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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To do: Yoga, Be awesome, Repeat

In my last post, I said it didn’t feel like summer. I take it back. Summer is here and I love it. I just had a four day weekend and it felt so much like summer vacation that I was shocked to realize I had to go to work this morning.

What did I do on this amazing weekend of summery bliss, you ask? The best thing ever: yoga! Six yoga classes, to be exact. And one dance class. Yes, it was exhausting, hot and humid. And yes, I loved every minute of it!

Friday night I went to a flow class where the teacher massaged my feet during pigeon pose. Bliss.

Saturday, I went to a flow class that was hot, hot, hot. Made me feel like I was in Cuba again. Bliss. Then, I went out to dinner with my girlfriends, followed by a night out at a club for a cd release party. Bliss.

Sunday, I made it to a detox class where I twisted out all the bad stuff and inhaled lots of good stuff. Bliss. After class, I went to Chapters to buy a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. I need to read it for my yoga teacher training, which starts in just over a week! Went back to the studio for an intro class. When you do two classes in one day, it’s nice to have one that’s a little easier!

Sunday evening, I was supposed to go to a house dance class with my girlfriends. One friend decided not to go, as she’d had a long day at work. When I got to the studio, my other friend sent me a text to say she wasn’t coming. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t really want to go alone. I considered leaving, but I’d already paid for my class. I decided to stay and I’m so glad I did! It was so much fun. I’ve tried house dancing before, and I’m not very good, but I loved it. Bliss.

Monday was a holiday, so I went to an early class (9:30 is early, right?). Had the amazing feeling I get when I get something done before noon on a non-work day. Bliss.

Had a lunch and movie date with a friend, then back to yoga for a class called Pure Hips. Now, I’ve avoided this class for a long time, based on it’s name. It just screamed “dragon pose” at me. Fortunately, there was no dragon or gecko to be found. It was a lot of rolling out tissues on balls. Sounds weird. It is. It doesn’t feel great, and that means it’s working. It felt good today. Bliss.

Tonight, I went to a yin class that’s got me feeling all soft and sleepy. I can’t believe it’s almost the end of June and the 30 day challenge is almost over!

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How to survive a core flow class

I don’t have a very strong core. I have strong legs and arms, but not my core. That’s ok, because I can work on it and get stronger. The thing is, I don’t like working on my core. I don’t like planks and dolphin push ups and a million boat poses. I don’t need a six pack. The other thing, however, is that I really, really want to do a headstand, a handstand, a forearm stand, and any other inversion. You need a strong core for that.

I’m on day 5 of my 30 day yoga challenge, and the only class I could fit it yesterday, on day 4, was a core flow class. I usually avoid this class, although I love the teacher (hi Amber!). I go to her other classes, but not this one. Except for yesterday. I thought I would put together a helpful little list for anyone who might not know what they’re getting into.

1. Don’t go.

2. See step one.

3. Ok fine. If you’re going, don’t take it too seriously.

4. Ask the teacher to go easy on the core work.

5. When the teacher says “Take it easy, you don’t want to tire yourself out in the first 10 minutes”, listen to her! Also, don’t yell out “What?! It’s only been 10 minutes?!”

6. Do dolphin pose. Do one dolphin pose push up to see what it feels like. Forever avoid dolphin pushups.

7. When you do side plank on your forearm, you can’t adjust your arm without falling down, it’s kind of holding you up. Not that I fell or anything.

8. During the 24 minute plank pose, just hang out on your mat like you’re at the beach and tell yourself everyone is so busy not passing out that nobody will notice.

9. After class, don’t ask your teacher if she noticed you wimped out on most of the poses, because when she says she didn’t notice, you can’t really laugh and say “Haha, just kidding, I did it all!” She won’t believe you.

10. Your abs will hurt the next day when you laugh, even if you only did a third of the planks (that’s still like 32).

11. Go out for dinner with your girlfriends to reward yourself for all your hard work.

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Today I went to yin, because there was no way I was doing a power class! I think tomorrow might be a yin-day as well.

I’ve been wearing dresses for my week long dress challenge too. It’s so much easier to wear dresses than to do a core class!

Day 4                                                            Day 5

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Bird with a broken wing

Today was day three of my 30 day yoga challenge. Two of my friends from work are also doing the challenge, and today we realized we all planned to go to the same class, so we had ourselves a little post-work yoga party!

The class was prana vinyasa and it was led by Megan. There’s something special about her classes. The way she puts everything together, the pace of the class, I always work hard, but I don’t need to take a lot of breaks.

Towards the end of class, when I was good and sweaty, she led us into a twist, then offered different stages of the pose. By this point, I was feeling a little tired, but one of the options was an arm balance, and I never turn down an arm balance! I tried on one side, but I was so sweaty my foot slipped right off my arm and I fell down. Then, on the other side, I decided to try again. Megan was beside me and she guided me into it, and I did it! It only lasted half a second before I fell, but I still did it!

The pose is parsva bhuja dandasana, also called bird with a broken wing (I’ve heard it called firefly or grasshopper too.)

