Chakra smashing

The title of this post sounds a little violent, but I can assure you, it’s not. Smash refers to smashbook, not smashing something because you’re mad, don’t like it, or it’s a really gross bug.

A few months ago, I started my first smashbook, which is like an anti-scrapbook. It’s not about looking pretty, or using a ton of pre-determined cut-outs that go together. It’s about being creative.

I used to have one smashbook. I now have eleven. I am a bit obsessed. There are many different styles, and every time I go to the store, it seems like one of them is on sale. I decided to use the purple one for any and all yoga-related things, ideas and thoughts.

I’ve done seven pages so far, one for each chakra. They’re not completely done, because I still have lots to learn and I wanted to leave room to add in new words and pictures.

Root chakra

Root chakra

Sacral chakra

Sacral chakra

Solar plexus chakra

Solar plexus chakra

Heart chakra

Heart chakra

Throat chakra

Throat chakra

Third eye chakra

Third eye chakra

Crown chakra

Crown chakra

Like I said, I still have a lot to learn about each chakra, but it’s a good start!

How to do yoga in the jungle

I just spent a blissful week in Costa Rica doing yoga. I love yoga so, so much! Hot yoga is my favourite, so I wasn’t worried about doing yoga somewhere deliciously hot. I learned quite a few things about myself and my practice when I was there. I also learned some valuable lessons about doing yoga in the jungle and at the beach.

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1. It is not your jungle

You know who was there first? The ants! They were there to stay, but thankfully, ants don’t bother me at all. These weren’t some kind of crazy, biting ants, just yellowish, let me eat your picnic, ants. I also saw the biggest grasshopper ever, in the world. There was a praying mantis who caught my attention for so long, I was no longer paying attention to class.

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2. I am not a morning yoga person

I woke up every day as the sun came up and got up around 6:30. This was not difficult for me, it was actually enjoyable, which was a surprise. Meditation started at 7:15, and lasted 15 minutes. I enjoyed this as well. Not so surprised here. Yoga was from 7:30 to 9am. This was very difficult for me. Big surprise!

Although I love practicing, morning is not a good time for me. I didn’t feel like pushing myself at all and just kind of moved through the poses. I had very little energy and no desire to find any. I was also hungry, which didn’t help the situation. About halfway through class, I would find some energy and start to enjoy myself a little more.

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3. Monkeys trump yoga

During class one afternoon, someone saw a monkey. Well, it didn’t take long before we all got up off our mats and ran for the windows to see it! As an elementary school teacher, I’m usually on the other end of something like this, trying to teach when everyone wants to make sure they don’t miss what’s going on outside. It was cute, and it was swinging from a branch, acting like a monkey. I think he knew we were watching.

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4. Yoga on the beach is not really going to happen

About ten of us from the retreat went into Tamarindo for the day, with very good intentions of practicing yoga together on the beach at the end of the day. You know where we ended up? In a restaurant, eating and drinking! I have lots of pictures of me doing yoga poses on the beach, but I never did an actual practice. It was usually too hot. Also, when I’m at the beach, there so many sights, sounds and smells, there’s no way I’m staying present. What if I miss something, like a shark or a pelican?

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5. Yin wins

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of power yoga. After my week in paradise, I can confirm what I’ve been feeling for a while: I’m not much of a power person anymore. I like yin, with it’s melt-into-the-floor poses and passive postures. I’m not saying I’ll never do power yoga again, and I still love flow, but the afternoon classes, which were less power, more yin, were like candy to me. Maybe it was the slow pace of Costa Rica that got me all yin-like, or the fact that I was running around all day learning how to surf and stand up paddleboard with the crocodiles, leaving me with little energy for yoga at the end of the day. Yin was a welcome relaxation.

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The yoga studio at Peace Retreat had an open feel to it, letting in air, light, and the sounds of the jungle. I felt very lucky to be able to practice in such a beautiful setting. I can’t wait to go back and practice there again!

