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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Nightly Grateful Lists

When I was younger, I’m not sure when, my mom had me write grateful lists with her before bed. I’m not sure how long this lasted and I really don’t fully remember many details other than her laying in bed with me and this small journal with a rose on the front and some sort of gold clasp.

Despite my useless memory, this has been something I’ve continued to do up until now. Sometimes I write it. Sometimes I think it. They’re always concise however I’ve had moments where I over-analyze. I start to play that ‘what comes to mind first game’ to make the list as ‘authentic’ as possible OR I start to put myself down when a chunk of the items on the list are the dreaded ‘material goods’. Still to this day, there are times I feel bad about including those ‘inconsequential things’ like candles or new dish towels- you know, the materials things we’re not supposed to value greatly but really do ( I mean, have you ever smelled a pumpkin spice candle?! Common…). But truthfully, they both belong on the list; the ‘renounce all worldly possessions and value spirit and relationship’ AND the ‘Bath and Body Works 2 for 1 sale TOTALLY made my day’. You can be a yogi and have both on your grateful list. You can be a human and have both on your grateful list.

Today I found a few old lists that I had written down while cleaning. From back when I was 14. On the lists were friends, family, pets, relatives, crushes, material things, material things scratched out, material things written in again and so on and so on.

You know what was never on the lists? And I mean never, not even now when I think of them before going to sleep.

Me.

Sure, I value myself enough to spend money on candles and yoga classes and teacher trainings and to sit down in meditation when I can and relax into a bubble bath when I can, but never once have I been actively GRATEFUL for myself in these lists. Since youth, I never even considered it. I looked at all the names on my lists, names of people I love dearly, people who I was grateful for/to because they were exactly who they are which in turn let me be who I am, but I never actively participated in being grateful for who am. I never said thank you to myself- and I don’t mean in a selfish way or a conceded way, thats not how gratuity works, but in a genuine, proud and humble way.

On all of your lists, if you choose to create them, I hope you think of yourself and are grateful for who you have been, who you are and who you are constantly becoming. And after you thank yourself and your loved ones and maybe even your not-so loved ones who have taught you things you needed to learn in this lifetime…I hope you thank your couch and those candles you just bought at bath and body works.IMG_1279

 

Mountains & Memorials in Hawaii

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 9.51.02 AM.pngLast week, while prepping for my return to Hawaii, I found my travel journals from our first trek out the beautiful islands. We did so many wonderful things, from diving with sharks to dancing in luas to laying out on the beach. What stood out most in my journal though were two things- climbing Diamond Head crater and visiting Pearl Harbour Memorial. I was trying to pin down why I wrote so much about these days and it came down to a love for history.

I love to travel because I think it connects us to a greater story that is within us all. There is the here and now and there is also the then and gone. Seeing the two merge while traveling is really one of the most beautiful things. It is a connection to culture and humanity and the earth and the self, really, what more is life about?

Diamond Head Crater:

The beauty of Diamond Head Crater is apparent- this massive crater nestled by the ocean created by a volcanic explosion hundreds of thousands of years ago. Before heading to hike up the crater, we visited Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling- its another spot formed by amazing volcanic eruption and gorgeous ocean. Already, I was feeling in awe of the power of the earth. I hadn’t expected the crater to be so massive and driving up closer through the city & suburbs, the sheer enormity of the earth’s power over human history dawned on me. The english name “Diamond Head” is a bit of a funny story. British sailors came upon the island in the 19th century and thought the calcite crystals on the beach were diamonds. Hawaiians had called the crater Lēʻahi, Le meaning ridge or brown ridge and ahi, a type of tuna. Quite different, though very much based on an understanding of the land. Eventually, the crater would become home to the first military base on the island, Fort Ruger. A prime location for defense against land and sea attacks, the crater was a strong asset to the US historically.

What blew my mind was that, the crater didn’t give off any military vibes to me. Even when climbing, I would have never thought of it. I think that has much more to do with the ‘island state of mind’ and the natural beauty of it then it does the actual military use. Historically, the crater has been filled with soldiers and plans and guns but there isn’t a lingering feeling of stress like I’ve found at other military bases or historical sites.

