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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The bizness of Yoga

I've practiced yoga since the age of about 14. At first, it was honestly not by choice. I actually hated yoga when I first began practicing. I thought it was ridiculous. The fact that I was so young, and in chronic pain, might have had something to do with it. It didn't really help, either, that my first instructor was quite fond of chanting mantra during the class. As an awkward, gangly 14 yr old kid with ALOT of stiffness and some typical tween insecurities - I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what "Om Mane Padme Om" had to do with 'strengthening my spine and feeling better' - which is why I started yoga in the first place.

But the results of those early experiences were immediate. I felt awesome. I felt clear. I wanted more. I was intrigued.

Taking my first 500 hr yoga teacher's certification was never about "becoming a yoga instructor" as a career. It was something I wanted to do for myself - to learn more, to further my practice, to delve deeper. But things took on a life of their own; as they often do when they are "meant" to. Being quite shy by nature (yes - I am shy)I couldn't fathom being at the front of the room while people watched my every move. That was, really, like my personal nightmare. At first - it gave me so much anxiety I can't even explain. But I've had fabulous training. And lots of it. My approach has always been - this isn't about me, this is a service I can provide to humanity to illicit more light in the lives of others. I understand pain, I understand the resiliency of the human body - I can help others. I just went with it. I started teaching classes. Just a couple at first. Then it slowly expanded. Eventually I found myself teaching classes all the time. Every day, multiple classes a day. But that was many many years ago. Before the current "boom" in the yoga industry.

At some of my busiest points I taught upwards of 18 or more classes a week - not always including the private sessions and semi-private work I've been doing with people for years. Teaching yoga never ever felt like work. It is something that is so deeply personal and so intricately interwoven into the fabric of my everyday life, that it only seemed natural to follow along when things got busier and I was asked to teach more and more. Nothing is more rewarding to me than watching people transform. Watching them literally transform before my eyes. To this day - it still brings a tear to my eye.

It's very special to see someone learning to relax, to soften the rough edges and the years of fear and resistance, to trust themselves and life again. It's remarkable to watch the human body respond as one learns to breathe properly, to move with awareness, to respect and honor the people around them. Seeing someone get stronger right before your very eyes is quite amazing. Oftentimes people get so caught up in learning the poses and the sequences that they don't even realize the magic of transformation at work. But I see it. Every day I see it. And it is extraordinary.

Yesterday I attended a class in the fair city of Hamilton at a very popular yoga studio 'franchise'. It was a "hot" yoga class - which I personally love just for the added intensity and the feeling of immense clarity and detoxification I receive from such a practice. (plus-it's really nice to be in a class without having to teach it sometimes! Bliss!) I was early to get there which didn't seem to be early enough apparently because there were ALOT of people there! I found a space for myself against the wall. It was extremely hot in the room - before we even started. But i didn't care. I was so excited to have the night off and to be able to practice, anonymously, that I happily took my seat and went through a few warm ups to prepare for class. The room kept filling up. It was incredible how many people kept piling in! I thought to myself - 'My God. It's going to get really hot in here!'

So about 5 minutes before the class was scheduled to start the instructor comes in and in a sing-songy tone of voice says: "Well there's 45 people in here right now and we need to fit a couple everyone would just move to the right, that would be great." I look to my right and realize I'm already about 3 inches from the wall! Is she kidding me!? The dude beside me is sweating so much I'm not even sure he's going to make it and there are at least 5 people standing in the middle of the room, yoga mats in hand, wanting to push their way in.

But, somehow, they managed to sandwich everybody in. I just couldn't wait for the class to start. I mean - I was sooo ready for a good, strong class.

To make a long story short - the whole experience was rather lack-luster. So much so I actually contemplated leaving about half way through. Sure, I was in an immense corporate studio with state-of-the-art facilities. But - the instructor was terrible. Terrible. She talked and talked and talked so much at one point I wondered if she was even aware that over half the people in the room were just lying down on their backs, not doing any of what she was instructing. Not once did she even venture to my side of the room. Not once did i see her make any kind of hands-on adjustment or correction. And, trust me, the folks in my corner of the room were desperately in need of correction.

So - I am filled with more questions.
I am standing at the precipice of trying to make a big decision.
Do I enter into a franchise situation with my new studio - or not?

Last night's class actually saddened me.

