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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Musings and Metamorphosis

This Easter is a powerful one. This time of year always feels significant to me. Like something new and wonderful is about to emerge!

Despite the cold and the snow the Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse last night on April 4th has already started to stir things up. As well - it marked the beginning of the Buddhist New Year. At the same time Hindus celebrate Hanuman Jayanti (a holiday celebrating strength, vigor and energy), Christians are celebrating Easter and it is the Jewish holiday of Passover. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, or aren't, the collective energy and mindset of much of the world's population is dwelling on re-birth, resurrection, renewal, freedom from bondage, and releasing all of that which holds us in patterns we no longer wish to repeat. It is a powerful time. And, regardless of your beliefs, it is an opportunity. To heal. To begin again. Or to simply reflect. I find it fascinating that one of Easter's traditions is to paint and decorate eggs. Eggs - a literal symbol for fertility, new life and breaking free of one's shell. It just seems so appropriate to me.

There's something to be said for collective consciousness. We are right in middle of our 30 Day Challenge at The Village Yogi. And the collective energy of everyone challenging themselves on the mat right now meshes beautifully with the collective energy of  global humanity and the cosmos. It feels like a powerful time of transformation. I have been absolutely blown away by this year's Challengers. The dedication and the discipline of those participating has been incredibly inspiring. The energy of everyone's effort(s) is infectious - sweeping me in like a wave. One man, who initially started coming to class with his wife (who, incidentally, was the winner of last year's Challenge) has really blown me away with his dedication. This man, a true 'man's man' and not your typical granola-eating, man-bun wearing "yogi" (lol), is certainly not the most flexible person in the room, or the most flamboyant. Yet he is there. Almost every day. Sometimes 2 or 3 times a day to fit in his practices around his busy schedule. He said to me recently "It was different last year when (my wife) was going through this on her own. Now - doing it with her, I really am having a whole different experience. I get it. It's inspiring." This same man has forgone going to the hockey game so he could make sure to get his yoga practice in. (!?!) This same man had to leave town for a couple days on business and was sure to have a wake-up call at 3:45 (AM!) so he could get on an earlier flight out of Montreal to be sure to make it to the studio for 9:30am Easter Sunday practice. Not the most flexible yogi in the But possibly the biggest-hearted and the most dedicated. THAT is what inspires me. People like that are MY teachers. People like that keep ME going.

There are others that stand out to me. Another man, who initially began coming with his wife also, has thrown himself into the 30 Day Challenge with a focus that I rarely see. He is quiet and polite. Always taking a seat at the back of the room. He is respectful, always arriving early and practices with a focus, a strength and a willingness that is rare to see in beginners. And there are others - a woman torn in many directions, fighting with major life changes who is not in the "best" place in her life. Yet - there she is...almost every day...challenging herself to be present with everything that is happening. There are days I see the strain on her face. I know it was hard for her to get to the studio. I recognize her pain because I have felt it too. I understand how difficult it can be to even just get there to the mat. I know what it feels like to be carrying the weight of the world and then to somehow try to carry your own weight in Bakasana or Plank position. I get it. And i commend you for your dedication also. Know that although you may not speak to the others in the room - you can let their energy support you during this difficult time. Nothing need be spoken or explained. Just know. You are supported. You will get through this.

And as I witness all these beautiful souls, stepping out of their cushy comfort zones, I am so deeply humbled. Finally the voice in my own head which has been the loudest over this last year or so....the one that keeps repeating three stupid words over and over : "What's the point?" ...has begun to silence. Because I am being reminded every day that THIS...all of this...this is the point.

 The 30 Day Challenge, like Life, can present you with many things. Things you would rather avoid but  must accept or face head-on. Like the loud breather in class distracting you from your practice, or someone's smelly feet, or the teacher who keeps insisting that you "open your heart" when all you really want to do is drink wine and take a nap. Even just the act of working with your own physical exhaustion when a strong class is being offered.... It's all designed to push your buttons just enough to illicit an opportunity... to shift, to reflect, to release and possibly even....heal. And every single time you keep your commitment to yourself, just by showing up, you begin to set in motion a deep internal shift that builds power and energy within you. You move that much closer to living from your own essence. The wise witnessing part of you that is beyond the dramas in your life and completely unaffected by the insignificant bullies, gossipers, and backstabbers that you've been beating yourself up over. Like a Warrior who finally learns to use his/her shield and stand firm and proud in his/her own strength.

