Odessa!

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Chris, Jude and I were humbled by the appearance of our beautiful nine pound baby girl born in the wee hours of October second. We named her Odessa and are so very excited to welcome her into our family. Even though this was my second pregnancy I still find it so very strange that this wondrous creature was just hanging out and growing in that big belly of mine. Already, she seems to have such a big personality. When I held her for the very first time I couldn’t help but think what a strong and fabulous girl she is. Can’t wait to watch the years unfold.

Thanks yogi friends and blog followers for sharing in this momentous occasion. See you on the mat soon.

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For all my fellow pregnant yogis and their teachers

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Pregnancy and yoga. It’s this funny thing that sounds like it makes sense together but can be confusing when it comes down to it. Doctors have always nodded approvingly when I have told them that I kept up my yoga practice during my pregnancies. But, what the medical field does not seem to acknowledge is that yoga can be a mysterious place of right and wrongs for a pregnant woman. Here I will to share my personal experience of pregnancy and yoga. The offerings I extend are yours for the taking or leaving. Either way I hope this post will shed some light for you on this complex union of pregnancy and yoga.

Before I get started, I have to say that I have had no prenatal teacher training. I have practiced yoga through two pregnancies and taught yoga through one.

Here is my yoga pregnancy story:

During my first pregnancy I kept up with a regular vinyasa flow practice. I took out my closed twists, and modified some of my vinyasa sequences to allow room for my belly, but I showed up and felt like a superstar. I found the prenatal class I was taking to be too beginner oriented for my liking and most enjoyed going to my regular classes where my favourite teachers helped me modify poses to accommodate my changing body. I was in my last flow class the night before I went into labour and I was back two weeks later feeling a little weaker then I had in the past but empowered by my own ability to get back on the mat. Yes, I hung out in child’s pose a lot, but I was smiling ear to ear the whole way through.

During my second pregnancy I discovered I had significant diastasis (a common separating of the most superficial abdominal muscles) AND an umbilical hernia (less common and even less fun). Those two things changed my practice completely. During my second trimester I decided to kick out all my concentrated core work, all backbends (even most forms of bridge) and completely halt my vinyasa flow practice. My yoga practice got a lot slower, a lot more focused on my mind, and I got even more serious about dedicating my efforts to teaching my students in a way that was safe and yet challenging for everyone in the room. It was a great time to grow as a teacher. It was a great time to leave my ego at the door.

For both pregnancies I have felt the strength of yoga empower me. I recommend it to everyone. Body allowing, I believe a strong standing practice in pregnancy is great, not only from the perspective of empowerment but, to also utilize our muscular structures in ways that get blood flowing to nourish you and your babe.

One controversial point I have come up against over and over is that in both pregnancies I have felt awesome lying on my back and my right hand side. Due to the potential of the uterus compressing the vena cava vein, these two positions can be harmful for some women who can get dizzy as blood flow is restricted. Some teachers like to insist on students lying exclusively on their left hand side.

Whether it be lying in a certain way or whether or not you feel comfortable in a specific pose, I strongly advocate listening to your own body and being empowered in your own body’s self knowledge. Let the knowledge of your teachers educate you, but listen to your inner teacher to know what is right for you. And of course, talk to your Doctor or Midwife if you do have concerns! I know, during those hot summer days, legs up the wall, lying on my back was a huge relief on my swollen feet and pesky spider veins. I feel lucky that lying on my back was an option!!

For my fellow pregnant yogis and teachers of pregnant yogis, here are the highlights of what I have learned from my own experience about yoga and pregnancy:

1) Every pregnancy and every body is different. What might be good for your yogini friend in her pregnancy, may not be good for you and vice versa. Take the time to be quiet with yourself and listen to your own unique body and mind. Consult with teachers you trust.

2) Pregnant women are powerful. Your pincha mayurasana may not be what it once was, but, take the time to feel your body. You are a power house creating a life. You are physically strong and yoga can help express that. Use the wall when you need to. Take the precautions that work for you. But, let yoga show you some of your amazing inner strength. This can be rocking an awesome half moon pose at the end of your third trimester, a headstand in your second (if that’s in your practice), or maybe even more powerfully, learning to sit mindfully with your breath with a new sense of quiet and understanding.

3) Hold back on progressing your hardcore physical asana practice during your pregnancy. If you do not do headstand in your pre-pregnant yoga practice, this is really not the time to start. Be mindful that your body is changing. Be realistic in your practice and know that nailing that headstand can wait until after baby is born. Pregnancy is a great time to take a look at something more yogi’s should be examining – our egos! Let it go and enjoy your body and your practice for what it is today. Your yoga practice is likely different every day, pregnant or not. This is a fabulous time to work on that understanding.

