YOGA with Anne this Fall 2019

Wow this summer is sailing by! Just a few weeks left then back to class, back to work, back to routine. Hope to see you this fall at one of my classes (see summary below). For detailed class info, click HERE.

  1. YOGA-PILATES at Nepean Creative Arts Centre – registration opens Aug. 14 at 9 pm online, Aug. 15 in person at any City of Ottawa client service centre. Classes begin Wed. Sept. 18.
  2. MANOTICK MORNING YOGA CLASSES at Denise Smith Dance Studio – first class back is Sun. Sept. 8 with Yin Yoga at 9:15 am.
  3. AUTUMN YOGA RETREAT FOR WOMEN at Shanti Retreat on Wolfe Island – a few spots available for this annual extended weekend retreat Sept. 26-29. Click HERE for info.
  4. MINI-RETREATS at Misiwe Ni Relations Healing Lodge – save the dates for Sun. Oct. 27 and Sun. Nov. 24. More info to come this September.

Get your feet in the grass, your face to the sun, and smile as you take in these last weeks of summer!

Namaste…

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Summer Soul Surfing

I am not a real surfer. In fact, I’m not even a good swimmer and don’t feel very confident in the water. The closest thing I’ve ever done to surfing is stand-up paddle boarding! But I am often drawn to the idea of navigating LIFE like a surfer riding the waves. Getting up every day and jumping on that board; at times floating and bobbing for awhile just hanging out until a big wave comes, then rising to action to negotiate the ups and downs, twists and turns. Sometimes falling off, sputtering and floundering, and other times, staying up with skill and precision. Sometimes feeling so out of breath and upside down that my bearings are totally lost, doubting whether I can do this at all…

Sometimes there are those painful moments of loss like something has fallen off my surfboard and out of my life, down to the depths of the sea below or blown away in the wind, never to be seen again. Other times there are the joys of success and reward and feeling so stoked after an intense ride. And then there are those times where I’m just going with flow on that imaginary surfboard, feeling so connected with my surroundings and my breath and everything is falling in to place. I am letting things fall into place…stepping out of my head and out of my own way to let my soul shine. Moments where it is magical and awe-inspiring.

Maybe we are all “soul-surfing” through life, and the key is to keep getting back on that surfboard no matter what…to be resilient. To remember that there are fellow soul surfers out there to support one another. To ride the waves with presence and with just the right balance of strength and softness.

Today was our last yoga class at the Manotick studio as we break for July and August. I always enjoy using these summer months to work on my own “soul-surfing” through personal yoga, meditation, and being in nature. Stay tuned to this site for more info about fall classes, starting Sept. 8, 2019, and if you’re interested in my women’s yoga retreat this September, click HERE for more info as there are just a few spots left. May you all have a safe, happy summer!

And to all you REAL surfers out there…hang loose and rip that Perfect 10!

 

Clark Little Photography, Hawaii

May/June classes with Anne

 

Photo from Hinterland Who’s Who

Lately, part of my morning routine has been to watch a robin feed her newly-hatched chicks in the nest just outside my window. I am always amazed at how more than one bird can grow and flourish in that small nest, hidden in the branches of a cedar. I watch as the robin delivers worms and gooey things to those open-mouthed babies, and it makes me smile as these signs of nurturing unfold. Quietly hidden or with bells and whistles, this is the season of new growth, transformation, and light – nourishing bodies, minds, and hearts. Come celebrate spring with me on your yoga mat as we stretch and breathe and OM together…

My regular classes continue until the end of June, then we are off for July and August. Check my schedule for details. Note that there IS a Yin class this coming Sunday, May 19, of the long weekend.

Looking ahead, my Autumn Yoga Retreat for Women in September is filling up fast – just a few spots left! Click here for details.

Happy Spring to you all and see you on the mat!

 

Welcome to Spring 2019!

Just over a month ago, I was waking up to the exotic birds of India, lifting my face to the warm sun, and flip-flopping along the beaches of Goa. I was feeling free and light, while being grounded and centered.

Today, I woke up to robins and cardinals in my own backyard. I lifted my face to the cloudy sky and smiled. I shoved my bare feet into my boots and clopped along my icy street. I was feeling free and light, while being grounded and centered.

