Thursday, 26 December 2019

How Jeff saved Christmas

We live in amazing and complicated times. 
The holidays are a time of love and joy for some, disappointments and despair for others. We debate over the right to say Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.

It’s a time for generosity and giving, or, a time of greed and materialism. We travel the world to experience the beauty of nature and cause ecological destruction as we do it. 

It’s a time to enjoy homemade treats and large family meals, or a time to make ourselves ill through overindulgence in alcohol, sugar, carbs and bad fatsšŸ¤Ŗ. We want to stay connected with loved ones through texts and photos or we want to stay present and leave the phones turned off.

If you think too much you could go crazy.

This December a sponge sloth named Jeff captivated the hearts of students and teachers at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg. Granted, Jan, owner and pillar of the Yoga Centre Winnipeg, was taking a few weeks off, so all the love people generally show Jan had to go somewhere….. in comes Jeff!

Jeff was a gift from Claire. 
He showed up as a very small hard vaguely sloth shaped creature, with a big smile a bright eyes. The promise was that he would slowly grow to 6 times his size if put in water.

Immediately people’s minds, hearts, and imaginations were engaged and expanding!
Would he grow too big for his container? 
Would it break? Would water leak all over the computer desk?

Would someone come in one morning to find Jeff had overtaken the lobby – or would he be running the computers and helping at the front desk!!

Each day people came in and monitored his progress! 
They greeted him with the same warmth they would would a human! “hi Jeff” – “how’s Jeff today?” – “how did Jeff move up the corporate ladder so quickly?’” Jeff needs a mat!!! etc. etc..

Admittedly, there were a few: “who’s Jeff?”Or “when do I get to meet him!?” (perhaps hoping for a handsome new teacher-  only to find a smile in a jar of water instead!). 

We used Jeff’s posture to help us with our yoga alignment, and he reminded us to take it slow and easy over the holidays. He even joined the Winter Kaiut Sadhana – and gave participants a big smile when they were “walking out” their practice. 

The response could have been disdain- “enough with the sponge sloth, already” or just a frown - but honestly, even the most serious of folks cracked a smile in his presence. 

The extra special thing about Jeff is his smile – sponge or not he is the embodiment of love, joy and playful presence! As someone pointed out he will be here long after we are all gone!

Jeff’s work is done for now. He is taking a break from the vase, and has settled back to his original size. 

We’ll see him again – but in the meantime, the love, joy and magic of Jeff lives within us all!!! 

All we need to do is breath into our heart space and remember Jeff’s smile (or the smile of anyone we love)!

Once you feel it - breath it into your whole body and hold it there. 
When you are full of love you cannot help but radiate it out.

Just like the plastic sponge Jeff is made of, that love, presence and joy is indestructible and you can make it expand when you choose (just by hopping in a glass of wateršŸ˜‰).

Wishing all love, joy, lightness of spirit, strength, peace and wellbeing in 2020

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Spring Sadhana

It is the final week of our Spring Sadhana. 

This annual even has come to be a ritual of transition from the end of winter into the full blossoming of spring. Each year 29-30 students of the Yoga Centre Winnipeg plus Jan and myself make this commitment to transition together.

Each of us comes to the room with our own goals and intentions, and with our own challenges, yet the experience is shared. Each day the practice continues, the room begins to move as a unit instead of 30 individual beings.

This shared journey starts with the willingness to take on the challenge – 28 days of early wake ups - a big ask on those mornings when it still dark and cold! 
It continues with the willingness to show up and immerse oneself in the practice, regardless of what the practice asks.

In the early days we are all enthusiastic, the practice feels great and the early morning wake ups seem worth the effort. But, as with any transformation practice, sooner or later the resistance kicks in! The path feels arduous- maybe the body is tired and achy, the mind fuzzy, or the heart tender. The practice affects everyone differently, but impacts us all regardless!

The knowledge and palpable feeling that we are not alone, and this too shall pass, helps inspire us through the hard days. When we feel our resistance, we know that it is shared, and it helps us carry the load.

