Magical Moments of Gratitude and Abundance

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Yoga is the flow of energy – within our selves and everywhere. For we are comprised of prana, the life force, and as yoga connects us to our selves we connect to prana. We are made up of our parents’ genes, our unique talents, skills and personalities, to the elements, to one another, and to so much more. With continuous yoga practice, one begins to experience the flow as it is as well as where it may be stuck in our bodies or minds.

Each morning during vacation I practice for several hours with the ocean as the backdrop. The sound of the tide connects me to the rhythm of my own breath and to my movements. For all yoga is attention training. As we focus on the ever changing flow of energy – of our respiration, in and out, of the elements of the pose and all of our subtle adjustments – we then stop, remain still, and experience the essence of the pose and the fullness of the moment. All dualities slip away and we are here. And here in the moment, I experience a deep sense of connection to everything. I feel such gratitude and abundance, and contentment flows, like my energy or prana.

My discovery of yoga in my early twenties was simply a surprise and a blessing. I have never wavered in my practice or studies since my first class 36 years ago. My awareness of consciousness and my appreciation of the vastness and beauty of the minutiae of the present moment continues to deepen as does the connection that I feel to the breath, the pause, the flow. One late afternoon I watched a lone swimmer quite far out in the ocean until my eye could no longer see him. As he vigorously swam for miles I knew that I was witnessing a most incredible expression of the mind-body-breath connection. As I watched his prowess, fluidity, rhythm, speed, and focus, I was amazed. I felt immense gratitude to observe such a incredibly beautiful moving meditation, and another example of the flow of energy.

Recently, I had a very meaningful dream. A white baby goat was the dream symbol that spoke to me as clearly as a bell ringing across a meadow. In my dream, I am sleeping and the goat is curled against my side next to Sarah, my black cat. As I am leaving my dream state and gradually awakening, I am confused and upset for I realize that it is only Sarah who remains next to me, in real time. In despair and still half asleep, I ask out loud, “but where is the goat?” All day the imagery of the goat stayed in my consciousness. I was struck by the contrast between the white and black and thought it suggested dualities. My husband suggested that I research its meaning. As I read I was excited to learn that dreaming of a white goat is a symbol for good luck and happiness and that it further symbolizes balance, respect and grace. But what I found really interesting is that the most common meaning is that of abundance and mirth.

Receiving my morsels along the path of yoga are like the crumbs discovered by Hansel and Gretel guiding them on their journey home. As I meander down my long and winding path tasting the rewards of yoga, I recognize that yoga has taught me devotion and has granted me many gifts: serenity, health, balance and joy. It has also provided me with a space to be – to find stillness and softness, strength and balance. From adolescence to middle age, from being single to married and through three pregnancies and deliveries, with the pillars of love and loss, wherever I am at in any given moment in time, yoga has been my Light and has ignited my own inner Light. I have learned to be present, to find space around my heart, and to connect with others, heart-to-heart. Daily I sit in gratitude and abundance. Perhaps my goat will come again soon to visit.

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Mindfully Celebrating the Mundane and the Magnificent

Lying in the tent, loud thunderclaps overhead and heavy rain pounding the canvas,
one wonders what else there is to think about?

For the rain is relentless and intense and really the only thought is whether we will stay dry or not. The rhythmic loud sound is like a mantra and keeps one fully present in the moment. Camping in Zion National Park in southern Utah is a blessing. Stunning golden and salmon coloured cliffs and bare rock with distinctive ponderosa pines ring the canyon within which we remain. We spend our days hiking, creating with our cameras and relaxing with one another. Yesterday after our hike, I sprawled in the lazy river and felt the coolness of the calm green water as it gently glided over me. Yet today, the incredibly fast flowing river brings dangerous and deadly flash floods and the muddy brown water declares its unsurmountable power. Every moment in nature is an opportunity to observe constancy and change, to cherish wide open expanses, and to internalize the richness of this deeper reality. To be fully present, to go within, and experience something much greater than my self – this is in part what yoga means to me.


