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Author Archives: meganmariegee

Just Breathe – Lisa Mitchell


Lately I have been exploring breath. In yoga, we call breath prana. Prana may be translated as life force, energy, or spirit.  Do you see why it is vital? Breath is life.

Breath has always been a significant part of my yoga practice. It is one of the 8 limbs of the path of yoga. Recently, I have had the good fortune to shine a more concentrated light on it.  Once a week, I have the privilege of attending a yoga teacher’s class where lately, we have been investigating breath.

Another event has precipitated this focus on breathing. I have emerged from a recent health challenge where breath served as my anchor. Without mindful focus on my breath, I am certain I would have slipped into anxiety, an old, familiar pattern.

I just finished a book on breath and found it to be helpful and inspiring.  It is called, “The Yoga of Breath, A Step-By-Step Guide to Pranayama” by Richard Rosen.  The author provides a comprehensive yogic view of the breath, including specific breath practices.   I recommend it.  Books are great for acquiring background knowledge but diving in and actually experiencing breath for our selves can be profound.

So I throw this out – take up the challenge of becoming more aware of your breathing. This is the first step to what could be an ongoing project.

Here are some practical ideas for cultivating simple awareness of breath:

  • Create space to formally notice and be with your breath first thing in the morning.
  • Bring your attention to your breathing before you drift off to sleep at night.
  • Consciously yoke your attention to your breath in a yoga class – make breath a priority.
  • Connect to and observe your breathing at specific points in your day: while walking the dog, standing in line, preparing dinner, while you are having a disagreement.  Ask yourself, what is the effect, if any, of observing my breath?

Consider using breath as a means of self-inquiry. When we explore how we breathe, we begin to learn something about who we are. Richard Rosen writes that, “Breath and consciousness are really two sides of the same coin”.

Importantly, can you notice your breathing without judgment? Notice with curiosity and kindness.  Below are some breath inquiries.  Perhaps choose one to investigate while you are out and about walking, or maybe you focus on one or two queries in a formal pranayama practice.  You can sit in a chair, on the floor, or you may be more comfortable reclining on the ground.  Comfort is key.

  • Where do you feel breath in your body?
  • What is the pace of your breath?
  • Is your breathing deep or shallow?
  • What is the texture of your breath?
  • Can you discover pauses in your breath cycle – can you rest in the pause?
  • What does my breath say about me right now in this moment?

Go ahead; make friends with your breath anywhere, anytime. No one has to know what you are doing. Take note of how your breath serves you. Celebrate your life force.

Written by Lisa Mitchell

Join Lisa at Octopus Garden for her All Levels classes everyWednesday, 1:00-2:15.



 “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance.

Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.“

– Buddha


“Therapeutic work can reverse the downward spiral and replace it with an upward spiral.  But, this is where we have to understand yoga as being more than just stretching and more than just alignment. Yoga enters realms of energy that involve feeling, responsiveness, and intention that brings this reshaping.  It’s a process in which mind and body must communicate with one another, rather than one simply acting upon the other.  The vicious cycle came about largely through a disconnect by which the body suffered; healing through a virtuous cycle comes about with a conscious reconnection.”

– Doug Keller

To register for Doug Keller workshops at Octopus Garden, click here!

A Recipe For Change – Lisa Mitchell

Source via PinterestI recently had the humbling experience of radically altering my diet. For the past month, I have embarked on a rigorous Candida cleanse. No sugar, no fruit (ugh), no raw honey, no maple syrup, no refined grains, no coffee and no alcohol. What is left, you say? That is what I discovered. This was my very first cleanse, ever. Up until this point, I have pretty much been a Canada’s Food Guide kind of girl; a healthy eater who could obviously make some improvements. As I embarked on the cleanse, I was flooded with strong feelings. I felt overwhelmed. The whole exercise seemed daunting. It was an involved process getting prepared for it – shopping at different grocery and health food stores and talking to merchants as I tracked down unusual supplements and food items.

As I pursued the cleanse, I consciously tried to step back and witness my own process. I have always been fascinated by how and why people change. What does it take to adopt a new behaviour? It was an illuminating experience to watch myself experiment with a new way of eating within the context of a busy family.