I felt like a sweaty cow. In a herd of other sweaty cows, with no names - just credit cards. Herded into a very beautiful, and yet oddly impersonal, room named a "yoga studio". Sure - I can do the calculations. 50 people in each class - that certainly adds up. And, let's face it - Cash Is King. But - my vision is different. I like knowing my students names, and their injuries. I like giving hands-on assistance. I enjoy the feeling of having my yoga practice space feel comfortable and calming. As opposed to feeling like an athletic club.

Have I lost it? Am I really 'obsolete', as someone recently called me? Has absolutely everything become about the Almighty Dollar?! Even Yoga?! I mean - I love money. Money is important. We are meant to live abundantly. Look around you. Everything is abundant. It's natural. Anyone who's ever gardened knows that. Nature is abundant. And yet all around me I see "yoga teachers" with absolutely zero experience, who've never meditated a day in their life, with the bare minimum training (about 200hrs, sometimes less), opening studios and injuring people left and right. All in the name of running a "business".

Do I want to prosper? Yes. Of course. Do I want to do it by being fake or untrue to my lineage of teachers and all the people that have come before me? No. I do not. There is nothing extraordinary about faking it just to make a profit. However, that's what I seem to be seeing. Everywhere.

Will the magic of this 5000 year old practice just be lost as the business of yoga expands more and more into these corporate money-hungry "franchises"?! Ugh. Gross.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Don't Fear The Sunshine, Everything's Better In The Summertime...

Dear Universe: Thank you for surrounding me with so much amazingness.

The birds are chirping, the landscape has become lush and abundant almost overnight,the Canadian Geese in my back yard have had some cute fuzzy babies, people are finally emerging from the long cold winter and suddenly everything is starting to feel fresh and new again. Yep - something magical is brewing. That's for sure. I feel it. I see it. I embrace it.

There's a burning in my heart and I'm trying not to be alarmed but, wow, it is certainly growing.... and growing... and growing....

This week was a blurr of wonderful unexpected surprises and so so much love. A fresh new perspective and a feeling of immense gratitude has begun to permeate everything. I can't honestly imagine ever having a better birthday. There has been so many things that have happened recently that I have to be immensely grateful for.

To each and every one of you that I am, or have been, so fortunate to know - Thank You for being amazing in your own special ways. Such wonderful teachers you all are for me!

Specifically :
TM- (For teaching me how to be receptive and helping me learn what real gratitude feels like.)
KC- (For the constant reminder now that I can just Sit And Chill.)
L&M in Vacationland.
SG- (For the cupcakes. Once a cupcake, always a cupcake. Often imitated, never duplicated.)
VV- (For the birthday song! ...and the late night chats even when you're crazy busy.)
NE- (Just for being you.)
JF- (For all the little things. Girl, you are wonderful. See it, feel it, know it. And hurry, because we all already do!)
LIL' E- (For taking the time to make me a card. You are so thoughtful and so creative. Just like your beautiful mom!)

EM- (For working out hard and the Booster Juice bonanzas afterwards.)
The Stunning Women of Port Dalhousie- with your nuts & brie, your incredibly generous hospitality (and your wonderful home)- You make it look so easy.
NH- (For having the courage to bring #4 into the world. An amazing woman you are.)
Roey- (Excellent timing with the texts...)
MR DC- (For resisting the urge to ruin it again this year.)
CS- (For reminding me who my true friends are and helping me understand it's ok to express myself and be honest even when it might be a little raw, or make others "uncomfortable".)
CT- (For simply moving on. You've freed me.)
The super hot guy at Petro Can- (Just for looking! Lol. Thanks for making me feel like I haven't totally lost it!)
and Ma & Pa Jones. Thank you.

I've got so much love for all of you.

Oh and Ms. Catherine - I totally agree - "Carpe Diem."

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I Have A Dream.

I have a dream. It's a dream that, when I think about it, it actually makes my heart beat a little faster. But, for quite a while now I've allowed my dream to shift into the realm of believing it to be "impossible". I mean, let's face it, I'm no accountant. So - I really just haven't been able to understand the logistics of actually making my dream into a reality.

