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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Do. That. Thing.

photo: Chase Jarvis

Prenatal Musings

photo: flickr/mahalie stackpole

Nothing else in my life has taught me so much about my bodies as the transition from a non-pregnant, non-parent, to a mother—by bodies I mean not only pre- and post-baby physical body (although that’s certainly relevant) but also my mental, emotional, spiritual and (yes!) body of bliss.

When I learned I was pregnant for the first time, I was terrified.

In reaction to that fear, I spent much of my pregnancy resisting any need to soften—I continued to work full-time at a desk job, worked part-time planning a yoga festival, picked up subbing opportunities to teach yoga on evenings and weekends whenever possible—and planned my wedding to my long-time partner, amid significant family strife. I also practiced vigorous asana at least 3 times a week (usually 4-5) and biked everywhere I went. First trimester exhaustion? Who knew? I was exhausted from the rest of my life long before sperm met egg!

My son Jasper grew steadily and joyously in my belly and I began to feel a deep sense of curiosity joining with my ever present sense of anxiety. Part of it came from me—but a larger part was coming from the little guy’s ever-increasing excitement to see the world outside of his mama’s tummy.

In the meantime, I changed the basics in my asana practice (no core work, no deep twists etc) only because I had amazing teachers, who consistently encouraged me to work safely, despite my own drive to do more, more, more. I refused to listen to the voice inside me that could guide me to what felt right and what wasn’t so hot for that day; I felt that every guideline was an externally imposed restriction that really didn’t apply to me.

I would push things whenever I felt I could—I absolutely refused to soften. I did more training—not one prenatal yoga training, but two. A five-day yoga retreat? Of course. Slowing down meant admitting that everything was not in my control and I absolutely could not do that.

Jasper was more than eleven days past his due date. My water broke two days before my labour started! Out of all my bodies, my physical body was the only one that was ready and we all knew it. (Sidenote: that was the last time that Jasper waited for me for anything, so I truly treasure the memory).

Then…labour.

Which was pretty awesome—what my body could do and feel and all that I could handle—I’ve never been so focused. All of my years of yoga practice made sense; I was in every moment so completely that language became irrelevant. Breath, sounds and sensation consumed my entire sphere of awareness.

Together, Jasper and I ensured that Jasper arrived. Eyes wide open. In gratitude for my part of his journey, he pooped all over me. I laughed and cried and fed my baby for the very first time while my husband, sister and midwives glowed with love and joy and the goddess energy of transformation.

Then…parenthood.

So far, labour has been the easiest part! I’m learning that I do indeed have limits; that my family has to come first, which means I have to say no to things outside of my home that I truly want and need to do. Letting go of any semblance of controlling my own life—loving my child and husband so much that it feels more essential than breathing.

Breast feeding. Childproofing. Never, never sleeping. Toddlerhood. Absolute bleakness…and absolute joy.

So, the next time a ‘+’ sign appeared on one of those ironically impersonal, life-changing sticks in my own bathroom, I cried again. My husband cried too. And then we laughed and hugged and hugged our first little guy who has taught us more than he will ever know. And now?

I teach prenatal yoga with the knowledge that pregnancy is one of the most transformative times our bodies will experience but that, like all transformations, there is effort and unease and anxiety and a need for community to make it through.

I am digging into this pregnancy (now seven months plus) with a love of softness that tempers and beautifully contrasts my need to explore and push boundaries and experience all of life; I include the experience of letting go of control as one of those experiences I am savoring.

I listen to the tiny voices inside my heart and inside my belly that tell me when something is working and something is not. One of them is mine and one of them is my second son’s; his voice is really relaxed, kind of surfer-dude. He tells me constantly ‘Mom. Relax. It’s all going to work out. We’ll handle it one day at a time’.

I feel so very lucky.

~

Written by Morgan Cowie

*Morgan’s prenatal class runs on Monday evenings from 5:30-6:45 and her Parent/Baby is on Tuesdays from 11-12pm.

Morgan Cowie is a teacher and co-manager at Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Studio. She teaches all levels of classes, including prenatal and postnatal. She is the founder of the Open Arms outreach project and is passionate about yoga for all people everywhere. Morgan believes that mindfulness, compassion and love are the keys of all relationships, especially those between parent and child. She is the mother of one toddler and one soon-to-arrive bundle of joy.

The Magic of Restorative Yoga.

photo: Bryonie Wise

If you have ever been to a restorative yoga class, you know what a magical experience it can be.

We asked Scott Davis during a recent information session, to share with us how he came to his restorative practice, the importance of restorative to our everyday lives and what we can expect from his upcoming Restorative Teacher Training.

Click here to listen to what he had to say.

Scott weaves into his restorative teachings the 5-element theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, linking our practice with nature; with the flux of seasonal changes, he develops the sequences to produce the greatest benefit to the mind, body and soul.

