RSS Feed

Tag Archives: yoga

The Politics Of Practice

IMG_6868

The place comes to me before anything else and this happens when I am too young to know the words.

As I get older, the place sits in my heart, gathering, gathering, as I learn and grow as a human being, until one day I understand the reason I will fly over oceans to stand on her land, in her arms.

The reason starts when I am young, too, but as it is with all of us in those early days, the ones where we take our first steps and laugh our first laugh and find our first words, there is much in our grasp, just as there is much that eludes us.

I am know I am a girl and that I have a vagina—I don’t know what this means in the world, really, because I am shielded from the war that wages against my kind until I am old enough to be let in on the secret.

My mother—a single working woman—is loving and tougher on me and my schoolwork than on my brother and she says repeatedly, You have to do better…you have to try harder…as a woman you will have to work twice as hard to survive in this world…and so I do my best to do better and begin too-early to feel the weight of the world settle onto my too-young shoulders.

Already, I am a warrior fighting for my right to be here and I have not yet had my first period.

My story follows a path of (mostly) freedom from this moment on—I was born into a country and a family that believe in my right to choose what happens to my body; in my right to express myself using my voice and my words without threat of punishment, violence or death and, in my right to be a woman, equal to all human beings.

This path allows me the privilege to thrive.

So much of how our lives unfold depend on where we are born and what how we are raised—if you are reading this, it is possible that your path is similar to mine. You, like I, may move through this world with relative freedom; you, like I, may have figured out early on, not without some struggle, how to leap over the obstacles that are placed in your way by others who do not believe in your equality.

For too many of us—the silent ones, mostly—the only way forward is to survive.

This leads me to the place (Africa) and the reason for these words (the war on girls).

Had I not been born here and into the family that dreamed of me, my story would unfold in a way that is difficult to imagine. Instead of being encouraged to stand up for myself and create a life of my own choosing, before my first period, between the ages of four and eight, I would have been initiated in a ritual that my elders claim enhances my femininity.

They would perform this ritual—female genital mutilation—one steeped heavily in custom and tradition—to protect me from being raped before I was married at too-young an age; they would tell me that the sacred space at the meeting of my thighs is unclean and dirty and that my clitoris and labia are my “male parts” and need to be removed to decrease the risk of infidelity.

There will be many reasons and I will wonder if any of them are true.

What they will not tell me, even though they themselves have lived this trauma for the course of their lives, is that I will have to endure constant violation to my vagina—without medication or sterilization—many times as I grow older.

Because they will sew me together when they are done removing my parts, each time an opening is required, say for the blessing of my marriage, or the birth of my children, I will need to be cut, again and again, to allow life to happen.

Some of us in my village won’t make it to the rest of our lives—we will develop an infection or bleed out and if we are lucky, there will be a place to go nearby that will save us—and if not, we will die.

09ebd7b7370423526531b522d2c1b050

Photo from Pinterest

*************

Bryonie’s life is rooted in the belief that when we come from a place of love, anything is possible. When not teaching yoga (soon-to-be at Misfit Studio and as a supporting teacher at 889 Yoga, Ahimsa Yoga and Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre) or writing her heart to the bone (for Rebelle Society and elephant journal, where she recently stepped away from her role as Managing Editor), she can be found synching each step on this path to the beat of her heart.

Join her on Saturday, November 29th, 7-9:30pm, for Poetics of Practice, an evening dedicated to the freedom of all beings. All funds raised (the cost is $25 or by donation) will be contributed towards her fundraising efforts for the 2015 Seva Challenge to Kenya, with Off the Mat into the World, which focuses on female genital mutilation, early childhood marriage and raises awareness of violence against women around our world. For more information please follow this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/2015sevachallengetokenya/fundraiser/bryoniewise.

What students are saying about yoga teacher training

Posted on

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.

file0002029876287

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’

Posted on

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:

leg warmers for dance wear

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!

IMG_2662

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.

oils

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!

teacher-training-2

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

Posted on

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?

alberi

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

Posted on

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.

24062

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?

sugar-ridge-1

 Photos of Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre

sugar-ridge-2

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

On Being Stuck (aka, The Day I Fell Out of Love With Yoga)

Posted on

I remember the shock I felt when I uttered the words, “I hate yoga.”  I had been struggling with my practice for months,  but the realization that I had fallen out of love with yoga felt like being kicked in the gut.

