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Trust and Family and Yoga

While my two babies sleep soundly I sit at the computer making plans. Plans for teaching and growing in my profession. Plans for re-committing to my asana practice. I am excited to re-immerse myself in the world of yoga after a pregnancy-induced hiatus and yet, I have to remind myself that my baby is young and that I have my whole life ahead of me to sit on my mat.

During this time I stumbled upon this blog I wrote more than a year ago for Shri Yoga’s Collective Voices series. It’s a post about trust and family and yoga. I quite enjoyed re-reading it tonight. It seemed very timely for me. Perhaps it will be for you too.

An excerpt: I trusted that my heart knew what it needed. It was calling loudly. It was telling me it needed to be near my baby, it needed to be at home and it needed to take on this new title: Mother, in absolute full force. Not that I couldn’t do it all but that I didn’t want to. What I wanted was to immerse myself fully in the experience of mothering. I wanted to put my yoga into action and see it flower as patience, lovingkindness, nurturance and support – all directed at this tiny being that I had had some hand in creating. I needed to narrow the scope of my work so that it could grow in depth. Continue reading


Becoming a Yoga Teacher

The path of yoga is a lifelong road full of bumps, twists & turns. Every practitioner follows a unique path; learning and practicing the tools of yoga and then incorporating them, bit by bit, into their everyday lives. In this way the practice of yoga becomes a personalized spiritual undertaking that is deeply meaningful and endlessly rich.

For many, the path of yoga raises more questions than it does answers. As we learn more about this beautiful and ancient practice we’re called to go deeper in our exploration of the Self. As light is shed on one query, a new one emerges from the depths of the inner realm. Thus, the process of contemplation, meditation and practice continues.

For many of us the time comes when we wonder “what is next on my path of discovery?”. The call to deeper study emerges and we wonder “how can I more fully immerse myself in these great teachings?”. Or perhaps it’s an immense gratitude for the joy that yoga has brought to our lives that causes us to wonder “how can I share this joy so that others may also experience profound shifts in their lives?”. At this moment of open-hearted wonder the transition from student to teacher begins.

But how does one become a yoga teacher in 2015? Surely the process is different than it was many thousands of years ago when the teachings of yoga were passed from guru to disciple in a variety of mystical ways. Today we are blessed to have Yoga Teacher Training programs available all over the world where students of yoga learn the technical skills required to effectively teach yoga. Teachers-in-training learn the history of yoga, the philosophy behind the practice, physical and subtle-body anatomy, as well as teaching skills such as sequencing, demonstrating and using an effective voice. These programs take place in your local community, across Canada and the US as well as in various sunny retreat destinations. The choices are endless!

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Yet, the real key to becoming a yoga teacher is the continued journey along a unique and personal path of practice. The cycle of contemplation, meditation and practice continues, inspiring and informing the teacher’s offerings. Where once the questions were of an individual nature (“how can I integrate this deep knowledge and wisdom into the living of life?”) they now become broader in nature. The questions remain, for there is always more to learn and discover, but the answers now come both from within as well as from the interaction with many unique students. In taking the seat of the teacher we open ourselves up to the opportunity to shift in new ways because of what we learn from the people we teach. And this opportunity is truly a gift.

So, if you’ve been wondering “what is next on my path of discovery?” perhaps it is time to begin the shift from student to teacher. Perhaps it is time to share the gift of yoga with others. Perhaps it is time to add your own unique voice and perspective to the incredible community of consciousness that is expanding all across our beautiful city and province. Perhaps this is your time to step into the seat of the teacher.

If you do indeed think this is that time, learn about becoming a yoga teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador here.

My Favorite Winter Recipes

All the parties are over, the resolutions have been made and the cold has set in for winter. If you’re like me, January is a quiet time; a recovery from the busy days of December. I’ve been enjoying cooking this week; getting back into our usual family meal habits after the big gatherings of food and fun over the holidays. Here are some of my favorite winter recipes, from my family to yours. Enjoy!

For the very happiest of winter mornings, prepare this Baked Oatmeal from the editor of Simple Bites. Do yourself a favour and use high quality old-fashioned oats – I use Bob’s Red Mill – they really make a difference! Top it with good organic plain yogurt (Krema 10% is my favorite) and you’re in breakfast bliss. Once you’ve fallen in love with this recipe go and bake everything else on her website – it’s all delicious! Especially the Best Muffin Ever recipe, my go-to oatmeal muffins. Don’t be afraid of the butter in these recipes. Use organic grass-fed when you can afford it (there are so many good, healthy nutrients in good quality butter) but regular butter will work too. But whatever you do, do NOT substitute margarine!

