December is for Strength

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.34.29 PM.png

As we reach the last month of the year it only makes sense that we leave the year on a strong note, and the SATTVA strength sequence is just that! 

If you're familiar with the SATTVA Yoga practice, then you know that we cycle through sequences every month that bring your awareness and attention to different aspects of the body. We begin the year with the Front Body sequence and then move through Side Body, Back Body, and Strength. Once this 4-month cycle is complete, we repeat the process all while adding some new postures to each sequence.

The aspect of the body that we will be focusing on for the month of December is strength. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 3.28.34 PM.png

In the SATTVA practice, we bring our attention to unique lines of awareness, and this Strength sequence of postures ask us to find the centermost, innermost central axis in the body. This line begins on each foot at a point of origin directly in front of the heels, up through the very center of the legs converging at the pelvic floor, directly through the center of the torso, all the way up to the crown of the head. At the chest, the strength line splits to follow along each arm and connects to another point of origin located at the center of each palm.

Moving through all yoga postures with specific awareness and integration of these body lines is of utmost importance for a safe, effective and sustainable practice!

To follow along with this sequence, check out our schedule to find a class time or visit sattvaonline.com to practice through our online studio from the comfort of your own home.

SATTVA Yogis Off the Mat and into the cOMmunity

SATTVA Yogis Off the Mat and into the cOMmunity

Sitting at a picnic table with a fresh latte, I got to chat with this month's featured SATTVA yogis, Byron Hradoway and Jen Darling about their new and blooming kombucha company, Boocha which officially launched on the May long weekend.

Committing to your Temple: 2 Recipes for the SATTVA Fall Cleanse

Committing to your Temple: 2 Recipes for the SATTVA Fall Cleanse

Summer is dreamy late nights—the sky rimmed in light, cold sips on sun-drenched patios, trips to the mountains, and the sweet release in our bodies as we embrace against warm winds. When fall arrives, we’re never ready. We want more of the action, the revelry, the charcuterie, the sun, free skin, the smell of blooms. ...

Ustrasana: Posture of the Month

As we move into the month of September, the SATTVA School of Yoga will shift the attention from the perspective of Strength (the innermost central line of the body) and move towards more anterior lines that stem from the Front Body.

Write it Out: Journaling for Yoga

Some days we can taste that peace of mind and body that we chase, practicing with a fluidity and focus that leaves us deeply refreshed. Then, there are the other days, when the world leaks in and we can't seem to push past a busy mind to connect with ourselves. On those days, it is easy to let frustration cheat us out of enjoying the journey that sometimes moves slowly and, in the face of disconnection, we fail to remember how far we've come. I am the first to admit that I can be quickly disappointed: seeking long goals in minutes and stalling when I don't achieve with a speed I unfairly expected. In those moments of difficulty, it can be so easy to get lost in the woods of achievement-base living, where we focus on being better rather than being present.

When our perspective needs a tune up, the yoga journal becomes a lifeline back to shore. You see, yoga and writing have one very important thing in common: it is hard to do either well when you're distracted—making writing a perfect way to debrief and deeply reflect on the experience of time on the mat. When you journal about your practice:

You are able to appreciate how much you've grown.

Even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes, you have never been static. On the journey of opening and unifying the mind and body, change can be microscopic. Taking a moment after each class to jot down where you're at will provide perspective down the road, especially when you need to be reminded how far you've come.

How? Each time you practice, make a note of a small improvement you felt, as well as something that's still a challenge. As you move forward, those challenges will become a record of all the small victories that came with the commitment to your practice.

You are able to recognize and troubleshoot bad habits.

Occasionally, we step into a class and everything just feels wrong. Maybe you just ate a heavy meal or rushed in late and never really calmed down. Maybe life is just feeling heavy and you haven't been able to shake it off. However this situation happened, acknowledging the moment not only allows you to release disappointment and move forward but can also help you recognize underlying behaviors that are diminishing the quality of your practice.

How? Write a sentence or two about how your practice felt, choosing your words carefully. If there is something you feel that should have gone differently, be honest about that and then let it go. Write notes about what contributed to the quality of your experience (food/mood/life-events). Take a moment to release any negative thoughts and fears and then look back at a positive moment in your practice. Let that experience inspire you as you move forward.

You leave room to celebrate the journey.

