Friday, December 23, 2011

Releasing Our Grip on What Should Be

I had an epiphany the other night while practicing a yin class. I was holding a long hip opener—low lunge on forearms—and the instructor cued us to lessen the gripping sensation and just allow the body to naturally go where it needed to. I realized then that I was holding the pose with quite a bit of tension—with this awareness I was able to release the gripping sensation in my body and find some softness and space in the surrender. It was a great reminder and the idea stuck with me and later transformed to my asking, "what else in my life am I gripping on to?"

Although I do believe that setting goals and having aspirations is a wise thing to do—you need to let the universe know what you want—I do feel we get caught up in the how it should happen. The practice of going with the flow comes from us checking in every now and again and bringing some awareness to the bigger picture and maybe reassess what it is we are holding on to—whether it is where we think we should be in our career, our relationships or financially. We need to loosen the grip on the how, 'cause sh*t is going to happen that is not part of the plan.

So, while you work out your goals for 2012, keep an open mind to how you will be able to achieve these things in your life. Ask yourself why you want these things and be open to how they might manifest in your life. Most of all remember to breath when things don't go according to plan—it's a reminder that we need to loosen our grip and just go with the flow.

Blessings and peace for a wonderful holiday season and see you in 2012!

Image: Natarajasana (Dancer's Pose) Yoga Art by Nancy Van Kanegan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mindful Smacks

Every week Elena Brower, founder and co-owner of Virayoga in NYC, posts a video on her blog the Art of Attention. Her posts—creatively called: Mindful Smacks—are great reminders of how to live a more conscious, loving and healthy life. I frequently integrate these messages into my teachings and find it a valuable resource. This 'smack' is about being with people where they are.

I really love her honesty and no-nonense approach—getting right to the heart of the matter. Listen to more of Elena's Mindful Smacks here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wandering Yoginis

Have you heard about the Wandering Yoginis? They are two yoga instructors from Vancouver who are touring around India on motorcycles. How sexy is that? You can check out their blog where they are documenting their trip with video diaries.

In an attempt to define their life's purpose, they question if finding purpose is just being satisfied with where they are right now. “If I let go of trying to know where I’m going or what’s going to happen, then something magical always happens.” Meghan Currie, Wandering Yogini. Below is a time-lapse video of Meghan practicing outside a temple in India.

What a beautiful practice. I look forward to following the Wandering Yoginis as they motorcycle across India and hearing about their adventures along the way.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Traveling Mat: Interview with Brent MacKay

Brent playing on the rocks in Bakasana (Crow pose)

Yogi: Brent MacKay, Anusara-Inspired™ Yoga Teacher
Current Location: Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Why did you choose to live in Palma De Mallorca?
I lived here in a past life and when I visited here last May, the place chose me.

Where are you teaching?
Zunray Studio, in the centre of Palma.

What is the yoga kula like in your area?
As our good friend Chris Chavez says, yoga in Vancouver is like nowhere else in the world. The culture here is very different and definitely laid back. Hardly anybody has a daily practice. There are some dedicated souls who seem to like the west coast flavour!

What other differences have you noticed in students and teachers compared to Vancouver?
Besides the fact that there are fewer of both, I don't think there is much difference. The level of practice in Vancouver is much higher but the students here come to class for the same reasons. Most of the teachers here are very well trained with lots of experience.

How do you keep the stoke or stay inspired as a teacher?
At first I thought I couldn't, but then I started a daily home practice, charting out my next class. I also read texts, meditate by the sea and wander around this enchanting, inspiring town.

What teachers would you like to thank for where you are today?
Chris Chavez was the first person to think I could be a teacher. Earlier on this path, Paige Faraci and Steve Merkley inspired me in every class I took with them—and the stellar Anusara teachers shining all over Vancouver!

What projects are you currently working on?
I am very excited about the possibility of hosting yoga retreats in Mallorca. The island is magic and has such a high vibration of light that I think yogis from all over the world will be gobsmacked!

What is your favourite thing to eat, drink and do in Palma De Mallorca?
Besides yoga on the beach, on the rocks or at the studio, I have been seen partaking in a variety of yum-cious tapas. There are sweet little bars and restaurants down narrow streets that occasionally open into a small plaza full of tables and chairs. There is one such place right near me that features an amazing flamenco guitarist playing for spare change. I hardly ever have a plan when I walk out my front door. The sights and sounds have a way of leading you to where you are supposed to be.

You know you’re not living in Vancouver when…
I was just thinking about that today when I was in the bank. No one lines up for the teller, as there are seats all around. Each time someone new walks in they ask “who is the last in line?” so that they know when there turn is. It’s kind of old fashioned and neighbourly—like the fact that shops and stores close on Sundays. Also, it's not unusual to see a pair of cops standing around with a cell phone and a smoke, and of course everyone knows that Spaniards love to burn the midnight oil. It's 11:00p.m. right now and the bars are just starting to get busy.

