Monday, November 22, 2010

Isn't every day Men's day?

Actually, no. Not anymore, anyway.

The gender story in North America has changed so drastically over a period of barely one generation. The wildly popular show Mad Men is an uncomfortably accurate portrayal of life between the sexes in the early 60s. My mom's response to the show was: "Why would I watch that? I don't want to remember being chased around a desk." My mom is not that old (seriously. You should see her doing yoga).

Shocking, right? And now things are different: women have a lot more power in the workplace and in family situations, women win most lawsuits related to sexual harassment and child custody, and more and more women are becoming primary breadwinners. Women are also shown to be better at handling mental illness because they have close friend groups and a willingness to seek professional help. So what's the problem? Of course women are still dealing with our issues, and though it's (very) tempting, I will not delve into my own challenges as a woman, especially in academia.

But things have certainly changed. The woman's movement was just that: a woman's movement. Women got together, discussed ideas, created organizations, fought for each other, and worked bloody hard to change the role of a woman in society so that now we have (at least officially) the same rights as men do. The birth control pill meant that women could decide if they wanted children, how many, and when. No one needs to depend on anyone else financially. Divorce is about as common as marriage, it seems, and women are far outperforming men in education, if not in the workplace.

So what have men been doing all this time? How exactly have men been negotiating this new world where women as a whole have become something different, and no one's been allowed to ask any questions?

For example, what is the appropriate way to approach a woman at a bar? Do women still want men to pay for dinner and hold doors open? Do women want rich men or educated men? Is it 'manly' to get pedicures and use hair products? Why is it assumed, at least in the judicial system, that women are better at childcare than men? Now that women want men to express their feelings more, how exactly are they supposed to do that?

And a plethora of other questions I can't begin to imagine because, of course, I am a woman. But I have my own questions.

Like why are there so many sexual scenes between women in popular media and so few of men? Why is it playful and sexy when women are doing it and so serious when it's between men? Why don't men talk about their feelings with their friends? Why are so many men dropping out of school? Why is bullying in schools so bad that little boys are actually committing suicide?

And how can I possibly explain to my boyfriend rationally that I want to be understood and a strong, intelligent woman and still want him to tell me I'm pretty? I can't. I can't explain that. We are all very much still in this thing, and it's still broken.

Last weekend, my colleague Charlie and I went to an event called "International Men's Day" to present our Broga: Yoga for Men workshop. We have created a style of yoga that focuses on opening men's common tight spots (shoulders, hips, hamstrings), healing areas of common pain (knees, lower back) and celebrating the poses that are actually a little easier for men to do (arm balances, inversions). Often when I mentioned this event to my students and whoever was around, I would be greeted with shock, surprise, sometimes expecting it to be a joke, and, a lot of the time, the question: "Isn't every day men's day?"

This is a question about which our organizer, David Hatfield, had a lot to say. David heads a weekly workshop called "Manology: 21st Century Masculinity" that is basically a group for men to get together and talk about the above and many other questions to do with men's health, wellbeing, gender roles, and yes, of course, feelings. One of the main issues men have to deal with today is the common assumption that men still feel totally in power and have no questions at all about their sexual identity, especially if they are heterosexual.

The world is still a very different experience for little boys and little girls growing up, and some of that stuff has gotten a lot better, and some of it has gotten more confusing than ever. Little girls are now told they can be whatever they want when they grow up, they can have children or not, they have the right to do anything a boy does and lots of other empowering stuff (though perhaps teen magazines [and extended families] tell a different story), and little boys are still being told that boys don't cry. The role of the 21st century father has become something pretty different than what most of us grew up with, and nobody seems to know exactly what these new roles are supposed to entail.

At some point in our history, women got up the courage to stand up and start questioning their roles in society and how they wanted things to change. It's time for men to start doing the same.

But if women don't support men in making the world a better place for everybody, then we've all failed. Anyone who thinks every day is already men's day needs to open their eyes, and if our kids are going to do any better than us, we are going to have to help each other out. Things will never get better for women or men unless we are on the same side.

