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Yoga and SAD

The darkness of winter is upon us. If you suffer seasonal affective disorder, you will understand the debilitating exhaustion, apathy and moodiness that affects many during the dark months of December and January.

Seasonal affective disorder is described by the Mayo clinic as a change in circadian rhythm and a drop in serotonin levels brought on by reduced sunlight in the winter months. For the SAD sufferers, Decembers are punctuated by feelings of isolation, sadness and inexplicable exhaustion.

Depression, especially a variation as misunderstood and seemingly benign as seasonal affective disorder, is hard to talk about. So mostly, they don’t talk about it. They hang out at home, sleep a lot and eat a lot of carbohydrates. These three traits lend themselves to a frustratingly negative sense of self.

Resting a lot and spending time alone is not necessarily negative, especially during the cold dark months of winter, but if the SAD sufferer feels that such behaviour is unhealthy, then the self-blaming and feelings of worthlessness manifest themselves. Yoga is a reprieve from those negative thoughts and a distraction through breath and movement.

Anecdotally, there is evidence that yoga is specifically beneficial for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but objectively any physical activity will do. The advantage of yoga is that it can be done anywhere and at any time of day. There is no special gear, you don’t need a partner, it doesn’t have to cost anything and it doesn’t matter if it’s dark out.

There are yoga studios in almost every town or city, and even if you have never tried yoga, I guarantee that you will be welcome at whatever studio you walk into. And if you don’t feel like going out to go to yoga? There are excellent online yoga classes. I maintain a membership with during the winter and am always impressed with the wide range of classes and teachers the site offers. You don’t even need a yoga mat to start. A beach towel or blanket works really well, especially on a carpeted floor.

-The advantage of yoga is that it can be done anywhere at any time-

So if Seasonal Affective Disorder affects you at this time of year, see if a daily yoga practice mitigates the effects. It’s not that socializing less and eating more carbohydrates in the winter is inherently bad, the problem is when your actions make you feel bad about yourself. Yoga’s focus on breathing and moving can offer a reprieve from the negativity and the low self-esteem that results from the SAD symptoms.

Uncategorized Yoga

Cue the Silence

Our world is a noisy place. We exist among conversations, loud engines, music, sirens, air filter machines, humming computers, ringtones, radios, barking dogs and constant chatter inside our heads. Silence is an elusive concept. So when the power went off in my office building last week, besides the darkness, the aftermath was a silence that juxtaposed the constant background noise that I hadn’t realized was there.

In yoga, I encourage my students to “let go of distracting thoughts,” and “quiet the mind.”

But how can the mind become quiet when the world is so noisy?

Therein lays the challenge. I constantly struggle to quiet the omnipresent chatter in my head. I do yoga as a tool to quiet my mind and I teach yoga to help others quiet their minds. Paradoxically I teach with a soundtrack playing in the background. Music is something that I always incorporated into my classes. Deva Premal, Wah!, Krishna Das. These musicians were my most regular attendees. They never missed a class and their voices and rhythms provided the ambiance for my classes. But is more external noise really the key to inner silence?

When the power was off and my office was silent for 25 minutes, I had the time to reflect on the value of silence. I pondered why I play music during yoga classes.

Who was it for? Did my students relate to it? Did it assist them to quiet their minds, as I was constantly reminding them to do? Doubtful.  It occurred to me that I was playing the music for myself. The music was a comfort for me in case I couldn’t think of anything to say. It was a buffer between awkward silence and valuable commentary from me.

So I turned off the music. The relief of not having to design playlists for every class was a wonderful byproduct of my new music-free yoga classes. More importantly, I noticed my students. When I played music, I wasn’t listening to my students. I was often listening to the music, wondering if it was too loud, too fast…did the students like the song? But none of that has anything to do with yoga and my teaching wasn’t effective with the distraction of a playlist.

Without the music, I am able to listen to the pranayama in the room and focus on how students are responding to my verbal cues. I am able to tune into how students are responding to my teaching and subsequently teach poses and sequences that cater to what my students need.

It is my intention to foster an environment where dynamic and valuable yoga practice can take place. An environment where students can silence the chatter, tune out of the world and achieve an internal focus and respect. Turning off the music is my small contribution towards finding silence of mind, awareness of breath and steadiness of body.

Join me on the mat for music-less but pranayama-rich power yoga.

Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm

Tuesdays at noon.

Taiga Yoga Studio, Yellowknife


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Silence the chatter with a strong physical yoga practice

Yoga is the simple equation of breath + movement. But it seems there is an interest in “getting there,” “doing the poses right.”  The physical part of yoga, the movement, is simply a gateway to quieting the mind.  Yoga poses are a venue for your body and mind to concentrate on breath and movement with the goal of quieting the inner chatter.