Happiness cannot be dependent on an idyllic setting or pristine conditions, otherwise we will forever be longing for and chasing that perfect moment, disappointed when it doesn’t come exactly how we had hoped. Happiness is ALWAYS there for the experiencing…if we allow it.

Something about this first day of spring literally makes me want to BE happy, to FEEL happy, to SEE happy. Let’s choose to welcome spring with love and lightness…and YOGA! My regular classes are underway and I look forward to sharing this spring season with you on the mat!

 

Realization of Self

Well I didn’t need to come to India again to be reminded what was already within me. Haven’t I already heard the spiritual message – you already are what you seek? For whatever divine reason, here I am. I was meant to be here with these other seekers at exactly this time and place, to explore my inner world and challenge my beliefs and thinking…yet again. We were reminded over and over again, that we are so much more than just the “person” we think we are.

So often in our lives we question our purpose, our worth, our happiness. We bitch about the most minor of things and freak out if someone gets our coffee order wrong. We take things so personally and feel we are hard done by. Though we may say we are blessed and tell ourselves we have so much to be grateful for, there often seems to be an underlying dissatisfaction with the “way things are”; a wishing for something different. We might not even notice it but in our thoughts, speech and actions we perpetuate the discord with long drawn out stories, overthinking, grudges, and hurts; with longing and wanting something more. I didn’t realize how this was building in me; how could I feel unhappy when everything seemed to be going so well in my life? Probably because I was giving energy to the stories by re-hashing them over and over in my mind!

Nothing like travelling in a developing country to put things in perspective. I quickly went from “woe is me” to feeling very humbled. From the brick makers to the tile makers to the barefoot rickshaw drivers to the weavers to the tea pickers, I saw REAL work unfolding in front of me, with determination, commitment, and long hours. When you’re making bricks, one after the other under the hot sun, you likely have no time to even think about what someone said to you in anger two weeks ago, or how you missed out on something last year, or worry about what will happen tomorrow. All you can do is be fully present in the moment and pay attention.

I have a bigger appreciation for what we take for granted…just to name a few things: clean water, shoes, dental care, two cars in a garage, food, a toilet…My perceived problems seemed so insignificant in comparison; so “western” and even ridiculous at times.

So with this more humbled attitude, I vowed I would show more appreciation to all who provided service. My smiles and genuine gratitude were met with the same from the taxi drivers to the food servers to the woman selling her wares in the street. I asked their names and about their families and they were so happy to share a small part of themselves. Don’t we all want connection, heart to heart, no matter what station in life?

During my yoga retreat, we were invited to take a so-called “direct” route to understanding of the Higher Self, through the applied wisdom of Advaita Vedanta. Guided by the teachings or “pointings” from such ancient masters as Adi Shankara and Ramana Maharshi, and modern guides such as Mooji, Eckart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, we learned that our human tendency is to relate to our reality from the perspective of “person” through the beliefs, ideas, and conditioning we have gathered throughout our lives. Our self-awareness is driven by this illusion that we are who we believe ourselves to be based on things like status, education, appearance, material things, who we associate with, where we live, what has happened to us…the list goes on and on. These beliefs are so deeply engrained in us and colour our views of self and others.

During the retreat, rather than trying to analyze our mental states, or re-hash the stories, or even focus on self-help and improvement techniques, we were asked to just DROP IT ALL and rest in the “I Am”. We asked our minds to let go of the beliefs, the thoughts, the concepts and theories and ideas of our identities as we knew them – just for a short time…so we could see what it was like to be free of those bindings. We let go of all thinking about ourselves as “persons” and we simply rested in “presence”. We practiced bearing witness to what was unfolding in front of us without reaction; remaining neutral and just emptying the mind of all labels; observing and accepting without judgment.

It takes practice and patience in a gentle compassionate way not to engage the ego mind. This is not about zoning out…It is about being fully present. At first, so much resistance came up in me with irritation, frustration, impatience, and “ya…but…” thoughts. I questioned the method, doubted the theory, and somehow felt “I” knew better. The ego mind reared its head and tried to convince me that it couldn’t be this simple. I journaled like crazy and chanted and forward-bended and tried so hard to understand. Striving…seeking…endless effort.

But then one day, I gave up; I surrendered. I wrote in my journal, “I AM SO DONE WITH THIS GAME!” It was taking so much effort and energy trying to achieve BEING- ness that I realized resistance is futile. I couldn’t blame it on anything or anyone other than my own mind – clearly I was the master of my own misery.