It’s not unlike the body. Our bodies are a community of cells that function together to make up what we call 'me'. Part of the yoga practice is learning how to bring awareness and life to the individual parts of the body. At the same time we are learning to move and connect these parts so that they function as one. In straightening my leg I touch my psoas, as I tone or release my psoas, I affect my breath, as I change my breath, I open my heart and calm my mind.

Some days different parts of our bodies cry out for individual attention- the wrist aches, the hip hurts, the mind checks out. It’s necessary to honor and care for each part independently, yet healing happens when we tenderly hold that individual part within the context of the whole.

As instructors Jan and I are very much part of the experience, yet we also have the privilege to witness the transformations taking place individually and collectively. Arms are getting stronger, legs straighter, breaths deeper and smiles bigger. Focus deepens as the group begins to breathe as one, move as one.

There is something magical about this merging of the individual and group transformation- perhaps it is that it is a reflection of how we walk through life. Each of us an individual yet we are always part of the whole. When we recognize our individuality yet rest in the awareness of our place in a family, a community, a planet, and a very giant universe, we are humbled and whole.


Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Come in From the Cold

2019 has been an exceptionally cold and snowy winter.

I am grateful for the Yoga Centre Winnipeg for providing me with a space to share the teachings of yoga, and also grateful for the hearty Winnipeggers that make their way to class on a daily basis despite the cold and snow. 

The cheerful smiles and committed approach of all who show up demonstrate how the Yoga practice extends beyond the stretching and breathing.  Whether they know it or not the individuals making their way to class are bringing Patanjali's 5 Niyamas to life!

The Niyamas are inner practices that we can cultivate in our daily lives to foster well-being and wholeness.

The 5 Niyamas are:

Saucha- purtity/cleanliness
Santosha- contentment
Tapas - fire, burning zeal, commitment to practice
Svadhayaya- studying of the teaching, as well as self study.
Ishvara pranidhana - surrender to grace, opening to our true nature.

The practice of yoga asana is traditionally viewed as a practice of purification. 

The postures bring energy and awareness to places in ourselves that are often neglected or dormant in our daily life. We store emotional wounds, fears and stress in our bodies in the form of physical tensions and postural habits. By stretching, moving, breathing and feeling into these areas, the holding patterns are released. As the body relaxes and opens, thought patterns, emotions, and stored up energy can be released.

The result is we feel better!! Contentment creeps in!!

Personally, one of the biggest challenges of the cold weather, is the tendency to tense up against the feeling of cold- as my body tenses, my thoughts and feelings shift to a negative bias! However, it only takes a few minutes connecting with the breath and moving the body to drop the holding and move into a positive space! It's so powerful, and so simple.

 When I feel that shift, I remember that the tensing and the emotions and thoughts attached to it, are not me, they are states that change like the weather. I am reminded that my happiness is not defined by the weather outside, or the weather within - this too shall pass!

Yoga gives us the tools to make the shift from feeling frozen and stuck, to feeling open and free, by turning our attention inward and moving with awareness.

To feel it, we must make a commitment to contentment and show up -whether to a class, or to our mat at home. That is Tapas. Tapas is showing up even when we do not want to- tapas means using the memory of the shift to contentment to inspire us to stick to our commitment.  

Svadhyaya, is what we cultivate by coming to class. Studying the teachings whether it is in the form of asana or meditation technique, or the philosophy and readings shared in class. Svadhyaya is also demonstrated in knowing oneself and how to overcome the resistance to coming to class, or whatever our resistance is.

As we practice these teachings, we deepen our self knowledge and our inner awareness.

When we turn our attention inward and make this commitment to growth and contentment, we contact something that is unique for each one of us. Some describe it as stillness, or ease, while others call it wholeness, joy or space.

In whatever form we experience “it” this is Ishvara Pranidhana, our connection to our true nature and to something much bigger than our individual self.  When we are willing to surrender our resistances enough to experience our true nature, this is living Yoga.

It is this true nature that radiates from the smiles of the people coming and going from the Yoga Centre Winnipeg!

