It’s true that Yoga has become quite a popular activity in North America. I will refrain from using the term ‘fad’, as that is something which comes into popularity quickly, and leaves just as readily, but the yoga culture shows no signs of going anywhere. It is also apparent that there are many companies who have cashed in on the yoga following, with yoga clothing (I must make mention of yoga jeans…not sure how I feel about that idea yet), pricey yoga mats and towels, yoga props and the list goes on and on… Despite all this, the popularity of yoga makes me happy, knowing that people are becoming more aware of their health and fitness, and perhaps in time creating a greater mind, body and spirit connection.

For those that are interested in getting into yoga, I suggest doing some research on the studio and/or teacher to ensure they have a credible background and training…especially in Toronto, where there is a yoga studio or two or three in every neighbourhood. One of the best options is to purchase a Passport to Prana, which costs about $30 and allows you to attend one class at any participating studios in Toronto before the yearly expiry date. If you’re willing to do some trekking around the city (and possibly explore a new neighbourhood at the same time), this is one of the most cost-effective ways to satisfy that yoga craving!

I have often been asked about what yoga DVDs are good or what I can recommend in that regard. I can honestly say I’m not so familiar with the plethora of yoga and pilates DVDs which are out there. Most of the feedback that I do get from those who use them at home is that they tire of them very quickly. I have a few suggestions to remedy this…

1. My Yoga Online: This site does require a monthly membership fee in order to do more than sample the videos, but for those that wish to practice and learn in the comfort of their own homes, this site will provide hours, days, weeks of yoga! There are yoga classes of all levels, pilates, meditation, vidoes on healthy living and so much more…Plus the instructors are typically well-known within the yoga community. You can even download classes to your ipod for classes on the go! 

2. Downward Dog: Most people in Toronto interested in yoga have come across or at least heard of Downward Dog. It is the home of Ashtanga Yoga in Toronto AND as I now consider this my second home since completing my training with Ron Reid and Diane Bruni, the founders of the studio. Both have been practicing for close to 30 years! They have since began to post many workshops and classes online. The workshops or ‘Yoga Labs’ are great for anyone looking to further their practice and learn to deepen postures or open hips etc. Explore and enjoy!

3. Padmani: All I can say is she is lovely. I attended her classes while she was teaching in Toronto, combining both Jivamukti and Ashtanga Yoga. Her teaching style is intelligent, articulate and challenging, but her gentle presence and soothing voice makes you feel as if you are floating away on a yoga cloud. Best of all….she has podcasts on her website! As long as you are familiar with the asana practice, you can allow her to guide you through an intelligent practice at home or wherever you choose! I can honestly say, quite a few of her podcasts are on my ipod just for that very reason!!

Lastly, many studios do have student discounts (yes, you actually have to be a student), or karma classes. The karma classes are typically free or a $5 donation and taught by graduates of teacher training programs who are looking to gain experience and exposure….its a win-win situation!

With spring quickly aproaching, I encourage anyone who has not done so already to get out there and check out a class or two, or perhaps challenge yourself to a yoga class in the comfort of your own home!

Enjoy and Namaste…

I believe there is a peaceful warrior which resides within each one of us – One of strength, one of compassion to ourselves and others, a place where we can express our ‘Satvic’ nature or true nature. I have been reading through some of my course notes on Chakras and I found some relevent information which relates to this idea. Here are two key points of relevance…

A fearless yet tender-hearted person who is in balance with both masculine and feminine energies – with both strength and tenderness, wisdom and compassion.

Virabhadranana II - Warrior II

The warrior is one who knows the depths of their own heart and feels the pain of all beings – no feelings are rejected, denied or abused.

There is so much pressure to deny feelings, whether influenced by our families, social group or even culture. The ego, or sacral chakra will begin to compensate for vulnerability, beginning to create more power and protection. This is where we create resistance. Yet, when we surrender to our feelings without judgement, and they are acknowledged and expressed, one becomes stronger, not weaker. It is our challenge to open our hearts, accept our feelings and be fearless in our own compassion. Knowing, feeling and expressing our emotion is good for our health. Our bodies will begin to store any unexpressed emotion (in the liver, pancreas, GI tract etc.) creating discomfort and eventually dis-ease.

In the asana practice, there is a unity between forward bends and back bends, with intent to create a balance of the pranic and apanic flow of the energetic body and equalizing the physical body – the spine being the pillar of support and strength. I’ve since stumbled upon some information to bring a greater light to this idea (Thank you Psychology of Disease!!).

