I can't tell you how many people over the duration of my career who've told me they want to lose weight. It is almost a given when talking about exercise. Or is it?
Research doesn't necessarily support that exercise alone will help you lose weight. Yet, the fitness industry rants and raves it as the (only) benefit of being physically active.
Even this past week, I had a women who's sole purpose talking to me was about her losing 30 pounds. Unfortunately, each time she spoke of her weight, it was like her weight was a personal failure and she wasn't a deserving human being.
I know that feeling. I hate to admit it but there were many years of body hate. I recall taking scissors to my inner thigh and considering to cut. Of course, I knew enough (at lets say the age of eight) that that wasn't going to work. But the feeling of disgust with my body was all encompassing.
Full Disclosure: I still struggle from time to time about my body image. It is easy to fall back into old thoughts and self-talk.
Is this common? I hate to know the stats as I think it is more common than we know.
Slot in yoga...
A practice that is for oneself and within oneself. Not just the physicality of asanas but the breath work and mental meditation it includes.
I would argue yoga is the ultimate in self-love.
This week's practice drove that point home.
Initially, when I read the video title, I slightly cringed - "Yoga for Weight Loss - Hips & Hammies ". Oh no, not this message again. The expectation that yoga will cause weight loss. But as I got into the video sequence, I soon realized I was the one with the expectations.
Okay - exercise science doesn't support exercise (yoga) as a weight loss tool (unless you do many, many, many minutes a week) but taking care of oneself likely does. Now I don't have the science to back this one up but if you spend time taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it can only make you better...and take you to a healthy weight.
I missed interpreted the video title to only be about the physical. Weight status is multifactorial. There are many reasons why people weigh what they weigh. From my experience, it is when your practice self-love, you become the best (healthy) self, no matter what your weight.
A major reason I started my passion project, The Why I Move Project, was to make society become more mindful about their physical activity AND see that being physically active is much more that just your weight.
I am blessed each week to practice yoga. It is my gift to myself.
Will you give yourself some love this week?
Week 102: Birthday Wishes
As another year rolls around, my birthday wish was fairly simple. It's not a significant birthday this year nor do I need much.
But what was a must-do on my birthday was a yoga class.
I swung my yoga bag on my back and jumped on my bike, pedaling down to my local studio. I knew I had to get out of the house for this birthday wish to come true. I quietly paid and walked into the hot room. My option was a hot class, which is not always my number one choice but nonetheless, it was yoga.
When prompted to place an intention for the class, I silently chose to focus on me and only me. This is my one day of the year (and even moreso since becoming a parent!)
I lucked out for this "me" practice as the studio space included mirrors. I intently watched each pose (as the pose allowed) and focused on a well-positioned body. Listening not only to the teacher's cues, I also zeroed in on my body cues. Honestly, I must have looked like I was figuring out a hard sudoku puzzle. My face reflected back at me with a very concentrated look.
The best part of this birthday wish was a supported savasana. It's like a regular savasana but super sized. Two foam blocks under the hips and head allowed for a glorious torso stretch. I literally and figuratively melted into my body.
How do you focus on yourself? Do you use a mirror in your practice?
What are ways you honour yourself on your birthday?
Are you taking care of yourself?
One year older,
Week 93: Listening for the Birds
I woke up early one day this week and thought, what shall I do with myself? I know, yoga is on the hit list, so I better get at it! A little practice time before the house wakes up.
The morning air was seeping into the open windows of my bedroom (which we forgot to close the night before) and it was calling for some sun salutations. I headed into my practice.
Initially, I was only looking for some physical benefits of practice, but I actually gained some mental/emotional benefit that I never would have expected!
Let me back track...
My parents are moving out of my childhood home. Mixed emotions about this as I venture home to Saskatchewan for my last visit. What parts of this home are still pulling me in? Why am I so attached to a brick and mortar place?
There are very fond memories but also a sense of comfort in this place. Fast forward to this week's quick morning practice and I realize one of the things I love about my childhood house.
It is all the birds chirping!
And in this week's quick morning practice, that's what I heard outside of my OWN window!
Why I never thought to recreate the morning sounds of my childhood house in my current home is beyond me! I just needed to LISTEN for them (and open my windows from time to time!)
This week's practice gave me insight into things that give me comfort. What a great perspective and in some ways, closure to the connection to my childhood home.
How did I not hear the birds!
Week 79: Reflection on Life
Yoga can really be a reflection on life! This week was jammed packed with busy, exciting, thrilling and not so great things for me. This yoga video sure sums up how life can be some weeks.
Enjoy! Yoga can be such a reflection on life!
Do you recall your childhood dreams? Ever wonder what your life would be like if you pursued them?