 It warms our hearts on even the coldest of days!
Thank you!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Yoga for Life

When I began my yoga journey nearly 20 years ago, I was searching – searching for meaning and for that which is greater than our individual selves.  I read plenty of books on yoga and spirituality and I was naturally led to the practice of asana.  Over the years as a student and, more recently, as a teacher trainee, I have come to understand that yoga is a path that we embark on for life.  There are several ways that “life” is central to the yoga journey:

1. Prana – otherwise known as energy or life force – is an important part of the practice of yoga.  Moving the body into poses and focusing on the breath opens up blocked pathways so energy can flow freely.  Breath is life and bringing our attention to our breath allows us to feel this energy in the body and to be in the present moment, which is where life happens.

2. Quality of life – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  There are countless benefits of moving the body into yoga poses and using the breath to move energy – a key one is to deepen body awareness.  We spend so much time swept up in our thoughts and yoga helps us to move out of the mind and into the body.  Through asana, we also learn about our own bodies and where the habits, tightness or weakness and energy blocks exist.  We also increase our capacity for strength and flexibility and finding balance between the two.  In addition, asana practice is a form of moving meditation.  Training in noticing what the mind is doing and focusing on the present moment can improve mental and emotional health.  Further, yoga is a journey inward toward the wise Self.  Over time, we learn about our mental habits including reactivity and where we grip or resist. Opening ourselves to this awareness helps to cultivate the four limitless qualities – compassion, loving-kindness, equanimity and joy – for others and ourselves. 

3. Yoga over the life course – yoga is a path that can be enjoyed from early childhood to old age. Children love moving their bodies – I see the joy in my toddler’s face when she moves into a pose. Children and adolescents can benefit from increased body awareness (and acceptance) and cultivate mindfulness and self-regulation.  Throughout adulthood, we keep moving our bodies (and appreciating the benefit of props!), deepening our awareness and undoing the habits we have developed over the decades. It is never too late to start. In addition, yoga is beneficial through all phases of life.  I have personally found yoga to be very helpful through grief, pregnancy and other periods of transition.

4. Student for life – we are always a student of yoga on our journey – there is always more to learn!  As a new yoga teacher, I find my own practice is greatly enhanced by going through teacher training.  In addition, I take my experiences as a student into my role as a teacher and find that sharing my journey helps to connect with students as they travel their own path.

The Teacher Training Program at Yoga Centre Winnipeg is a wonderful way to prepare for teaching others yoga and to deepen your own practice.  As Jan said in class recently, rather than thinking of yoga as a practice, we do yoga and we live yoga. Yoga is for life.  

Brenda C.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

“Within the harmony of body and mind lies the secret of health.”

      “ Very  few people know what real health is because most are occupied with killing themselves slowly… the body must be an intimate relationship with the mind”     Albert  Szent –Gyogi.

“ Yoga for Health” – a book that caught my attention as I was walking around a bookstore back home 25 years ago. I kept that book  and always carry it with me wherever I go.

     Year 1997, I signed up for 10 classes of  Beginner level  when it was offered at my workplace. My experience was great and  I loved it since then. The  results were positive and noticeable physically, emotionally and mentally.

     It was an on and off relationship with my mat until the morning of 2013. I woke up realizing that my vision was impaired on my right eye. All that I could see was an intense white light, as if the sun was reflecting the snow falling from the sky. I was referred to an eye specialist immediately and was diagnosed with acute central serous retinopathy. There was a chance of retinal detachment which can cause blindness and surgery was a possibility. The cause is believed to be exacerbated by STRESS. His advice was to avoid stress. I almost laughed.  How did it happen? I thought I was doing well- regular exercise, hot yoga, work, family, chores, etc.. What did I miss?

     I started to attend yoga classes as often as I could. I was followed for a year and my vision started to get better, thank God. The scar is still there and there’s a chance of re occurrence especially in stressful situations.