In the hour and a half that we spend on our mats, it is easy to miss the privilege and beauty of those minutes. Our days are so packed with activity that we rarely take the time to appreciate the current moment before moving on to the next item on our schedule. Writing is an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the fullness of our practice before moving on with the day. By ending each studio session with gratitude, our attitudes are prepared for whatever comes next, which may be less than perfect. 

How? In your yoga journal, keep a gratitude column for organically documenting things that you are thankful for. Personally, during meditation, when my mind is at rest, articles of gratitude present themselves as thoughts or sensations that I observe and leave for later. Writing these things down etches them into our minds and creates a sort of "gratitude bank" for days when you need an emotional or psychological boost. 

As you incorporate journaling into your practice, you can be as creative as you like: your yoga journal could be an actual analogue book, folder on your phone, or a tab in a OneNote book. Finally, whatever format works for you, I hope you take the time to enjoy a new language of expression in your practice.

 

Perservence

North of the 50th parallel, we make it through a lot of things. We dig in through long winters and days without light. We have learned how to wait for the first full moon in May to start planting, to wait for 5 minutes because the weather will change, and to wait outside at all hours for the northern lights. We live in an environment that doesn't always produce the most pleasant conditions and we patiently make them work for us. Instead of screaming at the sky, we take up skiing.

In yoga, I think we all get to a place where we are standing in the snow, wondering if we can take the rest of the season. Whether it's in the middle of a single pose, or we're losing the will to make it to class, we all have moments where we are out of emotional fuel, patience, and time. In the midst of a cold snap, we need something to hang onto.

The month of May carried a lot of beautiful things. For me, it was a time to honor my body with nutrients and healing activities. I gained so much insight into my habits and strengths through the cleanse and the time that I spent on my mat; however, with so much focus going into one area of my life, other things were left a little dusty. As this was my first cleanse, a learning curve was to be expected and now that I’m on the other side, I’m a little drained from the game of catch up I have been playing. So, in order to recover well and not lose the love of my practice, I am examining perseverance and asking: how do we turn to the sun when we’re trapped in the season?

1. We remind ourselves that seasons do not last. When we’re stuck in the quagmire, our ability to move forward comes from acknowledging that we can. There are always new arenas of self-discovery waiting to be unlocked within the practice and feeling stuck does not diminish this. Sometimes, the best we can do is to look forward to what’s next.

2. We remember that the results are worth it and that the simple step of setting an intention is healing. What drew you to yoga in the first place? Where have you strayed or added unnecessary expectations beyond purely connecting to yourself?

3. We simplify and get back to basics. Often, when we find ourselves worn down, we have disguised our ambitions as essentials. By taking the time to separate what is necessary from the excess, we can start rebuilding our foundation. Find the parts of the practice that are the most energizing and start there.

4. Acknowledge the circumstances you are in. What does this moment have to teach you? I have often discovered that the seemingly dormant seasons of life are where I have learned the most. Any moment that we learn from is never wasted; when we learn to find meaning in our struggles, we often discover that there is opportunity hiding in all the difficulty.

Personally, I believe that the ability to persevere through difficulty comes from our understanding that something else is coming. We know how seasons work; frost isn't forever, leaves will come again, and there is always the promise of festivals under a warm sky, runs in the park, and road trips to the Rockies. We wait because we remember the kiss of the sun. Sometimes, we just need to find that good Savasana and wait for the clouds to clear—because they always do.

 

 

The Ins 'n Outs of Eating Smart and Digestion for Your Practice

Image: Rachel Gorjestani

Image: Rachel Gorjestani

Have you ever made the mistake of eating a big meal before you go to yoga? ......Start your first sun salutation of practice and immediately regret consuming the heaviest meal of life not even two hours prior?

I think we all learn the hard way at least once, don’t we? There’s a reason why your yoga teacher always says to practice on a moderately empty stomach or, if you’re constantly snacking like me, have a very light meal an hour before you get on your mat.

It all comes down to digestion: it’s a huge part of the mechanics of our bodies. This can sometimes result in discomfort in class if you’re feeling bloated or heavy, or if you’ve eaten foods that don’t necessarily optimize your practice. So let’s talk about two things, light foods for body fuel and poses to help you through digestion.

Eat Smart

When you know you’re going to practice but you need to eat, you want to think about foods that are nutrient-dense to fuel your muscles but won’t leave your stomach in knots. If you need an energy kick, fruits with naturally occurring sugars like apples or pears, super foods like avocados or chia, and higher density foods like nuts (almonds #ftw) and dried fruit (raisins or dried figs) are ultra good for a light fuel up while maintain a relatively sattvic state. My go-to is always an apple and a babybel cheese.

