The Power of Integration - Guest post by Josh Cohen

It doesn’t take much convincing for Canadians to realize just how important the summer is for our overall well-being.  During summer the power of the sun has returned and with it our capacity to manufacture Vitamin D  perhaps the single most vital nutrient to health.  Studies have shown that most Canadians become vitamin D deficient over our long winters and so now is the time to recharge as much as possible.

Along with the sun-vitamin, scientists are beginning to understand the healing effects of being in close-proximity to natural places – especially forests.  “Forest Bathing”  is a Japanese practice of being in the presence of trees. This simple act has been shown to “lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.”

The interesting part is the only thing required is to be near trees. No hiking, no tracking steps.  No goals, the point is to relax and slow down rather than accomplish anything.  

Related to this phenomenon is the emerging concept of ‘Earthing’.  Ask yourself a question: When was the last time your skin actually touched the Earth?  For many of us the only times our feet actually contact the earth is when we are on vacation, at a beach, or up at the cottage.  We can go months and months at a time without touching mother earth.  Earthing posits that isolation from the Earth by non-conductive materials such as rubber and plastic (our shoes), wood, plastic, laminate, and asphalt (flooring surfaces) has a detrimental effect on our health:

“The Earth has a natural electrical surface made up of negative charged electrons (also known as free electrons). These electrons have the ability to move more freely and reduce positive charges (free radicals).  Free radicals continue to ravage our body’s healthy cells in search of the one thing they are missing, an electron.  Once a free radical finds its missing electron, it is satiated and is no longer contributing to the inflammation in the body.  While many of us may grow to be ‘electron deficient’, we now understand that the earth below our feet is the greatest source of these electrons… if only we stay in contact with it.”

And finally Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder  have found that taking a seven day respite from the chaos of modern living by unplugging your electrical devices, heading for the hills, and living with only natural light is the antidote for many things, including insomnia. 

The takeaway from these findings is just how integrated our health, both physical and mental, is with the environment that surrounds us. In essence, how we feel and how our bodies work are intimately connected with the natural inputs that we provide it.  If you have never experienced the summertime magic that is British Columbia consider spending a week or two immersed amongst the giant Douglas Firs, Cedars, and Pines that line the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.  Perhaps with a little yoga and meditation practice in the mix. ;) 

Register for our Meditation and Yoga Retreat here 

 

Hunches On Childhood (Or Everything I Want To Say About World Peace) by Kent T. Hoffman

(This article was published in Sun Magazine in 1988)

I’m a psychologist that is to say I’m an archaeologist and a midwife to the human soul and I believe after many years of doing this work is that what happens has a radical and root effect on all that we experience there after.

  1. We love because we first loved.
  2. We fail to love because we ourselves were failed early on.  It is difficult to give what we didn’t get.
  3. Our degree of relationship to the world around us, to others, to intimacy, is established in the first years of our life in relation to our parents and our family.  In relation to our mother.  Mothering is not supporting in this culture.  Mothering, nuturance, community, relationship is dangerous because it reminds us of our dependance and the limitations of the ones upon whom we were dependant.
  4. The way we were treated as small children is the way we will treat ourselves and others the rest of our lives. With tenderness and support, with neglect and cruelty or with something in-between.
  5. Few of us have a batting average of even two hits out of ten when it comes to treating ourselves with tenderness and support. 
  6. Each person is infinitely precious, of infinite worth, that is worthy of infinite tenderness and support.  Nowhere is this more obvious in a parent than in the life of a young child.
  7. To have grown up in the industrialized society means that we are, each of us, wounded in ways that we do not yet comprehend.  Unless we grieve and thus release these wounds, we will pass them on to the next generation.
  8. The central wound of early childhood is abandonment. 
  9. Children are exceptionally sensitive, that is fragile.  Children (we) are also very resilient.  There in lies the problem. We do bounce back early on from woundings and to the naked eye we appear to have gone on, beyond the wound - and we have.  We’ve also stayed right there at the scene of the crime.  Depending on how deep the wound or abandonment we make certain that we return again and again until we can somehow get it right.
  10. it is difficult to support children in a context that doesn’t support us.  Industrialized economy, financial anxieties, sexism, racism, meritocracy, dysfunctional families, aggression, ambition - not to mention genetics and acts of nature.  All of these as well as the painfully slow process of parents freeing themselves from their wounds of their past interact.  All of them affect the next generation.
  11. In spite of our wounds, there is at our core, a truth that cannot be extinguished.  It has wisdom and tenacity and love.  It can be lost and forgotten but never destroyed.
  12. Less violent cultures (Hopi, Eskimo, Kalahari) appear to prioritize early childhood practices that encourage confidence at the core of children and thus they create a less violent society. 
  13. The future of the planet is impart dependant on establishing the raising healthy children as the central priority.
  14. They way we hold our children is the way we hold our future.

