August 5, 2012

Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Oh, how life has dealt me some blows in the last few months.

Through my tears, my sad faces, my anger I've managed to finally lay down a second a job and pick up some yoga classes to sub.

And through those days where all I want to do is pull the covers over my head, I get up, sit on my cushion and practice my pranayama.  Some days I get to the yoga shala.  Some days it's a half practice.  Some days my body aches.  Some days I touch my fingers in Supta Kurmasana with my ankles crossed.  There's progress even in the twilight - or maybe this is the sunrise. 

I find myself impatient with the human race.  Someone pointed out to me that maybe I am simply observing my own impatience with myself.  I opened my blue book this morning - my yoga book, where I write my yoga teachings - to read about the 6 enemies that cover the heart or the arishadvargas, according to Pattabhi Jois (as taught to me by my teachers, Jeff and Harmony Lichty).

1) Kama - desire
2) Krodha - anger
3) Lobha - greed
4) Moha - delusion
5) Mada - pride
6) Matsarya - jealousy

Pattabhi Jois is quoted to have said, "these are not external enemies; but in fact, all our external enemies are born from the arishadvargas, from the internal enemies, so that what we have inside us, what our heart says, is what we are forced to see outside."

So, for me this essentially means, what I see, what frustrates me, what saddens or angers me are mirror images of what exist inside of me - emotions that I need to let go of or become detached from.

Pattabhi Jois also explained that these enemies are destroyed through chanting mantras and through the practice of surya namaskaras (sun salutations).  The mantra he deemed the most important is the mantra from the Krsna Yajur Veda, which I refer to myself as the Bhadram mantra.

Bhadram Karanedhih shrunuyaama devaah
Bhadram pashye-maakshabhir yajatraah
Sthirairangais tushtuvaagumsas tanubhih
Vyashema devahitam yadaayuh
Om Shanthi Shaantih Shaantih

(There is more to the mantra but this is the part I learned while in TT and it is short enough for me to repeat three times in the morning before my pranayama.)

It translates as,
"O gods, may we who are engaged in the pursuit of spiritual knowledge, hear only the auspicious with our ears, see only the auspicious with our eyes, not evil ones, please make my body strong and firm, so that I may have the power to speak only auspicious and divine things, and please make my words unwavering in their value."

I've combined two translations that I have because this is how it sits with me and how I feel it when I repeat this to myself in the mornings.

So this morning I tried to embark on the day with feeling no anger to any one person and above all to try to avoid reacting to anyone's emotions.  I think it was successful, I had to remove myself from a situation once in order to not take someone's bad day personally but I left my job today with no resentment, no annoyance and no anger.

It most definitely wasn't easy.  But nothing's been easy lately.  I might as well embrace it.  I've heard that the faster or more easily someone climbs, the harder they fall.  So maybe it's better that my climb is difficult.  Maybe one day I will land softly.

I hope everyone has a soft landing.

Om. Shantih. Shantih. Shantih.


June 8, 2012

Taking It Off The Mat

Somewhere in the last 5 months yoga has become something I try to do everywhere, especially away from my mat. I don't mean asanas. I mean developing a firm strong mind. I mean being compassionate, happy, strong at the hardest times. I mean actively thinking the opposite when a negative comment pops in my head. I mean when my brain starts to spin out of control, to focus on my breath.

Oh my god this is not easy. Monday night I let myself crack. I sat on my living room floor bawling. And I don't mean no pretty Hollywood cry. I mean absolute grief and sadness. My brother came and literally picked me off the floor. It was symbolic I think. My little brother pulling me up. And the fact the entire time I was breaking down - Johnny Cash sang in the background - I felt like I was observing myself. I knew I just had to sit up, draw my shoulders back and take a deep breath but a part of me wanted this. Wanted to feel the pain physically.

And now as I sit in my car waiting to go see a man about a job - again - I desperately want to curl up into a little ball and cry. But if I let my intellect be present it only makes me realize that I am feeling sorry for myself. I'm letting my mind get the best of me and I'm letting my ego be bruised.

I just have to remember - as my teacher told me - one breath at a time, one step at a time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 14, 2012

First Classes Successful!

Wow, what a surreal experience.  I taught two classes on Thursday to two separate PE 12 classes.  First off, I don't think I've interacted with a teenager since I was in high school.  Second, they are so much younger than I ever felt at that age!  Third, they were there because they had to be so it was a little different then working with students in the mysore room who WANT to learn yoga.

My first class was bumpy.  I had nothing prepared  - I didn't know what to prepare, any time I tried to write up a lesson plan I felt lost so I decided I would just teach what I practiced.  Easier said than done when you've got 20 awkward teens trying to understand what you're telling them to do.  It was so much easier walking my brothers through a class.  I got a little lost and while I definitely kept my cool, I was unsure of myself and I finished the class 10 minutes early because my mind drew a blank.  I discovered the students really liked the balancing poses, they had fun with them, they hated downward dog - so much grumbling and I must admit this intimidated me a little bit.  I felt a little deflated after the first class but I gathered myself and took myself for a coffee armed with my David Swenson practice book and my notebook and made a lesson plan.  I wrote down the asanas in groups of three so that I could easily repeat three asanas again if I needed to extend the time.

