Yoga When You’re Hurt

Two weeks into my injury and I can’t drive, can’t straighten my arm, can’t go down the stairs properly, can’t do my hair, can’t teach a class…BUT it doesn’t mean I can’t practice yoga. In fact, this is the very time when deep connection to what’s going on inside my body and mind is necessary, and all the “formal” practice time on my mat continues to equip me for precisely this – dealing with what IS. It has become an interesting experiment observing the ebb and flow of sensations, energy levels, thought patterns, and emotions as I work with limited range of movement and a restricted routine. The yogic prescription when you’re hurt is the same as when you are healthy – breathe, feel, connect, allow, take care, let go.

My mom passed away late summer and after her death it was a whirlwind of required activity and duties. There was hurt on a different level – unlike the physical pain of a dislocated elbow or sprained ankle, the pain of grief and loss sears your heart. I pushed through thinking it was better to keep going than to stop and let it fully surface. But up it came over and over and there was no escaping. So I took a deep breath, allowed myself to feel the constriction around my heart centre, held it with compassion, and let it be. I lay down on my mat and alternated between the deep heart-opening pose of matsyasana (fish pose) and the comforting energy of balasana (child’s pose) as I let emotion flow. I chanted all the mantras I knew, knowing that to release the hurting was to make way for healing. Ah, once again, yoga comes to the rescue.

Back to my elbow…As I was sitting on my mat the other day, I decided to explore. With limited use of one arm and foot, and without overcompensating with my uninjured side, what could I do with a block, a strap, a blanket, a cushion, and a couple of Yoga Tune-Up balls? Turns out quite a bit…Holding on to a block, I discovered I could safely do ardha surya namaskara (half sun salutation). Propped and padded and cushioned, I could do many seated poses. No matter what, I could always breathe. Slowing everything down, I let my body guide me without a scripted sequence, and listened closely to the signals that came from within. Keeping in mind the guidelines from my doctors as well as trusting my inner wisdom, a beautiful practice emerged that lifted my spirits, soothed my wounds, and brought me peace. The power of yoga prevails once again.

Today, I’m achy, cranky, impatient, and getting cabin fever. My practice is very different – chanting and OMing and bumble-bee breathing…but still with the same focus – breath, feeling, connection, acceptance. No matter what the day, hour, moment…yoga is available and it is turning out to be the best therapy of all. I hope to see you in January and let’s continue to explore together…

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Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent me emails with well-wishes! I feel your good vibes – they help too!

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Change in plans

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Oh how it’s easy to get caught up in momentum – charging here and there on auto-pilot and forgetting to be mindful of our breath, our steps, our present-moment awareness. Speaking loudly and clearly, the Universe has told me to SLOW DOWN…Due to injuries I sustained in a fall on the ice yesterday, all of my yoga classes are put on hold until January. For those of you who hold class passes with me in Manotick, just a reminder that while they are non-refundable, they have no expiry date so you can hold them over until I return. For those of you taking my Yoga-Pilates class with the City of Ottawa, you will be contacted by the staff at NCAC regarding a credit for next week’s last class of the fall session which is now cancelled. I expect to return in January for the winter session as planned (maybe with a few teaching modifications!).

Stuff happens and we get through it…this is where our REAL yoga practice comes in. Breathe, accept, take care, let go, move on…Thank you for your support and understanding while I take this time to heal. I will post the January schedule over the next few weeks.

With gratitude…

Anne

Yoga classes with Anne this fall 2016

Here we are in hot and steamy August and we know what’s just around the corner…Back to work, back to school, back to yoga class! If you’ve been missing your yoga mat, it’s time to visit it again (see my post What The Yoga Mat Said).

Here’s my class schedule starting September 6, 2016:

HATHA YOGA in Manotick – Tuesdays @ 9:15 – 10:15 am

YOGA-PILATES in Bells Corners (Nepean Creative Arts Centre) – Wednesdays @ 9:45 – 11 am

(Registered program only, 12 classes starting Sept. 14; registration on now at http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/parks-and-recreation/registered-classes-all-ages/recreation-guide)

YIN YOGA in Manotick – Thursdays and *Sundays @ 9:15 – 10:15 am

MEDITATION AND MOVEMENT in Manotick – Sunday Sept. 11, Oct. 16, Nov. 13, Dec. 18 @ 2:00 – 3:00 pm

All Manotick classes held at Denise Smith Dance School. Drop-ins welcome!

Full class descriptions and more details HERE.

Hope to see you on the mat!

