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.

ahimsa

Travel Guide: Trier, Germany

Across the Luxembourg border is a town called Trier- the oldest roman city in Germany. I was drawn to going for its easy travel (one hour from Luxembourg by train), history and shopping. I loved it from the moment I arrived- the train station is only 10 minutes away from the centre, making it super easy to walk down. The place I stopped into (as usual) was the info centre. Usually in every town theres an info centre either in the train station or in the city centre. I got a map and a list of tourist activities and I was on my way. trier2

The first place I hit was right beside the info centre and was one of the oldest places in the city. The Porta Nigra is a huge Roman city gate built out of sandstone between 186-200 AD. It was given its’s name ‘Porta Nigra’ (latin for ‘black gate) in the middle ages however the true Roman name for the gate has been lost in time. What I found most amazing was that the gate would have been taken apart stone by stone for building materials in the 11th century if not for a Greek hermit monk named Simeon who lived in the gate. Previous to living in the gate, Simeon had lived in a cave off the shore of the Red Sea, but left because he was he found he was too often disturbed by other people. I loved hearing the bits and pieces of his story and kept imagining him living in the (freezing) cold gate, alone, all day long.

trier3trier1

The rooms were huge and lonely but absolutely beautiful. Graffiti is carved into the stones, a mix of historical carvings and modern swear words. trier4trier5

trier7trier6One of the other things I lvoed about it was the long hallways and winding stairs. Each area had a long hallways connecting it with huge arched open windows, allowing you to take pictures of the town below. All together the experience cost 4 euros and was well worth it to wander around. Plus the view is fantastic.

trier-9

Next, I went and got myself a real german pretzel ( really great choice by the way) and made my way to the cathedral. On the way I stopped around town mostly because it all looked so cool and colourful. This fountain is in the middle of the square making it a beautiful meeting point for people. For a while I ate my pretzel and watched family and friends meet at the fountain, hugging and speaking german or french.

trier-13Finally I got to the cathedral. Inside it was massive- high ceilings and beautiful artwork. What amazed me most was the organ up on the wall. I would’ve loved to hear it played to know what it sounded like. It was so incredibly massive. trier-12trier-10trier-11

After being a tourist for most of the day, I resigned myself to shopping at T.K Max and some other shops. I got myself a Dunkin Donuts coffee and headed home. It was a great day of solo travel and my very first time going to a new country completely alone. I find travel empowering. It confirms that the crazy things I think I can’t do, I can.

Trier may not be the world’s hottest city to visit but I do recommend if you are in the Luxembourg area or even Germany, that you take a stop, even for a few hours and visit the Porta Nigra & Cathedral. They have beautiful stories attached to their history waiting to be explored.

xx

signature

PACK & PRACTICE: Travel Yoga Essentials

Being that I can fit most of my belongings into a carry on, I thought I would write a yoga essentials on the road post. Now I want to preface this by saying, you don’t need anything to be a yogi on the go. Nothing. None of these things i’m about to show are actually essential. All you need is a body to do yoga on the road. However, things can bring comfort and I know these few yoga related things that I have bring me an immense amount of comfort while being away!

On the Go Yoga Mat

travelessentMy numero uno. My ride or die. I love this yoga mat. I had been researching it for a while before buying and Santa ended up putting it under the tree for me (he/she always knows♥). Previously I owned a Jade Yoga mat- which I really liked- except for how *heavy* it was. Even walking to yoga class down the street was an exercise. It was GREAT for my home practice though!! Anyways- when I moved I ended up downsizing a lot and ended up with no mat.

