Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Transformation takes heat

My friend and guru Nicole wrote the following:
Everything that happens externally existed internally first.
Feeling disconnected? Oh, I'm not connected to mySelf and that Source deep within me.
Lots of love coming my way? Ahhh I am nurturing my self and the outside world is reflecting that.
Fighting an uphill battle? Oops, there's some inner resistance I haven't faced.

I love this. The simplicity of understanding that it is our own perspective that creates our experience is so simple and yet so complex.

In order to change the perspective, I must take action. And where do I begin? In the examples Nicole offered, it seems the nurturing is the place to start. For then I have allies in the face of the challenge of disconnection and resistance.

With January 1 a day away, it is time to start the nurturing! Time to build the inner fire!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting things done without the busy-ness

As the New Year approaches, so too does the day I will not have all this time in the morning. I will not have the luxury of waking up a little later, doing an asana practice or a Nidra practice as well as my meditation and walk the dogs. I will have to leave the house by the time I am currently just getting around to taking the dogs out. And I will probably become pretty intense about getting out of the house on time. and when I am at work, I am pretty fired up about getting the 6.5 hours completed so I can get on with the rest of my life. Only to end the day with the rush to get home, get the dogs out for a walk, the fire on, the supper prepared, eaten and cleaned up. Then comes the laundry or cleaning or sometimes just the desire to check out - to not be present for this life.

This is how I get myself fired up and burnt out. I rush... everything needs to be completed five minutes ago and everything needs to be done right and only when there is nothing left on the list of things to do can I relax. Which means I rarely relax. I do check out. I attempt to run away from this life of chaos by getting intense about knitting something or getting groceries, or I step onto a treadmill for 15 minutes and call it relaxing when really it is just more justified action through productivity.

Therefore, it is going to be critical to change the perspective. Everything doesn't need to be done to leave for work AND everything doesn't need to be done when I immediately step in the door at the end of the day. Nor does every action I take need to be a productive one. In other words, I need to slow things down, to appreciate all that is happening in the moment it is happening and not rushing for the finish line. Bring a little Himalayan Institute sattvic vibe into my own home. After all, being busy is a state of mind.

To get at the mind... at least my mind, it will be important to do more asana. I love the connection of getting my mind on the experience of my body. It is from here I connect to my spirit and find the truth in what really needs to get done and how it needs to get done. The trick will be making the asana practice an essential part of the "to do list." So you are hearing it here first folks...my New Year's resolution; I will do 30 minutes of asana practice a day. anyone want to keep me on task?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

If I had to write...

Today I feel a little empty of ideas. I have walked the dogs, usually something I do after I write, but today I need a little inspiration. As I walked, I thought about something I heard at a service for those who had died in the last year. The multi-faith minister or pastor said, "God is the first to shed a tear." This was in the context of learning of death. In that moment I realized I held the belief that the things that happen are because of God's will. I was so taken aback, I wrote a note to myself while still at the event to remember to reflect on this statement.

As a person who has shelves full of self help books ranging from Wayne Dyer's, Your Erroneous Zones to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait's, Touched By Fire. All of these sources allude to there being a bigger force at work and we are all a part of it. This has always been inline with my thinking. I recall my first Facebook profile religious description being, "there is a little God in all of us."

Ironically as I reflected on this idea that God is not the creator of our destiny, that I am the creator of my destiny, I realized I really believe that is I am "good" and "pure" God will reward me. In my darkest moments I recall crying out to God, what have I done to deserve this? As if somehow God was punishing me for some infraction. God wasn't punishing me; I made a choice somewhere along that way that led to other choices that led me to where I am. And if I get really honest, usually those choices were made from a place of fear.

I am so glad to now at least see that in every moment, I have a choice and that the choice of today will lead to the choices the will shape my tomorrow. And in my heart, I know it is not whether I am "good" or "bad" that makes the difference; rather it is whether I am fearful or feeling brave. There is always compassion for fearfulness.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


So what is my New Year's resolution you may ask. Well it is quite simple. I have a Para Yogi friend who recently very eloquently wrote a blog pertaining to alcohol. One particular blog struck a chord with me. She wrote about thinking about drinking and planning drinking earlier in the day. She anticipated and looked forward to it. This resonated with me because I do that too. Yesterday after the roast was made and the blueberry crisp was baked, the floors cleaned and the Christmas tree removed and decorations stored, I started planning. It was still only two o'clock in the afternoon. I also immediately felt the shame of and weakness of having this desire.

I have spent time asking myself why this glass of wine holds meaning for me. I recognized I have an idea that having wine is "bad" and at the same time, I realized it signals my time to relax, something I want. When I have a glass of wine, I am off the clock. Whose clock I wonder? Perhaps I have this negative view of alcohol because I abused and misused alcohol when I was in University. It helped me blot out the confusion and discontent I felt then.

I go to the Himalayan Institute and do not even think about wine or being on or off the clock. I don't think of any of my vices. I just rest and feel content. The environment supports me by removing the clock. It's the clock that is the problem. It is this tenet I live by that I must be productive and only then can I reward myself and relax. That is a tenet of my own mind and when I do not follow it, I feel shame.