As I reflected on the process that accompanied my cleanse, I came up with a list of ingredients that helped make this diet happen. A recipe if you will. I believe these ingredients are applicable to changing behaviour in general. The behaviour could be adding yoga or meditation to your life, incorporating a walking regime, or quitting smoking.

The Ingredients

Step 1:  We require a spark to ignite action. We need a compelling reason to change. This reason provides us with the motivation to move forward.  In my case, there was a health issue driving me. Know why you want to change. In yoga, we call this “intention”.

Step 2:  We need information/resources. We need to educate ourselves and become familiar with the task. This is the preparation phase. For me, this meant consulting with a doctor of Oriental Medicine and a Holistic Nutritionist. It also meant seeking out new recipes and buying a new cookbook. Maybe you need to mobilize funds to pursue your new behaviour.

Step 3:  We need to build skills. In order to change behaviour, we are letting something go and adopting a new way of being. This may require us to build capacity in a certain area. I became intimately reacquainted with my kitchen. I had to learn how to cook new foods and recipes outside of my comfort zone. Perhaps you might take a workshop or a course.

Step 4:  We need to enlist support. There is absolutely no way that I could have completed this cleanse on my own. I needed advice, encouragement and the practical assistance of my husband in the kitchen when I grew tired. I frequently texted my holistic nutritionist with questions, i.e. Are you sure I can’t eat popcorn?

Step 5: Examine attitude – cultivate patience and perseverance.  Whew! – change is hard.  Change is also a process. Sometimes we slip up, and that’s part of growth, which is not linear. Be kind to yourself.

Step 6: Celebrate your successes. Cheers!

In case you want to know, I feel great. As I wrap up my cleanse, I am setting an intention to continue on with many of my new ways of eating. That said, I’m looking forward to my first gluten-free beer on Saturday night to mark the end of this journey.

For information on the Candida diet, check out Holistic Nutritionist Kathrin Brunner’s website, http://www.fortheloveofbody.


– Written by Lisa Mitchell

Lisa teaches yoga at Octopus Garden Wednesday’s at 1 pm and is leading a Yoga Foundations workshop for 3 consecutive Mondays from 1-2:30 pm beginning October 21st.  For more information click here! 

“Handstands” by Liz Huntly


Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Downward Facing Tree. Better known as handstand. What I wanted to learn in the 300-hour Effective Teaching program was handstands. I expected to work hard. I imagined myself at the studio every day kicking up against the wall over and over and over until I didn’t need the wall anymore, until I didn’t need to kick up anymore. I wanted to be taught the specific mechanics of this challenging pose. I wanted to spend 6 solid months training my body to find and hold it’s lighting rod shape.

Adho Mukha Svanasana. Downward-Facing Dog. What I did in the training was downward dog. For six months, I learned its structure, the way the spine stretches down through the crown of the head and up through the tail bone, the way the front ribs hug in as the lumbar spine lengthens. The exact placement of the fingerprints, the knuckles, the upper arm bones, the way the shoulder blades sit firm against the back. How the breath fills the low back ribs, how the belly draws in as the breath leaves the body. I learned how to feel downward dog in my own body, how to look at it, how to adjust it on other bodies. How to explain it in words. How to explain it with touch.

Actually I wasn’t really learning about downward dog, although I was practicing it a lot. I was learning about the spine, about it’s relationship to the rest of the body, it’s relationship to the breath. And by learning about those relationships I was learning how to construct any pose. Downward dog. Upward dog. Handstand.

I went in to the Octopus Garden 300-hour Effective Teaching program thinking: now lets learn the advanced poses. What I learned was: You don’t know anything. You don’t even know downward dog.

The advanced teacher training is all that an education should be—it teaches you how to learn. It takes everything you think you know and everything you think you want to know and reduces it to the size of a pinhead, and then says: “Now, learn the landscape of the pincushion.” It turns you upside down, shakes out all the shiny desires you’ve been hoarding in your pockets, and says: “Dream bigger.”

Like any good education, the first lesson is always this: Go back to the beginning. Learn to build a strong foundation. Learn to stand on two feet. And then flip it over, and you’ll see you already know how to stand on two hands.