To me, that's the meaning of satsanga: a community (sanga) dedicated to truth (sat). Truth is, we've all got work to do.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Tada drashtuh svarupe-vasthanam: hanging out in my own true nature

I sometimes teach poetry at schools with this organization called Wordplay, that helps bring a more positive understanding of reading and writing poetry to young kids. One of the ones I did recently was at a private girls school, and we asked them what they were studying right then. "My Last Duchess," they told us, by Robert Browning (c. 1842). My partner, Barbara, asked: "Does anyone know a duchess here? Anyone have a best friend who happens to be a duchess? No?" Of course they laughed, but she was making a really important point: WHY are we studying this? Poetry has always been a sounding board for society, and one of the most interesting things about studying it is that you learn something about the culture that created that poem. There are, of course, lots of reasons to study Browning, but what a lot of people need to understand is that contemporary works of art can teach us more about ourselves.

So when I am in a yoga class, and the teacher starts spouting off something from the traditional texts or something she learned from her 'teacher,' who by virtue of being from India must understand something better or higher than we ever can, it sort of makes me angry. I wonder what that person knows, personally, about what she is saying. Does she actually believe it or is it just someone else's words coming out of her mouth?

I don't have a problem with ancient texts or teachers per se, it's just as it happens i live here, and now. In Canada. In the 21st century. And I want to make my life better. That's why we do yoga, isn't it, most of us? To have a better life right now, not 200 years ago in India. It's just not where we live.

That being said, one of the basic lessons of yoga is that every lesson must be experienced to be understood. The Buddha is another one who said over and over, don't listen to me! Go learn it for yourself. Avidya--non-knowledge--can often come disguised as what someone else has told you.

One of my major teachers is also my business partner and one of my closest friends: Coco Finaldi, and in a course she is teaching right now at our studio, East Side, she writes:

There is a wealth of knowledge available to the yoga practitioner; asana,
pranayama, kriyas, scriptures... It is important to understand that the in-
formation itself doesn’t hold all the answers to self realization or to the
state of Yoga. Yoga is comparable to music in that music needs to be read
and played in order to be heard and experienced. The mystical writings of
Yoga need to be read and played, practiced and experienced.

And as I am indeed learning, she is RIGHT. The Sutras are these ancient (think 300 BC) writings by a guy or possibly a group of guys named Patanjali about the practice of yoga. I never thought I would be finding something from 300 BC make sense in my life right now, but here I am, with Sutra 3:

Tada drashtuh svarupe vastanam: When the thought waves are controlled, the seer is established in his own true nature.

This didn't make any intuitive sense to me until about 11 days ago, when I started a 40 day challenge to meditate, for at least 11 minutes, every day. Here's what usually happens:

I sit down. Assume the position (chin mudra). Sit quietly. My mind begins to yell at me. Thoughts from the day, plans for later, worries about the studio--oh yeah. Focus. Focus on your root chakra. Root chakra, root I subbing a class tomorrow? When is that, how will I get, focus. Don't attach to your thoughts. Focus on your third eye. Third eye, third eye....that was a weird dream last night. I wonder what it meant...stop! focus.." and I go on like this for another 9 minutes. I can't tell you how challenging it is to stop the thoughts. I have had 'successful' sits in meditation, where my mind yells at me less, but part of what I want to do here is let my thoughts run. Everything in my life has changed so dramatically over the past year and a bit, and everything has happened so quickly that I haven't had a chance to process it. There are more effective meditations I know are available to me, but I kind of WANT my thoughts to run wild, so they can say their piece and then leave me alone.

Anyway, though the meditations themselves sort of feel like failures, the rest of my day feels totally different. I can tell that some of the garbage (you are not good enough. That was a bad class. Should I be doing more of this pose or that pose in classes? Why don't I write poetry anymore? Why can't I jump back from crow to chatuanga? I wonder what my boyfriend meant when he said...) starts to quietly filter out, and I am left with the real things in my brain that either need work or are actual real life truths for me. I feel like I am sitting in my true nature a lot more of the time (though I wouldn't say I have control over my mind!). I care a little less what other people think of me. I am more sure of where I am going and why I teach the way I do. I am more patient with myself and more compassionate when I can't do everything I want to do. I am letting my relationship be. I am learning that I am good on the inside, somewhere, not just a mess of insecure thoughts (though yes, sometimes it feels that way).

So what did I do to express my newfound freedom and self-trust? I marched down to East Vanity Parlour and got half my hair shaved off. Even though everyone told me not to. And it looks freaking sweet. And I have a feeling Patanjali would approve.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

People cry a lot in yoga.