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Aerial yoga

For Christmas, a friend gave me a gift certificate for an aerial yoga class. I’m also her son’s teacher, so it was my teacher gift as well. It’s the first time I ever recieve a present from a parent that has the words “pole dancing” on it! There wasn’t any actual pole dancing involved, but the class was at a pole dancing studio.

In January, just before school started up again after the holidays, four of us braved the snow and made our way to the studio. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect. I’ve tried aerial silks before, but I wasn’t sure if it would be the same thing or not.

Turns out, it was a good work out, a lot of fun and a great challenge! Our instructor made it look easy, but it really wasn’t. We started of kind of flying back and forth, which was nice, when you got used to the ribbon cutting into your stomach. I thought it would slice me in half, but that was just because it wasn’t placed right. Oh. My bad.

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We did some handstands too. Correction. The other girls did handstands. I developed a sudden fear of the floor coming too close to my face. Must get over it, as I would like to do an actual, unsupported handstand one day.

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Then we tried some sort of flying flip thing. Ha! That did not work. Not even a little. Not even at all. (See how I snuck part of that poem from 10 things I hate about you in there? yeah, I know. Awesome!) One of the girls did it. She must have been taking something to boost her performance, because it was impossible.

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We did a few upside down poses. That was kind of the point of this whole thing. At first, it was too much of a head rush and I felt like I was going to explode, so I didn’t stay flipped around for very long. But after a while, I got used to it, and could get into a few poses instead of just hanging there like a Christmas decorations.

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They made us keep our socks on, so I look like some sort of lumberjack aerialist. Those socks were never supposed to be in the pictures.

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Aerial yoga is on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so I’m pretty happy I got to do it. I would definitely recommend trying it if you like yoga, being upside down, flying and having sore hipbones and arms the next day. Because we also pulled ourselves up using upper body strength. I don’t have very much of that, so my arms felt like noodles the next day. But it was worth it!

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At the very end, we got to stretch out and relax inside the ribbon. It’s actually very wide. We hung there in our cocoons for a while, then emerged as beautiful butterflies. Ha! Just kidding. We emerged as sweaty messes, but smiling sweaty messes.

Making over my yoga space

When I did my yoga teacher training last July, I learned the importance of having a home practice. Sure, it’s great to take classes, but it’s also good to have your own, self-guided practice. I didn’t have a special space dedicated to yoga, so I decided to create one in my spare bedroom.

My neighbours moved out, new neighbours moved in, and this fantastic, old, wooden, cabinet was left outside. I thought it was just being left out while the moving was getting done, but then I realized it had been out there for weeks, it had been rained on, and basically forgotten. I asked them what they planned to do with it, and they said “We don’t want it, it was left here, we’ll just throw it out.” My heart stopped for a second, thinking that this beautiful piece would end up in the trash. I asked if I could have it and they gladly gave it to me and helped me move it up to the third floor. Lovely people!

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It needed a lot of love. Parts of it were painted, parts of it were stained. The wood had swelled from the rain, the doors didn’t close, pieces had fallen off. It’s a good thing I was planning on saving it.

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I took the doors off and brought them to my dad. He fixed the broken mesh screen and sanded down the bottom of the doors so they would close again.

I learned how to use wood glue and clamps to try and get it back to it’s original shape. I used plastic wood. I cleaned and sanded it. And then I cleaned it again. There was a lot of dirt and a few bugs too.

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My mama came over for a few days to help me pretty it up. She brought the doors my dad had fixed and she had painted. We primed the whole piece with an oil-based primer, then hit it with three coats of sunshine.

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I also wanted a wall of picture frames. Different shapes and sizes, but all the same colour. I had a few already, then bought a couple more at a thrift store and one at a decorating store. I set them out on the floor to see what it would look like on the wall. I ended up returning the circular one in the top left corner and replacing it with a lace-like frame instead.

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I tried to just spray paint the frames, but it wasn’t sticking, so I primed them using the same oil-based primer I used for the cabinet. It worked really well.

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I spray painted the frames indoors, as I live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, but I would recommend doing it outside if you can. It gets pretty stinky. Thankfully, it was summer, so I had all the windows and doors open.

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Then, I pulled everything together to create a beautiful, peaceful, zen yoga space. I love it!