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Your Summer Retreat

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Summer is here with the anticipation of sunny days, spectacular sunsets, and hopefully some more down-time in your life. Where do you go to retreat from your busy routine? A cottage on a lake? A tent in the woods? A day at the spa? Or maybe your own backyard? One of my favourite places to retreat when I need a break is my own patio, where I can curl up in my comfy green chair overlooking the garden, and simply take a breath. And when I need even more space, into nature I go…

The definition of the verb “retreat” is to withdraw, to step back, to move away from something. And it’s in this moving away from something that we create space…space physically, mentally, and emotionally. In stepping back we can see from a broader angle and look at the thing we’re moving away from with a different perspective. Then we can make a conscious choice to proceed, whether that means walking away or turning right back around to face that “thing”.

Think of the many “things” that we might want to retreat from in our fast-paced lives: time-consuming projects and tasks, challenging situations, difficult people, noise, clutter, family and work demands, negative thought patterns, health issues, financial concerns…Such circumstances, conditions, and states are the reality of modern life. Running away to escape might seem like a good option but we may then forever be running as life deals us a new “thing”. We might think, “If I can just get past this ‘thing’, then everything will be okay”. But the Universe often has other plans for us and it turns out that the “thing” has something to teach us. Sometimes it’s just hard to learn the lesson…

Conscious awareness or MINDFULNESS is a great way to BE with our stuff of life. It teaches us to be present with whatever is there in our bodies, minds, hearts or surrounding environment, whether unpleasant or pleasant. It requires that we slow down and take notice. It asks that we step back in the moment (retreat) and allow space for what is there in your own backyard. But sometimes it is helpful (and perhaps necessary) to move beyond your backyard into a totally different space in order to re-calibrate and re-balance your energy, away from the usual environment that holds all those stressors and challenges of daily life. Whether that is in the form of an organized retreat or taking a day off work or just going for a walk in the forest out of the noise of the city, find some way to step back and make space regularly. It’s an important gift you can give to yourself…

Have a safe, happy summer…maybe I’ll see you on retreat!

 

What The Yoga Mat Said

And the yoga mat said, “Good morning, Daya. Come and sit for awhile…and tell me all about what’s going on in your body, your heart, and your mind…”

Yesterday when the mat called out, Daya said, “No I’m too busy”. And the day before that, she said, “No, I’m too tired”. And the day before that, she said “Okay I’ll come see you later…”, but she never did…because other things got in the way.

Today the mat beckoned again and she answered the gentle call. The mat said, “Just sit…and breathe…and take in the sounds and smells of nature around you. You can laugh on me, cry on me, stomp on me, sleep on me…You can BE any way you need to BE and I won’t judge. I will hold you up…and help you let go. Please visit me every day, and I promise your life will transform.”

Daya spent a long time on her mat that morning, moving and breathing and feeling…she even cried a bit and the mat let her be. She almost fell over in triangle pose and laughed…and the mat let her be. She snorted her way through Kapalabhati breathing and let out a huge sneeze…and the mat let her be. She sat quietly on her cushion, and watched her mind jump all over the place until it slowly settled. And later as she lay down in Savasana with the sunshine on her face and her faithful mat gently supporting her, she let go…

There on her mat, Daya expanded beyond her body, beyond her backyard, and into the blue sky above.

Tomorrow might be a whole different experience – it’s not always blissful on the mat. But Daya will be there…no matter what.

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In My Element

 

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Earth, water, fire, air, space – the five elements of nature are not only all around us but they are within us. Our bones and tissues; our fluids; our digestive processes; our breath and movement; and all the channels, hollows, and cavities in our bodies…We can easily understand this relationship from a physical perspective but what if we went a bit deeper and considered how these elements show up in our mental and emotional bodies as well? When all my elements are balanced, I am truly “in my element” – that place where I feel calm, connected, and fully awake to the present moment.

Take the element of EARTH – representative of structure and stability. When I’m flighty and all over the place with a busy mind, unable to concentrate or finish what I start, I am lacking that grounding that comes from the earth. In fact, it’s my AIR element that’s out of whack, as it is representative of mobility, not just in the body but in the movements of the mind. The last thing I need during those times is fast-paced activity and over-stimulation and a jog on a windy day. Instead I can choose to take a break, get down on the ground and do a few slow yin yoga poses, eat some warm sweet dense food, and pause for a few long deep relaxing breaths.

