Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Four Paths of Yoga

As you probably already know if you're reading this blog, yoga is much more than the yoga postures that have become popular. There are many paths of yoga and they all lead to that union, or peaceful place, or stilling of the disturbances of the mind.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna offers different ways to pursue a spiritual path, or a good life. He suggests Karma Yoga, or good actions. He offers up Jnana Yoga, or wisdom and understanding, as a path to the good life. He recommends Bhakti Yoga, or a path of devotion as a quick method to this place of union. There's even Raja Yoga, the Royal Path, that could be used to connect to the divine within and harmonize our external lives with our internal guidance.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali is also very generous with methods that can be used to still the disturbances of the mind. Try this, if that doesn't do it for you, try this. Or this. Or this. So many ways.

Yoga understands that people are different and have different preferences and ways that will work better for them. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach by any means and keen practitioners of yoga will recognize the other paths as not less-than, but just other paths.

In The Four Paths of Yoga course, we will explore what traditionally the Four Paths are and how they show up in practice. We will attempt to find and travel these paths ourselves, with others in the community at times as well, and see how there's yoga all around us, even if we haven't been calling it that.

This course is free and welcome to all. It's tonight from 7-9 and then again in June to see how things have been going. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Coffee's Back On

I just read the title of the last post I put on here and it made me chuckle, as I reached for my mug of warm coffee.

I was off coffee. For quite some time. And then I started drinking it again. And I like it.

What else is new? Let's see...

I'm working more with Kat Mills at offering yoga trainings in a modular fashion so they are accessible to people financially, and time-wise, as well as curricularly, if that's a word. Nope, it's not as indicated by the red underlining in my "word processor." What I mean by "curricularly" is that you may just want to learn a bit more about yoga and not sign up for a whole bunch of yoga teachings. For whatever reason. So with that, you can sign up for all or parts of 200 Hour or 500 Hour teacher training programs.

I'll list them all on the right so you can see what is coming up.

Also, it's March Break and I'm taking my daughter off to Montreal for the day where we will traipse through the campuses of some, gulp, universities, she may like to be attending the future. I'm just telling myself we're going for lunch. Maybe a trip to Simons, which we don't have here in Ottawa, and that's why we're all the way over in Quebec. That's what I might tell myself...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Accidentally Off Coffee

I didn't set out to stop drinking coffee, although it was always in my mind that if I didn't drink coffee that would be okay. But I must admit that it surprised me how I stopped and how easy it was.

I wouldn't have described myself as a coffee addict but I drank some coffee off and on everyday for years. I even blogged about it long ago when I first started this blog. I didn't consider it to be a problem and in a way I felt included in coffee culture, which is predominant here in Ottawa, I'd say.

So when all of a sudden coffee didn't do it for me anymore, I was pretty surprised. It just started not tasting good. I tried different beans, even paying the big bucks for organic Kicking Horse beans, using my new Aeropress coffee maker, and still, just yuck.

What was new? What changed my taste buds? I started drinking juice, or as we might say, I started "juicing." I watched a video that came recommended by a friend describing the benefits of adding juice and the micronutrients that go with it and I got interested. I was more of a "blender" rather than a "juicer" because I didn't really believe that it was good to not eat the whole food and just take a concentrated portion of the food, but I hadn't ever really tried it before so I decided to give it a go.

Rather than investing in a brand new juicer, I asked Twitter if anyone had one they could lend me. I was sure that other people had gone through this phase before and had one stashed away someplace unused. Sure enough, I got my hands on a Breville Juice Fountain within a day and I set it up on my counter.

I went to the market stalls and bought bags of carrots and beets and kale and apples and other things I'd heard were good for juicing and I got started. It's a big scary at first to drop things into this fast spinning thing but it didn't take long before I got the hang of it.

I didn't actually do a juice fast or anything, although I'm up for trying, I just ventured to add more micronutrients into my diet, which had become somewhat convenience based and less focused on nutrition. Within two days of adding juice in the morning and at lunchtime, I noticed that coffee started tasting funny.

Stopping coffee was a natural next step. I had a headache for one day that I can attribute to caffeine withdrawal and then nothing. No morning fog, no headaches, no longing for a latte, just me with myself.

Being off coffee seemed like no big deal to me but then I started noticing other things happening like my sleep was getting better. My partner mentioned that my mood seemed a bit better and I didn't even feel like arguing with him about it; perhaps he had a point.

Now that the market has closed for the winter, where am I going to get my greens for juicing? Trucked in from California? No way! Turns out there's a local farm that has a green house and delivers all winter. I still have to get things from Farm Boy and the Metro, but I did pick a fine time to start this juicing thing.

If you want to get inspired like I did, try watching Joe Cross' movie, and then Food Matters. Who knows what surprising things will happen to you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meditation Workshop Sunday #1

There's a meditation workshop starting this weekend. We will meet for three Sundays in a row, learning different styles of meditation and practising together. In between our meeting times, there will be opportunities to practice on your own, then come back together as a group and talk about your experiences.