Yoga Injuries and Rehabilitation - Guest Post by Melissa Hadley

I had the pleasure of reading and marking the final research papers of the 2016/17 cohort of 889's LYS program.  While I was moved by many that I read, I wanted to share this one by one of my students, Melissa.  It speaks my language if you know what I'm saying :) 

 

They say that headstand and shoulder stand are the king and queen of all asanas. By mastering these postures, it is said that you are one-step closer to the divine, but is the average yoga student ready to embark upon these postures and can they do so safely, without risk of injury? I have discovered through my own journey, injury, and rehabilitation that there is much work to be done before these postures can be safely achieved. A dynamic asana sequences in itself is a wonderful physical practice but does it alone provide the strengthening required for a student to practice safely in their body?  

In ancient times, a Guru would assign a student a posture to study, and only when that posture was mastered would the Guru allow the student to move on to the next.  Take a traditional Surya Namaskar A for instance, in this series we move from Plank into Chaturanga, through to Upward Facing Dog.  How many students practice these postures incorrectly and how many of them are actually ready to move on to the next posture in the series?  As you look around the room in any modern day yoga class, Chaturanga is practiced incorrectly by a large number of students. Weight is often dumped in the chest as a result of weak upper back muscles, causing the shoulders to roll forward, putting pressure on the joints. While the muscles in the front body tend to be stronger in most students, the rhomboids and serratus anterior muscles that are required to stabilize the shoulder girdle are often not engaged. There is work that needs to be done in between these Vinyasa classes to build these supporting muscle groups in order to effectively, and safely move through these postures.

While it is often not openly discussed in studios, and especially not during a class, most advanced practitioners engage in some form of weight training to support their asana practice.  Beautifully aligned Chaturanga is likely supported by engaging in strengthening the core, upper back muscles, and triceps. While practicing Chaturanga on your knees or with a block under your chest will in fact help to build strength, it is not commonly observed in your average modern day yoga student. Beginner to intermediate students haven’t yet achieved a regular self practice and can be concerned with what the person on the mat next to them is doing, and by not wanting to appear weak, push their bodies before their muscles are strong enough to advance. One of the many problems with this is that students will continue to push themselves through bad form and as a result, their muscles do not strengthen.  If these muscles do not become stronger, the arm balancing series will not be safely accessible, and if attempted may result in injury.  The mark of a newly found Bakasana practice are bruises on the backs of the triceps, yogis proudly displaying these injuries as badges of honor, a mastery of mind over matter. However, are these students aware that when you see a practitioner with a beautiful Bakasana practice, it is important to note how much core strength is required to take the weight out of the knees, which dump into the triceps and cause those bruises? All arm balancing postures are supported by a strong core and that strong core is essential for proper form and to avoid injury. 

One of the goals of a yoga practice is overcoming the ego but the ego itself is what seems to drive students to push their bodies past their breaking points. Students observe yogis on social media, in Youtube videos and in publications and see advanced postures being effortlessly displayed without much explanation of what journey it took to get those practitioners to that point in their practice. It is also not known if those practitioners are pushing through pain themselves, or if the photo is a clear representation of sthira and sukha (steadiness and ease). It is a case of image versus reality. Even the most advanced practitioners can succumb to the ego and open themselves up to injury if not mindful of their body’s limitations.

A common misconception in the mind of a yoga student is that passive stretching of the hamstrings will open up your practice. While it may be the answer for some, it is not the case for everyone. I have personally been told by my own teachers that stretching my hamstrings would tremendously open doors in my practice, but are hamstrings the only problem and is the teacher really qualified to dish out that advice?  It was not until visiting a fascia specialist that I discovered that while my hamstrings are in fact tight, they were not necessarily the problem. The culprit? Tight calves. Not many yoga teachers talk about stretching the calve muscles but after a lot of very uncomfortable rehabilitation, my forward fold and downward dog were greatly improved.  Had I not visited a Physical Therapist and had only listened to my yoga community, I would still be suffering through long passive stretching sessions hoping that one day my practice would advance, and perhaps injuring myself in the process. 