For the second class I felt much more confident.  I was prepared and ready.  I took control of the class and joked about the complaining that a few of them did.  I took my time getting them to poses.  I added in Tree (Vrksana) and Warrior 3, which is similar to Balancing Stick in the Bikram class.  I actually didn't have enough time to finish everything I planned to teach.  I think that next time I will choose less postures and do them a couple times.  I want to stay true to the Ashtanga system but I also feel as though kids, who are being essentially forced to try yoga, need a little different approach.  I also need to find my footing as a teacher :)

If I already noticed a huge difference between the first and second class, just imagine what is to come.

April 11, 2012

YS 2:33

I'm nervous.  I feel like I did in university the night before a big exam.  I am the type of student who studies right from the beginning.  I don't cram.  I can't.  My brain will not process information that way and I get way too stressed out to retain any information.  Tomorrow I lead my first class.  I've been trying to study the asanas but I can't.  I am full to the brim with information and right now anything that I read will not stay in.  So I'm trying to chill out.  Relax.  I picked up my copy of Yoga Sutras and randomly opened it to Yoga Sutra 2:33.

Vitarka Baadhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be though of.  This is pratipaksha bhavana.

Fitting, I think.


April 10, 2012

Sirsasana, Tapas and Fear

For the last week or so I am able to get up into headstand completely on my own, without Jeff or Harmony standing close by to catch me as my body wants to slam backwards onto the wood floors.  I have no love for Sirsasana.  It comes at the end of my practice when my body is tired and I just want to lay down in Savasana.   Placing my forearms on my mat at the end of practice; cupping my head in my palms; becoming so focused that all I am doing is breathing and finding a lift in my core; lifting my legs straight up into the air as I press into my forearms and find strength in my shoulders takes every ounce of focus that I have.  For at least a couple breaths I think of nothing except breathing and lifting.  My brain always manages to intervene on this intense moment by freaking out a little and going WTF are you doing here upside down!  But I feel - proud, is not quite the right word - accomplished, is maybe a little better. I have been putting in the effort and it is showing. 

One of the Niyamas that Patanjali lists in his Yoga Sutras is Tapas.  Tapas are a form of austerity or self discipline.  Tapas literally means heat and implies effort.  Tapas help lead us to self mastery (Himalayan Institute).  I feel as though every day since the beginning of January, I have been performing my tapas.  Every morning I wake and practice my pranayama, given to me by my teachers.  I chant before my pranayama - to some people this may sound strange, weird, crazy but it focuses me.  It gives meaning to my daily routine of pranayama.  It is acknowledgement to the greatness that exists all around us - within us.  It is truly a moment in my day where I simply sit with myself.  This focus on one of the Niyamas (observances) within the 8 limbs of Yoga is giving me a strength I didn't know existed within me.

This strength is being tested.  On Thursday I teach my first yoga class to a Grade 12 PE class.  Part of me is freaking the fuck out - when I let myself.  But I'm noticing a different part of myself that is becoming detached from this emotion - a part of myself that is acknowledging this emotion and trying really hard to just move on.  (Much easier said then done but this self is trying.)  I am also being given a brand new opportunity for work and this is making me extremely uncomfortable.  It is a risk - financially but mainly for my ego.  I feel as though I am trying to stand on my head in Sirsasana and Jeff or Harmony may or may not be there.  There may be someone to catch me if I lean too far in one direction and there may not.  The key thing is that I need to trust my own self - my own strength - my own inner light.  Sirsasana "literally turns your world upside down" (Yoga Journal) and probably helps you deal with the comfortable life you're used to living being shaken up and jostled about.

So between Sirsasana, Tapas and Fear, my yoga practice is lending a most welcome helping hand to this so called life of mine.  I am eternally grateful for my practice, my teachers and the life that I have.

*Disclaimer*  In absolutely no way has this new found trust in my yoga been easy.  It's taken me months to even venture forth and share any of what I've been exploring in the last few months on this page again.  This practice brings up a lot of crap - internal crap, external crap and just plain old crap.  It tests you, it teases you, it picks you up and hugs you and then promptly spits you back out again.  But it's teaching me to trust my self, to love my self and to be my self with no expectations.