I've taken longer meditation retreats and if you have the time, like 10 days in a row, I think you should do one! But in lieu of that, this little meditation sampler will give us different ways to start and a chance to regroup and adjust our practices.

Probably everybody has heard that there are many benefits to meditation. I like to say that I've never heard of anyone starting a meditation practice and things going bad. ("Oh she started meditating a few months back and it's all just been downhill from there…" said no one, ever.) Meditation practice tends to mark the beginning of something good happening. But how to start? What to do? Who else can help? Come and get some support from the small group starting this Sunday.

The course will be from 11-1 so if you're busy taking a yoga class or other things in the morning, you'll be able to join us for a couple of hours. We ran it at this time last year and it was really nice getting together to do some thing still and calming in the midst of all of the rush of the holidays coming up so quickly.

Please join us. This workshop is eligible for credits in the Makata Living Yoga Teacher Training Program.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Blast from the Past and Mentorship


One of the programs I lead with Kat Mills is a mentorship program for yoga teachers. This course could be part of a 500 YTT program or just by itself. We meet in a big group and have phone calls in between and also one of us will visit the teacher's yoga class and give support and feedback.

Today I'm going to visit one of my participants' classes. This isn't an ordinary class I'm going to observe, but it's the class that I used to lead for 10-11 years! Since deciding to stop teaching on Sundays for a variety of reasons, I haven't gone back to that class. I've missed it for sure. I can still feel it in my bones every Sunday morning.

So I'm excited and a bit nervous honestly to turn up in that class. I know a lot has changed already - the room it was held in changed, and the teacher changed obviously! I know a bit of what to expect but not all - which of course, is a good thing.

Somehow it feels like either coming full-circle, or maybe more like a spiral. I remember my mentor coming to observe my class a decade ago. That same class. Again, it was in a different room, but at the same studio, same time, and probably some of the same students.

On another note, even though I can feel that old yoga class in my system, I've gotten pretty used to not getting up and out the door by 8:30 in the morning on Sundays, so I notice a little resistance this cold, slushy morning to getting my butt in gear!

If you are a yoga teacher reading this and would like to participate in the Mentorship Program, get in touch. We meet one Tuesday afternoon a month from 2:30-4:30. Our next session is November 19 with Ian Fraser as our special guest. December's special guest is Catriona Leger, a director and theatre professor. Cost is $50 for non-registrants and $25 if you're registered in the Mentorship course. Again, for more info, just get in touch with me.

(Those pictures are from 2001 or 2002 in the Crystal Room at Rama Lotus, where the Sunday morning class used to be held.)

---- Update ----
Lesley did great. There were some regulars at the class and it felt like a bit of a reunion for me. I'll go back to the class - next time as a student!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Living Yoga - yogic principles in your real life

Tomorrow we begin another session of Living Yoga 1. In this course we look at the yogic principles found in the yamas and niyamas in the 8-fold path. They're found other places too, but the ones we'll be examining are the same ones that Patanjali refers to in the Yoga Sutras.

Since leading this workshop, I've attended some workshops on other topics, and I have to say, this is a good workshop. Not that the other ones weren't good, they just weren't as good as this one is going to be.

What I like about this course (and some of the others I lead at Makata Living Yoga School), is that it relates directly to the participants and their lives and offers us some insight into our own personal lives. Typically when people take a look at their lives, things get BETTER. It's often through unconscious habits and reactions that things get worse or we feel stuck. Shining the light on various aspects of our lives unglues us from patterns and allows us more freedom in how we want to behave - with other people and even with just ourselves.

On top of learning about ourselves, we get to learn about actual other people. Not people on TV or through their blogs or up on a stage, people IRL that we can talk to and share with and laugh with. That's special in this day and age.

So this is a good course. I recommend it highly. Starts Tuesday night near Carleton University. To register, just get in touch with me, your can look in the right hand side on this link for the PayPal button.

Living Yoga 1: Yogic Principles in Everyday Life
$240+ tax
Tuesday, November 5 - Tuesday, December 10
7 - 9 pm

This course is a module in the Makata Living Yoga Program. For more information go to www.makatayoga.com.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Training Yoga Teachers


One of the best things I get to do is help people go where they want to go. In the advanced courses I teach with Kat Mills, there's a Mentorship unit where we meet monthly to work on being yoga teachers in a group, as well as having phone calls one-on-one and even a visit to our students' real classes to give feedback and input in a live setting.

The first set of graduates has come through the course and are all just finishing. We didn't want it to end, so we're having it continue informally until Kat gets back from India, when we'll resume it formally.