I was excited to have made it up the crater. I felt my history of scoliosis and surgery and laying in a hospital bed really strong that day. I did this, I climbed a mountain. Laying in a hospital bed, finding it hard to even walk- I couldn’t have thought I would do that. All the histories came crashing together into the here and now and it felt like pure magic. Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 7.04.21 PM10309735_10202415646772308_2928874073283283986_n.jpg

Pearl Harbour Memorial 

I had this same feeling of history in the Pearl Harbour Memorial. I mostly surprised by how little I knew about the attack. December 7th 1941, during WW2, Japanese forces launched an attack on the naval base near Honolulu. What I didn’t know was that, at the time, the U.S and Japan had been headed towards war for a while, with China in the middle of it all. I won’t get into economic and political history but tensions were much higher then I had previously thought before visiting the memorial. Honestly, what I knew of Pearl Harbour was what I had learned from the movies, which isn’t saying a whole lot.

It was in the Battleship USS Arizona memorial where I did most of my writing. You can look through the floor and see the ship, sunken by the 1800 pound bomb that fell from the sky to hit it. Then, when you look up you see all the names, carved in white stone. I kept thinking about all those people’s history- they’re all a part of a family tree of different stories all melding together. The lives of those involved in Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they’re all part of this huge story of human history that is easy to learn and hard to feel. Through travel, through being there in that moment, looking at history, we are able to feel. The memorial was somber and quiet while the tours around the ships were active and engaging, reminding us that history is past and right now, we were simply Canadian tourists on the island.

Through travel we can feel certain histories we didn’t imagine we could. I have no U.S relatives and no connection to anyone involved in Pearl Harbour to my knowledge, thought I felt the weight of those days. I felt the immensity of a volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago to form the island. I felt my story intertwine with others, and isn’t that what humanity is about? Connection. love Hawaii more than any place I’ve ever been. It may be because of the beautiful beaches, palm trees, Elvis movies and lighthearted ukelele songs but it’s also for the culture and history of the islands. Even though its a real tourist destination, there is a vibrant and rich world of language, food, dance and history that is open and willing to be explored. Travel info for these two activities will be linked in their titles. I encourage you to further explore the history and visit them to feel it. 

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In about a month we go back to the amazing islands! This time touring Kauai and Maui. I’m excited to explore the smaller islands and really ‘dive in’ to the beautiful things they have to offer!

If you have any recommendations for activities while we’re there give me a shout! I’d love to hear about previous travels and your experiences living on island time! Email yogatravelteachk@gmail.com to share your stories, promote activities and recommend tour spots! Big love

Lettuce Wrapped Love

One time this spring I was telling Andrew about how much I was craving the lettuce wraps we had from P.F Changs while we were in Hawaii two years ago, and just like that he bought the ingredients and made them! The other night he made them again and I’m always surprised at how easy & ahmaazingly good they are.They can be made vegetarian as well by substituting for tofu or ‘veggie’ ground beef.

The best part? They’re great for those of you out there without an air conditioner. Now that its summer, we tend to sweat in our apartment- a lot. Since the meat is cooked on a low heat and cooks pretty fast, its a good meal that doesn’t get the house too HOT!

Ingredients

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Ground Turkey, Beef or Chicken – we used Turkey last time and it was yummy.
  3. Peanuts-we bought salted…but the soy sauce is already pretty salty so decide at your own risk (I love salt x1000)
  4. Water Chestnuts
  5. Head of Lettuce
  6. Peppers
  7. Garlic
  8. Anything else in your fridge you want to add

I’m not a huge fan of cooking meat so Andrew cooks the turkey on low/med in a little bit of soy sauce with the peanuts/ garlic/ peppers/ water chestnuts. I wash the lettuce (it’s a big job, I know). And viola, supper in less than 15 minutes. 

The 8 Limbs Series: Ahimsa & My Bathroom

Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been thinking about how to write this blog. The ways I show (nonviolence) love to myself, the planet I live on and others (species aside). Let me start my saying:

There is a reason Ahimsa is the FIRST of the Yamas, which are the first of Pantanjali’s 8 limbs to yogic life/practice.

Love is the root of it all. It is the ground on which we walk as humanity. To all you cynics and non-mushy-gushy yogis out there- it is the reason you shower, or wash your hands or do your hair in the morning. I think my bathroom, all jokes aside, is the biggest hub for love in my house (perhaps the kitchen…but thats a whole other blog). Now don’t get me wrong hardcore ‘ahimsa-is more- than-an-essential-oil’ yogis, I haven’t forgotten about you either, but I believe there is a blending. Love makes room for it all- physical & spiritual and that is why I think the bathroom is the greatest place to start.