So the resolution is to feel balanced in productivity and relaxation. To learn to do what my heart wants to do, not what my head tells me. And to understand that my heart will still desire a clean and tidy home, and it will desire play time too.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Karma and Coaching

Yesterday as I snowboarded down the bunny hill and walked back up; my choice since I only had a fifty percent success with the rope tow; I noticed how silly snowboarding and skiing really are. There really isn't much point in going up the hill and then down the hill again. I was boarding alone and not really having a lot of fun so I went inside. I sat and watched the others on the hill. Eventually realizing I would be here a while I committed to the exercise of going up and down the hill at least ten more times. I began to recognize other newbies on the hill and we exchanged smiles and encouragement. As my connection to these other boarders grew, I realized I had started to really enjoy myself. As I scanned the hill again, I realized it was as much about the relationships as the action of skiing.

That got me thinking, as a personal trainer and coach, it has been my job to give people the karmic seeds to help them get better. Every action is the seed that blossoms into future actions. There are seeds being planted at multiple levels. I have the karmic seeds of choosing to exercise and the karmic seeds of how I feel about myself when I exercise. Likewise, there is the choice to not exercise and how I think about not exercising. As a coach, it has been my job to change the thinking about the fruits of exercise. So many clients always just looked at the success at the grade. My job was to make them excited about the effort, not the outcome.

Having this support, someone who encourages and believes in the effort is a key element to success. And perhaps this is why I have struggled with reaching my own goal in recent months, I have tried to do it in isolation and kept my eyes on the outcome.

This New Year's my resolution will be to share my goals and more than that, look for a coach to keep my eyes on the efforts. ;)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Joy

Last April when the family had gathered for my mother's funeral, my son Fynn and I spent a night with my dad. In the morning, his first task was to bake bread. My dad has been baking bread once a week at least I believe since I was in high school or maybe earlier. It's been a long time.

He pulled out the mixer and the flour, the yeast and set to work. As the mixer began to mix up his bread I could see there were a few glitches. Now this mixer is one that has a plastic gold outer shell - that tells you just how old it is. He proceeded to tell us how it works, but sometimes it whines if he makes bread and cookies in the same day.

In that moment, I wanted to get my dad a Kitchen Aid mixer. I asked my siblings about going in on one for Father's day, but they already had plans. As Christmas approached, I debated it again. I would see them crop up in the ads and think, 'that's what I want to do!'

And then the voice of reason, or perhaps fear, would step in and say, 'that's a lot of money, more than you can afford.'

My heart troubled over this. The inner voice continued to urge me toward it and yet, the voice of reason continued to counter argue. I know these voices well. I recall my inner voice would tell me Nick had to go climbing in France and we would buy the ticket on a credit card and I would just know that somehow we would make the money for the trip. And we did. But since Nick and I divorced, when it comes to money thoughts, I no longer have that same confidence that the money will come. And so I struggled with the decision.

Friday, I cannot explain why I saw it, but I did. A $50 gift card if you spend a certain amount at Canadian Tire. And so it was decided. I was going to do it. I was going to believe I would be okay financially. More than that, I was going to start questioning that voice that tells me to be conservative, frugal, fearful of not having enough and not being able to make enough.

As my dad unwrapped the gift, I could see his sense of happiness and his concern all at the same time. I could sense his mind doing the math and deciding this present was too expensive. That's my dad. But in my heart was joy. Giving him the gift came from my heart... something I knew he would use and love, something that reaffirmed the essence of who he is. A mixer, really? Yes, my dad loves to bake, to construct, to work with his hands, to grow his own food. He loves the independence it stands for. He loves the healthiness of it. And he loves that he has something unique to offer others, something home made or home grown.

This gift was really one I gave myself.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Last night in church, as the ritual of Christmas mass marched on, I noticed the couple in the pew in front of me. They continued to move, always a little movement. I then became aware of my own continual minute adjustments. I recall thinking that Yoga such a better spiritual practice because at least the teacher at the front of class gets you in your body and let's you move.

It's is hard to remain still. Try it. Even with a moderately simple pose. Try to remain still, steady. Usually within 30 seconds, the mind wants to come out. The mind wants to be distracted with movement. Awareness wants to move outward.

The goal of the practice is the opposite, it is to move inward and connect yourself to the power that lies within you and to harness it to work for you.

Try it! And a Happy Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Breaking the Rules

In The Four Desires, there is an exercise of doing fearless action for 48 hours. "It means saying yes to the things your inner voice says yes to and no to things your inner voice says no to." Lately I have toyed with the idea of doing this exercise and every time I do, there is an inner voice that says, "you have too many responsibilities to make this work. You will fail."

As I began my meditation this morning, I could hear the inner voice saying,"do we have to? We should take the dogs for a walk first. Or you could do your writing."

The cortex responded, "no, if we don't do it now, it may not happen and that would be bad. Stick to the plan."

I attempted to meditate. And realized just how many rules I live by. I do not live by an inner voice, I live by rules. We get up at a certain time, we meditate at a certain time. We are supposed to do agni sara. We have a new rule - thanks to my friend KT - eat before having coffee. We let the dogs out for a pee and feed them before I eat. My whole day is dictated by a schedule and when that schedule doesn't work out, I have a lot of frustration.

Well, for the next 48 hours, let's just try this fearless action. Let's just do what the inner voice says and see what happens. This should be really good... considering I have 4 invites for evening visits and as yet I am somewhat undecided. And the inner voice has already mentioned midnight mass and the cortex revolted with how that would wreck the schedule.


Monday, December 23, 2013

If I had to write...

This morning I was trying to settle my mind and meditate, which wasn't working out so well. And today is the day my parents were married 52 years ago. With my mother dying last April, there really is no 52nd year. My heart immediately went to thinking about my Dad and how he is holding up. I heard the voice in my head saying, "I know Dad, I've been there. I know this grief and you will get through it."

