POSSIBILITIES

Today feels like a few steps forward instead of steps backwards. A plate of possibilities instead of impossibilities. Like many of us during the last year, I too have felt the overwhelm, the fear, the anxiety, and the stuck-ness. It has been messing with my head and my heart and my body, and to be accepting of that vulnerability is challenging when you think you have all the resources, the tools, the privilege, the freedom, the space…I should be able to figure it all out. Especially with YOGA.

Sometimes we need someone or something to point to the light. To be a flashlight for us when our own light dims. Turns out my own flashlight battery was quickly losing its charge and I was panicking. So I reached out for help and the therapeutic voice said, “Can you just be with THIS at the moment, without needing resolution? It’s okay, I’m right here with you, even if it’s hard.” Ummm…okay.

Oh, we all know that just being with THIS is not always easy. In fact, THIS can feel downright painful, scary, frustrating, maddening, isolating, sad. THIS is not where I want to be, or stay, or even think about. When does THIS end? How can I BE with THIS?

And in comes YOGA. “Sthira Sukham Asanam”…Hold THIS with STEADINESS and EASE. Breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow. What does THIS feel like? Stay with it…breathe through it…observe it…name it…let it pass. Of course…Isn’t that what we are reminded to do on our yoga mats?

In taking the steps backwards, I have been reminded of impermanence, acceptance, and letting go. In the steps back, I see how old patterns repeat themselves. In the steps back, self-compassion and forgiveness is necessary. And in the steps back, it sometimes feels like learning to walk again in order to take those steps forward towards the light.

With second vaccines and re-openings and loosening of restrictions there is the possibility of freedom that we have long awaited, but at the same time there may be hesitancy and apprehension. Some folks are raring to go while others are more tentative. Wherever you land on that spectrum, it’s okay…just keep practicing respect and courtesy and patience and a balance of steadiness (stand strong) and ease (surrender).

I will be continuing to recharge my internal battery over the summer and in to the fall, with travel, family, and my personal yoga practice. I might even share a surprise online class with you here and there! I hope to offer in-person classes again in the future when time/space/location and my own healing allows, maybe not in the way we “used to do it” but with new possibilities and potentials. To those of you who have walked with me this far, keep tagging along, because you never know what is possible next. Don’t forget my YOGA VIDEOS BY ANNE and GUIDED MEDITATIONS that you can access for free anytime.

I leave you with this short UPLIFTING MEDITATION…Happy Summer!

Spring Forward with Yoga

Oh how I am starting to feel like I am coming out of a hole. You, too? The confines of cold temps and lockdowns, short daylight hours and too much TV are mercifully giving way to warmer days, glimmers of light, glimmers of hope. Plus news of vaccines, potential re-opening of our cities, and some sense of freedom (even if still restricted), is so promising.

This winter has felt stranger than any before. But here we are, coming out of it, just like we do every year. Spring forward! In the last few months, for me some days have felt like I’ve been ice-picking my way methodically out of a crevasse only to slide back down. Deep crevasses in my body, heart, and mind. It’s like I just make it to the top to see the light but for whatever reason I fall back. I’ve discovered that it is not actually some THING or some ONE who is pushing me back down, even though my mind wants to go there to put the blame on external influences. It is more often than not actually my small self who is purposely falling back down, because it feels justified…protective…and easier to wallow in the pit than to muster up the energy to climb back out.

But as always for me, the wisdom of Yoga comes to the rescue once again. Yoga teaches us about the influence of the GUNAS (rajas, tamas, and sattva) – those primordial energies of the Universe that permeate all levels of nature. Check out this article for a good explanation of the gunas: https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/health/yoga-philosophy-101-3-gunas/). Once you’ve recognized that you are stuck in a hole (energy of TAMAS), then in order to pull yourself out, you need to tap into the energy of RAJAS – action, motivation, enthusiasm. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount to get you to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe that means opening your eyes first thing in the morning, pausing to take some deep breaths, and then repeating to yourself, “I am light, I am light, I am light”. Get up and get out by yourself (this is for YOU) – even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Breathe in the fresh air, feel yourself move, keep reminding yourself, “I am light, I am light, I am light” until you truly believe it and embody it. Returning to the energy of SATTVA – harmony and balance – all day long. This simple practice (affirm, get up, get out) seemed to have just the right amount of RAJAS to help me climb out of the hole, helped me find my mojo, and has kindled the creative spark once again. See my latest yoga video: ENERGIZING YOGA III – LIGHTEN UP!