 Practice yoga to disengage from the constant inner dialogue

The self-doubt, the vanity, the unproductive discussions and negotiations with the self can all be eliminated by concentrating on breathing in physical poses. Easy, right? Except it isn’t.

Some days it feels impossible to quiet the mind, forget the chatter and be peaceful.

Enter power yoga.

The poses of power yoga provide a setting for tuning into the sound of the breath and concentrating on physical stamina, strength and flexibility. By concentrating on breathing in challenging yoga poses, the inner dialogue will fall silent. It’s very hard to think about your next career move when you’re practicing arm balances!

So if your inner chatter is particularly noisy, step onto your yoga mat. The physical challenge will quiet your mind.

You’ll be surprised at the mental clarity that can be achieved after a physically challenging yoga practice.

And if you’re afraid to try yoga  because you “can’t keep up?”  

Yoga isn’t about getting somewhere, or achieving a particular pose. It’s about creating a harmony between breath and movement. Sometimes more challenging poses are required to find the harmony and focus, sometimes not. Some people need more challenging poses to quiet the mind, while others already have the mental fortitude to silence the chatter without the physical challenge. Some days it takes a little extra strength to overcome the inner noise, which is why progressively more challenging poses are offered in power yoga.

But there is no end goal, there is no best pose, there is no best yogi.

Power yoga offers the chance to challenge yourself physically as much as you need to cultivate a quiet mind. Power yoga sequences are designed so that everyone is challenged, regardless of body type, age, or yoga experience.

Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm

Tuesdays at Noon. 

Taiga Yoga, Yellowknife

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Open the heart to heal

When we sustain a physical injury such as a broken leg, black eye or a sunburn, the injury is visible for the world to see and comment on. “What happened!?” invites story-telling and sharing the circumstances of the accident. Sharing contributes to healing. In contrast, surviving emotional trauma does not always prompt the healing power of sharing. We tend to shy away from talking about our aches of the heart.

Recovering from physical trauma takes time, of course, but is visible. Talking about the injury and noticing physical improvements contribute to healing. Matters of the heart, on the other hand, are less visible and more complex. Although heartache often manifests itself as a furrowed brow, swollen eyes and a sad face, sparking a conversation about emotional pain is a little more sensitive than discussing a physical injury.

So, while the presence of a physical injury invites questions and conversation, the seclusion of an emotional injury has the opposite effect. Isolation and loneliness prevail.

Meanwhile, the owner of the broken heart

seeks an outlet for the pain.

Healing from a physical injury has socially-acceptable antidotes: over the counter painkillers, topical creams, physical therapy. Matters of the heart are shrouded in secrecy, punctuated by solitude and emotional discomfort. Thus, the victim of the emotional trauma is prone to making bad decisions, escaping through drugs, alcohol, sex, and regrettable lifestyle decisions.

So, how to deal with emotional trauma in a healthy way?

The posture of grief is characterized by hunched shouldersslumped spine,and head in hands. Heart opening yoga poses are the antidote to a grieving posture and will create space to let the emotion out, to free the heart from sadness and begin to heal.

Yoga is the union of mind, body and spirit.

Practicing heart opening poses is a gateway to releasing unwanted emotional energy.

Make no mistake, heart openers will trigger a painful release of emotions, often tears, but will ultimately foster tremendous release and freedom from negative energy. Fortunately, the yoga studio and the yoga mat is a safe place to let go of great emotional trauma. The yoga mat is a place of solace and comfort and is free from judgment.  You are always safe on your yoga mat and just like you aren’t passing judgment on the yogi on the mat next to you, you can be certain that (s)he isn’t judging you either. All that being said, if getting yourself to a studio is simply too much for your broken heart, unroll your yoga mat or towel in the privacy of your own home and practice these heart openers there.

Warrior I

Updog/ cobra

Bow pose

Wild thing




Dancer’s pose

After a deep heart-opening practice, rest in a long savasana followed by several minutes of sitting still, crosslegged. Take your time and step off your mat and back into the world when you’re ready.

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Springtime Transformation

CaptureBirch trees are blossoming and birds are singing. Ice is melting and creeks are running. Sun is shining and bike tires are spinning. The oppression of darkness and winter has lifted like a heavy cloak, and long days and music festivals are on the horizon. Spring is punctuated by fewer clothes and lighter shoes and the shedding of the weight of winter garb lends itself to feelings of excitement, change, joy and new energy.

Tragedies and transgressions can be left in the past and new ideas, new opportunities and new friends start to appear. Springtime is a time of transformation, so how about stepping back on to your yoga mat and trying a new pose, a new sequence or a new style of yoga?

