RINSE AND REPEAT

Well Yoga Friends, it’s been awhile since I’ve felt like writing or teaching or even rolling around on my yoga mat. Some days have been solely about breathing and BEING and feeling…oh God so much feeling. For many of us, it may have felt like our worlds have turned upside down and inside out over the last weeks, months, year, and perhaps continue to be challenging. Some things are so vivid in our short-term memory – happy memories from way back with a longing to return to “what we had”; or maybe haunting memories have resurfaced and now we have to deal with them or push them back down. Overthinking and underthinking and incorrect thinking. When is it OVER? But then again, is it really ever over? Keeping up with the ever-evolving, sometimes too fast or too slow pace of change has not been easy in this pandemic, for ANYONE.

Our stories may have different details, and the challenges vary from small, persistent daily stuff to really big scary experiences. What is common to all of us is that SHIT HAS HAPPENED and it is for certain that more shit will happen because that is the nature of life.

So what do you do when your life feels like it is soiled, messy, wrinkled, stepped on, etc.? How about going back to your life toolbox and pull out the practices that work: RINSE those toxins away in your heart/mind/body by finding a healthy way to get them out; move and breathe and feel and allow; acknowledge what IS by sitting with IT; accept that sadness, fear, loss, and anger are part of life as much as happiness, contentment, blessings, and calm; really ask yourself how you are contributing to your own misery and change it; reach out for a helping hand; slow down and clear your plate so you can HEAR your internal messages; get on your yoga mat and surrender (not resign); and so on and so on. Then REPEAT…over and over again.

Yoga is UNION…the uniting of opposites…the dance of clean and dirty. Relishing the yummy stuff, and navigating the yucky stuff without getting attached to either one. My current RINSE cycle includes lots of water and hydration, cleaning up my diet, moving every day, reaching out. And it is okay to go for a few days in the same yoga pants and stained hoodie and messy gone-grey hair because the rinse cycle will be REPEATED.

If you are willing to RINSE AND REPEAT with me on the yoga mat, I invite you to join my online yoga class called “MID-WEEK YOGA MIX” via ZOOM on Wednesdays, starting Oct. 20, 2021. This is an 8-week session from 7:30 – 8:30 pm with the intention of gently working out some kinks in the body and mind. We will breathe and move and meditate in different ways each week, and wind down the day together. COST for the 8-week session is $108 by e-transfer (non-refundable). Email me at yogaimby@gmail.com to register.

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!

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.

2020 Vision

A new decade, a new year, a new day…another opportunity to direct the trajectory of our lives in a positive direction. A chance to develop a clearer vision of how we want to BE, not just what we might want to achieve. As Gandhi wisely recommended, “BE the change you want to see in the world”. If we want to achieve our goals, make our dreams come true, and keep the faith that underlies our hopes, how can we BE in order for it all to happen? It most certainly requires us to do some soul searching, self-reflection, and quiet contemplation without blame, shame, judgment and with a whole lot of self-compassion to see how we are NOW. Then we can take the necessary steps to direct our energy towards what we want and how we want to be.

Sometimes our vision is not so clear…I can attest to that, being physically (and often times, mentally/emotionally/spiritually) near-sighted! Just as I need correction (contact lenses) to see clearly, I also need correction in my thinking at times. Negative thinking! Deepak Chopra says, “Every negative thought weakens the partnership between mind and body”. Yikes…no wonder I have been feeling sluggish and heavy and achy. It’s not just due to overindulgence during the holidays…it is also due to the negative self-talk, the rehashing of old dramas, impatience, resentment, and all those swirling emotions that come up (why, oh, why do they seem to come up so strongly during the holidays??). How can one have 2020 vision with a cloudy mind?

After a quiet meditation with my eyes open (literally I was staring at the ceiling), I hit a reset button. I found a warm space at my heart centre, forgave myself for my errors and short-sighted thinking, and decided to BE the change. Just BE it. Not only for myself but for my family, my friends, for everyone in my backyard and beyond…For this, I need ongoing energy (Shakti!), motivation, determination, and reminders to help me stay on track. That is what the tradition of YOGA and its teachings does for me. This is what CONNECTION does for me (we are not in this alone!). And with a little help from my “2020 vision board” – a compilation of my hopes and dreams and positive affirmations that I will SEE daily – I will remember. Remember how good it feels to be joyful, energetic, focused, productive, connected, and loving. It is all coming back to me…

This January, come join me on the mat where we will move and stretch and breathe and stoke the fire of our resolve to be the best versions of ourselves…our TRUE Selves. If peace begins with me…AND with you, then let’s BE that…together as we journey to higher ground. HAPPY NEW YEAR…HAPPY 2020!

JOURNEY

“I walk the hills and valleys of my mind.

Above the laughter of the brook,

and the sorrow of the chasm,

finding higher ground,

I turn my face to love.

Through the gate of all wonder

into the bliss of intimacy and worship.

Knowing this is who I am,

I smile!”