It is important for open dialogue between teachers and students regarding self-care and the strength building required for an advanced practice. It is my intention to not only teach yoga but also offer resources for strength building through my own experience as well as referencing material that I find helpful in advancing my own practice. Not only will I share my journey through a blog on my website, it is my intention to spotlight postures and the work outside of the yoga studio required to safely practice and advance. If it were to spotlight Chatarunga, I would offer strength building sequences such as rows, core work and tricep work utilizing weights, resistance bands and blocks.  Other areas of focus will be on the anatomy of the posture, as understanding the anatomy is crucial for understanding what your muscles should be doing to safely support the pose.  It is important to educate students in order to help them not only practice safely but also grow as practitioners.  My experience with 30 hours of anatomy was quite eye opening and I feel that every student could benefit from it. 

Students experiencing injuries often ask the advice of their yoga teacher but with most teaching training programs, anatomy is only a small part of the curriculum. Some teachers may feel comfortable giving advice on the subject but it is dangerous territory unless you are certain of your advice. As a teacher, I tread lightly on the subject, and while I may offer soft advice, such as suggesting Epson salt baths or using a foam roller to assist in the breakup of fascia, I feel it is important to refer students to an appropriate practitioner such as a Chiropractor, Physio Therapist, Acupuncturist or Massage Therapist for a proper diagnosis. It is important to grow and learn as a teacher but to also understand your own scope of practice. As Yoga Teachers, it is crucial to stress the importance of proper self-care and injury rehabilitation for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.  

The Epidemic of Expectations

I went ahead and made a cliche “New Year Resolution”.  I wanted to call it an intention but the description doesn’t fit its purpose. I wanted to make light of it and shrug it off like it’s not going to be hard at all to change, but in fact I’ve really tasked myself with something I’m wavering to believe it’s at all possible.  I resolve to dig into this habitual form of suffering called expectation.  

I try my best to limit the amount of extremism I bring into my beliefs and find it serves me best to take an approach to see the world around me from many sides. I have found my expectations have given me drive to believe I can do what makes me happy.  They have allowed strong negotiating skills and supported me in feeling equal to others. Often, when my expectations breakdown I am able to gain insight into seeing the full spectrum. That ability fills me to the brim with compassion and empathy. It makes me feel a tremendous amount of gratitude. I make a choice to take comparison out of the equation and almost immediately I feel alert to many possibilities I was not able to see before.   

But of course, this all happens on the easy days.  The days where all my needs are already being met and I have capacity to hold the space and patience I need for the rest of a story to unfold.  

Then there are days when I can’t shake my expectations that I have for myself and the world around me. Random acts of kindness from strangers are replaced by someone stealing my parking spot.  My kids get the stomach flu in tandem while on vacation. I forget my wallet an airport. My daughter gets hit in the face at school by another girl.  I find yet more grey hair.  My husband gets cancer. A great man can no longer be president.  Children are dying in war.  Everyone is dying in war.  No sooner did I make my resolution on December 31st, the next morning we lost power for 36 hours.  I expected my familiar comforts after a period of time.  I could not control that. I cannot control many things.

This is the spiral.  These narrowed expectations that are so unconscious in their inception become disappointments before I can even realize why.  An extension of practicing presence and impermanence, undoing these expectations feels like a familiar pitfall. I lose consciousness and only awake when I know I’ve been here before but how do not only get out but learn how to leap over rather than fall down next time?  This is my opportunity for growth.  These self induced failures or setbacks make me uncomfortable, more so than choosing to stay and accept an emotion that is has so much possibility for change.  

In a way, I love the opportunities for growth - and I can only grow when I’m uncomfortable.  And believing this gives way to knowing that some expectations are healthy.  I am trusting that my life and time on this earth is precious.  I know that I have people in my life who care deeply about me.  I continually find myself amazed by what this world can bring me when my heart is open and my head is clear.  

Complacency can feel like atrophy when something inside of you shuts down because you can't access anything else. You just use whatever is available and lose accountability in the process. But complacency can also carve out an (eventually) unconscious groove to contentment and acceptance. When you know you own something inside that works so well that it can’t fail.  That’s where I’m expecting to go.

 

Teacher in Training

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

 

Yoga is therapy. In this arena you learn to become practitioner and the patient. You are led to a door. You can choose to open it and dare to walk through.

 

When I first came to this practice I craved stability and security in my life.  I was in my early twenties and did not have the coping skills I needed to deal with the demands of my world. I was a reactive, sharp little tac that pierced quickly at any sign of danger.  I was fooling myself into this shallow belief that no one would notice how fragile I really was if I (literally) walked around puffing my chest out, but tucked my tail between my legs from behind (a condition in my body I’m still trying to unwind).  How little I knew about how transparent we really are.  My brash exterior was only a diversion from the wealth of fear I felt at the forefront of my being daily.  I was dodging, (or perhaps attracting) the inevitable and thankfully it was about the same time I had enrolled to take my Yoga Teacher Training.