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We become so bogged down with the incessant details of daily living – the myriad of responsibilities, distractions and stressors to be managed. These are of course a natural part of life but the tendency to equate this busyness with meaning is a falsehood. When we are distracted by the fast pace, the to do’s, the external trappings, and the ever present information, entertainment and stimulation that technology brings us, we may lose sight of what is truly valuable, including the joy and pleasure of the simple things. If we stay stuck in the web of busyness and distraction, we may potentially squander the opportunity to celebrate our lives. The celebration includes the spectacular grandeur of our daily blessings, both large and small. We must not forget to celebrate the truly important gifts that we have been given – the gift of life, our breath, our health and our loved ones.

Yesterday, seated cross-legged among the trees in shade high up in the mountains, I watched the clouds as they continually moved across the sky, dancing their own private dance with the mountain peaks. This moving palette certainly makes for a far better viewing than the massive TV screens that are a constant wallpaper in our homes, doctor’s offices, restaurants and even elevators. I meditated on the changing light and landscape, and listened carefully to the gentle breeze, the rustle of the leaves, and the song of the bird nearby. I noticed the textures and shadings of the rocks and the mountains, and I appreciated the canvas of red rock, blue sky, and green trees. My husband was nearby with his camera, slowed down by his art. Refusing to give up film, and steadied by the tripod and his mind, he was an art form in this fascinating landscape to observe and appreciate as well. Celebrating a milestone anniversary together with the start of the Jewish New Year in such a magnificent magical place as Zion, feelings of immense gratitude, contentment and love flowed through me as the Virgin River flows through this sanctuary.

Yet the challenge when I am back in my normal environment is to remember to remain cognizant of what is really important and meaningful in small glimpses and moments of time: to breathe slowly and deeply with awareness, appreciating that each cycle of breath is a gift of the Divine, indeed of life; to focus with fresh eyes on our loved ones, to truly see them and listen to them with tenderness, respect and receptivity, appreciating their uniqueness; and to be present, moment-to-moment, breath by breath, celebrating the joy and beauty of each day.

As a yogi practising my yoga in both enclosed and wide open expanses, I recognize the sacred trinity – a finely woven thread as silken and delicate as a golden one – that runs between my mind, body and spirit. This thread is my sharpened focus that enables me to set my intention to remain awakened, and to celebrate daily both the mundane and the magnificent. Of course, the challenge is more easily met when settled in such natural and exquisite surroundings. So I will try to sustain these sentiments and my commitment to remaining mindful of that which has true meaning. In doing so, I hope to remain connected to all that is important and to celebrate the many blessings that comprise my life.

Riding on the waves

Occasionally, my husband of almost twenty-five years will tease me by declaring that I am never in the moment. I think to myself, “And who is the yogi here? And who is the yoga teacher?” But when I separate his words from my ego, I get their meaning and I have to admit, if only to myself, that at times my husband is right in some of those moments in time! I am always appreciative of him and especially for his nudges and encouragement to me to keep evolving. Practising being fully present requires diligence and commitment as does remaining consistent in one’s yoga practice. When life gets in the way it is all too easy to slip from these practices but as greater symmetry is developed between life both on and off the mat, mindfulness envelops us in most of what we do. And herein lies the inspiration to keep plodding along.

For weeks, I have been struggling to figure out what feels right to write for my blog. I have missed my connection with my students through my written words, and even with myself through the creative process of writing. For during this past year various demanding situations claimed my attention and absorbed my motivation for writing, even at times influencing my yoga practice. Each challenge seemed to touch my body mind and spirit and brought me head on into the present moment. It dawned on me that writing about what has challenged me, what has sustained me, and where I am right now would make the most sense as I would then be sharing from a place of truth and honest intentions.

