A Gift of Simply Being – FREE 21-day Meditation Practice Dec. 1 – 21, 2021

Hello Yoga Friends! I’m excited to share that this December, I will once again be part of a FREE online daily guided meditation program hosted by Marla Ericksen through Empower Me Yoga.

“A GIFT OF SIMPLY BEING” – 21-Day Meditation Practice

Show up and just BE…as you are. Marla, and a gracious group of seasoned local teachers, invite you to share in our gift of 21 days of morning meditation as the holiday season approaches. Join this FREE online event, Dec. 1 – 21, 2021 each morning from 8:00 am – 8:15 am as we guide you in, then sit together in silence. BE ALL IN for whatever the moment brings! We finish each meditation with a grounding gesture to seal the practice. ALL ARE WELCOME!

TO REGISTER:

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/empowermeyogaott

Direct Booking: https://www.wellnessliving.com/rs/event/empowermeyoga?k_class=360262

For further booking info, please contact Marla at marla@empowermeyoga.com.

20-Breath Practice

Balance…that beautiful internal place where effort and surrender are in harmony. When you feel on your game, peaceful and content, satisfied and fulfilled, energized yet calm, alert and well-rested, body systems are working well, and breath flows with ease – all within the circumstances and current conditions you are in (even if they are chaotic, uncertain, weird). A feeling where you need no more and no less; sometimes a brief momentary feeling and sometimes a blissfully extended period of time. For many of us, we have been living so far away from balance on a regular basis that even though we recognize the imbalance, it is SO HARD to return to a state of harmony. We wait for something external to bring us there, or we blame the imbalance on the external, or we fail to acknowledge the very things we are doing to ourselves that bring us out of balance. Balance is not an end-state, nor is it a permanent state, but more a fluid dance of yin and yang from moment to moment. We can be off kilter for a bit then back in the centre, then off again, and back again. How do we stay closer to the centre and less off balance for longer?

Paying attention and noticing how you FEEL is the key to finding your own state of balance. Observing patterns and impulses and tendencies while being open and compassionate and kind to yourself. Before you can let GO you have to notice and let BE…gently. The mantra that has been in the forefront of my mind lately is “Hold it lightly” thanks to the book, “Emotional Agility” by Susan David. Sometimes we attach ourselves to those things that we desperately want to let go of… so if we acknowledge what we are holding on to, then willingly loosen the grip and hold it all lightly, maybe we create space for those unwanted things to seemingly just float away. And then the scales tip so balance can be restored. That’s what I am noticing…

Here is a short slow-flow standing practice I’ve been experimenting with and it really seems to help balance me. Maybe it will be helpful for you, too! It is simple and basic; moves the spine in all directions; helps to stretch the whole body; is gentle enough to do in the evening when you are winding down; you can make it more active to be an energizing morning routine; it encourages you to breathe and move in sync; and you could even modify it to be done from a chair. Try it for a week or more…and see what you think. Returning to balance is a lifetime practice and individual to each of us. Each time you return to YOUR centre, SMILE!

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!

108 THINGS – A Daily Wholeness Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

“THE 108 THINGS”

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

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

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

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

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

VEDIC PEACE MANTRA FOR WHOLENESS

OM purnamadah, purnamidam

Purnat purnam udachyate

Purnasya purnam adaya

Purnam evavashishyate.

OM Shantih, shantih, shantih.

OM. THAT IS COMPLETE/WHOLE/PERFECT.

THIS IS COMPLETE/WHOLE/PERFECT.

COMPLETENESS/WHOLENESS/PERFECTION ARISES FROM THE PERFECT.

TAKING THE WHOLENESS/PERFECTION FROM THE WHOLE/PERFECT,

IT REMAINS AS THE WHOLE/PERFECT ALONE.

OM PEACE, PEACE, PEACE.

DECEMBER GIFTS

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

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.

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!

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