In the meantime we have 3 classes set up - today it's David Robbins, an old student of mine from way back who's leading us in some digital marketing poses. Next month Ian Fraser returns to deal with advanced postures and how to get our students into them even if we can't do them ourselves. I say he returns because he already paid a visit during our regular curriculum. In December, Catriona Leger, a yoga practitioner and theatre director is coming to help yoga teachers unfold their stories using their bodies somehow. I'm taking that class, not teaching it so I'm not really sure what we're doing, but I think it's going to be great. Each of those workshops is $50 for the 2 hours or $25 if you're enrolled in our Mentorship course.

I'm expecting that today's workshop with David will inspire me to pick up my blog again and continue to share my stories. I've gone rather quiet on the outside, but I'm really here and have lots more to share.

Monday, August 26, 2013

No More Sunday Classes

Something happened yesterday that culminated in clarity and a call to action, finally, about my Sunday class.

When I started teaching on Sundays, over a decade ago, I figured it was temporary. I was newly a single mom with a young child and I needed the work, but also, I figured I'd set up house in the future with a new partner and we'd need the weekends together. So I'd just teach that class "for now." For now turned into months and years and that class grew and became an anchor for me, and for others, who would become the regulars.

So my life went on and people and situations in my life came and went, but I always had my Sunday class to come home to. And for a long time, it was Tuesday night, Friday evening and Sunday mornings. Those classes held me in place. In a good way. But they were always meant to be temporary as I knew life would want me to go away for the weekends sometimes, and not stay out so late to teach in general.

Finally, it happened! I've been with a man for a few years whose schedule is firmly in place and the time he has off is over the weekends. That's it. So if we want to go overnight or stay out late or visit people, it's going to happen on the weekend. Having Sunday morning right in the middle of it has been mildly inconvenient, but mostly for me. There's been no complaining or pressure from him to change my schedule.

With more yoga centres opening up and more classes around Ottawa, yoga classes aren't as full as they once were, which means they don't pay as well as they had in the past, if you're talking about a place that pays teachers per student, which describes many places. So looking at how much my entire weekend is worth to me means doing some math, like will I give up a whole weekend for $80? $60? Would I do it for $30?

When it's not about money, it doesn't matter. And it hasn't been about money for the whole decade I've led those classes. But that does factor in to the overall time budget and it's just something to consider.

Ultimately the decision to stop the class came from a past promise I made to myself, which I mentioned above. When the time came that someone wanted to spend that time with me in more important ways, I would make that time available. When I didn't need to do it for money, which I don't need to anymore because business outside of the drop-in class is great, I would let that class go.

Being a yoga teacher often means having an unusual lifestyle - unpredictable income flows, schedule fluctuations, split-shifts, working evenings and weekends - many of the hallmarks of being self-employed. When I make a vision for what I want my life to look like, I see having weekends free like the other people around me. I see being at home in the evenings for my daughter, who needs me home more now at that time than she did when she was five.

So when I teach weekends in the future, because I'm still a yoga teacher and still will need to work around other people's schedules to provide services, it won't be indefinitely. It will be for specific periods, not months turning into years, over and over again.

The timing of the decision means I've already led my last Sunday class. The next Sunday will be in September and that's the beginning of a new class schedule. My replacement was swiftly found yesterday and I'll support her in taking over that class. So no big good-byes or announcements, just a new teacher will take over. I think it's better this way. It would have been a pretty uncomfortable and emotional class if I'd known I was leading that class for the last time.

Of course, if time goes by and I miss teaching that drop-in class too much, I will pick it up again somehow, someway. But for now, I believe this is a cause for a celebration. Goal achieved!

In the meantime, if you want to take classes with me, you need to sign up! Next thing coming up starts in September for 6 evenings until the beginning of October. Using yogic principles in your daily life. Check it out at www.makatayoga.com.

If you really want a yoga class, I happily do regular private and corporate classes during the day, so get in touch with me directly to arrange classes like that. I drive out to all of my clients these days!






Monday, July 22, 2013

They Grow Up So Fast

I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter, someone told me "they grow up so fast." I'm sure many people told me that along the way but I do remember one time when it just stood out and I took it in.

I know they grow up fast. I know I can stay present so it doesn't feel like it's going by so fast. And then sometimes - bam - it feels like it's happening so fast.

At first it was the little things - when she liked to eat - then that would change. Or what she liked to wear. What her favourite colour was. Just when I thought I had it down, it would change. Just as I got used to her being little, she grew. As soon as I got used to her knowing this much, she showed me she was aware of so much more.

I knew she was getting on a plane today - I bought her the ticket for heaven's sake - but I didn't realize that I wasn't ready for her to go away for two weeks. I know it's not a long time. I know I'll see her down at Omega in two weeks. But knowing that didn't take away the surprise pang of missing I felt when she got in her dad's car this morning to go to the airport.

She even said, "Mom, do you want to come to the airport?" and I said no. I'd already made up my mind I wasn't going this morning. I have other things to do. And I do. But that sweet surprise feeling of "Wait! Don't go! You're my daughter and I'll miss you for two weeks," just sort of jumped out of nowhere.

