Showing posts with label yoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yoga. Show all posts

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pop-Up Yoga Halifax: Community Yoga at it's Best

This summer's Halifax Yoga in the Park has been phenomenal; with great regular turnout of 30+ yogis and lovely yoga teachers giving their time so that we can practice under the sun and near the ocean each week.

One such fabulous yoga teacher is Brigitte LeBlanc (a fellow francophone!). A Facebook friendship revealed that Brigitte not only gives back to her yoga community at HYITP, she helps organize something called “Pop-up Yoga Halifax”. It immediately made me think of Much Music's Pop-Up Video (all you under thirties, non Canadians are missing out, seriously), and as such I had to find out more.

The yoga world is weirdly sliding into the exhibitionist category (Tara Stiles practicing in a glass,vehicular cube around NYC, yoga selfies in dangerous shoes and clothing, yoga selfies in GENERAL). I find this sad because I like the idea of subverting “the man” (whatever that really means) or fine, just bringing something like yoga to the public sphere, but these recent “yoga selfies” trend aren't my cup of tea.

Which is why Pop-Up Yoga is perfect. The very premise of a spontaneous (yet planned enough in advance to attend!), outdoor (and public, but organized for an actual practice in beautiful spaces) and affordable yoga class in Halifax rocks. I was a bit curious on how it works, and the why so Brigitte was kind enough to answer a few questions for me (Merci!!).

If you live in Halifax, be sure to check out her Facebook Page: Pop-Up Yoga Halifax

1. What is Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Pop-Up Yoga Halifax is an opportunity to do yoga in a non studio setting, at different locations throughout the city with an affordable cost of $5. We believe that yoga should be fun and affordable, and with the summer season upon us, it's a good way to get outdoors, breath in deeply and feel the sun be pushed away by a gentle breeze on your skin.

2. What brought you to organize Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? One day, Rebecca Blanchard (my partner in this project) and I attended a drop in class which cost us $20 for a 45 minute class. We felt like yoga had become an activity for the rich, and those who need it the most (well...everyone!) should have access to it without breaking the bank. We also thought it would be a great opportunity for both her and I to get experience teaching without being hired at a studio. I work as a massage therapist, she works as a nurse and we both love yoga and wanted to teach in our spare time. We didn't want it to feel like a job, but an offering to our community of yogis.

3. What have been the challenges in organizing Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Just like any project, you start with a concept and you roll with it. Every step leads you to another and sometimes you need to take a step back. The vision has shifted since we began, and is progressing in ways that we are excited about. We asked two other teachers to join us, which is incredible. It’s nice to work on this as a project and have 4 teachers with different visions mix ‘em up together to get a blissed out brainchild.

4. So far, what has been your favourite moment during a Pop-Up Yoga Halifax practice? My favourite moment so far has been our first class. It was a beautiful day, we had a good group of people show up and I just really felt like a proud mother of a beautiful newborn. Although child birth is more painful then the process we went through to make this happen, but you get the symbolism, right? Perceive and conceive

5. What would you like to see Pop-Up Yoga Halifax become?
We would love to offer Yoga classes within local businesses. I see us offering classes in coffee shops, on rooftops, in art galleries, and in conference rooms. We're hoping that once the weather gets cold, that we may continue offering yoga throughout the city in fun locations. We hope to partner up with festivals, and events. Maybe even local dj's who would like to perform a set during a class, or maybe a local whole food company would offer free samples to our yogis. It's a great way to bring like minded folk together, and build a healthy and happy community, while bringing something new to the HRM.

5. We love having you lead during YITP, you have such an open and connected style. What has led you becoming a Yoga Teacher and what do you feel is important in sharing the practice of yoga? I've never been good at sports and I wasn't the athletic type growing up. Being in the health care industry, being active is something that is important to me and I feel that Yoga is suitable for anyone! It is also very complimentary to Massage Therapy since it creates body awareness. I always found myself offering stretches and strengthening postures to aid in my clients dysfunction in their body. I wanted to learn more, not only to deepen my practice, but to also empower my clients to heal. 

I like creating a mind/body connection during my classes. Where is it in your life that you can be more flexible, where is it that you require strength? Challenging yourself in these postures go way deeper then your superficial body. They translate into your relationships, your reactions, and more importantly, they encourage you to breath and be calm when faced with challenges. Yoga is a moving meditation, and in my opinion a great yoga practice should leave you feeling grounded, connected and inspired.
Body glorification has been linked to yoga, and even though this comes along with the package, and is a wonderful result of a consistent practice, there is so much more to value when it comes to yoga.

6. Besides yoga, what is/are your life passion(s)? I love gardening and plants. I feel like I need a bigger home to accommodate for the current jungle of plants that I live amongst. I love creating vegan and vegetarian meals. I love DIY projects. I am passionate about leading a life through a perspective of love. I am passionate about people. 
More then anything, I am passionate about health care and about healing, and the whole concept surrounding it. I believe in the bodies wisdom to heal. I'm passionate about helping people and assisting them in their process. I love learning about natural remedies, and encouraging optimal health through nutrition. I am constantly reading and learning about all things health care related. In September, I will be opening up a clinic called "Anatomy: A Massage and Wellness Centre" and feel like this will be a true creative expression of that which I am passionate about.

Brigitte LeBlanc

Brigitte has a lusty love affair with yoga. She began this beautiful relationship back in 2004 when she took her first yoga class in Canmore, Alberta. Even though it has been an on again and off again relationship, she is now committed to her practice and has found a soul mate for life. She has practiced in numerous locations around the world, exploring what it means to truly know herself. She took her month long, 200hr training in Guatemala. It was an unforgettable journey which led her to her bliss. Brigitte is a Registered Massage Therapist, a co-coordinator with Pop-Up Yoga Halifax and she is currently enjoying the creative process of soon opening her own clinic in the heart of Halifax. You can find out more from her website

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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I Still Subscribe to YogaGlo: Patents and All

About four years ago Yogaglo saved my yoga practice.

No I am not exaggerating. At that time I was experiencing some serious Halifax yoga disenfranchise/disillusionment. I was out of patience for the (at the time very broken) yoga community and my studio practice took a standstill. Add a new budget and I couldn't find ways to justify spending 10-16$ per yoga class.

Then a friend mentioned that I should try Yogaglo... and after the two week free trial I was sold. Oh, I continued (although it has been months now) to go to yoga classes in studios- I am a firm believer of kinaesthetic learning in a safe environment with a knowledgeable teacher. But I gladly turned to Yogaglo as my main yoga squeeze.

I had been searching for an online yoga compliment for my home practice for years at that point. Unfortunately, nothing fit. I hated the "Yogi practicing near the beach on the sand, hair flowing in the wind with strange voice-over". I equally despised the "Three yoga teachers all practicing together in a weirdly intimate room and zooming cameras". I just wanted to feel like I was in a yoga studio, have ridiculous amounts of choice when it came to length and style of practice with an easy to use interface.