– John Stubbs, 2005

December Classes and Holiday Schedule 2019

This year, my plan is to gracefully, calmly, and joyfully navigate the month of December without getting all caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. I am pleased to say that most of my Christmas gift shopping is DONE (thanks to an impromptu shopping afternoon and a great parking spot!). One way to stay grounded is to keep up a regular yoga practice. Mindful movement, focused breathing, embracing everyday moments of joy, and cultivating kindness is a huge antidote to what can be a very stressful time of the year. Come join me on the mat! Here is my schedule for December:

  • Regular Manotick classes continue until Sun. Dec. 22.
  • Yoga-Pilates at NCAC finishes Wed. Dec. 11. For those registered for the winter session, it begins Wed. Jan. 15, 2020.
  • HOLIDAY CLASSES at Denise Smith Dance Studio – 9:15 am – 10:15 am:
    • Tue. Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve Gentle Yoga
    • Fri. Dec. 27 – Candlelight Yin Yoga (bring your bolster and blanket!)
    • Tue. Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve Hatha Yoga (UPDATE: Unfortunately, this class is cancelled due to poor weather…so sorry!)
      • Please note that pre-registration is required for the holiday classes to secure your spot. Send me an email to put your name on the list!
  • No classes on Thu. Dec. 26, Sun. Dec. 29 or Thu. Jan. 2.
  • January classes resume Sun. Jan. 5, 2020.
  • Throughout December, a portion of the proceeds from each Manotick yoga class will be donated to The Ottawa Food Bank on behalf of Yoga In My Backyard and our yoga community. Did you know that almost 40,000 clients use this service on a monthly basis? Additional donations will be happily accepted at the studio OR donate directly to The Ottawa Food Bank HERE.
  • Recently I had the pleasure of being part of a PODCAST, discussing the importance of slowing down and taking a breath on a daily basis. Listen to Episode 30 here.
  • “SOUL VIBRATIONS” – Inner Work Day Mini-Retreat at Vibration Studios, Osgoode, ON on Sat. Feb. 29, 2020, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm. Registration is on NOW with an early-bird bonus if you register by Dec. 31, 2019. See MY RETREATS for full details.

Wishing you love, light, joy, and moments of awe this holiday season and beyond!

Take 5…

…5 breaths, 5 stretches, 5 minutes…Stepping back and taking this little break can do wonders for your mind, body, and spirit!

While longer periods of breathing with awareness, stretching and strengthening the body, and sitting in meditation are more beneficial, sometimes it may seem daunting to schedule in an hour of downtime. So taking these smaller 5 to 10 minute breaks throughout the day with conscious breathing and awareness might just be more “do-able”, and the effects can be felt immediately.

TRY THIS: set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes then turn away from your computer, sit tall in your chair with both feet on the floor and hands in your lap. Close your eyes; soften your shoulders, your jaw, and your face. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply, feeling the inhale and exhale in your body. Continue until the timer goes off. Notice how you feel! Imagine if you extended this to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, etc.!

For more info on the benefits of taking a mindful break, CHECK OUT THIS PODCAST (Episode 30) with me: https://thehowesgroup.com/podcast/

And if you are looking for MORE THAN 5 MINUTES of mind/body/spirit self-care, join me on the mat at a yoga class or retreat!

 

Musings, Mumblings, and Meditations

Oh what a busy mind I have! Lately it has been jumping around trying to multi-task and take care of so many things at once. Sound familiar? It wasn’t until I made a big mistake at work that I said to myself, “Whoa, take a breath and slow down!”. It’s amazing how caught-up we can get sometimes, without even realizing the trajectory of this runaway train of busy-ness. Caught up in doing, saying, thinking, planning, ruminating, mumbling…and the next thing you know, your plate is overflowing, or you make a mistake, or you say something you really didn’t mean and it comes out “wrong”. What’s an oh-so-busy modern person to do?

GET GROUNDED! Literally stand (in bare feet) or sit or lie on the ground…on your yoga mat…in the grass…on a carpet. Close your eyes and connect with your breath. Feel your body as it breathes. Relax your face and jaw. If you can’t sit on the ground, then sit tall in a chair with both feet firmly planted on the floor. Take ten full breaths…

No need to explain why grounding is so important. We’ve all been there with our heads in the clouds, thoughts scattered, and with feelings that the days are just going too fast. Are we inadvertently adding to this crazy momentum by our own musings and mumblings, racing minds and running feet, packed agendas and unrealistic expectations? I say YES…Until we get grounded. Until we catch ourselves and hunker down just before the tornado lifts us. Until we slow down and take stock of how we ARE. Until we rest in the present moment, rather than the past or the future. Until we MAKE THE TIME to re-connect with our own happiness. Until we are honest with ourselves. Every day.

A simple yet profound way of helping you ground yourself is with the Qi Gong exercise called “Bamboo In the Wind”. Stand with your feet together (or wider if you feel you need more stability), knees relaxed, and hands at the heart (I like to have my left hand at my heart centre, and the right hand at my lower abdomen). Feel your feet connected to the earth. Allow your body to sway gently and easily in all directions. Feel rooted, yet free to sway and bend softly. You can even close your eyes. Don’t forget to breathe! Like a meditation in gentle motion, simply be present as you move and sway. Try it for about 5 minutes and see how you feel…

At the end of a yoga class, we often chant the mantra “OM” or “AUM”. With a long exhalation, the sound of this vibration has the power to connect, to ground, to soothe, and to re-align energy. It is said to be a primordial sound or “the sound of the Universe”. Sound is another tool we can use to ground ourselves; even something as simple as humming can be therapeutic and soothing. Next time you have the chance to chant “OM”, find your voice, release the sound, sink into the silence following the vibration, and feel the inner resonance. As Richard Rosen from Yoga Journal writes,

“The silence is the crown of the mantra; it is described in the Maitri Upanishad as ‘tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrowless, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring’.”

Now nothing can be more grounding than that. OM!

 

Join me on the mat at one of my classes this fall! Grounding awaits…

 

 

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