It is the first place you go in the morning, the last place you go at night- where you are with yourself. For many, the shower is where some of the best thinking happens. In my bathroom, I take care of myself- I oil pull, I brush my teeth, I wash my face…I take care of my body and allow my mind to be aware of that. Ahimsa isn’t singularly mushy gushy, and it isn’t all active activism either, it is the two coming together to create a whole (get it, yoga…unity…the whole shabang). The products we use, because we use products- whether its leaves and grass or sulphates and parabens- are direct choices we have made to purchase in order to show ourselves love. Some choose self love in conjunction with the environment or animal safety, which is WONDERFUL! Some choose self love in conjunction with sharing beauty and fab-u-lous-ness which is also WONDERFUL (and also a form of showing love for others)! Some choose it all and decide based on the day (myself).

Which ever way you choose, notice the based of this pyramid is love for yourself. If you love yourself, the world will change.

So, heres a look at how I love myself in my bathroom (ha-ha yeah,yeah the puns keep coming):

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When  I started this year I thought no way would I neti and no way would I oil pull- turns out your resistances are what you end up needing to move towards. I have a separate coconut oil and salt for the bathroom. You don’t always have to use coconut oil for pulling though!! It is very vata (because its cooling) and I should probably use sesame oil, but I like the taste of coconut oil better (another resistance). I never feel cleaner or more ready for the day than when I’ve neti’d and oil pulled. Recently I was traveling for work and didn’t neti for a week- Now I have a major cold and what I’m pretty sure is a sinus infection. I used to get them over and over and over, until I started my neti!! Talk about self love!! (& love for everyone else, i’m not a fun sick person…)

Next to the coconut oil is a solid perfume that Andrew bought me for Christmas. It smells like a field of flowers which I figure must be loving for more than just myself. I’m really smell oriented and honestly would and have bought ‘chemical’ perfume for the right smell ( Bobbi Brown’s ‘Beach) but i’m finding this is just as good (almost…).

Rose water spray. Rose water spray. Is there anything more loving than dousing your face in 12 dozen hydrating and pitta pacifying roses? I think not. Its really just ahimsa for myself.

Andrew also bought me this Peace & Harmony oil blend for Christmas. My best and most thoughtful showers happen with this oil. So delicious smelling and like I said, I’m smell oriented. I feel so relaxed after using it and I could always use more relaxation.

IMG_9368Shampoo is something I usually flip flop on. Sometimes I buy the real expensive kind- you know, the ones they put on a much ‘fancier’ shelf at Shoppers with argan oil or gold flecks or magic? Lately I’ve just been using herbal essences or fructis- whichever is more on sale at the time. Sometimes there is more ahimsa in being able to keep the finances rolling than to have great hair.

A few days ago however I found my favourite brand of natural shampoo & conditioner at Winners for cheap! I had never tried the lavender (I stick to mints or lemon). My showers have been so lovely and I love that they’re all natural and cruelty free.

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Is there anything more ahimsa than a sunny morning with “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” playing and salted coconut SCRUB?!? Probably. But it really does give me a good happiness & love vibe for my day, which then I can go spread! Lush, thank you for making this. It. is. so. good. I use it all over- not just hands.

IMG_9372Now, I’ve been using this for years. I love it. It is a tried and true friend that I simply cannot let go of.  Its one of those bottles I’ve probably seen every morning and every night for the past 7 years. Which is crazy to think of. Products have an influence on our lives- they do. Companies are more than just companies at their most base levels. Our history bonds us- Apircot scrub thanks for helping me tackle the world ‘blemish free’…mostly. P.S I’ve often looked at this and thought “anti-imprefections”…..I think I fall more on the “Anti-perfection” side (cough cough, ahimsa). makeup

Last is my make up. I use whatever deodorant is cheapest at the time, and I know I know. All the all natural hippies who I love with all my heart are going to tell me to go all natural and cruelty free- I have, and I can’t find one that actually works well. If anyone has any recommendations that aren’t $20.00 and work, EMAIL ME PLEASE. I’d love to try. For now, watermelon lady speed stick. (and yeah, I don’t use all natural toothpaste either for the same reason)

Make up wise, I love Tarte cosmetics. Lights, camera, Flashes is my favourite mascara and I’ve yet to find a blush that I really love quite yet. They’re cruelty free & vegan. I also used a ‘dream bouncy blush’ from maybelline…but it fell in the toilet as I was creating this, which means its now in the trash. So i’m not completely natural.

Make up is one of those funny things for ahimsa in my mind. Some days its loving for me to put it on and feel beautiful. Some days I feel just as beautiful with none. Love is what feels right that day.

 

My point with all these products and bathroom talk and ahimsa is that taking time to love yourself spreads. It ripples into the world and the more love and nonviolence the better. The better you FEEL the better we all THRIVE. So do yoga, spend an hour dancing in the bathroom, practice ahimsa in the most wonderful of ways 🙂

 

Love & Light,

Katie