4) Don’t squish the baby. This applies mostly to really tight closed twists like twisted chair. While its great to wring out your insides like a wet cloth when you aren’t pregnant, once there is a baby in there it’s a good idea to give them the space to grow. You can still take great spinal twists that leave room for your belly to remain its growing plump healthy self!

5) Teachers are there to offer up their knowledge. Drink from their offerings and absorb what you can. They have likely worked with an array of pregnant yogis over the course of their teaching careers. Saying that, know that they are NOT in your body. Only you can feel what is right for you. You are your greatest teacher.

So, there it is, a little offering from me to you that I carry forth from these two pregnancies. Feel free to ask me any questions about my experienced that may be relevant to you. I would be excited to share!

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Tapping Out

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My dear friends, teachers and students: tonight I taught my last class before going on yoga teacher maternity leave. It was a bitter sweet class as I ceremoniously put teaching on the back shelf and opened the door to tell my babe that I am ready for their impending arrival. Really, it was a pretty cool moment of transition.

Stay tuned to the blog and my Yoga Sproule Facebook Page for the birth announcement as well as when I will return to teaching.

And, not to completely jump the gun, but I am already looking forward to re-starting my yoga teaching practice in a couple months. My students have provided me with so much incredible inspiration during this pregnancy I will really miss teaching! But yes, for now, I am ready to get comfy at home with my family and get in some sweet quality cuddles. I say, let the fall roll in. It’s time for cozy sweaters, hot tea and family!

Sending out love love love to you and all your loved ones. And, a special shout out to my East Side Yoga family (teachers and students alike) for all their support and love during 2013.

I will be in touch soon!

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My yoga teacher is pregnant!

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For those of you who frequent my classes, you know by now that this yoga teacher has got a baby brewing! This is my second pregnancy practicing yoga but my first pregnancy as a yoga instructor and, I can tell you, it has changed how I teach.

During my last pregnancy I maintained a physical yoga practice right until the day before I went into labour. I intend to do that again (body and baby willing). But, yoga pregnant is not the same as yoga NOT pregnant. Already I am pining for the days of forward folds with my feet hips distance apart (or closer!), not to mention the luxury of taking deep twists that really rinse out my internal organs. But, despite having to pull back on my personal physical practice, teaching yoga pregnant has become a fabulous place of growth and discovery.

What does it mean for you when you show up for a class now that this baby belly is also making an appearance? It means I’m demoing the poses less and talking you through them more. The big bonus is that I see you more then ever. I’m not busy hanging out in poses where my view is obscured. Instead, I can look around the room thoroughly and ensure the following is going on:

A) You understand the general form of the asana (posture)
B) You are moving in ways that are safe for your body
C) You are empowered to fine tune your practice as your body and mind are ready

AND, even if you don’t realize all of those things are happening, what you will notice is there is a lady, who looks like she has a beach ball in her belly, telling you what to do. It’s totally awesome!

For everyone who is heading to my class in the next few months, I look forward to sharing my pregnant teaching practice with you.  See you there!

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Living your truth

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The weight of a lie. Oh the weight. Perhaps you didn’t quite notice what lying felt like on your body until  the moment you were able to come clean or start acting in a truthful way. Prime example: you are involved in planning a surprise party for a friend who absolutely loves surprises. The lies you have to tell them are for their benefit, but in the long run, when they finally know the truth and the extensive web of lies can be swept away, there is just sweet relief. I know I feel it: a fabulous rush – a release.

It doesn’t help that I’m a terrible liar. I’m glad I don’t have to do it very often. I feel my jaw tighten and I have to swallow an excessive amount of saliva as I blush from ear to ear. Talk about tension. I’m sure my yoga practice looks especially interesting at those times with my shoulders jammed up into my ears.

Sometimes lies aren’t mere lies, they are how we are actually living. Are we living a life that someone else wants us to live? Or, are we living the life that benefits us?

What is your best life? THAT is your truth.

But “truth” is not one idea that lasts a life time. Truths change. Sometimes our “best life” is completely different then it once was and our actions have to catch up. And sometimes our best life is just working on finding out what our new best life actually is. It’s called transition. Transition is truth.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing that now? Would you want to be? However romantic, I’m glad I decided NOT to follow my childhood dreams of becoming a brick layer/ballet dancer. Whew! Some people know their whole lives who they are and what they want to be. Then they become that thing and stick with it. That’s their truth. I don’t know the stats, but I’m sure those people are beyond rare. And, they miss out on the magic of transition, where you get to become something new from fabric that belonged to something else completely. How incredible!!!

How does your body feel when your life is not where you want it to be and you aren’t working towards getting it there? Heavy? Tense?

Take a moment to think about it. Is this your best life? Find your truth in the NOW (not your truth from the last decade or your truth of the long away future) and work towards what is real for you today. Change is never easy, but the lightening of your load and the release of stagnation could not be sweeter.