I’m on my hands a lot these days. Bakasana. Kundinyasa II. Mayurasana.  For brief, still shaky moments, Adho Mukha Vrksasana. I practice on my hands. I teach from my hands. And every time I come to the mat (metaphorically speaking—my use of a mat is sporadic at best), I start with I don’t know. I approach my own practice open to the experience of learning. My classes hold the expectation of being taught as much as teaching. I begin each one thinking: “I don’t know the bodies that are in front of me. Even when the faces are familiar, I don’t know how these bodies feel today.” I let the class evolve as I find out. I constantly refine my cues, learning what works, what doesn’t. As I make adjustments, I learn by observing how each body responds uniquely to each touch. When students ask me questions, I can say: “This is my experience. This is how I feel it in my own self.” When the answer is beyond the scope of my expertise, I’m ready to say: “I don’t know.”

Sometimes I feel like a fraud as a teacher, with all this uncertainty. Part of me wants to be authoritative, wise. But that’s just another shiny coin dream. Mostly I want to keep hovering around the edges of knowing, so that every time I step into a practice, I step into adventure. Like an explorer forging deep into the exotic jungle, we start by naming. We name the birds—crow, crane, pigeon, peacock. We learn their exact shape and anatomy. As we gain awareness, we learn their habits, how they draw breath into their feathered skins, how they take flight. Yet the depth of the jungle remains infinite, the birds just one of many layers. We learn the sheaths of flora and fauna—the tree, the frog; we start to unveil the fine web of connections that tie them all together. And still the jungle is elusive, secretive. We spend our whole lives approaching Her dark heart, but we never truly arrive.

That 300-hour training is many months, many miles away now. In reflective moments I’m able to observe the distance I’ve traversed—in myown practice, in my teaching. I’ve grown. I’ve transformed. The seeds of education germinate, blossom. In moments of radiance I think: I understand. And then the season shifts, the landscape changes once more. The bloom of knowing fades, dormant seeds settle to collect another winter’s wisdom.


Liz Huntly is a mover and shaker, a barefoot philosopher, a collector of languages. She mostly lives in Cologne, Germany, but feels at home anywhere she can comfortably get into vrksasana. She’s infinitely curious about the body & the breath, plants, art, magic, beauty, failure, and how to find the sweetness of being lost in the world. She’s writing a book that she’ll probably never get around to starting. She wants to watch you fall in love with yoga. For the multiplicity of ways to follow/get in touch with her visit

Doug Keller at Octopus Garden – Nov. 1-4th

“My husband was in Iceland, land of mystical horses, thermal baths and crystal clear water.  I was in Dayton Ohio, birthplace of aviation!  It wasn’t the intriguing car ride along the Interstate 90 that brought me to Dayton, it was Doug Keller.  He is hands down the most complete, whole teacher I have ever worked with and if the purpose of yogic study is to bring us closer to our whole and full potential then I couldn’t think of a better person to spend the weekend with.  He can seamlessly interweave the teaching of the Vedas into a Therapeutics class.  It is Doug’s ability to approach every class he teaches with an open and generous humility that allows the information to settle in the body.  This is the adjective that I would use for Doug’s teaching – a settling – it reaches deep inside and it sticks.  Asana, Pranayama, Meditation, Therapeutics, Philosophy, humour.  Doug Keller is simply the whole enchillada and should not be missed.”
– Natasha Priest
Doug Keller will be gracing us with his knowledge in a full weekend of workshops at OG in November!  Click HERE for information.

The Sacred Musician

Music has been a sacred art for aeons. It has only been recently that it (and many of the arts) have been curtailed by commercial interests to be more ‘agreeable to consumers’. This is a sad affair and yet a great opportunity for renewal. It is often when we lose something, like the essence of music, that we find ourselves yearning and reclaiming it with greater love and passion than before.

Singing freely in a surrendered way used to be a traditional religious practice whereby people become utterly consumed by divine, ecstatic energy. However, many cultures the world over outlawed ecstatic singing practices as ‘unsophisticated civilization’, suppressing the wildness of our innately indigenous nature. As we reclaim the ecstatic way of making music we are literally reconnecting with a long lineage of ancestral practices which instantly inspires our lives and our art. So many musicians are disenchanted with modern practices of music and the business hovelling it in commercial prejudice. The sacred musician sees a way through and it is the key to their joy.

