Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That Was Fun

I just had a good time sitting in front of the Mac doing a little video about alternate nostril breathing and another one for kapalabhati that will be up later. I've had the Mac for maybe six months now and hardly ever use it because it's mainly for John's projects. I didn't even know it could do video really until Sunday when Rob said it could.

I had a bit of time as I do on Tuesdays before I teach, so I was able to fool around a bit. It was funny to me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Yoga Class Music

I come from a tradition that uses background music in yoga classes. We didn't always have music, but most of the time we did. Some classes never have music (like Bikram) and some do at the beginning and the end but not during certain parts. Some students love the music with words, even if they can't understand the words, whereas others find music with words playing during a class distracting and prefer instrumental music. Depending on the space I'm teaching in and the number of students in the class, I find music can help create some privacy, it can encourage relaxation at the end of class depending on what's being played.

I used to bring CDs to class but they got scratched and I'd make new ones and the odd mixed CD but the machines I was playing them on became increasingly unreliable. I decided that I'd update my music player and I looked around at different options.

A couple of years ago I bought an mp3 player (it's not bad and even has a microphone and an fm radio built in) to use during class but it had limited battery life and I didn't like changing batteries mid-class. I was looking around considering the ipod option, but after having the battery thing happen I was a bit leery about having an appliance that couldn't be plugged in to a/c if I needed to on the spot. At the time ipods were around $300 so I thought if I was going to spend the money on that, I might as well get a new laptop computer and then I could be portable and burn my yoga DVDs on it and everything.

I got my new computer (I'm even typing on it now) and purposely got one that was smaller than the average so I could carry it with me everywhere. And I did. And if you've been to my classes, you know I bring it to class and use it to play music.

Then the battery died. Something happened to my power cord and it fried my battery. So I've been bringing the computer around still, but it's limping. I have to boot it up and power it off each time, not such a big deal, however, if I bump it and the cord loosens, it just shuts off. Then I have to reboot to get the music back up. And it just isn't that convenient.

So I looked into replacing the battery for the computer. Well, it's going to cost about $200 for a new battery. Hmm. That's about how much an ipod Nano is. Maybe rather than fixing the computer, which I don't need as much anymore because I get my email on my Blackberry, I should just get an ipod, join the club, participate in my culture. Now I have a black 8 gig ipod Nano thanks to Costco.

I'm still figuring it out. And yesterday, I brought the ipod to my Sunday morning class at Rama Lotus in my purse, not bringing my whole portable office with me any longer, and wouldn't you know it, the battery was dead and I couldn't plug it into anything seeing as how I had come to class without the backpack. So I had to find a CD to play.

Go figure.

I guess I'll have to look at what batteries represent in my life and see what's up with that! Maybe it's time to recharge my own batteries (and I'm still doing my cleansing diet so that ought to help).

The good news is, I really love my gadgets. I love technology and the shininess and portability and the creativity that went into inventing these things and designing them and just the fun that has been had in the process. I know it doesn't make a difference in my classes. I just enjoy these things.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Whever You Go, There You Are

On Wednesday night at the Introduction to the Landmark Forum, during the exercise of looking at an area we're trying to change or resisting, the area I picked was my office. If you know me, you know I've struggled with my office space for years. I purge, it comes back. I rearrange and I still pile things up. I spend a lot of time in this space and what it means is that I have to shut down to a lot of things in order to get in here. I "walk over" (not literally, it's not THAT bad, okay sometimes it is) a lot of stuff so that I can function in my space. I shut down to the "issues" that are surrounding me.

And of course, if it's present in that part of my life, there's a very good chance that it's present in other areas of my life too, because as the title of the post says, wherever you go, there you are. (That's really the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn's book.)

Hmm, where else are things out of control and I don't like/approve of what I'm doing but I do it anyways and don't listen to the voice inside saying "don't do it!"? I wonder where else? Maybe that theory is wrong and it truly is only my office... (Buzzer sound) Wrong.

It's all over! It's everywhere! And the place that it hit me today loud and clear was around food. I am out of integrity with my eating. I don't plan, I eat poorly, I've gained weight, and it's not that I'm doing it "wrong." It's that I've really gone "unconscious" because I don't want to do what I know I should be doing. And there are consequences. I'm going to have to buy new clothes for one thing. (I didn't write down the story of the back of my pants having a huge rip in them as John pointed out as we were walking up the stairs out of the Giant Tiger a few weeks ago.)

Anyways, I could go on and on. And I'm not making myself wrong for what I've been doing (about the office, and food, and parenting, and money, and work) but I can definitely admit I have been ignoring (trying to) a voice inside that has been calling for more from myself. Not perfection, it's not a like a nit-picky voice. It's like my Self calling me back to a place where I have more energy and the channels are open and like that. Being "conscious" about things means getting to notice the things we like as well as the things we don't like. I have just wanted to listen to and act on the things I like and have the things I don't like diminish or go away all together. But wherever I go, there I am, (which is good news).