Taiga Yoga is offering 25 yoga classes a week, ranging from restorative to vinyasa light to core power. Every class is headed by an exceptional teacher and has a unique feel.  Spring is the time to reignite your love of yoga.

See you on the mat!

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Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you should quit

The yoga posture begins when you want to leave it.

Practicing for the past week at an ashtanga-style studio where we contort ourselves into the primary series’ postures and then hold each one for five breaths (that’s four seconds in, four seconds out, times five) has really emphasized Iyengar’s point that la posture commence quand on a envie de s’arreter.

The good stuff starts when you feel like quitting. This is true of adventures.  When you lose the high trail at 4:45pm in November and realize you don’t have a headlamp. THAT’s when the adventure begins.

Because adventure takes on many forms, and the best ones start out uncomfortable.

It’s being at the trailhead with a too-heavy pack. It’s climbing a mountain that no amount of training could have prepared you for. It’s deciding to go to another country for six months. It’s realizing you can’t get back to the other side of the mountain because the tunnel closed twenty minutes ago. It’s dragging your blistered feet to the summit. It’s enduring the storm in an inadequate sleeping bag. It’s sneaking into the museum and then getting locked in. It’s moving away from everything you know and attending university in a foreign language. It’s sharing a cab with the locals. It’s trusting the locals. It’s arguing with your travelling partner, even though he’s the only person with whom you can speak English. It’s sprinting through the station, but missing the train anyway.  It’s realizing the next train isn’t for three days.

Adventure is a chance to push beyond the discomfort and see what awaits on the other side. It’s sticking with the plan, even when you feel like quitting. It’s enduring the pain and knowing it’s not in vain.

See you on the mat. See you on the mountain. See you on the adventure.

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Acro Yoga

I just got home from my very first acroyoga workshop and I am hooked! I have always admired photos and youtube videos of acroyoga and today I got to fly and support flyers with an amazing group of people at White Gold Yoga!

At its simplest, acroyoga is a partnership between two people: the base and the flyer. The base works to create a strong and stable platform to support the flyer who moves through a variety of dynamic poses.

Both roles are equally important but remarkably different. The base must be grounded and have excellent alignment (“bone-stacked”), while the flyer needs to have confidence, balance and core strength.

The beauty of the practice is the intense mental concentration that is required of both base and flyer: both must be giving 100% concentration to the pose. There is no opportunity for hair-fixing, mind-wandering or grip-adjusting. As soon as the base creates the support and the flyer accepts that stability, there is no room for any distractions. In the pose, in that moment of support, trust and fearlessness, there is nothing else happening for either party. Being fully present, fully concentrated on the acroyoga pose is an opportunity to cultivate clarity and precision.


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Mobility for increased athletic performance and strength

It has come to my attention that many of my friends and acquaintances don’t practice yoga because “it is just stretching.” A comprehensive yoga practice is far more than “just stretching,” but the point of this post is that stretching is beneficial. The majority of my friends are extremely active: they play soccer and hockey, work out, ski and snowboard, surf, run marathons, climb mountains, ride bikes and generally the spend the majority of their free time outdoors. Great! Me too! Here is my question directed to all you athletic yoga naysayers: why wouldn’t you want to be limber and flexible so that you can perform all those sports to the very best of your ability and reduce your chance of injury?

Mobility issues plague almost everyone. Tight shoulders, stiff knees, poor posture….these are ailments that reduce athletic ability. The price of immobility extends beyond poor performance though; being limited in one area means that another area will pick up the slack, increasing your risk of injury. Yoga will help by increasing your mobility, leading to less pain, greater flexibility, increased performance and more strength.

Ankle Flexibility Lack of ankle flexibility forces you to compensate by leaning forward; this compensatory action will unnecessarily strain your spine. To test: assume a lunge position with both knees bent 90 degrees and the big toe of the forward foot 90 degrees from a wall. Try to touch your knee to the wall. Repeat with other knee. Good ankle flexibility will allow you to tough both knees to the wall without raising your front heel.

Pelvis Flexibility Poor flexibility in your pelvis contributes to tight hips which can create instability and unnecessary pressure on your knees in any activity that requires deep squats. To test: lie on your back on the picnic table with your butt at its edge. Bring your knees to your chest, hugging them with your arms. Release, and slowly lower one leg as far as you can. Return it to your chest and repeat with other leg. You have good flexibility in your pelvis if you’re able to bring each thigh below parallel to the table.

shoulder flexibility. Lack of range of motion in your shoulders forces you to compensate by leaning back when you need to reach overhead. Also, limited shoulder mobility will force you to twist your spine should you unexpectedly swing your arms in a fall. Unnecessary strain on your spine can be avoided by working towards full range of motion in your shoulders. To test: stand with your head, shoulders, and low back flat against a wall, heels eight inches away. Keep your arms straight and try to touch the wall above your head with your thumbs. You have good mobility if you don’t arch your back or bend your elbows.