The start of every school year, my mom would sit me down to complete my school days scrapbook. It always had a place where I could check off what I wanted to be when I grew up; it included a predetermined list but I could always add one or two.
On the predetermined list, ballerina was always listed. And each and every year until I was probably 12 years old, I picked ballerina as what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Well, this childhood dream was never fulfilled nor have I ever taken a ballet class in my life. However, in this week's practice I was reminded of this dream.
Now it wasn't that I felt like a ballerina this week (completely the opposite as my baby belly grows larger) but I felt pretty strong and balanced doing the king/lord of the dancer pose (natarajasana).
Now I didn't practice the full pose with my leg extended far behind me, but this standing pose was challenging enough with my suspended leg slightly behind my body and the hand pressing into the foot. I was able to balance with success and feel strength through my back/glutes and a well-needed stretch through my chest and front hip.
Dancer's pose is a great heart-opener and with the timing of a new year, it was fitting to practice this pose to help ponder what I see for the future year. It not only reminded me of my past dream(s) but also my 2014 dreams.
What are your 2014 dreams?
A some words that represent my dreams for 2014 would be:
- happiness and contentment
- smiles and fun
- compassion and empathy
And as a new year rolls around, my practice this week reminds me of dreams and encouraged me to dream big this year. Will you?
Spur of the moment this week, I attended a concert at Edmonton's world famous Winspear Centre. It was a performance of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) and Canadian songwriter and singer, Chantal Kreviazuk. I have seen Kreviazuk many, many years ago but I have never attended the symphony in Edmonton.
And having not been to see the ESO before, I have never been to this iconic theatre (known as the "one of the finest performance spaces in North America"). So imagine my amazement as I walk into an "in the round" theatre with a massive pipe organ at centre stage and the room buzzing with the sounds of tuning instruments and mic checks.
People were filling into the theatre with great urgency to sit down and enjoy the concert before them.
The performers did not disappoint.
Chills, goose bumps, hair standing upright can only slightly describe the voice of Kreviazuk and her accompaniment. Sitting as an observer, I too was able to feel the passion and purpose behind every note, of every carefully crafted song.
This is what yoga does for me - brings out this feeling of passion and purpose. Well, quite frankly, any movement (dare I say, exercise) does for me. An indescribable rush or shall I say flow of energy takes over.
As I was watching and taking in every juicy note, I was thinking to myself "this is it". This is what I (hope) I provide in my work, to my audience, and to my participants/patients. This is what I want to GIVE as a yoga teacher.
I also thought, does Kreviazuk practice yoga? She just glows and it's gotta come from yoga!
Can you tell who practices yoga?
Accidentally, after the program I had to tweet my thoughts to ESO and Kreviazuk and what do I find on Kreviazuk's tweeter feed but a picture of her practicing yoga at home (and her dog wanting to join in!)
It just made sense.
What does yoga do for you? Can you tell who practices? Does it show up in our work, personal lives and how we walk on this earth?
Week 35: Happiness
I'm reading an excellent book by Robert Holden called Be Happy. It was one of those random pick ups from the library from the shelf of recommended non-fiction reads. I partially think its the cover that drew me to it - colourful dots in a circle. Nonetheless, it has been an excellent read about his happiness course. My favorite quotes are:
"Your ego can desert your heart, but your heart cannot leave you. Thus, the enduring qualities of the heart - such as love, wisdom, courage, strength and hope - are available to you the instant you make yourself available to them."
"You do not deserve happiness because happiness is free - there are no conditions."
"...the more grateful you are, the more present you become."
"Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past."
"To be happy is to love. To love is to be happy."
There has not been one mention of yoga in Holden's book yet, to me the connection is obvious. The ideas in his quotes align with what my understanding is of the philosophies of yoga. Has anyone EVER left a yoga class unhappy? I harbor the guess that the percentage is low if not insignificant. It has been a pleasure exploring my happiness with his book and as I read, my yoga practice almost always pops up in my head.
Now I alluded to the fact it is "my understanding" of yoga philosophy. And with that, I just started to crack the spine of another book - Yoga Sutras of Patanjai. I know very little about Patanjai and thus, have one of the many interpretations of his Sutras. Thank you library, again.
I dove in head first with my eyes searching for the word happy or happiness. I didn't have to go far to find it...
"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards happiness, compassion towards suffering, delight towards virtue, and equanimity towards vice, thoughts become purified, and the obstacles to self-knowledge are lessened."
I, 33 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Happiness, as individual as it is, fits well with yoga in my books. It is one of the main reasons I do it and want to share it one day with others as a teacher.
Are there day to day experiences that you hold sacred?
And if so, why are they so special?
