Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why Refining your Alignment Matters in Yoga

I still feel kind of like a newbie in the world of yoga, only 10 years in, but the amount of yoga and my total devotion to this path has allowed me to witness so much in that short time.  When I first started I had no clue about alignment at all, in fact my first Yoga Teacher Training had very little in terms of alignment in the postures but blessed me in other ways.  Since I was hooked after the very first yoga class I took and I was totally inspired and fired up to go to the next level, and then something interesting happened.  YOGI BEWARE!   I got hurt, a lot! 

I remember this class I had done early into my yoga life at a gym and the sound I heard and the intense pain I felt when my hamstring attachment tore!  I could hardly walk out of the class and every time I bent over to put my shoes on I was in agony, for about a year and a half!!!  After that first incident several others followed, like a shoulder injury, neck issues (from headstand), wrist strains, tweaking my back so I couldn't walk, and of course a couple more hamstring pulls. 

All of these things mostly happened because I was practicing in my bedroom using books as guides or videos without a teacher to guide me or look out for me.  In most of these cases it was indeed my own fault for not listening to my body and pushing too far too fast but in some cases it was the instruction or lack of in the books I was using or the teacher! 

To me this feels like ages ago now but I am happy to report I have not experienced any major injuries from my yoga practice since I discovered Anusara's brillant Universal Principals of Alignment.  The bottom line, ALIGNMENT MATTERS in a yoga asasna practice!  To line up takes a lot of work, discipline and consistency.  The good news, our bodies, minds and hearts are letting us know how our yoga is going. 

If your in pain when you do a backbend every time (like I was) and you believe that you'll eventually get it, I can confidently tell you that it's NOT going to happen.  Pain is a sure fire sign that something within the body is in a misalignment and since you have over 200 bones and 600 muscles good, clear technical instructions are necessary to move into life affirming alignment.  

Even with the most amazing instructions, coming from the most experienced and skilled teachers sometimes we just aren't getting it!  Creatures of habit I suppose.  I can't tell you how many times in my teaching journey I have heard a student out right refuse to try doing a pose a different way because "that is what my teacher taught me" or "I've been doing it like this for 30 years", well things have changed from the way yoga was taught 30 years, 500 years or 3,000 years ago.  Some of the older ideas have simply been replaced with solid bio mechanical principals. 

Here's a good example.  In many of my first yoga books I had in 2002 it looked like people had their hands turned in for crow pose.  So of course I did it like that too and holy crap did it ever hurt my wrist after about 20 seconds or 5 attempts.  In my head I just wasn't strong enough to do these crazy arm balances.  About 1 year ago I was at a class in our city with my girlfriend and the woman beside I was clearly showing signs of wrist pain from doing crow.  My jaw dropped as I watched the teacher tell her to turn her hands in!!!  IN????  REALLY IN????  OUCH!!!!  It took everything I had to not say something to help her but it wasn't my place to do that. 

There are basics to setting foundations that are so clearly and consistently taught in Anusara that you start to really understand how even the tiniest little refinement in your alignment allows you to go deeper and deeper into your poses and more importantly into your heart so you can work on the old itty-bitty-shitty-committee (thank you Todd Norian) and start to line up in your practice in ways that free you not hurt you! 

This is a lifelong practice because the amount of refinement you can do in any yoga pose is infinite.  Some of these refinements are injurious and some will take us to places in our body-mind-heart that we had no idea we could tap.  So if you are experiences pain in your practice and you LOVE yoga than search out a teacher that knows alignment and more importantly listen to the teacher in your own heart that is always there, guiding you and your body and you'll start to experience ecstasy in your yoga practice, each and every time you step on your mat.

So blessed to be on this journey and huge thanks to my teachers along that way who have taught me how to align my body-mind-heart in such a beautiful and skillful way.

Pranams to John Friend, Todd Norian, Ann Greene, and so many other wonderful yoga teachers

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why you should Never Block anyone on Facebook!