March 23, 2012

Infinity and Constant Change

Life has been a consistent stir of change lately.  Feelings grabbing me and shaking me around.  Jobs being insecure.  Pranayama practice bringing me deeper - to what?  Seasons changing.  Sun coming out and making me hot.  Vivid dreams.  Random meetings of people I haven't seen in ages.  Being surrounded by people who get what I'm learning and experiencing.  Being surrounded by people who don't - understanding that it's all personal.  Having a shift in what I enjoy doing in my downtime - reading the Yoga Sutras before going to bed.  Going vegetarian.  Feeling older yet younger and more vulnerable at the same time.  Wondering what has brought me to this point - is it all Karma?  Trying to grasp for something tangible yet feeling as though what I am searching for is elusive and I should go with the flux and ebb of life.  Beginning to believe I've lived before.  Feeling as though I'm finally discovering what I've wanted to understand for years.  Having no clue how to discuss any of it.  It is simply happening to me and I feel this deep inner change occurring within me.  Deeper than my brain.  It's happening in my core.

Becoming aware that life is not about something holding you up - being reliant on one thing.  It's about holding yourself up and being fluid within the change that is happening within your life.  Accepting change and surrendering to  the power that exists within yourself and all around you.  Having faith.  "It's all happening."  It's constantly happening.  Constantly shifting.  Constantly evolving.  Focusing on being brave and shinning bright while my whole world is shaking up around me.

March 1, 2012

Yoga Sutra 1:33

Hello lovelies, it's been a while since I've even thought about venturing into this part of the web.  Since beginning my yoga training in January, I have learned so much or I guess more precisely I have been given so much knowledge and I am slowly letting it sink in.  I have been practicing 6 - 7 days a week and am in training Friday evenings, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.

I have also been struggling with letting go of this so called control we have over lives.  Yes, I can make choices as to what I do but if I learn to quiet my mind and listen to my heart these decisions seem to be a lot easier to make.  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali have opened my eyes, my mind to many different thoughts.

Yoga sutra 1:33 is one that I think we should all follow, that would make our own lives a lot easier.

Maitrii karunaa muditopeksaanaam sukha 
duhka punyaapunyaa visayaanam 
bhaavanaatash citta prasadanam.

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy,
compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous,
and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff
retains its undisturbed calmness.

My interpretation of this is to celebrate with those who are happy - be happy for them.  Show compassion to those who are having a hard time or are unhappy.  Appreciate the virtuous that you may encounter - try to learn from them.  And the last one and most important for me to remember in my own life - ignore those who do no good, who are cruel or wicked.  There is no sense in getting angry or trying to share some of your own thoughts with them, most likely they will not listen.  It is a waste of your own precious energy, it disturbs your mind and only causes you stress and unhappiness. 


February 5, 2012

It's In My Blood

Mum told me this morning that she practiced prenatal yoga with me while she was pregnant as well as post natal yoga with me as a baby.

I wonder if this is why I feel so at home on the mat?

January 31, 2012

Self Doubt

We all doubt ourselves on a daily basis.  Did I speak to my boss in an annoyed tone?  Did I make the right decision in going to law school?  Did I leave the oven on when I left the house?  They can be huge situations in which we doubt ourselves or tiny little nagging thoughts that represent a part of us that may be forgetful, scared or lazy.  This doubt is one obstacle that is placed in front of us when we have a practice.  Whether this practice be a yoga practice, a musical practice, a pranayama practice, a writing practice or a painting practice.  When we doubt ourselves we are less inclined to practice. 

In Sri Swami Satchidananda's translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 1:30, it is stated that doubt is one the 9 obstacles that may restrict us from practicing.  I see this doubt as doubt of the self.  Doubt that what you are choosing to practice is not good enough or that you are not good enough, not smart enough, not flexible enough, not fast enough.  

I had this thought the other day in training during a discussion about Sankhya and Vedantic philosophy.  There we were all seated on cushions making notes in our books about Indian philosophy and I swear I felt like a deer caught in the headlights.  Words like monoism, dualism, Prakrti and Pushura bouncing off the walls and around my mind.  Trying to catch just a little bit of the conversation while it seemed that everyone else was having an easier time grasping the concept.  I gave up trying to follow the discussion at one point and my mind started berating me - informing me that I wasn't good enough to go through this training program that I would never understand Yoga philosophy and why in the hell did I even have a Yoga practice, what was the point?  I came home absolutely exhausted - mentally wasted.

The following day we discussed Sutra 1:30 and I felt clearer.  It was like this heaviness had been lifted from me.  I realized that this training that I am doing is an extension of my practice - an expansion of Yoga that takes me off of my mat and I was allowing my mind to distract me from my practice.

So, practice.  Practice your writing.  Practice your musical scales.  Practice your yoga.  Practice your singing.  Practice your gardening.  Don't stop.  Don't doubt.  Question but please don't listen to that nagging voice of doubt.  Listen to your heart.

P.S.  Bind in Mari D successful 2 days in a row! Heeheee!

January 30, 2012

Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah

This morning I found a mantra that works for me.  Whenever my mind started wandering during my practice, I repeated to myself, Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah - To restrain the whirl pools of the mind is yoga (Yoga Sutra 1:2).  It simply popped into my head while I was practicing and it is the one Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali that I have been able to remember in Sanskrit.