Have you ever noticed this? Moving through a sun salutation, flying through 5 full wheels, or calming down in savasana, have you ever heard a little sob or two from one corner of the room? Ever stopped to notice that it was you?

I have. I'm one of those people. I've always been pretty sensitive, and I've loved those moments in those really powerful classes when something just breaks and this release happens inside of you, and your sort of feel horrible and euphoric all at the same time, and then you leave the class feeling lighter, different, like something bad is gone and something new is possible.

And it hasn't happened to me in a really, really long time.

Part of the reason some people must practice yoga is because of its infamous transformative powers. We break down so we can build up again, and there is this amazing high that comes with it. It happens in the first few months, usually, and then who knows how many times after that. Then maybe we just keep looking, keep searching, like if I can just do that again, if I can just break down that one last barrier then...what? I'll be free? Happy? Never have any problems or traumatic situations again? Achieve samadhi and leave the world as I know it? Get a cheeseburger and move on?

I don't know. But I certainly keep on looking for it, and I have been following the teachers that have taken me there waiting for that moment to reoccur. Waiting for something to be....clear. Someone trying to sell you on yoga will probably not tell you that that just doesn't always happen.

Well, this weekend, I went seeking answers with one of the biggest names in transformation out there right now: "The Queen of Kundalini Yoga": Gurmukh.

Kundalini yoga is basically a practice in which you do something repetitively until you want to kill yourself and have no choice but to tune out and let the thing happen, whatever the thing happens to be (transformation? A cheeseburger?). These Kriyas are purported to change the actual molecular structure of your body and your brain. You know those etheral white folks wearing white turbans and flowy white outfits? Those are the Kundalini-is.

Now I don't want to give the wrong impression: I thoroughly enjoy Kundalini, and I love teaching certain Kriyas in my classes--they can be incredibly powerful, and maybe they do actually change the molecular structure of your body and brain. Kundalini yoga is an example of the many types of yoga that try to change you and sometimes really can: Hot yoga's purifying fire, Baptiste Power that will make you sweat your asana off, Forrest Yoga that will work you until you curl up into a ball and cry like a baby, Chakra based Hatha that will make you a superhero etc etc etc.

But I was sitting in a room FULL of Kundalini-is, many of whom were in the white garb, watching this quite old woman in lots of jewelery and draping white cloth sitting up on a pedestal reading from a book and telling us what to do: pretend you are about to hit yourself in the face, and then turn your palm forward instead. For 11 minutes. Or what felt like an eternity. I start to hear sobs here and there. Gurmukh is saying, "Let it go. Don't analyze it. Whatever is coming up, let it go." I was thinking, "cheeseburger." Just kidding. But I wasn't quite in the same room if you know what I mean. And I am a BELIEVER in this kind of shit.

This was after a talk on how in this Western world, we have too much information in our minds. Too many tv shows, to much internet, too many cellphones. Empty your mind, she was saying, and tune into the innate intelligence of your heart. Absolutely yes. But then an added implication: if you do not do this you will go crazy. "Has anyone seen the movie A Beautiful Mind? Brilliant, brilliant man. Crazy."

hm. If we empty our minds too much and lose our ability to think critically, then we become like lemmings who would run off the edge of a cliff after their leader, or, you know, start dressing like them. In white. With turbans.

Not that this was in any way Gurmukh's intention. She is obviously an amazing teacher who has done important things for many people [and I am no one's authority on why the turbans]. And I am not saying we don't need teachers and leaders--we do, desperately, and they can take us places that will slowly make the world better. If I didn't believe that I wouldn't be a teacher, would I?

But I think when you get a bunch of people together who want transformation, who are unhappy with their lives, who need something outside of themselves, they are vulnerable to anything you say. They look for a leader, someone to tell them, It's not your fault you are unhappy! It's the awful world you live in! Use this secret technique I have and you can be transformed!

And you know what, it works.

Not because, I've realized, you finally went to see the guy who spent 6 years meditating in the Himalayas, or the person who invented a style of yoga that makes you backbend a lot with a smile on your face or because you went to see the woman that teaches Madonna yoga. Or because of the secret technique. Or because of paying many dollars hang out with whoever, whether it is Shiva Rea or David Bowie. It's because you WANT to be transformed. Your teacher is giving you tools and you are choosing to do something with them. The tools themselves may not be the point.