Sattvic energy – the energy of harmony and balance WITHOUT reaction to disturbance – has to be cultivated regularly in order to be maintained. Yoga teaches of the need to fine-tune effort and surrender towards sattva so we don’t swing too far under the influence of rajasic or tamasic energy. It requires the balancing approach of Abhyasa, beautifully described by Chip Hartranft in his translation of The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali (Shambala Publications, 2003) as, “the subtle effort of returning and rereturning to relaxation and coalescence” (39). He goes on to explain that this not-too-much-not-too-little approach is a balancing act of effort and effortlessness that we can practice in all we do, but starts with stillness and internal awareness. He says:

Stillness is a reflection of our growing openness to the unpredictable unfolding of the world as it is, a freedom from the constant effort to bend things to our liking, to make them conform to our conditioned notions of good and bad“.

(Hartranft, 2003, 39)

So we balance effort (get up and get out) with surrender (sit quietly, quit the fidgeting and squirming, breathe and let be), observing the internal bits and bites that come up without reacting. You can practice sitting quietly in stillness after one of my MEDITATIONS observing and sensing the comings and goings of phenomena in the body and the mind. Hartranft explains:

Our growing familiarity with subtle internal experiences helps us recognize the ways our bodymind contracts in the presence of hurt, delay, desire, and other features of daily life. We begin to catch ourselves earlier in the process of tightening, viselike, around difficulty, disagreement, or frustration. We can then relax, noting how this embodies the intention to know the moment more clearly and openly. Nor is it ever wrong to do so, we begin to sense. Loosening the valves seems always to allow things to resolve and wisdom to enter. This imparts both the freedom to act and the freedom not to have to.

(Hartranft, 2003, 39-40)

Good advice once again from the wisdom of Yoga; getting out of the depths of my funk has been much easier with the valves loosened and my imaginary ice-pick effortlessly landing where it needed to go. Abhyasa! Practice makes perfect so let’s keep at it, both on and off the mat. May you spring forth with ease!

Goodbyes and Hellos

Goodbye 2020, and Hello to 2021. I’m weeks late in acknowledging a new year…but the past month has been a blur. With courage and honour, my father said goodbye to this world and left his body on Dec. 29 in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, as my sister and I lovingly sat together in a snowbank outside his hospital window, holding the sacred space for his soul to fly, even if separated by brick and glass. It was both magical and heart-breaking; and for his death to be one of the many Covid statistics is maddening. But we then put one foot in front of the other, first to get out of the snowbank, and then to move forward, comforting my stepmom, comforting each other, and jumping in to action to do what needed to be done during a year-end of lockdowns, holiday closures, and provincial restrictions.

Very quickly after saying that goodbye, it was hello to the business of dying. Hello to forms and phone calls, hello to decisions large and small. Hello to moments of sweet memories, and goodbye to old clothes and trinkets. One hello I am still waiting on is an actual voice from the Canada Revenue Agency…

Our whole lives are about beginnings and endings; an ongoing cycle of hellos and goodbyes. Wisdom traditions remind us to recognize this cycle and flow WITH it instead of against it; to process the goodbyes and to welcome the hellos over and over. Even in the midst of grief, uncertainty, challenge, and the inevitable roadblocks we may face, we can say goodbye to what keeps us stuck there, and say hello to the potential and possibilities that lie before us.