Energy will always flow, you can't stop it but what you can do is channel it in ways that are life affirming.  Facebook is an energy!  It's good, it's bad and sometimes it's downright ugly!  Some days it makes you feel special, loved, blessed and other days you feel left out, misunderstood, hurt.  In fact, if it wasn't for FB, I doubt I would have any communication or access to communication with my ex-bf's or people I went to grade 2 with! 

So FB is good and bad.  I have access and made connections with some of those most inspiring people in the world, including some of the most skilled yoga teachers to have walked this earth.  I have sent them messages and they have responded to me, that is special, that is a big deal, that's where facebook shines!!! 

Of course there is another side to this.  I also had some strange dude from BC add me and of course I added him before I really checked him out.  His messages were a bit creepy so I thought, I better investigate this dude.  Turns out he's a "collector", yep, all women, no male friends.  So I took him off, no big deal.  Then he tried to add me several times after that, even with different names so I went the next step and I BLOCKED him! Take that wacko stranger! 

In addition to crazy dudes I have also blocked a few friends that I no longer wanted to be associated with, but of course it's facebook so if your friends are friends with that friend then there is no escape.  Your going to see their shit and they're going to see your shit.

 The thing is you can't block energy from flowing, you don't have that kind of power, it's nature but what you can do is be aware of your reactions to FB, to the people on it and remove people off your block list!  In fact crazy dude is that last person on that list of mine and as an experiment I am going to take him off and see if I will get any response.  If I do, then I will address him and ask him not to try to connect with me anymore.

DONE!  So now my job is to channel energy in ways that will enhance my life and make it more beautiful.  Don't take this so seriously because if you really have a stalker, (I have, I understand it's scary) your safety is paramount but living in fear isn't very fun and I think they more we try to block or fear life we attract exactly more of that same kind of energy. 

On this day, Dia de los Muertos, I thank all those souls and teachers that have come before me and have taught me how to better manage my life, FB, relationships and crazy people. 

Blessings to all,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall in Love with Change

I love this time of year!  Today I turned the heat on in our home on account of the icicles forming from my dripping nose. I'm not a huge fan of the cold but I do love this time of the year. In Canada, the beautiful display of brilliantly coloured fall leaves signifies the end of the summer and a time of change, where the dark begins to overpower the light, the warm weather is replaced by crisp Autumn air.  What's going on with Mother Nature is going on inside of me and you!

Fall is a time of change and transitions, this is often a difficult time for many people too.  When things change we feel uncomfortable, maybe even scared.  As many great thinkers have declared the only thing we can really bank on is that everything will change.  It's our attitude toward change that we have some control over.

One of the biggest changes in my life has been in my relationships with people.  I have cut ties to old friends, made new friends and I'm constantly working on the most important relationship of all, the one I have with myself!

Being open to the flow of life and change is part of Anusara's first principle, called Open to Grace.  Grace is the revelatory power of the universe that shows us our true nature, consciousness and bliss.  This can be a challenge for me and many other people.  Our ability to be open and remain open when things are hard is not something we're born with, it's something we practice over and over again.

Changes in my life are still happening all the time and accepting that it's part of life and more importantly it will inevitably help me grow and expand is something I've picked up from Anusara Yoga.  Just last week I was able to witness and assist the Anusara Immersion in London with Todd Norian and Ann Greene.  These 5 days we full of beautiful and precious moments of grace, love, light, and transformation.

I went through the same process in 2007, when I did my immersion with these skillful and loving teachers.  I changed as a person and I haven't looked back since.  In fact I was so empowered during the immersion I was able to cultivate enough strength to end a long term relationship with someone I was supposed to marry.  Phew!

Fall is a perfect time to end or begin something.  How can you align yourself with nature today to better allow grace into your life? 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Your Heart has the Answer

Certain decisions are easy to make, like do you want to smoke, get high, jump off a bridge, some are harder, do you want end a relationship with a friend, or partner, quit your job? (maybe that is easy sometimes).  Once we make a decision then we have to learn to let go of our attachments and move on.  Sometimes the strings to those attachments are attached directly into your heart and so when you cut them there is heartache and discomfort. 