I naturally have a strong digestive system, which is represented by the element of FIRE. When this fire is excessive, not only might I be cranky and irritable and impatient, but I add fuel to the fire by drinking an espresso! A smarter option would be a cool glass of pure water and a time out with some cooling breaths, quiet company, and soothing sounds. For those of you on the other end of the spectrum with a low FIRE element, you might notice your digestion is sluggish or you feel chilled. Your mind might be dull and your perception not quite as sharp. What you need is a bit of spice in your life and spice in your food! Time to “fire up” your metabolism with motivating music, invigorating (but not over-heating) activities, and positive affirmations with love (not anger) in your heart.

If you happen to feel congested at this time of year, it’s not unusual. In the damp cool spring weather, your WATER and EARTH elements might be out of balance showing up as more mucus, phlegm, stickiness, and heaviness in the body. You might feel down, lethargic, or even apathetic. With lots of viruses floating around out there, your immune system might feel like it’s under attack with colds, flus and allergies. Flushing your system with warm herbal teas and fresh water can help as well as sweating it out – let that WATER element flow! Then add some AIR and lightness to your life with uplifting music, the warmth of nurturing friends, light airy meals (think salads!), and sunshine.

It’s not surprising that spring time brings the urge to cleanse and detox your body as well as spring clean your house! It makes sense – at this time of year, we want to feel less congested, less restricted, and more spacious…Ahhh the element of SPACE! Ridding your body of toxins, clearing your mind of negativity, and removing clutter from your living space is necessary to support new growth and transformation. As the natural world comes out of hibernation, so too do we feel the pull to stretch our legs, get outside and re-connect with the natural world through all our senses – smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing. By witnessing the elements of nature and considering their counterparts within us, we understand that we really are an inter-connected and vital part of this universe. May you be “in your element”!

 

Spring 2016 – Classes and Retreats

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While it’s hard to imagine the green grass under all this snow and ice, we know spring is coming! Not only will the geese return, but so will all the “snowbirds” who have traveled south for the winter. Lots of opportunities to practice with me this spring – looking forward to seeing some of you “snowbirds” back on the mat!

Yoga in Manotick @ Denise Smith Dance Studio:

  • HATHA YOGA (Tuesdays 9:15-10:15 am)
  • YIN YOGA (Thursdays and Sundays** 9:15-10:15 am)
  • MEDITATION & MOVEMENT (one Sunday afternoon a month, 2:00 – 3:00 pm Mar. 20, Apr. 10, May 15, Jun. 12)
  • **NO CLASSES on Thur. Jun. 16 and Sun. Jun. 19.

Yoga-Pilates in Bells Corners @ Nepean Creative Arts Centre:

  • Wednesdays 9:45 – 11:00 am (Apr. 1 – Jun. 8 registered program only; registration begins online Mar. 9 at www.ottawa.ca)

Inner Work Day Retreats 2016 @ Wakefield Mill and Spa:

  • Fri. May 6, Fri. Jun. 3, Mon. Jul. 18, Mon. Aug. 22  (9:30 am – 4:30 pm)
  • Contact me to request a registration form

UPDATE: June retreat is sold out; spaces available in JUL and AUG retreats

Akhanda Yoga Festival @ CAMMAC in Harrington, QC with Yogrishi Vishvketu and guest teachers (including ME):

  • Jun. 15 – 19, 2016

AUTUMN YOGA RETREAT Sept. 2016 @ Shanti Retreat Centre on Wolfe Island, ON

  • Sept. 22 – 25, 2016 Women’s only retreat!
  • Contact me to request a registration form

As always, I am grateful for all of you who continue to practice with me.

Peace and Namaste…

 

Yin Yoga – The Quiet Practice

Yoga has so much to offer in the way of practice – poses for strength and poses for flexibility; sequences that stimulate and flows that calm; breathing techniques that heat you up and those that cool you down; focusing skills that help you concentrate and meditations that allow you to expand…In the span of a week, one can tailor their practice to include all these areas so that by the end of seven days you are well-balanced to start the next week. One great way to finish off your week is with the practice of Yin Yoga (you can practice yin with me on Thursdays and Sundays at 9:15 am!).

