Saturday, 20 August 2016

Roundabout Reflections


8 years old:
Sitting in my grandmother’s living room on the beige carpet …
A news blip on the TV in which a woman celebrates her 100th birthday. She folds like a pretzel, putting her feet behind her head with a big grin on her face. She’s been practicing yoga for 60 years and here she is, as vibrant and as flexible as I was with my as yet un-fused sacrum. Maybe she’s on to something.


13 years old:
My friend’s yoga teacher mother invites our whole soccer team to a series of 3 classes. We learn about ‘monkey mind’, about ‘corpse pose’ and that if we do inversions before exams we’ll think more clearly. We giggle and show off our youthful flexibility and levity, floating into headstands and flinging into handstands. We get tucked in for savasana, with tiny sandbags over our eyes. It is so comforting.


19 years old:
How am I already not as flexible as I used to be? In my first class since that fleeting introduction, a yoga teacher frowns at my downdog and pulls my hips back, trying to force my convex back into a more acceptable shape. My hamstrings scream.


23 years old:
I’ve been hitchhiking and camping all over western Canada, sleeping on uneven surfaces and living rough. I’ve also been sitting in stiff plastic chairs through interminable university classes and paper-writing sessions with slumpy posture. As a result I’ve been saddled with chronic back pain. It even hurts to lie flat on my back sometimes. Something’s pinching. I get an x-ray and a CT scan. I see a physiotherapist to correct the bulging disc in my lumbar. We set a goal together. I would like to practice yoga. I don’t know where this comes from but I know it’s what I need. I do the exercises until my muscles strengthen and my back pain lessens. I sign up for Iyengar-style classes with the same friend’s yoga teacher mother from the junior high days. I diligently attend a class a week over the next two winters. I feel taller, stronger and lighter. I stand in tadasana while waiting for the bus.


29 years old:
I have a dedicated yoga spot in my apartment. I feel it when I miss my practice. I work in male-dominated, physically demanding jobs and apply yogic forms while hauling gear. My 5’3” 130lb body can somehow keep up with their 6’3” 230lb ones. I love the dynamic strength that yoga allows me to build. I love the feeling of euphoria and clarity after a transformative practice. I love picking apart the anatomy and mechanics of a pose. I love delving into the yogic philosophy of the human mind and body; it keeps me grounded, it sends me higher, it brings peace. 

How Has Yoga Changed My life

My first yoga class was a community centre yoga class that I took with both of my parents when I was a teenager. It was taught by the mom of a boy that I went to school with. I remember even then thinking that she had the best job and that I also wanted to teach yoga when I grew up. From that point on I never stopped doing yoga or learning about yoga.

Yoga for me is applied practical spirituality. I spent many years deeply involved in Goenkakji's Vipassana Meditation but it was so much sitting and not enough moving for me. I have always loved to move my body from the time I was 5 years old when I insisted on taking dance classes, to my teens and adult life when spiritual intuitive dancing took over as my number one blissful renewing activity.

To have yoga in my life as a firm foundation for learning and practicing the art of keeping my body, mind, and spirit healthy is the greatest blessing. It makes me wonder how I became so deserving as to come across such a great gift so early in my life. My yoga practice has brought me through many trials and tribulations in this life. From the time after my daughter was born and the majority of my body was covered in a rash from head to toe for over 5 months and I courageous continued to attend yoga classes despite my appearance, to the many days when life was overwhelmingly difficult and my greatest accomplishment was to invest in my future by committing to my daily yoga practice, to this current time in my life when I am courageously stepping into the unknown as a single mother in the world. Yoga is and always has been from the first moment I discovered it been my number one go healing practice.

I may love dancing more but there are days I cannot dance and there will never be a day that I cannot practice yoga even if it is simply lying flat on my back observing my breath.

Yoga is my foundation. Yoga is my support. Yoga is my medicine. Yoga is my refuge. Yoga is my celebration.

Yoga is my devotion.
Yoga continues to teach and guide me.

- Michelle Louise Marie (embodiedwisdom.ca)

Monday, 11 July 2016

Yoga Changed My Life


Breathing in. Breathing out. Arms up over my head. And then that moment when I feel like I can't hold it any longer. The relief of moving my arms down. Feeling the blood rushing back to my hands as they come down to the ground. Making the connection between the mind, the body, the soul. Facing challenges in everyday life the same way that we face these physical challenges - with perseverance, patience, understanding, forgiveness, kindness.

