Zen Muskoka Yoga Studio
It's 10am on a weekday. I'm sitting at my kitchen table sipping morning brew. I slept about 9 hours, embracing my inner toddler. I'll eventually get dressed. And I'm feeling something silly: I am sensing guilt, restlessness, and a little anxiety.
In the four years I've been teaching yoga and owning a business, I've worn many hats, dabbled in many areas, and met and worked with many awesome humans. I've 'worked' every single day in some capacity whether checking a few emails before heading out for a sweet surf or teaching five back-to-back classes alongside a workshop or two, just for fun. My business has been my baby, my love, my life and now it's changing.
I'm moving the Studio into a new space and community this New Year. It's a shift that's bound to reap amazing results and growth for not only myself, but the teachers and students that have been practising together. We've planned a diverse schedule with many perks to offer further education and exploration through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and a range of movement practices.
So why am I feeling guilty and restless?
I've got support; I've got generous people who have dedicated their time to help the Studio succeed. I've got an awesome team of teachers who are all strong, authentic individuals who blend wonderfully together to hold our curious and driven students in a practice that flows out into our blooming tiny town.
I've got new mentors, new friends, new networks who are all being of their best service to evolve our selves and our businesses. I've got a plethora of knowledge at my fingertips and ample time and space to expand my awareness.
Again, I ask why I'm feeling anxious?
Recently, there have been conversations at the dinner table, over a coffee, and on the mat, surrounding what it means to have a 'career' and what's expected from us so-called adults. How much time should be spent at work, or working, to be considered a fully functioning, contributing, 'normal' adult? How many hours per day, per week should an entrepreneur be productive to be considered an entrepreneur and not just a lazy bum? If a self-employed woman doesn't answer her emails for a day, does anyone notice? If a tree falls in the forest....
Since building my business, evolving my business, asking for and accepting support, I believe I'm only now finding BALANCE. I actually have time off? And not just the type of time off that is essentially me running away from complete burnout to the nearest beach...
This is strange new territory for me. I'm not solely at the reigns anymore and I feel myself grasping for unnecessary control. Practising trust and empowering others to make decisions for my baby that I don't need to triple-check is truly challenging my old idea of the typical business owner. Maybe I don't need to be slaving over every last detail on my website at 2am when I've got a class at 7am I need to be fresh and inspiring for. Maybe, just maybe, I could release the strangle-hold on my to-do lists and possibly... delegate?
For now, I'll dance in the new spaces and see how it feels. I understand that guilt gets me nowhere except more caffeinated. Anxiety about the details, self-induced stress about money or time or people, and restlessness underlying it all does absolutely nothing for my creativity and productivity. Who knows, maybe I'll free up enough space to start another business...
Much love for you and your listening,
Happy Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month!
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was 19 and in my first year of university. Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, autoimmune condition that affects the digestive tract and causes the creation of painful ulcers which can result in weight loss, lack of nutrient absorption, chronic abdominal pain and diarrhoea. I spent a lot of time in the hospital that year and ending up having surgery to remove a large portion part of my small intestine. I got to experience the puffy steroid face, injecting myself with needles, kidney stones (apparently common in post-surgery patients), liquid diets, a PICC line, interesting hospital roommates and lots of other fun things. It wasn’t a great year but apparently the first year you are diagnosed is usually the worst, and I know that for me it has only gone up from there. Since that first year, I have learned a lot about managing my illness and have recently been feeling better than ever. So, to celebrate Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month, I am sharing my story of illness as well as my encouraging experience using yoga as a means for disease management.
Yoga has played an important, even integral, role in my disease management. My periods of illness are typically triggered by stress, anxiety and the subsequent lack of self-care. Anyone who has taken a yoga class with the wonderful teachers here at Zen will know that a yoga class is a gift for the whole body and spirit. Yoga is a powerful tool for stress and anxiety management because it teaches you the art of self-care (how to notice what is happening in your body and address it) as well as the art of relaxation (how to self-soothe and let go).
As a yoga practitioner with a digestive illness I have had to take the fast-track to self-acceptance and self-compassion in my practice. For example, there are many belly down postures that I cannot (and should not) practice if I am feeling unwell, and that’s okay! It’s okay if my practice is a little slower and gentler that other students in the class. We are our only judges in a yoga class, we would not judge another student in the class against our abilities so why should we judge ourselves against the abilities of others? It is important for every student to let their practice be guided by their bodies, their intuition and their body knowledge. It is also important as a teacher to create an atmosphere that encourages this kind of self-exploration and self-compassion. Our body knows what to do and knows what is good for us, all we have to do is listen and trust.
To learn more about specific pose suggestions for various states of digestive ‘unrest’, follow this link to an article that I wrote for Elephant Journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/11/how-to-use-yoga-to-manage-digestive-conditions/
Thanks for reading, see you in class!