I heard his reply, "I don't have my whole life ahead of me."

"And I did not have the financial freedom you have Dad. We can argue back and forth over giving up, but there is always an answer for every excuse."

Suddenly, I understood something. My behaviour over the past year really has been very similar to that first year of the end of my marriage. I have felt the same uncontrollable craziness I felt then.

I am grieving.

It is as if something is off, I feel discontent and I had not connect that with grief. But this morning, I could. I understood that this desire to change things in my life is really related to not wanting the changes that have happened already this year. That driving desire to fill in that place of emptiness has caused me to search for something that will fill in the hole. Because there hasn't been success in filling in the emptiness, and so I sit at night and watch TV and distract myself.

Not tonight. Tonight I will offer myself some compassion. I will allow myself to sit with my loss. I will place my legs up the wall, support my hips and allow myself to just not be so controlled. I will allow myself the opportunity to grieve.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What if I were a writer

The Star

Sunday, Dec 22nd, 2013

What has traditionally been known as the Star card is about reconnecting one's Soul with the Divine -- the transcending of personality, family, community and reputation. It has to do ultimately with the freedom to be one's Self. The Soul is responding to celestial influences -- forces that can provide the personality with a stronger sense of purpose. The Star card helps us to remember our exalted origins and our attraction to a Higher Union.

This card could also be called the "Celestial Mandate" -- that which refers us back to our reason for being, our mission in this lifetime. The Star reminds us that, in a sense, we are agents of Divine Will in our day-to-day lives. If we let go of the idea that we are supposed to be in control, we can more easily notice and appreciate the synchronicities that are nudging us along. In this way, we become more conscious of the invisible Helping Hand, and we better understand our place within -- and value to -- the larger Cosmos.

This morning as I sat in meditation, cultivating the essence of faith, I received a strong feeling. I want to write and teach. This is not an 'aha' moment, this is something I have known for years. And I do have this opportunity. I teach Yoga, and workshops and I write a blog. Those are the moments of connection with the authentic me.
Then I did have an 'aha' moment. I will write everyday. I will pose the question to myself, 'what would I write today if I had to write something today?' I will write not for the audience, rather, I will write for me, because I need to put it into words.
On this rainy first day of winter as we approach a new year, I would write that life is not 'fixed' it is merely adjusted. There is no absolute answer to any question, only a momentary understand and peace. There is a part of me that wants to run to a warmer climate, to bring a partner into my life, make some change; to move out of the dischord of the local climate, the job that is not too challenging and monotony brought into home life around a child's school and sport schedules. The part of me that likes to launch a raft onto to lake to get to the island is longing to build and launch another raft. Problem is that the feeling is not motivated by the adventure of moving forward as much as it it motivated by the desire to run away. Ahhhhh..... Skillful discernment. Here's to running toward unknown lands through creative expression of thoughts.
Happy Solstice and first day of winter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's that time

As we move into the busy Holiday season it is easy to become out of balance. Our eating changes, our ability to get to Yoga class changes and the time we have to just rest changes too. Not to worry, you can still reap the benefits of asana in a few postures and measured breath.

Bringing yourself back to balance requires we often work asymmetrically. Here are a few poses, with a few counter poses to help bring yourself into a more balanced state and grounded to face what's next this Holiday season.

As you exhale turn the navel more toward the wall you are facing. As you inhale, think about lengthening both side bodies.

You can relax the knees and release the low back as you fold forward. As you inhale allow the front body to expand and as you exhale, fold in over the legs.

The key to this pose is to be long through the front body. Bend the knee to the side you are twisting if hamstrings are tight. And use a block or chair to allow the spine to be long and parallel to the floor. The navel twists toward the ceiling in exhale. Use the inhale to lengthen and create integrity in the spine.

The squat is a great opportunity squeeze the digestive organs and enable you to keep things rolling downward. If you have tight calfs and are up on the balls of the feet, you can support the heels on blanket or block. Continue to lengthen the spine- both front and back body.

Draw the knees into the chest on exhale. Extend the legs away on inhale and feel the pelvis release and relax.

Spend a few breaths in a relaxed savasana allowing your awareness to just rest at the navel - and allow yourself to feel empowered and grounded.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reflections on a snowy afternoon

The snow, mix with rain beats down on my skylights, wind shakes the patio doors. I hear the children's voices downstairs, "Left hand yellow." 'Right foot red."

I sit on my bed, with two pups waiting out the cold and wind, rain and snow.

My mind reflects on the time when my son was so young. The continual attention to keep him entertained. Now at twelve and a half, he doesn't need me. Just a computer screen and an internet connection. But he still loves to do things with me, games, baking, putting a tree up. And he will go out and go sledding with two neighbourhood children under the age of six. He's pretty amazing. And this time is moving quickly. I love this moment of not being responsible to entertain and yet I also know the suffering of thinking he will soon leave and go to school away and I will be alone.

In every thought there is the fear of change. In joy and bliss we worry when it will end. In sadness we long for the joy and bliss. It is simply the human condition. I guess then Yoga practice, meditation and mindfulness practice are just the practice of being able to rest in both the joy and the suffering. And to not attach more to one thought or the other.