Enter Yogaglo: it fits all the above. I chose Yogaglo over other online yoga streaming sites for all the reasons they have put forth in their (wildly contested) video patent.

When I first read about the video patent at Yoga International I was disappointed. How uncool is that? (Honestly, "How American" was my first reaction). That said, I was a bit uncomfortable with the "We are so yogic and you are not" very public reaction of Yoga International. I decided to wait and see how Yogaglo would respond.

Yogaglo's (albeit late) response on December 19th 2013 made me glad I waited. Go on over and read it then come back. Ok? Ready?

Beyond the "they said, they said" aspect of Yoga International crying "wronged" and Yogaglo responding  with "we've been open and communicative with you" AND whether or not Yogaglo was the first to spearhead their online class "look"- let's just take a step back for a minute and be real.

Both Yoga International and Yogaglo are businesses. They are in the business to make money and protect their merchandise. Which is yoga videos. I pay them money and they give me yoga videos. Yes being connected to yoga kinda lends itself to their clientele holding them to this weird moral-business higher standard. That said, unlike other yoga business, I don't hold online streaming in the same category as a highly polluting, questionable factory practices, non sustainable fabric, hurtful comments to women company like Lululemon.

Yogaglo films videos of yoga classes in a very specific way (arguably THE reason why I chose them in the first place) and streams them for a price. The end.

Do I think that they needed to file (and be approved, although supposedly Yoga Alliance is contesting it's enforceability) a patent? Meh. I wish they hadn't. But... I did choose them for the exact reasons they are filing for a patent. so...

Maybe this makes me selfish, or cynical, but truly I only have so much fire left in my belly and I decide to spend it wisely. I really can't get all worked up about a yoga business acting like a, well, business.

Why haven't we had the same outcry, petitions and rise in arms about other, more shocking yoga news? Like the Bikram (alleged) sexual assault and rape charges? (covered more by regular media than the yoga blogosphere). It is shameful that a yoga business patent case, not even closely approaching patenting actual yoga (which let me say, Bikram has basically done), gets more ire and yoga media attention than the news that (yet another) founding leader in American yoga is being charged with sexual assault and rape.

So. I have made my decision to stick with Yogaglo and reserve the right to change my mind. I also respect and understand why others may have chosen to leave Yogaglo behind. I get it- I just have other things (like the oil sands) to focus my inner "take a stand" self.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Practicing Ahimsa towards ourselves: Rachel Hawes Guest Post & e-course!

Today I have a special guest post from a fabulous Yoga Blogger from "Across the Pond": Rachel Hawes of Fusion Studio. She was one of the first online yoga bloggers with whom I connected with and I LOVED listening to her audio pod cast (her and her partner have the BEST interactions). I adore Rachel's writing style, her open and practical approach to yoga and healing while keeping her teachings very grounded in physical health and balance.

Now we can all benefit from Rachel's fabulous teachings from all around the world! She has created "Serenity Seasons" e-course that will be available at the end of this month (see the final section at the end of this article for details). As a preview of her awesome, rocking self; enjoy her perspective on "Ahimsa" (at my request for insights re: stress and self-care). Merci Rachel!

Practicing Ahimsa towards ourselves

Ahimsa, the first of the Yamas or Moral Restraints in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is often translated as non-violence.

"Being firmly grounded in non-violence creates
an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility."
Yoga Sutra 2:35

Rather than looking at is as a lack of violence, I prefer to see Ahimsa as a cultivation of loving kindness towards all beings.  Once we start to focus on loving kindness we often realise how many of our thoughts are unloving and unkind.  I am often seen to get increasingly impatient in the supermarket queue behind that old lady who just will not stop talking to the cashier and get on with packing her bags, and I'm not the most patient driver in traffic! By being mindful of these things, however, and noticing when they are happening I can take a breath, open my heart…..and react in a different way.  

Let it go.  Loving kindness.

Don’t for a minute think this is easy for me.  It just isn’t.  But like so much in life, it’s all about baby steps.

As Darren Main says in his book Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic:-
"By simultaneously refraining from violent acts and looking at the unconscious thought patterns that inspire them, we become more peaceful, and our natural reaction to adversity will be peace rather than attack." (page 81).

Ultimately though, to make this search for Ahimsa more personal to me, I try to focus the loving kindness towards myself.  Too often we get so caught up in our work, our families, the chores, the needs and wants of others, we forget about ourselves, our own wellbeing. Over the last few years I have been working on finding moments of self-care within my busy days. Five minutes of meditation, five minutes of yoga, ten deep breaths. It stops me from burning out. It keeps my well of energy, inspiration and creativity full so I can serve my clients with 100% of my focus and attention.

I truly believe that if we don’t take care of ourselves, our ability to take care of others diminishes. By looking after myself I am surprised by how much more compassion I have towards those around me.

This journey in self-care and serenity is something I want to share with the world. We all know how important looking after ourselves is but sometimes we're just so busy, so stressed, that we don't know where to start. We don't have time to go to a yoga class, or for a massage. 
So I have created the Serenity Seasons e-course (link: to help you bring serenity and self-care back into your day, moment by moment, season by season. 

To be amongst the first to sign up and get the early bird discount, as well as receive a free 10-minute guided relaxation MP3 immediately and a recording of a talk I am giving entitled "Help! I'm too busy..." on 28th November, then do sign up to my mailing list (link: There's an opportunity to win one of ten Serenity Self-Care packages too! I can't wait to connect with you! 

Rachel Hawes is a yoga teacher and mentor, holistic therapist, stressbuster, serenity seeker and owner of Fusion Studio (link She is passionate about helping people eliminate stress and anxiety by tapping into their inner energy and joy to find wellbeing, mindfulness and pain-free movement. She has worked with a wide variety of people from stressed-out office workers to new mums, from people recovering from chronic illness to trainee yoga teachers. She has a toolbox of techniques and practices to suit you, at whatever point on your journey you find yourself.

Follow her on Twitter (@Rachel_Fusion), join her on Facebook ( and read the blog (

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yoga Raves and their Environmental Impact

If you haven't heard about Yoga Raves or Glow Stick Yoga, give it a few months. Yoga Raves or some variation of this theme are becoming increasingly popular across North America. If you're asking yourself, "Wtf? Yoga RAVES?" you are not alone.