There is only one true teacher, and it's you. The teachers that have made me cry in yoga weren't some special aliens who were smarter or better than me (more experienced is a different story), I was just willing to listen to them. I can't rely on Gurmukh or David Bowie or anyone else to make me something different, I am the only one who can do that. These teachers help you find your path, show you things you never could have dreamed of, help you to be strong and safe in your body and your mind: they open the door. But you are the only one that can walk through.

And then what?

Well shit, I don't know.

So In lieu of an answer, I leave you with this poem from Tukaram:


Don't brag about flying
the way we

They don't write books about it and then give

They don't take on disciples and spoil
their own air

Who could dance and achieve
liftoff with a bunch of
whakos tugging
on you?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sadie Nardini and me on the couch watching NetFlix and sneezing

So everything was going swimmingly--In one weekend, I had my birthday celebration(s) including a beautiful dinner with my parents and Robert at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens [they make the food WITH the stuff from the garden! Now that's local] and a lovely dinner at Grub on Main Street with some particularly goodlooking friends, 3 different workshops at the Vancouver Yoga Conference and Show [Anodea Judith, Sadie Nardini, and Maria Garre], AND finished a recording of a spoken word track inspired by/including a poem I wrote for a real live yoga CD, and BAM! I got sick. Big surprise, right?

Well, finally it is Monday, and I spent the day in my pajamas doing yoga, drinking a huge pot [literally, a cooking pot] full of cinnamon tea with white tea flowers, watching NetFlix [which is an amazing technology, truly] and working on that thing I've been hearing people talk about: "resting."

Have you ever noticed that yoga teachers tend to teach what they need, not what they already have? Sadie Nardini, a beautiful, magnetic, charming woman who obviously works ridiculously hard [185 youtube videos!] at giving as much of herself to as many people as she possibly can, is a woman with a very specific "core message." Distil down the coal, she says, to the jewel that is inside you. Stop trying to please everyone and just be who you are. Create boundaries. Stick to your message and stick to your voice; the best teacher, lover, friend, parent, etc. that you can be is who you already are. One of the things I love about Sadie is how honest and down to earth she is: and with that it is quite clear that she is a giver, a pleaser, a wanderer, and a freedom fighter against the boxes the world and she herself have created around her. She teaches core integration so beautifully because she has so clearly struggled with it. I think I resonate with her teaching so much for a reason: I, too, often teach "feet on the ground!" because I am often trying to remember to do that.

Lately I have been theming a lot of my classes on change--the fall can be a stressful time, and things tend to shift with the seasons, sometimes in ways that are not so thrilling. My [business] partner's [life] partner's business [I know] was trashed and set fire to recently, and then her SHOES were stolen off her porch. Two different friends had their guitars stolen this month on separate occasions, and a friend and student of mine got stuck in the hospital for almost a MONTH with blood poisoning, unable to do yoga for probably the next six months--and this is someone who practised often more than once a day.

But change, as they say, is good, though not always easy, and here I insert the requisite Wayne's World reference: Sometimes getting sidetracked gives us a chance to think about where we are and what we are doing when it is the LAST thing we really want to do. And when that sidetrack goes right off the rails and something breaks, we have a chance to put it back together in a new way. Hard times make us better people--I love this quote I heard the other day:

Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment.

I know, I know, I know I need to rest more, I work too hard, I am too hard on myself, and whenever I do this too much or for too long, I get sick or I twist my ankle or something else goes horribly wrong, as if my inner buddha is whacking me with a big stick. My friend in the hospital said to me: "Some people have a mid life crisis and they buy a new car. I'm having it here in the hospital." What an amazing human to take a month in a horrible little hospital room as an opportunity to meditate and face who he has become and who he wants to be. He has a whole new life to come back to on the other side. I'm not sure I'll get that far this Monday afternoon, but I do understand this illness as a message.

Rest is a beast I struggle to master, and while my students teach me to be smarter, stronger, cooler, and wiser, I try to collect their lessons and my own and watch as they come out of my mouth while I'm teaching. Sadie asked us in this conference: if you could write a message in the sky, and everyone in the world would read it and really think about it, what would the message be? It's a good question, and I think for many of us the answer would be a lesson we had to learn the hard way. My message would be: "Think for yourself." And it takes stopping, sometimes, in the middle of the mad flow of life in this world to do that, and look at what you are doing and judge whether it aligns with who you really are. And when you stop, everytime you stop, you have the chance to start again. Starting again is an adventure everytime, but maybe then so is the stopping.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I am. I am. I am. A Yam.