Up until this point I had been practicing yoga alone from books or what I had remembered my mother showing me. I didn’t really know anyone else who was into yoga.  But I was drawn to this training because 1) It was the only form of physical movement I was motivated to do while experiencing mild depression and 2) I had shut down any interest in spirituality as a teenager and was feeling a disconnected like never before.  

The first day I was overwhelmed.  Sleepless from a red eye home that morning I had forgotten my mat and was contemplating not even walking through the front door.  Projecting myself to feel alone in a room full of people who had more reason than me to be there, I reluctantly showed up late and hid in the corner and continued to do so until I had a small epiphany about a week later. This group was diverse. This was not a room full of these perfect, elite yogi’s and I did not have perfect larger than life teachers (although they were awesome!), there was a room full of people whose lives had insults down to the core of their being - just like me.

This was an environment where it was no one was trying to fix it or fight it. This was a place in time where I learned how to observe with compassion - the current state of my mind and body through a series of postures that were the exact same everyday. It began to give me a mirror to look into and see what I was really up against and the ability to build a relationship with it instead of denying it a seat at my table.   Sure, there were days I did not want to see what was going on - where the streetcar stopped and I stayed glued to my seat.  But there were also days where it was 6am, when my eyes were swollen from crying, I walked for a half hour to the studio shivering in the cold January morning to get on my mat and practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. This was therapeutic for me. Walking through darkness, (again, literally) for only the experience.  To no longer shy away from the painful or difficult but to begin to accept and welcome it as part of the spectrum of who I was.  

Fear comes up when we practice, or engage with anything that is unfamiliar.  If I start to point to the external as the source of my discomfort, I know without a doubt, that I will find myself in the same scenario again.  My teachers showed me how to give my ego a name and taught me how to separate it from my true self.  I reflect on feelings in moments when I am faced with a person I do not admire and wonder what it is within myself that I judge. When I feel myself push through my day/practice (as if I’m trying to get away from something) with the finish line in sight, I ask where it is I’m going in such a hurry.  It reminds me when I am not living from a place of love and allows me to reset without feeling shameful about my imperfections.

Through all my trainings, I have always found my way in and have been able to connect and apply this philosophy of yoga through my body.  Similar to how I felt about reading Shakespeare in highschool, trying to decode or analyze the Sutra’s didn’t hook me. I preferred the Cole’s notes version and realized that just like there are many yoga postures trying to tell us one thing,  there are many ways to communicate the same intention. We respond to the form - whether it be physical, intellectual, vocal or meditative that feels like a calling to come home and allow that to be the threshold we walk through to begin our healing.

Body Language - The Pelvis

Last weekend I spoke about the importance of understanding our bodies at a clinic for the Vancouver Sun Run.  Most people in the room admitted that they do not take much time to stretch before or after their run.  It's baffling for someone like me to hear that! How can we not think about the choices we make now affecting our future. (I know, you've heard this before right?!)  I spoke about the ability yoga has to change conditions (not only in our body but in our minds) is incredible, matched with the true acceptance of the moment it cultivates and the draw it has to keep exploring. How it's a practice that's not achievement based but more linear and expansive in its foundations.  The following in an excerpt from the talk.  If you are a runner/cyclist/someone who sits all day long and who doesn't take a ton of time to stretch and make space in your body, this is for you.  


"I’d like to talk about building awareness in your body and how to best use the time you give yourself to stretch before and after your run, and really dive into into how we understand our bodies - more specifically our pelvis.  Let’s have everyone stand up and landmark a few areas as we move around a bit (lumbar spine, front hip bones, sit bones, pubic bone) and let’s do a simple runners lunge, fingertips on the floor for balance and if you feel like it start to come up and interlace your hands on top of your thigh.  Now what do we feel in our bodies here? (perhaps take the same arm as your back leg up to ceiling) upper hip?quads? lower back? front knee? where is the weight in your front foot? what is your back foot doing?  Why is it hard to balance here?


Now, let’s take a look at our pelvis in this position.  Can we all visualize what our pelvis looks like? A bowl, yes?  When the pelvis is neutral the 2 frontal hip bones line up with the pubic bone.  When we are moving into something like a lunge the pelvis will give as much as it can to accommodate the tightness another part of our bodies (i.e. hamstrings and hip flexors) in this new position. But, in return another part of the body will suffer (i.e. lower back).  Perhaps not for the first few times but repetitive movements get stronger and we expect more from these same movements over time that we push ourselves a bit more and soon begin to cause pain.  

