Tuesday, July 15, 2014

YITP Tips and Tricks for the Teacher and the Receiver

Yoga in the Park is now mid-season and we have had a wildly successful summer so far! (*does happy dance*). It truly is something lovely to look out each Sunday and see 30-40 odd people that don't look like carbon copies of a young white woman all present and ready to practice together under the sun.

There are a few things/tips to consider for both Yoga Teachers and Yoga Receivers for YITP though, so I thought I'd share a few extra insider tips here :)

Tips for Yoga Teachers:
Leading a YITP outside is an amazing and fulfilling experience. It also poses some interesting challenges.

  • Projecting your Voice: It is *much* more difficult to hear your voice, instructions and suggestions with the wind, the sounds of the ocean and a wide open space for your voice to travel. Demonstrating while you talk becomes almost impossible; no one will hear you while your facing away in downward dog. YITP also attracts a more varied yogi, several who most certainly have some level of hearing loss (like yours truly, it's not just the wisest appearing among us with evidence of experienced life that may have hearing loss!). The best strategy? Project your voice (while protecting it!), face your yogis and:
  • Have a demonstrating buddy next to you. I've done this twice, and although kinda weird (since I am far from a model asana practitioner) it does allow other yogis to see what the heck you're describing while permitting you to continue said describing. Just make sure you introduce why the demo buddy is there- otherwise it's a bit awkward (who's the keener at the front???)
  • Reference Nature: We're outside- think about changing your spatial references from "the floor" or even "the mat" to "the earth, the ocean, the sun, the sky". It's one of the beautiful parts of practicing outside, remind people of that.
  • Consider Nature: Think about the wind making balancing postures more difficult, the squishy grass making for non-solid bases in standing postures and the possibility for dog poo when arms out for supine twists. Balancing postures are often extremely challenging outside and it's nice to be reminded of the extra trickiness so as not to be too discouraged. 
  • Consider alternatives for Savasana: Laying out, face up to the sun for long minutes at the end of the practice may not be the most relaxing or comfortable (or safe!) end to a yoga practice. Maybe shorten your savasana, offer alternatives (seated meditation) and suggest that yogis cover their face. The end goal isn't laying on our backs, but integrating and absorbing our practice- however that may be.
  • Leave out all "extras" that might detract from Nature: Music and technology is a big one. I've found that blocks and straps are nice, but practicing outside is really about connecting with Nature through yoga. The more "extras" we have, the less we're truly experiencing the natural moment. 
  • Please no pictures! True consent during a yoga practice isn't given. I know it looks really cool and we just want to share, but getting consent without pressuring the yogis to give it (no matter if you ask first- are they simply going to walk away after setting up their yoga mat?) is unlikely. Instead of experiencing the practice through a lens, take a breath and practice fully observing what you're having an urge to photograph and keep that in your memory to cherish. 
Tips for the YITP Yogi Receivers:
  • Bring LOTS of sunscreen: and apply liberally. No really. You should leave YITP with a sense of peace and renewal, not a sunburn. Skin cancer is serious business- don't mess around!
  • Bring Water: Staying hydrated is so important. Reusable water bottles are better than plastic disposables, and stainless steel tend to be the best. I've found that the BEST for keeping water cold is the insulated stainless steel coffee mugs topped with ice cubes. My Klean Kanteen coffee container, although smelling slightly like coffee, really kept my water cold during an hour out in the sun. 
  • Use a YITP specific mat: (or no mat!). This is only if you happen to have two, relegate one to "YITP" for several reasons: a) it will get dirty. Which is kinda gross. If it's your YITP only mat that means you only have to wash it every so often instead of directly afterwards. Bonus! b) nicer, more ecologically friendly mats made of rubber biodegrade in the sun. You should actually keep your nice rubber Jade mat FAR AWAY from any sun exposure if you want it to last. 
  • Talk to the Teacher Before YITP Begins: even though we're not in a traditional class setting, it's important to share injuries or discomforts with the teacher. If you don't feel ok with that, the nice thing about YITP is that honestly, you can spend the entire time in child's pose and that is just fine. YITP really is about what you need- so be sure to take it!
  • Look out for dog poo: Seriously. It is everywhere. 
And above all else: enjoy sharing your practice outside, surrounded by the ocean, the sun and other lovely yogis!

