Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warms My Heart

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Yoga and Meditation class last night but especially to the gang from the current Yoga Teacher Training program. You guys have a special connection with each other, which could be felt in the room, and it made it such a different experience than usual, where people don't often know each other. Plus, you told me you read my blog so I thought I'd give you a shout out and say hi.

I have a good friend who's a teacher in the States at a high school. She teaches a lot of people who have to be at school, not who want to be at school. She's feeling drained and way less inspired than when she started. I lead mainly to groups who want to be there, but I regularly lead to small groups who are mixed - there are pockets of people who "have" to do yoga. It's a real treat to lead to anyone and I get that my job is a privilege, but I love it when the folks who are there are interested in the experience.

I was thinking last night about how in the past, some of the yoga and meditation teachings were only taught after the student was turned away at first. The teacher would not open the door or tell them to come back in a month or a year or some long time. I used to think that was for the student, so they would be really sure they wanted to learn and were willing to stick it out. But last night I was thinking about it from the other side and how that process would make it really satisfying for the teacher! Having students who really were ready and who wanted to learn would be a blast. (Which is why leading yoga teacher training is the so awesome.) Sharing stuff with people who want to hear makes the info come across easier and with more light.

I was thinking other things last night too, about how the yoga with meditation class tends to have more men in it than some of the other asana classes and some of us talked about that last night afterwards. I think a lot of guys are drawn to meditation and need a place to practice - poses too - but meditation is tougher in many ways. We all need it, or could use it, but that class has a good mix, telling me it's touched a chord or has a comfortable blend.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

YTT PM Teaching Moment

I wanted to post this to Facebook but it wouldn't go so I'm putting it here.

The Most Powerful Alignment Details

I would have to say that by far, the most important details when it comes to alignment in yoga practice, are the yamas and niyamas. Hands down. Without a firm foundation in the yamas and niyamas, it's not going to matter if your leg is straight in Triangle or your sitz bones are even in Dandasana. Granted, you start where you are and if where you are is in a pose it may lead you back to your life and to the yamas and niyamas, however, our culture (and probably not just ours) loves to leave the yamas and niyamas behind like they're some archaic remnant of earlier teachings. Not so.

The yamas and niyamas are so current and so powerful that it's no wonder people shy away from them. When people start practising non-harming and telling the truth and simple things like that, their lives change. And nobody wants to go to a yoga class and have to start changing their lives. We don't want to start being considerate of others or stop stealing office supplies from work. Who wants to be responsible for their own pain and peace of mind? Nobody! We want the government to take care of it or other people or start a new business or find the right partner, maybe even in the next yoga class we go to.

If your yoga teacher doesn't know what the yamas and niyamas are or hasn't had a practice of them that they can tell you about, I'd say you might be in a stretching class. I'm just saying. Because lengthening your hamstrings and relaxing your shoulders really isn't going to make a bit of difference without them.

After being a part of the teacher training for years now, I can confidently say that the most transformational piece that people get is what they see about themselves through the practice of the yamas and niyamas. That's the part of yoga that will blow you away and make you so grateful you were led to the practice in the first place.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attachment, refined

So in the conversation around attachment, it's bound to come up that we don't always know where we're attached. Yesterday's tidbit was to notice where you're attached and that's actually a way to let go of attachment, or the problems associated with attachment. And so the question is, "how do I know where I'm attached?"

A good way to notice where you're attached is to look at where you're unhappy. If you're not sure about that, consider what you complain about. What do you go on and on about or chronically complain about? If you're not sure, ask your friends or people you have spent time with. That complaint will be a site of attachment.

Then you notice you're attached there. That attachment is blocking your happiness. Knowing the attachment is there sometimes is enough to cause some space. "Wow, I just noticed I'm unhappy because I'm tired. I'm attached to being energetic. Good to know. I can drop this one right now and just be tired and do what I have to do and get more sleep later."

Other times knowing you're attached at that spot doesn't make a difference and the attachment stays there. "OMG. My relationships have sucked. I'm blah blah blah. He was blah blah blah. Will I ever blah blah blah? Will it ever go away?" Or maybe your friends are attached, "my business blah blah blah; my partner blah blah blah; my job blah blah blah; my health; my back; my money; blahdeeblahblah."

On the one hand, that's life. Too bad, that's where you're attached, relax, get over it, be attached, don't worry about it. On the other hand you may want to dig a little deeper if that attachment is the source of a lot of pain. It depends on what you're going for, what you're willing to do, what you want in the moment. And knowing that, is going to take some familiarity with yourself in places already examined in the previous Yamas (see side bar for quick references or come to Living your Yoga or the Yoga Teacher Training with me and Kat - we love dealing with this stuff).

Remember that areas where we go into pain and reaction are unconscious places. Finding those places while we're unconscious will be difficult. Our thoughts will wander, we'll get sleepy, we won't want to look anymore, we'll get distracted. It's normal. So keep going to the places you feel and breathe into them. Same thing. It keeps coming back to the same thing. Being present with what is. Read the beginning again for the instructions in finding out where you're attached, which will lead to this being present everybody's talking about.