There is often guidance in the physical practice to lift the chest, opening the sternum and therefore opening the heart centre. This is our connection to our passion, forgiveness and love. As we lift our arms, reaching through the hands and fingers, this is the most outward expression of our heart energy, sending out love and compassion. In connection to that, the abdominal muscles are required to either release or contract as is necessary, creating a balance between vulnerability or protection and strength or power.  

The back of the body can be interpreted as the opposite to what was stated above. In forward bends, we are beginning to close off the chest and abdomen, exposing the back line of the body. This is where we find storage of negative emotions, such as fear, anger, pain of the past, guilt, shame, indecision and resentment. This is where we can go inside our emotional selves, feel and connect to these emotions. Here we can create awareness without judgement and we can begin to release these emotions as we exhale each breath.

As we begin to find balance and stability in our physical bodies, we also begin to balance the emotions between positive and negative emotions. Eventually we can move towards a place where we do not judge feeling or emotion as good or bad, remaing stable, grounded, intrinsically in touch with our innermost selves. As life always has its ups and downs, we can strive to connect to the median line, not getting swept away by the emotional turmoil or external chaos.

Connecting to and exploring these ideas keep my passion for yoga ignited. Sometimes when my practice becomes wholly focused on the physical, I can lose that spark. I know that yoga is continuing to challenge and heal my body physically, but being able to remember, and connect to my practice energetically and spiritually, brings me a greater sense of understanding my true nature and perhaps my inner warrior…

How can you connect to these ideas in your own life, or perhaps yoga or meditation practice? Is there any emotion that you are holding on to in your life that isn’t serving you? Can you allow yourself to become a bit more vulnerable and move towards compassion? How are you compassionate towards others? Most importantly, are you compassionate towards yourself?

Blessings on this beautiful sunny day! Peace, peace, peace…

Ahhh…Santosha. One of my favourite Sanskrit words, which combines very nicely with ‘Shanti’, meaning Peace. I can almost feel the release of stress when I say it in my head, or whisper it under my breath. Santosha, meaning ‘contentment’, applies beautifully to both life and the asana or yoga practice. I think we can all benefit from being a little bit more content with where we are in life; financially, physically, location wise etc.

I don’t wish to create too much complication with this blog, discussing Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or all of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Perhaps in time I will, but the reason why I am wishing to stick with a simple word today is like I said; because it is easily digestible and because I’m feeling like I am requiring a little bit more contentment or Santosha in my life at the moment.

Why you ask? In the last few months I’ve decided to go back to school for Holistic Nutrition. It’s Amazing! One of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I am blessed to be with like-minded classmates and excellent teachers which have inspired me thus far on the subjects of Nutrition and the Environment, Fundamentals, Psychology of Disease, and Ayurveda…with more to come! However, along with this decision comes classes, studying, attempts at holding down multiple jobs and little time for my own life and yoga practice. My task at the moment is to find a bit of contentment amidst the chaos. I have to remember that this is the process to get me to the next stage in my life. It is easy to pinpoint the times when we are not content, as we have the tendency to look too far a head or perhaps look too far in the past, looking for memories when we were content, or ways in which we imagine ourselves to be content in the future.

This is all too relevent as we are within the first few days of March and I’m feeling a bit antsy. The weather is still a bit chilly here in Toronto, but the sunshine is proving to lighten our spirits a little bit. Still, my mind drifts back to last year when I was in Mexico for the month of March (and most of April), completing my Yoga Teacher Training Program. The days were filled with an early morning meditation practice, asana practice, anatomy classes and workshops, yoga philosophy and of course as much sand and sunshine as we could get our hands on. 

"Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodha"

So as life gets a bit too hectic here at this time, I struggle to keep focused on the moment, on the tast at hand. Instead my mind drifts back to a time when perhaps I was more content, in a pleace where it was easier to be in the moent… with my feet in the warm sand, chanting ‘Om’ along with the ocean waves and soaking in the gorgeous hot sun. I am working on accepting that this year I am not able to travel to a place which warmed my heart, but try and bring that love, excitement and warmth here and incorporate it into my daily life. Finding Santosha allows for a letting go of fears, anxieties, worries and a deep and beautiful grounding into the present moment…here and now

Who am I? I’m still trying to find that out myself. Perhaps I’m a bit of a wanderer, a restless soul trying to find my grounding along the path of life. My journey has taken me to many places and locations, always searching for guidance, answers and inspiration. Currently my path is dedicated to Ashtanga Yoga, Usui Reiki, and most recently Holistic Nutrition. This blog is about my own journey and learning to appreciate the process of growth and overcoming of obstacles, thus gradually unfolding all the layers of the sacred lotus. I hope to inspire and share some insight as I learn, stumble, and hopefully find some comic relief throughout the human experience of this life.

Namaste