My 27th birthday is coming up in a little under 2 weeks. My birthday is sort of like New Year's to me. I end up thinking a lot about where I am and what I'm doing and whether or not it's the right thing. With an outsider's eye, if I look at my life, it's pretty sweet: I have a business, a job I love (yoga teacher! Best job ever) a cute apartment, and a sweet partner that I live with. I would say this is a good list of things I would have wanted to check off by year 27. And yet, I suppose I'm still an angsty teenager inside, because I sure spend enough time doubting myself.

Things have changed so rapidly for me in the past year: at this time last September, I was heartbroken, scrambling for teaching gigs, and wondering what the heck was going to happen to my life. I feel like I became an adult within exactly a 12 month period [I have my own dentist now! And my parents didn't even find her for me! (Penny Thompson: she has a camera at her office so I saw all the gross cracks in my own teeth! She is also awesome. I digress.)]

Sometimes as things change in our lives, we have to make the choice to let some of the dead leaves fall off our metaphorical trees and decide what we want to plant for the next season. My responsibility level is so much higher than it was that there's just no room for me to be an amateur bellydancer or army base bartender or spoken word poet anymore.


So what I need to work on now is the quality of discernment--Viveka in yoga philosophy. What stays and what goes? What is real and true and what is just an illusion? Do I set aside time each week to go to a dance class instead of a yoga class? Do i start going back to the poetry slam again at the expense of the one night off my partner and I have together [he is not a fan of the slam]? Do I stay out and celebrate a friend's birthday when I teach a morning class the next day [the answer to that one is a resounding no]? Adult choices are hard! And these are relatively childish adult choices.

We change so much in such relatively short periods of time, it makes a lady wonder who she really is. Just a couple of years ago, I was serving drinks at a cheesy glow-in-the-dark bowling alley and pool bar in heels and miniskirts, and now you're lucky if you see me with anything other than yoga clothes on. [Heels are painful! What was I thinking?] Ironically enough, the savings I made from shaking my little booty while carrying 3 pitchers of beer in each hand paid for my yoga teacher training. [i think the tray carrying was also the beginning of the massive yoga triceps i have now. Trust me. Huge.]

So--Viveka. Which of these thoughts and desires are weeds, and which are the delicate flowers that need to be watered? How much can I express myself as an individual [poet, dancer] and also uphold the trust in the relationships I have with people and the world [partner, teacher, business owner]? Well I guess I sure have a lot of questions. I think for a lot of us it's a bit scary to stare down that abyss of questions, many of which simply don't have answers yet.

So as I peer down the horizon of my 27th year, the best I can do is try to remember why I am doing what I do--the core values that colour my intentions day to day. A big one for me is freedom: the freedom to think for myself, act for myself, and empower my students to make their own choices and gather the tools to make a work of art of their own lives.

But another intention is love. The freedom of the individual self reeling away from responsibility is not an individual filled with love. Love requires work, boundaries, and the support of a consistent community (and sometimes a partner who needs me, too). Love requires relinquishing the selfish illusion of freedom and finding a freedom that instead gives us enough to share with the people we love and make the world around us better in some way.

So, in conclusion, I still don't know who I am at 27, but I am getting a little clearer on how I am: in as few words as possible, eternally: working on it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yin times

I am one of those people that will tend to plan her day so much that I've forgotten to schedule in lunch. I do this all the time, actually, taking on as many projects as I can in between work, play, friends, and family. Boredom is the thing I fear absolutely the most. When I was a kid, I remember, I was so afraid of being bored that I made a list that I kept in my room of things I could do if i got bored. "Play with Barbies. Call a friend. Easy-Bake something. Smash head against wall." These were quite literally lifelines so that I never had to be still. When I was about 14, I had a summer off, and I was bored, so I made a play. I chose it ["The Ugly Duckling" by A.A. Milne], bought the rights to use it, cast it, directed it, rented a stage and rehearsal space, put it on, and made something like 24 bucks in profit.

It's pretty cool that I made a play when I was 14, but when I think about it, it's such a perfect example of how ridculously type A I am [you wouldn't have wanted to know me before yoga] but also, I think, this is indicative of the kind of world we live in all the time: a very Yang world, very active, fiery, and full of stress. Great fun indeed, but I often come home at the end of the day feeling like the end of a hungry, frayed rope.