The game has ended and the children are getting ready to leave. Time to assist the exodus. And perhaps stay in the mindful action of contentment with what is right now.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Sitting in meditation the mind continues to flutter. The thoughts about what it should be and how can I get there. Feel faith. Feel calm. Relax. Bring the mind to the breath and the mind moves. It always moves.Then there is the light. The spark. That feeling of expansion lifting my heart. And I am drawn in.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vayus - the magic of moving energy through asana

Follow this link and begin to understand why asana is important.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Love and Asana

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action." Mother Teresa

This is such a beautiful way to approach asana. It is not how deep, how pretty, how challenging the pose. It is the love we put into it that reaps the rewards every pose has waiting for us.

Take love to your mat today.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Taping into the life force

Last Friday Shari Friedrichsen taught a class at 108 Yoga. There were no sun salutes, no powerful poses,no head stand or arm balances. Just bridge, warrior one, garudasana arms. And yet, the effect was profound. Shari walked us through linking physical movement to the movement of energy in the chakras, those illusive energy centres of the body that we hear about and really don't get.

Yoga is not the asana. Rather, the asana is a tool to allow us to experience the energy. Energy is subtle and elusive; just when you think you could name it, you realize you are uncertain. Energy is a shift in experience, it is the feeling of space or of heat, lightness, that was not there before. But energy is the life force, the very essence of who you are and how you express yourself in the world. Energy influences the mind and emotions, the functioning of the physical body.

Next time you go to your mat, be curious. Move through the layers of physical tissue, explore the inner working of the body with each breath. As that breath moves through an area you are expanding, feel the openness and lightness, and you will start to experience that energy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shake it up baby!

"Twist and shout! Come on Come on Baby now, work it on out."

I am sure you are familiar with that song which transcends the sixties. As I made my way to class yesterday that was playing in my mind and with good reason. Fall is a time of year when a lot is happening; seasonal temperature changes, lots to get done and even our diet changes with the change in what is in the produce isle at the grocery store. If you are a student, then this is also a time when you need to assimilate all those classes and readings in preparation for midterms.

Twists. What you need to know:
1) The action of squeezing the torso as one rotates from the navel puts a compression action on the organs of the digestive system and will stimulate their action, building the digestive fire - agni. Agni is essential for transformation of food and experiences. Feeling a little overwhelmed? a twist practice just may help.
2) The spine is of major concern when twisting, since we are rotating the vertebrae - thus it is essential to begin with some extensions or laterals, opening the space between the vertebrae.
3) In standing poses, pelvis is not fixed, giving us the freedom to safely warm up to the deeper twists where the hips have less freedom to move like in Ardha Matsyendrasana.
4) Contraindications are any spine injuries.
5) According to Ayurveda, twists are helpful in reducing pitta and vata - perfect for fall.

Twists have a balancing affect. As we move through seasonal change and the hurried pace of fall, twists are essential to helping us to find the balance we need.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First steps

When an interviewer asked Rod Stryker the question, "What do you wish more yoga students knew?"
His answer: "That yoga doesn't end with the body. My mission is to impart old-school wisdom, teach pranayama and meditation as much as asana, and encourage people to access that inner realm beyond the body. When you connect with the source, the shakti, the sea of intelligence, every part of your life improves. You'll be more joyful, more fearless, and more capable."

Asana is the first step toward accessing the inner realm. Learning to manage your energy, your breath, allow you to quiet the mind and the inner realm becomes illuminated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vatta pacifying poses

Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Where asana is designed to help us work with our energy, Ayurveda helps us work with a body that is healthy and balanced. Each of us has been born into this body with our unique nature, our prakritti. The elements of our environment, our diet, the weather, the activities we participate in, and of course asana, affect whether we are in balance or moving more out of balance.

When we are on the cusp of seasonal change, temperatures changing, more wind and damp, everyone is experiencing more vatta. If you already have vatta in your prakritti, it will most likely affect you a little more... just like me.

The good news is that by changing what postures I choose in my personal practice can help balance the vatta. What does the dancer like qualities of vatta need? Grounding - standing poses with two feet firmly planted like warrior two and forward folds. Backbends are still helpful, just best to stick to those with the belly on the ground.

Want to know more about your prakritti - simple; just take the quiz and as Kathryn Templeton, Ayurvedic Guru suggests, probably best to have someone who loves you and knows you well help you stay honest. ;)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Airports and travelers

The continual stream of people wandering by the arrivals board, waiting, watching for someone they love. Just like me.
Waiting and watching. Living in the moment they will be reunited.
Seems challenging sometimes to just be in the moment and not be waiting, rather, just sitting and taking it in,inattached to the story of family and friendships, love that brought people here to a place to be reunited with the relationship they believe they have with another.

Perhaps that sounds cynical, but as I reflect on past relationships that no longer exist, except in the past, I recognize, the love only existed because of what I believed. I believed I loved and so I did. Can I just love without a reason? Can it be easy to just open my heart and send others compassion and understanding? 

Perhaps sitting in a place full of strangers I can just try.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Trikonasana - triangle pose.

One foot forward and facing 12 on a clock. The back foot, perhaps a little wider (like our hips), with the foot turned out slightly. This is the foundation. The weight is distributed evenly between the two feet. The low belly, navel is pulled in toward the spine, this creates space in the lumbar and sacral spine. And this is a common challenge to sustain.

The low ribs lift upward, away from the tops of the hips as the upper body leans out over the front leg, the same arm reaching and creating space. When we get as long on that side as we can, we lower the arm. If it only goes to the knee - that's fine. If it gets to the floor, that is no better. Then the torso turns from the navel as the front body turns and the top arm reaches up toward the ceiling.

With each breath, the crown of the head reaches forward, lengthening the spine, and the exhale reaffirms the navel moving into the body and foundation of the feet. Expansion and grounding down.