And then the celebration of the success when we've finally accomplished that goal. Or maybe even more learned yet, the failure of not being able to succeed the way we wanted to. The everyday life challenges, work challenges, those goals that can sometimes seem unreachable. Just like how we deal with our physical challenges. Those toes that we cannot yet touch. That pose that we cannot yet quite master the way we think we should be able to do. It all takes time and effort.

Making that connection between how we deal with life to how we deal with our yoga practice. Its an amazing way to get to know yourself. This yoga path. To be able to recognize your own patterns that maybe you never even knew you had. The good, the bad, the whatever they may be but trying to accept them. Accept yourself. Accept others.

These yoga postures, this yoga practice. its so much more than meets the eye. To me, its a representation of life. A representation of who we are as human beings. Its a representation of how we deal with success, failure, for ourselves and for others. It has brought so much awareness to my life. Sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful. Trying to appreciate the good with the bad because there's a lesson with all of it. It is what it is and will become what you make of it. Forever learning with the help of my yoga practice.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Why I practice Yoga?



Yoga did not change my life overnight.  It has been a gradual change over time.  In my early adult years I witnessed the harmful effects of obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes in my family.  I made a commitment to not take my health for granted and to make exercise a regular activity throughout my life.  Since then, I participated in a variety of sports and physical activities that helped me stay healthy.  At the same time I was finding that the brief ten minute cool down at the end of a step aerobics class was not nearly enough release for my muscles, joints, as well as my restless mind.  I felt a need for some sort of complement to my aerobic exercise.
                                                     
It was about ten years ago that I started looking for yoga teachers in the small rural Manitoban city that I was living in at the time.  Fortunately, I found two talented teachers who had been trained through Yoga Centre of Winnipeg.  I remember learning poses with strange Sanskrit names.  I remember the challenge of the unfamiliar poses as I stretched and contracted my body.  I remember the infusing flush of warm energy.  I also remember learning awareness of the flow of my breath. 

The physical benefits were soon apparent.  The stiffness in my hips and legs released.  The frequent tension carried in my neck and shoulders melted away.  As flexibility and range of movement increased, my body’s movements became more fluid.  From the practice of both long held poses as well as faster flowing sequences; the additional benefit I did not expect was the strengthening and toning of my body.  My arms, legs and core felt more stable, while the dull recurring ache in my back was no more.  It felt as if my posture had been unfurled and the effort to support my frame had lightened.

Another welcoming development from practicing yoga has been an increased calmness in my everyday life.  The lessons of breath, focus, patience, acceptance, and perseverance practiced on the yoga mat have illuminated my life outside of the studio.  When I realized how beneficial yoga practice was to my body and life, I wanted to learn more about it.  It started as one, two, and then three classes per week.  If I missed a class, my husband could sense my disappointment.  As we moved from city to city over the passing years, I attended yoga classes in community halls where occasionally the whiff of beer from the previous weekend’s social still lingered.  I attended yoga classes at the neighborhood gym where the loud cacophony of hungry summer day camp children waiting outside our glass walled studio/lunchroom tested many of us students ending a session in restful savasana or corpse pose.  Most importantly, I attended yoga classes when life was demanding and stressful, as well when it was quieter.  Since attending classes at Yoga Centre in Winnipeg, I have eagerly pursued a deeper understanding of yoga poses, pranayama (or breath practice), meditation, and philosophy.  Presently as I work on completing my basic yoga teacher training, I see my yoga practice as a wonderful lifelong journey of study, discovery, and reflection.

By Ann

Monday, 4 July 2016

My Relationship with Yoga

I cannot even recall when or how my interest for yoga begun. However, I do remember the day that my parents gifted me my first yoga book and mat, it was Christmas and I was 12 years of age (I still use the mat to this day). Since then I’ve tried going to numerous yoga studios, attempting a home practice and having an on-and-off relationship with yoga. I never lost interest in it; I just simply didn’t make enough time to fully immerse myself in the practice.