I have resurfaced. Not only from a 10 day long flu that kept me quiet and couch surfing, but I have resurfaced into a space of calm contentment.
Not to bore you with the details, the highlights of my past two weeks have been a 3 day fever, a emergency dental procedure, as well as saying goodbye to my feline friend, Sushi. But as the saying goes, 'when it rains, it pours!'
There were a few bright moments within my needy and whiny days. I spent quite some time reflecting quietly (because I couldn't speak!) and one of the first and most important insights I came across was "I cannot control the future". I knew that of course, no one can!
I spend so much time thinking ahead: planning the next sequence, counterpose, peak pose, cool down, and contemplation. Not only on the mat, I am often trapped in the non-existent future: scheduling people, places, events, and meetings - even into 2017! Creation and momentum should be my middle names. Sometimes, I'm not in my body enough to feel if I am hungry, tired, or ill. Especially during the long and abundant Muskoka summers. So of course, I laughed (and maybe cried) a little when I got sick and couldn't work. I literally could not speak and my job is reliant upon what flies out of my mouth. I laughed because I knew I couldn't control it and I was trying so incredibly hard to keep it together.
Releasing the need to control every aspect of my life is a practice. I will not surrender completely to allow 'the universe' to work it's 'magic' - that makes me feel helpless. I will practice turning anxiety into curiosity then curiosity into intention. Through intention, things line up. Things that I was pushing away because of worry and busy-ness, I can now create enough space to see clearly, receive, and build momentum in the direction I already know suits me best.
And I have the perfect opportunity to practice!
Starting August 31st I am driving myself across Canada. All the way - by myself - and I'm a little terrified. I've made the promise to myself to travel solo from time to time so with September being a quiet month in the Studio, this has lined up wonderfully. I'm astounded by the connections already being made and I haven't even left Bracebridge yet! Friends and friends of friends are offering beds, couches, activities, rides, conversations and dinners to me as I journey to Tofino and back through the U.S. Oh, the wonders of Facebook!
The next month will be a true test to my commitment to curiosity as traveling embodies this practice; curious about the places I will go, the people I will connect with, and my response to life on the road. In moments of unease or stress I can pause and notice what's happening to my body physiologically, then notice what's storming through my mind, and eventually clarify that whatever is on my path is meant to be there and I do not need to strangle every detail of this trip. To be honest, I have such a loose framework for this trip. I have only four places I truly need to be at a certain time. The rest is left to curiosity.
My intention is always, always, always to feel content with who I am, where I'm coming from, and where I'm going in any given moment. As simple and complex as that: contentment. My challenge to you, dear blog reader, is to stay open and willing to work with curiosity. In times of agitation or stagnancy, or even elation and bliss - get curious as to how your body is responding, what your breath feels like, where your mind wanders, and is it in line with your intentions?
I can't say it often enough: I am grateful.
I find myself teeter-tottering between reflection and anticipation with an underlying current of deeply rooted presence. Looking back, I relish in the ways things fell together and allowed me to arrive where I am in this moment. Looking forward, giddy with excitement, there is complete trust in the flow. With zero fear of the unknown, I am honest when I declare I am open to whatever unfolds because my intentions are clear. It's an amazing release to be rolling with the rhythm of life, all the while carefully getting specific with my values and goals. How did this come about? Connection! Connection to myself and my priorities, connection to others and their purpose in my life, and connection to a sense of freedom and possibility that was hidden underneath all of my over-thinking, slight perfectionism, and confusion. Of course, without those emotional parallels I would have never gotten clear on my priorities or vision. But just in the fact that I'm now able to embrace the shadowy bits of myself, I am feeling more capable and confident than ever before.
I spent the past week traveling in a blur of yoga mats, new faces, sweaty bodies, deep conversation, and full experience. After practising in five different studios, assisting multiple workshops and classes, and submerging myself in learning something I would've never been open to before, I walk away feeling grounded and secure in my abilities. Both personally and professionally, the insight gained from connecting with new people, emerged in the listening, and accepting guidance from masterful mentors, does not allow me to slip into old ways of being. Onwards and upwards!
My intent in writing here is simply to inspire. To create a feeling in you that propels you into contemplation. To create the space for myself to grow so that in turn I can do the same for you. I am humbled by the opportunity in my life and my new found sense of seeing the silver lining in it all. If my words resonate or not, I am grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
What a week. It's been exactly seven days since I left Costa Rica and flipped my perspective on what it means to be happy.
I came home to my boyfriend, my business, and a new frame of mind. In one week, my business model has shifted and my romantic relationship ended. I can't say I was entirely thrilled to move back home for the third time in five years. I like set and clear lines - not muddy waters. At one point, I threw my head back and laughed loudly, "what a fucking life I live!".
