My apologies for the break in blogging, I was away on a trip to Vegas this past week. Vegas may seem like an unlikely place to be deepening a yoga practice, but we all know that yoga is an internal journey, it isn't dependant on outside influence. I'm a firm believer that we see what we are looking for and in Vegas I didn't see tacky lights, pushy tourists, environmental and monetary waste - though those things were there on the surface. What I did see were kind people willing to help two moms touring the town laden with diaper bags, strollers and toddlers. I saw amazing architecture, fabulous displays and beautiful art. And I enjoyed the delicious food and fine wine. I also saw a lot of opportunities to grow out of my go-to thought patterns. As my bestie and I toured around the city with our toddlers in tow (in case anyone is wondering, Vegas has a plethora of child-friendly activities and is super easy to get around in too) I noticed that there were messages calling for social and environmental change, and educational information on issues like ocean health, the rainforest and fresh water conservation, amongst others, displayed at exhibits and venues throughout the strip. Now, at first glance, my immediate thought was that it was a bit of an oxymoron for a city in the middle of the desert that was built to cater to extravagance and consumption to be touting environmental and social consciousness. I stopped myself from commenting to this effect - I don't think the world needs more negative commentary being spouted, but I didn't argue with my friend when she voiced the point aloud either. But then, when the conversation popped up again while we were showing off our pictures back home, I gave it a little deeper thought. Vegas would have displays and exhibits with or without the information they give. By choosing to display those messages, they bring them to the attention of the over 39 million tourists that visit every year. That's a huge influence, even if only a portion of the tourists notice them and are inspired to make a change. To me, that's a comforting thought. So I choose to change my negative thoughts into positive ones and see the good in it, rather than following my instincts and seeing the negative. That's Vegas baby, drunken debauchery, broken pocketbooks, false light and smiles, and one yoginis step closer to enlightened thinking.
Lately I've been feeling low on energy and as a result my writing and drafting process has slowed right down. I spent about a week into this low energy cycle chastising myself for my lack of motivation and creativity, and then re-chastising myself for having negative self-talk. Then I wised up and let go of worrying. We all have peaks and dips in our energy levels and it's a waste of the energy we do have to worry about not having enough.
About the same time that I started to get wise to the error of my ways, opportunities started to pop up to nurture my creative side through avenues other than writing. A friend needed help with an audition piece for her son. Choreography is still one of my favourite ways to express myself. I feel like I've tapped into a universal creative consciousness every time I start to piece together a routine. It's the same feeling I get when I create a flow class, but a different means to the end.
And then my friend Emily invited me to an art class fundraiser she was organizing. I haven't drawn or painted for years - save for a meditative sketch we did as part of teacher training. I was amazed at how drawn into the creative process I got while painting. It was such a great experience, I think I'm going to invest in some paints and canvases to keep nurturing that avenue of creativity for myself (and my son, who got inspired by my painting and created a beautiful finger painting the very next day:-)
My writer's block isn't quite gone, and with the dreary weather we've been having, despite nurturing my practice, my creativity, and being sure to carve out some me time, my energy levels are still low (it actually took a lot for me to get on writing this blog post) but that's okay. I'm still not giving in to negative self-talk and I'm happily enjoying time to explore other creative outlets in the mean time. How do you nurture your creativity? Do you have methods to break through blocks or energy lows or do you simply ride them out and embrace them?
This morning I was sipping my coffee and thinking about what I should write for my blog post this week. I decided to open the Facebook app on my phone while I ruminated. As I scrolled down the news feed, I kept seeing a shared post from a group called "Help James Find a New Kidney." I skipped opening it the first time. You see, my thoughts were, firstly, compassion for this random James person on the internet and then a bit of sadness. And lately on my Facebook feed it has felt as though there are a lot of sad posts. I was trying to avoid it, to search for something positive, so I scrolled past. But when it showed up for a second time I paused again. I asked myself why I couldn't read the post. What if I could help? If it were me or someone close to me, wouldn't I want everyone to take a few minutes to read it? So I clicked it, and as I read, the story that was written sounded familiar. And then I looked at the full name of the James described and realized that it was my Mom's cousin's son who was so terribly sick.
I paused for a moment, my heart heavy in the knowledge that I had almost scrolled past. Heavy with the knowledge that he was someone who shared a closer connection with me than I could have known before reading the post. Would it have mattered less if he had turned out to be un-related? No. I think I met him at my Great-Aunt and Uncle's house once when I was around twelve. The truth is I would have been touched by his story, related or not, and I would have felt a call to help in some way in either case. But it was a great lesson for me on connection, and I obviously needed a reminder, with my sentiment that I deserved to avoid a sad story without considering that the sad story was one another person was currently living. We are all connected. We are all one. We are all important enough to warrant each others time, compassion, and energy. Namaste
Here is the link to the Facebook group and post I refer to in this post: https://www.facebook.com/jamessupport
And check back here, on my website, or Facebook group for information about fundraising efforts.
