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What students are saying about yoga teacher training

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You know how they say that the best recommendations are through word of mouth? We couldn’t agree more. So when Allison felt like sharing her 200 hour fundamentals teacher training experience with us, we absolutely had to pass it on.

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A Journey to Yoga

I was introduced to yoga through my mother, around the age of 16 or 17, who gifted me her well-loved yoga practice guide.  Richard Hittleman’s 28-day hatha-yoga guide, first published in 1972, led students through beginner to intermediate asana postures, while instilling the fundamentals of pranayama, meditation and a grounding in yoga philosophy, all of which have remained with me until this day.

As I began delving into my own practice, I discovered moments of joy, inner connection, and serenity. The seeds of a life-long practice had been planted.

In the first sheaths of practice, yoga has been a means to rejuvenate my physical body and clear my system of the residue of negative emotions and habits.

I was fortunate to rediscover my practice around the age of 21. A regular practice allowed me to heal and rejuvenate my body from chronic pain after an injury , particularly through a restorative practice, with a dear teacher in Montreal.

Our wounds become our gifts. This return to yoga allowed spreading of the roots of a personal practice which had been sprouted in my teens.

I am quite thankful that yoga has been there for me at points in my life when it was most needed. At points, literally nothing else has kept me going; it has been a best friend, lover, confidante, and a potent elixir to keep me afloat above all the suffering which unfortunately forms a part of all life. It has been a means to diminish suffering, and learn that I can prevent from occurring in the first place.

My practice has been by no means only a salve and bandage to dress wounds; it has filled life with positive energy. Asana practice has been the most powerful I know to transform my own energy and mindset. My practice and community have filled my life with cherished people, and helped align my life with values I cherish and share with those around me. It has been a deep bond with my mother and sister. It has not only been a means of regrowth, but of fresh, new growth.

The teaching training program and practicing intensively with the community at Octopus Garden throughout the year prior was instrumental in bringing my practice to the next level.

As I began delving deeper into my own practice, I learned to trust the honesty of my body’s wisdom and intuition. I found deeper awareness of my body’s special intelligence, and felt more grounded in my self than ever. I have also now deeply accepted that our wounds can blossom into our gifts, and learned to respect this process.

In particular, I am grateful that the program has given me the desire to expand my meditation practice. It was a means to recognize the impermanence of thoughts and emotion, and armed me with the spirit to reshape and master them. I know that I have had but a taste and awareness of the clarity of thoughts this practice bears as fruit. This is on a much subtler level than the asana practice which I was far more familiar with as a path. In quietly sitting, it has allowed unexpected moments of self-awareness and honesty. I believe this is what the prologue of Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself alluded to, as well as the power and insight this provides toward shaping our actions for making world a better place.

I also remember distinctly, in quietly sitting, how I for the first time strongly felt the presence of a watcher, and the presence within me of an impermeable self. My eyes having snapped open, I now honestly believe that I am never alone, something which I had unfortunately feared most of my previous life.

Our thoughts, our own lives, and the world are ours for the reshaping. Our paths are mysterious, with unexpected turns, but a loyal practice and our community as companions can be our guides.

There is much more growing to be done.

Allison R.

There are many more testimonials to read here! Want to share your experience of a time at our studio? Email us at info@octopusgardenyoga.com

And if Allison’s testimonial sealed the deal for you, submit your application for our 200 hour fundamentals program here. Classes start September 19th!

 

 

What a yogi keeps in their teacher training ‘toolbox’

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Yogis are a majestic breed. From harem pants to inversion tousled hair, it kind of takes being one to understand them. So when a yogi decides to travel the path from daily practitioner to teacher, their spiritual and psychological “toolboxes” aren’t the only things that need refilling. With both the 200 hour and 300 hour  programs under my belt, I know that what a yogi packs for class can completely alter how a day of study will go. Grab your biggest bag, your textbooks, and the following:

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The right clothing post practice (like leg warmers)

What you can already expect is that you’re going to sweat, and that a great set of yoga clothes will grant you comfort not just in movement but in sitting through long lectures. But what you might not expect is the kind of cold that creeps in post workout. Leg warmers with stirrups provide you a good middle ground; covering you up enough to stay warm, but not taking away that barefoot comfort of studio life. They also help to navigate sweaty floors, and look adorable on everyone. Light cardigans and scarves are other popular picks for post practice lecture gear. Comfort is the name of the game!