Despite my initial cynical dismissal of such New Age ridiculousness, I have to applaud the organization for offering a fun, youthful alternative. The description from
"Yoga Rave was born as a healthy & balanced yet fun alternative. While singing & dancing along to mantras, one feels true energy, joy & enthusiasm that come from within, not as a result of something external. To achieve this experience it’s necessary to be in an environment free of drugs, alcohol & smoke"

I have no idea what ticket prices are, and parts of the description smacks of yoga elitism (drinking special "energizing" drinks), but hey- it's an interesting social alternative to smoke filled dancing

Glow Stick Yoga is another facet of this "Yoga Rave" movement where studios host these special classes, provide glow sticks and glow bracelets-necklaces so you can practice yoga in the dark at the studio to upbeat music.

This is where the eco-yogini in me kicks in.

The environmental impact of the energy required for the music, lights and sound system along with the negative impacts of glowing accessories, I find problematic. Because the energy required is pretty self explanatory (and solutions would include having carbon offsets or clean energy sources), let's focus on the Glow Stick Problem.

(I'm not gonna lie, that looks like fun, but is all the waste worth it???)

What is the problem with Glow Sticks?
1. Firstly, they are single use lights contained in plastic that would not be recyclable due to the chemicals inside that make the stick glow. So your yoga practice or yoga rave just contributed dozens (or hundreds, or thousands, depending on the size) of more chemical filled plastics that will slowly degrade and pollute into our landfills, waterways and environment with mini plastic bits (or nurdles).

2. These plastic chemical eco-bombs take energy and create pollution to be created AND shipped across the country (and oceans if made abroad).

3. The chemicals inside the glow sticks are two chemicals that react in order to create the "glow": hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate ester along with dyes for the colour (wiki). Mixing them together causes other chemicals to be formed: phenol and a chemical that quickly decomposes to carbon dioxide. These chemicals can cause skin irritation and vomiting if ingested or touched

4. Eventually, these chemicals will leach out of the plastics into our soil, waterways and thusly into our drinking water, or may be burned and pollute the air. In small quantities they are fine, but in large quantities (say the millions that are used each year) it's kinda a big deal.

Further references: Greater Toronto Area Green Tips, The Star Article, Groovy Green Living 2010,  Wisegeek What Are Glow Sticks?
What is even more disappointing is my quick google search for "Yoga Rave" revealed a Yoga Rave event through the Canadian Cancer Society... An event to raise awareness and funds for Cancer research will be promoting the use of accessories that will contribute to the pollution (plastics, chemicals) of our planet which has been linked to exacerbate certain cancers and cause other health problems in our population.

As cool as it may seem, I find the combination of such an obviously polluting and non-healthy object with a yoga practice pretty disgusting and counterproductive to the tenets of yoga itself.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Physical Manifestations of Stress and the Importance of a Regular Yoga Practice

This weekend I have discovered two things:

1. I am allergic to jalapenos
2. I hate my stress hives

The body does crazy things when under stress. I always find it amazing that we are often surprised when our health and body suffers when our mind is under stress. Our brain is connected and controls our body people- if we stress our brain it will come out in our body.

In 2006 I flew across the country to begin my new life, my new job in Vernon BC. I was beyond nervous, anxious, tired and stressed. Immediately when I landed I started scratching, almost absentmindedly, behind my knees. By the time I arrived at my friend Margaret's apartment my legs were covered in hives. By the next day my entire body was covered in itchy, red welts. They lasted two weeks before they started to fade.

To this day, I've noticed that in moments of stress I'll have a few hives pop up on my knees... nothing major- just enough to itch. But Friday, after my gig at JustUs!, I broke out in full blown, body covering hives.

Life has been extremely stressful lately. A new job, house hunting, some "family" health troubles, my grandmère passed away two weeks ago (two days before my birthday)... combine that with no time for yoga, eating well or any real physical activity and you get a hive covered Lisa.

I immediately reintroduced a yoga practice that weekend (and starting this weekend plan on recommitting to a daily 20min yoga practice, weaning off to 3x a week). Trying to practice yoga while covered in hives really isn't any fun.

Then Friday, after my gig, I ate nachos with the jalapeno peppers picked off. As I ate, I felt my lip start to tingle and feel a bit swollen... but I attributed that to the black velvets. That night, when I looked in the mirror my entire face was covered in hives and my hands were puffy and itchy messes. Awesome.

Lesson: don't give up yoga practice for ANYTHING, Lush "Dreamwash Shower Smoothie" with calamine lotion and aloe works wonders on hives (too bad it isn't perfectly "clean" ingredient wise), and I need to be more conscious of my stress levels- reconnecting daily so they don't get out of control.

What about you? Does your stress manifest itself physically? How do you manage?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Psst: Strong is the New Skinny, Pass it On!

"This Trendy "Strong is the New Skinny" Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls"

I just read the most badass article above and I have to share it with you. No really. It was ridonkulously amazing. If you are a woman, if you are a HUMAN, you should read this.

I feel that Sophie's message, besides being so entertainingly, yet poignantly written, is an important one to share. Important for the girl I was and the woman I am. For all my other girl-woman peeps who struggle with body image, disordered eating and self-esteem. So I'm sharing my perspective, my take, with you.

What if: "Strong is the new skinny"

Yes. Exactly. What if, when I was a girl, I was told to strive to be strong instead of thin. What if the message society gave me was that a strong woman was of ultimate value. Would my adolescence, my early twenties, have been different?

If you read my blog, you know that I've struggled with disordered body image and eating my entire life. Oh, it's not clinical- I've never demonstrated symptoms to the clinical level. But raise your hand (mentally) if you've: a) known someone who lost their period due to weight loss b) looked in the mirror and wailed internally over your fat-ugly______ c) felt proud that you skipped a meal d) felt happy that your jeans were loose e) gone on a fad diet, or any diet f) felt that your current weight or body shape, whatever it was, just needed a bit of improvement g) heard someone say that the best part of having the stomach flu was the weight that you lost....

Yup, yup, yep, been there for all of them.

After devouring countless books and research articles on feminism, body image, female health and our relationship historically and culturally with the media, I am a strong believer that this "body type ideal" of tall, thin and waif-like is enforced upon us artificially by the beauty, fashion and advertising industry along with a healthy dose of patriarchy valuing women for extrinsic qualities such as ideal beauty and as sexual objects.

In a way, this can be viewed as a positive thing. Unlike evolutionary psychological theory (which honestly I feel is a load of self serving, patriarchal, narrow-minded crap- we are not apes and behaviours that *may* have occurred a millennia ago can be explained by the-very different- social construct, brain and cognitive development and lifestyles homo sapiens led: ie social and culture and NOT irreversible genetics) our social mores and culture can CHANGE.

What if girls are told from a young age to be strong, intelligent, caring, courageous instead of thin, pretty, "nice" and gentle? My thinnest moments were when I was stressed and unhappy and I know for a fact I was not eating enough to nourish my brain- which obviously results in poor cognitive functioning, problem solving, emotional regulation and concentration.