This Manduka eKo Superlite Travel Yoga Mat is the best thing that ever happened to my yogi traveling butt. I can fold it up to fit in my purse, not even just my carry on but my purse. Its super thin and light but also super grippy. I can move into all aspects of my practice on it. I know you don’t need a mat to practice yoga- at all. But in a time where I feel like I don’t have a true ‘home’, it has really helped to have a little space that is constant & familiar. My mat is like my home- it’s where I come back to myself- and I’m so happy that Manduka made it possible for me to take this feeling of home with me wherever I go.

travelessent2travelessent3travelessent4

Books & Yoga Journal

I brought a few books in physical copy that I simply can’t live without. Now warning, they aren’t tiny and they did make it so that my carry on suitcase was impossibly heavy. However, I made it through security alright and got help lifting it into the overhead bin so it al worked out in the end. They’re just too good to let go. BUT- if you have an ipad or tablet, it would probably be easier to buy them in digital copy. So much lighter.

travelessent5

I’m loving ‘Teaching Yoga’ by Mark Stephens– while I’m not currently teaching yoga, I am always trying to plan home practices for myself and keep track of ones I love for someday when I will be teaching. This book has a great overview of asana and yoga theory that is wonderful to return back to over and over. ‘Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing’ by Dr. Vasant Lad is also one of those books you can go back to over and over both for answers for yourself and for students. Health is on a spectrum and sometimes while traveling- finding balance is really hard. Sometimes looking to ayurveda is the answer for me on remember how to balance my body and mind.

Finally, my last essential book is my yoga practice journal.Everyday I practice and I write about it. Sometimes the practice isn’t asana. Sometimes its laying in bed and wondering what i’m doing in life and breathing. Sometimes its a hardcore vinyasa class that kicks my ass. Either way- having a journal to check in with how you are feeling creates a more stable container so you can figure out how to find balance. My journal is from Chapters and says ‘Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History”- to remind that feeling is in direct correlation with growth.

travelessent8

Comfort and Cozy

travelessent6

Being on the go can be exhausting. Coming back to the self more often than not, can help restore some energy. The moment I take off my shoes I put on my reading socks from Chapters. Meditation always goes better for me with warm toes. Why? I have no idea. Also, I bring a travel candle with me and my amethyst, rose quartz & selenite. I’m super smell oriented, so the candle helps bring me back to a space of calm and the crystals make it feel more like ‘my’ space (even though truly, we own no space).

Self Care

travelessent7Last but not least are my on the go self care items. Dry brushing is an Ayurvedic technique that stimulates the lymphatic system, boosts circulation, gets rid of dead skin cells, improves digestion….and the list goes on. I dry brush every time before I shower while the water heats up.  I may not adhere to all ayurvedic cleansing techniques (oil pulling every morning is hard when you can’t bring a big jar of coconut oil with you everywhere) but I do keep up with this. Its more-so just a shower prep for me where I can have a few extra moments to myself. For Christmas I got this cute little travel sized brush and while getting the middle of my back is tricky- it is quite a useful little tool.

Once I get in the shower, I use this Rituals shower oil to restore some moisture to my skin. I was wary of this at first when my mum had it- oil…is…oily. But this shower oil from rituals is like a body wash. Its not slick or slimy at all! I love the smell of Yogi Delight and bought one as soon as I got to Luxembourg. I’m completely hooked.

travelessent10.jpg

Next are my on the go essential oils. The first, I got from my mum last Christmas and it is a mix of sandalwood & frankincense for grounding. I used it all throughout my yoga teacher training whenever I started to feel nervous or agitated- which was often –  and I still have plenty!! The mix is by Yogandha . My second blend a new one I got in the UK while shopping with my best friend at Neal’s Yard. It’s their Travel roller, a mix of bergamot, rosemary and clary sage to dispel fatigue and ease anxiety. I’m not an anxious traveler- except when it comes to ‘missing’ a train or flight. I arrive hours early because i’m so anxious that I will miss the transportation to wherever I’m headed. Traveling is a big financial investment which is where the anxiety crops up! This oil blend keeps me mellow-ish and ‘ready to roll’.  travelessent9

And of course…headbands to keep my hair outta my face.

Essential Pranayama for Travel

In yoga, the most essential part of well being is circulating your prana (engery) via the breath.  practice is something that is commonly overlooked as a yoga practice with all the beautiful posed bodies on instagram however, it is more than often, most important for keeping a balanced self while traveling. I practice two key pranayams while traveling:

3 part breath: CALM: with one hand on my stomach and one on my chest, I breathe in 3 parts. First, deep into the stomach, then into the lungs, then into the clavicle (if its accessible to me that day). Then, I let go in 3 parts- the clavicle, lungs and stomach. Its a wonderful breath to use to bring you back to the self and soothe anxiety. Take it slow and if safe, close the eyes.