Eventually, after you've done it for a while, breathing into the sensations, locating your attachments, you will be so bored with the process. The sensations will be familiar and you won't even want to go there anymore. Something else happens at that point but going straight to it won't work. Going through the attachment at its site, source, physical location, is important. Then you can use it as a jumping off place, but only once you've gotten to know it and what you do with yourself in that place a bit first.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Attachment, reviewed

Over the years on this blog, I've written a bit about attachment. And again, it's that time in the yoga teacher training where we've hit Aparigraha. And again, I want to read the class some passages from Anthony De Mello's book, Way to Love.

The way to really practise non-attachment is to notice where we're attached. That's sort of the only way. Just notice where we're attached. In yoga practise it's like breathing into the places we feel. In meditation it's like leaning into the sharp points. In Landmark Education language it's like being authentic about where we're inauthentic. And that's how to become non-attached. It's how to allow. It's how to be present. Go to the things you feel and let them be there. There's nothing to do afterwards. Things will either fall away or they'll still be there. You won't have to do anything.

Non-attachment is such a goal and people sometimes don't like to admit where they're attached. Your friends and family know what you're attached to. It's not something you can hide. And it's often annoying, especially if we're attached to people being a certain way for us. We might think the amount we're attached to someone is a gauge of how much we love them, but that's not it. It doesn't feel good to be loved when there's so much attachment around it. Going the other way, it isn't relaxing to love someone with lots of attachment.

The reason we practise the yama of non-attachment isn't because it's the right thing to do. It's because it frees us up energetically. To stay attached takes energy and drains us. Practising all of the yamas and niyamas is to let things go, open the energy channels, increase our health, things like that. That's what the yoga's for. It's not to burden ourselves with rules and things we should do. It's about freedom, union, balance, and what that takes is looking at where we're not free, where we're out of balance, and not making ourselves wrong or feeling rotten about that, but using those as cues to move us in the direction we want to go.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yoga Teacher Training is a Good Way to Look at Your Life

The title just about says all that I mean to ramble on about here. The yoga teacher training is a good way to look at your life. It's a time to reflect on the yamas and niyamas (see sidebar for quick explanations) and to see what our life alignment is like. At least, that's how I see it. If your internal alignment is off and you don't even know how to find it, your external poses won't be of much value.

So our group is starting to heat up. Kat and I are helping keep the structure together, to support the container that people are doing their work in. It's hot for us too.

Co-teaching is a pose as well. Many yoga teachers rarely get a chance to co-lead a class or a workshop for a variety of reasons including that working with someone else mean you're working with another person and people have stuff! In my co-leader, Kat, I've found someone I can be totally myself around and I can let her be as she is and we share our knowledge and our space and I think if I had to be in space ship with anyone where I'd have to spend years with someone, she'd be in it. Oh wait, I am on a space ship called Earth and she is in it and so are you and all of the other people...I'm hearing a voice from Kids in the Hall or some show say this :)

Anyhow, the teacher training is in full-swing. If you ever want to take a look at your life and you don't even want to be a yoga teacher, I think a yoga teacher training would be a good way to do it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

We're Back

The Mother Daughter Yoga workshop at Omega went really well. I think. The feedback I've received has also only been good (if there are other kinds I haven't received it) and we enjoyed it. We'll do it again next year. Or maybe even earlier. The stuff that happened was amazing.

One of the best things for me about the workshop was what happened for me and Remi and how we got to spend time together and be with each other. I'm sure it was like that for other mother-daughter pairs as well. The yoga was interesting, but the real value was in the opportunity to do something physical, that connected us to each other, as well as spiritual, which got us into our real feeling bodies, and the appreciation that we got during an exercise designed to give good acknowledgement. I think it worked.

On the way home she let me hold her hand a bit. Any parent of an older child may relate to how it feels to have your once-affectionate kid get affectionate with others and not with us anymore and to have that return, even in the context of a workshop where it's an exercise to do an assisted relaxation or just a moment in the car - it's totally worth it.

So much has happened. So much new insight. Old insight. Old friends. New people.

And then there was getting home. I made wicked-time on the drive home only to get to my landline's voicemail and see that my doctor's office had called. The message was for me to call them back because they wanted to set up an appointment with me. With me? They never do that. I recently had a baseline mammogram and a pap smear, plus some blood work the other day. The blood work was so recent, it couldn't be about that. It had to be about the cancer that I had. So I had all night to not sleep about that before my teacher training started this morning. Not to mention just some of the last-minute arrangements, let's call them, for the yoga teacher training, which kept me on the phone for much longer than I was expecting.

I'll have you rest at ease with me tonight knowing that it's not cancer or AIDS or anything like that. There's something about my iron they want to talk to me about. It's not urgent. Phew. Remi's gone to my mom's to wait for the new puppies to be born. I think I'm going to sleep much better tonight.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Things happen so fast here at Omega. Zoom zoom. It's a time to slow down but at the same time things speed up so fast - it's hard to explain. It's a cooker, that's for sure.

The details would be juicy and interesting but I don't care to write it all down. Just trust me when I say I've been through a few interesting awkward moments over the past two days - I'd call them asanas - and just like asanas are designed to do, I feel that some things have been integrated.