I love this part from Amanda Gorman’s recent speech. It is so relevant to not only the world today, but to personal challenges we all face, big and small:

“So while we once asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”

So with the bravery, awareness, and motivation that my Dad instilled in me, I say Goodbye and then Hello to so many things…breathing and silently chanting So Hum and Hari Om.

My online yoga offerings will be on hold for a bit longer…keep meditating and practicing and grounding yourselves and I look forward to saying hello to you again soon.

Standing on a frozen lake, saying goodbye to what was, and hello to possibilities…

108 THINGS – A Daily Wholeness Practice

Kiwi Jasper Mala handmade by Soul Crafted Malas http://www.soulcraftedmalas.com/

Take a breath and step back to check in with yourself. How are you? Feel into your heart space and ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment to feel whole? What would fill me up?” Some days I desperately need a hug, a smile, a reassurance that things will be okay. Some days I NEED a chocolate chip cookie. And other days it feels like I don’t know what I need…But EVERY day, I know I need SOMETHING to ground me, nourish me, uplift me, and prepare me for what comes. And while it is nice to get the external things, often the some “thing” I really need seems to come from within rather than from outside.

The “things” that I need are often not describable in words. Maybe it’s a feeling or a sense or an understanding that I didn’t know I needed until it hit me. Often what we need doesn’t come from the thinking mind or from the external, but from the more subtle internal realms of insight, energy, knowing. And these subtle things have a way of showing up when we are quiet and calm, mindfully breathing, and opening up our hearts to receive these gifts instead of closing off or shutting down. Sometimes these “things” are not so subtle and are not so pleasant…and maybe they are downright painful. But to acknowledge and accept their existence, to process and deal and release them, means we skillfully make space to move forward. Move forward with more clarity, ease, and less discomfort.

Yoga is both a practice of “doing” and a process of “undoing” (effort and surrender). Some days we may arrive at our mats feeling scattered and fragmented, or we might arrive feeling overwhelmed, blocked and bunched up. Yoga offers a chance to dismantle unsupportive layers on physical, energetic, and mental levels by asking us to BREATHE, RELAX, FEEL, WATCH, and ALLOW… then guides us to put ourselves back together compassionately as we return to wholeness, fullness, unity. No wonder the word “yoga” means “union”.

And for those wonderful days when we arrive at our mats feeling light and happy and already full, our yoga practice only adds to that energy, allowing us to expand even more! The more we practice, the fuller we become.

After playing around with my 300 Things practice this summer, I felt not only the positive effects of physical exercise but the more subtle benefits that mindful movement and breathing can bring. I came up with a shorter version that I call the 108 Things (see my video below); a yoga practice I can do every day to fill me up. Try it for a week and see what you think; feel free to change it up, add or replace poses, or come up with your own “10 x 10 plus 8” different ways to mindfully breathe, move, and put yourself back together!

“THE 108 THINGS”

Do 10 exercises/poses/practices for 10 reps/breaths PLUS 8 slow mindful breaths in Savasana for a total of 108 things…all with awareness, attention, alignment, and safety for your own body.

Here is my routine; try to do it slowly and add whatever transition poses you like in between. Build in lots of pauses to feel the more subtle effects of breath, movement, and attention. Allow any negativity, unsupportive thoughts, or discomfort to drain away…wash away…unravel…then SMILE.

Warm up with Surya breath, a few twists, and neck rolls – whatever you like.

  1. Cat/cow (Marjariasana) x 10
  2. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) x 10 Ujjayi breaths
  3. 1/2 Sun Salutations (Ardha Surya Namaskara) x 10
  4. “Chair” breathing x 10
  5. Balance pose (any pose holding 5 breaths each right and left sides)
  6. Strength pose (plank or any core-control pose) x 10 Ujjayi breaths
  7. Dynamic Locust pose (or any back extension exercise) x 10
  8. Child’s pose (Balasana) x 10 breaths (last three add Brahmari breath i.e. honey-bee breath)
  9. Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani) – x 10 belly breaths
  10. Spinal twist of your choice (5 breaths each right and left sides)
  11. Savasana with 8 soundless, slow breaths, then rest in stillness

Finish off with Dirgha Pranayama (3-part breath) and a short meditation, tapping in to your own sense of wholeness, completeness, and balance.