Now, let's take this into a forward fold.  Watch what happens (back rounds and tailbone tucks through legs) to the spine when the lack of mobility in the hamstrings causes the pelvis to come into a posterior tilt and pull the natural lumbar curve out of the spine.  This is how we get bulged or herniated discs.  


This is not effective nor safe! 


Too often we think about how something is supposed to look and without a second thought we try to replicate it.  Everyone has tight hip flexors and hamstrings and runners even more so unless they are diligent about how to lengthen their muscles, because it take consistency and the understanding that any stretch goes not in one direction but two.  Think about a giant elastic just sitting on a table and you decided you wanted to make them longer.  You want to create length.  Would you just pull one end?  No, you would pull both.


So let’s come back to the pelvis and actively use it as an anchor (pulling the elastic the other way) while still paying attention to our feet and knees.  The more we bend our knees in a forward bend or our back knee in a lunge, the more mobility and ability we have to anchor our pelvis in it's neutral position - which takes the lower lumbar spine out of the equation.  From there then we can begin to take the stretch a bit deeper by exploring how much can we begin to straighten or bend our knees without shifting the pelvis. Because whether we are trying to stretch our hamstrings in a forward bend or our hip flexors and quads in a lunge, what the pelvis is doing in those positions can tell us a ton. "

Let's put this into practice:

1. Lunge facing wall - hands out, straight arms pushing into the wall.  Front foot out so legs are scissored.  Back heel is up and foot is perpendicular to the floor.  Pull up through the core to prevent your bowl (pelvis) from tipping forward.  Begin to bend front knee little by little while keeping pelvis anchored in it's neutral position.

2. Standing balance pulling heel to bum - Standing on both feet, find frontal hip bones in line with pubic bone. Stand on left foot, with right hand begin to pull right foot to right sit bone without letting the bowl (pelvis) tip forward. 

3. Scissored forward fold on or off back knee.  Start in lunge (back knee lifted) and feel the pressure of your front body against your front thigh.  As if you're trying to reach your tail bone above your back heel, keep that effort while at the same time begin to straighten your front knee any amount until you feel a deep hamstring stretch.
 

This Island

Yes, not only in a literal sense, but also realizing that this the way my husband and I are most comfortable on our own little island. You can access us but it takes effort.  In exchange we offer undivided attention, our hearts on our sleeve and the hunger to know as much as you're willing to dish out. The banter of passing party conversation is a reason to stay home in my mind.  I show up to hear more about someones story, hearing their authenticity, feeling connection through struggle, pain and loss.  Bright eyed and still thriving for more of this visceral life.  

This past year has been a dive into my unrecognized conditioning and a contrast to what was.  I struggled with the realization last year that I hesitate to share proudly that I am a "yoga teacher".  In a new community where I felt immediate connection to the people, this very familiar part of me felt disconnected and alone. While the passion for the practice has never left my heart, I began searching for inspiration and affirmation - from students, new fellow teachers and most of all the industry.  Wavering back and forth between teaching this incredible craft and following what contemporary yoga has evolved into continued to keep me in a state of puzzled exploration. Most days it felt like an exercise in accepting what is, is.  I was getting stuck when I saw what I truly wanted and wished for was the past to be present again.  It happens.

I have never been so adventurous in giving myself exercises in vulnerability. Inserting myself into this small community as if they had no choice!  I volunteered, took on a p/t job, joined a book club, travelled solo, decided I was going to make crafts to sell at the local fair, hosted community mini retreats/potlucks and met tons of new friends in the process.  

I also realized that I found comfort and a sense of safety in numbers and anonymity.  There is no accountability in a place where it is unlikely that you will run into someone again after they *insert unkind/unconscious things strangers do*.  It may sound odd, but I spent more than half my life living downtown in the biggest city in our country and when walking alone at night I felt more safe there then I do walking alone in a forest midday here - and there aren't even any predators on this island! How can I not feel safe unless I'm within earshot of another human?? I recognize this and laugh about it sometimes.  Just like waking up each morning to find myself on my side, there are things we don't even realize until we awaken(!).  As challenging as they can be to change, I love discoveries and this pursuit of curiosity. 

Obviously, the constant in all this change was me.  Putting myself in new surroundings gives me more insight into my Self and my nature.  I love the quote "Everywhere you go, there you are". I wonder what's going to come up in this new year.  More joy, pain, gain, loss, love and fear?  Well, here I am.  Eager to grow and willing to show up.  My heart beats for the why, when and how.  Planting ourselves here just makes the sound louder and harder to deny. As my husband likes to say,  "We're not living on a island to unplug, we're here to plug in".   Couldn't have said it better myself Sweet Love.  