So how do we welcome the end of good things or great things? 

I'm closing my business down after almost 7 years and it will be hard to let it go since there is a strong attachment to it.  In fact ,I teetered in the beginning whether or not I should continue or close.  Was it the right time to make that decision, what will happen to my students, so many questions and things to contemplate, so not an easy decision to make. 

Then, like a smack in the face, I hear my yoga teacher saying "Open to Grace, soften, feel..."  And, instantly the fear dissolves and I receive a clear message that yes indeed this is a good thing.  Confirmation from my higher Self.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude fills my heart and soul.  Wow, I'm so thankful to be awake, so that I don't feel alone and I trust myself.  I'm so grateful to have found a yoga practice that has taught and prepared to make good decisions, welcome endings, step into the flow and be embraced by grace.

I want to share a technique that I learned many years ago that has worked for me every time I have to make a decision.  I guess you could call think of it as having an important conversation with your higher Self.  The first time I used it, it actually scared the crap out of myself because it was so clear and powerful.  There was no question in my mind whether or not I was getting the answer to my question.  Let me warn you before you attempt this technique you will get the truth, if you like it or not.

The first time I used this technique was because I meet this really great guy and only 2 days after we hit it off something crappy, stupid and self induced happened, he got a DUI charge.  As soon as he told me I broke it off right away, I didn't want to go there with him, however, some friends convinced me to give him a chance, that he just made a mistake, so I did.  The foreshadowing of what was to follow should be no surprise here. 

I gave him another chance and shortly after the chaos began!  I just left a 7 year long relationship and now I'm thinking what the hell, how did I get myself involved in all this chaos again.  The craziness went on for a few months as I was trying to sort through the love-at-first sight feelings and I was so pissed at the DUI, I wanted to ream this guy out!  But still I wasn't willing to welcome the ending so I hung on and duked it out, like a tough girl. 

One morning, I slipped into the bathtub, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths.  I got very still, quiet and I turned inside.  Once I was as relaxed as I could be, I imagined a tiny door on my heart.  I visualized myself knocking on this door that looked like the door Snow White knocked on when she meet the 7 dwarfs.  When the door opens I was welcomed by this warm, soft pink light into this magical space.  I could see a table and two chairs from the top of this tiny little spiral staircase.  I made my way down and sat at the table.  It felt like I was about to meet someone really important and I was.

There wasn't a figure or person that actually appeared to sit across from me but I knew it was time to present my question to my heart.  Get ready, this is deep friends!  "Should I stay with this guy?"  Then silence, the walls of this space, beating, alive....... still nothing...... then ...  a very clear, loud  NO, echoed through the cambers of my own heart!!! I nearly fall off the tiny chair, holy crap I thought I wasn't expecting that to happen.

  That's it!  That was the conversation I had with my higher Self, it was the truth, it was what I needed to do, it was the right thing to do and I knew it all along, I just wanted to make sure.

"Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first.  Ask questions, then feel the answer.  Learn to trust your heart."
So that day, I ended that relationship and stuck to my guns about that decision.  Matters of the heart are never easy for me but I know that I can tune into my heart for loving, truthful guidance at any time.  I have used that same technique so many times and I always know that whatever I am asking I will get a solid, clear answer.  Your heart never lies to you, ever!  But you need to be willing to go deep inside to get the answer, even if it's going to hurt. 

"Only do what your heart tells you to" Princess Diana

Again, I'm so full of gratitude for my yoga teachers, John Friend, Todd and Ann and spiritual guides I get goosebumps and my eyes well up with tears because they have all taught me that I don't need to go outside of myself to get to the truth, that my heart is the center of my being and it's from there that I have the strength to let go and move forward. 

"The human heart feels things the eyes can not see, and knows what the mind can't understand"  T.E Kalem

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm used to people thinking my head is screwed on the wrong way :D

I taught a lovely class today in the park to some young yogis and saw a very familiar facial expression aimed at me while I lead them into some postures.  It's not easy to describe this particular look but since I started teaching yoga I have seen it many times.  This look is sort of half roll your eyes at me combined with what the hell is this crazy woman talking about. I wouldn't say it's a nice look, in fact it's a bit like you disgust me and your a total weirdo. Not to worry I can take it, I'm used to it and I think it's awesome that I can get people's brains thinking out of the norm.