As soon as my mind wandered to what I had to do during the day - what we were going to have for dinner, work, yoga training, my lack of a career, my inability to bind in Marichyasana D - I repeated this in my mind with real conviction and belief.  Now to say that this worked is just me telling you it did but I have actual proof.  As I reached Marichyasana D I kept repeating my mantra while slightly smiling so that I was focused and in a decent frame of mind.  I went into the asana with no expectation on the second side and what do you know I actually was able to clasp each hand, bind and hold the asana for 7 breaths without an inkling of pain in my right ankle!  I can tell you that at that moment I broke into a real, genuine smile - it was a moment of pure bliss.  The moment I chose to let go and just be was when what I have been striving for actually surfaced.

Now we'll see if I can do it tomorrow :-)


January 26, 2012


Today I smiled through my practice.  I tried to invite love into my practice and tried to send love into my self.  When the going got tough, I smiled.  I lifted the corners of my lips ever so slightly and breathed.  The lift that I physically created in my face helped lift my core, my chest and my spirit.

When I reached Mari D - which nearly brought me to tears yesterday - I had a little pep talk with my self and the yoga.  I decided that I was going to choose to love Mari D, no matter what it looked like or felt like on any given day.  There will be no more forcing, no more roughness.  There will be no more dislike of the asana - I don't think that negative energy is helping my right hip, knee or ankle release any faster - there will be no more impatience.  I will be gentle, I will accept it for what it is and I will smile and breathe.


January 24, 2012

Gentle Breath

It was lovely to be back in a class setting this morning.  The sound of others breathing, the movement of peoples bodies and the smell of the subtle incense helped me to find my focus.

Three words that Jeff said to me this morning that I will try to bring forward into my practice everyday.





January 22, 2012

Short Update

It's like I'm being tested this last week and a half.  After the welcome yet overwhelming information last weekend, I have been unable to get to the yoga studio.  The first couple days were out of choice, I was happy to be home.  Then the following days were a struggle.  It was snowy and icy and I did not want to drive.  Then finally on Saturday, I was excited to start my week with a full primary led class on Sunday.  But I went to start my car on Saturday to head downtown and my car was dead.  So instead of practicing this morning at the studio, I did a very short practice of the opening series and the closing series before I dealt with getting my car to the mechanic.

My asana practice may have been a little wonky this week but I'm learning the peace invocations, I can almost chant them from memory.  And my introduction to pranayama has continued.  Nothing to complain about, really, it's just different.  I am really looking forward to walking into the studio on Tuesday.

January 20, 2012

PJ Yoga

I practiced in my pajamas this morning. I made no promises that I would complete my full practice. I simply started with the sun salutations and allowed myself the choice of whether or not I wanted to do the next asana. It worked. It took the pressure off. It kept me focused. The practice of chanting and pranayama was still there but it was as though it was casual Friday.

January 19, 2012

And Now The Other Side

I haven't been to the yoga studio since Sunday.  Normally - when Victoria has not been hit by snow and there is no ice on the roads and I don't have to sweep snow off my car at 5:30 in the morning - I would have gone to two morning mysore classes by Thursday.  This morning, I did not want to do anything.  I enjoyed my chanting and my preparation for pranayama - probably because they are so new - but my asana practice was rough.  The entire time, from my first Surya Namaskr, my mind would not shut the hell up.  It just kept trying to convince me that I did not want to practice.  This is when being in a class with other people and a teacher is so very helpful.  There's peer pressure to keep moving, to keep going.  I closed right before Marichyasana A.  I was done.  I rested in child's pose after Savasana, that seemed to help ground me.

So whereas yesterday I was in love with the fact that I could create my own practice in my own living room without the need for a teacher.  Today would have been the perfect day to have someone gently coax me forward.

There's always two sides to the story.

January 18, 2012

Why I Love My Practice

As I inhaled, held my legs firmly together, lifted my hips, kept my toes firmly planted on the ground and my gaze (dristi) rested on the tip of my nose I realized I'd forgotten two standing poses.  Two!  Utthita Hasta Pandangussthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana slipped away from my practice as I gazed out the window at the waving trees and the blowing snow.

This is the beauty of a personal practice.  You are your own teacher.  You are forever responsible for keeping your mind in the present moment.  There is no voice to remind you which asana comes next.  There is no teacher gently calling you back into the room.  There are no other bodies to watch and compare yourself to.  You need to be fully present and aware of each movement, each breath or you will forget asanas and possibly lose your balance and fall on your ass.

