April: Asteya

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Asteya has been a really interesting limb to focus on for me. It requires much more discernment than I’d had to use than with ahimsa or satya. I actually relied a lot on satya to point me in the right direction much of the time.

The third of the Yamas is Asteya which translates to non stealing. In my teacher training, my teacher explained it as not taking what is not earned or given to you. Of course this manifests in the physical realms- don’t steal objects from stores or people- but it also manifests in an energetic sense. This is the aspect I found most interesting this month. Not stealing people’s time & energy- not taking what isn’t mine and not letting others steal my time & energy.

ON THE MAT ASTEYA PRACTICE

I’ve been practicing asteya on my mat in two ways. The first is that I’m not trying to force myself to be on my mat at a certain time. I’ve allowed myself a freedom of time and space that doesn’t feel like yoga has been something to check off of my list. Of course- it depends where you are at in your life when t comes to this. If you have 4 kids running around and you have to schedule in your yoga time then this too is practicing asteya! This is where the discernment piece comes in. I found myself leaning to satya (if you haven’t read March’s limb satya, I’ll link it here) to figure out whether I was really having my time & energy ‘stolen’ by busing myself with something else or my thoughts. Trying to figure out the truth of the situation allowed me to see whether I was avoiding yoga practice or whether it was something I was using to avoid something else.

This became a back and forth of ‘I practice to support my best self’- practicing asteya on the mat meant I was able to arrive there entirely, without leaving part of myself with another task or person.

The second way I’ve been practicing it on the mat is within my thoughts. What am I giving my energy to? Is it necessary to be expending that thought or energy right now, during my sacred practice? The mind is very good at wandering. At squandering your sense of peace on things to keep it busy. I’ve been trying to not allow myself to slip into worry or fear while on my mat- in my ‘time’ for practice.

OFF THE MAT ASTEYA PRACTICE

Off the mat asteya tends to be a bit more difficult. I like to plan and I also like to wing it- but how can you ensure you are getting the most out of your time and other people’s time? I often wonder, am I taking up their time or do they have something else they’d rather/should be doing other than being here with me?

We are all so. busy. But how much of that ‘busy’ is just stolen energy or time, expended on things that don’t end up serving your purpose anyway?

I personally, end up sucking my own time where I don’t need to. This past month, the that students i’m tutoring were leaving on break. I compiled this worksheet document to keep them academically growing while they were away. I spent maybe an hour and a half on it. Do you think they completed it? No. There was no reason for me to put my energy into that- I ended up taking away my own energy, my own prana, on something I pretty well knew wasn’t going to be fruitful anyway. It was no one else’s fault and no one ‘sucked my time’- it was me. In the end, there are no time suckers or energy thieves-We make the choice to give what we give, to expend what we expend. We ultimately control how much we put out there, no one forces you to give up your energy (except maybe if you’re a mama or dad!!).

Practicing asteya off the mat simply means being in tune with what is yours to keep and yours to give.

Next month (MAY) is brahmacharya which translates to conservation or moderation(or more traditionally celibacy)- so it should be an interesting one!

xx

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Packing Guide: Minimal Backpacking

I recently went on my first trip where I brought no suitcase. It was absolutely life changing. Not carrying so much stuff with me was quite liberating and made travel so much easier. It was a 2 week trip and I brought this 22L Northface backpack. I have a bad back-scoliosis & spinal fusion- so I needed something with really great back support and weight distribution. I love. love. love. this backpack. Its one of my most favourite things I’ve ever bought. backpacking1

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In terms of clothes, for a two week trip, this is what I brought:

  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 t shirt
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of black yoga leggings
  • 1 plain dress
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 bralette & 1 underwire bra
  • underware

This was along with 1 pair of flexible running shoes & 1 pair of flip flops! It was MORE than enough and I ended up re-wearing much of it easily.

I found it most difficult to cut down my toiletries. Truth is, we don’t need as many toiletries as we tend to think. After working on this blog, I ended up taking a shower and FORGETTING many of the things I thought were essential in there!! I traveled for 2 weeks with no razor, conditioner or body wash. While I wasn’t exactly ‘clean shaven’, I survived, and you know what? I felt great.

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  • Dove original deodorant
  • Tarte blush & brush
  • Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Mascara
  • Venus Razor
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies to Roll ‘Travel’
  • Rituals Travel Size Sakura Shampoo
  • Rituals Travl Size Spirit of Hammam body cream
  • Diva Cup (just in case!)

Also, quite hilariously, when my friend and I got to the Amsterdam Airport and went through security, I was stopped. What was suspicious in my bag? My Diva Cup !!! The agent, who was a woman, opened my toiletries bag and my little bag I keep the cup in and said ‘what is this?!’. When I told her it was a menstrual cup she quickly closed it and let me go. Hah!

I had initially packed my bras, underware & toiletries together. However, going through airport security multiple times, I quickly realized that my toiletry bag (the lips one!) would have to stay out and at the top of my pack- as it had all my liquids and I would have to remove it each time!

