Category Archives: community
“Halloween is huge in my house and we really get into the “spirits” of things.”
~ Dee Snider
(Happy Halloween! Keep safe and stay dry!)
So, I think I get what yoga off the mat means.
Perhaps it’s as literal as Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana enabling me to bring a plate of scrambled eggs to my hungry three year old chanting for breakfast on the front porch, while I carry my one year old on my hip and balance said plate of eggs atop my mug of tea (I’ll explain).
Maybe it’s because of the little time I currently have for contemplating and experimenting with my practice (read: dashing in and out of random classes at the whim of babysitters’ availability) that I realize how significant yoga truly is off the mat.
Staying with the sense of calm and lightheartedness following practice is like trying to squeeze a slippery bar of soap in your fist, as I switch back into mommy mode and return home to where anything is possible, with two little people under the age of three. And yet, somehow it’s become possible that no “switch” is required.
Perhaps there’s a way in which yoga comes with me off the mat into the world of yogurt smeared on the wall, crayon scribbles on the wall, tantrums driving me up the wall—anything but legs up the wall (which is often attempted for quick rejuvenation and grounding but usually interpreted as an invitation to pile up on mommy—cute…some of the time).
Amidst the frenetic pace of parenting two little people, my latest “Ah ha” moment is a sliver of insight into the multitude of ways one can integrate yoga off the mat.
1. Sit. Being present and a good listener to a toddler having a tantrum and not making it my story or about my emotions triggered within.
2. Breathe. Between the intensely and frequently concurring demands of two small children. Breathing with them during the much-needed quiet embraces throughout the day.
3. Ground. Finding my centre when feeling pulled in inconceivably opposing directions by said demands for food, potty, attention and immediate radar tracking of misplaced favourite truck.
4. Expand. Finding creative alternatives to “no” and the compassion to understand my children’s needs and hold the space for their self expression.
5. Soften. Plans change—quickly and often—moods swing and expectations flop. There’s always tomorrow to not judge myself or others.
6. Savasana. Letting go of what worked and what didn’t, especially when breakfast, potty, dressing, playing, crying, snacking, running, jumping, reading, baking, spilling, screaming only gets you to 9:00 a.m.
7. Gratitude. For the teacher and beauty of light within my children, who mirror my actions and call to attention my strengths and weaknesses every day and make my heart burst with more love than I ever imagined possible.
When we come to the mat with beginner’s mind and discover the guiding intelligence within that helps transform asana from class to class, so can parenting transform when we wipe the slate clean and listen in.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana is not one of my favourite poses and therefore not a part of my self-practice—until recently, when a teacher reminded me about the benefits of bringing benched asanas back into play. For Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, all it took was a new entry point (from Uttanasana with belt) and the very palatable cue: gas pedal your foot on the lifted, extended leg (thank you, Rose Riccio).
So, about the eggs: Visualize coming to standing on one leg from forward bend with belt looped around the right foot and balancing on the left leg—and now, gas pedal the right foot. That is what got me out the porch door with babe and breakfast in hand!
By sending the energy out through the ball of my right foot and pushing on the screen door handle, I stepped onto the porch quite intact, except for probably holding my breath. Until my three year old exclaimed, “Mommy! How come you used your foot?”
And then I exhaled and crumpled with laughter from the exertion and surprise of an unloved posture coming to my rescue.
Written by Elizabeth Palermo
I think a lot about how and when yoga enters into someone’s life; I wonder why some people do yoga and some don’t and I am curious about where people practice.
I think about exposure, interest and access, because yoga was so helpful for me when it came into my life. I decided to share how yoga took root and continued to grow as I grew over the years, as a way to bring others into this conversation I have with myself.
I was born in the spring of 1975, to parents who lived on a commune near the University of Waterloo, where my dad attended classes. Being hippies was all the rage and so my parents jumped aboard the groovy train, like most of the students on campus during that time.
As a baby, people playing music, dancing and practicing yoga surrounded me inside and outside our home.
