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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Why Your Feet Hurt

You are not going to want to hear this.

Your feet hurt because of the shoes you wear.

Hold on a second! I can hear you saying. I wear practical, supportive footwear. I don’t even wear high heels! It is *not* my shoes.

I know. Your shoes may seem like a smart choice. But…it’s probably still your shoes.

Alright, the shoe thing is a bit of an oversimplification. Your feet probably hurt for a number of reasons. One is that our culture has created a flattened world so that our ankles, calves and feet are conditioned to walking only on artificially flat and hard terrain. This has consequences for our feet and our whole bodies, as our feet are deprived of the different kinds of movement and conditioning they would get if they had to walk on different textured and varied ground. And don’t even get me started on how much we sit. So partially your feet hurt because they don’t move enough, in enough different ways.

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Pain and the Other Voices In My Head

natalieThis thoughtful post was written by Natalie Barrales-Hall, a member of our 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).  Natalie has worked as a community and youth worker, and in February she began teaching Queer & Trans Yoga at Queen Street Yoga. Natalie strives to facilitate safer spaces for students who may not see themselves represented in mainstream yoga spaces or those who may be questioning whether yoga is really for them. Her approach is gentle and permissive, and she invites students to consider a practice of gratitude and self-compassion.

Whether emotional, physical or traumatic, I’ve been thinking a lot about pain. Maybe that is because of the injuries and losses I experienced during the course of the training program (don’t worry, it wasn’t the yoga asanas!), or maybe it’s informed by my work and holding space for people who are hurting, or maybe it’s simply because pain is an inevitable part of being human. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about it and in all my thinking, I’ve started to wonder about the stories we are told and tell ourselves about pain – pain as the cause of loss and disconnection, pain as a source of growth and healing, and what pain says about us and how we show up in the world.

In early 2015, I was struggling to understand and manage increasingly severe knee pain which had, for all intents and purposes, come from “nowhere”. In my efforts to alleviate the pain and restore full range of movement, I was encouraged to pursue further testing to rule out any underlying injury. Thus ensued a 4-month long process which concluded with a visit to an orthopedic clinic, where upon reviewing my MRI, I was reminded of one of the first stories I can remember being told about pain: this is your fault. As the weeks passed, I would be offered many more stories by practitioners who suggested that the pain could be the result of a meniscal tear, pelvic alignment and related biomechanical concerns or energy stagnation.   Continue reading

3 Reasons Our Restorative Immersion Is for You

Restorative yoga is a powerful healing tool that helps to reduce stress and support the body’s innate responses toward balance and health. As a very gentle form of yoga, restorative yoga integrates resting postures, breath techniques, and meditative relaxation. Read on to discover more about our upcoming immersion into this practice.

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Here are three reasons why our immersion into Restorative Yoga is for you.

After this immersion you will be able to:

CUSTOMIZE a restorative yoga sequence to meet your specific needs

MEDITATE in a restorative pose

GIFT this practice to friends and family Continue reading

Wishing You a Body Positive New Year!

This blog post was written by Emma, Lead Teacher and Creative Director of Queen Street Yoga.

We chose the holiday wish this year–“Wishing You a Body Positive New Year”–with a lot of care. We hope people will participate in yoga as a way to celebrate and enjoy their bodies, rather than fix or change their appearance.

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All the time, but particularly at this time of year (New Year’s Resolution time!) there can be many subtle (and not so subtle) messages from our culture about bodies. About what we should be eating, and not be eating. About what we should be wearing. About how we should look and present ourselves. So much of these messages (coming from advertising, the people around us and even the voices in our own heads!) are focused on appearances, on what our bodies look like, or what they “should” look like. Continue reading