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It all came together beautifully. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I now have a place to practice whenever I feel like it. It definitely helps to have a designated yoga space if you want to build a home practice. Lately, it’s been mostly used for yin-type yoga, but I also use the space when I plan out the classes I teach. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my mat is calling to me!

How to be present

This afternoon, when I walked into the hot room to set up my mat, there was a girl on her mat, playing with her phone. Now, I don’t know what she was doing, or who she was talking to, but it struck me as odd. Why would you bring your phone onto your mat? True, there were ten minutes left until class started, but what happened to laying on your back, closing your eyes and just being?

I’m not judging, and I’m not always present during my practice. I do sometimes pick out what I’ll be wearing tomrrow (striped shirt with the pink bow) or decide what to eat after class. I just think it’s too bad that people can’t be with themselves for ten minutes.

Here are my tips for being present before, during, and after your practice, so that you get the most out of it.

1. Set an intention

Take a moment to think about why you’re practicing. Do you need to de-stress or relax? Do you need to move some energy around? I usually intend to find joy during my practice. What brings me joy will depend on the day I’ve had, so my practice is always different. Come back to your intention a few times, and it will help keep you present.

2. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want

If you tell yourself you’ll focus on your breathing, you’ll have a much better chance of actually doing it than if you keep telling yourself you’re not going to think about work, or that fight you had, or that person who drives you crazy. Help your mind out a little.

3. Don’t worry about it

If your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up. Just come back to your practice. It might happen 12 times in one minute, then maybe 7 times, then 3, then 1. Eventually, you’ll get a minute where you are totally focused on your practice and your breathing and it will be perfect. If you catch yourself thinking about how perfect that minute was instead of your breath, don’t worry, just come back to it.

4. Know that every day is different

Yoga is different every time you practice. Your mind and your body are not the same from day to day, so you can’t expect your practice to be either. Maybe you had that perfect minute yesterday, but it’s nowhere to be found today. No worries, you can still find joy. Try again tomorrow.

5. Don’t bring your phone onto your mat

You know. Just don’t.

Now see how many of these you can apply to your life off the mat. Breathe. Be present. Find joy. Don’t worry. Let go of your phone.

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Awesome yoga day

It’s been a while since I wrote about yoga. I’m still practicing, but I lost the habit of having my camera with me all the time. I think a post without pictures is no fun. Yesterday, I had a fabulous day that was all about yoga. I didn’t think to bring my camera, but I had to write this post anyways, because it was such a great day!

I’ve had an annoying cold all week. You know, the kind that’s not enough to make you complain a lot (although I did). It just makes you tired and grumpy. It also made me sneeze like one of Snow White’s dwarves. I’m not kidding. Sneezes all the time.

For a few months now, I’ve been a “karma yogi” at my favourite studio, Pure Yoga. It’s an energy exchange program where you work for four hours a week and get free, unlimited yoga. Yay! I normally go on Tuesday nights, but this week, after an hour and a half, I went home because I was sick and sneezy. Yesterday, Saturday, I was subbing for another karma yogi, and, although I still felt a little under the weather, it was much better than Tuesday.

One of the great things about being a karma yogi is that you get to do a class during your shift, so really, you don’t work for four hours. I did a flow class. I wasn’t sure if I should, but Jen told me class would start with a long, supported fish pose. Bliss. I was in. I took a few breaks, including a pretty long child’s pose while everyone else was doing some kind of warrior two torture thing. I didn’t actually see what they were doing, since I was a happy little ball of “I’m not doing this”, but I could hear people lose their regular breath, gasp for air, then try to return to their steady breathing. Yeah, not sorry I missed that. Those breaks made class perfect for me. I’m happy I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer care what people think of me if I spend half a class in child’s pose. My yoga, my bliss.

Jen and I. Ok, it's an old picutre. My hair is no longer than length or colour. But it's still us!

Jen and I. Ok, it’s an old picutre. My hair is no longer than length or colour. But it’s still us!