My family eventually moved to Toronto, to establish a new life for our family. As I grew and started to try to fit into the world of the 1980’s, I was quick to reject anything that seemed too hippie-ish, as to distinguish myself from my parents.
Yoga came back into my life when I was 15 years old—I was rummaging through my parents record collection and found wedged in between my dad’s Neil Young and Bob Dylan albums an old yoga book, that looked as though it had been stuck for the past decade amongst the old vinyl records. My only memory of yoga was seeing a guy with long hair in overalls standing on his head in some field near our home. Curiously, I flipped through the book, laughing at the hilarious clothes and hair of the yoga models. I was about to put it back when a heading on relaxation caught my attention.
The one simple instruction that stuck with me was to breathe slowly in and out through my nose as a way to calm the mind.
About six months later, I found myself sitting at my desk trying to focus on my English final. Tests stressed me out which made it hard to stay focused. As I re-read the first question, I remembered the yoga book, about calming breaths.
I quietly took a breath in my nose and let it out…nothing happened. Then, I took another and another. I was so busy focusing of breathing that I forgot to worry. I was able to read the question again and get started on my test. After that day I forgot about yoga again, until my first year of university.
In that first year, I struggled to keep up with all the work assignments; I did not sleep well and became super stressed during midterm exams. My roommate heard the school offered free yoga in the evenings and asked if I wanted to go. I remembered the brief moment that yoga helped in high school so I decided to finally check out a class.
I felt a little awkward, because I didn’t know what I was doing in that first class. After the class, I miraculously slept through the entire night…and I was finally hooked on yoga!
The summer after I graduated, I got a job as a canoe guide for kids and teens in Algonquin Park. On Friday nights, the camp hosted hobby nights, where the campers got to do an activity of their choice. They were looking for different activities to offer when they asked if anyone knew yoga. Since I had practiced the most out of the staff, I was volunteered to teach.
Once again, I found myself staring at another old book with funny dated pictures, that I found in the camp library on Hatha yoga. The following Friday night, I taught my first yoga class to four 11 year old girls. It was pretty funny to see us attempt to balance on an uneven dock, with the mosquitoes chomping at our ankles.
The next week, I left on a two-week canoe trip with nine fifteen year old girls. I planned a demanding route, which meant we paddled and portaged for hours each day. By nightfall we passed out in our tents as soon as dinner was over. By day five, our bodies were feeling to effects of hours of paddling and portaging. On the morning of day six, I decided to loosen my body with a few sun salutations. A few girls came out of their tents to see what was going on.
By the end of that week, all of the girls were practicing with me in the mornings. Without instruction, they started following my movements and asking questions about yoga. Besides our bodies loosening up, I noticed us operating as a more connected unit.
Once again, I was thankful for the way yoga came back into my life at the exact right moment.
I have come a long way from the days when I thought yoga was a practice done by hippies living outside of conventional society. I am thankful that my yoga practice fills me with questions and curiosities about myself. I love that this practice is flexible enough to fit all ages, ethnicities and sizes and want to share in the experience with others as they make their own way down their own yogic path.
Ultimately, I am amazed that each time I roll up my mat at the end of a practice I feel different from when I walked into the room. Spread the word…
Written by Elisse Peltz
Elisse Peltz was introduced to yoga in high school, when she stumbled upon a yoga instruction manual in her parent’s library. Her experiences since then have only deepened her belief that yoga has the ability to strengthen, rejuvenate and heal the human spirit. In 2004, she became a certified instructor at Yoga People in New York. Elisse has since completed a Restorative Teacher Training at Yogaspace in Toronto, the teacher training at Octopus Garden and she became a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Practitioner.
Elisse provides psychotherapeutic counselling for children, youth, adults and families where she combines her passion for yoga with traditional psychotherapeutic techniques. She has taught at Twist Yoga, Octopus Garden and Yogaspace studios as well as schools, boardrooms, weight loss clinics and in people’s basements to encourage accessibility for all types of people. Elisse has had many amazing teachers who have guided her along the way. Currently, her most influential teacher is her two-year-old son, Izzy.