     Year 2016, I registered for Teacher Training. My goal is mainly for health reasons.  I want to learn the techniques so I can impart them on to my children. Teacher Training definitely deepens my practice. I begin to understand that yoga is not just doing and perfecting those poses, it is an integration of mind and body.  I believe that giving our body at least a 15 minute break daily from everyday stressors will lower the risk of contracting a disease. Allowing our body to relax and rejuvenate regularly will keep our immune system strong. Being mindful of what and how we feed our body will make a significant effect on how we feel. Although our head is anatomically attached to our body, there are times that we lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling.  Being aware of how the body feels during yoga class as well as outside of the class is necessary to achieve a better understanding of ourselves. Paying more attention to our own thoughts and feelings will improve our wellbeing , mentally and physically.

     I am so thankful for this wonderful experience at the Yoga Centre Winnipeg Teacher Training Program. The encouragement, advice, and support that were given to us by our instructors at the Yoga Centre were amazing. The people I have met at the centre are all incredible and awesome.    
                                                               Marites L.
     “Within the harmony of body and mind lies the secret of health.”

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The YCW’s Teacher Training Program is Worth a Look

Are you ready to take your yoga practice to another level? If yes, no, maybe, you might be wondering what “another level” might look like. So, what programs are available? Some people sign up for month-long yoga immersions: these events are located far from home and can be gruelling experiences (and expensive and disruptive to family life). If you’re inclined to a program here in Winnipeg, that recognizes yoga as a process, not an event, then the Yoga Centre Winnipeg’s teacher training program might be worth a look.

Yoga is a process… not an event

Not sure you want to teach yoga? Understandable! I’m at the halfway point of the two-year program and I’m still deciding about whether I’ll teach. What I do know, is the YCW’s teacher training program is enriching my practice.  And as I grow in my understanding of the art and science of yoga, I’m freeing what is already within – joy, compassion, self knowledge.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built. ~ Rumi

Now that you know the YCW’s teacher training program is available, look at the details on

Katherine Johnson

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

the Yoga Journey

I have been doing yoga for a few years now, and I can definitely say that committing to yoga means committing to a relationship. One relationship with yourself, and eventually one with the rest of the world. Yoga is exactly how I perceive the world to be: limitless. There is no limit when it comes to where you take yourself within yoga - the opportunities, lessons and growth are constant as well as endless. You are able to test yourself, to open your mind, and to challenge your body all at your own pace.

What is even better, is the alignment involved when you begin to practice frequently. This alignment exists not only physically, but mentally as well as emotionally. It truly brings you back to what really matters, and the growing awareness is undeniable. Even if that means going through a few (or more than a few) rough patches to get there.

Now, all of this may sound interesting yet vague, but yoga can be a bit unexplainable from one person to the next. This is due to the sole fact that we are all on our own complex and wonderful life journey; yoga patiently reminds us of just that. 

- Emily Marcial

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: How Yoga Helps Off the Mat

Awhile ago I was exploring the yamas and niyamas of yoga, known as yoga’s ethical guidelines, and stumbled upon one nugget that’s helped me a fair amount in my daily life off the mat.  I was reading about Ahimsa, which translates into non-harming, of others and self.  Mahatma Gandhi described it as “not to injure any creature by thought, word or deed”.

            I inherited quite an active worry gene from my mother, especially when it comes to my kids.  My kids are now young adults, with their share of stresses and struggles, and at times I worry about them as if they were helpless little ones, usually keeping myself up in the middle of the night.  I came across an idea by Deborah Adele, who says that “worrying about others is a form of violence.” At first this left me shocked.  Didn’t I worry about them because I loved them so much?  How could this hurt them? Adele explains that when we worry about others, we rob them of their personal power to manage their own challenges.  Rather than worrying, she suggests offering support and encouragement. 
I’ve been turning this over in my mind and my practice and this is how it’s evolved for me.  When I catch myself worrying about someone, I turn the worry into a loving kindness message, and visualize the person in all these lovely states:
May my loved one be well.
May my loved one be peaceful and at ease.
May my loved one be happy.
May my loved one be full of loving kindness.
 I’ve read that there’s evidence of improved wellness for people when experienced mindfulness practitioners meditate on their well-being. Regardless, this practice helps me feel more at peace and more hopeful for my loved ones. I sleep better at night, and when I communicate with them, I’m able to convey genuine faith in their ability. It also helps if I sing myself a little Bobby McFerrin…Don’t Worry, Be Happy.