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Friendship-forming gluten free and vegan treats (like apple chips)

Using your mind builds up a serious appetite (not to mention jump-switching.) Packing a variety of healthy meals and snacks is key to staying focused on the task at hand and not your growling stomach. So when it comes to sharing space with other hungry yogis, sharing a bag of trail mix, ripping off a piece of your banana bread, or trading items like you did in your schoolyard days can form some serious bonds. Being courteous of allergies and diets means making friends with everyone, too. Just don’t be surprised when your mat becomes the place to be on breaks.

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Oils (of the cleaning or health boosting varieties)

When it comes to staying a well rounded individual, it’s amazing how often oil comes up to bat for us. Although Octopus Garden is a scent-free environment, many students bring adorable vials with them for short sniffs, for boosting their health or immunity (think oil of oregano,) and for cleaning up their mats; although we do mix our own handy essential oil spray for student use. Whether it’s in your smoothie, on your wrist, or just keeping food odours out of your bag, there’s really no denying the power of essential oils. Just try to avoid pesky spills.

The right attitude

Coming in with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and more than a bags worth of patience for yourself will truly get you through this practice-changing program. Having the bravery to arrive and be present is something you can’t bake, buy, or barter for. But your efforts will come with the reward of education, friendship, and a better understanding of the universe as it unfolds around you. No matter how tired you feel come midday, you’ll get through it and be a better person for it!

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We’re accepting applications now for our fall 200 hour fundamentals teacher training program. Check out the website, come in, or give us a call at 416.515.8885 for more info. We offer a Taste of Teacher Training pass that’s good for a week of classes. We’ll meet you on your mat!

By: Eva Severed

 

 

 

How to pack for a yoga retreat

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If you’re like me, packing is a sport. Expertly rolling shirts and tucking socks into the crevices is like real-life Tetris, usually without the monotonous soundtrack. And don’t get me started on my hoarding of travel-sized anything (they’re just so cute.) So when it comes to attending a yoga retreat, feeling prepared for a break from office attire and lunch bags requires a different attention. When you find the time to organize a lifetime of necessities into a weekend bag, keep the following four items in mind.

Packed for travel

 

Stretchy Clothes

When you begin pairing tops with bottoms, and shoes with accessories, snap out of it! There’s no runway on a yoga retreat, and absolutely no need for Louboutins (unless you’re wearing them everyday to justify the cost.) With sensation at the forefront of our upcoming July retreat, let’s forget the feeling of tight denim, stuck zippers, and impossible-to-navigate-on-the-first-try buttons. All tights all the time are acceptable and I suggest you take full advantage of it. Oversized, one-fits-all gear is also totally campfire appropriate, as long as you watch for flying embers.

Contraband 

I understand that there’s a general impression that yoga retreats have a certain requirement to abstain from all things that could make you feel guilty. And although our retreats feature some incredible vegetarian fare (dessert included,) go ahead and pack some of your famous homemade cookies, or favourite late night treats. Snack stashes will certainly lead to friendship if you’re open to sharing! Don’t stop there, your guilty pleasure fan-fiction is good here too. And, if you’re worried that something isn’t very “yoga,” let that go; don’t give up what you love for the weekend, incorporate it.

Pillows

I don’t know about you, but the difference between a bad sleep and a great one is the pillow I lay my head down on. Sure, it may be a bit “princess and the pea” of me, but you’re going to want to catch a good night’s rest if you’re planning on getting in all the yoga you can handle! Meditation can also be pretty difficult when sheep are jumping through your mind, and sleeping isn’t the only time comfort should be considered. Meditation pillows are helpful for outdoor meditation sits when rocks, mud, or roots are present.

Intangibles

Truth is, you can have an amazing time at a retreat without a single scrap of lycra, cookie crumb, or any meditation pillows. The real must-pack items are a sense of adventure, optimism, and fun! Allowing yourself to open up to possibility, to meet obstacles, and to give yourself permission to feel is what a yoga retreat is all about. With the support of the teachers and community surrounding you, you might be surprised by what new relationships you’re able to foster or strengthen with yourself and the universe around you. You can actually think of your ability to to open up in this way as an ‘unpacking.’ Pretty cool, right?

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It’s time to open to whatever will happen by enrolling yourself for our July retreat. Your body, mind, and soul might just thank you. Space is filling up fast, so call us at 416.515.8885 or email us at info@octopusgardenyoga.com today!