Then, after my karma shift was over, I raced to another studio where I attended a three hour workshop on Ayurveda with Matthew Remski. I had heard about him during my teacher training, so I was very excited that he was in Ottawa. Learning about Ayurveda was one of my favourite things about teacher training. Ayurveda is a science.

He told us we should be able to explain Ayurveda in seven steps to people who asked us about it. I’m going to pretend all of you lovely people have asked me about it.

1. We consist of two parts: a thinking part and a perceptual part.

2. A unique combination of the two is what we call our “constitution”.

3. Our constitution can harmonize or clash with our natural and scocial environment, either by conscious choise or by circumstance.

4. If we do not pay attention to the feedback our body gives us, we will prematurely weaken our vitality, then our immunity.

5. As immunity weakens, we get congestion, inflamation and disorganization (we get sick).

6. Good digestion (of food, ideas, experiences) is the root somatic (body) and psychic (mind) health.

7. Pleasure and equinimity are the flowers of balances health.

There you go, now you know about Ayurveda! It’s actually much more complex than that, but it’s a good start.

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Now, I’m off to put my camera in my yoga bag and enjoy the rest of my Sunday!

Goldilocks does yoga

It’s not easy to find that perfect yoga class. When you’re a yoga lover, a lot of classes will count as great, because hey, you’re doing yoga and yoga is awesome and breathe in and breathe out and tree pose and plank pose and savasana.

But often, it’s just a little too hot in the hot room. Or not hot enough. Class is too hard for your energy level, or a little too slow. You’re tired, you’re wired or you’re distracted. The teacher is leading that pose. The one you dislike *cough dragon pose*. There’s music, and you want it to be quiet, or there’s no music and you want some to help you move.

You end up feeling like Goldilocks.

Tonight, I debated whether or not to go to yoga. It’s Friday, therefore I am tired. However, I was thinking of the moment I would get to step on my mat all day, and I couldn’t let go of it just because I was tired.

I made my way to Pure, my yoga home, for Sasha’s class. As soon as I took my first deep breath, I felt like Goldilocks when she finds the bed, the chair, the porridge, that is just right. This, I thought. This is what I live for.

Sasha is fantastic. The way she speaks, slowly but with energy, motivates me. She radiates joy and calmness, a wonderful combination, if you ask me. The classes she leads resemble my own practice more than any other teacher’s class I’ve done. This is the practice I would have done had I stayed home.

We did lots of pigeons, mixed in with our flows. My hips feel delicious right now. It’s been difficult to practice with an injury, and tonight, for the first time in almost two months, I felt like myself again. It felt like my body, moving the way I know it can, making me feel that moment of yoga bliss that’s been slightly out of my grasp as I struggled to modify my poses and let go of my ego as I heeled. I still felt some pulling and twinges, my muscles whispering not to push it too much, but it was the best practice I’ve had in a long time.

At the end of class, we rested in waterfall, with hips on blocks and feet up in the air. Then, a magical thing happened. Sasha took hold of my feet and massaged each one, squeezing out any remaning tensions and worries from my body. When I settled into savasana, I felt like I had just spent a day at the beach.

My whole summer was spent in a yoga bubble. I did my teacher training in July, and even though I injured myself in August, I was still doing yoga, because I was learning, breathing, thinking, discovering things about myself and just being. I was riding the yoga wave and it was blissfull.

Then, I went back to work, and while my yoga bubble didn’t burst, it certainly got smaller. I’m not one of those people who just has a job. My work is my purpose. I’m meant to be there with those kids every day, teaching and learning. I’m happy to go to work. I don’t count down the days to the weekend and get crabby on Sundays because I have to work the next day.

Being invested in my students and my work, my “real life” bubble gets bigger while my yoga bubble shrinks. I’m looking for balance. I haven’t quite found it yet, but I’m a work in progress. I’m trying to make my yoga bubble my life, because it’s so peaceful and happy in there. It doesn’t mean I want to quit my job, it means I want to bring my yoga with me, everywhere I go. Like I said, I’m working on it.

Thank you Sasha for the amazing class. I’ve missed this feeling and I’ve missed writing about yoga. I am one happy yogini.

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