You know what was my fucking unicorn moment? When my unflexibility forced me to improve significantly in my strength endurance in yoga. When I looked in the mirror and saw the gorgeous MUSCLES in my back and arms. When I could hold dolphin plank longer than my weight lifting husband. It was like suddenly the fear of 'bulking up' (which is a ridiculous myth btw) disappeared into the excitement of being fucking STRONG. 

Just last night I poked my belly to feel my awesome abdominal muscles I've been building. I may have even showed them off to Andrew. I am so excited with my body right now, and I am currently at my "heaviest" and highest dress size.

This is to say that I feel it's a bit DESPITE yoga. I know. But I feel the focus on yoga asana (for the most part) in popular western yoga is to be thin, lose weight, "toned". Even the examples of strong yoginis we have as famous role models are still (white) thin and strong. (Now, we know there are some strong fabulous yoginis who are bucking the system- I heart you! We need MORE of you!).

This is where Sadie's snarky post at Huffpo makes me cringe. Perhaps instead of making others feel like yoga is the ONLY solution to being strong and healthy, we should simply encourage women to be STRONG however best that works for them. Our bodies and selves do not fit in a cookie cutter mold, one size fits all model. So why assume yoga to be the panacea in this diverse reality?

Strong is the new Skinny- Pass it On.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Does my Dove Response solidify the Ego (ie the "antithesis of yoga"?)

"...isn't your article solidifying the ego which is the antithesis of yoga?"- Daniel

This comment was posted on my "Response to Dove- 10 things you need to tell yourself" post last week.

I think this is an important question and I thank you Daniel for voicing it (in a very nice way :) ). The interesting thing about yoga is that although most yogis firmly state that yoga isn't a "religion" nor "spiritual" (which would allow for guiding mores, written "archaic" and authentic guidelines to live by and an ultimate end goal- ie enlightenment), many yogis bemoan the superficial (ie physical only) aspect of practitioners and Western Yoga.

I find many aspects of yogic teachings useful tools for my daily life. However, it is not my spirituality- I am pagan and some of my spiritual beliefs don't quite mesh with yoga. I'm ok with that.

So, to Daniel's comment.

As I haven't studied yogic teachings in depth, I'm certainly not qualified to give an overly educated answer. What I can do is give my own perspective, educational background in psychology on the question of "ego", attachment, mental health and yoga.

I find the use of the term "ego" to be troublesome for many reasons, one being the direct historical connotations of the Freudian origins of the term. In psychology, although Freud was a revolutionary, his therapy techniques and theories are no longer viewed as accurate nor are they recommended for use (outside of Europe and some practitioners in Quebec). Vilifying the "ego" (or the "id") isn't helpful, instead it's an extremely simplistic way of viewing the human sense of self.

The reality is that as social persons we function within relationships with others. These relationships with other people are forged and strengthened through emotional attachment and interactions. Our own sense of the Self and self-worth is created through thousands of interactions, emotional bonds with firstly our families and then others as well as situations throughout our lives. This sense of self, in it's healthy form, is an important prerequisite in order to form healthy and appropriate emotional attachments and relationships with others.

Although our society has definitely moved to a more narcissistic part of the Self spectrum (all about ME), I do feel that the other extreme is equally unhealthy from a mental health, relationship perspective. I plan on living life at 100%, and I am a firm believer that the people, friends and loved ones in my family are an essential component in this path.

With regards to the "ego" of telling yourself 10 things you love about your intrinsic (non physical self), I feel that in the context this exercise is necessary for the majority of women in western society. Our society sends extremely strong messages about a woman's worth based on her physical appearance. As a result, often women (and young girls) base, at least a portion, of their self worth on their physical appearance.

Disordered sense of self, body-image and eating (more prevalent in women in western society) can lead to dieting (which leads to health problems), depression, and eating disorders. Here is where I feel using a simplistic rhetoric of "ego=bad" for a reality where simply "letting go" isn't working for the thousands of women who struggle daily under a barrage of unhealthy messages and sense of self-worth tied directly to a forever aging body. Especially in a physical discipline like yoga, where the billion dollar ad industry is specifically marketed to lithe, young, (white) women and many traditions focus on the physical body in order to achieve mental clarity.

(a perfect example of yoga ad industry...)

If you are a person who has a fantastic sense of self-worth and feel confident where you are intrinsically (and, as unjust as it is, this is more likely true if you are male) then I see the "non-attachment" of yogic teachings being useful. If you find these yogic teachings as being helpful to you, and have fully adopted to follow a yogic lifestyle, I respect and support that 100%.

I do believe that the majority of women (and some men) could certainly benefit from actively finding a sense of self-worth from internal characteristics starting with explicitly stating what they like best about themselves that isn't tied to their physical body. If this isn't "yoga"- I'm 100% ok with that :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Yoga PH.D. or "The Best Yoga Book I Have Ever Read"

I love to read... so you would think that as soon as I was introduced to yoga almost 8 years ago that I would have consumed each and every yoga book out there.

Unfortunately, after a few forays into the yoga book world I was left feeling disgruntled and frustrated. I soon realized that the majority of yoga books are either extremely fouffy and poorly written, highly impractical and pseudo pop psychology-esque or based on hindu religious theory.

I want to take yoga seriously and have no interest or time to read something that is filled with run-on sentences and spiritual fluffiness. Thankfully, for a long time, yoga blogs filled the void of learning and growing in a platform where I could choose what fluff to read. One of the more academic blogs that I discovered and enjoyed was Carol Horton's "Think Body Electric".

Soon I heard that she had written a book: "Yoga Ph.D." by Carol Horton, or "The Best Yoga Book I Have Ever Read". I know that is a pretty darn grandiose statement, but I mean it. And here's why:

Yoga PH.D: Integrating the Life of the Mind and the Wisdom of the Body
By Carol A. Horton, 2012

Firstly, Yoga Ph.D. is far from the fouffy, pseudo-spirituality that has pervaded the yoga literature. It's written from the perspective of someone entrenched in academia, scientifically minded and used to crafting her writing in an organized and concise manner. As a result, it's an absolute dream to read.

Although the book starts heavy on the personal reflections and autobiographical, Carol quickly moves through a natural progression of historical origins of yoga the discipline, her analysis and reflections of why yoga resonates with so many people today and the sociological and cultural influence of contemporary yoga. Carol also discusses various modern yoga questions such as student/teacher relationship, pseudo-spirituality, our relationship with food and the commodification of self and how this relates in the yoga world.

More than the rich topics of discussion, it's Carol's style of open, honest writing combined with critical thinking that I absolutely fell in love with.