After returning home from travelling to India with my daughter last summer, I discovered that I had become afflicted with various intestinal issues and parasites. It took several months and various courses of antibiotics before I regained my health. My yoga practice was compromised because my body simply knew that it wasn’t interested in nor capable of moving in intricate ways. Recognizing that to everything there is a season, patience and acceptance guided me during this time of modified practise. In addition to these physical challenges, my family of origin became immersed in a very emotional business transaction. This stressful situation took an incredible amount of energy and time while I was concurrently preparing over several months for my role as a chaperone on a Holocaust educational trip. This journey was very impactful and truly dominated heart and spirit. While in Poland and Israel this spring with 300 sixteen and seventeen year old teens and eleven Holocaust survivors, we visited cemeteries, ghettos, death camps and death facilities, memorials and mass graves in forests. This was a deeply disturbing and powerful experience. As a chaperone on the March of the Living, I was responsible for the participants while simultaneously living history and experiencing these horrors through my own eyes.

On my personal march through these various transformational experiences something was required in order to manage it all. That something was my yoga. Thirty-two years of devotion to yoga practice has formed a foundation for my life and supports me with what I need in order to feel a sense of well being, wholeness and joy even while coming up against a challenge. Many of the lessons learned and the skills honed over the years from yoga practice enabled me to successfully navigate through the turbulent waters I faced during the past year. For yoga has taught me how to remain present and centered for the ride and I am able to do this because my life and my yoga merge into a single path. When I am riding on the waves I move completely into the present moment. It is my belief that in ways well beyond my comprehension, I was also being asked during the past year to simply trust in the universe and to trust in the Truth.

Processing these recent impactful situations will take a long time. However, finding my passage onto the yoga mat and back to the keyboard feeling inspired and excited, it seems that my creativity is again being sparked. This makes me very happy for I have longed for stillness and solitude and presence in moments that are unbridled with external stressors. By tapping into an authentic and honest place, I can remain true to myself, listen and nurture my spirit and sit still for my creativity to surface. Thus, yoga, mindfulness and creativity are all practices that are inextricably bound to every aspect of my life and for this I am most grateful.

Remember, the door to the sanctuary is inside of you.”

– Rumi

Invest wisely in your health!

Early this morning I heard on the radio that OHIP announced that many changes are coming to how physiotherapy services will be funded. The story focused on a 104 year old woman; however, my thoughts quickly turned to our youth and to the baby boomer population and I thought about how yoga is also such a valuable asset in one’s life. As a long-term practitioner of yoga, I understand first hand the multifaceted benefits of a sustained yoga practise over time. I have also been privy to how quickly new students derive the immediate benefits of the practise as well as seeing the ongoing effects and positive changes for students who have remained on the path for many years.


Canada is an incredible country and we have much to be proud of and thankful for. For example, with governmental support we are encouraged to begin making payments towards RESPs when our children are very young. These are worthwhile investments. Similarly, by investing time and payment towards one’s well being and acquiring the life skills that yoga teaches and reaping its many benefits, we are better equipped to maintain good health (mentally, physically and emotionally) while also engaging in preventative measures against future adverse potentialities. When we consistently practise yoga, we experience how it enhances our life today while also arming ourselves with invaluable tools in preparation for whatever future challenges we may have to face.

I often joke that my youngest student is five years old and my eldest student is 86 years young. Yoga is for all ages and stages and I have been blessed to be able to share this discipline with thousands of students over the years. Having entered my fourth decade of practise, I have observed how the yoga process has continually demonstrated its immense meaning and value for me. I can only hope and believe that for my own aging process, like good aged wine, the richness and rewards of the sustained yoga practise will improve becoming even more pleasing, developed and multi-layered because of the significant amount of time and investment that I have put in.

Don’t wait. Don’t search elsewhere because Iyengar Yoga is the finest system of yoga available today. It is highly refined, safe and thorough, and its certified teachers are the most knowledgeable and well trained in the world. Don’t go to yoga for simply a fitness class or settle for less! Forget the drop-ins; make the commitment to a full session of yoga and sign up your kids, self and loved ones to classes or private sessions at YogaBuds this fall. Surely what you put in to your yoga practise will come back in spades, and your investment towards good health will return excellent dividends. Awaken your wellness at YogaBuds today. Now is the time to invest.

Giving Thanks for the Journey

Having just passed the milestone thirty-year anniversary of my long engagement with yoga, many reflections arise pertaining to the swift passage of time and about the many invaluable gifts that yoga has given me through several life stages, including adolescence, pregnancy, motherhood and into middle age.