By: Eva Lampert

Photos courtesy of Morguefile.com

Three things you’ll forget on a yoga retreat

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There’s no denying it. When we get in to “vacation mode,” we feel like completely different people. Maybe it’s the sweatpants, or the way we can’t seem to say no to anything (conga lines definitely included), but throw in some yoga, meditation, and a buffet, and you can imagine why yoga retreats are becoming more and more popular. Below are three things you’ll surely forget about your city-life of the past when you join us on our July Sensations Yoga & Meditation retreat.

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You’ll forget that you’re not an animal, insect, or free spirit 

In the city, dogs are on leashes, insects are squashed, and the only free spirits you encounter in a day are likely toddlers. But have you ever noticed how it only takes a few minutes of playing with a puppy, walking barefoot on fresh cut grass, or floating in a body to water to suddenly feel so much more like yourself? Besides, being out of the city means justifying all the sandals, flower crowns, and crochet tops you’re so in to right now. Bark, crawl, or dance to your heart’s content. We guarantee you’ll forget why dress shoes were invented, or how you came to own so many pairs.

You’ll forget how to update your social media platforms

I know first-hand how enjoyable sharing photos of your lunch with friends and complete strangers online can be. But you what else is nice? Not dealing with another notification, email, or last minute call in to work. Besides the obvious lack of wifi hotspots that mother nature seems to have, retreats have a way of changing your priorities and filling your schedule with more than you’ll care to post. Just don’t panic when you get home and have about a billion events and requests to decline.

You’ll forget what it’s like to feel stressed out

The warmth of the sun on your face, the way fresh air smells, and not having to do your own dishes will relax you more than all the epsom salt baths your tub can handle. In fact, life’s big and little stresses can seem miles away without having to hop a plane. Make a groovy playlist, pack a couple of vegan snacks, and let the drive North be better than getting the centre seat. You’ve already let go of tights clothes and social media, so what else could possibly stress you out more?

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 Photos of Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre

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We know that reading this has likely made you want to throw caution to the wind, toss your computer or device enthusiastically out the window, and enrol yourself in this one-of-a-kind experience. Do yourself a favour and read all about our July adventure HERE before you do. Then be sure to give us a call at 416.515.8885 so we can get you enrolled with enough time to pack. Space is filling up fast, and the sidewalks aren’t getting any cooler.

By: Eva Lampert

How Do You Practice Self Care? – Lisa Mitchell

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“Self care is not about self indulgence, it is about self preservation.”

A yoga teacher and acquaintance recently sent me this quote. Wham! It was one of those quotes that hit home immediately. I learned this lesson later in life — when I finally had to. As a woman and a mother, I was not so good at identifying my own needs and feeling like I could fulfill them. I might “run on empty” and then feel anxious, resentful (okay angry) and harried. It took me a while to “get it,” ask for support from my family and then put practices in place. I am still learning how to put me first. One of the non-negotiables in my life, is practicing yoga which includes breath work (pranayama) and meditation. One of the most healing, nurturing yoga practices I know is Restorative Yoga.

Restorative Yoga is about consciously choosing to take time to relax — a radical act for many. In Restorative Yoga, students use supportive props like bolsters (pillows), blocks, blankets and straps to move the body towards balance and health. Students remain in postures for longer periods of time to undo tension. You give yourself the important job of doing “nothing”!

I currently teach a Restorative Yoga class on Thursday evenings at Octopus Garden from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. Consider this your personal invitation. I facilitate the class as a healing opportunity for you to be with your self and observe compassionately what emerges. It is very important to me to create a safe environment for students to “just be.” I consider myself fortunate to be able to teach from what I have learned in my own life. I hope you will feel this. There are often themes to my classes. I may ask you to set a healing intention for your practice. I teach breath techniques and may include a short meditation. My teaching style has been described as mindful. I have a particular interest in yoga for emotional well-being and will bring this flavour to my classes. I love poetry and inspiring passages and may share short readings.

Anyone can benefit from Restorative Yoga and you do not need yoga experience to participate. I pride myself on being welcoming and inclusive and I will help you get the hang of it if you are new. You might particularly want to explore Restorative Yoga if you are feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued, if you are recovering from illness, injury or loss.

I would love to meet you. See you on Thurs. nights at 7:45 p.m. Prioritize yourself — practice self-care.

Namaste,

Lisa Mitchell

Just Breathe – Lisa Mitchell

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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.

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 “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