Over the past week, I have been participating in a Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Bernie Clark at Semperviva on Granville Island. We wake up at the crack of 5:30 for a 2 hour Yin practice and then long lectures on anatomy, the energy body, meditation, the history of yoga and the religions that shaped it (Hinduism, Tantra, Buddhism, Zen etc). It's been delicious, and feeling absolutely indulgent. I have loved the meditative, passive practice of Yin since I discovered it a couple of years ago, but I have never had the chance to do it every single day for a week.

And man, my hips feel WEIRD. But also, I think, this training has been teaching me a lot about being still and resting. We need stress to live, says Bernie. The problem in the west is not that we have too much stress, but that we never rest.

I've taken the week off from Vinyasa yoga (excpet for teaching) so that I can experience softness and stillness for awhile in my own body. And if you read my last post, you may have noticed that I've been getting particularly frustrated with my practice recently and feeling like my chaturanga doesn't look right, my arms are not strong enough, and getting angry that I can't do certain poses. The whole point of Yin is to go where your body will go naturally, accept that place, and just be with it. We spent many hours talking about the innumerable variations within the human skeleton, and the major thing we learned is that you cannot know what someone is feeling by looking at them. And yoga is not about what you look like, it's what you feel like. Yin is empowering me in my practice again with these principles of stillness and acceptance, so I've been spending time walking more slowly, talking more slowly, eating thick, luxurious 10% yogurt and adding more butter to everything, sitting in meditation, watching Planet Earth with my man. Next week will be the real challenge: can I integrate more stillness and less compulsive filling of time into my daily life when 2 hours of Yin is not planned in?

Anyway I think this post is long enough for now--more later, but until then, I will leave you with this Yin/Yang Prayer:

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
he courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.” -- St. Francis

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why am I doing this?

This is a question I ask my students a fair amount in my yoga classes. Usually in this context: "If this is feeling good, try putting your foot behind your head. If that hurts, ask yourself why you are doing it!"

But this becomes a bigger question for me sometimes as well: why am I doing this? Why am I teaching yoga? And why do I practice yoga? This thing, this spiritual practice or exercise regime, whatever you want to think of it as, has become my entire life--everything I do is a part of my yoga, and that question comes up all the time, you know, like, a) why do I drink so much wine? Or b) why will I stay home tonight and watch movies instead of go to my friend's party? [answers include a) because I LOVE it and b) because I'd rather teach a good class tomorrow morning)

Well one of the reasons I am doing this is that yoga has helped me to deal with a lifetime of issues with anxiety and many difficult periods in my life. Yoga has made me feel strong when I haven't been, and its showed me that my body was capable of things that I didn't think were possible, so it gave me the hope that everything is possible. It's just yoga, sure, and that's important to remember when we as teachers worry too much about what our students think of us. But at the same time yoga has been a sacred thing to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.

And I think the direction yoga in Vancouver is going is kind of...interesting. There seems to be a lot of emphasis lately on what I've been calling 'celebrity poses': forearm stand, handstand, scorpion, crow pose and its variations, and all kinds of other arm balances. Now, don't get me wrong, I love those poses, I love inverting, and figuring out how to do them to the degree I have has afforded me a lot of self confidence. But everyone's body is different [and let's be honest, many of these poses are easier for a man's upper body strength and higher centre of gravity] and those aren't the poses that made me fall in love with yoga. I didn't even know what they WERE until about a year ago.

I should also be clear that I am no last bastion for classical yoga in the West--I'm a pretty Western yogi, and I'm all about doing whatever works for you. But I can't help but get the feeling that something is getting lost in some of these classes that have been about 5% core, 80% arm balancing, and 15% sun saluting, especially when I leave the room feeling...weak, small, skinny, powerless, and worse, injured from trying to do a pose my body wasn't ready for. I may be a teacher now, but I still offer myself up to my teachers as a student to create all that magic I've relied on for years now.

And then I realized and compassion are really difficult to feel when you are angry at yourself and frustrated because you can't do something other people can! Love and compassion often are accompanied by a feeling of power, and powerlessness makes it a lot easier to be bitter and hateful.