 

 

 

Samskara

The obvious and tangible changes that one would experience in a cross country move are far easier to digest than the ones that make you start to reconsider a piece you describe yourself as....

Consider your journey into Self. It begins as a spark.  Something that catches your attention and draws you in. Consider the modality that drives your discovery. It begins as  interest, a hobby and then progresses to more than something you just do. It starts to run deep. You recognize it's part of who you are. Something you identify yourself by as you become more intimate with this practice.  You become comfortable with that practice.  You have know made a Samskara.

In my own words a Samskara is the conditioning/imprinting that I have become so comfortable in it becomes unconscious. Since departing Toronto I've realized I was far too comfortable in doing what I loved everyday.  Teaching. Though happy and engaged, I took it for granted. My limited amount of quiet made me passive.  Days were packed and uncomplicated, I didn’t pop my head too far out of the yoga communities I was associated with.  

On the West coast the pendulum swings to the other side. I now have many unanswered questions about this piece of myself I'm trying to fit into my new surroundings. I quietly commentate on this on a daily basis.  Perhaps it's the prematernal Natasha exploiting an opportunity and constantly soliciting for more.  Perhaps it's a rising up to see where I was. Where do I really want to be?  Where am I going? As uncomfortable as I am with this discovery I know it has ignited something within me.  A hunger to do something more or different or all together opposite of what I’m used to doing.   One day I'm feel great about my mind, body and spirit.  The next, stressed.  I'm struggling with confidence, recognition, direction.   But I keep going to meet the moments of clarity and connection once again. In this time I devote more time to my practice. Remind myself it's not about being the best. I don't need a 'brand'. It's not about accolades. 

 I'm sleeping less and watching mind race. 

Underneath the uncertainty I know this is what my life is all about: a practice (and I'm not just addressing a yoga practice.  It's any practice that connects me to experience without judgment or expectation) that doesn't allow the familiar to make me comfortable. 
 

Self Renewal: A day retreat for mothers

 

SATURDAY, MAY 9TH, 11-4PM
12 PARTICIPANTS MAX.

COST: $80 (INCLUDES THE COST OF A BOXED VEGETARIAN LUNCH FROM SHIKA AND A WORKBOOK TO INSPIRE SELF RENEWAL EVERYDAY). 

 

Rejuvenate in a relaxing, empowering and supportive environment. Tap into the transformative power of self-care by nourishing your body and spirit. Slow down, simplify and have a day to just focus on you. Deepen the connection with movement and creative expression in an intimate and peaceful setting.

The morning will begin with a slow moving yoga class that focuses on heart opening and grounding breath work, followed by a delicious vegetarian lunch by SHIKA PROVISIONS.  Personal journalling transitions this small group into the afternoon followed by a healing restorative practice supported by comfortable blankets and bolsters.  Essential oils, soothing music and loads of nurturing will send you floating home!

Register here:

http://bowenislandyoga.com/workshops-and-events/2015/5/9/self-renewal-for-mothers-a-day-retreat

 

 

 

Compassionate Detachment

I did not know compassionate detachment the way I know it intimately now having children.  For years I struggled differentiating between telling myself to let something go (yet still feeling unreconciled about it) and being able to accept something and not expect it to change. Taking a mantra of "let it go" never really changed the way I felt about my body, a failing relationship, financial stress, a lost keepsake, etc.. It felt like another expectation that I set and I wasn't sure if I was succeeding in the direction I wanted to go.

Read More

Spring Tune Up at Bowen Island Yoga

Sunday April 26th

10:30-12:30pm

In this 2 hour workshop, I will place yoga’s emphasis on form, focus, and breath in ways to invite runners, hikers and cyclists to integrate a basic movement/stretch practice into their training.

Translating to increased efficiency and enjoyment in your sport and your life. Specific movements will be practiced to encourage anatomical alignment, balance, strength and mobility. Increased freedom of movement and restorative practices translate to a better recovery time from daily activities and a greater sense of balance and space within.

Begin to unlock your potential by unlocking your hips and shoulders. Align your spine to move with ease. Balance your nervous system to promote optimal recovery.  

Suitable for all levels.   $30

Sign up below or contact me for more information

http://bowenislandyoga.com/workshops-and-events/2015/4/26/spring-tune-up-with-natasha-currah

My Syllabus

My yoga is not a balloon.  It's usually not whimsical and light.  It doesn't always invoke euphoria.  Most days my practice and my teaching are very rooted in what's palpable: Choice through suggestion. Observation of an experience.  Presence through impermanence. The grounding qualities of an asana/pranayama/meditation practice is what did and still does draw me in.  There is an ocean to be explored in that and it's how the seed sprouted in me.  Learning how the only way to grow and evolve was to get really deep in the dirt with myself. Getting familiar in darkness gave way to sincere appreciation for what is light and easy and even more understanding that it's cyclical and bound together.  Yoga. 