Throughout the book, although she doesn't shy away from critically examining yoga culture and history, Carol is careful to phrase and present her observations and views in a manner that accepts differing perspectives and the possibility for new research and discussion offering alternatives to her postulations. Reading through Yoga PH.D. I felt as if I, the reader, were part of a dialogue with Carol herself; one where she respected my thoughts, ideas and own experiences.

Finally, similarly to her ideas and posts on "Think Body Electric", Carol openly embraces yoga's potential for growth and change. In fact, it was refreshing to read how and why she views the current changing face of yoga as something potentially good. Her arguments for why we should embrace a generative and creative yoga discipline over holding staunchly to tradition is challenging and has forever changed how I view our current yoga culture.

A slight bémol on "Yoga PH.D." was the literacy level. Her very style of writing, academically and succinctly, that I absolutely loved personally, I would say may prove to be a barrier for some readers. I've always been a firm believer of the accessibility of ideas for all, no matter the educational level. Unfortunately, becoming accustomed to a more academic style of writing and vocabulary can be difficult, especially with discipline specific (i.e. political science and sociology) terminology.

That said, Yoga PH.D. is a must have (in my honest opinion) for the yogi's bookshelf.

(I'd like to thank Roseanne Harvey and Carol Horton for hosting a "Yoga PH.D." book giveaway on Roseanne's blog "It's all yoga, baby"- otherwise I may never have had the fortune of discovering my favourite yoga book of all time! Thank you!)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Differences in Opinion in Yoga: Head Touching Floor During Downdog?

Today marked a return to yoga (and coincidentally, the return of my IBS... most likely due to a Naturopathic supplement that I will no longer be taking).

My friend Margaret, who is in the middle of her adventurous journey in New Zealand, and I were chatting over facebook (I love that we can stay in touch so much better now through social media) about her rediscovery of yoga. Unlike myself, she is extremely bendy- so I was cautioning her to listen to her body and not over-extend...

Then she mentioned that the instructors keep telling her to touch her head to the floor during downward dog... and was that crazy? My first reaction was "yes...." but I am not a yoga instructor (nor any type of "body" expert ie PT, OT etc), and simply because I have never encountered this in my practice doesn't mean it isn't a "thing".

So I did what I always do when faced with these questions.... I asked twitter.

Interestingly I received extremely disparate answers from "Not safe!!" to "Sure, very Iyengar".

I'll actually take this moment to ask the Iyengar blogger I know what she thinks:
"Yoga Spy- what do you think of this goal?" 
(I love the blogging community!)

 I find this interesting that there are such opposite spectrums in a discipline aligned with physical (and spiritual) body health regarding what is safe and what is not for a basic common posture.

This isn't close to the first time I've read some fairly extreme ends of the spectrum perspectives regarding yoga postures. A recent debate was sparked by a Haligonian yoga instructor, Seth Daley on his blog (and jumped to a mention in EJ) with regards to the dangers of pigeon pose ("Why Pigeon Pose is Wrecking Your Body" see comments from various yoga instructors in the city, one having a PT background).

I wonder how yoga instructors manage these gaping moments of disagreement and theoretical differences when chatting with each other... or if this is why instructors tend to stick within their disciplines? From the comments on Seth's blog, the answer would seem to be "very respectfully".

All this discussion and critical thinking also, hopefully, means growth. Which I feel yoga as a whole will only benefit.

My final answer to Margaret? "Just be careful during your practice, listen to your body and don't push too hard"

Thoughts on yoga disagreements in theory and practice between styles?
More importantly: Suggestions for Margaret?

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Honest Gander at the Rising Cost of Yoga Classes

"I am getting my butt back into a yoga class."
That was my plan end of December... I could feel the need to learn something new, and since I don't have it in my budget to attend weekly in studio classes, my hope was to find a class that was meaningful. That would add to my yoga skillz.

And then I had a quick peek at drop in class prices... "Holy crap! They've gone up"... In Halifax a drop in class is 20$ at most studios.

I think it's time we had an honest discussion about the cost of yoga.

Typically there are two camps in this (long suffering) debate: a) those who rail against the hypocrisy of costly classes that pander to an increasingly exclusive class of yogis and b) those who defensively justify the rising costs of running a studio and the offensive suggestion that yoga teachers give away their time and skill set.

Neither camps are very productive, both have points and finally, neither are good at examining the issue objectively.

The reality remains, regardless of your 'camp' : yoga is getting prohibitively expensive. By raising class prices, no matter the legitimate justifications, has consequences... Mainly that those who are able to access yoga in reputable studios by qualified teachers are those who can afford to drop over 100$ a month on yoga.

Oh, often studios wax poetic about the alternatives and flexibility of pricing... And perhaps we need to look a bit more closely at the options.

1. Karma classes: often, if a studio offers karma classes, they are at a limited time (typically not convenient for people's work and life schedules) and often times by teacher trainees. It's not very conducive to growing a yoga practice if you have limited choice in time and quality for your learning.  Let's be honest, the message is clear: if you can't afford a regular class, you can't complain with the time, quality or even style of yoga we give you.

I need something more than a random yoga class at this stage in my practice, and karma classes definitely leave quite a lot to be desired for my practice.

Lululemon offers community classes- but who wants to practice in a giant commercial on a Sunday morning?

2. Energy exchange: I've done this. For about six months, while working a full time, emotionally exhausting job, I spent one full afternoon cleaning a yoga studio in exchange, hour-hour for yoga classes. I eventually had to quit, since after four hours in that studio I no longer had the energy or desire to be there any other time during the week. I wanted yoga, not another physically demanding job.

Honestly, I think energy exchange yoga to be a bit of a cop-out. Firstly, the assumption that I had time in my busy, working full time schedule, to then work more for two classes of yoga a week was laughable. Do we really believe that people who can't afford yoga have spare time to take on another part-time job? Further, the 'energy exchange' isn't really a bartering system- as it typically only applies to cleaning or reception. I put together a proposal for exchanging a teacher training workshop on providing yoga classes for people with communication difficulties (children with special needs, adults with hearing loss) and was met with a big nothing.

If we were honest, those who do energy exchange are usually young, without children and often university students...

I will admit there are a few yoga classes in the city, generally ashtanga, that are a 10$ drop in fee. I've attended a few and they're usually in community centres or at the Y. They're fabulous, and most likely work because the teachers aren't offering the classes out of hugely swanky studios that have to pay expensive rent. However, if I want another style of yoga, it's not that straightforward to find and I have limited choice on teacher and level of class.

And maybe that is the solution... perhaps it's time to recognize that, although the aesthetics of our western studio are lovely, it's not conducive to offering affordable yoga.

Or, perhaps there is another solution that keeps the integrity of the yoga offered while paying a fair wage to the teachers. What are your thoughts or ideas?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pinterest: The Planet Friendly Solution for Magazine Addiction

I used to have a magazine addiction. I loved everything about them- their plastic-chemical-y smell, the way their shiny (or matte!) pages felt between my fingers, the snippets of info and eye catching photos...