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Finally, came all my extras. I brought all these things EXCEPT for my big camera. I thought about it and thought about it and eventually decided that I didn’t want the anxiety of it getting broken or lost. Its also quite heavy and would have required much more ‘effort’ to lug around. In the end, I’m pretty pleased with my decision logistic wise- I didn’t have to worry about being careful with my bag or where it was going to fit- however, now I wish I had some of the pictures it could have taken!!! Backpacking, I found, is a real negotiation of comfort and luxury. Its prioritizing based on what matters to YOU and for this trip, ease of mobility was more important than bringing the camera. I ended up only taking pictures with my iphone- which works just fine!

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  • travel yoga mat by MANDUKA
  • Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho
  • Travel Journal
  • Super absorbant Microfibre Antibacterial Travel Towel (This was a life saver)

More on the trip in later posts- we traveled through the Netherlands & Greece and I have lots of pictures and stories to share!

xx

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March: Satya

satya- (1).jpgI’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for what feels like forever. March was a chaotic month for me and it lasted 5 weeks instead of the usual 4! This month’s focus was Satya- the second of the Yamas in Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. Looking at this one has been really difficult this month as it translates to TRUTH or HONESTY.

What is true in your life? Which thoughts are true and which thoughts are fear based or ego driven? How much do we spin stories about what ‘could’ be or what ‘should’ be instead of what is?

For myself, I’ve been looking at satya as more of a mental health practice than a ‘have I told this person the truth’. It’s a really good tool for checking in with your thoughts and seeing where you are telling yourself ‘stories’, and then returning back to the now.

We all have this compass engrained within us to know what our true self would need, it’s about sifting through the bullsh*#@ to find it.

In the end, satya looked like me ‘changing my mind’ a lot. And thats okay. I wrote a post on Instagram about how frustrated I was with the question ‘are you being kind to yourself?’. Sometimes, honesty isn’t exactly kind or nice. Sometimes Its about facing the truth in order to grow and honor your soul.

ON THE MAT SATYA PRACTICE

In order to practice satya when I step on my yoga mat, I’ve been committing myself to completing a full body scan (10-15 minutes) before practice and then after practice. A body scan is where you either sit of lay (but if you are laying don’t fall asleep!) and mentally move through each part of the body, relaxing muscle by muscle and noticing what is going on in that particular part. There is no judgement. Only observation. I start with my toes and slowly work my way up.

Are the toes tense or relaxed? How do the ankles feel? Are the calves resting or active? and so on until you get the crown of your head.

Why complete this? It helps you slow down and connect with the body before asana. It helps you decipher what is true in the body/mind and what is false. Having scoliosis- I tend to feel like my alignment is incredibly uncentered, when truly it isn’t. My mind views my body different than what it is in reality. My right hip is too high. The left side of my ribs are sinking- These are all things I start to think at the beginning of my practice. I notice. Then, when I body scan before Savasana, it is changed into mind awareness. My body is here and it is doing all the work I need it to.

The TRUTH of the body, is that it tries it’s hardest for you every moment. You are here now in this life- feeling and creating feeling. Whether you are chronically ill, suffer from structural or functional disorders or simply have monkey mind- you are here, and that is truth.

OFF THE MAT SATYA PRACTICE

This is the trickier part. Life has a way of providing several paths or ways of seeing things. Sometimes, our mind persuades us to believe things that aren’t true. You can’t do that. You aren’t beautiful. You aren’t worthy. We tell ourselves these stories at different junctions in our lives and they become misleading-so very misleading. Satya is about looking at what is true. Not berating yourself with it- but understanding that in truth there is a bit of peace.

Off the mat, I ask myself ‘Is that true’ and if it is I go on with my day. For all the chatter we have in our minds on the daily, I think its important when a seed of doubt gets planted to ask ‘is that true’? Doubt isn’t very factual- when faced with honesty it either dissipates or you move in an entirely different direction. Whenever a feeling of doubt or insecurity arises trigger yourself to ask ‘is that thought true’, and then move on.

or try to. Sometimes it’s not that simple, we are human after all.

Most of all, enjoy the peace that comes with this practice. I’ve found satya hard but rewarding to focus on. I feel much more grounded in self or whatever concept of self I have.

xx

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The Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz, France

While I can’t say that Metz is my favourite city I’ve ever visited, I can say with a huge degree of honesty that it holds my most favourite cathedral, which makes this a travel story that I must tell.

The train to Metz cost more than I thought and seemed to be a little bit longer too, but was made fun by the lovely ladies I was traveling with. It was a dreary, rainy Saturday in February that we decided to go and boy, did we make a mistake in not brining a map. We got off the train, starving and ready to be tourists in France. Only we ended up going the wrong way from the train station and walking about 20 minutes AWAY from the tourist part of town we had wanted to be in. Lost and turned around, sopping wet from the soggy rain, we went walking up and down the same street, trying to figure out which way we had gone wrong. Eventually, after speaking some broken french to a stranger and realizing that he too was directing us in the wrong way, we made it to the part of town we had wanted to be in.

It was adorable, with lots of shopping and places to stop and pick up pastries or meringues.But the absolute best part of the day was the cathedral. Now, before this trip I had never heard of Metz or this cathedral. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.

