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Uncategorized Yoga

thank you Whitegold!

To the ladies (and fellow) of Whitegold Yoga: thank you! Thank you for being a community of commited yogis. I have practiced at a lot of studios in a lot of places, and yoga usually feels like an individual sport, a solo endeavor. Indeed, as a teacher I frequently encourage my students to look within and reflect on the self. Prior to coming to WGY, my yoga practice included sitting quietly, practicing without paying attention to the individuals on the adjacent mats and leaving with a nod and a thanks to the instructor. The students at WGY do not allow for this type of lonely yoga practice and for this I am grateful. In the minutes leading up to practice at WGY, there is chatter, catching up on each others lives and families, discussion of cooking and skiing and above all, positive encouragement and support offered between the mats. Thank you, Whitegold yogis. I have lived in Whistler for over ten years and repeatedly heard talk of the amazing community and friendly and supportive people. But until I started practicing and teaching at WGY, the “whistler community” was only folklore. Apart from skiing, I hadn’t found a group of friends in Whistler; I hadn’t been introduced to the community. Whitegold Yoga IS the community. To the ladies and dudes of Whitegold Yoga: you are Whistler in miniature. Diverse, strong, ambitious and, above all, supportive. It has been a pleasure and an honour to practice and teach alongside such extraordinary individuals. To the ladies and gentlemen of Whitegold Yoga: thank you for your suppport and friendship. I will be back.

To everyone else, if you haven’t practiced at Whitegold Yoga yet, there is a wide variety of classes including several free karma classes with new teacher trainees and you should go. With Erin at the helm, you are certain to step off your mat feeling strong, supported and inspired. Whatever your reasons for practicing yoga, try it with the WGY team. They embody team spirit,acceptance and kindness. The first and second limbs of ashtanga: The yamas and the niyamas consist of striving for kindness to yourself and to others around you. Whitegold yoga teaches kindness through strength and support.

Whitegold Yoga: on Nancy Greene Drive in Whistler, BC

www.whitegoldyoga.com

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Yoga Body

Each time I write an article for this website, I search online for photos to illustrate my articles. My search of “yoga images,” or “yoga poses” usually reveals a plethora of images of thin, lithe, lean women practicing yoga. These women are absolutely lovely, clad in colourful figure-revealing clothes, sometimes doing advanced poses and usually in front of a blurred image of seascapes. Personally, I have no issue with seeing images of beautiful women practicing yoga. However, there was a time when seeing these images would have led me to feel inferior, unattractive and obsessed with my own physique. Indeed, my reason for attending my first yoga class in 2002 was “for fitness.”  At the time, I knew nothing of yoga’s origins, I knew nothing about why people have been practicing yoga for so long.

What I did know was that I was unhappy with my physique and I wanted to change my body. So I went to yoga. And I have continued to practice ever since then. Sometimes I’m attending five yoga classes a week, sometimes months will go by and I will have only practiced several times. Always, however, when I step off my mat after a practice of any length, I feel confident. I feel confident in myself and confident with my body. I accept myself exactly how I am at that moment. Remarkably, my physical body has changed very little since 2002. The change that I have noticed is in my mind when I look at my body. No longer do I glare at myself in the mirror and wish for a different sized body. Now, I am able to smile back at my reflection and cheerfully accept my body for exactly what it is in that moment. I attribute this change in attitude to yoga. I am confident that the time spent on my mat has led me towards self-confidence, and self-acceptance.

Whatever your reasons are for coming to the mat, my only request is that you offer acceptance to yourself when you step off your mat. What you look like is unimportant. Self-acceptane is what counts.

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Uncategorized yin yoga Yoga

The practice of Yin

For a long time, power yoga (vinyasa flow) was my go-to yoga practice. I loved the muscular effort of the practice. I loved how lean my thighs and tummy became after several weeks of consistent power practice. I loved the sweat and the effort. I loved the strength I developed. One day, my vinyasa teacher said she was offering a yin practice, and that I should go. She told me that yin yoga involves holding static poses for several minutes with the intention of stretching the connective tissue between the muscles. Bo-ring, I thought to myself. I didn’t go. For years, I didn’t go. Friends and family reported back to me that they were loving yin, that I should go, that it feels amazing, that it feels relaxing, that it increases strength, that it compliments the muscular aspect of vinyasa flow. Still, I didn’t go. I wanted six-pack abs, I wanted defined triceps, I wanted strong quadriceps. What could yin yoga possibly have to do with those things?

Yin Yoga, it turns out, provides an ideal compliment to an energetic, heat-producing power class. Indeed, vinyasa flow and power flow classes are often referred to as yang-style yoga. Yang is energetic, hot, changing, mobile and active. Yin is  stable, passive, immoveable and cool. Generally a yin yoga practice will include only a few poses, all of which will be held for 3-5 minutes or longer. By sitting in postures for a relatively long period of time, students will give the connective tissues in their joints a chance to lengthen and loosen. A yin practice involves settling into the shape of a pose, finding the physical edge, and then staying still in that shape.