About a year ago, I joined a hot yoga studio and went consistently for the entire winter. I was feeling great! My body felt wonderful, my mind was clear and I simply just wanted to learn more. My desire to learn more lead me to enrolling in the teacher training program at the yoga center. I was so nervous; I thought I was going to be out of place since my skills were definitely not on par with experienced teachers, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case; the class was filled with so many different people, at so many different levels. But what I love most about the teacher training is just how much I love attending the workshops and the monthly philosophy classes. In my five years at University I was never really eager to attend a class, so I am exceptionally happy that the story is different this time around. I am delighted that the eager 12 year old girl who just wanted to put her legs over her head (still have not reached that goal) is now a 26 year old woman who still has that same passion she had 14 years ago. Yoga has taught me, and is still teaching me patience, love and self-care. Overall, my journey at the yoga center has been wonderful, the teachers are amazing, the classes are exceptional and I am constantly being challenged… and hopefully improving.

Even though committing to a daily practice is something I still greatly struggle with, yoga is something I think about every day. I have become more in-tune with myself and I have started to deal with things a lot differently than I would have a year ago.

I am truly thankful that yoga is something I have been able to consistently stay in love with after all these years!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Aspiring Teacher Turned Dedicated Student


My yoga story seems slightly round-about in the sense that I wanted to be a yoga teacher prior to having any experience on the mat.  Nevertheless, becoming a teacher was my initial motivation and for whatever reason something inside of me deeply resonated with the simultaneous discipline of mind, body, and spirit. I somehow intuitively understood that yoga would help with the care and nurture of my physical and mental well-being so it only made sense to make it a part of my life.
I started my practice in 2009 trying out various studios and class styles around Winnipeg. 

Unsurprisingly, I immediately noticed some subtle yet genuine improvements in my strength and flexibility. It wasn’t long before I happily anticipated that overall “feel good” sensation right after a class and it wasn’t much longer that I had noticeably less aches and pains, less frowns and strains.
Other changes arrived and keep arriving but they are more gradual and are dependent on time. I’m talking about the growth of mind and spirit and I have no doubt that yoga has opened my heart and widened my mind. Yoga has literally helped wake me up from a type of slumber that is completely inevitable when one’s mindset and attitudes are narrow and unknowingly lazy. My practice in and out of the studio has truly helped me cultivate an awareness that I was previously unfamiliar with…life seems so much more enjoyable and less scary when presence presides with more regularity. 

Consequently, I am more interested in how to be of better service to others, my self, and the Divine. 
After about five years of yoga experience I finally decided to follow the path that had originally peaked my interest in the first place– yoga teacher training.

These last two years of teacher training have also been nothing short of life changing.  Living out of town and being a pregnant stay at home mom to a toddler, I had some legitimate challenges with the commitment of attending the workshops and classes and keeping up with a home practice.  However, the training actually dedicated me to my yoga and motivated me to keep going during those doubtful moments of “what am I doing here?!” I realized how important and rewarding it is to dedicate yourself to something that is so good for you both inside and out and I absolutely fell in love with my role as a yoga student .

So while yoga has indeed changed my life in many ways, the most unexpected irony is that my initial interest in becoming a yoga teacher has fallen to the wayside of becoming a more dedicated yoga student. And perhaps this in turn is precisely why I was inspired to become a yoga teacher… so that I could completely immerse myself in a life of learning.


Gaby

Saturday, 25 June 2016

My Happy Space


When I first started doing yoga it was just with the intention of exercising. It was a really wonderful way to stretch and strengthen my muscles. Physically it felt great! However once I realized there was so much more to yoga than physical practice , I really fell in love with yoga. The first time I did a very simple breathing technique I immediately felt calmer, more centered, and a real connection with myself. Once I started to connect my breath with my physical practice it totally changed my practice. It was like I could connect with each posture more completely and could understand my body better.

Sharing yoga with different teachers, hearing different messages of love,kindness, and connecting with our true Selves , setting intentions for on and off the mat , these things have taught me so much! They have also set me on my own path of discovery and a willingness to be receptive to life's guidance. I've really learned that I am the one in charge of my own happiness, that's a little scary but also very empowering! It's becoming easier to sit in silence with myself and to enjoy the space I find there and the secrets I sometimes discover. 

Yoga has taught me to trust myself, love myself and reminded me I'm worthy of these things. I am also more confidant than I ever was before  because of these realizations. I understand that if I truly want to be able to share love and joy and trust with others I have to start with myself. I know now the importance of serving others without any expectations of pay back, this is how I can have a positive impact in the world. Even though I have so far to go and so much to learn I feel like I am on the right path and headed in the right direction. This is something I was searching for , although I wasn't aware of it, and I can't wait to see where it takes me next!