VEDIC PEACE MANTRA FOR WHOLENESS

OM purnamadah, purnamidam

Purnat purnam udachyate

Purnasya purnam adaya

Purnam evavashishyate.

OM Shantih, shantih, shantih.

OM. THAT IS COMPLETE/WHOLE/PERFECT.

THIS IS COMPLETE/WHOLE/PERFECT.

COMPLETENESS/WHOLENESS/PERFECTION ARISES FROM THE PERFECT.

TAKING THE WHOLENESS/PERFECTION FROM THE WHOLE/PERFECT,

IT REMAINS AS THE WHOLE/PERFECT ALONE.

OM PEACE, PEACE, PEACE.

DECEMBER GIFTS

Hi Yoga Friends, check out a couple of new videos I added to my YOGA VIDEOS BY ANNE page. Lots of free yoga out there but maybe my expression and guidance of the practice might resonate with you. Enjoy these December 2020 gifts (and remember my GUIDED MEDITATIONS page as well for those times when you need a mental health break!).

Calm, Cool, and Collected

With mid-October here, my backyard is mostly empty of colourful flower pots, bright maple leaves, and climbing ivy, but my roses are still blooming even with the few frosty mornings we’ve had. A reminder of resilience and nature’s tenacity! During the hot summer, these roses struggled to flower against the heat and drought and Japanese beetles. So as the cool temperatures began to alleviate the strain on these aptly named, “Double Knockout” roses, new buds appeared and growth has flourished!

As usual, my backyard is full of wisdom for me if I really pay attention. It struck me that, my roses managed to survive in the midst of challenging conditions, equipped with an innate hardiness and natural ability to persevere. Both beautiful and thorny, they just kept growing, and they are thriving…in October! I know they will eventually die off, as they do each year, and rebound again in the spring. This made me reflect on the inner strength and resolve of human nature, especially during these demanding weeks and months, and the need to return to balance…a natural state of being calm, cool, and collected.

We know that respite from day-to-day challenges and demands is NECESSARY to return to balance. For me, it came in the form of a few rainy walkabouts in my backyard, digging in the earth, cutting back perennials, saying goodbye to my begonias. Calm was right there on my yoga mat as I sat and watched my inhale and exhale. Healing was supported with juices made from fresh organic kale thanks to a friend’s glorious garden bounty. Poise and balance came back with several attempts at tree pose. Faith and hope restored themselves as I reached out to my loved ones, my yoga family, and my support network (in person, online, in my heart, in my prayers). And equanimity was always (IS always) there underneath all the disturbances, just waiting for me to tap into it.

This calm, this serenity, this composure…it’s there for all of us no matter what the season, what the conditions, or what the news says. We just have to remember to return to it, over and over again, moment by moment.

If you are in need of an hour of mindful movement, check out one of my YOGA VIDEOS. If you need a break from an overactive mind, choose one of my GUIDED MEDITATIONS. And if you need to feel CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED in this moment, simply close your eyes, soften your face and jaw, relax your shoulders, and take 10 slow deep breaths. Bring a smile to your face and remind yourself of your resilience, your inner strength, your capacity to love, and your ability to heal.

Yin Yoga At Home

The very first line of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras says, “Atha Yoga Anushasanam”NOW, the practice of yoga begins. In this moment, under these circumstances and conditions, and within one’s body/mind…this is where the experiencing is, where the self-discovery begins, and where the lessons are. For the last 6 months in this COVID-19 world, we’ve been asked to stay at home, take care of ourselves and our families, be mindful of how we interact with others, and be with what is HERE RIGHT NOW. How are you feeling? What are you feeling? In what ways have you been managing all the challenges? Rather than seeking the external, this has been a prime opportunity to deal with the internal.