For easy winter salads and bowls I love the website and cook book Oh She Glows. The simple vegan recipes are so delicious and easy, not to mention incredibly healthy. One of my absolute favorites is the Protein Power Goddess Bowl. There are a few versions of this recipe and they are all awesome. I use the basics of the recipe and adapt it to whatever veggies I have on hand usually using quinoa instead of rice (or omit the grain altogether), baby tomatoes, a big healthy serving of spinach or kale plus a pepper and some garlic. The lemon-tahini dressing is wicked – but for a simpler version I reduce the nutritional yeast to 1-2 tsp and just shake it all up in a mason jar. You can also do it without cooking the vegetables. Just toss the cooked lentils with a bowl of chopped veggies. This recipe has the added bonus of being full of folate – excellent for pregnant or trying-to-conceive women.

Another lunch-time or quick dinner favorite is a peanut sauce and tofu noodle bowl. Whip up this wicked peanut sauce (I reduce the sugar to 1/2 Tbsp) and pour over rice noodles and sliced veggies (lettuce, red pepper, carrot and anything else you like). Top with cilantro, green onion, chopped peanuts and roasted or grilled tofu for a delicious and super quick meal. For the tofu: set oven to 400, slice tofu, douse with peanut oil and Bragg’s soy sauce (find it in the organic aisle) and then bake for 10 minutes each side. Or marinate in a mixture of 1 Tbsp peanut oil and 3 Tbsp Bragg’s and then grill 3-5 mins.

For slow cooking Sunday’s I’ve jumped on the Rock Recipes bandwagon (having avoided it in the past only because we don’t usually eat much meat). I’ve been playing around with making my own vegetable and chicken stock and Barry’s recipe for roasted stock is the absolute best tasting thing around. Use it to make a simple and traditional Chicken Noodle Soup for those cold days when the family is feeling under the weather.

In the evening when you want something warm and hearty, a delicious lasagna is a big family treat! I make my own chunky pasta sauce in big batches and freeze the leftovers for easy lunchtime pasta or another lasagna next month. Here’s the recipe:

1. saute a tablespoon or two of olive oil and one chopped onion for a few minutes

2. add two chopped cloves of garlic, cook a few minutes until fragrant

3. add one large tin of diced tomatoes, 1 tbsp of basil, 1/2 tbsp oregano, salt and pepper bring to boil

4. meanwhile, dice one medium sweet potato and add it to the pot

5. simmer for 30-60 mins (or longer) and then use a potato masher to mush up tomatoes and sweet potato (you could use an immersion blender for a less chunky consistency)

I love this layered with pasta, zucchini and mozza. Or replace the zucchini with whatever greens you have on hand (chopped kale or spinach work well) and serve with salad or fresh bread from Georgetown or Rocket bakery.

These are just a few of my favorites. I’d love for you to leave your favorite winter meals as a comment! An old-fashioned recipe swap may be just the thing we all need to jump-start our New Year nutrition.



What is Chair Yoga?

The practice of yoga can be adapted for all bodies and all experiences. But as I often say to new students asking me about how to get started, it’s very important that you find the right class for you. Many yoga classes are physically strenuous and can be at best, intimidating but at worst, dangerous or downright impossible for people dealing with mobility concerns.

Recognizing a huge need for yoga classes that take into account various stages of physical mobility I began teaching Chair Yoga five years ago. This class removes two of the primary difficulties that people might encounter in a standard Hatha Yoga class: sitting on the floor (and subsequently getting up from the floor) and using the hands and arms to support the weight of the body (as in Downward Facing Dog pose and many others).

In a Chair Yoga class students participate in a full range of yoga postures, breathing exercises and relaxation and meditation practices. The classes are calming, relaxing and rejuvenating for the body. Anybody is welcome to attend a Chair Yoga class but they are especially suited for older adults and anybody dealing with an injury or illness that causes decreased mobility or pain in the body. It is a gentle class that incorporates healthy movement to keep the muscles, bones and joints of the body healthy and strong.

Wondering what you might see in a Chair Yoga class? Here are some of the postures we practice:

side bend twist vira 2

1. Seated side bend, 2. Spinal twist, 3. Warrior 2 pose

If you’re interested in learning more about Chair Yoga, join me for my upcoming session of classes beginning on Tuesday September 16.

If you are a yoga teacher or bodyworker/healthcare provider and are interested in integrating Chair Yoga into your existing work, consider joining me for my Introduction to Teaching Chair Yoga course in February 2015. 



Short Home or Office Yoga Practice

Here’s a quick practice that you can do in about 15 minutes. This is a perfect mid-afternoon rejuvenation for those busy September days when you need a quick boost of energy, blood flow and mindfulness. Let me know what you think in the comments or tell me about your favorite energy-boosting pose!