If there is a strain in the inner groin, a slight bend in the front knee enables better stability and lengthening. Placing the back of the hand on the sacrum enables you to relax the shoulders away from the ears and open through the upper chest and draw the scapulae together on the back. It is important to ensure that the lower portion of the thoracic spine is not arching.

With all this, the spine lengthening and movement of breath, the containment of the pelvic bowl, energy (prana) moving down through the legs and out through the arms and crown of the head. That's the real juice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More than a pose

What do we really do when we stand in utkatasana, chair pose? We feel the lumbar spine (low back) arch exaggerated, we feel the opening in the front body and side body. We definitely feel the legs working, sometimes shaking with joy. With proper cues we become aware of drawing the belly in the tailbone lengthening toward the heels.

And there is a deeper layer of complexity to the pose than the stretch one experiences and the physical effort one must apply. There is the movement of energy in the pose. When we follow the flow of the breath in chair, the pose allows the body to expand in an upward movement through the torso, creating space for upward moving energy, and it strongly creates the movement of energy downward through the legs and the feet.

The awareness we bring to this movement of breath and the flow of energy throughout the body brings our awareness to the degree of stillness, steadiness and ease we experience. Setting the intension to loosen our grip on the outcome of the pose and not resist the pose or fiercely "do" the pose, rather, to rest in awareness, steadiness while also applying effort. This is where the real fruits of our practice lie.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Heart of Yoga

"However beautifully we carry out an asana, however flexible our body may be, if we do not achieve the integration of body, breath, and mind we can hardly claim that what we are doing is asana. What is Yoga after all? It is something that we experience inside, deep within our being. Yoga is not an external experience. In Yoga we try in every action to be as attentive as possible to everything we do. ... As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both the observer and the observed at the same time." ~ TKV Desikachar from his book, The Heart of Yoga

This is Yoga... practice this in poses and you will become aware of the subtle aspects of yourself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Diving into the depths of asana

Each pose provides an opportunity to move from a very physical level of positioning the body, lengthening and strengthening of the muscles. In Yoga we don't stop there. With the body in position, we work with the breath, in some cases ujjayi breath, sometimes building on inhale, sometimes the exhale. Our intention is to collect and move the energy or life force, prana. In each pose, despite the strenuous or provocative nature of the asana, we find a balance between effort and allowing, the breath following our direction, we can begin to notice the mind also settle and relax. The effort develops an internal heat, tapas; the heat of transformation. The transformation of the physical level, a detoxifying effect in the organs of the body, and also a transformation of thoughts. Our thoughts begin to welcome a little spaciousness and curiosity.

When savasana finally arrives, it is a moment to rest, to allow the effects of each pose to be integrated. The body and mind, the prana collected, knowing we are safe, we can move beyond the physical body, beyond the mind and remember the part of ourself I will call soul or our true nature. Coming to know this part of ourself is the true essence of practice.

Some days it is definitely easier to get there than others. But given the benefit of asana on so many levels, you just can't lose!

Oh... and a hint, group classes are a lot like taking the bus, takes a little longer to get to where you are going than taking your own car. You will still feel the tapas, however, if you have a personal practice, you can get there without all the extra poses. ;)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Loving me is my job

I study Yoga because I know that in the end, I am the one who is ultimately responsible for my experience of life. I may not be responsible for the storms of life, but ultimately I get to choose how I perceive those things. And how I act as a result of them. Yoga gives me a mirror to see the reflections of my mind. In the stillness of a pose, or the the quiet of sitting in meditation, the movement of thoughts; the direction thoughts go, tells me about my real fears, beliefs and desires.

I recently have been very engaged in watching the unfolding story of Reatah Parsons. I can relate to that young woman. I was raped by a boy I knew. And it did not just happen once, it happened repeatedly. I can choose to see myself as the victim or worse as the person who should have prevented it, blaming myself for not somehow stopping it. I did that for years. And I was very close to being hospitalized for an eating disorder because of it.

I am now no where close to that tender teenage time of life. I can see how the way I thought about the events that unfolded then are still with me in the many little betrayals I experience now. One part of me defending myself and the other feeling so shamed and weak, at fault. The truth is both perspectives are true. I only want the one where I was good and valued to be the one that is true. But I know that it is not; in every relationship people come to it with their own life experience, fears and desires. Someone elses' choices are only partly about me. "Ahhh," I think, "but if only I was good enough or better." And that is the thought that has almost killed me.

It is hard to change these repeated thoughts. And that is not necessarily the point of Yoga. The point is to be able to remain steady and not confused by these thoughts. It is to recognize them as just thoughts, not truths. They only become "true" when I give them value. Hopefully, if I do practice, I can hold the thoughts away from my heart and see them as thoughts. I can then act from a place that is true to my heart.

Our power exists not in proving we are right or good enough, or worthy of love.

True power exists when we can let others think all the bad things they want and treat us poorly and we still know in our hearts we are worthy of love.

Do me a favor, just work with the thought that you are worthy. Write it 100 times and see if you resist it, or what thoughts stop you when you are writing and write those too. Then you will know where you really stand with yourself. Because in the end we will all die alone. And we will need the power of our own love to walk that path.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vinyasa Krama - wise progression

"...a vital thread of the Yoga tradition: a practice should suit the needs of the individual." Rod Stryker

While usually we all leave a Yoga class feeling better than when we went in, the practice of asana can be exceptionally powerful when we learn how different practices influence our experience of the world.