Yin Yoga is one of those fitting practices to help deal with the internal. I think one of the biggest skills to come out of this practice is FOCUS. Learning to better focus teaches me to adjust my lens of awareness as required, alternating between stepping back (observing the big picture) or zooming in (looking at the hidden details), so I can better SEE what’s there in my breath, body, and mind. So much can be revealed, including how I am distracted, what is ease and what is discomfort, what really matters, and what does not. While all styles of yoga might offer these insights, Yin Yoga in particular seems to lend itself well to this exploration with its slow, meditative approach that asks the practitioner to be patient, to be still, to lean into the moment, stay there and watch what happens. It’s like a training ground for BEING with all sorts of stuff, gradually widening the window of tolerance and acceptance. Dr. Steven Hayes (psychologist, professor, and author) says, “I will not run from my own experience” in the context of managing difficult emotions and thoughts. I think it can be the same with yoga, being with whatever is there on (or off) the mat – blissful or painful – and choosing NOT to run away.

The three guidelines that pertain to the Yin Yoga practice may very well be an effective strategy to help us live with the challenges of this world right now:

1) Slowly approach your edge – a physical limit, or place of resistance (might be mental or emotional).

2) Soften your body and breathe at this edge with awareness and openness.

3) Stay there for awhile and observe with attention. It’s okay.

And then we could add “proceed with better focus”.

However you are living your own Yoga At Home these days, the key is to simply get on your mat…every day. Just get there, then observe things unfold, with curiosity, compassion, and patience. If you need a little help to inspire you and ground you, see below for a Yin Yoga Video I made. I hope it helps to remind you that NOW, in each and every moment, YOGA begins…and I’m right here in it with you.

My first yoga video – Energizing Yoga

Well Yoga Friends, I have resisted any online video offerings for some time, but here you go – an ENERGIZING YOGA PRACTICE that lasts about 48 minutes.  Even after teaching for 20 years, I felt nervous about how to share my energy and spirit on camera…and then of course, there were all those ego-driven fears about how would I look, what if I made a mistake, what if it wasn’t perfect…So much to get over when you SEE yourself reflected back to you. But what a learning opportunity, a lesson in acceptance and self-compassion, a reminder of simplicity, and a practice in authenticity. I played the video for myself this morning, letting ME guide ME. There was something so comforting and real about listening to my own voice, trusting in my own guidance, and letting myself be held by that very energy and spirit that seems to work through me – ahhh inner light and love! My initial intention to make a video for YOU has turned out to be a small act of sharing and service for US. I hope you can feel the energetic exchange when you practice with me (enlarge it to full screen for best playback), and I hope this inspires you to embrace your OWN home practice, however it unfolds. Just get on your mat!

Until the next one, I will leave you with some thoughts from Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

“Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”

“Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”

Namasté…

 

The 300 Things

During these days and weeks and months of various degrees of shutdown due to the pandemic, part of me has been loving the slower pace and the reduced busyness. Another part of me, though, has been needing more structure and routine to combat laziness and mental dullness…the need for a daily plan. Even in my workouts and asana practice on the mat, I am finding I need a balance of both – a scheduled program but with room for freestylin’ it! So I came up with what I call “The 300 Things” – somehow giving it a name satisfies the desire for a “program”. Giving it some sort of order makes it easy to follow. Scheduling it every morning makes me do it. And writing it out on a piece of paper (yes, hand written neatly, not typed out or stored on my cellphone) means I can put it at the top of my mat for easy reference.

The pros:

  • It does not require Zoom or YouTube or trying to look at a screen
  • It does not require a time limit
  • Writing it out neatly seems to make it “official” and important
  • I can use whatever music I like or none at all
  • I can add, delete, modify any of the moves
  • I can make this easy and gentle, or strong and challenging depending on how I feel
  • It encourages me to move my spine in all directions
  • It keeps me focused and less distracted since I am counting it out
  • Completing each round gives a sense of accomplishment; motivates me to do the next round; increases energy
  • Most importantly, I am enjoying it and feel amazing afterwards!

Try it out for yourself and make a plan!