The very word music comes from Greek, meaning ‘art of the muses’. The muses were seen to be ethereal creative spirits who would transmit their songs, stories and arts through artists to be brought into our world. When we make music, in whatever capacity, the muses are present—it is the essence of the meaning of music to be connected to the divine.  Many musicians and artists taking on the sacred work will realize it is this relationship to the muses, to divine inspiration or whatever we want to call the spontaneous and ecstatic source of our art, as the essential relationship to build and develop in our lives. Many of our healing and wellness self-practices of yoga, meditation, diet and the like help to foster this relationship as they help us become more clear channels for connection and to have a greater capacity to embody the ecstatic states that are natural to bigger realms of beingness. In our healing, we are able to literally become better conductors for divine energy.

It’s at this juncture that the path of the sacred artist truly becomes a life-path in itself, as we become increasingly devoted to becoming better channels for sacredness. The more we channel the sacred the more we understand that this creative realm that we inhabit is infinite and composed of such harmony and beauty that awe will constantly become our prayer. When we relate to reality in this way, our faith in the essential harmony, beauty and goodness of the universe is emboldened. We know it not from reading books but through feeling; feeling the harmonies coming through us in any moment we choose to open and sing. We become conduits and representations of the universe’s harmony and we transfer this to others who experience our art. This can save and restore much in our world that has become so bereft of sacred experience and so disconnected from the innate power and mystsery of nature.

Guidelines for practice for a Sacred Musician:
Here’s a simple list of some ideas to which a musician can utilize to deepen their art into the sacred.

1)      Prayer: before performing set time aside to deepen into yourself through conscious breath, awareness and meditation. Have sacred objects to help you ground into mystical terrain. Pray for divine inspiration to be with you and sing through you. Devote your performance to the upliftment and healing of self, others and the world.

2)      Daily Song Prayers: take time to begin the day singing freely with long tones with or without simple musical accompaniment (droning instruments are ideal such as singing bowls or the Indian tanpura). This will literally tune one energetically for the day (and can also be done before sleep to inspire better restfulness). Sing good thoughts and prayer with the sound as symbolic representation.This gives more feeling to setting well intentioned thoughts and prayer, making them more powerful. One can also sing into illness states in the body to support healing. It is well documented that the voice activates the vitality of the body in excellent fashion.

3)      Improvisation: take time to perform with no goal in mind aside from surrendering to the flow of music coming through. This is also simply called jamming. Try singing without words, using the voice as wordless, sound instrument. Let go. It can help to quiet the mind before hand and to feel the body energetically from within for the whole body is receptacle/antennae for channeling harmony. If one is aware of the chakra centres, breathe into them before sounding notes and you will find elaborate harmonic textures arising.

4)      Study the ancient tradition of sound as spiritual and healing practice: study the abundant literature on the ancient and spiritual power of music. Look into knowledge on sound healing of which there are many amazing modern innovations. Much of my own paradigm shifting began as I was studying Chinese Medicine and was encouraged to delve into studies on sound healing to integrate my musical practice. The realm of sound healing is a treasure-trove of inspiration to deepen the practice of music. As Edgar Cayce attests, ‘Sound is the medicine of the future.’ That future is now.

5)      Community music through free and communal chant: I always leave time in my performances to engage the audience in making spontaneous song or doing a simple healing chant around the sacred sound of OM for instance. In this way, we bridge the divide between performer and audience that has alienated us from the traditional practice of making music together. When we make simple music together we touch the universal language of sound and brought together in exciting and inspiring ways.

Written by Darren Austin Hall

Darren Austin Hall is a pioneering mystical musician, sound healer and yoga teacher. His music is crafted from the infinite creative moment in spontaneous transmissions, devoted to fostering connection to divine power. His legendary performances entail diverse, salving instrumentation (from crystal singing bowls to lyre harp and guitar) combined with his powerful shamanic singing. His new album, The Tantra of Truth, is his soundtrack to the revolution of consciousness of our contemporary times and is out September