By a very grateful student 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Reflections along the way

I fell in love at my first yoga class, at first I thought I had fallen in love with yoga but I now realize that this is where I started to love all of life. It was like a new chapter had begun, for the first time I had found something that I truly had a burning passion for. This feeling of a new beginning used to make me think it was the start of a new Me but really it was just the starting point to remembering who I really am, who I have been in every moment of my life and who I will continue to be after this life. Since then it has been an ever expanding journey, like a kaleidoscope always changing and moving ever deeper within itself. This depth coming from moving and exploring inwards on all levels, body, mind and soul. As well as outwards in the world around us, seeing the subtle beauty and connection in all aspects of life.

The beginning years of performing yoga brought a sense of freedom to my body and mind. The physical alignment that I learned along with working with the wooden blocks for long periods of time gave me the knowledge and ability to create space and ease within my body for the first time ever. This allowed me to create and maintain a new sense of vitality and control within my life. The newly found space within my body created a spark of hope, it allowed me to move past the beliefs of victim-hood I had felt my entire life. This was the beginning of self-empowerment, where I was finally able to believe in myself and move past the physical troubles that I once believed limited me.

As more ease was created in my physical body and mind I was able to create more stillness and start to sense my inner experience on a subtler level. The combination of newly created stillness and space allowed me to connect to my energetic body, the movement and flow of more subtle energies within my body/being. Like my yoga practice this energetic work has continued to blossom over the years, allowing me to move ever deeper within myself. It has led me to working and healing on levels that I have never thought possible before. Revealing the true “magic” and infinite possibility that is all around us and most importantly within us. This inward digging has led me to find God within my own heart and within all beings.

The greatest truth I have learned/remembered from practicing yoga and moving through life with presence is, “Be Love”. These two words have been transformational to say the least. It has taken much practice, digging and healing to be able to get to this point where I can Be Love, where I can love myself and all beings around me. The point where I can work with Being Love in all situations and in all circumstances. This is my truth. It is not something we have to learn but rather it is something we have to remember, it is at the centre of all hearts and it is what connects us to the entire universe around us. AUM

Thank you, Blair Jensen

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Art of Slowing Down


I first tried yoga about 9 years ago when one of my friends introduced me to it. At that time, yoga was just starting to become more popular in mainstream fitness. I had my serious doubts as to whether I would like it as I came from an athletic/dance background and the thought of sitting and "stretching" for an hour was nothing short of torture for me. At that time in my life I was also leading a very fast paced life and prided myself on being able to juggle many different things at once. I thought this made me “tough” and resilient! I even thought that yoga was for “lazy” people! It came from a lack of knowledge of what the practice of yoga actually encompassed.

One of my friends at the time had just come back from her training to become a yoga teacher and she encouraged me to try it. I was extremely reluctant but the class was free and I was always up for a challenge. So when I went for my first class, which was a vigorous vinyasa class,  I strained and forced my way through every pose just to prove that this yoga thing was too easy for me and I could master the poses without difficulty. I didn’t listen to my body, in fact I ignored it. I continued going to the Vinyasa classes with my friend because i preferred the intense and fast paced nature of them, until one day my friend and I went to a Hatha style class. I found it torturous to sit and focus on one pose for what seemed like an eternity, and I felt like I was wasting my time. I remember thinking,”I’m never going to get strong with a class like this. This is doing nothing for me!”  I couldn’t wait for the class to finish so I could jump back into my busy life. But I never gave up on the challenge and I continued going with my friend for classes until something changed in me and I actually looked forward to the classes. I slowly realized that it was “ok” to calm my mind and body, and to just surrender to being present. I realized that yoga was exactly what I needed to help me quell the need and drive to be in constant motion. I also came to realize that the reason I needed to be busy in my life was to avoid being with my inner unhappiness. I had always suffered with anxiety even from a young age and I found being busy helped me ignore my thoughts and feelings.