I tried to do it again when I got home, so I could take a picture, but it was hard! These are the best I got. I need to bring my foot up a little higher on my arm, but it makes me happy to have a new pose to work on!

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Today was also day three of my week-long dress challenge. I’ve had this dress for a few years, and I’m still not sick of it!

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Happy Monday!

Evolve your practice

Today was the first day of my third 30 day yoga challenge. The first one was a personnal challenge I did with my friend Julie and the second was a fundraising challenge. This one is a studio challenge. Pure Yoga Ottawa, my home away from home, is hosting this amazing 30 day awesome-fest.

To make the rest of my challenge feel easier, I started off with the hardest yoga class ever. Ever. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that hard, but I haven’t done yoga in weeks because I was sick, and it was super humid on top of being hot, so it probably felt harder than it was.

Anyone who thinks yoga can’t be a cardio workout should talk to Amber. We did about a million warrior one-chaturanga-updog-downdogs, quite fast and timed to some awesome upbeat music. If it wasn’t for the music and the fact that there were other people around, I might have curled up in a little ball and passed out.

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After class, there was a little presentation for all the challengers. We got to hear a naturopathic doctor speak about nutrition and how to stay healthy and hydrated during the challenge. She also gave us a gift certificate for either a naturapathic visit or a massage/salt scrub/acupuncture combo. I’m probably going to go with the massage combo, it sounds amazing!

We also had a massage therapist talk to us about how to assess our bodies and prevent injury. It was all great information. Then we all took a picture together. I’m in the front row, third from the left.

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Amber and Jen, the owners of the studio, gave all us challengers awesome goody bags! There was a tank with “evolve your practice” which is the studio’s new tagline. Also, a water bottle, some electrolyte drinks, a power bar, a lululemon headband, a voucher for free tea, yoga tune up balls, mat cleaner and other fantastic goodies!

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All in all, it was a great start to a 30 day challenge! I’m looking forward to the next 29 days!

Monday morning yoga

It’s Monday and I’m not at work. It’s March break, that week just before spring when teachers become human again, just in time to finish the school year.

I love my job and I adore my students, but a little break is a good thing. For me and for them. They deserve a teacher who’s well rested and patient. That’s what they’ll get. In one week. Until then, it’s all about me, me, me!

I wanted to go to a yoga class this morning, mostly because I normally can’t make it until late afternoon or evening. I woke up at 5:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was all “Go back to sleep! There’s no work today!” It took a while, but I got back to sleep just in time to wake up again for yoga.

This is probably very bad, but I didn’t have breakfast before class. I didn’t have time and I didn’t want to eat in the car, because that could have disastrous consequences during class.

I always like to notice the differences in my practice, depending on the time of day I find myself in the hot room. Now, I’m not very flexible, but this morning everything felt tighter than ususal. Is this a morning thing? Normally, I’ve been walking around all day before I practice, so my muscles have warmed up. This is my theory.

It was a flow class and I enjoyed every minute of it. Part of it had to do with the fact that it was a great class, but also, it was knowing that I had the whole day stretched out in front of me, with nothing that I absolutely had to do.

During a child’s pose break, I was trying very hard to stay connected to my practice, because it’s so much harder to get back into it if you let your mind wander too much. However, I was hungry and I started planning what I would have for breakfast (a smoothie with tofu and raspberries). However, when I got home, I wanted oatmeal with apples and cinnamon.

Now, I’m enjoying my free Monday. Bliss.

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The hot room is my happy place

We should all have a happy place. A space that makes us smile and helps us forget what’s bothering us. Sometimes it’s an actual place and sometimes it’s more of a feeling.

I’m always happy when I’m reading. It doesn’t matter where I am. At home, waiting for an appointment, at the bookstore, reading is like a bubble. A happy, word-filled, blissfull bubble.

I also have a happy place that’s an actual space I go to. It’s the hot room. When I walk into the hot room, I feel my shoulders drop a little, even if I didn’t realize I was tense. The heat is like a hug saying “Don’t worry, you’re here now. It’s all about you.”

Yesterday, I went to a yoga class taught by Jen. I was very happy, because she’s been away for a month and I truly love her classes. I think she missed teaching because her power class was really more of a super power. She really kicked our butt in there. About halfway through, I thought to myself “Humm, maybe Jen should have stayed in Australia a little longer!” But I didn’t mean it! It was just the vinyasas talking.

After class, I took a picture with Jen and Amber. Standing next to Jen who’s all tanned, I look like I glow in the dark.

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There’s a special vibe at the studio. It’s not my happy place for nothing. The people are amazing, the classes are fantastic and the actual space is beautiful.

There are quotes on the wall. My favourite is the one in the hot room.

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This is my happy place. What’s yours?

Pure Yoga Ottawa and both Jen and Amber have been nominated for best yoga studio and best yoga instructors by Faces Magazine. If you’ve been to the studio before, you should go vote! Even if you’ve never been there, you should take my word for it and vote for these wonderful ladies and their fabulous studio!