Your body and mind are not a problem to be solved

We’ve all done it. Declared a new path forward (“No more facebook, I am going to read a book instead!”) only to find ourselves, hours later, back in the habit. Scrolling, barely present, and regretting it later.

It’s not your fault. There are literally millions of dollars being poured into making smartphone apps, television shows, and sugary/salty foods addictive. It’s big business. Manipulating human habits is an enormous business.

We are a small business. We want to make space for people to connect with their bodies, examine the habits of their mind and movement, and learn to care for themselves in our overly busy world.

It’s hard to compete with big business. And we don’t really want to. We are not interested in manipulating people into yoga and meditation. We refuse to do it. Many marketing strategies suggesting that to grow your business, you need to create a problem for people, and tell them how you are going to solve it. (We recently saw a website for meditation that wanted you to click on “10 ways you are messing up your mindfulness practice”. Yuck.)

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Salty & Pissed Off: Misapplying Radical Acceptance

A Message from Leena & Emma: We *love* Chris. He is a riot. He’s deeply thoughtful and deeply funny. Which is why we asked him to lead a retreat for QSY this fall, along with the wonderful Leslie. Chris approaches his yoga and mindfulness practice with zeal and curiosity. We’re tickled to share this story about the first time he tried a float tank. It gives a little taste of his humour and personality. Check it out!

Last year – after years of hearing hype and fanfare – I decided to try out a sensory deprivation floatation tank. Everyone I knew who had tried them swore they were deeply restorative. A wonderful place to relax, notice your experience, even meditate. So, I eagerly went to my local float place determined to check out the salt water experience for myself.

I emerged pretty salty. In more ways than one.

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Lie the $#@k down: Savasana at the end of summer

Savasana” is typically the final posture of our yoga practice. The sanskrit name for the pose comes from the root word “corpse”. I used to find this name morose. I called it “final relaxation pose” or “naptime” as a joke. But over time I have come to appreciate the symbolism it contains. Lying down and assuming a stance of stillness can be a symbolic way of honouring the end of a cycle. We live in a society that tends to deny and avoid the reality of death, but taking this pose at the end of a yoga practice can gently remind us of our own impermanence. It might help us acknowledge that our time alive is limited, and awaken us to a deeper sense of appreciation for each moment we have to experience life and connection.

Deeper symbolism aside, life is busy, and our attention is often pulled in so many different directions. Savasana gives us a rare opportunity to do nothing. To rest, to breathe, to become aware of our thoughts and also to learn to let them go. Renowned yoga teacher and author Judith Lasater says, “to practice Savasana is to choose to lie down on the mat and to be become an introvert for 20 minutes, appearing dead to the outside world.”

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Let’s Talk Shop: Collaborative Learning for Yoga Teachers

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Ever since my 200 hour YTT ended, I’ve been squeaking away about wanting another opportunity to learn in relationship with others, in community.

I remember how awesome it was to move, observe and discuss the intricacies of anatomy, philosophy and politics with a diverse group of people, and I miss that. I’ve kept on learning on my own, and while self inquiry and practice is important, it’s just not the same thing, watching videos on my laptop and farting around on my mat at home.

Good news: with the announcement of the Queen Street Yoga Teacher’s Immersion, Leena and Emma have just greased up this squeaky wheel big time, and now I’m swirling like a merry-go-round! I know what it’s like to learn at QSY because I did my initial 200-hour training there, and what I experienced was excellent pedagogy, diverse and forward-looking perspectives, and outside experts brought in with intentionality and purpose. Beyond that, Leena and Emma are masterful at holding space, nurturing community and guiding both individual and group learning with consistent and clear support and care. The way they lead trainings with both wisdom and curiosity, experience and reflection is inspiring and makes for a true learning community.

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Don’t Tell Me to Relax: Body Positivity & Mindfulness

The other day, someone told me to relax.

I was feeling worked up, and they were feeling impatient with me. So their shortcut to harmony was to tell me to “relax!”

You can imagine how that went.

I didn’t lash out at them, but I did feel hurt. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but I had real feelings about the situation. And being told to relax was a quick dismissal of my feelings, rather than an acknowledgement of them.

I have this same thought about the phrase “Love your body,” which is a phrase I don’t really use, especially not when I am teaching yoga. I don’t think it’s bad, I just think it’s on the same end of the spectrum as “relax.” It is an instruction that, while well-intentioned, might miss the point. Telling someone (even yourself) to “love your body” may not acknowledge the real and complex experience that you have with your body. That it might be hard to love your body when you feel that the world has been telling you it’s ugly, dysfunctional, or bad your whole life. It might be hard to love your body if your body is the site of trauma. It might be hard to love your body if your body is in pain a lot of the time, or experiences anxiety or depression.

What I wish my friend had asked me (instead of telling me to relax) was simply “What’s going on?” Taking a moment to acknowledge my feelings might have made a huge difference in how I was able to be present.

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Let Someone Else Cook – Fall Retreat

I called it my artist’s retreat, to describe to others why I was going away all by myself.  I have always been one to juggle too many balls in the form of jobs, socializing, craft projects and learning new things. A few balls in particular had been dropped for too long, so I decided to set aside some time just for them. I began constructing an agenda of how I’d spend my time on my fantastic retreat: yoga practice, meditation, plenty of sleep, hikes and bike rides through the wilderness, and above all, making a lot of art.

I booked a cabin for the week leading up to the Summer Solstice. I was ready to get up early, tackle my art and get somewhere with my meditation and yoga practice. But my retreat had something else in store for me.

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Getting Better with Age

I need to tell you about Arlene and Julie.

Arlene started coming to my classes ten years ago, when I was teaching out of a small rented space in Waterloo. One day after class she came up to me and said something I have never forgotten. With a big smile on her face she exclaimed, “I think this yoga is actually making a difference! Yesterday I was playing with my grandkids on the floor, and I realized that for the first time in years, I was actually comfortable sitting on the floor with them!”

I think back to that story often. It has stayed with me and became my inspiration for learning how to make yoga more accessible and useful for people in their golden years. Arlene, who was now completely sold on yoga, rallied a crew of friends to help me get a Basics class going at a time that worked well for everyone. I have been teaching that same group of students now every Wednesday morning for the past 8 years. It’s been fun and fulfilling to learn alongside those folks, many of whom are 60-75 now. One of my students, in fact, just turned 85! These past 8 years of teaching this demographic of “goldeners” and the continued studies I’ve been doing in strength and functional movement, led me to develop courses and special content for people 50+, specifically my Yoga for Dynamic Aging course that launched last spring.

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