This is why I am falling in love with the traditional Ashtanga yoga method, the mysore method.  I practice a few days a week in a yoga room full of people who are in all sorts of different stages of their asana practice.  Some start at 6 am, some at 7:30.  Some are just beginning and are learning the sequence of the poses and spend time working with the teaching.  Some are working right through the primary series and have been given a pranayama practice.  The teacher walks around the room observing and assisting.  Sometimes encouraging students with physical assistance, sometimes by voice alone.  The yoga room always feels peaceful yet is never quiet.  You hear people breathing, mats squeaking, feet sticking to the wood floors.  Sometimes the room thunders when someone falls from an arm balancing pose.  It is a perfect example how silence and sound can exist in harmony.

I feel welcome whenever I walk in.  I am greeted by the teacher, whether it be a smile as they help someone twist into an asana or a pat on the back and how are you today.  Some days I get many corrections, many assists in poses.  Some days I am left completely alone except for a voice from the other side of the room telling me to lift my heart as I stretch forward.

The days that I don't get myself to the yoga studio, I practice in my living room.  This is especially useful on days when the weather is so gross out I don't want to leave the house.  The mysore method has taught me that I am able to practice yoga anywhere I can.  I have learned to remember what I was told in the studio.  I have been able to become more aware of myself.  I am able to take the peace and tranquility that I find in a led class or a mysore class and bring it right into my very own living room.  This is a gift that I would never trade for the world.  The gift of self discovery and practice.  The gift of learning how to find your own peace.  I am truly grateful to be a student of yoga and to be consistently learning and growing within my self.

January 17, 2012

Adding To The Practice

Yesterday I began adding a few practices to my morning yoga practice.  I wake up and on an empty stomach I practice Uddhiyana Bandha Kriya, Kapalbhati and Nadi Shodhana.  Then I drink some water and chant the peace invocations in Sanskrit, preferably 3 times each.

I love the chanting.  I think I love it so much because I love learning new languages and Sanskrit sounds so beautiful when it is pronounced correctly.  We went over the proper pronunciation of Sanskrit letters on Sunday so I think I'm getting the hang of it. 

The breathing exercises are another story.  Uddhiyana Bandha Kriya, I seem to understand.  Kapalbhati is more difficult.  Where it is similar to the Kapalbhati that is done at the end of a Bikram class there are some subtle differences.  First of all you exhale through your nose, the mouth is closed and the contraction in your stomach comes from the lower belly just above your pubic bone.  It helps to engage the Mula Banddha as you are pumping the lower belly.  This definitley requires more finesse.  Finding and activating my lower belly is tough but it is like any practice, I just have to keep trying.  Nadi Shodhana is simple in theory but when one of your nostrils is plugged every morning, it definitely makes the practice more challenging.  Apparently placing a rolled up t shirt under your opposite arm will help unplugged the nostril.  This still hasn't worked for me.

What I love most about all of this, is that suddenly my yoga practice is no longer just an asana practice.  I have been studying the yamas and niyamas, I've started reading the Bhagavad-Gita, I am learning some of the Yoga Sutras, the one I can remember in Sanskrit - Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodha, Yoga is the practice of channeling the whirlpool of the mind, ego and intellect.  The saying that yoga is not just about the physical is beginning to make sense to me - I'm starting to believe it.

But as Sri Pattabhi Jois says, "Whole life is practice. That is method."  We should never forget our practice.  Whatever it may be.

January 15, 2012


Two full days of yoga philosophy, text and pranayama.  I am overwhelmed, ecstatic, exhausted and desperately trying to absorb all that I've heard and read in the last 14 hours of discussion.  We are chanting the yoga sutras.  Chanting the peace invocations.  Learning Sanskrit letters and pronunciation.  And sitting.  Sitting a lot.

Here is one of the peace invocations that I really love.

Om.  Asato Maa Sadgamaya.
Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya.
Mrutyormaamrutam Gamaya.
Om.  Shantih.  Shantih.  Shaantih.

Om.  From the unreal lead me to the Real.
From darkness lead me to light.
From death lead me to immortality.
Om.  Peace.  Peace.  Peace.

January 12, 2012

Mari D - Success!

This morning I successfully grasped my opposite fingers while my left leg was in lotus, my right leg bent up close to my chest, my torso twisted to the right, my right arm wrapped around my back and my left arm wrapped around my bent right leg.

With the sound of Jeff's voice across the practice room urging me on, I was finally able to hook my finger tips and then pull my hands together.  It felt amazing.  Like I'd climbed Mt. Everest.


January 11, 2012

To Take or Not To Take

My right shoulder has been bothering me lately and I'm not sure why because during my practice I notice no pain or discomfort.  I told my teacher yesterday morning.  He looked at me with all seriousness, OK here's what we should do.  He took a deep breath, I felt a little intimidated.  Let me know if this offends you in any way.  OK, what the hell is he going to ask me to do?  I had images of rubbing stinky oils on my shoulder (which I would do), or buying strange herbs (I would try that too).  I want you to take ibuprofen with dinner for a week and see if we can bring the inflammation down.  You've moved through your practice quickly since you've started, the body is probably tired.  Ibuprofen!?  Sure, I'll take that stuff!  I have a bottle on my bedside table!