I recognize that I have a purpose when I teach and when I practice, there might be broad outlines or areas of what I am feeling drawn towards any certain month.  But in essence, I am mostly just

Read More

30 Days of Sama

To welcome this new year, while still feeling this sense of hibernation in the still winter months, I’m confessing my profound love for Samasthiti once again.  The often overlooked foundation of asana practice.  The simple definition of Sama is tranquility or control of mind. Calmness. The ability to keep the mind within and unaffected by the external world.  I/we practice asana to change conditions, dive deeper into the unexplored and to transform what is possible through dedication and belief.  As a teacher and a student I’m convinced that Tadasana/Samasthiti can really expose the vulnerabilities in the foundation of  our practice.  In the times where I’m feeling like I’m practicing on a skeleton schedule these variations are always showing up in my practice - assuring me that I am working in my body very honestly though it may not look like I’m doing a lot.  Fine tuning.  Starting the cycle over.  Same and different. Making the what is very familiar engage me once again and reset unconscious patterns.  

I'm offering this as a 30 day challenge to begin or add to your practice.  Or add everything in at once and do the whole thing for 30 days.  Even if you feel as though you've already checked these variations "off your list", I invite you to get reacquainted with the mother of all asanas.

Read More

Calm After the Storm

Personal Growth is not a matter of learning new information but of unlearning old limits

- Alan Cohen

 

At the end of last year my husband and I forced a chuckle and said "...at least 2014 won't be as tough as this year".  We had gutted our entire top floor of our house (completing our 4 year renovation plan) had our second child and witnessed the decent of my mothers life.  All in about 3 months. Every experience leaving me with this deeper and more profound understanding of what my life is, was and could be about.  

This year started slow and easy but we were restless.  We were no longer thriving in Toronto.  The winter felt isolating and harsh.  By spring we were mapping out what kind of environment we wanted to give our girls and ourselves.  Re-prioritizing what is now important to us. When BC was put on the table it became obvious that this is where we were going and all the things that needed to happen in order for us to be there clicked seamlessly.  Until we put our house up for sale.  

September to just about a week ago was turbulent.  Perhaps more so that last year.  Our real estate story was untypical of what we were told was going to happen, of what you hear in the Toronto market. Things were no longer flowing smoothly.  We could feel the tides turn.  It became draining, stagnant, stressful.  As was the physical packing up of our entire life to ship across the country.  I didn't get to say all the goodbyes I had planned for the last week before my departure.

Only one day before he was set to fly out my husband learned of a discovery and diagnosis of testicular cancer.   Perhaps it had been my experience or my practice to keep me in the moment, now having to be the one to fly out and receive our belongs. Baby and mother in law in tow. My emotions were too depleted to conceptualize what this could all mean. To leave my Love and continue to go with this path we had laid became a very physical and apathetic task. I left my heart with him. It rained very hard here for the first four days but the clouds soon gave way to sun and things started to clear for me as well.  His pathology showed no spread.  He joined us ten days later and is still recovering from surgery.  Can't help but think to now be here, in a place of serene, is exactly where we need to be.  To focus on ourselves, each other and the girls.

Big mountains give way to deep valleys.  Over and over I'm feeling more familiar/comfortable in the unpredictable every year that passes.  I'm lucky.  I have a partner who also is wired to wear his heart on his sleeve and expose himself to whatever the elements have in store for us.  

I was told recently that everybody faces adversity and we "just go look for it!".  Maybe. I have checked a few of the top ten stressful events in ones life at 36, but I know I'm much happier facing my trials then deferring them.  My realities give me a broader spectrum of love, joy and compassion that I know I harness at the centre of my being.

 

 

A New Beginning

My best friend told me that I sound like I’m retiring - giving up our fantastic home in the city. Moving to the west coast - where it’s “always” raining . Me: picturing the ocean view everyday from my living room and the luminous night sky. Maybe I am retiring, wanting to slow down. Living almost half my life sharing limited space with thousands of people will be quite a contrast to my new home on an island, but I feel as though I’m already there.

I am so grateful for all this beautiful city is, but at the same time this place is wearing me down. Toronto lead me to meet my now husband, introduced me to incredible mentors and friends, and allowed me to follow my dream of making a career out of something that I love. I will miss the home that we poured four years of our life into. It pulls my heart strings a bit thinking about the day we leave behind this place where so many memories have been made. To start a new everything. I will miss my family, friends, clients, this beautiful yoga community and I will miss you.