Today we celebrate two years at our College Street location! Join us for FREE CLASSES ALL DAY LONG!
The past two years have been full of love, laughter and light and we’d like to extend our thanks and gratitude to our ever-growing community for your dedication and support as we continue to learn and grow; we couldn’t have done it without you.
In honor of our anniversary, we asked members of the Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre, team, both teachers and therapists, to send us some of warm memories and thoughts from the past two years. Here is what they had to say:
“In the summer of 2010, the present Octopus Garden was a hollow shell filled with plaster dust and stacks of drywall. Over the past 2 years, it has transformed itself, bringing into a increasingly rich reality the dream that Scott and Pat had of a thriving holistic yoga health centre.
Looking around now at the studios drenched in autumn light, at the beautiful wall units filled with props, inhaling the fragrance of newly baked muffins floating up to the second-floor studio during the early morning practice, and watching people emerge from the clinic with that warm glow of bliss that attends a treatment, are causes for ongoing wonder.
More important than the changes to the physical space are the energetic shifts; as we mourned deaths and welcomed new life into it, the power of the community grew. As we practiced, learned, healed, chanted, grieved and celebrated together, we wove a strong and supple fabric that binds us together in an integral community that supports our diversity and our individual journeys towards wholeness.”
~ Elizabeth Harvey
“Our new space feels like home to me. It’s a home where I am proud and honoured to welcome new and old friends, to share experiences, to celebrate progress and embrace challenges. I continue to be deeply joyous to be a part of the Octopus Garden community and am grateful to everyone who makes this space so special.”
~ Morgan Cowie
“When I came into the new studio two years ago, I was still newer to yoga and the community of OG, a young seedling sown in a newly tilled garden. Freshly enrolled in
the yoga education program, my life was beginning to transform itself, even as Octopus Garden was, starting in its new space. Shortly after opening, I was given the opportunity to help support my new sangha by working at the studio. What a blessing.
I have had the great honour and privilege of seeing all the seedlings landing in the garden, planting themselves and seeing them grow over the last two years, creating a beautiful multi-ﬂowered community. Such a beautiful garden that keeps growing and growing, with care and attention and most of all, love. With a heart full of gratitude,”
~ Scottie Fech
“I love working at Octopus Garden and everyday I look forward to the smiling faces from coworkers, yogis, clients and people from the neighborhood. The best part is the ability to learn and grow on my path as a therapist, while being surrounding by others learning and growing, by following their own paths. Every day I find inspiration at Octopus Garden!”
~ Cami Rahman
“Aside from solid teaching in a sattvic space, Pat and Scott are doing the most important work of yoga culture today: community formation.”
~ matthew remski
“It was a wild transition, going from Bloor Street to College Street. We were using paper cards and a cash box—and went to computers and virtual management programs and plastic cards, pretty much overnight. I felt like a country kid moving to the big city—the first year was a huge learning curve, like we were scrambling to lay down each brick on the road, before we could step on it—and we had to figure things out on the fly.
There was one period, early on, where there were three break-ins in the space of a month, each one teaching us something new about how to prevent the next one. And slowly, slowly, the systems fell into place. Great people at the front desk, great people making things happen behind the scenes, great people walking through the door to inspire us and each other. And better locks, yeah, more and better locks; like that famous Sufi saying: ‘Praise Allah, but first tie your camel to a post.’
That’s what I remember about the first year in particular; we all loved yoga and wanted to share what we knew—there was just a bit to learn about knots and ropes and hitches on posts. Two years later, we still love yoga and the camel is right where we left her, smiling back at us.”
~ Christine Alevizakis
“It has been such a joy and privilege to witness the growth of such a warm and vibrant community. Walking through those doors always feels like home, and I am so grateful for these lasting friendships; a place to learn and go deeper and to share space with other open-hearted truth seekers.”
~ Kim McBean
“Two years makes for a whole lot of growth! I am, admittedly, a creature of habit; this made shifting my practice location from the Annex to College and Dovercourt quite a challenge! I had to change my bike route, walking route, discover new places to buy snacks and the list went on. All of my concerns were quelled when I walked into the doors of our new home.
