Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Finding Ease...

I will be the first person to admit that sometimes I try way too hard. When I was in High School I tried ridiculously hard to get people to like me. In relationships, I was eager to please and I think that me trying too hard to be the perfect boyfriend was really the death of those relationships. When I started getting into fitness and body building I tried way too hard to get big arms and a ripped six pack and I would consistently push through major injuries thinking that more effort was the answer. I remember that the bane of my existence, while weight training, was my small Calves. I tried everything under the sun to get them to grow, with little success. When I started practicing Yoga, I would push and strive beyond my edge to achieve the "Perfect" postures. And although my practice looked aesthetically beautiful I was simply a ball of effort and tension.The result of so much effort?? Injury, discomfort, frustration and disdain for my physical body. And when I got injured I would use my old Body Building mentality of "Push through Pain".

When I was in Teacher Training, I learned a very valuable lesson. "Don't try so hard...." and in this practice of Yoga "Less is much more." I have been following the teachings of a Calgary Yogini named Susi Hately for a while now. Her blend of Anatomy, Bio-mechanics, Movement Science and Yogic Philosophy really speak to me. Mostly because I am definitely a self proclaimed Anatomy Geek, but secondly because her teachings are about "Getting out pain" and finding a sense of ease in the body and mind.

At this point in my practice, I am feeling a lot of discomfort and pain in my body. I have an annoying shoulder injury, consistent neck pain and some ongoing knee issues. Within the last year or so the reality of practice is becoming quite clear. Is more effort really the answer to my problem?? The progression of my Yoga and Meditation practice are now much more based in the realm of Exploration and Ease. And even though I am primarily a Vinyasa Yoga teacher I am doing no Vinyasas on my mat and am staying away from a lot of classic poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana because I feel that this and some other poses keep reinforcing the pain and discomfort that my body is trying to move away from. It just seems counter intuitive.

My biggest realization is something that I've heard other Yogis say a million times.... Yoga is not about the poses!! I always find myself quoting Sarah Powers in class. She says "We don't use our bodies to get into these poses. We use these poses to get into our bodies." This really resonates with me. I have come to terms with the fact that my body doesn't enjoy or benefit from the practice that I was used to doing. I am learning to modify, to simplify and to adapt my Asana practice based on what I think my body is asking for. And the biggest concept that I'm wrapping my "No Pain No Gain" mindset around is that practicing in pain is just re-enforcing more pain and not healing or ease. Even my meditation practice is much more exploratory. I am much less concerned with the final goal, as I used to be. I am curious about the process. When I step onto my mat, it's no longer about, "How many calories am I burning?" or "How does my Chaturanga look?" My practice has become about unraveling the tension in my body and mind. It's evolved into, "How can I develop a functional body and mind?" or "How does my Chatruanga feel?" It's become about being healthy. About finding "True" strength, flexibility and balance while staying out of pain. It's become about re-enforcing healing, compassion and rediscovering my bodies intuitive wisdom.

I have also recently married to my soul mate Adele. This philosophy of ease, fluidity and exploration, I think, are 3 major components to a successful marriage. I love married life!!
I love you Adele:)

If anyone is actually reading this, I can't stress enough that this life and practices of Yoga and Meditation are not about the superficial qualities that most of us associate with them. It's not about grasping at the "Perfect Pose" or "Achieving Enlightenment" or "Living the Perfect Life".
It's about going with the flow... about reconnecting with your innate sense of wisdom... It's about having fun, breathing, exploring, being open and loving. These are the keys to finding Ease in this lifetime and in the next!

This post is dedicated to my beautiful wife and to this journey of love and exploration that we are both on together.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Step In, Open Up, Shine Out

As we move through this life, we have choices that need to be made. To most, this seems like such an obvious thing to say. The more I attune into this life that I have the absolute honour to be a part of, I notice that people do make decisions on a daily basis... Latte or Cappuccino, paper or plastic, chicken or fish (or Tofu), so on and so on. But there is a more pressing decision to be made. To be Present or not. And I'm slightly saddened to say that a lot of people choose the "not' option.

My friend Beth Rutty (Anusara Inspired teacher), posted a fantastic question on her Facebook yesterday, "What does it mean to be Human?"
And it was actually her 17 year old son that posed the question to her. This really got me thinking......hmmmm. And this is one of those questions that links back to decision making. In our lifetime, we don't only define what it is, to ourselves, to be Human, but we make the decision whether or not to even contemplate this question in the forefront of our conscious mind or just let it reside in the back of our heads and pretend like it's not important.

To me (and I'm still contemplating this one), to be Human is to take responsibility for the Consciousness that we're given. We are the only beings on this planet that have been given the awareness and knowledge of our own existence and mortality. We have free will. We have the freedom to choose our own path in life. So I believe that we have the duty to use this free will with care and sensitivity. We need to keep others and our own "Best" interests in mind when we make the decisions that we do. For me, this is where the Yamas and the Niyamas come into practice. I think to be truly Human, we stay aware of our own uniqueness but at the same time we need to remember that we are all creatures of Nature. We are, as Michael Franti put it, "The One Earth Sons and One Earth Daughters of the One Earth Mama and the One Earth Papa!"

We need to seriously take a look at what's happening in the microcosm of our own bodies and minds and immediate communities but also stay sensitive and in tune with the Macrocosm of this Universe that we are all a part of.