When I first began taking yoga classes, I attended the same teacher's class every week. Her name was Ani. She was Sivanada trained and every class ran through pretty much the same poses, with slight variations - or the opportunity to evolve them into more advanced asana. Her classes were magical and at the end of the hour and a half session I always felt calm, clear, relaxed and amazing. Beyond that I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment as the repetition allowed me to mark my progress in my practice, something the dancer in me appreciated immensely. It was just what I needed in my life at that time, and maybe that is where the attachment came from. You see, after months of my religious attendance in her class, Ani moved away. Another teacher took over her class, and another after that, but none of them made me feel the same. And in my little yogini soul I pined for Ani to return.
Fast forward to now and I look back and fully agree that a good dose of yoga philosophy and a lesson in non-attachment was needed. But at the time, I didn't realize the problem was me. I thought that those other teachers just didn't "have it" the way Ani did. In hindsight, I was so closed off to experiencing a different kind of class that I missed out on the gifts and talents those other teachers had to offer.
This isn't an easy thing to overcome. But if we want our practice to evolve, we have to do it. Each teacher brings a unique set of talents to the table. A unique background, life-experience, language, training, body and style. As students we can embrace, experience and learn from them or we can focus on how we like so-and-so's class better - a good waste of yoga time if you ask me.
Eventually I got over my perceived need for the classes to be a certain way. In essence I got out of my head and out of my own way and allowed myself to experience yoga every time I got on my mat. Thank goodness. Have you ever had, or are you having, an experience like this with your practice? What about other areas of your life?
I was subbing a class on Monday, and there was something off about it. The postures, my tone of voice, the atmosphere, they were all comparable to any other yoga class I've taught. I just felt different. Flat, for lack of a better word. When I thought about it, I realized a few things. When I first started at EYS I made a commitment to myself to make each and every class I taught an experience. I wouldn't say that I've let that go, but where I live, in order to be able to teach the amount of classes I'd like to in a week, I've had to accept a lot of substituting jobs. Now, don't get me wrong, this post isn't about bagging on the perils of subbing vs. having a set schedule, and I've absolutely loved the chance to teach such a variety of classes, but subbing, especially at the last minute, requires adaptability. And maybe I'm not as well suited to that as I could be. Does that mean that my classes are terrible when I sub? No, not by a long shot. Some of the best classes I've taught have been classes I was subbing. What it does mean is that if my subbing schedule is getting busy, I need to pay attention to and honour my needs and keep myself on an even kilter. I owe that to my students, myself and my friends and family.
One of my yoga teachers uses a sufi quote that goes something like "do not try to draw from your well when it runs dry, instead draw from it when it overflows." I realized during that class that lately I have been drawing and drawing and drawing, but not replenishing at all. I've been busy caring for a sick two year old, ignoring my own cold, missing my favourite Saturday morning class with Heather Ivany and allowed my home practice to become inconsistent. I've given myself every excuse under the sun while doing so - from "I'll get back to it once the little guy is feeling better" to "all this subbing just throws off my plans for the day" to "this cold just really wears me out." But the fact is, whether it is true that life gets chaotic, we get ill, or plans fall apart, that there is only one cause for not tending to our practice and staying inspired, and that cause is ourselves.
The experience of teaching is, for me, a symbiotic one. There is a give and take between student and teacher that creates the class. So, on Monday, I found myself asking whether I have been holding up my end of the bargain. And the answer was that I wasn't. The experience I strive to create in my classes includes the sharing of yoga philosophy, inspiring music, creative flows or sequencing that fulfills the students and leaves them relaxed and rejuvenated. There isn't a set formula for this experience. It comes from the teacher's inspirations, practice and energy and in turn the students feelings and energy complete it. And I was dropping the ball on fulfilling those aspects of my life and practice. I was letting the excuse of un-scheduled classes and a busy home-life disrupt my commitment to my practice, my health and my "me" time, and as a consequence, I wasn't bringing inspiration, a strong personal practice or energy to my teaching.