I clicked on a story that Oprah has gone vegan for 21 days and it actually inspired me. I want to do a cleanse like that. No caffeine, alcohol, animal products and I think this one includes no sugar. Anyways, here's what she's doing. I'm going to watch and maybe play along. (But I just bought a new pound of beans this morning!)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Training an Elephant

At the Introduction to the Landmark Forum last night, Ravi told the one about how you train an elephant. It goes something like this. "Have you ever been to a circus? Have you seen big elephants tied up with little ropes around their necks? Do you know how they train that elephant? They get it when it's young and tie it with a rope and stake it to the ground. The elephant isn't strong enough to break the rope but tries and tries and can't get free. So the elephant gives up and believes that it isn't strong enough to break the rope. By the time the elephant is actually strong enough to break that little rope, it believes that it can't and doesn't even try."

When we're kids, we learn about where we're limited and tied down and we struggle and in some areas we give up, get resigned, and learn our place.

It did make me wonder about where I'm being limited and where I'd like to "break through." It's time to check the ropes and give another tug.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yoga at the Kitchen Counter

I led a great class the other day at someone's house who's working on flexibility. We needed to come up with some stretches that could be done anywhere, without being in yoga clothes or on a mat or anything special like that. It was my kind of class! I love doing stretches with whatever's around. I'm happy in a regular class too, don't get me wrong. But doing yoga anywhere, wearing anything, using any props, steps, walls, counters, works for me!

So if you think you can't get a stretch in because you don't have time to go to a yoga studio, think again! I'll come with some pictures of a little routine you could do in the kitchen and get back to you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going to Sleep

One of the best techniques I know of for going to sleep is using the corpse pose (savasana) along with the three-part breath and ujjayi sound. I forget how great it is because I don't have trouble falling asleep anymore and if I wake up in the middle of the night I don't lay awake for long enough to need a technique to help me go back to sleep. (Although sometimes I listen to a few minutes of CBC Overnight or a couple of minutes of Seinfeld on DVD. But that didn't always used to be enough.)

I work with different groups of people and I am reminded once in a while that especially when things are tough or we're in a new setting, we may have some difficulty going to sleep.

So try lying on your back, relaxing your jaw by taking the tongue away from the roof of your mouth. Let your body be still and comfortable. Then slowly inhale and exhale so you can hear your breath in your throat. If you need more instructions try going to my website and there's a recording there.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make the Chair your Friend

Chairs really take a beating these days. They're the source of a lot of our physical misery. We spend too long in chairs. We stay in chairs and don't get out of them and then we rot and our bodies go into spasm and illness sets in and it's all bad.

I even read an article recently in the wonderful publication, Nutrition Action, which described a doctor who has gotten rid of all chairs in his office and replaced them with treadmills and Stairmasters. He recommends to his clients that when the phone rings they stand up, creating a habit of moving around during the day. I think all of that makes a lot of sense.

I also don't see us replacing the chair with anything in the future. Our butts are in chairs. We can use the chairs we're in to help us stretch and be more comfortable so we can spend even longer in those chairs. Some people may even call it "chair yoga."

I've led a set of exercises to "lunch and learn" office groups. I've shown small classes some of these moves. You, too, can use a chair to do you some good!

Here's some of what you can do using a chair.

Seated Six Movements of the Spine

First 2 movements: Sit up and lean back, then exhale forwards so your back rounds down and your head goes towards the floor. Do that a few times.
Next 2 movements: Lean into the arm of one side and stretch your other arm up over head so the spine is being stretch laterally (sideways). Do it with breath, inhaling to centre, exhaling to the other side or hold it over on one side for a few breaths and then switch sides.
Last 2 movements: Place your feet firmly on the floor, sit up straight and then grab hold of the side of the chair and twist to one side. Keep lengthening the spine as you inhale and twist a little more to the side as you exhale. Do this for 3-6 breaths on one side and switch to the other side.

Hip Stretch

Cross one leg over the other so the ankle is resting on the thigh, knee off to the side. Reach down with your hands to try and touch the foot on the floor. Hang out there for a couple of breaths and go over to the other side.

One More

This one is actually a standing pose, just using the chair as a prop. If your chair is on wheels make sure you steady it against something before doing this. Stand up behind your chair and begin to walk away from it, holding on to the top of the chair. Your bum will be sticking out behind you and you're taking your torso towards horizontal. It's a leg and back stretch. Once you've got a good spot, stick one hip out just a wee bit so you can feel a long stretch down one side of your body. Hold it for 3-6 breaths and then stick your hip out to the other side.

