Monday, 11 July 2016

Yoga Changed My Life

Breathing in. Breathing out. Arms up over my head. And then that moment when I feel like I can't hold it any longer. The relief of moving my arms down. Feeling the blood rushing back to my hands as they come down to the ground. Making the connection between the mind, the body, the soul. Facing challenges in everyday life the same way that we face these physical challenges - with perseverance, patience, understanding, forgiveness, kindness.

And then the celebration of the success when we've finally accomplished that goal. Or maybe even more learned yet, the failure of not being able to succeed the way we wanted to. The everyday life challenges, work challenges, those goals that can sometimes seem unreachable. Just like how we deal with our physical challenges. Those toes that we cannot yet touch. That pose that we cannot yet quite master the way we think we should be able to do. It all takes time and effort.

Making that connection between how we deal with life to how we deal with our yoga practice. Its an amazing way to get to know yourself. This yoga path. To be able to recognize your own patterns that maybe you never even knew you had. The good, the bad, the whatever they may be but trying to accept them. Accept yourself. Accept others.

These yoga postures, this yoga practice. its so much more than meets the eye. To me, its a representation of life. A representation of who we are as human beings. Its a representation of how we deal with success, failure, for ourselves and for others. It has brought so much awareness to my life. Sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful. Trying to appreciate the good with the bad because there's a lesson with all of it. It is what it is and will become what you make of it. Forever learning with the help of my yoga practice.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Why I practice Yoga?

Yoga did not change my life overnight.  It has been a gradual change over time.  In my early adult years I witnessed the harmful effects of obesity, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes in my family.  I made a commitment to not take my health for granted and to make exercise a regular activity throughout my life.  Since then, I participated in a variety of sports and physical activities that helped me stay healthy.  At the same time I was finding that the brief ten minute cool down at the end of a step aerobics class was not nearly enough release for my muscles, joints, as well as my restless mind.  I felt a need for some sort of complement to my aerobic exercise.
It was about ten years ago that I started looking for yoga teachers in the small rural Manitoban city that I was living in at the time.  Fortunately, I found two talented teachers who had been trained through Yoga Centre of Winnipeg.  I remember learning poses with strange Sanskrit names.  I remember the challenge of the unfamiliar poses as I stretched and contracted my body.  I remember the infusing flush of warm energy.  I also remember learning awareness of the flow of my breath. 

The physical benefits were soon apparent.  The stiffness in my hips and legs released.  The frequent tension carried in my neck and shoulders melted away.  As flexibility and range of movement increased, my body’s movements became more fluid.  From the practice of both long held poses as well as faster flowing sequences; the additional benefit I did not expect was the strengthening and toning of my body.  My arms, legs and core felt more stable, while the dull recurring ache in my back was no more.  It felt as if my posture had been unfurled and the effort to support my frame had lightened.

Another welcoming development from practicing yoga has been an increased calmness in my everyday life.  The lessons of breath, focus, patience, acceptance, and perseverance practiced on the yoga mat have illuminated my life outside of the studio.  When I realized how beneficial yoga practice was to my body and life, I wanted to learn more about it.  It started as one, two, and then three classes per week.  If I missed a class, my husband could sense my disappointment.  As we moved from city to city over the passing years, I attended yoga classes in community halls where occasionally the whiff of beer from the previous weekend’s social still lingered.  I attended yoga classes at the neighborhood gym where the loud cacophony of hungry summer day camp children waiting outside our glass walled studio/lunchroom tested many of us students ending a session in restful savasana or corpse pose.  Most importantly, I attended yoga classes when life was demanding and stressful, as well when it was quieter.  Since attending classes at Yoga Centre in Winnipeg, I have eagerly pursued a deeper understanding of yoga poses, pranayama (or breath practice), meditation, and philosophy.  Presently as I work on completing my basic yoga teacher training, I see my yoga practice as a wonderful lifelong journey of study, discovery, and reflection.

By Ann

Monday, 4 July 2016

My Relationship with Yoga

I cannot even recall when or how my interest for yoga begun. However, I do remember the day that my parents gifted me my first yoga book and mat, it was Christmas and I was 12 years of age (I still use the mat to this day). Since then I’ve tried going to numerous yoga studios, attempting a home practice and having an on-and-off relationship with yoga. I never lost interest in it; I just simply didn’t make enough time to fully immerse myself in the practice.

About a year ago, I joined a hot yoga studio and went consistently for the entire winter. I was feeling great! My body felt wonderful, my mind was clear and I simply just wanted to learn more. My desire to learn more lead me to enrolling in the teacher training program at the yoga center. I was so nervous; I thought I was going to be out of place since my skills were definitely not on par with experienced teachers, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case; the class was filled with so many different people, at so many different levels. But what I love most about the teacher training is just how much I love attending the workshops and the monthly philosophy classes. In my five years at University I was never really eager to attend a class, so I am exceptionally happy that the story is different this time around. I am delighted that the eager 12 year old girl who just wanted to put her legs over her head (still have not reached that goal) is now a 26 year old woman who still has that same passion she had 14 years ago. Yoga has taught me, and is still teaching me patience, love and self-care. Overall, my journey at the yoga center has been wonderful, the teachers are amazing, the classes are exceptional and I am constantly being challenged… and hopefully improving.

Even though committing to a daily practice is something I still greatly struggle with, yoga is something I think about every day. I have become more in-tune with myself and I have started to deal with things a lot differently than I would have a year ago.

I am truly thankful that yoga is something I have been able to consistently stay in love with after all these years!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Aspiring Teacher Turned Dedicated Student

My yoga story seems slightly round-about in the sense that I wanted to be a yoga teacher prior to having any experience on the mat.  Nevertheless, becoming a teacher was my initial motivation and for whatever reason something inside of me deeply resonated with the simultaneous discipline of mind, body, and spirit. I somehow intuitively understood that yoga would help with the care and nurture of my physical and mental well-being so it only made sense to make it a part of my life.
I started my practice in 2009 trying out various studios and class styles around Winnipeg. 

Unsurprisingly, I immediately noticed some subtle yet genuine improvements in my strength and flexibility. It wasn’t long before I happily anticipated that overall “feel good” sensation right after a class and it wasn’t much longer that I had noticeably less aches and pains, less frowns and strains.
Other changes arrived and keep arriving but they are more gradual and are dependent on time. I’m talking about the growth of mind and spirit and I have no doubt that yoga has opened my heart and widened my mind. Yoga has literally helped wake me up from a type of slumber that is completely inevitable when one’s mindset and attitudes are narrow and unknowingly lazy. My practice in and out of the studio has truly helped me cultivate an awareness that I was previously unfamiliar with…life seems so much more enjoyable and less scary when presence presides with more regularity. 

Consequently, I am more interested in how to be of better service to others, my self, and the Divine. 
After about five years of yoga experience I finally decided to follow the path that had originally peaked my interest in the first place– yoga teacher training.

These last two years of teacher training have also been nothing short of life changing.  Living out of town and being a pregnant stay at home mom to a toddler, I had some legitimate challenges with the commitment of attending the workshops and classes and keeping up with a home practice.  However, the training actually dedicated me to my yoga and motivated me to keep going during those doubtful moments of “what am I doing here?!” I realized how important and rewarding it is to dedicate yourself to something that is so good for you both inside and out and I absolutely fell in love with my role as a yoga student .

So while yoga has indeed changed my life in many ways, the most unexpected irony is that my initial interest in becoming a yoga teacher has fallen to the wayside of becoming a more dedicated yoga student. And perhaps this in turn is precisely why I was inspired to become a yoga teacher… so that I could completely immerse myself in a life of learning.