If Moulin Rouge taught me anything it’s that the Bohemians had it right:

Truth
Beauty
Freedom
Love

They feed from one another. They are one another. And they could not exist without the other.

So… let your beautiful truth, your satya, lighten your load and set you free.

Photo by Melinda Markey.

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Making new

Chocolate santas

Being a newly knighted yoga teacher I thought this Christmas might be different then the Christmases of years past.  I had high expectations of moderation. Chocolate enjoyed only to tickle the the taste buds. Mashed potatoes to nourish the soul. Meditation (instead of wine) to relieve the stress.

So, it’s not a big jump to guess that none of that happened.  I type this after eating an entire dark chocolate Santa. I do not feel enlightened by it. I feel full and a little gross. Bleh!

It’s tricky how the brain works.

As I dive head on into seconds and thirds of the greasiest Christmas dishes my mind says, “you will love this. You won’t regret it later. This is the Christmas experience. Revel in it.” And because I’m gullible, for a moment, I do. But, I really don’t feel awesome after. I feel crappy. And then I’m running from one sugar high to the next. I’m chasing the Christmas dragon. I’m spiralling down. Down, down, down, towards the floor.

But, once the cycle starts, how do you stop it? We don’t go on like this until next Christmas (well, not most years). Sometimes we make our brains and bodies so damn sick in such a short period of time we have to take drastic measures. Measures like New Year’s Resolutions.

What would we do without the grace and guidance of resolving change? Oh, there is something I so love about that. January 1st. The clean slate. Suddenly it’s all wiped away. No sugar addiction. No vrittis. All that crappy stuff doesn’t stand a chance. Kick your caffeine habit. Put away your iPhone. Tell your Mom you love her. New Year’s day has it all. And, if that isn’t the magic of the holidays, I don’t know what is.

So, even if Brahmacharya (at least, the non-sexual interpretation of the Yama of restraint) hasn’t been your strong suit this holiday season you can rest in the fact that you have change on your horizon. With a slight push from midnight chimes and the rolling of a calendar, you have the power to find your inner peace, your inner kindness and maybe a carrot or two.

Good luck my friends and enjoy the gentle sweetness of the fresh and the new.

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You know you are a yoga mom when… (part 2)

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a) You worry about your baby’s knee alignment in his Virasana.

b) You try not to disturb his drishti when he is learning to stand solo.

c) You think om might have been his first “word.”

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A new start

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I made it! 200 hours of enlightening yoga education under my belt. So, what did I learn? I can name a lot of different muscles and tell you their approximate locations. I know when to use different poses and why (I love the creativity of sequencing!). I know a heck of a lot more then I did about the philosophy and history of yoga. The list goes on…

It’s exciting. I feel like doing cartwheels. At the same time, I am fully aware that this is just the beginning. 

So, what is a beginning exactly? I’m no scientist, but I can guess that there is always something that proceeds the beginning.  Birth, life, death… something always came before. It is change that accumulates into a great density that we call this “beginning.”

Today I come to you with years of experience working on a changing yoga practice. There have been shifts from fighting it, to loving it, to having “ah ha” moments and then to truly appreciating it when it started to softening the chatter of the mind. After all that, I dove in to my teacher training pregnant (that was a change) and again later as a new mom (also, a change). And now, here I am beginning to teach. Pretty cool. But ya know, what I’m looking forward to the most are the new beginnings yet to come.  This yoga practice of mine has already evolved so much over time. I can only hope my teaching yoga practice will do the same.

Here’s to always being a student and always learning. I look forward to learning so much more from my teachers, my students and my world.

This blog goes out to my many teachers, my fellow students and my new students. Thank. you. all.

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…and you will call that place Home

Moving. It is supposedly one of the top stressers we will experience in our lives. We are creatures of habit. We thrive off of familiarity. We bow to the comfort of consistency. We don’t like putting our sense of normal in a blender and seeing how it tastes all mixed up. Well, very few of us do anyway.

For the sake of this blog, imagine you love routine and you love knowing what comes next. But, instead of basking in the sweet comfort of it all, you go and look that stability square in the face and stomp on it. You crush it like you were wearing those doc martens you used to own in the 90’s (preferably lace up/knee high). You are packing up your life, putting it in boxes, staring at it, dragging it around and imagining fitting it in a new place with new walls (actually, a place with no walls because they have asbestos in them and need to be torn out). When that’s all over and the air monitoring people say the dust is settled and safe, you will move in and you will call that place Home.

Previously, my husband and I spent a lot of time on the road, in the air and on trains. We know moving around. We travelled the world for a year on our honeymoon. It was truly one of the most romantic things we could have done but, it was also stressful.