As spring (tries) to wake up all around us, we are also challenging ourselves to come back to life after the long cold winter. Just the simple act of disciplining yourself to make movement a priority can really have such a tremendously healing impact on your whole being. Your body craves movement. A regular, consistent yoga practice becomes not just a physical workout, but a time of introspection. A time of moving inward and challenging, literally, all those notions about yourself that keep you stuck and sedentary. Perhaps a time for forgiveness, or prayer, or the only part in the day where you don't have to pretend to be anything. You learn to honor yourself. Even on the days that you feel less than optimal - you still show up, honoring your body and yourself....wherever you are.When we begin to move our bodies with intention, and deeply respect our own journey, we start to create a whole new way of be-ing in the world.

And as you come into greater alignment within you become like a beacon of light in your community. There are Warriors among you folks. Humbly working every day to raise the consciousness of humanity. We are all connected. What we practice as One, affects The Whole. These Warriors are the ones who take the time to focus on their breath, who send thoughts of love and blessings into the world, the ones who make an effort to keep practicing peace. Step by step, breath by breath, we change the world by becoming better versions of ourselves. Then.... we keep practicing even after we've stepped off the mat and into the world. We remind ourselves that just like us, everyone is trying to overcome their own the best way they know how. We make an effort to stay reflective and responsible for our own energy - even in the face of ignorance or cruelty.

Plank on Warriors. Plank on.
Om Namah Shivaya

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The purpose of a 30 Day Challenge

Once a year we at The Village Yogi offer a '30 Day Yoga Challenge'.

This year it is a Spring Yoga Challenge beginning March 23rd, just after the Spring Equinox. After such a long and bitterly cold winter this will be a wonderful way for many of us to welcome Spring and the sense of rebirth and renewal that it brings.

The concept:  They say it takes 21-28 days to break a habit. Most (bad) habits are caused by stress and boredom. Sometimes, simply offering yourself something new and different is all it takes to start you moving in a new direction. Usually people are so focused on the way things are right now that it seems overwhelming (and discouraging) to even start the process of getting in shape (or feeling healthier, or losing weight, or changing your lifestyle, or simply being more positive). But with consistency, and changing just one or two things every day - remarkable things begin to happen. And before you know it, several months have passed and the person you were seems like a distant memory. By signing up for the 30 Day Yoga Challenge you are starting the ball rolling in creating lasting powerful changes in your life. The Challenge is to complete as many classes in 30 Days as you can.

The incentive: Aside from increased strength, muscle tone, focus and flexibility you will begin to replace certain habits with new healthier ones. We offer some pretty awesome prizes for those who complete 30+ classes however having a consistent yoga practice also challenges you to do something positive for yourself even when it's been "one of those days". You challenge yourself NOT to go to the pub right after work. You challenge yourself  NOT to hit the couch for 6 hours moping and texting your friends about how horrible and un-inspired everything is. You challenge yourself, instead, to keep do something every day that is designed to open your body, relieve tension and stress from your mind, and offers you on outlet (and some personal space) to work through your stress, boredom, anxiety or complacency in a healthy way. Aside from all of that - yoga naturally builds awareness. You may find yourself noticing how gross you feel eating all that processed food and not even wanting it any more. You may find yourself craving a good stretch instead of half a bottle of wine. A regular yoga practice also assists in balancing hormones, boosting metabolism, triggering the 'relaxation response' in your body and aiding in digestive and elimination processes. Plus - when you take the time each day just to stop rushing, to stop telling the script of  your 'story' to anyone who will listen and to simply just allow yourself some space and time to redirect your focus in a more positive/productive way...amazing things begin to happen! Suddenly you feel more creative, more energized. Or you finally find the courage to make that important decision you've been ruminating about. The benefits are absolutely endless! Your body WANTS to move - it's designed to move, it craves movement. The beauty of yoga is that it is, for the most part, very simple. And you're not maxed out by it. Typically, even in the most challenging class, you are working at about 50 - 60% of your max physical capacity. And many classes are more about mindful breathing and soft gentle movements than straining and struggling. Practicing every day gives you a chance to check in with yourself. And when you begin focusing on yourself in more loving patient ways you begin to create an optimal environment for vibrant health and healing.

But most of all....the confidence and self-empowerment that comes from having a goal, and completing it, is something money just can't buy. To commit to yourself, and respect yourself enough to follow through is one of the most powerful things you can do. It builds a strength unlike any other. You begin to believe in yourself. You begin to truly know and feel just how much you are capable of achieving. And once that happens - the sky's the limit! Before you know it, life as you know it will become a completely different experience - one of wonder and color and excitement.

Most people still believe that the happiness they seek will be found outside of themselves - in another person, another job, substances, a new home, a new town. But what many don't realize is - even if you acquire these external desires...chances will still be unhappy. Until you change what's going on inside no amount of money, material possessions, or attention from another will truly satisfy you.

Are YOU ready for a Yoga Challenge??