Sometimes referred to as “the quiet practice”, Yin Yoga has become a wonderful complement to more active styles of yoga. In the context of yin and yang (contrasting dualities of existence), yin is slow/passive/inward/cool while yang is moving/active/outward/warm. Yin Yoga is done with little movement and no warm-up, and one is guided to passively release into a pose for an extended period of time, bringing their mental focus inward. This is not a restorative practice – it can be challenging and even stimulating to remain still and work with the sensations that come and go in the body. Our goal on a physical level is to gently bring a traction-like stimulation to the joints and deeper connective tissues in order to bring about a release of rigidity, promote better energy flow, and therefore improve mobility. Sometimes the pose will feel like a squeeze or squish as we lean or fold into it; other times the pose will feel like a pull as tissues are gently coaxed apart. Body sensations can become intense and then they subside…and we learn not to over-react or under-react. The goals on energetic and mental levels are to breathe, to stay connected, to stay present. We breathe through the experience with mindful awareness and of course, with wisdom – knowing what you know and feel of your body (your health situation, your injuries, your current mind-state, etc.), you are asked to make skillful decisions in guiding your body to its appropriate edge, not pushing beyond that edge. And you always have the choice not to go there at all if this practice isn’t right for you at the time (recent injury, acute health condition, high anxiety, etc.). So there is a huge component in this practice of mindfulness – being very present at all times as a discerning participant and keen observer.

My experience of Yin Yoga has run the gamut from profound release to frustration (as one of my dear teachers calls it, “from blissed to pissed”…). It reminds me of the ebbs and flows of life…Some days I let go completely and allow the practice to unfold, gently releasing my muscular gripping and feeling into the pull of the tissues. When I’m focused and present, I can direct my awareness to my breath and actually feel a deeper energetic release that sometimes defies explanation. Not just a physical release in the body, but mentally and emotionally letting go. Other times, I am impatient and restless as I resist the “pose I don’t like”. My hips ache, my mind wanders, I need to hurry up to get to my emails, and I can’t wait until it’s over as I fidget and silently complain. On those days, my practice is self-compassion and acceptance…

All yoga is about finding harmony within oneself – balance in body, breath, emotions, mind..and this balance allows us to connect on a deeper level to one another, and to Spirit. Yin Yoga, as a complement to more active, yang-style practices, offers one more way we can return to harmony.

 

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WELCOME 2016

FEEL…GROW…TRANSFORM…EXPAND…these are my intentions for the new year. Whether I’m in the wintry snow-laden landscape of my own backyard or on a sun-drenched tropical island, wherever I go…there I am…with another opportunity to be more present in my body, heart, and mind.

Before my yoga classes begin for the 2016 winter session (see About Anne’s Yoga Classes) I’m spending some time beyond my backyard to appreciate the colours of life in Jamaica. Sure it’s a tropical holiday by the ocean…but it’s not a crazy resort getaway. In the comfort of a private villa, we have everything we need and more, including an attentive staff who are becoming more like friends. A small intimate group of nine we are…who alternate between moments of boisterous hilarity at the table playing cards and quiet solitary contemplation by the water. Right down to the three little squid who seemed to play tag with us while we were snorkelling, there is an energetic flow of giving and receiving. Here in this space, in this moment, in the company of new and old friends, I feel expansive…Let the new year begin!

Holiday Wishes

No snow here this year, just rain…but the holiday season is in full force regardless of the weather! May this season bring more currents of joy, peace, and love in this world, starting with YOU, right here, right now. To cultivate these energies, consider starting each day with an intention.

Before you even get out of bed in the morning, take a few deep breaths and welcome your day with a resolve or vow (in Sanskrit this is called a Sankalpa). This is more than just an affirmation or a goal to achieve; it is a statement of BEING. At the very core, how do you want to BE? Loving? Patient? Compassionate? Happy? Consider the qualities needed to express these states of being, then vow to embody those positive qualities in all your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not always easy and you will need to remind yourself over and over, especially when you catch yourself straying away from these states in the heat of anger, frustration, or judgement…(and notice just how often that happens!) but once you set your intention it’s like planting a seed. Keep watering it, and it will grow.

In the therapeutic practice of Reiki (a traditional Japanese holistic therapy that directs energy through the hands), we practitioners set intentions so that we can be clear and effective channels of energy, not only for ourselves but for our clients. We call these intentions the “Reiki  ideals” and they can be wonderful guidelines for a Sankalpa.

JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL NOT BE ANGRY.

JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL NOT WORRY.

JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL BE GRATEFUL.

JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL WORK ON MY SELF.

JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL BE KIND TO OTHERS.

Whether it’s a daily intention, a New Year’s resolution, or an in-the-moment choice to ACT mindfully, may we all endeavour to embody the ways of BEING that promote peace!

Wishing you and your loved ones all the best this holiday season. Namaste…

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