I know this is a preview of her leaving many, many times in the future. There will be so many goodbyes and hellos I expect. This one just caught me off guard. I love her so much and I love being her mom. What a great relationship that is. I guess sometimes I take it for granted because it's always just there - the fighting and hugging and challenging and joking - and this morning I have a little taste of that being not there. Loving a teenager - it's an awesome challenge and I love it! Sniff!

(Update: she's cleared Customs and I have permission to use this picture from last week.)
(Update #2: she wanted to read the post and the picture below is of the text she sent me. Sniff!)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hoarding Workshop - Now that's Some Real "Living Yoga"

So this is maybe a longer story than just a blogpost but here's where I'm at. I'm in the middle of an 8-week "De-Cluttering Workshop" as the "guest" of someone who has identified themselves as someone who perhaps lives in what some people might call a "hoarded environment."

(My boyfriend is a hoarder. Or has been, up until recently.)


Okay, I have to fill you in a bit more so here goes. When I met Steve two and a half years ago we connected instantly and can remember the moment we first saw each other. We spent lots of time together and he started coming over to my place and hanging out. My sister said what's his place like and I said I didn't know I hadn't ever been inside and she threw out the phrase that hadn't even crossed my mind, "maybe he's a hoarder."

"Hey Steve, I was talking to my sister and she said maybe the reason I haven't ever been over to your place is because your a hoarder, ha ha ha." Silence. And to this day he recalls how he knew me well enough by then to know that a deal breaker would be lying, so he said something like, "yea, well, that's maybe one way to describe it, she has a point, heh, heh."

So we broke up. And obviously things happened to bring us closer together and there's more to the story...

Without going into the gory details, we have had a great relationship but how we did it was we had most of our relationship at my house and he kept his place mainly to himself until he was ready to do something about it.


That time came two months ago. Steve gave notice to his landlord and said he wanted to move out at the end of May. The pressure was on. I asked him if he was sure, could he do this, did he need to rent some space because he could see those things he'd been saving were not going to have room at my little place.

We had already established that it was probably better for our relationship for me to not be the one to help him sort through his stuff. Over the past couple of years when I went over there it was not good. Recently, he had an amazing friend help him do the daunting task of actually going through the stuff a bit at a time over eight weeks and making progress rather than tossing everything out, which we learned would be dangerous. I found I could be supportive from home and not have to go in and get upset by the space, because it was upsetting to me almost every time I went over.

In the meantime, I saw an ad for a Hoarding Support Group in the paper. I let Elaine Birchall know that Steve had already given notice so we were maybe a bit further along but she said it would still be helpful and we signed up. The Hoarding Support Group consists of a dozen or so people who have identified themselves as having a clutter problem and if they have someone who can be of help to them, those people are there too, for no extra charge.

We started a month ago and every week I want to jump up and down and say "do you guys know you're doing yoga?!?" To take a look at our lives and to take steps to create alignment that will allow the flow of energy and bring people into our space - there's yoga there. Taking a look at our objects and our attachment to them - that's yoga. Seeing how the false sense of comfort we get from our belongings that will deteriorate over time is holding us back in living our lives fully - that's yoga!

Sometimes I meet people who ask me if my boyfriend does yoga. He doesn't do yoga postures so much, but is he a yogi? Has he walked the path of looking at his life and bringing himself into greater alignment? Absolutely.

May 31st has come and gone and Steve's place is empty. Value Village has loads more things to sell and there's a lovely apartment for rent along the canal in Ottawa. A quiet miracle has happened to a special man in my life and I'm thrilled for him and inspired by the massive change that has come about through his transformation (he read Anthony De Mello's The Way to Love daily throughout all of this).

I love it when people take a look at their lives and see what's there. Every time, something good comes from it. I've never seen people take a look at their lives and have bad things happen from it. So whether it's Landmark Education workshops or Makata Living Yoga programs or Hoarding Support groups, I find yoga in wonderful, messy, human places and it lifts me up, inspiring me to keep looking at my life and shed light on the dusty, dark places in my own world.

(The images are from a sheet Elaine passed around at one of our last workshop sessions. It was used to rate your spaces. She has lots of tools!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Practising Non-Attachment as a Parent

I remember learning about attachment before I became a parent. I didn't quite get it. I was young. I thought Buddha maybe just had a bad attitude and if he could shift his perspective, he'd see that suffering really was optional. Oh dear.

Then I became a mother. Now I know what attachment is. And let me tell you, not all attachment is bad. In fact, I used to say that if I wasn't attached to my daughter, I'm not sure how I would have kept taking care of her. So it serves a purpose...

So there I was, a practising non-attacher, having a kid, wanting her to be great, but not because I was forcing or pushing her, but because she was just turning out that way, through you know, her nature.