Any thoughts/suggestions from your YITP experiences that I missed? Please share!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking Back Saying No to Technology while Remaining Cool

If you asked my friends whether I'm easily reachable through technology, they would definitely answer with a resounding "Not even close!".

I know it's weird, especially for someone who blogs, is an active twitterer and Facebook user. But I've noticed this natural trend in the past two years to disconnect.

The realization that perhaps this was more than just a passing trend occurred to me tonight: when the thought "I should check my gmail" caused twinges of anxiety and annoyance.

Although I've embraced technology (I am JUST at the cusp of the generation that has grown up with computers, video games and such), I've always been a stickler for "non tech time". Immediately when we got our iphones my pet peeve was being accessible, with the EXPECTATION that I would be RIGHT THERE to text back every minute of the day. I quickly informed all my friends that during work hours, I was at work- so my personal cell was on vibrate.

Often though I would forget to turn my phone back on sound when I got home. To be fair, if it's an emergency they should call and leave a message. Or text Andrew. (How many times do I get the "tell your wife to check her phone" text...:S). It drives me crazy to here text after text after text- even if the other person might not necessarily expect an immediate answer- the pressure is there to check "just in case". Which annoys the hell outta me.

I have a very important (to me) no cell phone in the bed rule. I leave my phone downstairs to be charged over night. If someone texts me while I'm getting ready for bed or sleeping, ah well. They should know better than texting someone past 10pm. Seriously. Our bedroom is moving towards a "no technology zone". I never want a tv in our bedroom and the laptop and ipad stay downstairs. I just have to wean Andrew off bringing his iphone upstairs (he hides it from me when he checks his twitter feed before getting out of bed in the morning...).

The bedroom is for sleeping and connecting couple time. There is enough research out there that strongly indicates that having technology (tv, ipad, iphone, laptop) in the bedroom is sleep disrupting and stress inducing. My sleep is precious, no messing with that!

Finally, email. I dread dread dread checking my gmail accounts. I'm attached to my email for work all day- I definitely do not feel like responding or considering issues via email while at home. So I just don't check them. For weeks. Which makes the process of checking my email even more stressful.

With smart phones we are increasingly tied to our technology- and it's harder and harder to disconnect. However, I firmly believe that this disconnect from in real life interaction is an important aspect to our disconnect with our natural world, the decrease in motivation for environmental personal action and our increasing everyday stress levels.

I am taking back my right to turn off my iphone, to saying "no" to being available every minute of every day and that this still makes me fantastically fun and not a luddite.

Leave your iphone charging on the counter and experience life 100%, instead of through moments between checking your twitter account or through the lens of your iphoto.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GPB: BirdNerding: Caving to the Squirrel Baffle

Happy Day after Canada Day!

I'm not sure if I truly shared here how much my life currently is spent thinking about bird watching and planning how we can attract different birds....

Over at the Green Phone Booth, my post this week is an update on the birds we've managed to attract and our latest, ridiculous, birdnerd purchase.

Go on over and take a peak!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bugs are Gross: The Yoga of Gardening

(Warning, this blog post does have some photos of bugs... but I've tried to intersperse some pretty garden photos to make up for it)

I am not a fan of bugs. I'm the person that will squish a bug without hesitation. Release it outside so it can crawl back in? No thank you. Once, during my speech therapy visit at a daycare, while sitting as part of their circle time, I saw a spider crawling amidst our preschool singing fun and in front of all the children, squished it with gusto. The teachers were not impressed.
LADY SLIPPER! This flower is endangered in NS. It's illegal to pick them- I was yelled at by a park ranger as a child for picking one- they only flower every SEVEN years! A true treat.

I thought these gorgeous purple flowers were weeds, until they bloomed! Good thing I resisted pulling them up!

Unfortunately, our new house appears to be built on multiple giant anthills. Trillions of ants surround us. I swear. For the past few months we have fought the fight of the Ant. Tiny sugar ants that roam the kitchen floors (and sometimes counters- ew!) by the dozens. When they found their way upstairs in our bedroom I drew the line. No more Ms Nice Nature Loving Yogini. I was going to kill them all. Or at least find a way to keep them out. After a month we're at somewhat of a stalemate with periodic Ant Attacks (today dozens of sugar ants found their way into the kitchen under the cupboards, like jerks).