I taught an advanced class this morning that lead toward eka pada viparita dandasana and there it was again, that look!  Love it!  Funny thing is that I was used to this look from other people long before I started doing yoga.  The same look at 16 years old when I told people I was a vegetarian, or that I spent my free time climbing up the face of cliffs or entering big air competitions on my snowboard.  You see in my life adventure and being unique and kinda freaky in a healthy way is the norm. 

It is by no mistake that I can comfortably tuck both of my feet behind my head while balancing on my arms, it was through years of dedicated yoga practice that I am at all able to do that.  When people show talent make no mistake that they have likely spent hundreds of hours honing their skills and the looks that we shoot them should be more like wow, that's totally amazing, rather than geeze what a total nut case!

Good thing yoga has taught me not to care so much about what other people think of me but instead to live my life fully every day.  As my lovely friend Pangea puts it, "fly your freak flag", so I do that and I like it.  On the other side of this sometimes when people are showing their talents to the world and it's out of the ordinary I have also seen a different vibe coming from them.  This look is more like "What haven't you ever seen someone swallow a flaming sword before while hoola hooping with a fire hoop?" 

I'm never rude back, anyone that is!  Ah the journey is so amazing, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Today, I fully identified with this look and now I can see it just like I see someone else smiling at me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That's not very Yogic of you!

I cringe whenever I hear this statement being barked at me our others - "That's not very yogic of you now is it!"  My initial knee jerk response is quelled by all the work I do on my mat, very yogic of me indeed.  Little do these folks know what a huge difference yoga has made in my life and if I was the person I used to be pre-yoga the words my response to statements like this one would be far less kind and often include the F-word! 

So what does it mean when someone says, that's not very yogic of you?  Does it imply that I must be a perfect person, incapable of making mistakes, cutting someone up, making fun of someone, or using swear words?  The yoga in me teaches me to go to the source, my heart to respond. From my heart I can contemplate further, what does this person understand about yoga in the first place.  If I think they may believe that all we do is throw on some spandex and stretch then I have to base a response on that.

If they are "yogis" themselves saying this to me it drives me more insane!  I believe it's a great opportunity to look closely at your own life/behaviour first before questioning mine. Might I quote Mr. Iyengar from his book Light on Life, "You must purge yourself before finding faults in others." Perhaps your own behaviours, actions or words are not "yogic" and that is the source of this silly statement. 

Go back to the source, inspire, elevate the community, all these concepts moving through my mind while I carefully and consciously am choosing my response.  If you do yoga you are aware the word itself  means to yoke, taken from the root yuj or to unite. It can also refer someone who practices yoga or follows a certain yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment. 

My issue when someone says this is more so about people speaking with ignorance.  They know you do yoga so that is something you can call them on if there out of alignment in some way.  I'm not saying yogis or yoginis should be going around shooting the bird at someone who cuts you off, or getting angry and punching someone out or other various precarious situations, but just because you do yoga, does not mean you're a pushover. 

My teachers have taught me to look for the good in all situations, to respond rather than react, to live with high standards and even morals but they have never ever taught me to be a pushover, to let other people treat me poorly while I keep my mouth shut in fear of responding in a non-yogic way. 

Consider this before yoga I would have been the one cutting you off in my car!  I would have given you the finger just because the wind was blowing west, my reactions where usually selfish and harsh.  After all these years of yoga no matter what, I am almost always (well, the fact that I'm a human being means I still make mistakes) responding in a yogic way regardless. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 Day Vegan/Yoga Challenge

   This May, The Mindful Body is presenting a challenge to our community to go Vegan and practice yoga 4 times a week for 30 days.  Why?  Why would this matter?  What you do, has a global and local impact on this planet!  For some this is a serious challenge for others they are already mostly living this way.