While she was little, we enrolled her in Suzuki violin. One of our yoga students was a Suzuki teacher and it made a lot of sense. I figured I'd be fighting, I mean interacting, with my daughter about something like dance or gymnastics classes, so it might as well be playing the violin. At least parents are involved and there's good communication and it's a pretty wholesome activity.

So my daughter was a "musician." She had an instrument and we had a purpose. We invested in lessons and music camp and pretty note drop earrings. We sat through hours of lessons and many more hours of practising at home in addition to arguing about practising and getting ready to go and spending time in traffic getting to, violin lessons. We did this for years.

I didn't realize how attached I'd become to being a parent of a little musician until one day she stopped playing. "What do you mean you're not going to play the violin anymore? We've spent thousands of dollars on this activity. What will you do instead? Don't you know that kids who are in the orchestra don't wind up in trouble at school?"

I kept the paraphernalia in a drawer and on shelves. The music books. Music stand. Extra shoulder and chin rests. Resin. Little things. And sort of let go of my attachment to my daughter being a musician. She dabbled in the bass and that was cool but she didn't really get back into it. Oh well. She used to be a musician. Now she just sits on the couch and plays on the computer. Oh well. She was probably too structured in the past. Oh well.

Years pass. She picks up modelling. The fashion kind. That freaked me out and I watched my attachment to her not being a model show up. "Just let it go. Pay for the photos. It's an activity. It's good she's doing something. Her hair looks really nice now and her make up sure is pretty. Allow her to be herself..."

Then I get the strangest text out of the blue last month. "Should I start doing violin again" was what it said. "Ok" was the reply and "it'll give me something to do after school." Wow. I contacted her most recent old teacher (not my yoga student) who said he had room and after a bumpy start, we're back at it. Saw her old teacher for the first time in years and it was like no time had passed. She even picked up sort of where she'd left off. His handwriting was still in the books and he could see where she'd ended a few years ago. This time it's so different though. She practises with her own initiation. She suggests it and asks me to be there but if I'm not, she still plays. Her sound is great and it's really nice to hear live music in the house again.

It's not finished but I'm just enjoying the bobbing of the waves. Up and down. Life. Parenting. It's wonderful.

Friday, April 26, 2013

ABC Guided Meditation

The other day while I was getting close to the end of a class, one of my regular students said, "hey Jamine, why don't you lie down and I'll lead you through the relaxation?" I told him this was his time and no, but he was serious so I got down on his mat and he sat on mine.

"This is the ABC meditation and it's what I do for myself sometimes. I go through the alphabet and think of something for each word.

"Close your eyes, let your body be comfortable." Then he slowly and quietly continued:

A. Aspiration. Think of what you want to be, who you're becoming.
B. Beauty. Think of the beauty all around you.
C. Calm. Be calm in this moment.
D. Devotion. Be devoted to your practice of yoga.
E. Equanimity. Be equinamous to whatever comes up.
F. Fulfilled. Allow your yoga practice to fulfill you.
G. Grateful. Think of all that you're grateful for.

And then he stopped and said, "That's it! Come back next week for the rest of the alphabet!" and we all cracked up.

I'm still learning from that moment a few days ago. I told them I feel I really got more than I gave in that class. What a wonderful treat. I'll report back with the rest of the alphabet as it unfolds...

On another note, this is the top I found to wear to the event that I wrote about last time. I like it!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stressing out about Stress Reduction

It's amazing how stressful it can be to discuss stress reduction! Context is important here - talking to a hundred people I don't know - who are coming to a talk I'm giving for a Women's Leadership Development Series this Friday. I'm not so worried about the content - I've delivered it lots of times before - but usually to smaller groups and in a more comfortable setting.

What's killing me in the preparation is what to wear. I'm serious. I'm a yoga teacher! I used to manage a lululemon store so I've got tons of yoga pants and I'm really used to walking around in bare feet. As shoes, I have Blundstone boots. If I'm not wearing yoga pants, I have jeans or pyjamas on.

Here's my chance to get dressed up a bit and I'm freaking out! My life is built on being casual. I don't dye my hair, I have no callouses on my feet from uncomfortable shoes, and I'm not even sure if my iron works if I can actually find it. So I've been out shopping. I've gone everywhere from an outlet mall while I was in the States a couple of weeks ago to high end stores on Richmond Road to local malls and even Value Village. And I'm still not comfortable.

I've left my "styling" for so long that I really have no idea how I want to come across. I can get away with being a crazy yoga teacher with my pants rolled up and my ankle boots showing because I get into class and take that stuff off and make it work. But putting on a jacket? A suit? Polyester pants? This thing is happening on a Friday and that's casual day, isn't it? But I'm the presenter. Probably should be dressed up a bit.

I've been a self-employed yoga teacher for so long that any old "business casual" stuff is either way out of date, but less workable at the moment, is that stuff no longer fits. I've been in a happy relationship for a few years now and I'm bigger! My pants are usually super-stretchy so they've lasted the test of time, not so with my old business suits.