I had to chuckle to myself because I know some people would never dream of taking something like ibuprofen or aspirin.  Me?  I have no problem with it.

January 10, 2012

Bringing Life To What's Around You

I am currently reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  LW gave this to me a year, maybe two, ago and I read some of it but lost interest.  Since I've kept up a pretty steady writing practice on here I decided to pick it up again and I'm devouring it. 

In her chapter, Be Specific, Natalie writes, 'When we know the name of something, it brings us closer to the ground.  It takes the blur out of our mind; it connects us to the earth.  If I walk down the street and see "dogwood," "forsythia," I feel more friendly toward the environment.  I am noticing what is around me and can name it.  It makes me more awake.'

And that, my friends, is exactly how I felt when I learned all of the native herb, shrub and tree species of British Columbia.  Suddenly, all those green bushes that surrounded me had a name.  They had different characteristics.  They grew where they did because they were meant to.  It wasn't just a fluke.  For instance, now when I see a Spruce tree (on Vancouver Island) I know that the ground in which it is growing is generally moist.  I know that when I see Horsetail, we've got a water issue.  I know that Ocean Spray likes dry, rocky soil and I know that Salmon Berry seeds can lay dormant for 50 years, patiently waiting for a tree to fall so they can receive enough light in order to sprout.

I remember the world took on a new light when I realized that everything around me was so unique in nature.  Fabric, the hair on people's heads, the clouds in the sky and every single person that crosses our path.  We are all unique and special in our own little ways.  I needed that gentle reminder today.

Ocean spray or Holodiscus discolor

January 8, 2012

Sunday Morning Contemplations

I spent the morning reading Suzy's blog and her recap of conferences led by R. Sharath Jois in Mysore, India.  Sharath is Sri Pattabhi Jois' grandson and is the director at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.

Sharath brings up two teachings from the Bhagavad Gita, which I have not yet read, but that stuck with me this morning and I'd like to share.

"The Bhagavad Gita says that yoga is only possible if you were connected in your previous life. Something which has attracted you has brought you here. Somehow, somewhere you are connected to this."


"The Bhagavad Gita says that day by day, if you have shraddha (faith) in your practice then automatically knowledge will come to you. Then it is possible to control your senses. If you have faith then only can you go to higher levels in practice."

January 7, 2012

Rest Day

So grateful for a rest day today.  My body is tired from early morning mysore classes, where I definitely work than I do when I practice at home, and from my first few shifts at the bakery.

January 6, 2012

Find What Works For You and Put The Ego To Rest

There's been a lot of talk going around the yoga blogs in the past couple of days regarding an article featured in the New York Times Magazine - How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

The essay recounts many examples dating back to the 1970s of documented cases where yoga practitioners have seriously injured themselves - usually while practicing headstands, shoulder stand and deep back bends.  Some of this seemed over the top and the numbers collected from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that 'showed that the number of emergency-room admissions related to yoga, after years of slow increases, was rising quickly.' seemed relative to the rise of the actual number of people who have started practicing yoga in the last few years.  Business is booming thus more injuries will occur.  The only part of the essay I found relevant was a quote by Glenn Black, ‘Asana is not a panacea or a cure-all. In fact, if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.’

This truly resonated with me yesterday.  There I was in class trying to get into Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.  I could get into it three weeks ago - was even binding properly.  But it's been hurting, I could really feel it my knee yesterday morning.  I knew I should have just done the modification and moved on but I wanted to try.  Jeff walked up behind me and told me not to strain my knees.  I came out immediately.  One thing I do not want to do is hurt my knees.  So I swallowed my ego and asked for a modification in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana.  Honestly, I've been putting this off.  I really want my right leg to cooperate and fold neatly and painlessly into half lotus.  Being called out on it really brought me back down to Earth.

I think there is a huge misconception that yoga is all about flexibility - that it's all about the end result - the beautiful asanas that are possible.  It is very easy to fall into this mind frame when you watch endless videos of perfectly performed asanas or when you observe other people in your class who may be very experienced or are blessed with a flexible spine.

In my oh so humble opinion, yoga is very much about releasing what we do with our bodies.  It is about accepting what we do and moving on.  It is about finding focus and oneness with our bodies, minds and breath.  It is about releasing all those things that are created in our minds to trick us and stress us out.

I have just started really becoming aware of that voice inside of me that says, 'I want to put both my feet behind my head!' or 'I want to be able to float back gracefully in my Vinyasas.'.  There's absolutely no doubt that I do want this but not being able to do these things does not in any circumstance mean that I am not practicing yoga - that I am not as 'good' as a practitioner who can perform these asanas.   Kino MacGregor puts it well, 'Physical form and posture, although extremely useful along the way, are not the end goal of yoga. It simply does not matter whether your hamstrings are long or your body is toned if you are not able to be a nice person. Alternatively a person practicing the most basic and beginner level of yoga while maintaining a heartfelt devotion to living a more peaceful life is perhaps a very accomplished yogi.' 