Yoga is a science, your goal is to understand what you need to make your own view of the world one of joy and freedom. Try this... next class see if you can figure out what the intention of the series of poses were leading to. As you move through the poses notice if you feel more energized, or more grounded? Perhaps you felt very blissful and a little lighter. Take note. Then try to remember where that started,was it when you were in the forward folds or pigeon. Did it happen in wheel or headstand? Just notice. You can always ask the teacher what his/her intention was and see if it fit your experience.

A few hours later it can also be helpful to do another few moments of sitting quietly and ask yourself, what do I feel now? Has that feeling persisted or has something else taken it's place.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

No doubt about it!

There is a thought that continues to nag at me. The thought of getting a PhD. It's been in here rattling around for awhile. And every time it comes up, I immediately see all the barriers. I am a single parent pretty much 24/7. I have a mortgage to maintain. I have a full time job and a very part time job teaching Yoga. And I am still studying Yoga. Not to mention the cost of going back to school. I would never be able to retire. And can my mind even focus that much anymore. And the work. It would be a lot of work.

But when I see myself teaching, writing and reading, it seems so joy-filled. So fulfilling. Not chaotic, not reactionary like my life is now, but methodical and efficient.

Clearly it is what I want. Probably the biggest thing holding me back... ME.

And yet, as I have learned through Yoga, take the steps that follow your heart, work with sankalpa shakti, and in time, all that you desire will manifest.

Here's to a new sankalpa. I am working toward my PhD in Sport psychology and Spirituality. Whew... that's scary in a good way!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A - Alignment
S - Stable
A - Awake
N - Non attachment
A - Awareness

Asana is not about the deepness of the back bend or the forward. It is not about the ability to stand on the hands or to demonstrate the perfection of a pose. It is about the ability to rest in awareness of the where energy i most vibrant, to build on that awareness and energy. It about shaping the experience, not letting the experience shape you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Settling in

My son has just returned from 8 weeks away. One would think that if you've had this child for 12 years, it would be pretty simple to slip back into the routine again. But I find sitting for meditation is more challenging, even getting to bed when I normally do is more challenging. It's not that my day has more in it, it is something else tugging at my attention.

As I attempt to get on my mat, I notice this energy pushing me to move quickly and not hold poses. When I do hold, I feel restless, as if I need to hurry on to the next one. It gets harder to settle in. It takes more time to find my way into my body because so much of my awareness is listening for his next need or action.

My solution is to go to a forward fold and twist practice. These movements naturally draw the prana in, grounding it and focusing it. Then I can really practice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Purpose of Asana

Asana offers the opportunity to practice mindfulness. It's pretty simple really. It's not about how deeply into a pose you can go, that is the ego trying to win the game. Yoga is the process of being present with the experience in the moment and yet not attached to the performance. Yoga is watching the experience of the body with the objectivity to allow the experience to be what it is, the awareness focused in the moment of the experience and lastly, being kind and compassionate in the process of the experience.

The tricky part is how you get to this degree of acceptance. The first step is to gather awareness. Drawing the mind to the task of watching the breath helps to cultivate the experience of observing. As the mind becomes more tranquil, flowing with the movement of breath, the body becomes more relaxed, one's Prana (life force) becomes collected and shaped by the pose. The ego is lulled into a state of calmness and receptivity, gradually allowing for the unfolding of smarana, or remembrance, openness and freedom.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Little Voice in my Head

This morning as I moved from one task to the next, I recognized this underlying theme...you need to get this done, then that. No don't sit until all of these things are taken care of. This subtle message seems to be continuously with me. It seems to drive my life. It berates me when I want coffee before meditation or a glass of wine at night. This morning I was too tired to listen to it. Too many hours in the hot sun yesterday roofing was perhaps the straw, but I just wanted to sit in bed and read a book. There between the pages of Sharon Salzberg's book entitled Faith, was just the right sentence. In Buddhism, the distinction between faith and beliefs lies in testing what we are told. "Put it into practice," the Buddha said,"and if you find that it leads to a kind of wisdom that is like looking at a wall, and then the wall breaks open and you see in a much more unbounded way, then you can trust it." This is the philosophy behind Tantra as well. The intention is to examine ones life and through examination, follow the path and values that allow you to thrive, to love openly and to be fearless.

Feeling fearless ;)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What is love?

Sometimes meditating just sucks. Today was one of those days. So I am doing what a good ParaYogi would do and conducted a little vichara. Pretty simple; just trying to figure out what the root cause of the thoughts that keep interrupting the meditation. And it is not surprising to discover they link back to fear that I am not loved. Seems crazy to believe this when my social calendar is full with visits from friends I have known for years and weekend is packed with family. And when I move even slightly my dog Bella comes looking for my attention.

I am loved and I know it. BUT I am not loved on my terms. That is the root cause of the suffering. I want people around me when I want them and how I want them. I want my son home with me now and not away with his Dad for most of the summer. I want Bella to love me and lay down quietly while I read a book, not pressure me to throw her ball around.

So clear. And now the next step. Acceptance. Just working on the idea of not resisting that this is the way Bella loves and the way my son loves and the way all the people in my life express their love... doing what they love, being who they really are. I bet I'm probably pretty hard to love sometimes too. ;)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Living Science

We are the living embodiment of our beliefs. Every choice we make is made with the backdrop of fear or faith. Not faith in a God or religious dogma, but faith that we will be alright - safe or not.

