Grasp the universe

I started reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan last night. It’s not my usual summer reading (I typically go with Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, and other light-hearted non-thinking-ness), so I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it – at least for the moment it’s an enjoyable read.

It’s certainly brainy and will make me learn about science (astronomy in particular), but it’s more than just science. I’m impressed with how Sagan contextualizes the universe and brings in a human side.

I anticipated being wow-ed by exponential numbers (10 billion is a lot of zeros!) and awestruck by the scope of the cosmos… but before starting I hadn’t realized that I’ll also be pausing at some of Sagan’s insightful and memorable quotes.

Case in point:

It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

– Carl Sagan

If you’re looking for some fine summer reading, take a look at the Summer Reading Flowchart. A hundred and one book recommendations, all packed into a brilliant flowchart!

The end of June celebrations

Today is the end of my birthday month, which I suppose means that I need to stop celebrating turning 33.

Turning 33 is a big deal for me, because I’ve kinda been 32 since I was 26. When I was in the corporate world and people would ask how old I was, I said 32 – settling on that as the age where others would stop thinking of me as ‘too young’ to do my job. Of course, these people were uncouth enough to ask my age, so maybe they were ‘too shallow’ for me to worry what they thought.

It’s easy to do a life assessment around birthdays and I enjoy thinking about how much I’ve changed in a year.

I turned 32 still working in the corporate world. Dealing with the fallout from overextending myself in a job that I didn’t like with an organization whose values don’t align with mine. Worried about myriad things beyond my control, but unable to restrain my A-type self enough to let go.

I turned 33 pursuing being a full-time yoga teacher. There’s a different kind of stress there (will students like my classes? how will I ever get paid enough to make this worth it?), but teaching through four fabulous studios (Bound Lotus, Vancouver CorporateBody Harmony, and Om Prem – check my schedule for when and where I’m teaching) means interacting with wonderful students and sharing my enjoyment for teaching and practicing yoga.

33 feels like a year of moving forward. Who knows what turning 34 will be like? I am getting better at letting life evolve and find myself hearing the words of a former prof from library school….

All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

I totally cheat at yoga

This article about being a Yoga sinner from Recovering Yogi really stuck a cord with me. The author/yoga teacher suggests doing yoga poses while watching trashy TV (Millionaire Matchmaker, to be precise) and her student responds: ”Doesn’t that kind of go against the idea of yoga?”

I think the idea of yoga depends a lot on the motivation behind it.

Some people practice yoga almost purely for physical reasons, some find spiritual solace or emotional well-being. Some just like the chance to lay still in relaxation at the end of a class without anyone poking them. These motivations vary greatly, can change frequently, and certainly affect how students practice.

For example: I generally like tuning into my breathing, letting my brain quiet, and connecting with my body during a yoga practice. Recently, however, I’ve been feeling off and haven’t been comfortable dwelling in my own head. A quiet meditative yoga practice will not work for me right now – I need something to get me out of my thoughts. So I’ve been ‘cheating’ and doing gentle yin postures at home while listening to Vinyl Cafe podcasts.

I’m getting the physical benefits of stretching and relaxing my muscles, but instead of coming into a meditative state (which probably wouldn’t happen right now anyway), I get to escape into the Vinyl Cafe world and laugh hysterically as Stuart recounts Dave’s adventures taking care of six dogs. I suppose I could even call it laughter yoga 😉

‘Cheating’ and being comfortable in my yoga practice is far more important than trying to force myself into something that isn’t going to work.

A dear friend gave me an awesome magnet a while back (shown on the side of our fridge above) that says “I totally cheat at yoga.” It reminds me to wholeheartedly embrace that idea and ensure my practice suits whatever motivation is getting me onto the mat in the first place!

Trifling aesthetics

Stubbly armpits, mis-matched socks, chipped toenail polish, discordant top & bottoms, scaly heels, unshaven legs… all things that as a yoga student make me self-conscious; all things that as a yoga teacher I don’t notice about students.

It hardly even registers if the leg I’m adjusting is in-between waxes or if there’s a blinding clash between pieces of clothing – and I certainly don’t think that anyone takes their practice less seriously or is less committed when I do notice these supposed faux pas! (Side note… is there a plural to ‘faux pas?’)