Whether it's the lunar eclipse or something I ate for breakfast, it does not matter how I got here. All that matters is that I am here. This is where I'm at, and it feels good. And good is good enough.
It goes to show that what you think, you become. I was feeling stagnant in many domains of my life. I felt obligated to show up, smile, and do this for many, many years to come. Not that it didn't make me initially happy. I was stoked to be so grown up, so fast! But it turns out, seeking happiness elsewhere tends to knock you back into yourself eventually. Little dialogues and stories kept creeping their way into my thought patterns that told tales of a life worth living; of contentment and peace, of unconditional love, and acceptance of my true self.
Moving forward I am committing to me. I'm being entirely 'selfish'. I am giving love to myself so that I can give it to others. I can give my energy generously without feeling depleted at the end of the day. This goes for people, experiences, practices, anything; a fulfilling exchange of energy that embodies abundance, forgiveness, and joy.
I will keep on keepin' on. There is no time like the present to propel into the unknown. I simply have no expectations of my future - it hasn't happened yet! Working diligently with my values and needs as a woman, as a business owner, and as a human being, I am confident the unknown will be fascinating to watch unfold.
Man, oh man. The number of times I've talked myself in and out of things are endless. That tiny voice keeps rearing it's annoying and discontented head within my thoughts, keeping me within the limits of my comfort zone and safety nets.
Well, on this balmy February day, I'm saying a big screw you to myself!
It's time for me to get out of my own way. I'm choosing not to listen to my boring brain anymore. That little voice, like an overprotective and neurotic parent, keeps me stuck. I will admit, the chatter has come up with some pretty cool things once my gut decided to act upon them. It has also kept me physically safe (probably shouldn't pick up that hitchhiker...) and comfortable. But more often than not, it talks me out of experiences and situations where my heart says YES. My gut, my heart, my intuition, whatever you'd like to label it, wants me to push through, follow though, and get messy. It doesn't mind if I fail or succeed. My heart has way more courage than my mind. So my challenge to myself is to step gracefully over the edge, to be brave enough and tell myself to shut it, and to roll with the butterflies in my belly.
I keep thinking that there are big things on the horizon and that there is so much more I could be doing. But in just thinking "there must be something better", I am setting myself up for constantly seeking without actually acting. Those thoughts allow me to feel unsatisfied and unsteady which serve no other purpose than to keep me firmly rooted in my stubborn ways. The moment I start thinking less and acting more, it's remarkable how quickly circumstances change! Be it positive or negative change, change is always good - even if we don't realize it in that moment.
I'm not advising you to stop thinking all together. It's our minds job to think, analyze, weigh pros and cons... But I am challenging you to check in with your heart from time to time. The more often we connect with gut feelings, those instinctual instantaneous sensations, the less time we allow ourselves to talk us out of it: the faster we will act under the guidance of our own true integrity.
Just as in a yoga practice, things get uncomfortable and sweaty and awkward but underlying it all is grace, compassion, and serenity. Once we acknowledge those thoughts of vulnerability, faster and faster our heart steps in and nudges us in the right direction of either surrender or perseverance. And both are fine by me!
This has been a long time coming.
I've always been a late night, secret writer; journalling way past my bedtime about things to do, see, conquer, and commit to. My Mother can vouch for this, as she can remember my childhood "to-do" lists full of daily goals, girly dreams, and longing for adulthood. Nowadays though, these lists are filled and fulfilled with big business ideas, travel dreams, and intuitive insight... all from the safety of my notebook and pen. I haven't really shared my thoughts via the blog or repetitive status updates and I do not wish to overwhelm websites with my musings. The ultimate goal here is to share my experience of my yoga practice and how this practice translates into action off the mat. But also, the hope is to facilitate an outlet for myself and others to co-create a space in which a community thrives, passions inspire, and big shifts can actually happen.
Do you ever get the feeling the universe is slapping you in the face, over and over again, yelling at you to change, act, shift, whatever, and you keep on keeping on? On so many occasions, I've felt inspired by bold bloggers but also intimidated by successful soul bearers. There's a fine line between being obnoxiously open about your thoughts or sharing to increase compassion and forgiveness in the world. After meeting many walks of life during my few years teaching yoga and through my personal practice on and off the mat, something is pushing me towards either further self-expression or a connection deeper than the physical. Here is where I'm braving the storm of stories rolling through my head; the story of "I'm bad at writing", the dialogue of "who wants to listen to me whine", and the chatter of "what do I know that's worthy enough to contribute". Fortunately, I realize that these stories are just that - stories! They're elaborately made up tall tales that have kept me from writing this blog post.
Likers gonna like and haters gonna hate, but at the end of the day I get to pour out some of this madness to someone who may resonate, resolve, or even recycle my mutterings. And I think that's kinda neat.
The yogi's of Muskoka