I was struck by the spaciousness, inspired by the possibility of having two studios and keen to learn more about what was going on in the clinic. Greeted by an old friend, Alix Bemrose, at the desk, I signed up for a monthly membership, without hesitation. Two years down the road, I have grown from being a biweekly practitioner, to a teacher trainee, to a member of the management team. What a growth in responsibility, both for my own practice and for a space that I love. This is home!”
~ Taryn Diamond
“The new space on College Street has allowed us to realize our vision of creating a space for community, yoga and the discovery of what it means to be truly healthy!”
~ Scott Davis
“When Scott and Pat approached me about joining their team at OG, I jumped at the opportunity to work with them; what I didn’t know at the time is all the other amazing practitioners I would have the honor of working with. Over the past two years, OG has become my second home and the community, my second family. I am so grateful to be able to practice what I love in this yogic environment.”
~ Stacey Hauserman
“As we unrolled our mats that very first day, foot prints left their mark to prove we had finally landed in our new home. Two years later, the roots have gone deep and a community has blossomed. I would never have guessed these four walls would soon become my family, my friends, my teachers and my career. I am so blessed and honoured to be a part of Octopus Garden.”
~ David Good
“What amazes me about being part of this community is to experience up close the power of a belief, filled with hope and love, take seed and watching it slowly grow and bloom over the past few years. It has been inspiring to be part of Pat and Scott’s passion for a yoga as a healing art and practice that transforms us all. I feel honoured to be part of this awakening and evolution within a community of like minded individuals.”
~ Elisse Peltz
“I’ve been re-reading Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. This book has reminded me about the joys and challenges we face, in digging into find our essential selves—and once we arrive there (if we are lucky enough to do so), the continuous effort required to live with honesty, integrity and commitment to our essential wisdom. The path is made easier with a community like Octopus Garden, to support each individual’s journey and to provide a place for practicing inner wisdom on—and off—the mat. I am honoured to be a part of the OG community and grateful for the wonderful individuals I have worked and played with in this community.”
“When I walk though the doors of OG I feel a little like Alice, in a wonderland full of unique and incredible people I respect, admire and love. Being a part of this community has repeatedly shown me how to be “curiouser and curiouser!” about my life and the unlimited possibilities it offers.”
~ Rose Riccio
“Our home—this home—is where my heart is. It is a joyous place, full of the most beautiful, vibrant and diverse community and I am honored to unroll my mat out each day, surrounded by love and the magic of October Garden.”
~ Bryonie Wise
“There was a day in August, 2010 when I stood amidst the rubble and tried to envision a warm, vibrant community of students, staff, therapists, and teachers co-existing in this space. On our 2nd anniversary, my dream is a reality; I am continually humbled and inspired by the joy, creativity, kindness and talent that surrounds me. Thank you, all.”
~ Pat Harada Linfoot
This fall I will be travelling to India to visit Auroville, the renowned intentional-spiritual community.
I go not alone into this odyssey, for I am joined by the seraphic-magi, Megan Marie Gates, who is a recently anointed (but anciently inspired) yoga teacher and otherwise ecstatic renaissance woman of healing arts, passion poetry—and my musical partner in our Awen project.
We’re also going to be be exploring the south of India with a thirst for all things meaningful, wild, out-of nowhere-beauty and the sacred in whatever forms it may take.
We will be keeping (fingers crossed) a blog/vlog for those who wish to maintain awareness of our whereabouts.
The intent of our journey takes off from our starting point in Auroville, near Pondicherry, that was established by renowned sage and father of Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo, and his spiritual partner, Mira Alfassa, otherwise know as ‘The Mother.’
Auroville, ‘a universal city in the making’, was established in 1968, with the following as their creed:
“Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
At present, Auroville is home to over a two-thousand ‘Aurovillians’ from some 45 nations, co-creating a new phase in human development and devoting themselves to manifesting divine consciousness on Earth.
