om philosophy;

“calm mind”, “active body” an “inspired life”

A philosophy that is so true to how you feel when you leave this wonderful place. Hari Om is a fabulous space, with fantastic teachers and a great community, you have to check it out! Hari Om is included on your Passport to Prana and your first two weeks for $30.00 unlimited! Thanks Cormac for inviting me out, it was certainly a pleasure and I will definitely be back to take in more of the community at Hari Om!

DIY: How To Make Your Own Yoga Mat Bag

I love my lululemon velcro mat strap – it also doubles as a yoga strap for stretching. However, when I’m trekking around Vancouver, it would be more practical to have an actual yoga mat bag to keep my mat free of dust, dirt and grime.

If you’re relatively crafty, there’s a fantastic eco-friendly DIY project that can be done in a short amount of time: Fitsugar’s step-by-step guide to making your own yoga mat bag with an old pair of jeans.

You’ll need:

  • old jeans
  • yoga mat, for measuring
  • scissors
  • thread
  • sewing machine (you could do it all by hand, but it will take a lot longer)
  • drawstring or ribbon
  • cloth belt or scarf or tie, for the strap

This would also make an excellent gift for the holidays, for a yogi in your life. Not very crafty but like the jean-yoga-mat-bag look? Here, you can purchase a new Gaiam denim yoga bag.

Happy sewing!

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