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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??

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Welcoming 2015...reflections from The Pit.

I haven't written much this last year. I think because my father's words are still ringing in my ears ~ "If you don't have something positive to say maybe you shouldn't say anything." It's been a year of tremendous challenge for me. And often it felt as though there really wasn't much positivity to speak of.

Yet here I sit. The first day of a brand New Year. The winds, wild outside my window right now, seem so appropriate. Stirring things up. Blowing away the old. Making room for change. I am filled with an unmistakable feeling of victory. Somehow I'm still here. Somehow life keeps moving forward. Most of 2014 felt like I was continually bracing myself for the blow after blow that just kept coming. It started last November really, when the building that is home to my (brand new) yoga studio was signed over to a "new landlord". The supportive and uber-professional man that I spent almost a year negotiating my 5 year lease with decided (without warning or notice) to sign the building over to his ex wife. A woman who would prove to be one of the most negative humans I've ever encountered. A woman who seemingly finds joy in trying to continually shame, intimidate and attempt to destroy others as if it were some kind of sport. Then, December marked the passing of one of my closest friends and greatest supporters as my Dad died very suddenly. The subsequent months that followed are a blur as we went through the (incredibly painful) motions of  clearing, organizing and dealing with all the unfinished business, and my grief stricken mother, that he left behind. Shortly after that my (brand new) business sustained a devastating flood. The first of three (THREE!) in fact that started the horrible process of dealing with the aforementioned landlord who then made me a target for her own rage instead of a tenant, paying good money, that she could be supporting (and working cooperatively and professionally with) to face the issues that continuously seem to arise at one of this town's older buildings.You'd think as a landlord happy tenants would mean an easier happier life. Not for this woman.

Like fireworks that just keep exploding the waves of challenges have continued. All. Year. Long.

The most difficult part of this year was the fact that I was never afforded a chance to just stop. To rest. To take time off to process all that was happening. With the challenge of building a new business, and the 2 part-time jobs I work outside of the studio, there simply wasn't time to slow down. So I just kept pushing through. And as someone who has difficulty with 'vulnerability' the challenge of this was absolutely monumental. Teaching yoga is not as "easy" as it looks. Especially when you are in the midst of your own series of crisis. Not only must you keep moving forward, but you're going through all of this in front of other people, all day every day. By February/March I had developed an ulcer and extreme digestive problems that caused me to vomit, uncontrollably, about 70% of the time I attempted to eat. I also started experiencing heart problems which caused fainting spells, a series of injuries (including a cracked rib) intense bouts of debilitating anxiety and somehow managed to accumulate an additional 30 pounds on my (normally) lean frame. My body became riddled with inflammation as my need for rest was never fully met and my cortisol levels never given a chance to effectively diminish. Several of my classes at times had to be cancelled as I would spend many sleepless nights writhing in pain on my bathroom floor, too exhausted to even move the next morning. Horrible...yes. But through all of this I am still here.

I'm sharing this because none of us are immune. Everyone loves to pretend that their lives are perfect and unscathed. But we will ALL, at some point, experience what I call these 'testing phases' of life. Some of us more than others as we have lots to learn so that we can be of greater service to humanity. And this is how Life teaches us. Like a compassionate divine mother we are ALL given exactly what is needed to grow. We are all served exactly the perfect portion(s) of challenges so that we can learn to overcome and thrive. Like the lotus, growing up through the muck and darkness toward the light to blossom and bloom, we are all meant to just keep growing.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just. Keep. Going.

I experienced a couple of my closest friends retreating from me because they either didn't know what to say or do, or were totally intolerant to my process as I tried to navigate through the various levels of my grief while attempting to keep a business running and continuously recover from the unending 'episodes' of craziness. And yet, despite everything, I feel nothing but gratitude right now. Deep humility and absolute graciousness. I'm still here! To those "friends" who refused to support me - Thank you. You gave me the gift of learning to support myself. To my landlord who tries to make my life as difficult as she can - Thank you. I am so very grateful that I am not like you. You teach me constantly how to be a better person by never becoming like you. In fact to every single difficult person, every judgement and every challenge that came this year I majestically bow to you, to all of it. Thank you, each and every one of you, for serving my highest good and assisting me in becoming a better, stronger and more resilient ME. To my (slightly curvier) body - Thank you for slowing me down when I needed it and building a little extra cushion to help soften some of the blows. To my man, and my closest friends ~ Thank you, so much, for being by my side through all of this. I am forever grateful for your patience and your ability to see the real me even when I can't. There is nothing more powerful than your unconditional love and I am fueled by it every single day.

Nothing is ever just shit. There is a seed of light within every dark moment. Sometimes it's just a wee tiny seed, but it is always there....waiting for us to notice it so that it can grow.There is a gift inside every tear that is shed in frustration or fear.

There's a couple of things I know for sure:
Yoga is medicine. It will heal your broken heart and help you to recreate yourself at each and every stage of life. Food is medicine. It, too, can heal and mend you on every level. And Love is also medicine. The most potent medicine of them all. I will continue to love despite everything. I will continue to grow and I WILL flourish. This day marks the starting of my rebuilding. Some of you will get to witness this. But regardless - I WILL succeed. Because I am still here.