“THE 300 THINGS”

– basically do 10 exercises/poses/practices for 10 reps/breaths each for 3 rounds for a total of 300 things, all with attention to breath, alignment, posture, and safety

Here is my routine; you can follow this or make up your own:

Round 1 and 2 – exercises

  1. Jumping jacks x 10 (with or without impact)
  2. Standing cross crawl x 10 (bi-lateral movement – great for the brain!)
  3. Burpees x 10 (gets the heart rate up!)
  4. Lunge to High kick right leg x 10 (great for balance!)
  5. Lunge to High kick left leg x 10
  6. Vinyasa x 10 (downward dog to plank to cobra to downward dog; sub in a different sequence if you like)
  7. Wide-leg row x 10 (sit with legs apart, arms in front and hands clasped, bend forward and back)
  8. Navasana x 10 (boat pose – hold for 10 breaths; great for core!)
  9. Dynamic spinal twist x 10 (lie down, bend legs, drop them side to side with control)
  10. Seated breath meditation x 10 (sit cross legged, close eyes, take 10 slow breaths; regroup for next round!)

Round 3 – yoga poses

  1. Trikonasana x 10 (triangle pose – 5 breaths each side)
  2. Standing twist x 10 (5 breaths each side)
  3. 1/2 sun salutation x 10 (experiment with pace – slow/medium/fast)
  4. Virabhadrasana I x 10 (warrior pose I; 5 breaths each side)
  5. Virabhadrasana II x 10 (warrior pose II; 5 breaths each side)
  6. Hold Plank or Cobra or Downward Dog for 10 breaths
  7. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend) x 10 breaths
  8. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) x 10 breaths
  9. Lying down – Figure 4 stretch (I call this “thread-the-needle”) x 5 breaths each leg
  10. Savasana (corpse pose lying down on back) x 10 slow abdominal breaths

Finish it all off with a seated meditation. Try one of my guided meditations or chant a mantra or simply sit in silence noticing how you feel. Congratulate yourself for doing 300 things that support your health and wellness!!

Love and light…

 

Anne’s classes on hold…but not forever

Dear Yoga Friends, with talk of the gradual re-opening of various industry sectors over the next several weeks and months, we know it is important to REMAIN DILIGENT in our efforts to maintain health and safety in our homes, workplaces, and in the community. It will likely be a very different set up than before for yoga studios and in-person classes, with possible size restrictions, social distancing requirements, sanitation and disinfection protocols, and reduced schedules.

For my classes specifically, all group classes continue to be cancelled until further notice. My offerings to you have always been my passion, my joy, my dharma…and part of that joy is the interaction and face-to-face connection of teacher-to-student, yogi-to-yogi, friend-to-friend. While that may not be possible at this time, please know that I am looking forward to seeing you in the months ahead. Some of you have asked about online classes; while I am not set up to provide them at this time, at best I have been able to offer my GUIDED MEDITATIONS as ways to explore the inner self, calm the mind and body, and boost spirits. As it might feel like we are holding our collective breath, waiting for the next piece of good or bad news in this pandemic, I encourage you to EXHALE…and let’s just see what unfolds.

Before the pandemic, many of us complained about not having enough time to practice yoga or exercise daily, too much external stimulation, or putting our devices before our relationships. Now that we have that time, some of the complaints are at the other end of the spectrum…feeling boredom, more time on devices, too much time to think, etc. And in another few months, we will complain again, as it seems to be human nature to want something else. The teachings of yoga remind us of finding some degree of CONTENTMENT (Santosha), regardless of the circumstances, situation, and conditions. One day at a time…one moment at a time…knowing full well that things change and nothing is permanent. So can we let go of worry, anger, and judgment and replace them with faith, patience, and compassion? Can we go with the flow and use best practices while events play out? Sure we can. While I write a lot about these things, it may seem repetitive…but maybe we need these reminders OFTEN. I know I do…

“Just for today, I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.” – a gift of wisdom from a friend…

NAMASTE

 

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