Today, yoga is a part of my daily life and I could not imagine life without it! If someone  would’ve told me 9 years ago that I would be teaching yoga, I would've told them that they were sorely mistaken! I find every practice is different in some way, some new challenge or feeling to experience. Yoga has, and will continue to teach me so much about my body, mind and soul!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

How Yoga Changed My Life



Every mother can tell you about their long days and sleepless nights caring for their family.  We do it for the love of our family and we do it with love.  I did it too until I started to break down and break open from juggling many responsibilities with not enough nourishment for my own soul.

Eventually, I began to feel like I was dying inside. As if I was a plant with no sunshine to warm me, no water to nourish me while stuck in dark, cold, Manitoba mud.  Fifteen years ago I was over burdened with a stressful work environment, the responsibility of four children, a hobby farm and a husband that went MIA (missing in action) several nights a week.  My journey through the mud was systematic.  The plan was find out what is wrong with me. Then fix it or change it. 

It seemed to be a good plan. Except that when I began to change something about myself it did not fix anything at all.  Sometimes, it would make things worse for me at home. As I tried new ways to find out what I was feeling and what happened to my happiness, it became clear that this plan just irritated and inconvenienced my husband. His inability to support and comfort me through this time of growth (which certainly did not feel like growth at the time) was creating a chasm between us. To be fair we did the best we knew how to do for each other at the time. 

Still searching for answers to my discomfort and new ways to make life feel happier, I came across a yoga video at the local library.  I took it home and ended up renewing it throughout the entire summer; practicing daily.  It became a mission for me.  My body was getting stronger.  Muscles in my arms were becoming more defined.  I could ride my bicycle further. 

Later, that fall I was so excited to learn that a yoga class was being offered in a town close by.  Almost three years later I was able to do some amazing things with my body. Yoga was strengthening my body and practicing meditation was calming my mind.  I felt grounded and centered.  Confrontations at work were not a big deal anymore as I became the eye of the storm no longer blown into the storms.  Yoga showed me what my body needed day to day.  I began to listen.  Slowly, I began to see the truth of my life.

The stronger and happier I became the more jealous and resentful my husband became of me.   My journey over several years to discover myself through poetry writing, journaling, watercolour classes, yoga, meditation, Reiki and so on was getting out of hand for him.  As I was changing and letting go.  He held on tighter.  His rages began to become frantic and unpredictable.

Everything that brought me some joy brought out my husband’s jealous, nasty behaviour.  He wanted to squash this out of me; to keep me in place.  Through yoga I had made new friends with new ideas. He wanted this, too.  For a time he joined our after yoga class tea group and that went well for both of us for a while.  By the time he decided to join the yoga class, the connection between him and I was fragile.

Keenly interested in yoga and the after yoga class tea topics I was nourished. It felt like I began to awaken from a long sleep.  However, the awareness of what my life had evolved into while I grew up and slept through was not enough to save the marriage. His frustrations grew along with his verbal abuse.  The rages grew more erratic until the day I left; I knew his rage could finally destroy me. I was afraid of him that day.
Since he would not leave, I told him I would.  As quickly as I could, I grabbed a suitcase filled it with my clothes.  I wasn’t sure what he was going to do next but I knew I had to get out of there, right away.  This woman can be very fast when necessary.
By the time I had driven into the next town the realization of what had just transpired hit me.  There I was with no plan, no money, a car and a suitcase.  My bank account had $50 in it till payday and my job was about to finish for the school year.  But I was safe and I was never going back. 

The journey that followed was hell on earth for a while.  Slugging through the mud but with the help of friends, I picked up my big girl panties, found a lawyer, found an apartment, and found a summer job. Harvest Food Bank helped me for a year and a half till I was able to get on my feet.  Eventually, I went back to school became a Registered Massage Therapist and slowly built a new life for myself and my youngest child. 
Yoga and meditation were the foundations that sustained me after I left my husband.
Yes, you can say yoga changed my life.  Yoga taught me to listen to my inner guidance, stand like a mountain, bend like a willow in a storm, move forward when the time is right, stretch like a dog, cat, pigeon, cow, fish, snake, twist like an eagle and roar like a lion when necessary.  Also, to look up to the heavens, bow in prayer and rest the body and mind afterwards. The teachings of Buddha, the Jewel in the Lotus came to my awareness during this time. This is where I learned about the mud and how the beautiful lotus cannot grow unless there is mud under it.  This taught me there is much value in the mud of our journeys towards happiness and enlightenment.

In Metta,
Namaste,

DS