Here’s a Restorative Transitional Season Sequence for early Fall:

Principles:

1. Improve digestion/absorption and transformation/transition.
2. Strengthen and connect to the abdominal centre and core line of the body.
3. Organ = spleen/pancreas, stomach.
4. Increase balance, harmony and equilibrium through pose/counter-pose sequencing.
5. Improve the health of the muscle tissues and the action of holding the blood.
6. Element = earth; connect to the healing power of the earth element and all that that entails.
7. Emotional spectrum = mindfulness/equanimity to anxiety/worry.
8. Paramita = generosity.

Props needed:

2 blocks
2 straps
2 blankets
1 bolster
1 chair
1 sandbag
1 eye pillow

Sequence:

  1. Centering/Cocooning (connects to physical center and creates a healthy energetic boundary to support healing).
  2. Gentle seated twist (activates and vitalizes digestive system).
  3. Adho Mukha Svanasana with forehead support (inversion relaxes the downward pressure and load on the abdominal vicera).
  4. Matsyasana variation (expands abdomen and releases tension in digestive system).
  5. Balasana with bent or straight leg versions (gentle compression on abdomen to sooth and support digestion).
  6. Parvritta Balasana (gentle twist supports wringing action of digestive system).
  7. Supta Virasana (opens and releases stomach meridian).
  8. Upavista Konasana (opens and releases spleen/pancreas meridian).
  9. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (promotes organic relaxation of digestive system).
  10. Chair Resting Posture w/weight on abdomen (soothes nervous system, promotes movement towards parasympathetic/”rest and digest” response).

Still not sure if restorative is for you? Check out our schedule and join us for a restorative class. Interested in registering for the upcoming training with Scott? Check out further details here. 

I Was That New Piece of Clay.

Pottery seemed like one of the more challenging crafts to learn and I must admit, I was afraid to try.

My inner perfectionist thought, “There are too many variables at work and possibly working against me: a high speed wheel spinning clay and whipping water around (messy!) and my unsteady hands attempting to create shapes…What if I can’t do it? What if everything I make turns out lopsided?”

Since half the battle of trying something new is simply putting yourself out there, I signed up for a 8 week course with my ceramic savvy friend, who is an Artist in Residence at the Harbourfront Centre.

What became clear to me during the first few classes was how focused and meditative it was to work with clay; it was easy for my attention to zero in on the first day—but as the weeks progressed, challenges did show themselves.

“Centering” seems to be the most difficult part of working with the clay. This means that I had to get the clay smack-dab in the middle of the wheel—and yes—as it is spinning at the highest speed. Easier said than done.

I had to be in control of the clay, while at the same time letting it do its thing (with help from cylindrical force), all the while trying not to zone out on the cool swirl of the wheel spinning; in the beginning, I felt like the wheel was trying to hypnotize me and as the weeks went on, I allowed it to.

I found the clay easy to work with, yet I had to be cautious when manipulating it to make sure I didn’t throw it off its center. Once the process began of drawing up (think what gives height to a vase) the clay, any diversion in attention—or even a glance away—could send the clay off center and potentially ruin what I was working on.

So, without being distracted by other shiny objects around me, I would let the spiral of the clay hypnotize me…watching the water spray out around the edges, focusing into the sensations of warm wet clay in my hands. I attempted to create something (anything), all the while not becoming too attached to what I was making—for it could change in a moment!—and that so-called ‘perfect’ vase would get badly warped, or the walls would get too thin, and with a humble sigh, I would squish it back into the pile of clay I began with.

It was neat starting over, because it required a new batch of clay and starting from the very beginning, again; you couldn’t reuse the previous ball of clay, because it had to dry out…and that is what reminded me of my yoga practice.

Interesting how starting over reminded me of yoga—but the reset with a new batch of clay is exactly how I’ve come to understand my asana practice—because after having a regular practice for sometime, I took a year off.

What’s rarely talked about openly in the yoga world is when people take a break from practicing yoga—or if it is spoken of, it is wrapped in guilt and shame. More importantly, what is often meant as asana (just one aspect or limb of the practice), ends up being referred to as the entirety of yoga.

Just because I stopped attending classes at studios, or didn’t do daily sun salutations, didn’t mean that I wasn’t practicing yoga; I had many changes in my life and with that, I needed to step back, regroup and examine what yoga meant to me…which is also a part of the practice—and, for me, more important than how my shoulders were doing in downward dog.

Although I have emerged with (some) answers and (more) questions, it has become clear to me that I was caught up in my idea of what the practice should look like from the outside, rather than examining and appreciating the ways it has transformed me, on the inside.

When the time came and I went back to class, I unrolled my mat and discovered that my body was that of a beginner; in a standing pose, I watched my mind trying to tell my body that it should be able to do—what it used to do. I realized that I was that new piece of clay and like in my pottery class, I came back to it, from the beginning, all over again…but this time a little wiser and kinder with my reasons, in my heart, for why I was there.

Remember, the first step in working with the wheel in pottery is centering—and that is what I did in my asana practice; I gently thanked my mind for reminding me of where I used to be, then shifted my attention to my heart, my center…and to where I actually was.