This morning as I sit and type on this keyboard, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to go "do something." Idleness is not good says my mind of many years of conditioning.

"Go and mow the lawn or move gravel or pull up weeds it screams at me. Do something! Taking care of these things will you prove you are worthy of being loved and that you are a good person." When I really listen, that is the belief (fear) operating in the background and really causing the struggle.

Perhaps the thought is right. But perhaps it is not. Without a clear positive intention behind action, I will cultivate feelings of resentment for having to do something I really perhaps don't want to.

I get to choose why I am doing something, anything, whether productive or not. But I only get to choose if I question the thoughts that are pushing me out to mow or weed.

This for me is the science of Yoga; to question the deeper roots of thought and feeling. Not to deny them, rather to understand them and act in support of the desires that support oneself and others. The asana, pranayama, meditation simply enable the mind to notice the thoughts and landscape of feelings; to dive beneath waves of thought that just carry me off in resentment without question.

Hopefully you found this a productive use of my time ;)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The view from here

Yesterday I watched amazing potential. And yet I knew those I was watching could not see all the potential I saw. My desire for their success was driving me to challenge them, to push them to greater understanding. I just wanted them to be inspired, to feel their own potential. That is what I always want when I teach.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." John Wooden.

If one is just willing to keep trying when you cannot always see the potential, that is what faith looks like. That was my mom as she moved through the last few months of her life. Just doing what she could do, not giving into what she couldn't.

Perhaps the quote should also include, do not let what you don't have overshadow what you do. This is where happiness rests, waiting for our attention.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Settling in

It's a cool morning and the dampness seems to match my mood. I should be buoyant my mind tells me, but my heart knows something else. My heart knows that I have not been making great connections with myself and it misses me. The mind keeps pulling me off to distraction with things to worry about, consider and yet never commit to anything different than what is.

The heart longs for settling into a comfortable rest, peace and gratitude for all that I am, all that I do and all that I have. And... most importantly all that I desire. My mind doesn't want to commit to one desire, it wants all the desires that overwhelms it into a whirling dervish.

Thank heavens, the heart will win out with a little practice. <3

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Joy and Freedom

My mom has spent the past while living with cancer. We have all been living with cancer. The days in the hospital sitting by her bed was easy compared to leaving her overnight and anxious for the next morning when I could talk to her again and wondering what was next. As mom continued to decline, my sisters and I spent the weeks planning around the weekends, trying to give Dad a break and each of us a break. My brother took the day to day with both Mom and Dad. We had moments of great depth and love and moments of deep sadness and worry.

I always saw my father as no nonsense, get-the-job-done, tenacious spirit. I now see my father as a man with compassion, tenderness and endless patience. Last week he managed to get my very weak mother from her wheelchair into the truck and took her for a drive to the look-off. They sat together in the truck, just loving the view and their lives together. My siblings have a strength and courage I had not witness so keenly before, managing the reality of home care at the end of life, their own emotions while protecting and supporting their own families.

Life has changed forever. Now that she is gone, my mom is in my heart, but she will no longer be holding me and pointing out my strength and grace when I need it. Mom was the epitome of grace. She did not cry, she did not talk about fear, she just went through it with her beautiful smile and her humour, bringing me down from my 'big picture view' to the mundane. All she really asked for was for us to be with her, to visit her. And though I thought I had accepted this cancer in our lives, I see now, that my fatigue after a visit, my anxiety before were indicators I was really not accepting the way things were. I continually saw the ground we were losing and not really loving what we still had. I kept trying to find faith or freedom by exploring the bigger picture rather than sitting in the daily moments with her. I guess freedom is not in the big picture of life where I usually sit analyzing my experiences, rather it is in the moment, connected with someone we love.

Once again mom... you did it once again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bring on the curiosity

I found myself standing in a restaurant waiting for my soup to go. I had toyed with the idea of sitting in and eating, but the introverted me wanted to go home and relax and stop having to do stuff. And I still had stuff to do when I got home; walk the dog, clean up after the dog, get the fire going, clean the bathroom - all this is tough to get done on a teacher training weekend. Hence - I gave up on cooking. Or rather, I knew myself well enough to know I would not go home and prepare something healthy and nourishing.

As I wait a couple arrive and begin to ask the hostess questions. The busy hostess offers them menus to peruse and turns her attention to other customers. The gentleman seems curious about everything. He asks if I eat here often and what I recommend. I offer him a suggestion to take a look at the pizza just being brought out of the pizza oven. We continue our conversation and I eventually ask them about themselves. They seem a little reserved at first, but gradually tell me about this trip to Halifax and previous visits.

Soon my soup arrives and I make my departure, saying good night to the couple. As I made my way to the car I realize how unlike me that was. I normally don't just chat with strangers. I normally keep to myself, I observe, analyze. Create stories about what I am seeing. I realize there is a smile playing on my lips and I feel light. Funny... I think, I didn't do the asana practice today, I taught the class. But I am pretty clear that this is my best self shining in this moment. Tejas. This is why people go to Yoga. This is my goal for the people who come to my class; that at the end of all those postures, they shine, feel lighter.

