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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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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Sunday Morning Peace: Creating Space For The Week

Good morning! Sunday mornings are sacred to me, as they are to many. They are the most peaceful time, a time to regroup – in more ways than one. Some attend church, some go garage sale-ing, some practice yoga and some simply sip their coffee a little bit slower. There is no two ways about it- Sundays are space makers. I went through my morning loving every second and thought I would share just a few ways I make space for myself on Sundays.


•Rise & Relax•

I woke up at 6:30 to Luna laying on me and asking for food. The very first place I shuffle to is my kitchen, always. I pour Luna some food and create my first bit of Sunday bliss- coffee. img_2928

img_2935With coffee in hand I usually call my mama and then catch up on reading blogs or social media.

•Creating Sacred Space•

After my (very long winded) coffee time, I start to begin my morning. Creating space I part of the routine. My yoga practice doesn’t quite feel complete without the proper space to do it in.

img_2948I’m extremely ‘scent’ oriented. Candles & incense just make me feel cozier. They create a peaceful & safe feeling. Creating peaceful space for myself always starts there. Then I roll out my (extremely cat fur drenched) yoga mat. I bought my Jade Yoga Mat last year and still love it- mostly because they come in an extra long size, and I am ‘extra long’. 🙂

img_2962img_2963Luna brings the love to the space. She sits and watches while I do all this, usually getting confused with the incense smoke or thinking that rolling out my mat is a game. Eventually though she eats breakfast and ends up falling asleep beside me. She’s never been much of a yoga cat- more a “I’ll nap while you move” cat.img_2976img_2978img_2982img_2965Theres my yoga heaven! Wires, records, Buddha, incense, yoga mat, kitten and all.

•Simple Morning Yoga•

My morning practice always involves a few simple poses put on repeat.

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Seated mediation & pranayama. Usually my pranayama is alternate nostril breathing.It balances my out and helps me feel a sense of calm alertness.

morningsequence2Seated Side Bends. Back and forth. Inhaling arms up, exhale over to one side. I do this on repeat for I don’t even know how many times. My sides are always tight and sore in the AM and this wakes me up perfectly.img_2898

Downward Dog to plank on repeat. Not only does have feet and hands on the earth help
with grounding, but transitioning between down dog and plank starts to heat up the body. Not too much- just enough.img_2897

Up dog or Cobra. My spine needs backbends, even though I fear them. These poses are stable and don’t put too much strain on my back muscles. They also get my chest open. Open those hearts in the am.

•A Little Bit of Fun•

In the mornings, after moving slow and taking it easy, I’ve been trying to incorporate a little bit of a fun sequence. Not challenging or out of my reach, but something I don’t practice normally and feels lighthearted. Today was a mini tree pose sequence! Remember if you are trying any of these poses at home, practice to your comfort level. No pain, no pain (as opposed to the ridiculous idea of ‘no pain,no gain’- who came up with that anyway? Pain is pain people!)

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 Start by slowly bringing your leg into tree pose on an exhale. I bring my foot into ‘levels’, starting at the ankle then lifting the foot to the shin, then the inner thigh. Safety Note! Do not (please do not) bring the foot to the knee!!! Your knee is not meant to bend sideways, so don’t give it any chance to! From here, let your arms ‘grow’ into your tree however you feel! 🙂 Congrats you are now a yoga tree.

Next I reach down and gently take my big toe between my fingers. If it is accessible to you, bring your foot parallel with your hip crease. Remember to flex the foot so as to not ‘bend’ the ankle in an unkind direction. No sickled feet for you dancers out there!  If this is uncomfortable, find your way-safely- back to your tree.

If the previous pose was stable and comfortable, on an exhale you can begin to fold forward. Give a slight bend to your standing knee and slowly hinge at the hips. I don’t get all the way because I simply don’t have enough room between my tummy, foot and hips! You’ll feel a great stretch in your standing ham string. To come out, bend the standing knee and slowly inhale up. If at any time you feel unstable- remember to slowly make your way out. No falling and knocking noggins on the floor! 