Yesterday, I dove into my local swimming pool with vigor and zest. I have a hard time explaining what it is about swimming that is so fantastic. It is high on my list of sacred experiences, just like yoga. Both physical activities are refreshing, calming and invigorating all at the same time. There is a certain amount of technique and biomechanics to each that requires me to think gently. Breathing is essential to both, particularly the timing of each breath. I find myself extremely introverted with each but yet still aware of my surroundings. And both are literally in my bones, for a lack of better words. I've been doing both for over two-thirds of my life.
I admit, swimming and yoga can easily bump out most any other activities in my life with the exception of other flow experiences such as being with friends and family (combined together with these physical activities, even better!), enjoying a healthy meal that is tantalizing my taste buds, sleeping in warm flannel sheets, and reading an interesting book. It has become apparent that swimming and yoga are two of my flow experiences. If you are not familiar with the term flow, read on...
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the "father of flow" and the "optimal experience". I've read two of his books, Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience and Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. And highly recommend both.
I believe that finding flow in your life is SO important. And I believe it or not, I didn't mention work on my list of flow activities. It was purposely done. I wanted to separate it from the rest. As one day I hope to add "Yoga Teacher" to my resume. It will fit perfectly with my current job because I DO experience flow at work and am very grateful for that!
Finding flow in yoga and life,
Week 9: Bittersweet
This past week I was able to attend a class instructed by one of my favorite teachers, Judy. I was finally able to make it to an evening class and was hurried to go because this is the last time Judy would be teaching this class. She is moving out of province so I had to have one more class with her.
I have had many discussions with Judy about becoming a yoga teacher. She knows what I do for a living and could tell I was very interested in learning more about yoga. Prior to having a baby, I attended her Friday after work class for over two years and even while I was pregnant (she was very gracious to support my practice while I was pregnant by leading me in appropriate prenatal poses - even though it wasn't a prenatal class). Thinking back on it now, it was such a gift. Her words, voice, energy and presence were just what I needed every week, particularly at the end of my week.
To reflect back, what have I learned from Judy? First and foremost, was to be gentle with myself. After many years of pushing and stressing the body hard with vigorous exercise, it was a huge challenge for me not to push my practice. She offered guidance on how to let props, particularly foam blocks, help release tension. She always emphasizes moving to the point of tension but never pain and allowing the body to be supported so that it can release. It is not in the number of blocks we use that we should judge how well we are doing! She always jokes about letting go our preoccupation with using props. They are there to help us!
Judy taught me to explore what my body can do with simple movements, which can have a profound effect on mobility and surprisingly, mental calmness. I recall the encouragement "to be curious but not to judge" in particular with my breath rhythm. Her classes always challenged me but in a profound inner way. Her direction commonly include the words "less is more".
Having experienced Judy's classes for years, I can say she allowed an environment to explore, to respect your body and experience the benefits of yoga. What I learned from her is that every day your body (maybe interchange with mind too?) is different, every day you practice you are different and thus, take each class for what it is and be in that moment.
It was a bittersweet moment to reach corpse pose (savasana) this week. Such a blessing to have a moment to myself but sharing this moment for the last time (at least for now) with Judy. She ended our practice this week with a quote about being on a journey. How fitting for her but also, in some sense, quietly me too.
Be gentle to yourself.
Week 6: Gratitude
With it being Thanksgiving this weekend, it was time to reflect on what we
have in our worlds and what we are most grateful for.
How often do you reflect on what you are thankful for? More than once a year?
I find that my yoga practice is the time where I reflect the most. It quiets the mind and allows for a focus on what is important (no multitasking allowed!) I
particularly love the yoga teachers who ask questions and allow for inner
reflection at the beginning, middle and end of class. It's almost like the yoga
practice is then more of a mental challenge versus a physical challenge.
What resonates a lot during my individual practice is the power, grace and beauty of the human body. I am grateful that my body allows me to move and breathe, which nourishes the mind, body, and soul.
In the writings of Patañjali, an ancient yoga scholar, he writes of the Eight
Limbs of Yoga. I know the very basics of his writing from my academic yoga class but I thought to myself there must be somewhere in his writings where he references gratitude. I went searching and found that under the second limb, Niyamas, or the "rules" or "laws" of personal observance, he highlights a similar idea with Santosha. Santosha might align well with gratitude. It is being satisfied with what one has. Maybe in other words, thankful for what we have?
I will leave the readings of Patañjali for another day but practicing yoga daily,
weekly, monthly sure allows me to reflect on what I am thankful for more than once a year!
And I'd be remiss if I didn't reflect on what I am thankful for beyond my yoga practice.
It is in these moments that I am most grateful...the wonderful people I
have in my life (the newest edition exploring the world!)
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.