Well THAT's interesting. And something I'm going to need to work on. And for this work, I will head to those teachers that have that amazing talent of making me feel awesome no matter what I can do. [Hey Ego! Oh, good to know you're still here!] And thank goodness, there are lots of those teachers in this city too. Love and compassion. And biceps. Here I come.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

how to be an adult

When exactly does one become an adult? I sort of think you are pushed into it on some level when you leave the soft comforting womb of school. When I moved away from Montreal and my Master's degree in English Literature, my plan was to become a bartender and a bellydancer. That was the plan. It failed pretty completely, but landed me somewhere else entirely--I am now a full time yoga teacher and I own half of an awesome yoga studio on Commercial Drive [].

Last night I had this recurring dream again--that I was in the halls of my old high school. I can never remember my class schedule (this is similar to yoga teaching-thank Gs for google cal), so I wander around looking for the room I am supposed to be in. Each one looks like it could be my classroom--the faces and the material looks familiar, but I'm not entirely sure it's where I've been slotted, not sure it's the one I've chosen.

Now my dreams can be quite intense sometimes, and quite hilariously obvious in their metaphors. I once was going through a breakup, and I dreamt that someone put a steak knife in my heart. So.

This dream, I think, is about figuring out the difference between what you chose and what someone else chose for you. And going in a certain direction that seems right, but you are never really sure if you've made it to the right place.

School gives you this feeling like you have very specific goals to work towards and a very specific timeline on how it's all going to pan out. Life, adult life, I suppose, is not so much like that. When you have a job, even one you are lucky enough to adore, and you are just doing your best day to day, it's weird to think about what you should be doing in your downtime. Like, now that you don't have a math test on Tuesday and an English paper due in two weeks, what are you supposed to be preparing for? School is also a great way of not having to decide exactly what it is you want to do. People are always telling you who to be in that situation. In fact, I think a lot of us probably feel like people are telling us who to be all the time. I guess that decision, that Ultimate Question: who am I and what should i be doing? carries a hell of a lot of responsibility.

Well, luckily, my dream last night gave me a really good answer to these eternal questions. Through all the stress of what was going on in the dream, a cat appeared at a window and stared at me for a long time like it had something to tell me. Suddenly the curtain waved in the wind and the answer came to me...


Seriously. I told you my dreams were obvious.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Well, it's been awhile..

And I feel like that has pretty much been the title of my last 5 or so posts. Its been a while indeed, but I think it's time to return to my blog because things have changed a lot since I last wrote in and, well, I sorta miss it. It's just nice to have a place to sort out your thoughts every now and then, and whether or not anyone reads it, well, let's live in a little self-indulgence for once.

So indeed things have changed. Let's start here--I am now a yoga teacher, and have been teaching yoga full time for over a year now. I also own a little studio on Commercial Drive with my lovely and amazing partner Coco []. I think about yoga a lot and maybe if I write about it here, my nearest and dearest will get a break from my yammering on. And there is SO MUCH I want to talk about!

I think I'll start, though, with a class I took yesterday with the lovely Sjanie McInnis, an Anusara Inspired yoga teacher at Yaletown YYOGA. She started off the class with this story--this weekend, she said, there were tons of great yoga events happening. And she didn't go to any of them. She went to the beach instead. SJanie went on to theme the class on desire, mature, adult desire, and the need to stop punishing yourself with 'shoulds' that just end up ruining your day. Because being at the beach with your partner is an awesome way to celebrate life, and what else are we here for? To follow some prescription of a life we are supposed to be living rather than the one we want? Well honestly I don't know.

I was lucky to run into Sjanie yesterday because I think I really needed to hear that message. I'm one of those people that likes to be busy all the time, have a million projects on the go, and be in a constant state of accomplishment. It gets stressful and I get tired, but i am actually a little afraid of what happens when I stop.

Sjanie was talking about how our culture is in this new paradigm now where we are richer and freer than we have ever been before, and a lot of us are filled with options in a way that even our parent's generation had no idea about. We are stuck with this anxiety of choice--how do we fill our time? Who do we really want to be? That is a hard question, actually, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I am in many ways exactly where I want to be right now--I am doing what I love and [i think] what I am good at, and I have an awesome little studio in a great neighborhood that is creating a community of people that are excellent. So what do I do with my time off, when I've done what I can for the studio and I've done my teaching for the day?

Um, start up my blog again, I guess.