So what to wear... I've received good advice and I'm taking it. The latest thing someone said was Big Earrings. I barely wear jewelry anymore so I'll have to dig around to find something. I'm not going out and buying a suit I'll wear for one day. Plus it would need tailoring and it's getting too late for that.

As a mom I've spent so much money on getting my daughter new clothes that I've put my own clothes-buying on hold. It's no long an excuse but for years I spent time getting her new things and not for me. It hasn't mattered! But as a result, I'm not even sure where I'd shop if I were into it and had the cash. I'm not even sure what I'd like to look like or what sort of style I'd even have if I wasn't just doing what had to be done. I am not fully self-expressed when it comes to clothes at the moment and I can't even remember a time when I was!

New page! I call turning a new page! I will look into finding a look!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Meditation and Brain Waves

It's not news that one of the reasons meditation feels so good is because we're changing the brainwave patterns from excess beta to moderate alpha and slower. I've even gone out and purchased a gadget that measures these things, but to my disappointment, the technology hasn't been that accurate or user-friendly on my computer as of yet.

I find it encouraging to read that more studies are being done on what's happening when we meditate so we can demystify the process, get it out of religions, where it seems to hover, and into a personal living room setting. Maybe even into a group yoga studio setting. It might even have a place on a massage table or other treatment room.

By being able to control where the mind is at, which frequencies it's resonating at, we will be able to increase the benefits of meditation - things like deeper relaxation, faster healing, less over-all symptoms of stress - and take out the spiritual blockages to meditation. Meditation can remain an integral part of Christian and Buddhist practices, but for people who want to relax without the accoutrements that come with having meditation in a spiritual setting, they'll have the feedback to see what their brains are up to, without needing a monk or yoga teacher to get them to believe it's good for them.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/02/14/controlling-brain-waves-may-be-key-to-meditations-benefits/51591.html

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chinese New Year


Yesterday was the last day of Chinese New Year and I know this because my next door neighbour told me last night. Being a yoga teacher who teaches on Sunday mornings, I don't go out much on Saturday nights and it's quite normal for me to be at home in the evenings. What I'm about to tell you is also not that unusual as I've lived here for almost 10 years and so have my neighbours, but last night was different.

I'm sitting on the couch watching 30 Rock reruns when there's a knock at the door around 8:30. I have a doorbell, so when someone knocks, I know it's a different thing. I go to the door and it's my next door neighbour with a big bowl of what looks like matzo ball soup. Li asks me if I've already eaten and here's some dessert. Li's given me food before but never dessert!

Not only had I already eaten, but I'd decided to make some chocolate cookies, and because I'd followed the recipe, I had made almost 48 of them. After eating half a dozen or so already, I was noticing my mistake and making a plan to freeze the rest of them, after I finished baking them all of course. So when Li was at the door I asked her to wait - I had something for her and I piled on almost a dozen hot cookies onto a plate and sent her back to her place.

I tucked into these hot sesame balls even though I was full because I figured I can't ignore the food that had just come as a gift after all. Fun taste! It was like taking a trip to an unfamiliar place.

A few minutes later there's another knock at the door. She's returning my plate but it's loaded with Chinese New Years candies on it. For heaven's sake. Relieved, I give her another plate of cookies - an excuse to get these things out of my house. She doesn't want to take the plate so she takes them in handfuls. She tells me her kids loved them, in fact James had eaten 5 of them (good boy). He daughter wants the recipe. I tell her the recipe is on the bag of chocolate chips. Even though she's been in Canada a long time, Li still asks, what's that? I show her the bag and I tell her I'll show Nikki how to make them after school one day.

So I'm feeling a bit fat this morning but it's good. The multi-plate dessert exchange was a night to remember and I was happy to have been home to be the recipient of the Chinese New Year goodwill.

Warm sesame ball dessertYou can't tell by looking but these have sweet sesame filling and are warm!

Thankfully, this is the only remaining cookie in my house. It was warm last night.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Dad's Stuff



My dad died quite in the middle of doing things. He was not planning on going.

I've realized that it's in death that we drop our masks. What we've been hiding remains, unless we've been cleaning up all along. When we match our inner worlds with our outer worlds, there won't be so many messes when we're gone. My dad was a great guy but he kept things that didn't need keeping.

This past weekend in the Yoga Teacher Training I was teaching a bit about Saucha, or purity, and I was reminded of an event that had happened exactly a year ago...

We had heard that things had turned in my dad's health - he had cancer - and we should come right away. I spoke to him and told him I was on the way. I'd be there in two days. My father died while my sister and I were en route to visit him. So we got to Texas and our trip was different than we had been planning. Instead of a visit with him we were left with his stuff and dealing with what you have to deal with when someone close to you dies.

One of the days while we were down there was a holiday, so most things were closed and we didn't really have much to do so we thought we'd go open his storage locker we were told he had. My dad used to wear a fanny-pack and his keys were all attached to that. All of his keys. His friend told us he knew were the storage locker was and could take us there.