There was a time back when we lived in BC where I actually created a binder of yoga articles to help myself "feel better" about my wasteful magazine addiction.

No doubt about it, magazines are practically the epitome of waste. Most of them can't be recycled... and it's almost ridiculous that they're still being purchased; we have such fantastic online versions that waste less.

According to US Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 1.5 million tons of magazines entered the municipal waste system in 2009 and 54% were recycled. (via National Geographic). 1.5 million tons of magazine equals a whole crap load of paper, chemical inks and pollution. Blegh.

You know what the best solution for magazines is?

Yep, I know you've heard of it. I know you've pashawed it (just like you did twitter and facebook before you realized their awesome-ness).

But if you have a magazine addiction and give one lick about the planet... cancel your subscriptions, avoid the magazine section and sign up for Pinterest.

It's seriously like an online version of a magazine with the social aspect of a social media network.

How Pinterest works:
Pinterest allows you to organize and "pin" images and websites into boards or categories or boards- kinda like a scrapbook but way cooler. You can save recipes, inspiration boards/images, sequences... whatever your heart desires. (How Pinterest Works and The Ultimate Pinterest Guide)

You just drag the "pin-it" button to your tool bar and when you see something online that you like, click pin-it and you're good to go. You can also get pretty darn creative with boards and such.

The social part of Pinterest is also pretty darn interesting. Like twitter, it's much less personal than facebook. You can follow boatloads of people or organizations that have similar interests and you'll get a real-time update as to the boards and stuff that they're pinning on your Pinterest homepage. Like this cool DIY magnetic makeup board, or this beautiful pebble boot board.

You can search Pinterest using "key words" to find boards or pins that interest you. For example, when I searched "yoga sequence" I found a) morning b) keep calm over the holidays and c) fall equinox sequence.

I'm looking forward to indulging my magazine addiction sans destruction to the planet curtesy of Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Searching for the "Real-Ness" in 2013

2013... the suspicious fisherman's daughter in me really doesn't like that "13"... but then, can take the girl out of the rural and such.

People tend to like to recap and move forward. Generally I think this can be a wonderful idea, especially if you journal. But I'm thinking I'll keep the majority of mine private... just because I'm a bit hipster that way- don't want to do it if it's already been done.

What I will say, though, in relation to this blog, is that 2012 definitely saw a HUGE step back in my yoga practice. I think I attended a grand total of 8 in person classes the entire year. Wouldn't you know we also managed to save way more money towards our future eco-home this year. Are the two related? I would think so.

What yoga means today just really doesn't resonate with me anymore. The spiritual side doesn't speak to me, it just makes me think of vacuous pop psych one liners and insincere platitudes ("negative people are our teachers" blegh).

I really really am just craving something extremely sincere (I won't say "authentic" because that word has lost all meaning in it's co-option)... and the general trendy yoga isn't cutting it.

I'm still practicing yoga though. Just in my home, using yogaglo, with my peeps. I'll still attend the sporadic classes and try to find REAL books that resonate with real-ness. Who knows- 2013 may bring a reconnection and resurgence of everything YOGA. I'm hopeful this is the case.

So, to end this cranky pants blog post on something fantabulous, here are a few things to look forward to here at little old EcoYogini underverse:

  • a few more posts on reading, the kindle, and the general fantabulous of Goodreads
  • Some goodness on the Naturopathic overshare journey
  • Hopefully a few more adventures and natural beauty- I'm thinking shampoo is next...
  • At least TWO more live performances in Halifax at coffeeshops
  • At least FIVE more songs written (that I like)
  • Speaking more French to Andrew and my friends on a regular basis.
  • Starting to plan a mini EcoYogini creation... (hopefully for 2014)...
(just ignore where Atreyu is wandering in the photo... this is my "I have galaxy leggings!" pose)

Bonne Année!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Polyester Leggings Are SO Not Yoga: Consumerism With Heart

While out for a walk this weekend Andrew looked at me and said: "It looks like not wearing pants is now the style"...

Leggings are SO in right now and seeing women who've apparently forgotten to put on their pants is pretty common place. It's a little extra off-putting when it's -17 C with the windchill.

I say this, but I also own a whole bunch of leggings... I just wear them under dresses...

Since leggings are all the rage, they've also become louder and pretty darn popular in the yoga world. I can see the change on YogaGlo even, Kathryn Budig particularly has some pretty colourful leggings. I won't lie, I'm a little jealous.

I even caved and bought some pretty rad rainbow Galaxy Leggings.

Let's be clear though; they are pretty much crap for the environment.

Recently there's been a rash of printed leggings as "the" yoga wear... and boy are they expensive. And for the most part made of polyester. 300$ (not one sale) for a pair of leggings made of POLYESTER. Wtf?? I'm honestly insulted that a company will think I'm stupid enough to want something made with cheap, synthetic, polluting material, made in sweat shops and shipped by a carbon spewing container ship for a ridiculous price *just* for a brand.

I am not that gullible. And neither should you be.

I know it's hard living your eco-yoga. We talk the good talk about the yamas and niyamas and taking your yoga off your mat... but in our consumer driven culture the obvious link between yoga and taking care of our planet is easily left aside. "But these leggings are COOL"

Recognizing the interdependance between the life on our planet and the consequences to our actions is even COOLER.

Invest your hard earned moneys in something that matches your yoga- like the mocha sea and stars long leggings at VKeen cuz they're organic cotton. 

Or these funky colourful pants by Shining Shakti- also made with organic cotton. 

Take a step outside yoga machine and shop intelligently with heart this holiday season. Cuz we're all in this planet together.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A PostNatal Yogi Wannabe

There are so many different flavours of yoga- and interestingly for the most part they are all open for the trying. In fact, unless you're an ashtangi, it's considered bad yoga form to judge a style without first trying it out.

Of course, following that was what got me in the "hot yoga" mess, which led me to the conclusion that, well, hot yoga is crappy for the environment. Considered it judged.

One style of yoga that definitely has it's own "club" is pre-post natal. You can't really fake your way into that one (without being a total d-bag).

My first pre-natal yoga class was about three years ago... in my living room with YogaGlo. Look, I can explain: my favourite YogaGlo teacher had stopped posting classes and the only options left were her prenatal classes. I glanced surreptitiously around my living room, as if the Prenatal Yoga Police were going to come rushing out waving their "SHAME ON YOU" signs, took an embarrassed breath, prepared mentally to laugh my entire way through and.... LOVED it.

Yep, that was an amazing, fantabulous class.


Fast forward to the past few months and another of my favourite YogaGlo teachers is going on a pre/post natal class spree. So... as one cat judged me quietly from Andrew's chair and the other blindly attacked my legs, I prepared myself to be weirdly happy during a class meant for new mothers.