I suspect most yoga teachers are the same and care more that students are practicing, than whether they look like they stepped out of a Lululemon ad. Good teachers will be checking if students are engaging the right muscles and not endangering their joints, rather than critiquing personal grooming or clothing choice.

As long as a student’s basic hygiene is okay and their clothing isn’t insanely revealing (even teachers can get distracted by nip slips) or constricting, anything goes. Don’t feel bad about coming to a yoga class wearing hole-y sweatpants or with Julia-Roberts-inspired armpits … just get to practice!

And don’t let a sweat-marked shirt make you feel awkward stretching your arms above your head. Odd are good that the teacher won’t even notice and other students are likely more too focused on their own practice (or their own sweaty armpits) to notice what’s going on with you.

These things are just trifling aesthetics… although that doesn’t mean I haven’t allowed my own less-than-smooth armpits to keep me from fully coming into a pose. I’m still a student after all 🙂

Balancing

Despite the change in weather and return of the rain, I’m no longer feeling the unsettledness of Spring. My plea to bring the balance worked!

Somehow, the warmer nights and a string of dry sunny days have brought me a sense of equilibrium. I’m feeling less drawn to twisting and side bending poses in my yoga practice and while planning the classes I teach. Balancing postures (including tree, pictured at right) have taken the place of those side bends and twists.

I’ve been battling a low-grade cold that’s taken up residence in my head, so it’s a bit strange that I’m inclined to do balancing postures when my sense of balance is compromised by blocked ears. But something about balancing postures is calling to me loud and clear right now.

Tree (vrksasana), warrior III (virabhadrasana III), eagle (garudasana), standing splits (urdhva prasarita eka padasana), half moon (ardha chandrasana), dancer (natarajasana)… these are the poses I keep finding myself holding in my personal practice and the ones I’m being drawn to as I plan my classes.

Starting next week, Autumn is taking over the Wednesday night hatha and core flow class at Body Harmony. I’ll miss teaching that class, but will be back teaching with a core-centric focus on June 21 when I take over Rachel’s 4:30pm class at Body Harmony.

If you’re also feeling a sense of equilibrium – or if you’re looking to find it! – check out my schedule and come join me for a balanced (and balancing!) class.

Stop being unhappy with yourself

Randi from Samana Wellness posted the image below (originally from Just Smileology on Tumblr) yesterday and it resonated with that perpetual need to overcome self-doubt. On a beautiful sunny day, when the weather feels supremely confident, it feels very appropriate.

I’ve added capital letters and more punctuation because I couldn’t stand typing it out otherwise. That’s one of those quirks I love about myself 😉

Hey you.

Yes, you.

Stop being unhappy with yourself. You are perfect.

Stop wishing you looked like someone else or wishing people liked you as much as they like someone else.

Stop trying to get attention from those who hurt you.

Stop hating your body, your face, your personality, your quirks. Love them. Without those things you wouldn’t be you. And why would you want to be anyone else?

Be confident with who you are.

Smile. It’ll draw people in.

If anyone hates on you because you are happy with yourself, then you stick your middle finger in the air and say “Screw it.”

My happiness will not depend on others anymore.

I’m happy because I love who I am. I love my flaws. I love my imperfections. They make me ‘me.’ And ‘me’ is pretty amazing.

Here’s hoping that everyone finds that amazing confidence to love themselves just the way they are!

Bring the balance

Maybe it’s because it’s the start of Spring or maybe it’s because the weather has been franticly changing (sun, hail, wind, rain, and back to sun within an hour)… whatever the cause, I’m feeling unbalanced.

I’ve noticed that I’m sub-consciously trying to bring myself into balance by doing lots of side bends and twists in my yoga practice. Stretching my rib cage, spiraling my spine, sinking into the sometimes forgotten muscles along my side body… and, of course, the poses I lean towards in my personal yoga practice generally spill over into the classes I teach.

So look forward to more of a side-body focus in my classes until the weather settles down and things come back into balance again. Take a look at my teaching schedule to see when you can join me for a twisting, side bending class.

Coincidentally, the title of this post is the name of my friend Tim’s company. Bring the Balance is the home of Tim’s adventures teaching and practicing yoga, meditation, reflexology, and reiki. I’ve had the honour of doing two yoga teacher trainings with Tim and he’s a truly amazing person. Check out his website (including his ever-interesting blog!) and learn more about his integrated healing practices.