Grumpy ’bout Gratitude

I used to despise the word gratitude.

So it’s funny that it has become one of my favourite words. After watching this TED Talk with Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast, I have converted to the practice of gratefulness, gratitude and thanksgiving.

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I used to feel like a grumpy Scrooge about the word gratitude, along with other yoga-y words like balance, love, bliss and peace. It’s easy for those words to become overused, and cliche. They also seem to come with a “should” attached to them. If I heard a yoga teacher talk about gratitude, it often felt like they were telling me that I “should” be grateful. 

I don’t want anyone coming to Queen Street Yoga to feel like there are any “shoulds” about Yoga. There are no “shoulds” about the physical practice, no “shoulds” about what to wear, how to be, what to believe. You are welcome to the practice exactly as you are. 

And that is what our 30 Days of Gratitude (Nov 1-30) is all about: coming to your mat or meditation cushion exactly as you are, and then noticing what is already there that you could feel grateful for. David Steindl-Rast admits, “Can we be grateful for everything in our lives? Of course not. But we can be grateful in any moment.” 

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This practice of noticing, of arriving into the moment pairs so well with yoga and meditation. In our movement and sitting practices we pay attention to the sensations of our breath and body and the fluctuation of our minds. When we start to pay attention, we realize how much is there. How much is there to notice, and how much of an opportunity for gratitude any given moment can be. We have the opportunity to fill ourselves up with gratitude, and that’s when the sense of thanksgiving comes in – when we are brimming over with the felt sense of feeling grateful, we can’t help but give thanks.

In another interview David Steindl-Rast talks about feeling joy and gratefulness even amidst grief or sadness, and defines joy as “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” In our grief we can also hold great joy and celebration for the existence of the person or circumstance we are missing. 

Whatever this season is bringing you, whether it feels abundant or includes loss, we welcome you to try out a practice of gratitude – to slow down enough to notice what fullness you can feel and acknowledge in your life. 

In the month of November we’ll have a 30 Days of Gratitude board at the studio, and we’d love for you to share your thoughts of gratitude each time you come to class. We’ll have prizes for those who participate, and a take-home calendar for you to keep the gratitude practice when you’re not at the studio. 

We look forward to centring our practice on gratitude together as a community.

With care, Emma

WTF is TRE?

This post is by QSY lead teacher Leslie Stokman. 

Four years ago, I discovered something that has profoundly changed my life and my yoga practice. This is not an exaggeration. Since I’ve been practicing TRE, I have noticed a clear decrease in uncomfortable body tension, making my yoga practice a lot less of a struggle – I no longer feel like I’m fighting my body for range of motion. I’ve also seen an increase in psychological resilience, allowing for an easier time relating well to others personally and professionally. 

As a Certified TRE Provider, part of my mission is to spread TRE to anyone who could benefit from reducing the impact of stress in their lives. I’ll be offering it as a part of our Building Fires Retreat later this Fall. It is also my aim to educate people about what it is! There will be a little bit of theory in this blog post  about the nervous system, and it can get complex, but also fascinating. So if you’re curious about what’s made such a big difference in my body and life, read on. 

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TRE stands for Tension/Trauma Release Exercise and was developed by Dr. David Berceli. TRE is a body-based stress-reduction and healing practice, and more literally it’s a process for eliciting and regulating automatic, therapeutic tremors in your body. In short, you perform seven activating movements that gently fatigue or stress certain muscles including the psoas, then relax into a position where neurogenic tremors can arise. (They’re called neurogenic tremors to distinguish them from pathological (disease-related) tremors found in situations like Parkinson’s or epilepsy.)

The tremor mechanism is something completely natural to all mammals. You might have noticed your dog trembling after getting spooked or nervous. Maybe you’ve seen this video of a polar bear shaking himself back from being tranquilized. In a bomb-shelter with a community caught in a civil war, Dr. David Berceli noticed that children would shake once the danger has passed. Some adults also recall times when they themselves have felt like their body was shaking uncontrollably during or after a stressful, emotional or traumatic experience, or even just when feeling really excited or nervous.

What’s really going on when the body tremors like this? To understand TRE, we have to back up and explore the nervous system from the lens of the polyvagal theory a little bit. When faced with a real or perceived threat or danger, our nervous system picks a response: fight, flight, or freeze.* If our nervous system chooses the freeze response, or if our efforts to fight or flee are thwarted, either because of social norms (like, “Don’t punch your coworker,”) or physical restraint (like being trapped in a car with your seatbelt on while going through an accident), that means our bodies have marshalled a whole bunch of energy and neurotransmitters/hormones (including the ones that get a bad rep like cortisol), but didn’t get to do anything with them. 

Activation without action, or energizing without release, is where stress adds up and where symptoms of a traumatic reaction can originate. Our bodies just hold onto this pent-up energy, remnants of the stress response. The newest work from the field of traumatology and the relationship between emotion, stress and disease tends to produce book titles with this theme: The Body Keeps the Score, The Body Remembers, and When the Body Says No are a few examples. Imagining all the interpersonal conflicts, stressful days at work and life-changing losses we’ve endured, it can be a little alarming to think of what our bodies are holding onto. 