Those are just a couple of ways to be friendly with your chair :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Impaired Vision

I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but it's been awhile and the story came up again, so I thought I'd restate it. Basically, we see what we believe until otherwise. This falls into the realm of "what you don't know you don't know" or swadhyaya, self study. It's relevant today because I'm at CHEO at the eating disorders program and one of the things that happens for these guys is that what they see with their eyes isn't what other people see. Some people with disordered eating see themselves as overweight when others don't see that. In fact, there's an ad running in the newspaper that tries to demonstrate that phenomenon by showing a larger girl in the reflection of the mirror of a smaller girl.

Anyways, a long time ago I bought my first car. It was a Honda CR-X and I loved my car. I saw it for sale in a parking lot in Kingston, New York, and I knew it was my car. It was already a few years old when I bought it. It turns out it was my neighbours selling the car, so I felt confident it was a great car because I knew them and I thought they'd be telling the truth about the car even though they weren't the original owners and I just had a good feeling about it. There was only one thing I wished were different about that car and that was I wished it had a sunroof. The people who owned it before told me the sunroof was never installed. It had a cut out place for the sunroof in between the 2 seats. It was a 2-seater car. I loved it.

I used to drive it and pray that I didn't hit anything (I did finally hit a deer on I-81 on my way up to visit my family in Ottawa and that killed the car - I was extrememly lucky as the county coroner told me - he was the first to reach me on the side of the road after the accident) and I had that car for ages it seems. It just used to bug me a little bit that it didn't have a sunroof and I even imagined taking it to the dealer to get the sunroof installed.

One day my sister was visiting - I lived at Omega and we were parked right in front of what used to be called "The Big House," which was where my summer digs were and is now Skip's office amongst other things. Anyways, we were sitting in the car getting ready to go somewhere and she was checking things out in the car and she said, "what's this button for?" I didn't know but we had the car running so I told her she could push it. Well wouldn't you know it, but that button opened the sun roof.

I had another 6 or 8 months in that car before the deer incident. I used to laugh my head off about how blinded I had been by my beliefs. I believed that I didn't have a sun roof so much that it affected my eyesight. I didn't even see the button on the dashboard.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being a Mother

Today's Mother's Day. For most of the years I've been a mother, I've been a yoga teacher on Sunday morning, which means I spend my early Mother's Day hours contemplating Mother's Day and yoga rather than eating breakfast in bed or sleeping in or other traditional ways of spending the day.

I was thinking this morning about what it is to be a mother. And for me and the perspective I'm taking at this moment, to be a "mother" is to surrender to creative energy and allow what's present to come forth. To BE a mother is to be a space for something awesome to happen and to contain it.

When I was pregnant with Remi, I wasn't really "doing" anything. Jamine wasn't making a baby. I've often said that I notice I can't clean out a closet in 9 months - it wasn't me doing it. (Then I again I tell my daughter, "I made you!") And from my understanding of pregnancy, it's not really the mother's body that directs the pregnancy, it's the baby's. The mother's body responds with what's needed. She doesn't mold it, she delivers on the requests. If all's going well, it's the baby that sends a signal to the mother that it's ready to come out.

As the mother of a 9-year old, I am well aware that there is a tremendous amount of doing that comes with being a mother. There are loads of "doings"! But at the source of all the action is a state, a way of being that is saying "yes" to what is needed. "I've got that. I can take you there. I can comfort you. I will buy that for you. Here are some guidelines. Here's a hug. Some food. Here's my time. My life." I know there is a lot involved.

So if being a mother is a way of being, then anyone can be a mother. And what we are mothers to is our art, our lives, ourselves. We can allow what's there to be there and to emerge and be expressed, giving it what it asks for, surrendering to the creative spirit itself. Some people surrender to their careers or missions, others write poems, some care for other people who are not their children -- there are infinite ways we can express the state of mothering.

To mother ourselves though is like to be the witness. (That might actually be more like being the father. I'll have to consider that and get back to you on father's day.) But back to what I was getting at, to mother ourselves means to allow our true selves to emerge, to give ourselves what we need in order to grow. To grow a relationship, an idea, a way we want to be in the world...

Being a mother is a profound privilege. It is allowing myself to be used by life to create beauty and to participate in the flowering of creation. Holding back doesn't serve me or my creations - that would be neglectful - no one wants to be a neglectful mother! But that's what we are when we don't allow ourselves to truly come forth. Being a mother is to be stretched and pulled and called for and challenged and to be given the opportunity to be a part of life's fullest expressions.

(Thanks to Robin Andrew for taking such great pictures. Check her out at

Friday, May 9, 2008

Yoga Software

To answer Susan's question - I don't really know of any yoga software. If you have heard of some, post a comment and maybe we can all learn something!