Handstands Power Yoga Taiga Yoga Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

What is Power Yoga?

What is Power Yoga? The term power yoga can be found on many yoga schedules and there is some confusion on the meaning of the term. Power yoga is designed to make you strong. You will likely sweat during the practice and there will probably be some core-strengthening poses. Some teachers will follow a set series of poses in each class, while other teachers will create different sequences every day.

Power Yoga is aimed at individuals who don’t want a lot of chanting and meditation in their yoga practice. The time on the mat will be focused on strengthening, balancing and sweating. The sequencing will be challenging, but will be adaptable to every student. Baron Baptiste describes his sequencing as a blueprint for an invigorating vinyasa yoga practice and says that his brand of power yoga is adaptable for all body types, ages and fitness levels.

Most power yoga sequences are based on Ashtanga yoga, but will likely flow faster than a traditional Ashtanga practice. Where Ashtanga encourages practioners to hold each pose for five breaths, power yoga sequences will likely hold each pose for far fewer breaths, sometimes moving fluidly throughout the entire practice, cultivating one breath per movement and not pausing in any pose.

What to expect from my Power Classes:

• Flowing sequences. We will start slowly, taking the time integrate breath with movement, but expect to flow between poses. All of my sequences offer a logical progression from the floor to standing and back again.
• Sweaty yogis. Sweating is encouraged. If you tend to perspire a lot, you may find it beneficial to bring a small towel to class. The towel can be used under your hands so you have a firm base in downdog or to dry your arms and legs so you don’t slip out of side crow. Be sure to hydrate before arriving on your mat.

• Some core-strengthening. There will be 100 core-strengthening poses strategically placed throughout the practice. They might be extremely challenging or relatively simple to you, but we’re a team and we’re going to do all 100 of them together.

• Handstands. Try one or try 50. Handstands are a fun inversion and are challenging and will make you laugh. My current goal is to hold a handstand for ten breaths! I’m not there yet, and I’m having a great time building up the strength and confidence to get there. In each class, I will offer tricks to help you practice your handstand.

• Accessible language. I will offer clear instruction on where to place your hands and feet in each pose. That being said, if you’re ever unclear on the alignment in a pose, ask! Shout it out! Someone else in the room probably has the exact same question.

• A friendly vibe. I encourage everyone to join me on the mat for Power Yoga. I don’t care if you’ve never tried yoga before or if you’ve been teaching at an Ashram for the past 20 years: you’re all welcome. In the 60-90 minutes that we practice together, we are a team and we will be learning, progressing and having fun together. A note to the newbies: every single person in the room was new to yoga at some point, and we all know what it feels like to not have a clue what is happening. If you’re new, you will probably fall over a few times and there will definitely be poses that are unavailable to you, but I can assure you that nobody is criticizing or judging you!

Join me on your mat at lunchtime on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm and Tuesdays at Noon at Taiga Yoga in Yellowknife. Whatever your reason for wanting to practice yoga, I can’t wait to share my practice with you!

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Creating Space

Recently my boyfriend and I packed up our stuff, piled it up in my parent’s garage and left town. We left our friends, the comfort of having our own home and our jobs. We did this bravely. We are going back and will set up life there again, but for the next ten months, we’re going to live in a variety of places, look for work where we can and try out new countries, languages, food and friends.

A routine has yet to be established, and likely there won’t be much routine over the next ten months, and the lack of routine has been challenging for both of us. Previously scheduled activities like mealtimes, daily exercise and walking the dog now occur at unpredictable times.

Most of the time, I feel happy about the changes. The so-called “freedom of the road” and excitement about not knowing what is happening next stir my passion for the unfamiliar and leave me feeling eager to see what the future will hold.
Inevitably, I occasionally suffer the opposite: scared, and a feeling that my life is disorganized and chaotic. We currently don’t have a home to call our own, our stuff is scattered between two cities and we have no idea where we are going to live when we do go home next year.

In my yoga class, I refer to trying new poses as “creating space.” I challenge my students to try new balances or challenging core exercises with the intention of creating more space in their bodies. By breathing deeply and being patient, students are able to let go of any pre-conceived notions about their physical abilities and surprise themselves with where their yoga practice can go.

When I feel unhappy about the fact that all my stuff is in storage and I don’t know where I am going to live next year, I remind myself that by letting go of familiarity and inviting in new challenges, I am creating space for new adventures in my life. By abandoning the pre-conceived notions of what the future should look like, I am allowing my life to bend and stretch in exciting new directions.

By letting go of physical limitations and expectations about what a yoga practice should look like, my students are able to tap into strength and bend and stretch into new and exciting poses.