I was happy to have created a few things in the pottery class but also appreciated the greater lessons of impermanence, patience and a better understanding (and letting go) of my ideas of perfection at the wheel, on the mat and in my life.

~

Written by Lindsay Gamester

As a coffee aficionado, free form dancer and lover of ice cream, Lindsay enjoys contemplating the mysteries of life while attempting to balance on a slackline. Yoga has influenced her being in ways often not able to transcribe but instead she attempts to integrate the teachings into daily life, crafty projects and musings on her blog. Lindsay is personally dedicated to being awesome and helping others to experience their awesomeness as a humble student, teacher and woman of the 21st century. Currently, she is enjoying life in Toronto, obtaining her B.A in Humanities and being part of the OG community.

Planting Seeds in Paradise & the Joy of Growing: A Testimonial on the Transformative Power of A Yoga Retreat

image: Enkel Dika

“We are either growing or dying there is no in between.”

I’m not sure where I first heard that little aphorism, but it has certainly stuck with me over the years.

Even at times when my life and yoga practice seemed static and stagnant, times of frustration and uncertainty when I had lost faith in the yogic process and even the hope for a more harmonious future, one simple truth remained: no matter how wealthy or poor, young or old, clever or dull, flexible or stiff, strong or weak, calm or tense, happy or sad and inspired or depressed we may be, it seems that we are all subject to the fundamental law of constant transformation, known as change.

Change in itself is neither positive nor negative; the never-ending dance of creation and destruction known as change is simply a necessary and natural universal force.

Like the push and pull of gravity, the rise and fall nature of the breath, our subjective positive or negative, painful or pleasurable experience, here on earth, will be determined by our decision to either embrace or resist change.

If unwanted or fear based tension is the result of resisting natural forces, then our experience of freedom, joy and the fulfillment we feel as we grow and evolve into a more conscious and loving person are all dependent on our ability to embrace change. For us to embrace change and engage with the universe, in this amazing path of conscious evolution, we must first be able to open up and trust the process of transformation.

Every tree was once a seed that had the courage to take a leap of faith and open to the possibility of growth; of course, while every tree was once a seed, not every seed will become a tree.

If a seed opens in barren soil without access to water or sunlight, then that seed cannot grow. But if seed chooses to open in deep, rich fertile soil, where it will be bathed in both pure water and radiant sunlight, well then, that wise and courageous seed is almost guaranteed to engage in the process of constant positive transformation as its roots grow ever deeper and its branches reach ever higher.

This is the reward for showing the courage to trust and the wisdom to choose the richest and most fertile soil for that crucial and delicate first opening.

The roots of my yoga practice run deep and the experience is constantly transforming, expanding and growing, each day, every day.

photo: flickr/Mish Sukharev

But as complex and expansive as my relationship to the amazing art of yoga is today, it all really began with my first weeklong immersive yoga retreat in an amazing place (just like Blue Spirit in Nosara, Costa Rica). It was in a place of natural beauty away from the demands and stresses of my daily city life that I made my decision to trust, open my heart to process of yoga and life.

And, each year, I return to that initial experience to renew my commitment to trust and to embrace the universe in the transformational dance of change.

So let’s be courageous and wise and embrace the power of conscious change and evolution with Pat Harada Linfoot and I in Costa Rica, in March 2013!!

Join us for a week long immersive yoga intensive, exploring asana, philosophy, meditation, community and our ability to trust and change, all while being bathed in sunlight and surrounded by the natural beauty of an ocean front tropical paradise!

To grow strong and tall and to keep growing, a tree needs deep roots—and there is no place on the planet that provides a richer, more fertile ground to feed and grow the tree of our yoga practice.

~

Written by Jesse Enright

Jesse Enright’s teaching style combines deep breath work, powerful flowing movements and meticulous alignment with a fun and lighthearted approach. He emphasizes anatomical education to both empower and instill in students a love and respect for the amazing design of the human body. He has been a student of hatha yoga for fifteen years and a full time yoga instructor for the past twelve. He has studied and practiced under senior instructors in India, Australia, Canada and the U.S.. He was a full-time instructor at the Downward Dog Yoga Centre for five years and completed their teacher training and apprenticeship program in 2000.

Jesse has completed additional teacher training programs in Vijnana Yoga with Gioia Irwin and Yoga Therapeutics with Doug Keller, trained in Craniosacral Therapy and is certified in the Muscle, Balance and Function system of biomechanical re-education. He has developed extensive curriculum and taught alignment and anatomy for teacher training programs since 2003. In 2004, Jesse applied his keen interest in anatomy, biomechanics and hatha yoga to found SmartYoga, an approach dedicated to an objective and scientific study of the amazing technology of yoga postures and their effect on the human body. He has a private yoga therapeutics practice working with individuals, doctors, massage therapists and chiropractors to develop personalized yoga programs for people with pain and injury.