That being said, yesterday was a wonderful day. The kind of day that really had a magical quality to it. I woke up feeling pretty mellow. You know - Alicia Keys/ Spearhead kinda mellow. That's quite mellow. That's a smooth, go-with-the-flow kinda mellow. Out of that mellowness there came all kinds of heart warming surprises. One of which was that I found myself, in the late afternoon, visiting some friends at their home in the tiny community of Morgan's Point. I love going there. I call their place Vacationland. Their house is a converted lakeside cottage that they have reno-ed into quite a unique and fantastic home for themselves. It's just so darn RELAXING there. Gorgeous lakeside views, the sound of the waves, the sunshine, the big open yard, Kody the boundless jack russel dog relentlessly chasing his beloved ball, the hot tub. It's like an alternate universe of calm, chill, vacation-y vibes. I just love it there. Mostly because these friends are symbols to me of things I love: a loving partnership,teamwork, mutual respect, outside-the-box thinking and strategic living.

Probably because it was my birthday, the conversation shifted to "what I'm doing with myself these days". Which inevitably morphed into me talking about My Dream. Which, frankly, just got my gears going and my juices flowing like crazy. I don't really talk about it to anyone, ever. So - to have 3 sets of ears that let me ramble, and actually offered input, was very exciting.
I left Vacationland feeling a renewed sense of hope. Which is really all a girl could ask for on her birthday.

This morning, when I got into my car, I opened the little campartment on my dash that usually houses my cell phone and there was a piece of tape with the words:

Live Your Dreams!

written on it.

Huh. I have no idea how that got there. (sneaky lil' birthday fairies....) But i like it. I like it a lot. It's staying.


35 years ago today a wonderful woman named Margaret Jones, and her husband Bob, had a bouncing (well, maybe not bouncing...) baby girl. They decided to call her Heather which, personally, I think is a bit of a boring name - but whatever.

It wasn't an easy pregnancy, nor was it an easy birth. But, against all odds (literally) this fiesty lil' dragon spirit was born. Little did Bob & Margaret know what kind of task lay before them in raising their only natural born daughter. Because Margaret was told she couldn't, ever, have children; they had adopted another little girl (whom they named Maureen) 6 months previously. When Margaret first found out she was pregnant the doctors urged her not to "get too attached" because she probably wouldn't carry the baby to term. But, despite the not-so-postitive prognosis, Margaret prayed and wished and prayed and wished and was so very careful for those 9 months.......

When lil' Heather was born, she was what might be described as a somewhat "high maintenance" child. A reluctant and somewhat resistant spirit, right from the beginning.....

At 7 months, after a few days of stillness in her belly followed by some uncomfortable distress that led to a visit to the Emergency Room, Margaret was told there was no heartbeat and her foetus may well be stillborn. Given the precariousness of the pregnancy, this shouldn't have come as a "surprise" . But Margaret was devastated and called her husband immediately. By the time Bob made it to the hospital Margaret was, understandably, very upset. More tests were run and, miraculously,within a few hours a heartbeat "re-appeared"; without any explanation. curious. If I didn't know any better I'd think that little being was really trying hard to make up it's mind whether or not it actually wanted to be here in this crazy f-ed up world.

Despite her boring name, baby Heather was anything but. Right from the beginning there seemed to be challenges. Oddly, the baby seemed to be born with one foot behind it's head! Clearly the medical community was confused and somewhat taken aback by this early display of what would later be known as the yoga asana "compass posture".

So - on June 1st, 1976 at 1:31 in the pm so began another chapter in the quirky not-so-remarkable (yet oddly extraordinary) lives of the Jones family. Bob & Margaret certainly had their work as parents cut out for them. Raising two girls - just 9 months apart - became what would later be described as the adventure of their lives. Between the recurring hospital visits, two intense spinal surgeries and subsequent 12 years of orthopedic back braces with their youngest one (boring Heather) - there also came the delicate task of raising both girls with such different needs, backgrounds, genetics, personalities and karma. Everyone knows that parenthood doesn't come with a manual. It's a beautiful, scary, exciting and unique journey upon which everyone must ultimately find their own way.

And if there was ever an award, or special recognition, that was to be given - Bob & Margaret Jones of Welland Ontario should really be given the gold ribbon, or the biggest trophy, or just a big huge THANK YOU for their work as parents. As far as I'm concerned, they are both an absolute living example of the divine qualities of unconditional love, patience, stamina, courage and selfless service.

I am so grateful for my life. Mom & Dad - good work. Happy Day of Birth to you both. I love you.