Yin yoga deliberately targets the deeper connective tissues. Connective tissue is made up of fascia, tendons and ligaments and by targeting these elements of the body, practitioners of yin are able to increase stamina, balance, body awareness and have a greater ability to comfortably sit still.

What to expect from a yin practice

To reap the most benefit from a yin practice, it is suggested that muscles be cool and relaxed. If muscles are warm and active, then they tend to absorb most of the benefits of the tension of the stretch. To this end, yin yoga can be practiced in the morning, after a long trip, or before sleep.

Before practicing yin yoga, consider the following suggestions:

  • practice on an empty stomach.
  • avoid wearing perfume and cologne during practice.
  • remove jewellery and wrist watches
  • dress in layers; this type of practice does not generate internal heat.

During a yin practice:

  • Every time you come into a pose, go only to the point where you feel significant resistance in the body. Refrain from immediately going as deeply into a pose as you possibly can.  By not going “all the way” into a pose, your body has a chance to move deeper into the stretch as the connective tissue loosens.
  • The essence of yin is yielding. Yin yoga is an opportunity to notice what your body is capable of and accept its limitations. During practice, many emotions may bubble up to the service; notice the sensations and emotions that arise, sit with them, accept them.
  • Let go of whatever expectations you have of how poses should look. Accept where your body is in the moment, and allow yourself the freedom to be in that moment.
  • Find stillness: stillness in your body, stillness in your breath, and stillness in your mind.

Patience, yielding and acceptance of the body and mind will lead to a satisfying yin practice. Ideally, a calm mind and rested body will be attained from a regular yin practice.

For me, after all that reluctance at first, I now practice and teach yin several times a week. I find that it is the perfect compliment to my active lifestyle and I look forward to my evening yin practice.

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Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

Five Reasons to take a Yoga Teacher Training program

1) you will discover patience within yourself. Or you might discover some other attribute within yourself that you didn’t know you had. The point is that yoga teacher training will take you beyond the physical realms of yoga and will calm your mind and create space for new and exciting emotional qualities.

2) You will meet a group of amazing people who come from unique backgrounds and have chosen to expand their knowledge about yoga. You will get to know strangers and learn, laugh and balance together.

3) You will learn enough about yoga to make an educated decision about what type of yoga you want to do (and teach). The choices of yoga classes can be overwhelming, but with a solid foundation on the fundamentals of yoga, you will be able to choose what you like about yoga, and which aspects you are less interested in. Maybe you will only want to teach chair yoga to seniors, maybe you want to teach meditation to recovering addicts, maybe you want to teach introductory poses to a rugby team. Yoga teacher training gives you the knowledge to know what you love about yoga, and the skills to share that knowledge.

4) Yoga is not some trendy fitness fad. Despite branding from clothing manufacturers who convince you that yoga and yogis have to look a certain way, yoga can be pretty much anything you want it to be. Yoga is an ancient tradition, folks! Learn more about it. Discover meaning in your practice. Relate to people around the world and through the ages who are practicing the same poses. It’s amazing to think that, with some knowledge of the practice, you can walk into any yoga studio around the world and hear the same words being used to describe the same physical shapes. Teacher Training will make you understand and appreciate the complexity of these poses.

5) Yoga Teacher Training will make you strong and resilient. Emotionally strong, physically resilient. Physically resilient, emotionally strong. Try it and see for yourself.

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Uncategorized Yoga

White Gold Yoga: Handstands for everyone!

I’ve been practicing at White Gold Yoga in Whistler, BC. Owner Erin Anderson is warm, welcoming and confident that everyone can do a handstand! Maybe not today or even this year, but she knows that we’ll all get there someday. The space is cozy and usually the students are practicing mat-to-mat. The teacher does not actually have a mat, but Erin and her staff are so adept at verbal cues that they can effectively read what the class needs and cue logical sequences without actually moving through the practice themselves. As a yoga teacher myself, I am extremely impressed with their verbal cues. I’m going again this afternoon, and I am going to channel Erin’s belief in me and hopefully believe enough in myself to do a handstand today (or maybe tomorrow).

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shhhhh……

The world is a chatty place. Yoga is designed to be a collection of quiet, introspective moments. Unfortunately yoga studios are not immune to chatter. There have been times when I’ve wondered if it would be improper to wear ear plugs while in the studio?? I fear that sometimes yoga teachers forget the value of silence, and instead choose to instruct, direct, correct, and tell stories for the duration of the yoga class. All of this equates to chatter, and makes quieting the mind extra challenging for the practicing student. I understand the need for some guidance as the class transitions through the poses. I even understand the need for some reminders and tips on how poses should look. I do not, however, think that personal anecdotes and life-reflections are relevant in the yoga studio. I am confident that every person who steps foot into the yoga studio has a different reason for being there and a unique set of circumstances that brought them there. Beginner yoga practitioners, to be sure, may not yet know what to expect from yoga, but I believe that a quiet space will give everyone a chance to find their own reasons for practicing yoga. Ultimately, with a quiet space, everyone can find a quiet mind, if even for a moment.