As my students share their passages with me, I am humbled by the responsibility to teach this powerful process in ways that are inspirational, authentic and personally meaningful. I feel especially blessed to share the timeless tradition of yoga with students of all ages ranging from four to eighty-five years! In a recent evening class, two teenagers, a twenty-something year old, and men and women in their thirties, forties and fifties were learning together. Regardless of age, gender, life stage, profession, physical capability or intellectual prowess, Iyengar yoga is truly available to all. For those who stay the course and practise with consistency, a wide range of benefits are experienced.

My dharma or path has included the incredible opportunity to share with thousands of others for over twenty-five years something that has been so important to me. The YogaBuds for Kids program is now in its seventeenth year; to help facilitate a child’s maturation process from early childhood to adulthood is a privilege. Helping to foster meaningful connections between parent and child teaching them yoga together has been another gift in my teaching career. Guiding a teenager towards developing greater self-acceptance; supporting a woman through pregnancy; helping a very stiff man to eventually touch his toes; rejoicing in someone’s first moments balancing in headstand, or sharing the pain of loss with an elderly student… Ultimately, the gift that I have been given is sharing the gift of yoga with others while developing meaningful relationships with them.

Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, I am reminded that it is how we use our blessings, not what we say about them that is the true measure of our thanksgiving. Thus, it is through my commitment to continue to “pay it forward” to my students – from all walks and of all ages – that I will express my thanksgiving.

Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song.

–Konrad von Gesn

Presence and Peace in Moments of Change

One of the most popular and well-known rituals during the Jewish New Year involves dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination is symbolic of expressing the hope for a sweet year ahead. Round challah or egg bread is also eaten to symbolize the circle of life and the cycle of a new year. As the seasons change, and years flow one into the next, we are reminded that the only constant that we can always rely on is change itself.

It feels as if the transition from summer to fall is the most dramatic of the changing seasons when the temperatures and leaves drop and the light changes noticeably. The colours become more saturated, and everything prepares for sleep. One morning we awake to a new crispness in the air. In addition to environmental changes, there is also a shift in attitude and behavior. Back to school, back to the studio, new programs begin and schedules fill up. We shift gears and slide into the new normal.

Early in the classic Yoga Sutra, Patanjali defines yoga as “Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practise and nonattachment” (1.14). The two guiding concepts, abhyasa (perservering practise) and vairagya (nonattachment) are key to yoga. Practise requires will and discipline, and nonattachment is a matter of surrender, release and letting go. Abhyasa becomes firmly established when it is cultivated without interruption and with devotion. We become grounded in the practise of always returning to practise without being bound to past patterns. Vairagya is a state of mind when desire is gone and over time, through practise, vairagya becomes possible.

This September marks my thirtieth year of yoga practise. It is not possible to briefly summarize all that I have learned or what these years of consistent devotion has provided me with. My persevering practise, or abhyasa, has carried me through several life stages. Yoga buttresses my life. Studying the wisdom from this timeless tradition, we learn to focus with attention and discernment while on the mat. Taking these lessons off the mat, we practise letting go and surrendering to each change, breath-by-breath, moment-to-moment.

As my mother takes my elbow for support when we walk together, our son, standing on the threshold of adulthood, at times, pushes back. Our daughter is now balancing with one foot in and one foot out as she prepares to depart for university in a few days. The other night, our youngest crawled into bed to cuddle and chat. Supporting loved ones in different ways, I try to be steadfast with devotion while remaining open to change and fully present. I experience serenity and stability and feel the fullness of the moment. As I practise complete awareness and attunement I also let go and embrace each change as it unfolds. A sense of peaceful spaciousness within is felt.

Whether alone on my mat or with loved ones, I practise gratitude for my many blessings. Cherishing feelings of connectedness and abundance, I am most thankful for my yoga practise. Tradition will ensure that apples and honey welcome in the new year. And as I greet each change and hold it in awareness, I taste and savor the sweetness of the present moment.