(Asteya, the true ruler of this apartment, sitting on her throne as her lowly human servant Andrew checks his facebook)

It's not like I would actually have the gall to attend an in-studio pre/post natal yoga class. A) they wouldn't allow me to B) if I lied I would be a total d-bag and C) that would be way beyond disrespectful for all the new/expectant mothers to be (which is actually the main deterrent, I have much respect for mothers).

But I can enjoy them, like a weird guilty pleasure, from the comfort of my own living room. And recently, with my friend who has reached awesome new mother status, I can totally legitimately  enjoy post natal yoga classes... (yes, I recognize this is getting a bit creepy...)

I guess the message, really, is that yoga is yoga. Target audience not withstanding, if the teacher is great, the class with be great.

I mean, I know I can definitely learn a thing or two from mothers...

Any guilty yoga secrets you'd like to share?

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Hypocrisy of the 'Yoga Cruise'

Wanna go on a 'Yoga Cruise Ship'?

(a typical sight in our harbour every summer, these ships are seen above most buildings.) 
(Photo from 'Cruise Halifax')

Yep, the Yoga Industry machine has reached new levels of irony and hypocrisy with this trend, touting 'holistic' and 'sustainable' which are utterly negated by the following word: 'cruise'.

All summer Halifax receives a weekly change up of various, disgustingly large, cruise ships from around the world. I watched them come in, spewing black clouds of pollution, larger than McNab's island, every week from my office window. I heard the ridiculous 'When You Wish Upon A Star' horn from the monthly Disney cruises. The shear pollution that each ship represents is staggering and disgusting.

Small Floating Cities... of Pollution:
Cruise ships are like 'small floating cities'; and the waste and pollution they generate are comparable as such. In one week, a typical sized cruise ship generates around 210,000 US gallons of sewage, 1 million US gallons of gray water, 130 US gallons of hazardous waste, 8 tons of solid waste and 25,000 oily bilgy water (wiki and EPA). Except these cities pass the same path of ocean over and over again all season long.

Sewage dumping:
Cruise ship waste control regulation is flimsy, poorly regulated and filled with loop holes. Unlike the air travel industry, cruise ships are allowed to dump waste water, sewage, runoffs into the ocean. How ironic that these same cruises depend on the beautiful, clean ocean waters to attract customers while they pollute each time they pass through.

Increasing the Dead Zones:
Some steps have been taken to help regulate waste dumpage, but it's far from ideal and food waste is still a free for dump (David Suzuki, 2010). As Dr. Suzuki explains, at about 10,000-25,000 leftover meals being dumped each day, the food decomposes and acidifies increasing nutrients that starve the ocean of oxygen and help create 'dead zones' (scary 'dead spots' in the ocean where nothing lives, these spots are growing).

3x Carbon Emissions:
Then we have those monstrous, black smoke spewing stacks. According to a 'Friends of the Earth' report by Dr. Ross Klein, cruise ships tend to discharge 3 times more carbon emissions that airplanes, trains and passenger ferries. Certain cruise lines (for example Alaska) are attempting to decrease sulfur air emissions by a laughable 0.1 percent.

All this just for ONE WEEK of vacation.

Yoga Cruises?
After reading all the damage a cruise does to our environment, oceans and planet health, the phrase 'Yoga Cruise' is almost laughable in it's irony.

Instead of tag lines like 'Holistic Holiday at Sea', 'Gourmet vegan meals' and 'meditate in a quiet serene environment' they should read:
'Come practice asana while beneath you tons of raw sewage is being dumped into the ocean'
'Meditate on how we're all connected while the black sulfurus clouds reach all others'

Seriously? Who are they kidding? 

If you really want a Caribbean get-a-way, consider an eco-resort and offset your flight's carbon emissions. Or put on some fabulous Caribbean music, make some delicious organic fruit trays and chill in your flip flops at home. Whatever floats your non-cruise boat.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I am tired of "Living Authentically"

*warning... yoga book rant coming up....*

I'm trying to read some yoga philosophy. I've been slogging away at a few books for months now. I just can't handle the fluff of yoga platitudes that are so PRESENT (to use a "yogism") in every single concept, discussion, sentence.

I have always had some serious reservations of packaging and presenting information in a completely esoteric, unreachable, untenable and impractical manner.

You might say, "Read _________, he's extremely political and so relevant!"... except... that IS the book I'm trying to get through. I just have some difficulty agreeing with paragraphs of repetitive "oneness" and comparisons to psychoanalysis (newsflash, Freudian Theory is no longer accepted in Western Psychological practices- mostly cuz the guy did coke... and it's been disproven).

Yes, recognizing the interconnectedness of each being will bring important realizations regarding how we see our everyday lives, but I have to say that David Suzuki did a much better (and more concise and clearly written) job of explaining this in his book "Sacred Balance". The discussion points were clear, the explanations weren't circular and the examples were directly relevant and backed by research. AND he had a good smattering of spirituality to top it all off.

I really want to read how we can use yoga teachings in everyday, practical situations. Sure, give me the history, the philosophy (clearly written though! no muddy, circular discussions!) but then actually discuss how this can have practical implications instead of simply a sentence about living mindfully and authentically through honesty is the TRUE representation of Satya. Or something like that. What does that even MEAN?? We rarely talk about how to apply these teachings in everyday life.

So instead we may get a bunch of people talking about "living authentically in the deliciousness of life" while simultaneously laughing at a person's writing skills, writing agressive emails regarding yoga in the park, or choosing to only support community yoga initiatives if they directly benefit your studio.

I feel as if this is where often yoga philosophy falls short. There is so much metaphorical language that when practical every day situations arise we actually have no real concept of what "living authentically" or "speaking our truth" really means.

I don't feel that we each need our cookie cutter idea of how to live the niyamas and yamas (or yogic philosophy), or that metaphor and philosophy doesn't have an important place in a person's learning, but lets please cut out the "yogisms" that, let's be real here, actually have no meaning whatsoever. They just make us sound "yogic".

But then, I've always been a fairly practical kinda gal... Anyone have any non fouffy, practical yogic philosophy suggestions that don't involve authors with initials M.S.?

(ps- related to books and reading, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this initiative by Neil Gaiman called "All Hallow's Read": the *new* tradition of giving a scary book for Halloween to your loved ones! OR, how about hosting a scary story reading complete with decorations, treats and perhaps even some wine for the grownups? OH YEAH!!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Praising in Yoga Class: I'm Not a "Good Girl"

"Good girl" "That's perfect" "Excellent alignment"...