Wednesday, 22 August 2018

One Year of Yoga

            This past September 2017, I began on the journey of training to become a yoga teacher. My reasons were in part searching for answers to questions I had, and another part being a potential avenue to a career change. My background is in engineering, yet my free time centers on learning herbalism, working with Reiki, among many other areas of personal growth. Yoga teacher training seemed like a logical next step. I liked yoga as a student, so why not take the leap and get the certification to teach yoga?

            When I signed up for teacher training, I expected the actual yoga poses/postures to be straight forward. I could perform most of the poses as a student decently enough, so teaching shouldn’t be that far of a stretch. What I discovered as the most difficult part was communicating how to do a pose to an audience. The communicating of instructions, the forming of sentences that made sense, the actual art of teaching. Performing the pose was no issue at all, but telling someone how to do the pose, now that was and still is very much a challenge.

            With signing up for this two year teacher trainer course, my interest mainly fell for the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of yoga. I was here to learn and experience all that I could. The philosophy class became what I looked forward to every month. The debates and discussions around yoga, around lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and other topics fueled my wanting and yearning to learn about the depths of yoga. These depths of yoga, these emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects, in my opinion give insight to the truth behind people, their actions, and their true nature, and more so, the truth about oneself. These debates raised more questions for me, more uncertainty regarding my plan for myself. More self-doubt as to who I really was. What defined me as me, and what I really and truly wanted for myself out of this life.

            I am still trying to figure a lot of that out, but yoga gave rise to that creative destruction of my perceptions. Yoga created the opportunity for personal growth in the way I wanted it to, not through the physical pose and posture part, but through the mindful, deeper, more meaningful part in my opinion, being that of self-reflection. This act of self-reflection while difficult, gave me the chance and insight to dive deep into much of what drives and makes me, me.

As I look back on the past 10 months, I see the transformation I went through. I see the knowledge I gained. I see my change. I don’t think any of my life questions have been answered as a result of this yoga journey so far, I think I have even more questions now that require answers. Maybe though, that is the point of yoga for me personally. Not a method or a way to finding solutions, but path to more questioning, a path of learning, a path of continual growth. A path of seeking.
Ryan Kologinski
June 2018

Saturday, 11 August 2018

why i signed up for teacher training!

I had never planned to become a yoga teacher. I enjoy yoga, and have been doing it for many years but it never entered my mind to teach it. I had been following a Zen Buddhist path for many years when it became evident that I must step into a teaching role – which was not in my comfort zone! I had an intense discomfort of being watched, scrutinized, and the centre of attention. I have had many
inspired and wise teachers over the years and I wondered what I could offer.

Around the same time, yoga teacher training “came up” as a possibility and I knew it was the correct next step for me to take. My instincts were confirmed in my very first teacher training class by the approach and presence of our wise and knowledgeable teacher Shauna. I marvelled at her naturalness, grace, sense of effortlessness, and humour and by the words we read of B.K.S. Iyengar to “treat your students as though they are divinity”. This was in complete alignment with my spiritual path! I was in the right place. I would learn to teach and be comfortable in my skin doing it.

Starting a daily yoga practise with a deep exploration of poses surprised me by being a great joy. It wasn’t a chore or a drag like I thought it might sometimes be. For much of my life I was disconnected from my body and sometimes it behaved unpredictably and almost felt like an enemy. It was a gift to spend this time getting to know my body – it felt like falling in love.

Body, on the Zen path, is often conspicuously not mentioned. Body is relative and temporary, like ego, and not considered worth spending time on.

But we are embodied – our bodies are our only vehicles in this life and are sacred – they must be taken care of. Part of my path has been reintegration of splintered/disowned parts and yoga has been profoundly healing in reclaiming my body and moving me towards wholeness.