You recently went on a trek in India, if you could choose one moment that stood out on your trip, what would that be?
Definitely the landslide 8 hours north of Rishikesh, it closed the road for a week and ended any notions of trekking in the Himalayas.

Anything else interesting that you would like to share? Maybe a piece of advise to traveling yogis in Spain?
There is a very strong and identifiable culture here with deep historical roots. The Spaniards have their way of doing things, which may challenge patience and acceptance. Everyone's experience will be different. The people are open and friendly, so if possible, get off the beaten path and learn some Spanish.

Thank you Brent for taking the time to share your adventures. Keep shining bright!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Best of J-Bo

It's my birthday today and I thought I would share some of my favourite images and posts for anyone stopping by and maybe looking for a little inspiration or entertainment. Enjoy!

Here is my best impression of Kate Winslet in Titanic, sans Leo, of course.

Flying in a wind tunnel outside of San Francisco. An experience to remember. 

Hungry? Here's my grilled cheese sandwich post, with explicit instructions to achieve the heart-shape.

Go back in time and check out this Mad Men Wedding

The crazy ducks that swim in the pool outside my office building.

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga. 

Teacher Training—a day in the life
Handstands—to boost energy
Backbends—the extra effort
Forward Folds—that require patience

Love, Love, Love.

Thanks for stopping by and have a creative day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Corporate Yoga, To Om Or Not To Om

One of my first teaching opportunities came through a friend from my teacher training course. She asked if I would sub for her, to teach a class that she had been leading for the past few weeks for a corporate group downtown. I jumped at the opportunity to teach.

I went right to work, putting together a sequence that would include options to suit all levels of experience, as the group was a mix of new students and a few advanced practitioners. The weekend before the class I rehearsed my plan, from how I would start with a theme about power coming from within, followed by three Oms then a warm-up.

The day before class my friend called to see how my preparation was going. She mentioned that I would have the option to play music during the session, and that the students seemed to enjoy having  something a bit mellow playing in the background. That night while scanning the songs on my iPod a slight panic came over me. I tried to rationalize that Neil Young's Harvest album would be an appropriate selection. I frantically searched for serene and calming music on iTunes, slightly ironic, I know. Eventually I came up with my first 'yoga tunes' playlist.

Confident with my plan, I went to teach the group, certain that I would enlighten them with my yogic teachings and tunes. The group was friendly, and I introduced myself to all the students as they came in. It was a great start, my music was playing in the background, I set up my mat at the front of the space and mentally reviewed my class plan as I waited for everyone to get settled.

When it was time to start I asked everyone to take a comfortable seat on their mats. One of the students, an older gentleman, told me he was fine to start the class standing. I urged him to take a seat. Reluctantly, he did. I welcomed the group and started into my theme—blank looks stared back at me—I continued on and asked that everyone close their eyes and bring their hands together in front of their chests.

Then I put it out there: "We will chant three Oms together… Inhale to Om."

I took a deep breath and started the first Om. Maybe two out of the 12 voices chimed in. I fought the urge to open my eyes, to peek out at the group, to see what was up. Time stopped as I recalled that I had, in fact, said I would chant three times. I took a deep breath in and chanted the last two Oms, my voice the only sound in the room.

I shook off the awkward start, turned up the music and started the warm-up. After the first sun salutation, the older gentlemen told me he could not hear me over the music. Gah! I turned the music down and pressed on with my sequence. Remembering what my teacher told me during our training, I found the most enthusiastic student and locked my eyes on her: her smile giving me the positive boost I needed. I walked around the room and offered encouragement to the new students and then challenged the advanced yogis. Apart from getting my lefts and rights confused in the forward folds and twists, I finished the class unscathed.

Now that I have had more experience teaching, I try to take the group dynamics into account. More importantly, I feel that we need to stay true to our authentic self. If this means you want to share some insights or have the group connect at the beginning with an Om, then do so. You may be pleasantly surprised. That said, when teaching a new group, I usually start with a single Om!


Photos: by fatherrazz

Friday, September 30, 2011

Have a Fabulous Weekend

I hope your weekend is filled with good things—like taking a walk in the woods with a good friend and a good dog or just relaxing with a good read and good eats.

I will be attending a workshop with Christine Price Clark, Certified Anusara Instructor, on Saturday morning. The focus is on Hand Balancings, Inversions and Transitions—so I plan to feel revived and refreshed, the way turning upside down can do.

Photo (my own): Throwing rocks for Rocky.
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