When we began our adventure, I decided my home was going to be my travel yoga mat. The walls around me would change, the food would change, our travel companions would change, but my mat (and my husband) would always stay the same. Through Thailand, Laos, China, Malaysia and India, my mat helped me feel normal. I would stand on that pink rubbery grippy surface and feel the texture of it under my toes and know, even in the changing scenery, I was still me and this body, with all it’s familiar beauties and challenges, was mine.

That was all I needed.

Of course, moving is different then travel. There are no lions and elephants to see in the wild. We aren’t arriving at a train station at 4am and trying to figure out which rickshaw driver will give us the least hassle and the best price. We aren’t standing in awe at the foot of an ancient temple. Moving is definitely less glamourous but, there is something about it that feels the same. There is uncertainty, excitement, progress, new experiences… those things are there.

So, I’m going to take what I’ve learned from travel into my move and put a lot of faith in my mat. In my mat I can keep coming home no matter what state my physical home might be in.

We take possession of the house in two weeks and we move in three. It should be an interesting time and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

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Earth, Air, Fire, Water

Artwork by Beatrice Lebreton.

My lovely yoga blog has been taking a back seat lately.  Not because I don’t love writing it, and not because I’m too busy. It’s because life has been, well, different. Not bad different, just the kind of different that has made me feel less like writing and more like being.

That hasn’t meant I haven’t had time for reflecting. I’ve got so much reflecting going on these days it’s hard to know what to share here first. I should probably start by sharing something yoga (this is a yoga blog after all).  And, where have I left off?  I had just taken a short teacher training at East Side Yoga studio. I touched on it in my Flintstones post. Something I didn’t mention there which has stuck with me, was Julie‘s introduction to the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. They were presented as possible themes for a class but also as tools for self study, for svadhyaya. I’ve spent some time pondering what they mean for me.

So, here it goes…

I’ve been thinking a lot of about the four elements in the context of me becoming a yoga teacher. I’ve said it before but one of the things I love best about my favourite yoga teachers is, when they are teaching a class they are simply being themselves. Sounds easy. Way less complicated then making up a yoga persona that isn’t me. Well, it turns out this “be yourself” thing causes  a lot of svadhyaya. I have been feeling like a teenager trying to figure out who the hell I really am. Luckily, this time I have more to go on then purple hair and a deep rooted love of riot grrrl music (although, those qualities can’t be forgotten either!). And I have a starting point, the four elements.

It was hard at first to say which element I identified with the most. I felt a connection to all of them.  I’m Aquarian (not that I’m actually into astrology, but it was worth a shot!). Aquarious is an Air sign and a Water carrier.  In contrast to those elements, Fire scares me on some level and Earth is really where I want to be. Overall, I’d probably say I’m Air (which is in agreeance with two of my teachers). I tend to get spinney, even flighty. Going upside down doesn’t cause me any fear, only fun. I’m an over thinker, an over talker and an over do-er. I constantly have to tell myself to slow down and take on less. Be a little less so you can be more. You know, that kind of thing.

Oh, I know, there is nothing wrong with Air. I’m guessing I’ll always be a little flighty. There is an enjoyment in that to some degree.  It can be a total blast. But sometimes I feel like I’m too high up there. I’m in outer space where the air is actually starting to dwindle. My oxygen is getting low. I need to let go of some of those balloons to slowly lower, get a little closer to the earth.

I see Earth as cool, calm and collected. I know a few people I’d throw into the Earth category. They are slower talkers. They are level headed. They take in their surroundings. They choose their words carefully. They embody a sweet peacefulness. They remember to breathe between their sentences. I love it all. And when I see it, I know, that groundedness is in me as well. No one is all Air, all Earth, all Fire or all Water. We are all a lovely mix that is there to be accessed at our own will (some elements more challenging then others of course!).

But what do Earth, Air, Fire and Water really have to do with teaching? No, they are not an incantation. They are deciphering tools. A means of reflecting on what it is we intentionally or unintentionally send out to those around us. No one needs crazy energy injected into their day through their yoga teacher. Energy, yes. Crazy energy, no. Ever been to a class where the teacher’s energy left you feeling scattered in savasana? Being conscientious as a teacher is important, and me, taking a month to think it all through can’t be a bad idea.

So, what did I discover in that month? I know now, more then ever, that I’m looking forward to sharing a little balance of “Air” and “Earth” with my students. Without giving away all my secrets, I’m taking the playful side of my natural tendencies and interjecting that with a little more quiet, a little more awareness and a little more intention. I’m excited for this reflection to become a part of my teaching. I’ll be officially finished my 200 hour in December. Hoping to see a few of you then!

Also, I would love to hear what element you relate to most. I’m curious to know if it’s something my friends and readers can actually can identify with. Hit me with a comment, email me or tell me in person!

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