Have you heard these phrases from your yoga instructor before? I'll be honest, the last two are of a type that hadn't consciously fazed me during classes before. However, last week we attended a class where the instructor actually said "Good girl" to me while she was adjusting. As if I were a child. It was a bit irksome and made me think on what types of praise we're so used to receiving in a yoga class.

One of the first rules that I help parents learn in our sessions of speech/language therapy is to eliminate the "good girl/good boy" or "good job" praise. These two sentences give no useful feedback to the child other than letting them know that you are judging them. Particularly the "good girl/boy" as this praise is specifically a moral judgement on who they are as people and not their behaviour. When we give feedback, we want to make sure the child gets something useful out of it: "I really like how you tried that sound" or "You used "I" that time instead of "me", nice work!".

The same applies to yoga.

While in a session, if the only time the instructor comments on what I'm doing is when it is perfect, I'm constantly striving to get that momentary "perfection" praise. Sure, you can talk all you want that the point of yoga is the journey but when the model is rewarding the completion of a posture (i.e. praising perfect alignment, or achievement of a posture) the message is: The really Good Stuff happens when you get there.

"Yes", you say, "but I tell students all the time "good job or good work" even when they aren't perfect!"

Sure, except what exactly does that tell me? Good job/work are such vague and amorphous terms that they could mean just about anything and are virtually useless as feedback or acknowledgement. Yoga students are there to learn, not to receive platitudes on their hard work. Tell me something useful, like "I really like how your remembering to move your knee towards your baby toe during warrior".

You could also argue that students should be there to focus internally and not strive for external praise. Except, students are actually there to learn. Which... you need to focus on the teacher in order to do so. If the teachers are giving external praise, but the students shouldn't listen it just becomes a confusing mess of conflicting messages and expectations.

So, the next time you think about saying "good girl/boy" to a student in your yoga class... take a moment, think about why exactly you are pleased and perhaps give them feedback on the PROCESS instead.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Yoga and Apologizing

One of the first lessons I learned in my entry to 'big girl job' was that I knew absolutely nothing about communicating diplomatically. I'm a naturally straight forward, honest and pretty darn naive. I just figure everyone is as practical as I am and would appreciate my input, I mean that's why I was hired right? (reading that sentence, I'm flabbergasted at the ego and shear innocence of that thought).

Those first two years included lesson after lesson of learning how to navigate professional team communication, family based intervention and assessment and learning how to apologize without losing professional integrity. After spending two (or three) years in a master's program being told over and over again just how frackin' awesome, smart and important you are, it was like a bucket of cold water water (or perhaps the full body hives I got from the stress of moving over 6000km).

Due to my lovely inherent personality quirks, these skills will be a lifelong learning journey, as interacting in a team will never come easily for me.

From what I have observed over the past years working and yoga-ing, I would say this learning journey should also be applied to many other health professionals and yoga instructors.

Learning how to a) recognize when you've been unprofessional, inappropriate, rude, condescending, bossy and then b) actually following through with a sincere apology while taking the steps to prevent this event from happening again is rough.

It makes sense, if you think about it, that yoga instructors would also be inflicted with this difficulty. When the majority of your training is spent 'sharing authentically' in safe spaces only with other yoga students or teachers, there is really no space for professional missteps or misinterpretation. Everything is rosy, padded with cotton fluff and accepting tears. Even the difficult emotional conversations are typically self-directed, as in the reason it's difficult is because YOU are working out your own issues, so it's not confrontational nor is it your fault.

Further, in a professional where historically yoga has been kept on the sidelines of our western health system, yoga instructors have had no reason to interact in a team based setting with other professionals. When situations arise in the work setting, what kinds of frameworks are set up to help build team work in a contract, temporary and unclear managerial environment?

(a fabulous sculpture in Moncton, NB)
On Empathy:
The first step is to recognize that perhaps the person you are communicating with has previous experiences, biases or expectations regarding your input. Do not assume that because you know you are sincere and mean well, that the other person knows that too. We did not pop into existence the second our conversations start and all experiences shape who we've become and how we will react.

This realization can especially help if you're in an uncomfortable situation- a cautious reaction is always a good one. Since you are not a mindreader you have no idea how the other person is feeling, what has happened in their day or lives up to this moment. Don't assume.

If you sense things are really going badly, stop talking and Listen. It might have nothing to do with you. Or maybe it has everything to do with you. Take a deep breath and accept that perhaps your mode of communication isn't meshing with how they receive. Just that acceptance might slightly alter your dialogue enough to make a difference.

On Diplomacy:
Avoid unbalanced vocabulary such as 'need', 'help' or 'want' which implies that the other person is somehow lesser than you and isn't able to be successful on their own (which can project 'failure' even if that's not at all what you meant). Instead try phrases like: "Give me a call if you'd like to chat about it further".

If someone says something completely ridiculous, instead of immediately disagreeing (or even just disagreeing) try "That's interesting. Tell me more about that", or "Interesting, I never thought about it that way, usually I think of it_____this way".

Asking what the other person thinks of your alternative or counterpoint is always a good thing. Just make sure you use active listening: no interruptions, eye contact, nodding and pertinent questions.

On Apologizing:
Recognize when you may have stepped on toes. After the fact, find the person in a safe space, privately, and apologize. No really. Saying you're sorry for what you said, and WHY you are sorry is so powerful. Even if you think you were right. Being 'right' doesn't allow you to portray that information in hurtful or condescending ways. It could sound like: "I'm really sorry for the way I said _____ to you earlier. It wasn't fair to you and I should have framed it better."

If you have no opportunity to apologize (like today when I accidentally cut off a pedestrian while driving), take a deep breath and send out the apology. As energy, or spirit. However you can be comfortable. Because holding that stuff inside just isn't healthy. Yo.

And now that is Yoga.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Yoga isn't filling the Creative Space

I started writing songs again.

The gap? about 4 years.

For the past 9 months I've been putting in lyric writing time every weekend at a local coffee shop. For the past 4 months or so it's been only in French. Just for sh%ts and giggles ya know? To see if I could.

I can.

I wrote a song in Acadian French. My first one ever. I transcribed it lovingly in my songbook. A small book that holds all the songs I've written since grade 10. Dated, with chords. I'm not really a computer song storage kinda gal.

I'd show you evidence but....

I lost my songbook.

It's like it never existed. Poof.

Thank goodness I recorded a few of my songs and was forced to type and print out a few of my favourites.

The Acadian song? Not so lucky.

One day (when we move) the songbook Troll will hopefully give it up from her clutches.

I'm actually wondering if this should be an opportunity to invest in a new (larger) songbook and to start fresh. To really give'er on the song writing front. Not to get a record deal, or become famous, just to fill a need. A creativity hole Yoga isn't solid enough to fill.

My tarot confirms what I already knew:

I've got way better songs waiting to be made.

article copyright of EcoYogini at