One of my teachers reminded me, “Beneath all the anger, jealousy, fear, questioning, doubt, and broken heartedness, is RADIANCE and that is your natural state – your Being-ness. Just be silent and be aware without trying so hard. Just BE.” Okay…I’m willing…I will let it go; not just saying it but REALLY letting it all go.

Gradually the clouds in my head cleared and I was able to rest in the spaciousness of Presence. I felt it. I understood it. Somewhere deep in my Being I tapped into Self. No judgment, critical thinking, or evaluation…just Being. And from that place all my concerns and ruminations melted; past was gone and future wasn’t even a thought. All that was there was PRESENCE (call it God, Spirit, Oneness, or whatever) and a great freedom from all the bullshit I had concocted in my mind. This was not just a one-time experience; it is feeling of transformation and realization. But don’t take my word for it…you have to discover it for yourself.

As I spend my final days in India near the Arabian Sea, I am in awe of life as it presents itself moment to moment. We are exactly where we need to be right at this time with open arms and loving hearts. With my trusty travel partner, Debb, we have experienced authentic yoga in its birthplace, communed with nature and its bugs and birds, and witnessed both the beauty and hardship of life unfolding in front of us. I’ve been ant-bitten and wind-swept, dehydrated and dirty, stomach-crampy and cranky…but I’ve also been elated, peaceful, content and free. Just ebbing and flowing with what IS.

I am still getting nudges from the ego mind and will continue to work on dismissing its influence, but it’s getting easier to auto-shift back into Presence. From the place of the Higher Self we see others in a similar light, looking past their own mistaken identities and understanding we are all the same at the core. As the wisdom traditions suggest, we are ONE. From this perspective it is much easier to forgive and move on. From this perspective we can still do all our work in the world and live with others from a more open place.

I am more ready than ever to embrace life…MY life…and all those people and energies and happenings in it, with gratitude, salutations, blessings, acceptance, and love…not needing anything more or anything less. Blissed or pissed, I’m coming home, my Loves, to shine my light and to see the light in you. See you soon.

Namaste…

Worship

Temples, churches, monuments, and shrines…India is such a place of devotion and worship. From Hindus to Christians, Muslims to Jews; from avatars to deities, from fire to rain…there are so many different forms and variations of faith.

As we toured these historical places, we learned some of the traditional Hindu stories of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their consorts, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. It was explained that these gods and goddesses are in fact an expression of the Supreme One, with both masculine and feminine aspects that together, represent oneness. Our guide said these gods and goddesses work as a team, like complementary energies. Some of the stories were also about mischief, play, and competition. Below is a cosmic dance-off between Shiva and Parvati. The story tells of Shiva (on the right) showing off by lifting one leg up in the air to one-up his wife. Her downcast gaze shows she is not impressed! Hmmm, some things haven’t changed between couples in thousands of years…

Here is “Krishna’s Butterball“, an amazing natural phenomenon! Even through tsunamis and earthquakes, this ball of rock has not budged. I was praying that the day I took the photo was NOT the day it chose to roll…

Spiritual tradition is evident in the ongoing practices of the people from elaborate temple rituals to simple offerings of marigolds. I heard morning prayers from mosques over loud speakers and singing of Catholic hymns in Tamil in beautiful churches. But what stood out for me was the practical everyday wisdom departed by our tour guide, Jishoy. He reminded us,

The absence of light is darkness. With a single ray of light, darkness is transformed.

This was simple yet profound and reminded me of the way to BE. Not living in the darkness of judgment, criticism, anger, or fear, but letting in some light…perhaps just the light of a simple smile. No clearer did I see this as in the tour group dynamic, where we were navigating new things together that weren’t always in our comfort zones or up to our western expectations. Instead of complaining and wishing for something else, all we could do at times was practice patience, muster a smile and let things be. Keep calm and smile on…

As I sit in the Mumbai airport waiting two more hours (on top of the three I’ve already waited) for a delayed flight to Goa, I can’t truly say that praying to Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva (“the remover of obstacles”) is going to make a difference. So I’ll just smile and wait, trusting I’ll get where I need to be in due course…

Meeting, Greeting, and Eating

Three of my favourite things are happening daily here in India. Meeting new people – from my tour mates to the shopkeepers to the villagers to the wonderful hotel staff to the chefs who graciously give us cooking demos to our super knowledgeable tour guide…I have so many new friends! Including a young woman named Krishnavani from a poor village area who invited us in to her tiny mud roof home and proudly showed us around the two cramped but tidy small rooms she shared with her brothers and parents. The children here are not looking for money. They are asking for pens! I happily gave away all my markers and they were thrilled!