For me, being able to offer what I know and to help others settle into themselves is an incredible experience. The challenge is how to get them on my side, excited to challenge themselves. We are afraid that if let go of all the mental effort, if we admit we don't know, we will somehow lose something, perhaps respect of others, perhaps it is the idea of ourselves as good enough. It is hard to have faith that if we surrender we will be safe. This probably explains why I love teaching material that I am just getting to understanding, because just maybe I won't know the answer, but that just somehow ignites my spirit to understand more. I know I can't know happiness when I sit in comfort. If I am not a little uncomfortable, struggling to understand the next thing or teach it better, I really don't shine. It's like rock climbing, the next hard route put me in a place of having to open myself to bringing everything I knew and considering what I didn't - and even then I would fail the first 50 times. What kept me inspired - the curiosity of whether I could do it. Perhaps that's what keeps me sitting trying to meditate - curiosity of what will happen if I stay. :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Arjuna's path

This morning in meditation, a thought past my mind, a memory really. Yesterday as I chatted with a fellow Yogi about purpose, I said, "Arjuna's dharma wasn't fighting the war, it was to seek justice." Now to give you a little background, I was referring to the Bhagavad Gita, a story about Arjuna's discovery of God within himself and realizing the true reality of human existence. We meet Arjuna on the battle field where he is in despair and collapsed, wanting to renounce his role in this war because it will mean killing his own kinsmen. Krishna, who we come to discover is really God, but acting as his chariot driver, is attempting to get Arjuna to understand the bigger reality.

Yesterday, even as I said the words, I was realizing that perhaps I had been looking at what I understood to be my dharma (purpose) without this same perspective. I have gone through the four desires workshop a few times and have worked and reworked my purpose, gaining knowledge also about what stands in the way and what I really desire that will support my purpose. My latest version is I surrender to Divine Grace, radiating my light and sharing my creativity.

I am not a big fan of the surrendering part. But as I was reflecting on my own words and the meaning of that to me, I realize what I am really trying to express is I act with faith. As I think back through the years, I can see that I the times of real success and joy in my life, have been the times I have been willing to just let go and let god as they say. The times I have launched a makeshift raft into a lake and go on an adventure, not really knowing if it will sink or not. When I sold pretty much everything I owned and got in a Mazda GLC and went on a climbing trip. When I gave up having to send and just climbed my best, hoping for the best.

This is what my purpose is... to act with faith and confidence. To shine means I need to act. Not just surrender. It means to share my thoughts, wisdom and knowledge with faith and confidence, from a place of inner joy. So grateful for that conversation yesterday!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Tonight I read, 'our energy follows our awareness.' This is a paraphrase from Living Tantra, a lecture series by Panditji Tiguait Rajamani.

I get it... When my awareness is on what is wrong, my energy becomes all about what is wrong and follows that wave of thinking. So to change it, I need to look for the joy and love around me and place my attention there. Seems simple enough. But I notice the habit of my mind wanting to return to the complaints. More over, I recognize that what my mind continually does in response to the negative thoughts is to defend me, my ego self. Funny, because really that means my awareness is always on what others think of me and making sure they approve. Hmmm, that's a bigger change then just looking at the good things around me.

Who am I if I am none of the roles or accomplishments? Can I believe I am worth loving, and my love has value if I have absolutely nothing else to offer?

Mother Teresa said, 'there are no great acts, only small acts of great love.' This must be what she means. Our value is inherent, our intention to love is what makes the act great. And really then, none of it can change ones inherent worthiness.

The great love a parent offers a child, willing to sacrifice time, money, and ones own identity in many ways is an amazing taste of this. The countless hockey games, practices, the lunches, the snacks, the homework, the laundry... Just things parents do. You become a parent and you realize how much effort it takes, how much time it consumes and how it just doesn't seem to end. There's no, 'I sent my project' moment. I've climbed full time and being a parent is definitely harder. I'ld say it's more like running a gym or cleaning new routes at a crag.

And yet any act with great love is special. That's the key. The great love part. It's important if that energy following awareness is energy of great love or not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Idle no more

So... this is not about the movement that is interrupting traffic in Windsor, Ontario. This is the idleness in Sambro Head. I am a busy woman. I am a single parent, Yoga teacher and a Recreation Coordinator, and this week that has meant a week of Yoga teaching, caring for a child with a cold, and trying to get my job of coordinating done. I feel I am doing all of it with very little success. So I hide myself in yet another read that promises to help me overcome my life and save myself from me.

Stephen Cope's new book, "The Great Work of Your Life; A Guide to the Journey of Your True Calling," is another book about dharma... your life's purpose. This was also in fact the topic of the Yoga weekend. I know my dharma; I have worked through this process with Rod Stryker and his work in the book "The Four Desires."

I live my dharma in many areas of my life. And yet, sometimes my life feels like a struggle. Comparing myself to the amazing examples Cope discusses, Susan B Anthony and her intensity to gain the vote for women, Thoreau's creating the perfect environment for himself to write; I cannot wonder... did they ever feel this sense of struggle? I remember when I was writing my book. I created a schedule and a routine around writing. I stopped pursuing other things and focused all of my attention to the task. I wrote, even when it felt like a focus. I was creating the conditions that supported writing and that is why when the book was published it felt so great. I was fully committed to it. And life still had moments of struggle. It was no different with climbing hard projects. The focus required, creating the conditions that allowed me to climb my best and the effort. And I even understand how important it is to let go of the outcome of the attempt, in order to be my best.

I think dharma is something I live by choice and by continually choosing I mitigate the struggle little by little. It doesn't happen all at once or forever. It really only happens in spurts which I hope get longer and more expansive. And I do believe the key is the recognition that I care about something so much, I am willing to do all of what it takes to make it happen. I care about my son and his best life. I care about becoming more aware of my true Self and sharing that. So I guess as long as I always choose that, I may still face struggle, but at least I will know my heart and that will make it all meaningful.