They say if you’re dreams don't terrify you, you’re not dreaming big enough. I most likely could overwhelm myself if I really thought about this huge transition I am about to embark on, but I am doing my best at taking it on day by day. It’s an unknown that I’m willingly diving head first into. It’s a contrast to who I was in my twenties. Realizing dreams begs for reflection, insight and evaluation. This keeps me present in knowing the direction I am choosing for this life with my husband and the girls…and makes me feel incredibly blessed.

What will I do when I’m there? Honestly, for now I want to focus on doing the simple things really well. The simple “tasks” that can be easily taken care of by someone else when life offers more and more opportunity. I want to be really good at those things because I do them everyday. They make me who I am. I can layer a bunch of other noise on top of those things to offer a change or distraction, but when everything quiets down again I yearn to remain satisfied in simplicity. With a full heart and an empty mind.

I will be here teaching until the end of October. I hope to hear from you if I don't get to see you. I will continue to blog on my website www.natashacurrah.com - And if you can, please join me for a free community class at 889 (date to be announced soon!).... Or Jamaica in January. Either or, but both are probably best.


XO

"You’re perfect just the way you are, yet there is still room for improvement”

"You’re perfect just the way you are, yet there is still room for improvement”

This is a quote I hear often running through my mind whether I am on my mat or sitting with someone else on theirs.  Reassuring a student that what they are doing is enough can be hard to convincingly convey when I know the feeling of having an image of attaining energetic stillness and grace in my body. Yet, sometimes all I end up feeling is uncoordinated and weak.  As a younger student I used to focus on imitating what I saw and use my body in whatever ways it would give me to attain that “look”.   A few injuries later, it lead me to understanding that the devil is in the details (and within the details is a life long love affair with the practice).

Building a deeper, stronger and sustainable practice meant to start peeling back the layers and really beginning to build on the foundations in my body that I was aware of.  Really feeling my hands in Downward Dog: is there potential to press stronger down through the areas that feel light?  If not, how can I dial this weight bearing on my upper body back until I find it? As a result of this do I feel a pathway of stability build up into my forearms? Into my upper arms? Can I now feel the solid connection from my hand to shoulder, torso, pelvis, legs, feet?  If the relationship to gravity changes can I find this activation again? Soon the secret hierarchy of attaining the next posture/series became less important as the expansion of knowledge in my body grew.  And in turn, the more challenging asana’s became accessible.  Instead of speeding my Ferrari around a winding beautiful landscape I slowed down a bit to enjoy the views. That’s right my body is a Ferrari.  So is yours.

There is no one place the we all need to start.  It just needs to be somewhere you know and understand.  You’re perfect the way you are, yet there is still room for improvement…

 

Go deeper into your yoga practice with Natasha during her 5 week workshop at 889 yoga this fall; part of our Living Yoga Program. Register Now!

Getaway to Montego Bay January 21-26, 2015

Getaway to Montego Bay January 21-26, 2015

A quick 4 hour flight to beautiful Montego Bay offers the ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in your yoga practice, to truly unwind and take time to nurture yourself.  Experienced practitioners can explore and enhance their practice, while newer students can deepen their understanding of yoga asana (poses) in a supportive and nurturing environment.

In this 4 day Intensive we will move deeper into the heart of our practice. Our mornings will begin with an optional group meditation followed by a mindful moving flow with a theme connected to the afternoon workshop style class. In the afternoons, we will expand our knowledge of standing poses, back bends, forward bends, twists and inversions. As we work to clarify the actions in each asana group we will learn to adapt them to our individual needs and conditions. 

Read More

Judge not yet ye be judged

Such a challenging part of becoming a parent is this eire feeling that you are constantly being judged for your choices, while at the same time trying not to judge other parents for theirs.  This is an incredibly challenging and humbling practice to 1) not fear that someone else's volition is better than your own and 2) not believe that your volition is superior than someone else's. Us parents have a lot to say around hot topic and controversial issues in my world like bed sharing or bottle feeding or the biggest one of all... vaccinations.  These issues can be as sensitive as political or religious views. So why do we feel so confident in voicing our beliefs?  There is no absolute right answer. It’s enough for me to know where I stand, and why, on any choice that I make in my life or my family's.  I can exercise mindfulness in this way. 

Judgement feeds our Ego’s, and it starts small.  What seemingly insignificant daily decisions that impact personal wellbeing, environment and family will most definitely vary from one person to another.  Would it be worthwhile to invest energy contemplating why someone’s choices are different from mine?

Read More