The Mother-Daughter Yoga Workshop has gone better in some ways than I expected and not as well in others. The space we're teaching in isn't really a first choice for a mother daughter yoga workshop, but we're making it work. Leading some teachings on the philosophy of yoga has been really fun. Just being with mothers and daughters has been fun, too.

One of the things I practiced the most over the past 48 hours is being in my body and witnessing sensations. Going right back to the basics. BRFWA. (That's breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow if you don't already know!) In our session this morning on Santosha (contentment) we came up with that as a practice as well. So there's been a theme. When we practice BRFWA (pronounced "bur-fwa") integration can happen. Integration strengthens and aligns us. It's like digesting our experiences. If we don't digest our food, we get backed up and things get super uncomfortable and we assume all sorts of crazy positions to try and find relief. Same thing with emotions that get backed up. We can be doubled over in pain, with relief just around the corner if we let the stuff out.

Anyway, we've got one session left in the morning, we eat lunch, and then we're headed back to Ottawa. The yoga teacher training intensive starts on Monday morning at 8 am!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Fire - I'm in it

Our workshop is going to start tonight. We're looking forward to it even though it's totally hot here at Omega and I feel like I'm melting.

In the meantime, some of my personal stuff from the past has come up for some healing! So I'm uncomfortable and I'm noticing patterns that don't serve me and I'm tired from not sleeping and I feel pretty rough. Luc reminded me it's not personal and not to make myself wrong. "Self-observance without judgement," he kept reminding me was one of Swami Kripalu's first teachings.

So I've been pulling out my tool kit as the uncomfortable feelings have surfaced. I'll be more comfortable once I start teaching - there's a refuge for you - and I've been grateful for the encouraging words from friends. I'd so rather be unconscious or take a pill or have a drink or do something that might make this discomfort go away. Alas, the teachings are all to breathe, and feel and stop thinking about it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Big Breath

I'm up really early. I'm excited. Today I'm driving to Omega and tomorrow I'm leading a weekend workshop there for participants for the first time (I've been teaching yoga to staff there for a few years). It's Mother Daughter Yoga and I've been a bit nervous about it.

My daughter came up with the guidelines for who should be in the workshop over a year ago. She's 11 now. She wanted to be with like people. We made the age suggestion between 8 and 16 years old. That's a really big range. We'll be doing some partner work and if there's a big size difference, the poses will work differently, and this we know because we've led the workshop many times in town. But just for an afternoon, not a whole weekend.

I imagine there'll be younger girls who will still hold hands with their moms and cuddle up and there will be older girls who will be sitting with folded arms and would rather be somewhere else (I'm thinking of my own kid - my co-leader!) I imagine there will be moms who are hoping they'll get to cuddle with their early-teen and will be disappointed when they won't get to touch their kid outside of the class (that's how I'm feeling!).

By building the workshop the way I have, there are natural ways for the moms and daughters to connect with touch as well has have time on their own. I'm really hoping it goes close or better than planned but I'm nervous that it won't and I'll be struggling to keep the workshop on course rather than just gently nudging the outline, the way a pilot keeps redirecting a plane in flight.

When I get to Omega today I will be among my friends. After working there for years a long time ago and in more recent years coming down for shorter stays, I've got a number of people I'm connected to who are there on staff. So I'd be excited to go down to Rhinebeck even if I weren't leading a workshop. But to go down as Faculty, that's something else. It's a Big Deal in my Little World.

I wrote to one of my friends down there yesterday and mentioned that I was a bit nervous. He said he gets nervous beforehand and that even last week, Elizabeth Lesser was nervous before leading her workshop. So I'm in good company. I know it's normal to feel excited and/or anxious.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Vasudhaiv Kutumbikam (Happy Canada Day)

When people start getting all "my country's the best," "this is the best country to live in," "God save *this country,*" I get bit uncomfortable.

Today is Canada Day. It's awfully close to the 4th of July, which as everybody knows is "America Day." And it's the day that Canada celebrates its birthday, which happened only 143 years ago.

I subscribe to the belief that the world is one family. In sanskrit, that's "Vasudhaiv Kutumbikam." I'm not sure how I got that - maybe because my parents adopted a child, they took in people for holidays that didn't have other places to go; maybe it's that I lived in an ashram where that was the motto; maybe because I travelled a lot when I was younger and made lots of friends from other countries? I don't know.

But what it means for me is I don't like to say this is the best place. It's the place. It's the place I live, this space we've agreed to call Canada. I'm grateful for a lot of things I have here in my little life in Canada. Today something kind of cool happened. I actually saw the Queen of Canada. She's also the Queen of England and some other places, but for the first time in my life, I saw the Queen in person. Up close even. It was just for a few seconds, but it was pretty moving.

That woman's face is on all of my money. She just may have the most published face of all people in the world, and she's a woman. I was moved when she went by.

In any case, while we're celebrating Canada's birthday, I'm reminded that I'm connected to a whole planet, not just this country. It's not the best. It's one of many. Like loving one's children, there's no better kid, they're all loveable. Canada is a loveable country for sure.