If you freeze, or are unable to fight or run away, the way to move through this pent-up stress is to tremor! This is a completely healthy and purposeful reaction: the shaking, vibration or tremoring completes the cycle of activation and allows your body and nervous system to return to, or get closer to its baseline. The only sad part is that most modern societies have either forgotten about it, or dismissed it as a sign of weakness. When you learn to engage with this process in a safe, controlled way, you can give your body and nervous system the gift of release and healing

Once I established a consistent practice and began to see the increase in my flexibility and emotional resilience, I decided to become a Certified TRE Provider. Through my training I learned that in other countries, TRE is recognized by the healthcare and insurance systems in the same way that massage therapy is here in Canada. In some places, TRE is practiced in classrooms, students and teachers alike! I believe TRE is on the same level as, and has the potential to become a practice as popular and useful as yoga and meditation. 

At this Autumn’s Building Fires Retreat, I’ll be offering TRE as one of several self-healing tools to ground and regulate our nervous systems. If you are curious to learn TRE sooner than the end of October, you can book a private session (just like booking a private yoga session) by emailing leslie@queenstreetyoga.com. There is great value in seeking guidance from a provider, and in practicing as a group. Please reach out to me if you’d like to connect about this powerful practice. 

Warmly,Leslie

*Note: sometimes people also include the fawn response, which can be considered a type of freeze response. There is also the “befriend” response, but for the purposes of understanding TRE, we’re working with times when befriending has failed or was not an option.

Links to keep learning: 

QSY’s 2017 Gift Giving Guide

The season of gift-giving is fast approaching. At Queen Street Yoga we are stocking up on all the yoga props you could ever need for enhancing home practice and self care. We’ve got plenty of items for yogis and non-yogis in your life. Check out our gift-giving guide below.

AND…ANNOUNCING OUR HOLIDAY SALE!

Get 15% off all retail items at QSY between Nov 7-Dec 24. We can also special order any Half Moon props for you – our last order will go out Dec 4th, in order to have all items arrive before Christmas. Please check out shophalfmoon.com and email us by Dec 4th with any requests you have. Send your emails to info@queenstreetyoga.com!

1. Treat your feet! – Toe Spreaders

 

As we exchange our bare feet and sandals for winter boots, our feet will get less and less natural movement and spread. To keep your feet more supple during the winter months, we suggest Joy-a-Toes Toe Spreaders! Joy-a-Toes have been known to help address and correct bunions and foot pain by waking up the lines of connective tissue in the feet. Wear them while reading a book, doing restorative yoga, or watching a holiday movie. Your feet will thank you.

2. Treat a Friend! – Gift Certificates

Encourage your friends to try out our studio with a Queen Street Yoga Gift Certificate! Let them know that we offer drop-in classes of varying levels, and Intro to Yoga courses if they’d like to learn the fundamentals in a progressive way.

You can purchase gift certificates online,  and print them at home. We also have beautiful printed gift certificates at the studio when you purchase them in-person at the studio. Gift certificates are available in any amount.

3. Calm your Mind – Meditation Cushions

Check out the beautiful new patterns that Half Moon released this fall! We love them. We can order any colour or pattern for you. If you want your cushion in time for Christmas, email us your order by Dec 4th. Check out shophalfmoon.com to see the variety of colours offered!


4. Give yourself a Massage — Anywhere, Anytime

Who doesn’t love a good massage? With an Acuball  or a set of Yoga Tune Up balls, you can give yourself a massage at home anytime. There are lots of instructional videos online with different ideas of how to use them. Watch an Acuball video here  and a Yoga Tune Up video on upper back here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. For Deep Relaxation 

Do you ever feel like you just need to lie down? That’s what our Rest & Renew class is all about. Rest at home with some of our favourite props:

Eye Pillows (unscented or with natural lavender) are a nice compact gift that can help someone rest their eyes – either on the couch or in a restorative yoga pose.

 

 

Therapy pillows are larger, and can be heated or cooled and placed on the body to promote rest and healing.

 

 

 

Bolsters can be used for supportive restorative poses, meant to rest the nervous system. Learn various ways to use a bolster in our Thursday 7:45pm Rest & Renew class or  download a restorative yoga sequence from our blog.

 

6. For the Committed Yoga Practitioner – B Mats

We love B Mats. Many people have reported that their wrists and knees are much happier in their yoga practice after practicing on one of these mats. They are an investment, but they last a long time and endure the test of time.

Just this week we got these lovely leather B Mat straps in to the studio! These luxe straps are a lovely gift to yourself, or your closest yoga-mat-toting friend.

 

 

 

 

 

Images in this post created by B-Mat, Half Moon Yoga Products, Acuball and Yoga Tune-Up. 

Thank you Amanda!

Amanda Soikie, one of our core teachers at Queen Street Yoga, will be moving on from teaching yoga as of September 1st. We are sad to see her go and excited that she has chosen to take a new direction in her career. We will miss Amanda so much and we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge her invaluable contributions to the Queen Street Yoga community.

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Amanda has been a core teacher at QSY for the past 5 years. She has taught a wide range of classes and workshops both at the studio and in the community, including kids yoga, and classes for women recovering from addictions and folks facing housing instability. Amanda brought so much care and authenticity to her classes and the relationships she cultivated with her students. We learned so much from Amanda and we imagine you’ll see her around the studio practicing on the mat next to you. As she leaves us to begin a new chapter in her professional life, we wish Amanda success, learning, joy and peace.
All of Amanda’s regular drop-in classes will stay on the schedule, and will be taught by our other wonderful teachers; Carin, Leslie and Amanda Ingall. Amanda Soikie will be teaching her regular classes until the end of August, so stop in for a class to give her your well-wishes.
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