We drove out to the edge of town where he thought the storage place was, and sure enough, there was the slightly hidden driveway. When we got to the entrance, our father's friend left us. He only knew which place the storage locker was at because he drove my dad there every once in a while to drop off his checks to pay for it. He had no idea which locker it was. "Which way did he walk when he went to the locker?" we asked him. He didn't go to the locker - he just went to the office and dropped off the check.

We called the number on the closed office door to see if someone could let us know which locker of the hundreds on the site were our father's. They couldn't help us for one thing because they don't give out that kind of information to just anyone and second thing, the computer was in the office, not where we were calling.



We didn't have much else to do and it was just my sister and me with our little rental car and a whack of keys so we decided we'd hunt for it. "Do you think he'd have a big one or a little one?" "Which kind of lock do you think he used?" No clue. So we proceeded to go to each locker and try each key. Maybe this wasn't even the right place. Maybe he didn't have a locker or it was inside. Who knows.

As we went up and down the gravel roads of lockers trying each rusty lock a few times with different keys we started to imagine what could be so important that he'd have a locker even though he had a home with plenty of space. Maybe this would be our inheritance. Maybe he's got something really interesting to leave us. Maybe he'd been secretly stashing collections that would have value. Maybe it's full of good things we can sell or use.



Finally, at practically the last locker, at the last corner we turned, my sister yelled out that she'd found it. This is the one. We took a big breath. This was it. My dad's treasures. His secrets for us.

So you can already imagine or scroll down and see the pictures of what we found. A big bag of nothing. Old computer parts. Old ones. Dusty photo albums that were damaged from water and rodent excrement. A bar stool. Broken fishing rods that hadn't been used in years. That was my dad. It couldn't have been any other way, of course. It had to be that way. That's just how we was and we loved him.

But really? Come on, Dad. You spent money you didn't have every month to keep this pile you couldn't confront and sort through. Maybe if we had visited Texas a year earlier we could have helped clean it out when he could tell us what was special about each thing. But we didn't do that.

So I came home to my mom and family here saying please clean out your stuff now - tell us what's important so we can know why you kept what you did. Where are the keys to the motorcycle and the house and where is the important stuff? Do you have insurance? Where are the papers we need? I want to make sure I leave a trail so my loved ones can know what I meant and was up to.

In the end of course it doesn't matter. Clean up or don't. But if you clean up while you can, you may get to experience the satisfaction that comes when you align yourself, the energy that's freed up when you know where things go. When you know what you have and you don't keep more than you can handle.

After the trip out to Texas to attend my father's funeral and handle some of his affairs, I came home with a strong message for everyone in my family - Please Clean Up Your Stuff So We Don't Have To Do It When You're Dead. It's a drag.

It's been a year exactly since we were down there saying goodbye to my dad. Since that time I notice him all over the place. In the newspaper Sudoko puzzles, in the spider plant like he used to keep in all his houses, in my memories of crazy experiences like the ones I just shared here. He's not gone, he's been converted, but shit, it would have been nice not to have had to clean up his big mess.




Monday, January 14, 2013

Living Yoga Starts Tomorrow Night

One of the best parts of teaching yoga is the stuff that's not what we think of normally as "yoga." When we talk about "yoga" around here, we usually mean doing stretching with our bodies. What's really cool though, is looking at other areas of our lives where we can stretch as well. Stretching into our habits and unconscious behaviours, lifting up old carpets and taking a peek at what's been hiding under there, making room for new energy in our lives turns out to be a lot of fun and seems to bring about good, smooth changes in our lives.

In this course, we look directly at the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of yoga, which many people have never even heard of, let alone practised. When we start to get into them though, they become very familiar and we notice things that have always been present in people as long as there have been people. These ancient teachings are very applicable in our modern lives. It's as though these ancient teachings are totally new and modern, providing people in today's busy world with guidelines and helpful hints about how to live a fun, energetic, fruitful life.

If you have time and want to join us, we still have space in the course beginning tomorrow night for six Tuesday nights. Even if you can't come in person, let me know - we will be recording this course and could offer it online if you were interested. Everyone is welcome - especially people who think they "can't do yoga." We don't even roll out yoga mats in this one. Bring a journal and a pen if you like and everything else is provided.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stress and the Holidays

It seems like this time of year when the days are so short and it's really cold (at least up here in Ottawa) is already pretty stressful and then we add the biggest holiday that our culture celebrates together - it pushes a lot of people to their edge. Full disclosure: me, too.

I think it's great to plop a big distraction right as the longest night happens. By the time the holidays are over, we're safely on the other side, where the days are already getting longer, even though we have to deal with the fact that winter is just getting started.

These are really just conditions though and yoga teaches us that it's not the external conditions that really make a difference - it's how we deal with it. I do think that this time of year offers us a bigger load to deal with though!