Man, do I love their boldness. For myself, personally, this marks my second trip to a renowned intentional-spiritual community, having visited Findhorn with inspiring results, some years ago. This is ongoing research, in this realm, as I vision the potential of seeding something similar back here in Ontario (as so many do! wondrous!).
Megan and I are hoping to immerse ourselves in life in Auroville as best as we can and track down some of the old pioneers to extract some of their wisdom on the workings of this seemingly profound place. Yet, perhaps we won’t resonate—and BAM!—we’ll throw ourselves into the arms of a Southern Indian adventure! Can’t really go wrong either way, I feel, but there’s something about Auroville…
Below is the documentary which Megan sent me waaaaay back in May (I think?), which she shared with me coupled with this prophetic sentiment:
“Watch this video. We’re going to India.”
It actually took me some months to get around to finally watching this film, which I passed off initially as not a priority, as I was swept into a musical revolution and yoga teacher education. However, when one fine summer day I finally decided to watch the documentary, I became engulfed in the wise vision of a place I felt utterly compelled to visit immediately. And so, I ecstatically called Meg immediately after watching the film and said, flabbergasted:
D: Um, we’re going to India?
M: YOU WATCHED THE FILM!!! OMYGOD!
D: Yes, I did…and we’re going to India!!!
M: AHHHHHHH! (in the positive!)
Intentional Communities are popping up the world over—as part of a general awakening sweeping the masses, that we no longer need to fight outmoded social orders—but can create our own. There is a flooding open in this of the heart, and all of its majestic powers of creativity, spontaneous wisdom and beauty. So many in the communities I participate in, in Toronto, are decrying that it feels as though, despite the astronomical challenges we face, a growing sense of freedom of movement in ideas and navigating life, in all capacities, is widening and allowing for thriving discussions and creations of nothing short of human unity, globally and indomitably.
There is much good work to be done; an adventure, in fact, that is already surrounding our life, with possibilities of seeming infinite grandeur.
Megan and I also recently completed our 500hr Yoga Teacher Training at Octopus Garden and are eager to visit the motherland of this inexplicably amazing tradition of self-evolution. Get ready when we return, because we’re going to be co-creating some profound yoga classes together!
So stay in touch via our blog (the site that Megan has masterfully woven for us, with her skillful video work and ineffable joy for you to keep track of our wanderings) and I wish you the greatest Autumn.
Written by Darren Austin Hall
Sangha (Pali: सन्घ saṅgha; Sanskrit: संघ saṃgha; Wylie: ‘dus sde) is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly,” “company” or “community” and most commonly refers in Buddhism to the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns. This community is traditionally referred to as the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. Within this community those who have attained a higher level of realisation are referred to as the ariya-sangha or “noble Sangha”. (Wikipedia)
During last month’s Sangha gathering, we set the foundation of peace, for of our monthly meetings as a community.
We asked you to open your minds (and your hearts) to consider what you were bringing into the space; creating a canvas of sound with our voices through chanting, exploring the meaning of ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truth) in the context of community, weaving a rich tapestry of how we define community, using Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as our guidelines on how we gather.
We asked you to step into the beginner’s mindset and to consider the value of having people around you that support you, engaging in the ancestral tradition of Sangha.
The upcoming Sangha will build on the ideals of creating conscious community by exploring what it means to be more fully alive and how the practice of yoga directly supports this process.
As a building community, we regularly engage in work that supports personal growth and evolution;at it’s most basic stripped-down philosophical essence, yoga is a practice of polishing and clearing away what obstructs a full aliveness and presence to Nature.
This practice needs to address all levels of our being in order to be ultimately nature-connecting. Just physical practice alone, however vital, will not build greater resiliency and spiritual transformation, unless combined with ways to regularly process difficult emotions, such as anger and grief.
Waking up, being more fully present and engaged in community, requires regular connection to both our own nature and the bigger context of Nature around us. Although this connection to nature is something that is ever-present, it often tends to be obscured.
How is it then that we can reveal what it is to be more fully alive and connected to a deeper sense of meaning?
Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3rd, from 7:30pm-9pm, for our second Sangha gathering.