Click here to follow the sequence in photos.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

**If you regularly practice handstand or L Pose, do it here**

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) – do each of the standing poses on both sides and hold for 5 breaths each side

Virabadrasana II (Warrior 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle pose) **thank you Bobby for the picture**

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Bend)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

My La Leche League Story (and fundraiser information)

Fundraising class information: 

Mixed Level Alignment-Based Hatha Yoga, Saturday Septmeber 20 @ 10am. Yoga Kula Co-op. Reserve your space by making a donation to my Canada Helps page, available at this link (and if you can’t attend the class but would still like to donate, please do! Leave me a note to say you won’t be attending).

This class is in support of the Annual LLL Breastfeeding Benefits Event. Our group will be holding a walk and community potluck on Saturday October 4 at 10am, @ Kenny’s Pond playground. Please join us to support this year’s theme: Breastfeeding for a Healthy Community!

My Story:

I was introduced to La Leche League at Shakti Yoga Studio where LLL information was regularly offered at Prenatal Yoga classes. Bobby Bessey, my studio partner and the prenatal teacher spoke often of the support provided at the local St. John’s group and the importance of having support while breastfeeding. When I became pregnant I assumed I would breastfeed but I didn’t give it much thought. I was preparing for birth by taking Hypnobirthing classes and reading lots of books, but breastfeeding seemed like a much less daunting task when compared to birthing for the first time.

The one important thing I did do to prepare for breastfeeding was pick up (and read cover to cover) the LLL breastfeeding “bible”, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I happened upon it in a lovely pregnancy and baby boutique in Halifax and something about it appealed to me so I picked it up on a whim. As I flipped through the pages over tea at a nearby cafe I was quickly drawn into it’s casual, calm vibe. It contained lots of information but in a very easily absorbed format.

As I read more and more of that book I came to realize that it was about more than just breastfeeding, it was a guide to mothering. I describe it now as the handbook you wish came with your baby. The sensible advice contained within the book has really been a foundation of my parenting philosophy – perhaps I would have come to many of the same conclusions by simply following my own instincts. But knowing my instinctual insights were backed up by the amazing book and the internationally renowned organization behind it helped me feel confident.

Speaking of confidence, wow, do you ever need it in droves when starting to breastfeed! There are so many “booby traps” out there that undermine a mother’s intention to breastfeed – they exist in places and situations in which we don’t even see or recognize them. When I heard Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and LLL Leader speak last year she said the #1 factor that determines a mom’s success at breastfeeding is her self-efficacy. That is, the extent to which she believes that she can breastfeed. Thankfully, having read the Womanly Art I was prepared to listen to my instincts, advocate for myself and my baby and to be confident in what my body and my baby were capable of.

When I came up against difficulty in the early days of breastfeeding I called Jan, one of our local LLL Leaders. She was patient and kind and the tone of her voice helped to calm me. She reminded me of a few sections of the Womanly Art that were applicable to my situation, and upon re-reading them I was again armed with confidence and a sense of calm. She was also able to refer me to a local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who then helped me with the more technical aspects of my breastfeeding problems.

I began attending monthly LLL meetings. I enjoyed the chit chat among like-minded mothers, the exchange of tips and ideas and the feeling of support that came from being a part of this group of women all striving to do the same thing (albeit, in their own unique ways). Over the course of two years I’ve attended many meetings, had innumerable conversations with women overcoming breastfeeding obstacles and have become very involved in breastfeeding support within the city and online.

Just recently and after a full year of preparation I was accredited as a La Leche League Leader myself. I volunteer my time to lead monthly meetings, help breastfeeding moms by email or telephone and support the organization through fundraising efforts. When I remember back to my time with a tiny newborn, struggling to learn the ropes of breastfeeding I think “wow, I am so much more informed now!” and yet I don’t really feel that I know that much more. So much of what I know about breastfeeding comes from listening to my heart, connecting with my inner voice and standing strong in my own intentions, skills I learned through the practice of yoga. Through my LLL volunteer work I hope to help other moms recognize and listen to their own inner voice.

And so, I invite you to come celebrate this great organization and all that it does – here locally (50% of proceeds stay right here in our group!) as well as nationally and internationally.

Please join me for a 75 minute by-donation yoga class on September 20 @ 10am. The class is Mixed Level and will be held at Yoga Kula Co-op on Torbay Road. To secure your space please make a donation here. If you can’t attend the class but wish to donate to my fundraiser you can use the same link but leave a comment saying you won’t be attending. I thank you so very much for your support for a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

If you or someone you know is looking for breastfeeding support, check out these resources:

LLL-St. John’s: (get the monthly meeting schedule + contact information for our group leaders. Please reach out by phone or email if you need information or support).

Breastfeeding Support – Newfoundland & Labrador: (join our Facebook group to ask questions, read great articles and info and connect with other breastfeeding parents or supporters).

Baby-Friendly NL: (this is the provincial group that supports parents in choosing to start and continue breastfeeding).