Walking Backwards – Widening My View

This blog post was written by studio director Emma, who has been travelling across Canada and in the United States for the last few months on a sabbatical from teaching. Emma will be back to teaching at the studio in November, and wishes to share this update about her trip with the QSY community. This post relates to the recent work Queen Street Yoga has been doing on Indigenous land acknowledgement and educating ourselves about the cultural genocide of First Nations populations in Canada.

At a contact dance workshop this summer, I participated in an exercise that included walking backwards along a forest path. The exercise encouraged us to sense the space behind us, which is a useful awareness to cultivate in dance. I walked backwards for over an hour along a winding forest path, over jagged rocks, bumpy tree roots and clumps of moss. The sensation was fascinating. I realized that I have had a habit of looking down at the ground as I walk, in order not to trip. Facing away from where I was walking to required me to slow down a great deal and sense carefully with my feet the texture and topography of the ground. Looking down was no longer a helpful strategy. My gaze was up and my awareness surrounded me like a sphere. I was no longer focused on moving ahead, on getting somewhere; I was filled up with the view of the landscape I was moving through, and an energetic sense of the landscape I was backing into.

One of the most noticeable differences in the experience of walking backwards is that your view is constantly widening.  Rather than things disappearing from your peripheral vision (which is what happens when you move forwards) the landscape appears slowly at your sides and seems to bloom out and emerge from the edges of your vision. What you see seems to grow in context and size, rather than shrink in anticipation and pursuit of your destination. Walking backwards, one is not preoccupied with the destination, rather, with having the fullest sense of the landscape, and of treading carefully on the ground. Continue reading

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Finding Your Soul-Mat: a guide from Queen Street Yoga

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun! I hope this post is a helpful guide to finding the mat of your dreams.

A quality yoga mat that suits your preferences can really enhance your practice. Ideally, if a mat is serving your needs, it should be functional and supportive enough that it becomes unnoticeable, so you can focus on enjoying your practice.

We carry four different types of mats at QSY and choosing the mat that is most suitable for you is really up to personal preferences and priorities. In this post, I’ll give what I consider to be the pros and cons of the mats we carry, so that if you’re in the market for a new mat, you can find one that feels like the best fit for your needs. Continue reading

A Climate Change Collage

Emma shared this post about climate change and yoga teaching on her own blog yesterday morning. We’ve reposted it here to share it with the wider QSY community. 

In the past few months I have been re-inspired (particularly by this article) to set the tone of my yoga classes to include the awareness of rapid climate destabilization (aka climate change) as a present reality and backdrop to the “personal” or “internal” practice of yoga. I have also started to (subtly, slowly) introduce issues of race/racism and gender/sexism into the space of my asana classes. I hope to become more skilled at grappling with these pieces in my own life, as well as making them familiar vocabulary/reference points in my classes. I feel a bit clumsy at the moment, almost like I am learning to teach all over again.  These pieces (grappling with the reality of climate change, naming and responding to systems of oppression) feel closest right now to my spiritual core, so it makes sense that I am sharing them as part of my practice. I appreciate and acknowledge the work of others that continue to inspire and inform me in this arena (some of these others include Christi-an Slomka, Michael Stone and Matthew Remski). It is also such a gift to work side by side every day with Leena Miller Cressman, who values these pieces with the same fervour as I do, and together we are bringing these pieces to life at our studio.

So, last night in one of my classes at Queen Street Yoga I shared a passage, a poem and a question. I called it “A Climate Change Collage”. In my recent reading and searching for insight about the decline of the ecological world, I felt as if a conversation was emerging between the different pieces I was reading and collecting. I cobbled them together and read them to my class to frame our practice for the night. The passage was by Martin Keogh, from the introduction to a book of essays called “Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World“. The poem was by The Reverend Victoria Safford, and I had heard it read aloud by Parker Palmer during a recent podcast produced by On Being. And the question was from an interview between EcoBuddhism.org and Joanna Macy, which a mentor had shared with me earlier in the week.

Continue reading

Open Letter to the Kitchener-Waterloo Community and Local & Provincial Government Regarding the Smart Growth Plan of Waterloo Region

Have you heard that our region’s Smart Growth Plan that supports healthy urban densification and curbs suburban development that is harmful to our forests and farmland is UNDER THREAT?! Check out Smart Growth Waterloo Region and take a moment to share your voice with local and provincial officials. This is an environmental concern that we CAN take positive action on. Below is a letter that Queen Street Yoga has written to leaders and the community on the Region’s Smart Growth Plan and our battle with the Ontario Municipal Board. Continue reading

Earth Hour, Every Hour

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Toronto skyline dims during Earth Hour 2011

A post from Leena!

All over North America this weekend communities turned off their lights and celebrated Earth Hour. It is special to turn off the lights, and important to have time set aside to be aware of the power we take for granted for an hour each year.  And, I think our yoga practice has the possibility helping to shift our relationship to the planet in a much more long-term way. Continue reading