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Nicknamed ‘The Lantern of God’ (and rightly so), Metz Cathedral is known for its ***fantastic*** stain glass windows & gothic architecture. Walking in, I was absolutely amazed. Even on this rainy, ugly day the colour from the windows was glinting everywhere.  The high ceilings and archways are enough to make you feel as big as an ant, but paired with the colourful glass windows and I was speechless.

metz5metz3 If anyone reading this has seen disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame- I felt like singing ‘God Help the Outcasts’ like Esmerelda in front of the stain glass. (then again, i’ve always wanted to be Esmerelda so maybe thats not such an odd thing for me)

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All in all, if you happen to be in the Lorraine region of France any time soon, it is WELL WORTH the trip to Metz for the cathedral.

It will forever be one of my most favourite churches I’ve ever seen.

February: Ahimsa & Valentine’s Day

ahimsaFebruary, whether we like it or not, is the month of mushy gushies and candy hearts. It is unavoidable for those who are heartbroken and oh so accessible for those who are hopelessly in love. The truth of it all though, is that love rules our lives whether it’s February 14th or not.

We are all products of an act of great love.

In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, ahimsa is the very first yama- making complete sense because, as life teaches, after an initial act of love, all the other work begins. Ahimsa, or loving kindness and non-violence, is the first ‘step’ to creation, manifestation and spiritual fulfillment.

This year, I’ve been trying to look at Valentine’s day and February in general as ‘ahimsa’ month (not that it should be limited to one month- i’m just focusing especially on it!) I’ve been devoting myself to moments of love, both on and off the mat. I must say, it’s not easy- especially when the internal voice turns toward condemnation and judgement. However, as love is the catalyst for all other ‘work’, I’m trusting that a month (or a few days if you want) focused on loving kindness will bring that creative energy, manifest some dreams and bring some peace. ahimsa3.jpg

ON THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

If you are hoping for a generalized asana practice here, you won’t be finding it. Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, benefit all humans differently and I don’t believe my ahimsa asana practice is the perfect fit for everyone. Ahimsa is about tuning into yourself and finding your true path of self love- that may be a rigorous asana practice OR a softer one.

Instead, here I offer a few ways to find that connection with the self- so you may discern what is best for your body. These modes of connection will come in the form of pranayama (breath) and guided exploration. I practice these before my asana practice- they help bring more love to the movement, truly making it a ‘yoga’ practice and not simply a good stretch.

Dirga Pranayama: 3 Part Breath: Yogic Breath

  1. come to comfortable position- this may be seated or reclined, however if reclined try not to fall asleep! 🙂
  2. Breathe normally, as you were before coming to this practice. No restrictions, no ‘trying’.  How does the breath feel? Is it fast? Slow? Warm or cool? Bring your awareness to it in observation- never judgement- and know that this flow is what keeps you moving, thinking, ‘being’ all day.
  3. Bring your hands- one to your low belly and one to your chest (if comfortable). Allow the inhale breath to flow deep into the belly. Fill your entire belly with air then, once full, allow that air to begin filling the lungs – keeping the belly full still. Once both belly and lungs are full, bring the air (if possible) to the throat or collar bones. How does your body feel when it is this ‘expanded’? is there discomfort? is there energy?
  4. Begin to exhale slowly, letting the collar ‘deflate’ first, then the chest, then the belly. How does the body feel now? Take a moment in the space in between to notice.
  5. Repeat this, brining awareness to different aspects of the breath, the body and of course, your thoughts. Bring as much love and acceptance to the practice as possible, perhaps repeating some sort of mantra for every repetition. I’ve been using the mantra ” AHAM PREMA” meaning ‘I am divine love” (which we all are). I internally repeat it in those moments of space in between breath ‘action’ (between inhale and exhale).
  6. When you have practiced to your limit, with ease, come back to your natural breath. What is different from the list you took at the beginning? What do you notice? Give yourself thanks and slowly, and oh-so lovingly, come to your asana practice.

OFF THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

This month I have allowed myself an abundance of time to do one thing a day that I thoroughly enjoy and am able to connect to a deeper sense of myself within. This usually takes a creative form- writing or painting or cooking. Some believe ahimsa to mean non-violence to all creatures big or small off the mat- which I believe as well however, I also don’t think vegetarianism and veganism is all that accessible to every single person.

Off that mat ahimsa has to do with intention. What is the intention you are preforming this task with. Is your intention violent towards yourself- are you doing it to just get it over with or to escape some perceived ‘ugly’ part of yourself? or is your intention loving- you are doing it to deepen some sense of self understanding or connection? Your entire day can’t consist of this- mine certainly can’t. We all have to do things we don’t ‘want to do’ or that doesn’t necessarily bring ‘us closer to ourselves’. We have to work and take care of our families and so on… however, I’ve been taking one thing per day (outside of ‘yoga’) that brings in that little bit of love light. Whether its 5 minutes before bed or when you wake up- take a little ahimsa time- something that brings you a little closer to loving kindness for yourself.

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