Namasté & Goodnight: Pillow Propped Yoga to Promote Better Sleep

Good evening yogis! These are a few poses and modifications to poses to do before sleep.Lately I’ve been feeling tired when I wake up, as if I didn’t get the full hours of snoozing that I did. I also have a dangerous habit of watching TV or checking my phone before falling asleep which apparently make its harder for your body to fully ‘check-out’ whilst you slumber. I’m trying to sort this problem out with books and yoga 15 minutes before bed instead of tv or phone. Keep the restful sleep!

You don’t need a fancy sports bra or expensive yoga props -or even an entire 75 minutes-to do some meaningful yoga for you body and mind.15 minutes in your bed with a pillow (to ensure you aren’t ‘pushing yourself’ and instead focusing on relaxing into the shape) can make a world of difference when that alarm goes off in the morning.


Here are 5 propped poses you can practice in your own bed (whether its a large one or a small one) at your own pace and to your own comfort!

1.Seated Forward Bend//Paschimottanasana

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Gently swing your legs out in front of you and find a ‘neutral pelvis’ (where your spine is long and tall and comfortable). Place your pillows- as many as you would like!- over your extended legs and keeping your spine long, fold forward slowly while exhaling. Fold until you are comfortable- for me, thats not very far at all, for you it may be further! You can hug the pillow and continue to breathe here for as long as you feel the pose needs to work. I find it takes me a long time breathing in this pose before I begin to feel ‘the magic’.

2.Child’s Pose//Balasana

pillowprop3Placing the pillow between you knees, begin to sit your bum back and towards the bed as much as is comfortable. You may even wiggle a pillow behind your bottom as well to have your hips raised a bit for comfort. This pose is really calming and as such you should place your arms wherever feels safest for you. I love to keep mine extended over head/ around my face because it forces me to close my eyes and release deeper. You can also keep your arms down by your sides or even hugging the pillow beneath you.

3. Wide Bound Angle Pose//Baddah Konasana

ipillowprop5pillowprop4Instead of doing bound angle pose where your feet are pulled in tight to your body, I invite you to extend them outward, connecting the soles of your feet. This creates a diamond shape with your legs. Note that if you have any difficulty with your knees, you should use pillow props under them as well! Now you can place a pillow in between your knees and very very slowly begin to fold forward on an exhale. This is great pose for anyone who tends to sit all day long but be sure to take great caution. If it doesn’t feel good, do not go further!

4. Pillow Propped Heart Opener

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Sitting with your tailbone to the long edge of the pillow begin to slowly slowy lower yourself to be laying over top of them on your back. Be very careful of your surroundings and never ever move quickly when lowering yourself down. It would be awful to bump your head! Your chest will feel a slight opening as well as your low back. Again this is a great pose for those sitting or hunched over a computer all day. Most of the poses in this post are forward folds- this pose allows the spine to move the opposite way creating balance before you go to sleep.

5. Legs Up The Headboard//Viparita Karani

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Shimmy you bum as close to your headboard as possible (or your pillows) and carefully swing your legs up the ‘wall’. I place a pillow under my head for comfort but you don’t need to if you don’t feel like it. This pose is a slight inversion and a great for calming the nervous system. Perfect for right before you fall asleep!

I also love to read before sleep- sometimes you can even incorporate the poses into your reading! Books are best in legs up the wall-amiright? 🙂

Namasté and good night everyone- Wishing a peaceful and restful sleep! Be kind to yourself.yogatravelteachpin1

Summer Wandering in Ontario, Canada

This summer I’ve been really trying to get outside. My last job was at a garden centre and I was outside pretty much 24/7, now however I work inside from my home office. A lot of the time I miss being with the plants and dirt, the feeling of fresh air in my lungs and the pure exhaustion at the end of the day. I’ve been trying to balance my work and my bare feet in the grass needs with walks.

I love summer time- the colours, the warmth…its going to be hard to say goodbye to but the pretty leaves in the fall will make it all worthwhile.

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