Finding the Stillness

Life doesn’t wait for nor consult with anyone. Change can occur in any moment. So practise. Be present. Learn where your center is and how to access it for when you need to go there. My sweet fifteen year old, a strong athletic intelligent beauty had a sports injury a few months ago. An emergency room doctor’s use of the wrong splint on her fracture resulted in a hospitalization and two serious infections, one life threatening. Thankfully, antibiotics and time facilitated the healing and we averted having to face anything worse than a terrible interruption in our lives and a scare.

The second time in a year and a half staying in a hospital advocating for loved ones, I again had to know where to go inwardly in order to remain grounded, calm and focused while still occasionally moving at a frenetic pace. In the first situation, my parents were both hospitalized at the same time. This past February, the work was endless supporting our daughter while trying to prevent her from slipping through the cracks in the system, unsuccessfully. However, I am grateful beyond measure for the many years of yoga practise that helps to weave together the fabric of my life. From this practice and the acquired skills and lessons learned, I was again able to tap into the source of my stability when needed, and for this, I am most grateful.

When life is spinning fast, and stress penetrates the skin, when change is in every moment and time just marches by, I try to move through the concentric circles that protect my heart. This is done symbolically while standing still in Tadasana (mountain pose). As I breathe, I ground through the soles of my feet, engaging muscles while quieting the mind, and I move in to access inner stillness. I am thus able to stand inside of the stillness for postures are tools to help reach deeply into yourself. I remain on my yoga mat, literally and figuratively, for as long as I need to.

The yoga mat is a symbol of the practise. It is a concrete manifestation that delineates the sacred space that one goes to when practising. It is a living mandala. For standing in the centre of the mat, the path leads home to one’s own inner point of stillness. This is found inside of the heart. When change arrives, in its simplest or grandest form, what is constant remains. The consistency of the practise, the strength of the connection with the Divine, and the rhythm and mystery of the breath… this is what remains constant and what pulls you towards where you need to be.

It really is simple. It is committing to remaining present and aware, awakened in each moment – breath by breath, moment to moment. Life passes. Time moves in one direction. But my yoga has taught me to stand still in the fullness of each moment. When I tune into this place, my reality has meaning. My practise has taught me to keep coming to the mat, year in and year out, to keep learning and to live my life with the understanding of what it means to be alive and to be present. My practise has taught me what yoga really is.

I don’t know what curve ball will be heading in my direction next. But I do know without a doubt that there will be one. And with humility and gratitude, I will continue to step onto my mat, to pause long enough to breathe with awareness and serenity, and to remain present in the Now. I will be standing still to catch the ball.

Using Yoga in Healing Practice

In the Fall of 2001, my mother began to experience physical limitations due to osteo arthritis, sciatica and back pain. At 78- years of age, she turned to yoga to maintain her mobility, manage her pain, and soothe her spirit. Due to her serious and oftentimes debilitating physical issues, her yoga has been practiced primarily for relief from aches and pains, and for gaining physical benefits. Supports like the wall, and props such as chairs, wooden blocks and belts, as developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, have often been utilized during her practice.

Due to yoga, her body awareness and her posture have greatly improved. As she practices standing postures, she practices lifting her trunk up as she extends and lengthens her psoas and abdominal muscles. After the first time that my mother practiced a new resting pose on her own, I received a phone call from her. She stated, “You’ll never guess what happened? I fell asleep for twenty minutes while doing this pose!”

Establishing a new routine for someone at this stage of life is not easy and there have been some pitfalls along the way. Yet despite the difficulty in maintaining motivation and consistency with her yoga practice, my mother has remained committed to her yoga. As positive results continue to occur, she has come to enjoy and trust in the yoga process. Yoga has given my mother hope, healing and health. And after a lifetime of selfless giving, it is such a pleasure to see her learning to take time for herself and responsibility for self-care.

When practicing yoga together, my mother, my children and myself may all be in the same pose but in three different ways. Poses may be modified to meet each person’s needs for we each have different abilities and are at different stages of life. At times my children act as my assistants, helping their grandmother in a pose and there is always much laughter in the room. Yoga is a highly individualized process and may mean different things for different people. When doing yoga together, grandmother, daughter and grandchildren experience this ancient healing art nonverbally, and this connects all of us in a deep manner.