Pretty magenta lilac bush- who knew they could be this colour?
The following semi-natural approaches have (kinda) worked:

  • Diatomaceous Earth: Much of our house has this white powdery substance lining the baseboards. It looks like crap, but ants can't walk over it. It's seriously cruel actually, the Diatomaceous earth cuts at the ants and dehydrates them until they die. I know. But...it's natural and won't harm our cats if they try to eat it (which they haven't). They do tend to alternate course and try to find another point of entry. So a two-pronged attack is necessary:
  • Borax and sugar water: This came from my dad's suggestion to get liquid Ant Raid, specifying that we needed a 7% borax ratio. Which made us think- why purchase liquid ant poison, if it's just the borax that kills them? We have borax, we can make our own liquid solution and we'll know for sure that it just has borax, sugar and water. 
Our cat proof ant trap
Borax Sugar Water Ant Poison:

1 part sugar
4 parts water
Boil the water and sugar together, allow to cool. Add slightly less than 10% of the volume in borax. Mix and keep in a glass jar out of reach of children and pets. 
Using jam jar lids (or pop bottle lids) add liquid. Leave it outside or inside where you see the ants and keep away from pets and children. Allow the ants to leave with the solution (they bring it to the nest and it kills more of them that way). We used an old yogurt container with small holes cut in the bottom, put the jam jar lid with the borax solution inside and sealed it away from the cats. 

My new hummingbird feeder spot. We shall see...
These awful little bugs have even invaded our hummingbird feeder. For the third time tonight, I had to clean out the feeder since it had become cloudy with ant remains. WTF ants? Don't MESS with my bird feeders! I have been forced to place the hummingbird feeder on the clothesline next to the finch feeder. It's a bit ghetto... but this is serious business. Plus at least I resisted putting legit ant poison all over the hummingbird feeder.
These little white flowers are so cute. I thought they were wild flowers, since I found them nestled in the middle of a little wild plant section- but have since discovered they were planted their on purpose some time long ago!

The epitome of bug grossness, though, was this weekend:
ew ew ew ew ew ew ew
OMG the entire stem is covered. took these photos tonight. We should really spray the lupines with water tomorrow...

Saturday I decided that I would cut some of the beautiful lupines and lilies growing in our yard and make a bouquet for our kitchen. I was super proud of my Secret Garden Flowers (each bloom is a surprise!) and posted a photo on Facebook to prove it. The lupines and lilies smelled amazing and I did a happy dance each time I walked by the evidence that to no credit to us, we had an awesome flower garden.

And then Sunday I noticed dozens and dozens of seafoam green little crawly things ALL OVER OUR FLOOR. I nearly lost my mind. Yelling for Andrew to come over, we spent frantic moments searching and squashing this little buggers and flushing them down the toilet. They looked eerily like wood ticks, only green and I had a (shameful) moment of panic: "WHAT IF THEY'RE BABY TICKS????" (If you don't know what ticks are- good for you. They are awful and currently are a problem and lyme disease carrier in Nova Scotia. Each evening after our garden inspection we do full body tick checks). In order to kill ticks you need to burn them or cut them in half with something sharp. They don't squash.

Gross creepy crawly talk break- these are my favourite flowers in the whole garden. Originally they were among the half dozen I thought were weeds- specifically I thought they were grass gone to seed until they flowered! They're still pink and puffy weeks later!

Anyhoo... Andrew in his calm manner looked our creepy seafoam green bugs of death and informed me that in fact they are aphids. Not ticks. Also, they have a fairly short life span. And they love lupines. A quick look... and to our horror the lupines in my beautiful bouquet were COVERED in them. Cue second panic attack. ("what if they fly????" "they don't fly, Lisa").

Since neither Andrew nor I wanted to touch the flowers, we put the entire bouquet, vase and all, out on the deck and left it there overnight.

Andrew threw the flowers out in the compost this morning.

(pretty plant photo to balance gross aphid photo. Also- I have no idea what this plant will become- any thoughts? A weed or a flower?)

Lessons learned:

  1. Dunk flowers in a bucket of water prior to bringing them in the house (thank you Teresa for that tip!)
  2. Rip up all the front lupines in the fall. 
  3. Learn to love lady bugs.