Alternate nostril Breathing:BALANCE: This is not to be practiced for anyone who has frequent seizures. Breathing into the left nostril while the right is blocked by a finger and then switching the blockage to left and breathing out the right. This continues **slowly** back and forth until completing by breathing out the left nostril. Always take a few moments to return to natural breathing afterwards.

Essential Asana for Travel

Malasana: GROUNDING: Malasana is a super grounding pose. Especially if you keep your hands firmly planted on the earth. Traveling all the time can tend to make us a little ‘airy’. Remember to come back down to the ground every now and again.

Cat/Cow: BALANCING: Cat/ Cow has a beautiful way of restoring the natural curves of the spine and balancing the mind (as long as you flow with the breath!). Carrying purses, luaggage ect, your spine can go a little wonky. Keep it healthy- its the centre of your being!

Downward Dog: CIRCULATE: Inverting your heart above your head can reserve blood flow ensuring that parts of your body that may have been getting limited oxygenated blood flow get a little boost- like your brain! Sitting in a plane, train or automobile keeps blood flowing consistently in one way. Shake it up and reintroduce some life to your body!

Seated Spinal Twist: DETOX: Twisting rings out the abdominal organs- where some have cited the key to health is! Keep your gut happy by twisting out any toxins.

Go to new placesTry a new hobbyMeet new peopleAdopt a puppyEat healthy.png

Living in Luxembourg So Far

luxtitle.jpgIts been exactly one week since I’ve moved to Luxembourg and its been a crazy busy week at that. Between doctors appointments, TB tests, immigration papers, driving in a new country and sorting through 3 different languages here- its been hectic. Yesterday, I was finally able to get out and explore a little bit and I’m very happy for it! This country so far is beautiful and I can’t wait to see more of it.

lux2I took the bus into the city centre not exactly knowing where I would end up. After walking a bit from the bus stop I came to the WW2 monument- something I had only seen while driving by. The first thing I was amazed at was the view. The 3 plateaus with valleys in between make for awesome sights in Luxembourg and really show the age of the country. While it is winter here there was still lots of green moss and ivy to brighten things up (unlike in Canada where all you can see is snow!). As it was Sunday, church bells seemed to be ringing all around making it even more spectacular.
lux3lux1.jpg

I then crossed the street to find the Cathedral Notre Dame & the National Library. Just inside the cathedral doors is a history of Luxembourg in french, german and (thank goodness) english! I found it very helpful. After reading I went to walk into the cathedral to wander around only to find that mass was still going on at 1 in the afternoon! Whoops. Sundays are taken quite strictly here and select shops only open 2-6.lux4

Finally, I was able to find the main centre square. This is where I would recommend you start because its where the tourist office is! After loading myself up with maps and guides I was able to continue on my way knowing where I was going. I ended up headed to the Palais Grand Ducal – which is where the Grand Duke lives. Its right in the middle of town and surprisingly open for the public to walk around it. It is only open for tours July-September but still a wonderful site to see with its grand doors and rapunzel-esque towers.lux6lux7After the palace, I made my way onto a tiny ally, lit with paper lanterns. In front of me was a couple that were clearly entirely infatuated with each other, kissing and groping and laughing big, full laughs. It was nice to walk under the lanterns on the cobblestone path and be reminded that there is more love than hate in the world. Originally I had doubted whether I should take the ally, being a lone female tourist, but fear lost and fought through the doubt. Trusting will lead you where you need to be and if my gut had screamed louder I would have trusted that too. Popular media teaches us to be very wary- especially in Europe- however theres a difference between fear and caution, i’m learning.lux11.jpg

Suddenly I found myself at a lookout over the most beautiful little town I have ever seen. There was snow covering the roofs of the houses with chimneys puffing steam into the air. There was a yellow chapel looking building with a tall point reaching into the sky and it was all set against the mossy rock from the plateau above. It was like out of a story book. I only stayed briefly because my hands were starting to **freeze** but it somewhere I will most certainly be returning to.lux5.jpg

After wandering around as a tourist, the shops began to open up. There were a few I had never heard of (Pull & Bear?) and some I was very familiar with (Esprit, my mamas favourite when I was younger). I wandered into an H&M not thinking i’d find anything but ended up realizing that they sold home goods. Perfect timing for me to start making my little apartment space more mine. I bought some things that were all on sale (great sales) and am feeling more at home now.