Back to the subject on hand, can you hurt yourself while practicing yoga?  Of course you can.  You will push yourself while you practice.  You are getting to know your body and it's limits.  And like any relationship there will be pain and there will be tears as you get to know each other and as you heal.  BUT you need to be well aware of the difference between pain and discomfortWhen something hurts so much that it takes your breath away or makes you cringe, stop!  Ask your teacher.  Be honest with yourself.  If you find your questions are not being answered ask again and then ask again.  Read.  Do research.  You do have a teacher but you are also your own teacher.  If something doesn't feel right about a class, ask questions.  If in your heart you don't like the person you are learning from find someone else.

Yoga is about personal growth, if you choose to ignore something that is going on for you in your body you are most likely ignoring something that is going on in your life.  Be honest with yourself.  Practice with mindfulness.  Be present and don't ever ever be afraid to ask questions. 

January 5, 2012

Good Omen?

I started a part time job yesterday at the local gluten free bakery.  I was a little nervous because it has been over 7 years since I've worked in the food service industry.  But I really enjoyed myself, I get to talk aobut gluten free food and I get to learn more about it.

It was near the end of my shift and I was all alone at the front.  A tall woman with dark hair in a shoulder length bob walked in.  There was my yoga teacher from when I first started practicing yoga at the Iyengar yoga center in Victoria.  I had just been telling someone that when I was practicing Iyengar yoga I asked this teacher if I could ever teach.  I remember she was sitting at the reception desk and she looked up at me with her huge brown eyes and said I could do whatever I wanted.  It's all up to you.

After I boxed up her gluten free cinnamon buns I asked her if she still taught at the Iyengar center and she said she thought she recognized me.  I told her a little bit about embarking on the beginnings of learning more about yoga through this training program I am going to be doing.  She wished me well and that I would definitely be seeing her again in the bakery.

It left me with a real feeling that I'm doing the right thing.  That all of this uncertainty in the last 6 months has brought me to this point and that the choices I am making are the right ones.  LW would call this occurrence synchronicity.  Whatever it was it leaves me with a sense of well being.


January 4, 2012

Getting Back on the Food Wagon

Before my birthday, back in November, I was eating very clean.  I had cut out all gluten, only ate squash, vegetables and occasionally rice noodles for carbs and once a week would have a "cheat" day, which consisted of a yummy wholesome meal, most of the time vegetarian.  I fell off the wagon.  It's so easy to do.  That slope slides out from underneath you very quickly.  While my food intake was not nearly as bad as it has been in the past - years ago - I was still eating too much once Christmas rolled around.  I would sneak in a sweet here and there, started eating white pastas again because it was a special time of year!  My wonderful Mac and Cheese graced our plates twice in December.

I know myself well enough by now that I know what works for me and what doesn't.  In order to get back on the clean eating band wagon I need to start slow.  If I jump right back into how I was eating before my birthday it would last a few days but then I would fall hard.  Some people would say, well just don't let yourself fall.  I simply don't work that way.  I am working on building compassion for myself and setting myself up for failure is not a way to do this. 

So last week I started keeping a food journal again.  I track my food on  I tracked my food on here for over a year and decided back in November that I was going to see how I did without recording my food intake.  Well, it turns out I do need to hold myself accountable for things or I make excuses for myself.  

I have removed all sweeteners from my diet, while I rarely eat sugar, I had started putting real maple syrup on my oats in the morning.  This is one of the best things ever.  But I am resisting this because I find if I have anything other than fruit sugar in the morning I crave sweets and bread all day.  I am measuring out my portion sizes.  One cup of cooked steel cut oats for breakfast, I could easily eat two because they are so amazing, but it is simply unnecessary.  Half a banana in my shake, there is no need for a whole banana, especially when they are massive.  I drink half a lemon squeezed in water when I am craving something sweet.  The instant sugar from the lemon juice is quite satisfying.  And I'm on day 5 of no booze!  I started buying scotch right before Christmas, I'd drink 3-4 ounces a night.  While some may say this too much and others may say it's OK it's not that much.  I know deep down that that alcohol does turn directly into sugar in my body.  Which causes my metabolism to slow down and causes me to crave more sugar.
As I reread this, it all seems so easy.  Let me tell you if you think that you are ever alone in your struggles with resisting sweets or chips or hamburgers - picture this.  There I was yesterday right before dinner time walking through the mall after having tea with my aunt and cousins.  I specifically had rooibos tea so that I would not have any cream in my coffee.  There I was so proud of myself for making the smart choice and like a beacon blinking at me is Purdy's Chocolates.  I think to myself, ah no harm in having a peak, but I resisted.  I kept walking.  I didn't get 50 feet past the store and I literally turned right and right back towards the chocolate.  I stood at the counter admiring the many different chocolates, thinking I could get three bars because they are 3 for $7.00.  I could eat one immediately and bring the other two to have after dinner for me and LW.  As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I bolted and got out of that mall as fast as I could.

