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!

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…

 

 

Welcome to Fall Classes with Anne

Well here we are mid-September already. The flowers in my backyard are still blooming, not ready to let go of summer just yet. Join me on the mat to transition into autumn with mindful movement, expanded breath, guided meditation, and sustenance for the soul!

    • Morning classes are underway in Manotick at Denise Smith Dance Studio, on Sundays (YIN), Tuesdays (HATHA), and Thursdays (YIN) from 9:15 am – 10:15 am. Click here for details. Note there are no classes on the following dates: Thu. Sept. 26, Sun. Sept. 29, Sun. Oct. 20, Sun. Nov. 17.
    • Fall session of Yoga-Pilates at NCAC has begun and the class is full! Registration is on for the Winter session so register soon. More info at https://ottawa.ca/en/recreation-parks-and-culture/recreation-programs. 
    • Inner Work Day Mini-Retreats are filling up! Click here for details. (UPDATE: The mini retreats are now full. More offerings coming in 2020!)

Recently I spent some time with my beloved teacher, Yogrishi Vishvketu (https://akhandayoga.com/) and he reminded me of the importance of honour. Honour for our ancestors, honour for our teachers and those who inspire us, and honour for this planet, this life, this Universe in which we are blessed to experience LIFE. To honour means “to hold in great respect or high esteem”. When I reflected more on that, it made me feel a deep sense of gratitude for YOU…those of you who practice with me, follow me, and open your hearts to my recounting of the teachings of this beautiful path of yoga. I honour YOU. My task is to serve and I look forward to sharing space with you for another season of YOGA!

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 – Classes begin Sept. 8. Sundays (YIN), Tuesdays (HATHA), Thursdays (YIN). All classes are an hour from 9:15 – 10:15 am. Click HERE for full details and please take note of the dates on which there are no classes (Sept. 26, Sept. 29, Oct. 20, Nov. 17).
  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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