As I have become the conduit to carry the gifts of yoga to my mother and to my children, my roles as daughter, mother and teacher merge, and I am an active partner in their journeys. Interestingly enough, a role reversal occurs as I become caregiver to my mother while also being a role-model of living a healthy lifestyle for my children. This unique triad involving three generations practicing yoga together is a very special gift in my life. I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to touch the lives of those I love so dearly through the yoga teachings. Regardless of what stage of life we are at, we hold the key to achieving balance in our lives. With this, we can practice our yoga on or off the mat.

Living Life With Grace Through Yoga

I recently experienced a major milestone. It was the 20th year anniversary of my yoga practice. I first discovered yoga during my university days, and it has since been a major component of my life. It has remained a constant throughout all of the life stages that I have passed through. My yoga has evolved with me as I matured from a young single woman into marriage, pregnancy and parenthood. Yoga, in all its manifestations, has enabled me to live my life with grace. Throughout the past 20 years I have successfully woven yoga into the fabric of my hectic life, and it has greatly helped to sustain me.

As a professional and mother of three young children, the struggle to achieve a sense of balance in my life is ongoing. In addition to nurturing myself and my marriage, providing for my children’s needs and schedules, managing the household and housework, I also run a business and teach weekly yoga classes and workshops to kids, adults and families. I am blessed to have discovered many valuable work-life balance tools which I strive to daily implement in my journey towards balance and wholeness.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that literally means “yoke” or “union”. Through the process of yoga, we bring into unity the three aspects of the self: mind, body and spirit. We also create a balance between active practice and passive surrender. Harmony is created inside of ourselves as all aspects come together like the different performers playing a symphony.

Over the past few years, yoga has moved rapidly into the mainstream. However, the very essence of what yoga is at risk for becoming lost due to the commercialization of yoga. Yoga is about so much more than the attractive appearance of the superstars and models doing yoga and the vast array of props, products and paraphernalia available. The 5000 year tradition of yoga is becoming diluted as yoga offshoots and hybrid forms of yoga are being developed, as studios pop up on every corner as quick money-making ventures, and as the advertising industry at times misrepresents yoga in campaigns that distort its meaning and value. As the marketing of spirituality and the false pursuit of the body beautiful is promoted, people believe that enlightenment and inner beauty can be bought. So for the average woman interested in pursuing yoga, how can she understand what yoga is really about? And how can she learn to apply its richness to her life?

The Joys and Rewards of Living Life through Yoga

Yoga has provided a baseline and a framework for my life. For the past 30 years, I have never missed a day of yoga practice. I view my world from the yoga ‘lens.’ Yoga is so much more than just the physical process. It has enabled me to integrate all aspects of myself and to strive to live an authentic life in which work, family and personal needs merge and balance.

The yoga philosophies, both ethical and moral constraints, the lifestyle of moderation in diet and all endeavors, walking the middle path, interacting without judgment and with compassion, and understanding the interconnections among all living things are just some of the ways in which yoga permeates and guides my actions and thoughts.

Through my yoga practice, I have been able to create time for myself. While savoring the solitude, the practice provides me with a balance against the myriad of responsibilities I face, as well as the hectic pace of life.

During my practice, I draw inward and access the ‘Divine’ within. I experience my creative spirit, and my intuition. It is from my inner core that I am able to experience my authenticity, my strength, and my stability. When practicing pranayama, or breath control, I connect with my breath, and with my inner organic body. From this point of stillness and integration I feel energized and calmed, and am thus able to interact with others with clarity, patience and compassion.

Yoga has been a gift of health to me in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It has helped me to maintain my physical strength and flexibility, to increase balance, coordination and grace. It has enabled me to move through three pregnancies with joy, awe and appreciation and has further assisted me in my acceptance of life stage changes and my transitions through them.

I am honoured to be a conduit to pass on the blessings of yoga to my mother, my three young children, and husband, and to my students.