So what is the solution? Teach less or take on fewer subbing jobs? No. I love to teach and teaching keeps me happy, fulfilled, purpose-full, and, when I'm not using excuses to drop the ball, very accountable to living my yoga and to my practice. I recognized the feelings I had during class, felt them more deeply as several of the students complimented me (not because I didn't appreciate them, but because I felt in my heart that if I didn't make a change, I wouldn't be able to keep giving them the classes they deserve) and I knew that the time to be pro-active was now. So I stayed and took the class following mine. I didn't worry that I needed to eat, or that there were things at home I needed to do. I tended my inner fire and began to replenish my well. It wasn't the be all end all, I've still got work to do, but it was a step back in the right direction. The well bottom is now damp, instead of dry and the well keeper a little wiser, more vigilant, and a better yogini after the lesson. Namaste.
After an exciting last week, with my article being published, and very well received, on My Yoga Online, I've been in a bit of a zen zone this week. Despite some personal matters that would normally be cause for stress, I'm feeling good and checking things off of my to-do list one at a time. What gives? Has the excitement of publication shoved my mind into a guru-esque superpower zone where I'm impervious to stress? Unlikely. I think it has less to do with the excitement of publication and more to do with the pervading feeling of being on the right path.
We've all experienced it at some point in our lives. You start to work toward a goal or life change and suddenly things start to fall into place, as though the Universe is sending you little gifts to help along the way. Beyond that, you have an unwavering sense of calm. You just know that things are going to work out, no matter what the current situation looks like, or what challenges lie ahead. Sure signs that you are on the right path, manifesting the life that you are meant to live and thriving because of it. Sound crazy? Think about it for a bit. In our society we tend to downplay intuition and ignore how things "feel" to us, but if you stop to really examine your life, you'll likely notice that there were times where you were working toward things, and whether they were going great for you or not, you felt a pervading sense of angst, as though it wasn't enough, you weren't quite happy, or you thought you were happy, but kept having to push away the fear that at some point it was all going to fall apart. And if you try to remember other points in your life where you didn't feel that way, you'll likely find that at those times, despite whatever was happening in your life, or how bleak the prospects seemed, you were relaxed, happy, and confident that the Universe would provide for you. It isn't due to periods of mentally instability that your feelings changed like this. When we follow our right path not only do things work out for us, but we begin to feel at peace.
How do you feel about your life right now? Are you manifesting the life you were meant to live, or are you working against the Universe in pursuit of something you think you want, but that just doesn't leave you feeling quite right in your gut? Self-examination and awareness is one of the skills the study of yoga graces us with. Check in and confirm that you are living in the spiritual peace and prosperity you deserve. It's never too late or too hard to pursue your authentic self.
The universe has an incredible sense of irony. I was just finishing up writing a blog post on letting go of striving for perfection. As I began typing the closing paragraph, I gave myself a mental high-five, thinking about how this particular blog post was "back on track" writing wise. The post I was writing was all about how I'd been struggling, since starting the blog, with releasing my weekly post, as I tend toward perfectionism and I'd been finding with my busy schedule that my posts were not as well written as I'd like. After several weeks of posting late, or failing to post, I had started to release posts I wasn't satisfied with, but was trying to work on letting go of my need for the writing to be mind blowing, and simply focus on writing and getting the post live on the web. Almost exactly at the moment when I was mentally congratulating myself on the quality of my post, my cursor slipped up higher up in my writing, simultaneously deleting three-quarters of my post! I felt upset, then I felt angry, and then, for a few minutes at least, I attempted first to undo the delete and then to begin re-writing. Finally, I decided to take the lesson and began to write this post. I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but maybe that's the point. Perhaps I need to spend a bit more time working on letting go of perfectionism before I'm in a place to write about it.
Today I missed getting to the vinyasa flow class I was planning to take. I've also been subbing a lot lately, and with a few writing commitments and a very busy two year old to pre-occupy my time, this isn't the first class I've tried to get to and missed. To be honest, my home practice has been splotchy the last few weeks too. On any other day, this might have gotten me down. But today, having had the theme of balance on my mind lately, I took a different approach. You see, the things that filled my morning are also things I haven't been getting done lately, so maybe this was the universe's way of striking a balance. Rather than thinking about missing class as a negative affect of events this morning, I thought about the fact that, even though it wasn't what I'd had planned, some other things that needed my attention got my attention. The next thing I did was to keep my promise to myself that I was going to take some time this morning for my practice. So I went upstairs to my yoga space and did a practice. I took time to journal while I was there too. Was it an hour long, guided practice, with a teacher I love, complete with time out of the house to boot? No. But it was fantastic all the same.
Yoga teaches us that if we change our view, everything changes, and today I was reminded of how true this is. I could have gotten bogged down with thoughts about how my day didn't go as planned, chastised myself for letting something get in the way of going to class, and worried that the classes I'm scheduled to teach this week would suffer because they always seem to have that little something extra special when I'm feeding my inner fire through my personal practice. But instead, by going with the flow, I discovered that if we approach life with an open mind we can see the good just waiting to be discovered in every twist and turn, even though it might not be the while looking at the view we had wanted to see.