These are herbs our of control in the front garden- the herb on the left has actually grown into the lawn- so every time you walk over it, a delicious smell wafts up!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Death of the Karma Class: Don't Belittle Yoga in the Park

Last week I had the opportunity to share my practice under the sun to the sound of the ocean waves with 38 other yogis. This year's yoga in the park has started with a bang, with triple the usual number of yogis sharing a practice together.

I believe this is in part due to the slow but steady word of mouth needed for the group, being in our fifth year and in part the increase in connection with passionate yoga teachers who share the group with other yogis. That and practicing near the ocean is amazing.

However, I also have a sneaking suspicion that Haligonians are hungry for yoga... and are struggling to find a practice that is affordable.

Halifax is an interesting city for it's yoga scene. The size of the city is quite small comparatively, with a population of almost 300,000, with a huge student population (5 universities). We also have anywhere between 15-20 yoga studios (some are in flux, and I can't ever keep up the count) in the HRM. Many of these studios have yoga teacher training programs.

At first glance this would appear as if Haligonians have a lot of choice when it comes to where they can practice their yoga. Upon further reflection, unfortunately, it would seem that "choice" is a relative term for a specific demographic: those individuals who can afford the practice have choice. The rest, well options for a studio practice continue to dwindle.

This became all the more obvious when I went to update my "Affordable Yoga" page on my blog recently. A few years ago the majority of studios (80%ish) were offering at least one "Karma" or community class weekly or monthly. The first time I organized the information from a blog post to an actual page I was disappointed with the studios I had to delete from my list. With each revision and update, instead of finding more to add, instead I was deleting more studios from my list.

I'm now left with a sad, measly little list of places where a yogi can access yoga on a budget in HRM.

I get it. It's expensive to run a yoga studio, pay rent, your teachers and yourself. Neither am I implying that the yoga is worth less than the prices charged. I'm just stating that at 16-18$ a class, a regular studio practice is unreachable for the majority of yogis.

Oh sure you can volunteer for unlimited yoga at Moksha... because a full time working mom has time to volunteer another 4 hours AND still attend a yoga class. Let's be honest, a full time working non-mother, me, doesn't have an extra 4 hours for her yoga practice let alone volunteering to GET a practice. And that isn't choice.

I have always had trouble with karma and community (and Moksha volunteer) systems for yoga: it's always made me feel like it was a hierarchy of quality: you can't afford our studio prices? Well you can have cheaper classes, but taught at inconvenient not-popular times (Friday nights at 8pm anyone?), by less experienced teachers and yoga teacher students, surrounded by yoga merchandise at Lulu or *only* if hot yoga is a good fit for you. It sets up a system that those who can afford classes get the best quality yoga and choice while those who can't get a lower quality of yoga. It's demeaning.

But at least this system was fairly universal across studios. At this point in time we barely have that. Studios have cut their community and karma classes with a ruthlessness that is honestly shocking. It's been a weirdly quiet event- without a dying peep. Maybe attendance was poor (should we blame the market, or should we blame inconvenient times and less quality class choices?), or maybe the cost to run a studio is just astronomical and something had to give. But then, maybe there just aren't enough people in our city that meet the socio-economic status requirements to stock-up full priced yoga classes.

Which came first? The Chicken: lower yoga class attendance or the Egg: jacking up the prices and subsequently less people can afford to attend a studio class? Perhaps that's why people are turning away from attending yoga studios- in Halifax we've had a few closures... and the rumour was the revenue wasn't such to support the cost of running a studio.

Yoga in the Park is free. It's not donation based, it's not "community" or "karma". It's free. Because it's not about getting a studio experience. It's about a group of yogis coming together to share yoga under the open sky with the ocean waves crashing into our practice.

It also shouldn't be a lower quality of yoga. It's not only for new teachers looking for experience or practice teaching (although we welcome those who are new and would like to share). It's not about "doing your community time" to check off some weird yogic sense of what it means to be a yoga teacher (doing prerequisite karma class, check).

I would hope that those teachers who choose to share their practice and lead YITP do so because they love to practice outside. Please don't brush off our beautiful, gorgeous practice under the sun as something only a "new" yoga teacher would ever consider leading.

Our YITP teachers are there to share yoga. New and well seasoned, from all disciplines, we practice together, wobble in the wind together, feel the grass under our feet, the ants creeping on our mats and the sun on our faces together.

From the bottom of my little yogi heart, I thank every single one of you.