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Uncategorized Yoga

Being present

  • There are infinite distractions swirling around in our daily lives. The biggest challenge every day for me is to be present and give all my effort to the task at hand. I recently upgraded from my trusty flip phone to a shiny new smartphone. I was assured by the handsome and knowledgeable salesman that the capability of my new device would “allow me to accomplish more while on the go.” At first, this seemed like a real benefit. No longer would I miss substitute teaching opportunites at the yoga studio because I didn’t get the email. My time sitting on the bus or waiting for doctor’s appointments could now effectively be used to update my calendar and do online banking. My smartphone would even be able to show me maps and give me directions. For example, finding a yoga studio while travelling to my cousin’s wedding would not require prior research. I would be able to look them up on my phone!

Now, I know that none of these applications of a smartphone are news. Every day, I see people looking at their screens, productively scrolling through documents and presumably accomplishing more while on the go. After two weeks with my smartphone, however, I noticed a disturbing trend in my daily affairs. I was forgetting important things! Appointments, plans with friends, even entire converstations were slipping my mind. It occured to me that all of so-called remote productivity was distracting me from the present moment. Suddenly I was emailing while having lunch with a friend, and not doing a particularly good job of either. The conversation with my friend was lacklustre and the email to my boss was overrun with grammatical errors. I wasn’t concentrating on either and as a result, I forgot important details of both.

 

The sixth limb of ashtanga yoga is dharana, or the ability to concentrate and be present. Generally, I am available to cultivate concentration while I’m teaching or practicing yoga. Now I want that skill to translate to my every day life.

For me, being present for every task and activity is a challenge in the best of times. Thelast thing I need is a portable device that distracts me all day. The two week relationship with my smartphone ended abruptly when I accidently dropped the phone in the toilet. I chose to view this unfortunate event as good omen, and reactivated my flip phone that evening. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to really listen when my friends are talking to me and to sit down at a computer to proof read my emails before sending them off. I am confident that being present in each activity that I do is a far better tool for productivity than having a portable distractor in my hand at all times.

Dharana.

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Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

Santosa: the art of being happy

In my classes, I am constantly reminding my students to focus on their breathing, let go of distracting thoughts and to be present on the mat. It is so easy to say these things.They are simple instructions that I hope are helpful. I know that when another teacher says similar comments to me, I find them helpful reminders to quiet my mind.

Paradoxically, when I am not on my mat, I feel like I am constantly frustrated, constantly distracted by niggling thoughts and little annoyances. I want to let go of this consant state of irritation. I want my brow to unfurrow. I want to let go of life’s petty annoyances. And they are so petty! I’m annoyed at the municipality for not shovelling all the sidewalks, I’m annoyed at my 16-year-old dog for wheezing in the night and waking me up, I’m annoyed at my partner for cooking pasta three nights in a row. When I’m driving I’m annoyed at the pedestrians. When I’m walking, I’m annoyed at the cars. I’m annoyed at my fellow yoga instructor for not putting the bolsters away neatly. I’m annoyed at the grocery store clerk for counting my change too slowly. The list is infinite.

I don’t know what is a suitable level of annoyance. I don’t know what annoys my friends and colleagues. I don’t know how to stop getting annoyed. I do know that when I finish a yoga practice, I feel calm, serene and not annoyed. I want that serenity to translate to my life off the mat. There will always be little annoyances that I cannot change. What I can change is how I react to life’s annoyances. My goal is to be non-reactive to irritating people and small daily problems. I talk about this every day when I am teaching, and I listen to other teachers say the same thing in their classes.

The second limb of Ashtanga Yoga is the Niyamas, the attitude towards the self. Santosa is one of the Niyamas: the ability to be happy in the present moment. Today, right now, I will practice santosa. When something annoys me later on today, I will strive to come back to a state of santosa.

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Uncategorized Yoga

Is there such a thing as too much yoga?

This fall I have been practicing and teaching more than I ever have before. During the past week, I noticed my knees aching a bit and I wondered if I have been doing too much yoga. Is there such a thing?

I believe that, yes, there is too much yoga, if you only do one type of practice. I genuinely do not think there can be too much if you incorporate different types of yoga into your daily routine. For example, when I noticed that my knees were starting to ache, I took myself to a restorative practice and chose to take a few days off from my regular vinyasa flow practice. When I was becoming frustrated because I still have yet to do a headstand away from the wall, I decided to try Yoga Nidra in an attempt to let those frustrations dissolve.

So, to answer my own question, I think that when one type of yoga is hurting some aspect of your physical or emotional well-being, then choose to draw your practice from another aspect of yoga. Above all, never forget the Ashtanga Yama of ahimsa, non violence towards all living beings, including yourself.