After the Anusara workshop with Martin Kirk and learning more about Tantric Yoga philosophy, I've adopted a little bit of a new personal philosophy. Martin equated life to a rain puddle. Where some other schools of philosophy would ask you to step out of this life through renunciation, Tantric philosophy asks you to step into this rain puddle of life. And sometimes the rain puddle is going to get messy and sometimes it is clear, clean and shimmering. The decision that needs to be made is, will you stay in and open to what the puddle has to offer... Every experience.

My personal philosophy... Step In, Open Up, Shine Out:)


Friday, April 16, 2010

Who Inspires you and who do you inspire.... My Personal Hero: Michael J. Fox

Been a while folks... I miss this in my heart as always... which is really what keeps bringing me back. I've always been one to write. In grade school I would write stories that the average expressive 8 year old boy would write. You know, the craziest little story about space and monsters with those funny little grade 3 animations... Arms too big, one leg longer, one eye bigger... If that was what I thought I looked like back then, I've definitely gotten better and more proportioned with age. In high school I really got deep into music, beat poets and really good lyricists. And even today, the first two things that I listen for in a good band are drums and vocals. You can never beat someone with a great voice, a moving message and a phat beat to back them up. I still have most of my poetry, lyrics and random ravings in a shoe box in my closet.

I think that one of the reasons that I'm back now is that there is just too much happening in my life, as of recent, that I couldn't not document it. So many things are going on right now. At times it's over whelming but thank Krishna for my breath...

I think in earlier posts I've mentioned a beautiful, energetic young lady named Adele Lynn Oliver. We met 4 years ago and a smidgen back. Adele was working at a local organic grocery store as the Kitchen Manager and I would come in and buy food from her all the time. One day she asked me out for drinks, I said, "how about tonight?" And we've been inseparable ever since. It was actually Adele that introduced me to Yoga and got me into Blogging (I can't believe I just used blogging as a verb). So last year I propose to Adele, she says yes, of course. And now, one year and a smidgen ahead, we are getting married. AWESOME!!!! Planning a wedding however is not so awesome:(
But it's fun to say the least. I love you Adele:)

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned my interest in Anusara Yoga?.?.?.? I discovered Anusara Yoga very accidentally. I don't even really know how it happened but one day I found my self reading an article about John Friend. The article was very interesting... He talked about finding alignment in poses and these "Loop Thingies" as Martin Kirk says, to help re-establish your optimal physical posture. This interests me because I'm ridiculously drawn to the workings of our physical bodies... I too am a self proclaimed anatomy geek. Ever since I read that article I was intrigued by Anusara. More recently I went to a workshop being held by an Anusara teacher from Toronto, Michael Siddall. I'd been reading more and more about Anusara on their website and in Yoga Journal, doing some videos from The Grand Gathering and this was the perfect opportunity to get some hands on experience in this practice. The workshop was amazing!! It was everything that I was looking for. The spirituality (Opening to grace), the physical alignment, all the very subtle aspects of Anusara.

Since then, I've also taken a few Anusara classes locally. But the most profound experience, so far, was going to the Toronto Yoga Conference and taking a 6 hour workshop with Anusara Certified teacher and also self proclaimed anatomy geek, Martin Kirk. The workshop covered what is known as the 5 Principal Alignments and Tantric philosophy. And it was an eye opener. From that point I became much more interested about myself, my surroundings and how I interact with everything or sometimes withdraw from everything. This weekend I will again study with Michael Siddall and it intends to be very fun!!!

My other reason for needing to blog today, was actually inspired by an Episode of Rachael Ray (the talk show not the cooking show). While flipping through channels I caught a glimpse of one of my personal hero's, Michael J. Fox. I love to hear Michael J Fox speak. The man has been through so much adversity with Parkinson's and even being thrust into the lime light at such an early age. And when you hear him talk he's so humbled by his experiences and blessed to be here and experience his life for what it is.

I saw him on The Hour with George Stromboulopolus and he was truly up lifting. He was talking about how getting Parkinson's was one of the best things that had ever happened to him. At first listen, when you hear someone say that getting a debilitating disease was the best thing that had ever happened to him, it makes you raise your eyebrows and open your mouth a little. He then went on to explain how the disease has forced him to slowdown. Physically, every move he makes has to be more planned, calculated and mindful. It's made him really step back and learn to appreciate everything that he has (family, friends the disability but also the ability). He said that if everyone were just to experience life from his perspective the world would be much more in touch with where it is and where it needs to be.

As Yogis, most of us strive to find something that was thrust upon Michael J Fox. We work hard to find the appreciation in all small things. We do our spiritual work so that we can look at a bird and appreciate the fact that, although I've seen thousands of birds, I've never seen this bird, in this moment. I try my best sometimes to slow down and be mindful. And then I'll think, "Well Michael J Fox's life depends on his ability to be mindful and present and mine doesn't." I then I realize that it does. It really does...

I like to think sometimes that I can inspire my students as much as my teachers and my hero's have inspired me. That I can use my own experience to help guide someone else on this journey. I do my best to learn from my mistakes, to be a positive person in times of adversity and share everything that I can. And to not judge myself in the times when I'm not any of those things.

To Adele Lynn Oliver, my family, friends, acquaintances and enemies (if there are any)....


PS. Michael J Fox you are a true Yogi!!