  What does it take to make this change for 30 days?  DISCIPLINE!  Yep, scary word I know but it may be what some of you lack or fear and just what you need to shift the direction of your life and this planet.

   I have been a vegetarian for over half my life, that's 18 years and I don't miss meat at all.  In fact as a kid I used to spit it out and cringe when diner was served if there was meat on my plate.  Well actually, I hated the veggies too, I was super fussy. 

   I made an educated decision to stop eating animals after my boyfriend gave me a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) brochure.  I still remember the pictures of downed cows, bunny rabbits with crap being injected into their eye balls, chickens squished together in tiny cages. 

   My reasons may have started off for the rights of the animals and of course they still do but living my life in ways that uplift the entire planet happened when I started to do yoga and give a damn about other people and this planet that we share, not just myself.  This is just my own view and I would not judge or criticize someone else's view or try to change them.

   Being a vegetarian at 16 made for some interesting Christmas dinner conversations in my Italian family.  They made fun of me, challenged me, made me cry on several occasions about the choice I had made about what I would and would not eat and why.  But, at the time none of them would so much as look at any information or pictures showing the reality of how meat is raised, treated and killed.

   "Going veg is one of the best decisions you can make for your health and the planet. Period.  Your organs, blood, bones, teeth and private parts will thank you!"  This is a quote from Kris Carr, who was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer and then from there totally changed her life around.  I highly recommend you pick up her book My Crazy Sexy Diet, to use as a source of knowledge and inspiration for the challenge.

   A lot of people have been mislead that veggies don't eat enough protein and that's bull!  In fact the USDA recommends, depending on your body weight but around 47 grams per day.  There are many experts that believe that number is too high and we require only about 20 to 35 grams per day.  Most people are eating around 100 to 120 grams per day which is far too much.  There are exceptions to this like pregnant people and athletes. 

   In some circles this is common knowledge, EATING ANIMAL PRODUCTS MAKES YOU SICK, in case you had no clue I hope you are at least interested now.  If you don't believe me, totally cool but try it out for 30 days and see how you feel for yourself!   Add 4 yoga classes a week in there and we are talking major body renovations toward a more blissful and healthy state of mind and body.

 Here are some more juicy highlights from Kris.  You can get all the protein and calcium you need from a varied plant based diet.  This plant based diet is your best defense against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  Dairy causes mucus buildup and is linked to many diseases, like asthma, arthritis and Crohn's.  ANY processed meats are full of gross stuff like fat, body parts, salt and carcinogens.  When you buy meat know that there is a hidden cost to your health, the economy and the planet. 

   Yoga is a powerful tool for living a balanced and happy life so roll out a mat and do it!  Many of you already practice yoga but the challenge is to practice it in a deeper way then just a workout.  Yoga is first a spiritual practice, meaning that it connects you to your heart where you can see your divine nature shining as brightly as it did they day you were born. 

   A yoga practice takes...... ready.... wait for it........ DISCIPLINE!  There's that scary word again.  Why do you need discipline for yoga?  Well deep changes take time and consistency of practice.  Once a week is great but your body, mind and heart need and deserve so much  more than that.  Yoga will help your organs cleanse themselves, regulate hormones, improve blood, lymph flow and circulation, improve your sleep, digestion, increase muscle tone and flexibility, strengthen your bones, increase fluid to your joints, relieve that chronic back pain or other issues ( with good alignment of course, poor alignment can make it worse), help you feel connected to the world and your community.  This list just goes on and on and again try it and see what happens.

We welcome you to participate in this 30 day challenge.  We will meet on Sunday, May 1st for a brief orientation and sign up for a discounted yoga pass ($75 plus HST) for the 30 days.  Do the best that you can but remember you will  need some discipline to pass on BBQ's, fast food joints, and mainstream restaurants.  Go to vegan or veggie restaurants instead of steak houses, have friends come over to your place and blow them away with a delicious vegan meal.  Look for inspiration in your yoga community and new recipes to try.  This is the perfect time of the year to do this, don't wait, go with the flow and start feeling better. 

All of my support to you!