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

 

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom, and Faith

 

With just over a month of “shutdown” under our belts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hearing of more day-to-day challenges from a mental health perspective. One day we’re okay, and the next we’re not. Difficulties being at home with others; difficulties being alone; gain and loss; darkness and light. Some folks are calling their homes “prisons”, and others are posting that they are “going crazy”. So many different experiences of hardship and challenge, from mild to medium to extreme, as well as those bright spots that keep us going – acts of kindness, creative outlets, overcoming sickness, lending a hand. The common thread seems to be the wanting of something other than what IS. Perhaps more than ever, our mantra needs to be the Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change; the COURAGE to change the things that I can; and the WISDOM to know the difference.

What is helping me during these times (and ANY time I am having a hard time ACCEPTING WHAT IS…which, as for many of us, is more often than not) is first to sit quietly, take a few breaths, and ground my energy. Sometimes I even listen to my own GUIDED MEDITATIONS (yes that’s ME talking to MYSELF, like my higher Self guiding the small me with my own voice…very interesting). Then I can REFLECT. Reflection (not rumination, brooding, overthinking, or fixating) helps me to flip the perspective and look at the potential, the insights, the blessings, the learning, and the positives right in front of me. Not to pretend that the challenges do not exist, nor to dismiss the need to mourn, nor to deny the tough emotions…but to remember to also have faith in the goodness of people, trust in the balance of nature, practice patience during this process, and find hope in even the smallest steps that move us forward.

In the course of reflecting recently, I made some observations. My right-brain (creative side) said lean into the moment, breathe, relax, let it go, accept what I cannot change, and FEEL thankful (just embodying the warm sensations of gratitude made a difference). My left-brain (analytical linear side) said investigate and research, look at cause and effect, tap into available resources, make a plan, BE the change. Then I did some alternate-nostril breathing to balance right and left brain, leading to the final a-ha moment of my whole-brain collaboration – the message to cultivate RESILIENCY, in body, mind, and spirit. Bounce back, pick yourself up, rise above, be the light…

Looking to the yogic tradition, I recall the guidelines of the 8-limbed path, specifically the Niyamas, or the second limb of the yogic path known as “observances” (the DOs rather than the DO NOTs). Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishwara Pranidhana (effort/self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to God or Higher Power). Here is a plan I can follow. And sure enough, it goes right back to the Serenity Prayer…keeping up my practices helps me cultivate serenity, helps me tap into the courage within, opens my heart and mind to wisdom from sources tiny to tall, and ensures I keep the faith. Read this article by Sally Kempton (Yogi, Meditation Teacher, Writer} for a deeper understanding of these concepts.

After I have left my yoga mat, and as my day unfolds, the practice continues. Practicing patience and letting go and moving on while keeping distance, washing hands, and staying at home. Facing the reality of bills, due dates, and debts. Finding ways to connect and disconnect. Remembering to stop and take those deep breaths. Bouncing back, moment after moment, with serenity, courage, wisdom, and faith.

**If you need extra support during these difficult times and are not sure where to turn, in addition to your local public health website, consider this initiative offered by the Canadian government and various partners: Wellness Together Canada. It is like a one-stop resource for mental health and emotional support. 

New: Guided Meditations

Here is a new offering that I am excited to share with you! I’ve added a new page called “GUIDED MEDITATIONS” where you will find short practices to choose from anytime. I hope to add more over time. Enjoy!

Weathering COVID-19 with Self-Care

Friends and yoga lovers, this is a time when we ALL must heed the advice of not only our health officials and leaders but our own “inner gurus” for self-care. That may mean disconnecting from social media, news reports, and travel stories for a time so the fear and worry can lessen, if even for just a little while. A solitary walk in the winter sunshine followed by an afternoon savasana was just what was needed today to help slow my racing heart and calm my overthinking mind.

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All my yoga classes were cancelled for March break anyway, including Manotick classes and City of Ottawa classes…so to inform you that they CONTINUE TO BE CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE likely comes as no surprise. Please take care during this challenging time with all the recommended precautions; keep up a home yoga practice for body and mind; and practice patience, compassion, and loving-kindness so we can all get through this.

Sending Reiki for protection, care, and safety…Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Spring Yoga 2020 schedule…coming soon

You know spring surely is coming soon when we switch to daylight savings time! Remember to put your clocks ahead an hour this weekend!

As we wind down the winter session of my yoga classes this month, this is a reminder there are NO CLASSES FROM MAR. 12 – 24 INCLUSIVE as I am away. The Spring Yoga schedule starts in April but until then, I hope to see you on the mat for a few regular classes after March break.

Registration for the Spring Session of Yoga-Pilates at NCAC opens tonight at 9 pm online, and tomorrow in person at any City of Ottawa client service centre. Register quickly as this class always fills up fast!

My new year “mantra” of “less struggle, more ease” and moving forward with clear vision seems to be coming to fruition. Whether in a yoga pose, in the line up at the bank, in traffic, or during a tough conversation…a conscious effort to follow the path of least resistance seems to be making a big difference. Stuff still happens and challenges present themselves, but rolling with it/through it/under it/over it with more acceptance seems to bring lightness to the body, mind, and soul and a clarity of vision. Good timing as we transition from the heaviness of winter to spring!

NAMASTE…and see you on the mat!

Winter Yoga with Anne

Yoga classes are now underway for this winter 2020! I hope to see you on the mat at one or more this season. CHECK HERE FOR YOGA CLASS INFO.

In addition, join me Sat. Jan. 18 from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at Empower Me Yoga Studio for a “Master Class: Journey Through the Koshas”. Beginning with a brief lecture and meditation, we will then flow through a sequence of poses three times, with each round promoting deeper awareness and insight. From the physical body to the energetic, mental, wisdom, and bliss layers, a “FIVE KOSHAS CLASS” is a truly holistic practice that helps to balance our WHOLE being, and encourages us to live gracefully and fully from each layer of Self.

REGISTER FOR THE KOSHAS CLASS ONLINE HERE: https://www.wellnessliving.com/rs/event/empowermeyoga?k_class=184582&k_class_tab=14994

See you on the mat!

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