So, if you're ever struggling or if you have a sweet one day when you're trying to eat clean, don't beat yourself up about it.  We all struggle with all the amazing yummy food out there.  Just try to make the smartest choices you can.  And if you don't at one moment - meh - just start again from that moment.  It's OK to make mistakes, just acknowledge them and move forward.

January 3, 2012

What The?

I got home from morning mysore practice, still damp from sweat.  I was starving so I tossed some steel cut oats in a pot with cinnamon and blueberries, turned the kettle on for the coffee and plunked myself in front of my unbearably loud laptop to check my email.

And I am greeted with this:

The daily Groupon is 53% Justin Bieber SINGING toothbrushes.  I cringed.  WTF?  Who in their right mind would want The Biebs singing to them as they brush their teeth?  I get the whole pre teen/teen crush thing but a singing toothbrush?  First off, the sound quality has got to be terrible.  Second, I wonder if the toothbrush has been approved by the American Dental Association.  

Nothing against Justin, he is Canadian after all and he is an amazing example of how we can make it big through online social media.  But it certainly has me questioning how many preteen girls are begging their parents for these fancy toothbrushes or using their paypal gift cards to buy them themselves.

It makes me wonder, if had I been born 15 years later would I have wanted these toothbrushes?  I would really hope not.  I like to think that I had slightly better taste in music as a child; Nirvana, Tom Petty, The Beatles, Soul Asylum - definitely influenced by my parents.  I did have a Paula Abdul and Celine Dion cassette tape but NSync and the Backstreet Boys were irrelevant to me.

Celebrities such as Mark Paul Gosselaar - Zach from Saved by the Bell for those of you were deprived of such quality television - graced my bedroom wall.  

Now if there had been a product such as a Brad Pitt pillow case - well, that's another story.

Mark Paul has aged quite nicely.

Brad Pitt at his finest in Legends of the Fall.

January 2, 2012

A Few Things

This morning my mum came and tried Ashtanga yoga for the first time.  She bought a three month pass.  As we're driving home, I asked her if she was done with Bikram yoga.  No, we'll see, she said.  I can really do whatever I want, can't I?  How right you are, Mum.  We can do whatever the hell we want because it truly is all up to us.

Another kind of significant thing I did this morning was put my first payment down on a yoga teacher training program!  I finally really feel 110% positive about wanting to do this.  I am going to be learning from Jeff and Harmony at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria and I am so excited!  It's a modular course, so it will be every other weekend, which will allow me to work as well.  This is just the beginning of a life long practice.

January 1, 2012

About Meditation

A piece of wisdom from Tenzin Palmo.

"Our minds are like junk yards.  What we put into them is mostly rubbish!  The conversations, the newspapers, the entertainment, we just pile it all in.  There's a jam session going on in there.  And the problem is it makes us very tired.

When we normally think of resting we switch on the TV, or go out, or have a drink.  But that does not give us real rest.  It's just putting more stuff in.  Even sleep is not true rest for the mind.  To get genuine relaxation we need to give ourselves some inner space.  We need to clear out the junk yard, quieten the inner noise.  And the way to do that is to keep the mind in the moment.  That's the most perfect rest for the mind.  That's meditation.  Awareness.  The mind relaxed and alert.  Five minutes of that and you'll feel refreshed, and wide awake.

People say they don't have time for "meditation".  It's not true!  You can meditate walking down the corridor, waiting for the computer to change, at the traffic lights, standing in a queue, going to the bathroom, combing your hair.  Just be there in the present, without the mental commentary.  Start by choosing one action during the day and decide to be entrirely present for one action.  Drinking the tea in the morning.  Shaving.  Determine, for this action I will really be there.  It's all habit.  At the moment we've got the habit of being unaware.  We have to develop the habit of being present.  Once we start to be present in the moment everything opens up.  When we are mindful there is no commentary - it's a very naked experience, wakeful, vivid.

Meditation is not about sitting in a cave for twelve years.  It's everyday life.  Where else do you practice generosity, patience, ethics?  How much patience did I have to have sitting up in my cave listening to the wolves howl?  Ultimately the Buddha dharma is about transforming the mind, which in Buddhist parlance includes the heart.  The transformation of the heart/mind cannot be achieved if we only sit in meditation and ignore the dharma of our everyday life."

Yesterday, I tried to be fully present while putting away the dishes.  It's difficult.  I work everyday at being present in my yoga practice but in my mind, my practice is where I allow myself to practice awareness.  Doing the dishes is often where I allow my mind to wander, to follow crazy paths, to get worked up or get sad.  

Bringing awareness and becoming present in all of our tasks is the challenge.  To quiet the mind and the garbage, to feel with our hearts.