I know the poses individually can be helpful, so if there's something out there that describes the poses, kind of like the Kripalu posture book but maybe more updated, that would be useful for a lot of people.


Tonight an 8-year old came to the Beginning Hatha class at Rama Lotus and she stayed for the whole thing. I was really impressed. And when I said, "shake your hands," she really shook her hands. And "have some fun while you're upside down" in rag doll, she totally was having fun. It was neat having such a fresh perspective.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Being Present

Eckhart Tolle is only a recent guy to talk about being present. Check him out on Oprah. They really did a nice job of presenting material to people that may be new to this kind of stuff.

An earlier guy who talked about being present is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In his book, Yoga: The Science of the Soul, vol 1, he says, "The present is almost always a hell. You can prolong it only because of the hope that you have projected into the future. You can live today because of the tomorrow...You cannot think anything else than the past. Future is nothing but past projected again, and both are not. The present is, but you are never in the present...Your mind is a drug. It is against that which is...You can go on doing asanas,postures; that is not yoga. Yoga is an inward turning. It is a total about-turn. When you are not moving into the future, not moving toward the past, then you start moving within yourself--because your being is here and now, it is not in the future. You are present here and now, you can enter this reality. But the mind has to be here." And he goes on.

That whole section reminds me of a part of the Introduction to the Landmark Forum, the part where there's what you know and what you don't know and then there's the what you don't know you don't know, (click on the section called "see it in action" and then the first guy in the upper left box), which is where real yoga is happening. The being present now, entering a reality is like the part of the Introduction where you can create a possibility that impacts you NOW, not like a hope or a wish or a dream, but like something that's possible right now.

And Eckhart spoke about that on last night's webcast with Oprah - how any goal that you have, for it to be a good one, is basically something that's already present in your life because it's there, you've created it, and you're just bringing it forth. Allowing it to be manifest.

It's fun when it gets a bit woo-woo. Reminds me of my living in the ashram days. Otherwise I can go for ages without getting a bit woo-woo.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sometimes it doesn't work out

The other day I was walking home and I passed someone on the street who looked familiar but I wasn't sure it was them. Shortly afterwards I realized it was for sure that person and I was just in denial when I passed them because it was out of context and I didn't know what to do.

People hanging around in my neighbourhood wandering around appearing stoned can't be in a good place. I have been impacted by seeing them for several days now. I talked to friends about it. Sometimes treatment programs aren't enough for people. And I'm thinking this person has been through one of the most resource-intensive programs we have available in the country and it wasn't enough to keep them off the streets. If they want to refuse treatment, they can, and we can't stop them from doing whatever they're doing.

When I think about my neighbourhood and who's in it and we talk about treatment facilities and where we're going to put our money as a society, I'm aware that money won't do it. People have to want treatment because we're not going to be locking them up for being addicts or for dealing with mental health issues. I still think we need more facilities for people to be able to use so that they can come and go - anyone who's quit smoking can probably relate to having to quit many times.

Anways, it's a big, big issue with no apparent easy answers. In my Landmark/Yoga background there's an echo in my head of, "There's nothing wrong. That's just how it is right now." "What's happening is someone dropped out, left home, is on drugs, and is maybe sorting things out or not."

I like it when the yoga classes work out and things turn out and people's lives get back on track and things are fixed and it's nice. It's harder to deal with things not working out and people getting hurt in yoga or it not making a difference or people just choosing whatever they choose which may not be what I'd choose for them. But that's a much more real place for me to stand and sit in - when it doesn't go my way. When I have to respect or at least witness someone else's choices or hear their cries, which may not be for help.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Something to Think About

I found this video today. Very inspiring. Old Alan Watts. Remember, the joy is in the journey! (I forget sometimes so I'm reminding myself too.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yoga Teachers Must Be...

When I tell people I'm a yoga teacher, I invariably get some sort of response like, "you must be really flexible," or "you must be really fit." That's what the lady in the bank told me this evening.

There are all sorts of things yoga teachers "must" be. We talked about it in yoga teacher training recently but it's funny, the expectations we have of yoga teachers. We expect them to be healthy, thin, fit, tidy, calm, enlightened, vegetarian, frugal, what else? There are loads more. Yoga teachers don't overdo it with dessert, they don't drink, they have perfect digestion, are good with animals and children. They never lie, they are patient, they don't yell, don't move quickly, always have the proper response to a question. Yoga teachers are basically not real people and fit our personal sense of perfection that we project onto them.

And what's really funny is what you hear if you're in relationship with a yoga teacher! John always has fun stories to tell about what people say when he tells them his girlfriend is a yoga teacher. "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink." I guess we rock in bed or have special maneuvers, we yoga teachers.