Up to that point, I had done my best to remain equanimous about my situation:  I observed my discomfort mindfully with as little judgement as possible, trying to surrender with dignity and grace to the moment.  The truth, however, was that I was crawling out of my skin and my patience had worn thin.

I watched helplessly as my relationship with yoga unravelled.  This sacred practice, which not only changed my life but saved it, became another glaring indictment of what I loser I was.  Yoga and I avoided each other.  Its once-endearing quirks now annoyed me.  We stopped sharing the same bed.  We even began talking about divorce.

Around this time I read an article by Judyth Hill.  In it she talked about how being stuck can bring with it a sense of safety and we become invested in staying there.  At what point do we decide to move out of this predicament?  And how do we do it?

She asked her son, an avid climber, what he does when he’s clinging to a rock face with seemingly nowhere to go.  As a climber, I’ve found that scaling walls and practicing yoga are remarkably similar on an internal level, so it stands to reason that the way out immobility in one can lend itself to the other.

When I’m stuck on a tough route, it’s amazing how easily I convince myself that I’m hanging out there because I want to enjoy the beautiful view, but eventually I can’t deny the fact that I need to move on.  Breathtaking vista aside, I realize that the only way out is through, so I have to take a leap of faith.

Hill offered up a roadmap to moving through the sticky, uncomfortable morass, breaking it down into four steps:

Shift:  Climbing is all about finding balance.  So is yoga.  Sometimes the shift is literal, such as bringing my weight forward onto my upper arms so that my feet can float off the floor in Bakasana.  But just as likely the required shift is in my perspective.  What are the small ways I can quiet my discursive chatter so that my practice can unfold, unfettered by self-recriminations?

Reach:  I’ll never get to the top of a rock face if I don’t act on that leap of faith and continue upwards, staying rooted to my breath and my body.  Likewise, by remaining open and curious in my yoga practice, I allow myself to fully occupy each moment on the mat.

Is being stuck merely a way for me to feel safe?  As uncomfortable as inertia feels, it’s predictable, so there’s no risk involved.  Can I allow myself the time and space to explore my practice with childlike curiosity, to try new things?  Can I set aside my notions of what a ‘good” yogini is, cut myself some slack, and enjoy my practice?

Commit:  In climbing I often hear my partner telling me to commit to a move, to act on my intention.   To what extent am I allowing fear, fatigue, aching muscles, or frustration to prevent me from getting onto the mat?  If yoga transformed my life as much as I say it has, is my continued commitment to it reflected in my efforts?  Am I actually getting up off my asana?

Trust:  “Trust your feet” is also something I hear frequently when climbing.  Can I trust myself – and the practice of yoga itself – to guide me, even if I end up falling on my face while attempting Bakasana?  How much is my ego holding me back?  Can I let it go and just relax, knowing that I don’t need to feel embarrassed about not being perfect?

I’ve been giving myself gentle reminders since then, both on and off the mat, to apply the sage wisdom offered up by this young man.  I’ve found the Shift-Reach-Commit-Trust mantra helpful in a host of ways – in my meditation practice, my approach to my career, my sometimes thorny family relations – and it’s proving to be a wonderful way to see my way through the muck.

I can’t say that I’m entirely out of feeling stuck, but I’m on my way.  Nor can I say that I’m madly in love with yoga the way I was when I first began practicing.  And I think that’s a good thing, because no relationship can maintain the flush of new love forever.  It’s exhausting and unsustainable.  In order for a relationship to deepen and mature, it needs to move past infatuation and ground itself in a balanced, realistic way.  Divorce yoga?  Nah, not a chance.

-Elizabeth Ewanchuk

Bio: Elizabeth Ewanchuk feels privileged to support clients as they create rich, vibrant, balanced lives for themselves. Plus, she gets to wear yoga gear and go barefooted all day.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

While Bakasana continues to challenge her, she’s at peace with repeatedly falling on her face (though some folks wonder why the bridge of her nose is always bruised).

When not bending and stretching folks, Elizabeth can be found curled up with a good book and a cat, toodling around town on her orange scooter, Lola, or indulging her love of heights as a climbing enthusiast.