All in all, its been an exhausting first week of firsts- first time driving in a (completely) different country, first time having a TB test, first time being somewhere that english isn’t the base language… its all coming together very slowly. I had a massive break down mid week because of a spider incident. It was a big one and right beside my bed. With that, everything came crashing in. The fact that i’d come so far from home and wasn’t sure what for. The fact that I left behind those I love in search of some sort of early 20’s wanderlust fulfillment. I doubted it all. I fell apart. But my touring around has helped me see that the firsts & the falling aparts are good. We adapt. We learn. We grow. I’ve see two other spiders since and I’ve handled them accordingly, with no tears, no fast breathing. More importantly, I haven’t fallen apart, and I know if I do that I can put my pieces back together again.

After all, ruin is the road to transformation.

Much love,

signature

Trust

I’ve always felt like a fairly brave person.Not brave as in, no fear & solid as stone, but brave as in willing to walk through the fire and get what needs to be done, done. The cross-over to this year is teaching me that bravery is actually useless & harmful. Trust is much harder than bravery… Why? Because it’s a hell of a lot harder to trust what you are unsure of than to power through it without feeling the flames.

In bravery we are arrogant, in trust we are humbled.

I felt brave making this move to Europe. I felt I was making the hard choice to move and last month I began to doubt that a lot. Now I see that there is no right or wrong. There is no brave moves- only those that require a lot more trust. I trust that this is neither good nor bad but that it will lead me where I am meant to be. I don’t know that this will all work out and I’m not so fearless as to think that it will be without its hardship. So far I have been shown so much generosity and kindness that it has been overwhelming at times. There have been so many moments when fear creeps in and tells me ‘this is where everything comes crashing down and you return a failure’ and every time there is such a peace after the fear. Such a moment of quiet connection to ‘now’ that I feel humbled enough to trust whatever will come, even if it’s catastrophically horrible.

Yesterday,I went to the airport with my dad to fly to Luxembourg. When we got in the car I was nervous and ready to get it over with. I looked up at the driver to see on his dash board  2 ganesha sculptures. I laughed to myself- it’s meant to be, I’m moving obstacles, I’m making changes, I’m in the right place at my right time. Fast forward- past getting searched at security and a very chaotic Heathrow post New Years- I got on the plane to Luxembourg, nervous and shaking. The plane took off under the most beautiful sunset-a scene I will always remember. The seatbelt sign switched off and I got a gingerale to settle my nervous stomach. Then we hit turbulence. Then more. Then the captain (who kept saying ‘gentlemen welcome to your flight’ and ‘gentlemen please take your seat and fasten your seatbelts’ as if women were non-present on the flight) came on and advised that it was about to get even rockier so to please remain seated. I’ve been on flights with turbulence before but none quite like this. The woman next to me was losing. her. shit. and I found myself looking at her and thinking ‘thats what inside my head has looked like for what feels like my whole life’. I found my grip on my seat loosen and my mind wander to those two ganeshas. I’m not in control. I’m not making changes. I’m not walking through this fire. I am trusting that the obstacles are meant to be there. That they need not be moved by me– that they will move on their own accord when the time is right. I’m trusting it all will be exactly as it is. My insides suddenly didn’t reflect the girl freaking out next to me and neither did my outsides. I found myself grateful to her and her fear and to me and mine. I found myself happy to be beside someone who was entirely in her own experience while I was so entirely within mine. And that is the difference between trust and bravery…

According to J.M Barrie, one of my favourite authors,
“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust”

That may sound hokey and too sunshiny / naive to some but I’m starting to believe more in the power of trust…even if it takes me to ugly places where i’m overwhelmed and lonely.It’s all life and that is more empowering than being brave ever will be.

plane1