Everyday we are greeted with smiles. Of course, as tourists with white skin, we are the attraction…but the waving and picture taking and the inquisitive “where you from Ma’am?” from schoolchildren and others is so genuine. Compare this to our own society where eye contact is avoided in the street, where no one talks in the elevator, and where one keeps to oneself on the bus, ear buds plugged in. I am reminded daily that a simple greeting sends a huge wave of happiness.

And the eating…oh my what glorious meals! The food has been market fresh, beautifully prepared, displayed and portioned with care, and so varied as we move from town to town on this culinary tour. South Indian food is spicy but so flavourful and my new favourites are dosas, sambar (a lentil, okra, and tomato soup I love to eat at breakfast!), roasted cashews on the roadside, and South Indian coffee – a delectable brew of strong coffee and boiled milk served in a small stainless steel cup. Our chefs have personally come to meet us and share their recipes with pride!

So far this trip has been a sensory extravaganza with all 5 senses fully engaged. Living life with eyes wide open, ears perked, taste buds tingling, inhaling and exhaling, and reaching out instead of holding back, right here, right now. Yoga – “union” – each and every moment.

Next blog – temple tidbits!

Colourful India

Ahhh India…from the moment I stepped off the plane in Delhi it hit me. Not the smog or the chaos or the noise or the hoards of people (that’s a given anyway…); it was the colours. The vibrant hues of life, both glorious and messy at the same time. Once you get past the initial shock and awe and start to settle in to your surroundings, you can let go, open up your eyes and your heart, and fully embrace the experience. That is why I am here, not to shy away from life but to live it, as a guest in this faraway place. As I walked through the airport to find my driver, I spotted this amazing sculpture of Surya Namaskara – twelve beautiful bodies in each pose of a sun salutation.

It was the perfect “welcome to India” for me and a reminder how daily devotion, whether it is through yoga asana or meditation or prayer, is such a central part of life here.

Flew to Chennai and on the road – now life gets really colourful! Manoeuvring through the streets of life in India requires skill, focus, strategy, and a lot of horn honking. No matter what town or village, the scene is the same! Chaotic yet strangely orderly, it seems to work.

Eventually we made it to the ocean and Marina Beach in Chennai. This huge expanse of beach was filled with people celebrating a holiday just the day before. It was hard to imagine just how many people were here…

At the end of the beach used to be a slum. We were told that the government cleaned it up and built proper housing for the residents. More apartments were in the process of being erected and it filled me with such hope for those in such hard circumstances.

Literally right across from the ocean, these new residences could have easily been worth millions in a western city. Instead they were given to underprivileged people to improve their way of life. Many of these residents were fishermen and their families. Daily the men went out to fish and the women sold the fresh catch on the side of the road. What didn’t sell would be dried in the sun and preserved and sold later. A small makeshift shrine was in the process of being assembled by a few women; a shrine for prayers of protection, safe voyage, and prosperity…Don’t we all just want the same?

It’s hard not to be bothered by this in-your-face reality of hardship. But we are all born into different places in this world so we must do what we need to do and if able, help our fellow humans in whatever way we can. As I climbed aboard our air conditioned bus, I silently sent wishes and blessings for peace and ease to this neighbourhood. I trust it was received.