Yoga practice throughout the year, and I'm not just talking about the physical postures here, will help us balance when year end comes. In a way, this time of year offers us opportunities to evaluate how we're doing. We get to look at so many areas of our life at one time: we are more aware of our bodies and what we're eating as the opportunities to indulge are likely greater; we can be more aware of our finances as multiple and/or major purchases are timed here; we get to look at our relationships as invitations and opportunities to spend time with family pop up; we get to review our overall happiness as the cultural pressure to make New Year's resolutions rolls out; spiritually, hmm, what are we offered here? Unless you're plugged in to a community that honours this aspect you may find this time a bit hollow and it's here where I see people scratching their heads and wondering what this is all about. This holiday time, this season, this life...

The idea of healthy yoga practice is to have ourselves in balance. That would include all of the areas of our life, not just our stretchy bodies. Yoga - and I don't mean coming to a class and sitting on a mat, but really looking at our lives, which may include that - helps us digest our lives. When we look at what's there, it helps us to deal with what we've got going on and even process some of it. Without action, a lot of stuff won't get processed - like clearing up clutter in our lives - but sometimes all of the action that's required is to acknowledge what's going on.

So when the bulls-eye of Christmastime gets closer in our sights, we have a lot of choices. We can close our eyes and wait for it to be over or we can pay attention and adjust our course so that we go through what's there and reap the benefits that come with addressing ourselves and our lives. There are also many other ways to play at holiday time!

This may all occur as stress and the suggestion I'm making is to welcome it and see it as an opportunity. Let the external circumstances mirror some inner areas so we can see more clearly. And continue to breathe through it. Deep breathing, time with eyes closed in meditation, time serving our families and others in need, time being in our bodies doing something good for it like exercise, time counting our blessings and being grateful will all help us hit the mark and digest what's there to be digested, and hopefully enjoy the crisp, clear, star-filled nights, finding peace in our own lives.


(By the way, that's KC, the source of the white hair on my black pants.)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brahmacharya and Food (and Holidays)

I recently completed a Vegan Baking Class here in Ottawa - just in time to make goodies for Christmas! Here's the good news - I ate lots of baked goods and I am still wearing the same clothes. But it required awareness more than ever because I was around so much good stuff more than I usually was - it made me pay closer attention to what I was putting into my body.

The other good news is that my baking class coincided with a deal at a gym nearby and I've been really good about being more active this past month as well - so that worked out.

But Christmas hasn't even happened yet! There are still a few parties to go and at my age, without being aware of what I'm doing, will end up with added body mass, which is totally fine, it's just that for me I can't afford new clothes at this time of year, and really it would be unwanted.

This is a great time of year to practise brahmacharya, moderation in this case, one of the yogic yamas, or restraints. Moderation doesn't mean abstinence. Moderation means be aware. Have a bit, but not too much. Enjoy but don't over-indulge. When we over-indulge we are left with a hangover or more than our bodies can process at one time, so we save it all for later and stay "toxic" until we can properly digest whatever we've taken in. That can be food, alcohol, violent movies, or anything that leaves a residue.

It's at this time of year that it is helpful to remember the Sattva guna, or the light, healthy, pure power in the universe. It's moderated with Rajas and Tamas, firey, heavy elements that keep us grounded and on the Earth. But adding some sattvic activities like writing Christmas cards and appreciating our families, or simply meditating; adding sattvic foods like fresh vegetables and clean water; sattvic sounds like undisturbing music (maybe not the same Christmas carols played over and over); will all help to balance out the overload that can happen at this time of year.

Here's some pictures from my baking class. I had so much fun and was grateful I had people in my life to share it all with.











Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How We Think

How we think, what we're thinking about, and how all of that makes us feel, is so important to our quality of life. People who go through the same experience but think about it differently show us that what impacts one person doesn't necessarily impact another person the same way. It really all depends.

This video by Dr. Mike Evans is all about yoga. He mentions yoga and meditation later on in the 11-minute video, but if you listen carefully, you'll hear that he's talking about yoga the whole time.

While maintaining a certain level of physical health can be a contributing factor to one's overall well-being, how we're thinking all the while will have a much bigger impact.

Patanjali's yoga sutras are all about calming the mind; letting go of disturbances and focusing the mind. Using meditation to become more aware and to be able to move about more freely in our lives. That's yoga.

I played this video for the Police Administrators in the Mind/Body/Wellness component I lead on stress reduction during their leadership training course this week. As I'm playing it, I'm thinking how it's all yoga and how that's really cool that they're getting what I would call more of the "real yoga" rather than just the stretching bits, (which they also get). 

One quote in the video from Abraham Lincoln is "When I do bad, I feel bad. When I do good, I feel good. That is my religion." I love that! I hear yamas and niyamas all over that! I hear Karma Yoga.

If you have 11 minutes to spend hearing a modern presentation on the ancient art of Living Yoga, watch this video and see how many yoga references you can spot.