One of the things I love about yoga philosophy is how it encourages us to seek balance in our lives on and off the mat. I've learned, however, that putting theorya into practice can be a challenge. After a two year break where, besides completing some university courses and finishing my yoga teacher training, I was completely focused on being a mom - period - I've started teaching classes and "working" again (any Mom out there reading this knows why working is placed in quotation marks there;-) I'm absolutely loving teaching yoga and I'm over-the-moon to get to write about it. I can't think of a better way to be living my life than to get to do two things that I love to do and to get to share them with the world to boot. Getting to write from home is nice too. I can still be with my baby boy and there's no hassle to find a babysitter or worrying about balancing what I'm making vs what I'm paying out. So what's the problem? Making time to work a priority. I'm really struggling to actually get to sit down and type! It feels like every time I get in front of the computer my toddler is vying for my attention and my mind is constantly distracted by the day to day tasks that need doing around the house (and that's only really true when I'm not actually doing those tasks instead of writing). My solution? I don't actually have one yet. For the time being keep repeating the mantra "my work IS important" over and over again. And of course, finding writing jobs with deadlines helps too:-) What about you? Do you have any tips for balancing work/family/house/leisure? I'd love to hear them. I could use a lesson in balance right now.
After finishing my teacher training and beginning to teach regularly I felt, and continue to feel, a renewed commitment to living my yoga. The relationship and commitment I am cultivating with my students bears a certain level of responsibility, and living my yoga is a part of that. That isn't to say that I expected, or expect, myself to be perfect, but I did start to, and do, hold myself more accountable to living my satya or truth. This renewed commitment has come with a few victories, and more than a few fumbles, not to mention some serious heart-to-heart conversations with other teachers, and a newly renewed awareness of how important it is to have compassion towards oneself.
Just recently I subbed a class for a very experienced teacher. The class was full and the majority of students were regular attendees. As class ended that morning I found myself feeling self-conscious and berating my teaching, rather than experiencing the calm, lovely energy I usually do after teaching. I had gotten mixed up directing what side to move on at one point, and I felt as though I was stumbling with my words a lot. As the students filed out , some were vocal about enjoying the class. In fact, I had many lovely compliments and a few students who couldn't seem to say enough, but the nagging feeling that I had somehow not done a ''good enough'' job pervaded. It seemed punctuated by those students who scarcely muttered a goodbye as they headed out the door.
After teaching the next day, I called the studio manager to check whether I had entered a purchase into the computer correctly. She asked how class had gone and I blurted out ''Good, I think. Much better than yesterday!'' She responded by saying how I'd had a lot of nice compliments the morning before and that she had gotten the impression that class had gone really well. I relayed my thoughts about getting mixed up on sides and feeling tongue tied. I also mentioned that I noticed some people leaving without saying much. ''That stuff happens to everybody,'' she responded, ''and there are some people who do just leave after a yoga class.'' There it was, laid out simply and matter-of-factly. As I hung up the phone I realized that my ego was the problem the day before, not my class.
I'd come to rely on those students who breeze out of class aglow and softly smiling with thank yous and compliments galore being purred in my direction to gauge how a class went, or rather to allow me to feel good about myself as a teacher. Rather than listening to my inner voice and letting my confidence come from within, I'd fallen into the trap of seeking outside validation. When I first started teaching I was surprised and flattered at the way most people would come out of the class and say so many nice things, but somewhere along the way I stopped being surprised and flattered and started to expect that wonderful feedback. When it didn't come, or I was worried that it wasn't coming as much as it should be, I started to take it personally. My ego had bamboozled me.
I subbed that class again this weekend and though I caught myself checking the registration a few times to see if anyone from the week before was coming back, I was AWARE that I was searching for outside validation by doing so, and I decided to approach the class in a way that would cultivate my teaching confidence from within rather than perpetuate the behaviour. I taught the class without a lesson plan. I had an idea about the peak pose and where the class was heading, and I had a theme to go along with it, but I had nothing but my intuition and knowledge as a teacher and a student of yoga to guide me through the class. When class ended I floated out of the room without a worry in the world. Some students came out smiling out thank yous and other compliments, some rushed off to their day barely looking up on their way out, but none of that mattered this week. This week I too was glowing from within, and no outside validation was needed to get me there.
I'm just a yogi in the mountains of British Columbia. If you've found your way to this site, it's very likely that you are too. Here you'll find information about my upcoming classes, workshops and retreats via the link to my website, as well my thoughts on yoga philosophy, what music I'm pumping in class, pictures, videos and other news about yoga and spirituality.