Changing Practice (and spring classes!)

And then I didn’t update the blog for three months- oops! I had to go have this baby. Ruth is nearly seven weeks old now, perfect and fierce and hungry. It’s amazing how a person who weighs eight pounds can take up so much space in your heart and brain and life and bring so much joy just by existing. I am trying to meet the ever-changing challenges of new motherhood with gratitude and openness. There is so much to learn.

This whole beautiful process (though I admit it did not always feel beautiful) has changed my practice- first accommodating my pregnant body, then days and days of malasana, baddakonasana and seated meditation during early labour to try and encourage her out into the world. Now I am learning the needs and capabilities of my postnatal body and fighting the urge to judge it. It isn’t easy. It may be more difficult to pop up into sirsasana, and I may struggle to love the softness that has come into once-defined parts of my body. But I have to appreciate that this body is no less valuable than the one I lived in before. Likewise,  the yoga practice that honours this body is a different one, but it is no less beneficial. Accepting the self and the practice  as they are in each moment is as much a part of yoga as any asana. The poses, the body, the mind are all different each and every day. Honouring and accepting this fluidity is the key.

 

I start teaching again at the end of this month. I’ll be resuming my two classes at Kula, mixed yoga Mondays at 5:30 and beginner yoga Wednesdays at 8:30. Stay tuned for a mom-and-baby class in CBS coming in May!

Also I’m excited to be offering a Rock ‘N Roll Flow workshop Saturday, May 2 at 1:30 pm. It’ll be a fun, energetic flow with some classic tunes and healthy snacks to follow. The cost is $20, with all proceeds going to help out the folks at the Refugee Immigrant Advisory Council with their #saveriac campaign.  RIAC is a great organization that provides much-needed assistance to newcomers in our community, so come have fun and give them a leg up!

 

Class Offerings for January

Hi all, and happy new year! I’ve got some exciting things coming up this month to share with y’all:

Mixed  yoga is continuing at its usual time with lots of fun stuff planned- tonight we’ll focus on setting new intentions of the new year and clearing out old junk.

Also at the Kula Co-Op, I’m teaching a series for those new to the practice of yoga, a gentle introduction to hatha poses in a relaxed and nonjudgemental environment. This is a class for everyone who is wondering how to get into yoga but doesn’t know where to begin.

I’m stoked to see some new spaces opening up around town- stay tuned for more class offerings this spring, after I get this little baby out in the world.

I wish you all the very best for a wonderful year.

Savouring the journey

YTT certificateSo this happened on Sunday. After a whole year of hard work and lots and lots of learning, we all celebrated this achievement together. I’m so grateful I got to share that time and those experiences with such a wonderful group of human beings.

All this got me to thinking about how much of our lives we spend in anticipation; a lot of us, myself included, were feeling a lot of conflicting things as our teacher training came to a close. Happiness, excitement, yes. But a little sadness, too, that the journey was over. We pursue goals to get to an end point, sure, but there is great value in staying present through the transition from one point to the next. As I write this, I’m nearly seven months pregnant. It has not been the easiest pregnancy, and part of me really would like this baby to be out of my body and in the world like, yesterday. But on the other hand, this moment in my relationship with that little soul is no less huge and amazing than any other moment will be. So, in spite of how I might not be feeling the best, I am pouring all my energy into loving every little wiggle I feel in my belly.

Often when I’m teaching, and especially with new students, I see yogis rushing from one asana to the next, as though the practice is a series of dots rather than a linear process. The moments between poses are still poses. The spaces between inhales and exhales are an important part of pranayama. There is so much for us to learn in these in-between moments if we only tune in and listen. We spend so much time waiting to be somewhere else that we may fail to notice the beautiful place we already are.

Take a moment to sit comfortably and take deep, even breaths. After tuning into the movement of the air into and out of your lungs, bring your awareness to the short, natural pause at the top of your inhale, and the bottom of your exhale. Without extending these pauses (especially if, like me, you’re pregnant, or if you have any blood pressure issues) stay with this mediation for a few minutes, savouring the journey from fullness to emptiness and back again.

The Anatomy of Self Love

One of the best parts of becoming a yoga teacher is all the amazing things you learn about the human body- physiology and musculature, how our bones fit together, what exactly it looks like when a body breathes. It’s impossible not to be totally amazed by it all, and learning more is totally addictive.

An offshoot is this is that it helps you to relax about the size of your thighs because your heart beats 100,000 times a day (or so) without you ever once asking it to, and it collaborates with your lungs and the laws of physics to keep oxygen moving in and out of your bloodstream all day long. It’s absolutely wonderful. I talk a lot about this in my classes, about thanking our bodies for their incredible capability instead of focusing on our negative feelings toward a particular body part or our inability to get into whatever fancy yoga pose. And if we can accomplish this self-love, it gives us space to give love to others. Like chakras emitting and receiving energy, this will come back to us from the outside, too.