We drove on to our own new home for a couple of days beside the Bay of Bengal at a beautiful resort filled with palm trees and birds and fragrant smells. A very different colour of life…

Time to welcome another day of exploration. It’s still dark out but I can hear the fishing boats off in the distance as they embark on another hopeful journey. Today we discover Mahabalipuram! More to come…

Namaste…or as they say in Tamil, “Vanakkam” 🙏🙏🙏

Anne

CUL8R

Ever since I was a high school student, I have used acronyms as a mnemonic tool to help me study. I memorized all sorts of things from cell division to capital cities to math formulas using first letters. When it came time for exams, I just needed to remember the acronym. Most of the time it worked, but not always. Sometimes I forgot the acronym! To this day, I continue to use these tools to help me remember things, even when it comes to yoga (and remembering what to get at the grocery store). My favourites are:

BRFWA – breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow

STOP – slow down, tune in, observe, proceed

AAABS – the “yamas” (the don’ts of yoga ethics): Ahimsa (don’t harm), Asteya (don’t steal), Aparigraha (don’t be greedy), Brahmacharya (self-restraint), Satya (don’t lie)

SSSTI – the “niyamas” (the do’s of yoga ethics): Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Svadhyaha (self-study), Tapas (self-discipline), Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to God)

BKBK – broccoli, kale, bread, kleenex

And now I came across a new one to remind me of my Sankalpa (resolve or solemn vow; or as I like to refer to it, my “prime directive”):

LCKPC – love, care, kindness, patience, compassion

This comes from a full-moon online group meditation I recently participated in with the Global Care Room. We tapped in to the energy of our heart space then sent out good vibrations of love, care, kindness, patience and compassion to the planet (see https://www.heartmath.org/gci/introductory-heart-coherence-technique/ for technique). What I discovered was that this practice aligns well with all those things that I endeavor to model. And when I forget, and I react negatively or judge or withdraw, this acronym pops into my head to remind me to re-direct, re-balance, and re-align. It’s not always easy in the moment to switch from anger to love, or from impatience to patience. But part of the practice is simply RECOGNIZING when we are out of sync and then taking the steps to come back into alignment.

To be honest, all I really need to do is remember my name: DAYA ANANDI. My teacher, Yogrishi Vishvketu, gave me this spiritual name as a reminder – of who I am, what I can share, and what I sometimes need to work on. Kindness and bliss, kindness and bliss, kindness and bliss…my true nature. Perhaps that is the best and simplest mnemonic of all.

As I depart for my India trip today, I will be putting all these tools to good use, especially when facing the unfamiliar, the unknown, and the unexpected. Whether across the ocean or in your own backyard, from the simple to the extraordinary, may we all take the time to STOP and BRFWA!

Just a reminder that my classes are on hold until the end of February. First class back is Yin Yoga at DSDS on Thu. Feb. 28, 2019.

TTFN and CUL8R!

 

A New Year of Exploration

Welcome to 2019…a new year of discovery! I have a t-shirt that says, “Explore the world, Discover your self” and the phrase couldn’t be more true for me this year as I embark on another journey to India. I know I don’t have to go to the other side of the world for self-discovery as I’m unearthing things about myself every day right here in my own backyard. But there is something about a journey to a faraway land…perhaps a pilgrimage…that makes this seem like more of a big deal. Like I’m on the brink of learning something so profound, yet so simple.

Five years ago, I went to north India as a yoga student to study and live in an ashram. This time I am going to south India, partly as a tourist (guided through temples and villages and historical sites) and partly as a yoga practitioner and still a student (immersed in a retreat of self-study, practice, and holistic living). With an open mind and open heart, I look forward to visiting a place so different from my own home, yet somehow it feels like I’m going home…or I’m being called home. Strange how my heart feels such a tug to this country.

At the start of a new year, we all may feel like we are embarking on a new journey. An opportunity to let go of the year past and start this year with a clean slate. New hopes and dreams for the upcoming months and intentions for wellness; goals and milestones to achieve; and the shifting out of unsupportive patterns. So much to do it seems this month…However, we must remind ourselves that EVERY day offers this possibility. In fact, every time we end a yoga class in Savasana (corpse pose) or wake up each morning is a chance to start fresh. To shed a few layers, rejuvenate and restore, and then awaken again, re-born so to speak. We don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve or a full moon or the end of a month. It can happen on a moment to moment basis, breath to breath.

Today’s mini-journey is to finish the laundry, pay my bills, and clean up the piles left after Christmas. In two weeks, the journey will be to get on the plane and fly across the world, expanding beyond my backyard to a magical place full of new experiences. Wherever I go, there I am…exploring and discovering. I will post the occasional updates on this blog while I’m away, but mostly I want to just BE in the moment.

Happy New Year to you all and may we all navigate this moment/day/month/year with mindfulness, acceptance, patience, and love!

 

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