So next time you find yourself frowning into a mirror, turn your attention instead to the marvelous inner workings of your beautiful body, and say thank you.

 

On an unrelated note, I’m happy to announce that I have a new class at For the Love on Learning (37 Cookstown Road in St. John’s) Thursdays at 4PM starting this week! FTLOL is an awesome organization and a beautiful space and I’m really excited to work with them. And the best thing is that they offer their services free of charge, so this is a great way to get some yoga in if you’re tight on cash. This will be a chill, stretchy class, good for beginners.

Breath of Joy

I’m home sick today with the evil flu that’s been going around, so I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite practices for boosting energy and lifting mood- this is wonderful if you’re in a funk or you need to shake off a negative thought or experience. Also a wonderful practice for first thing in the morning, or anytime there are cobwebs in your brain you want to break through.

When we fill the lungs completely with air, it signals to our nervous system that everything is ok, that we can relax. The implications of this are huge. Blood pressure is lowered, digestive function improved, the effects of anxiety are greatly alleviated. So much of our well-being is linked to the way we breathe, and this practice can be a good way to re-set the pattern.

Breath of joy is a simple pairing of breath with movement that anyone can do. However, those with balance issues, low blood pressure, glaucoma or migraines should exercise caution and consider remaining upright during the exhalation. If you start to feel light-headed during the practice, pause for a few moments and breathe normally.

Stand with the feet hip-width apart, the knees slightly bent and the arms resting comfortably by the sides. Inhale and exhale fully to begin. Take a small sip of air through the nose with the lips closed, bringing the arms up to shoulder height. Take another small sip in through the nose and spread the arms wide out to the sides. Take a final sip to fill the lungs completely while bringing the arms overhead. Exhale fully, bending at the waist and allowing the arms to swing back, or remaining upright if there are any of the aforementioned issues at play. Repeat this as many times as feels good for up to ten rounds, then return to standing, letting the arms swing until they naturally come to stillness. Close your eyes and enjoy the results of this invigorating practice!

On Teaching Beginners

I had the wonderful opportunity this week to teach another teacher’s class- a group of level one beginners who mostly started practicing yoga with her in January. I found myself uncharacteristically nervous, worried at the prospect of this group of newer students accustomed to the teaching style of someone else maybe finding my way different and less enjoyable, of planning a class that was either too easy (boring) or too difficult (frustrating), of not being as awesome as their usual teacher (who is also a teacher of mine and someone I admire).

In the end, I’m not sure if I succeeded in what I wanted, which was to give these people a nice, juicy release, to help them get into their hips and maybe into their lungs and hearts a bit, too. But I sure learned a lot.

For some reason most of the folks who come to my classes (I teach a mixed-level class which I tweak according to who shows up) are people with some kind of regular practice, which is both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful in the sense that I have the opportunity to lead them deeper into places that are familiar to them; they are familiar with the language I’m speaking even if they aren’t fluent. But the thing about teaching intermediate or advanced students as opposed to beginners is that it’s easy. I don’t have to really get into the nitty gritty of most poses to lead the class through them, they know where their feet and their hands should be and if I remind them to slide their shoulder blades down their backs, they know how that should feel.

But nothing shows you just what you aren’t saying like teaching a class of beginners. If you omit some detail in the cuing of a pose, the students simply don’t do it. And you have to find a way to describe the action you’re leading them through in plain English! I had a friend once tell me that the one time he tried yoga, his teacher couldn’t tell him exactly what she meant when she asked the class to engage their arms. He never went to another yoga class again! The pressure is very real, the prospect of turning people off of what I believe is something we all need in our lives, the practice of taking time to introspect, to move our bodies, to breathe. Sharing this is the reason I wanted to become a yoga teacher in the first place.

So I chose my words carefully. A couple times I caught a little tremor in my voice as I asked the class to fire up the muscles of the legs from ankle to knee, knee to hip, over and over again. I felt silly repeating myself but I said things again and again until they did them. And at the end, most of the class was smiling and I was only shaking a little bit.

I’ll just have to know I did my best, and let go. And maybe teach a level one class in the new year.

Namaste,

Hope

Oh, hi there.

Welcome to the brand new and shiny Hope Yoga blog- your source for finding out all you need to know about my yoga classes and maybe the scattered thought or two about things body, mind and spirit. Stay tuned for lots more fun!