Aid Digestion Through Posture

Twists in general are incredibly helpful for improving digestion. While you are twisting, you are reducing blood flow to the digestive organs, so when you release, you’re letting in “new” blood to the digestive organs. Think of twists as giving your body a leg up in digestion. A few nice poses to help with digestion include seated twists, like ardha matsyendrasana, and supine twists, like jathara parivartanasana and supta matsyendrasana. Consider integrating these into a short home practice on days when you need a little extra digestive love.

Clean, light, yogic eating changes the way the body feels and works hand in hand with how you experience the postures. It's good to take into consideration yogic diet as a component of your overall practice: you are what you eat!

My SATTVA Cleanse / How to Laugh at Yourself

This story is simple. There is no surprise ending, no ironic twist of fate. What follows is the true account of a mere mortal, with a ravenous appetite for bread and cheese, trying to eat more green things and learning that a sense of humor is the perfect partner for change.

Phase 1: Resistance/Mourning

The beginning of any cleanse, characterized by mood-swings, inner complaints, and a lot of staring into your refrigerator.  

Day 1. I find myself overwhelmed and unprepared. My fridge is full of delicious things I cannot eat and hardly any produce (cries to the heavens while supportive spouse does a grocery run).

Day 3. Rediscovers the magic of kale chips. I live for kale chips. I am a kale chip. Please don't take my kale chips.

Day 4. I adapt my regular recipe of cashew sauce for the cleanse and promptly put it on everything in sight. My food life now revolves around a single condiment.

Day 5. Feeling petulant and hangry. I did not know I could hate anything as much as I now hate rice and lentils (sadly eats a skittle off the floor in desperation).

Phase 2: Plateauing

The mopey adjustment period of cleansing where you start to notice your body actually feels better than it did previously. At this point, the participant begins to accept the benefits of the food program and learns to live within its structure.

Day 7. I am now aware of the basic “tools” in my fridge and how to use them well. I notice that while I still have cravings, they become something I can view from a distance.   

Day 8. Oats, check. Green smoothie, check. Quinoa bowl, check. Off to work. 

Day 10. Well intentioned humans keep offering me food I cannot eat and I easily say no. With less ease, I ignore the urge to throw things at these people. I observe my self-control and administer an inner high-five to my willpower.

Phase 3: Sad Epiphanies

In the void left by (insert favorite food), this stage of cleansing is filled with inner-monologues about the meaning of life and the cleanser’s relationship to food.

Day 14. My gut feels much better. Oh God… I should probably eat like this all the time. Mixed emotions. Single tear rolls down cheek as I remember my last piece of cheese.

Day 15. I realize that I literally cannot have unhealthy food in my house. I will seek it, I will find it, I will destroy it.

Day 16. How is it that I can push through eating something that makes me feel gross but not push through a bowl of lentils?

Day 17. Why on Earth do we think that eating must always be a transcendental experience? Why can it not just be mostly practical? Why is my enjoyment of food so emotional? I journal about the answers to these questions. 

Day 18. I may never be able to go back to dairy again… I love dairy. I miss dairy. Reminds self of all the terrible environmental/physical ramifications of the dairy industry.  Watches Cowspiracy on Netflix for comfort.

Phase 4: Transitioning

The final phase of any cleanse, characterized by decisions about how one will carry forward the lessons learned from the cleansing period.

Today, I am still figuring this last piece out. The past month has been emotional, invigorating, and decidedly funny. In order to keep moving forward and not fall back into negative habits, I decided to take stock of the benefits I have experienced from the cleanse.

·      Reduction in cravings.

·      Discovery of new recipes and healthy treats (so many kale chips).

·      Noticed my food-habits and stress-eating triggers.

·      Reduction in appetite and subsequent portion sizes in my meals.

·      Weight loss.

·      Reduction in gas, bloating, and stomach irritation.

·      Consideration of my use of animal products.

·      More emotional consistency, reprieve from cycles of food-based guilt.

As I near the end of this process, the lesson is not what I thought it would be. While I reinvigorated my relationships to food, did some gut repair, and lowered my environmental impact, I also learned to take myself less seriously. Making healthy choices doesn’t mean you sit in the dark, pondering your negative habits and meal-planning through tears. Writing these notes, laughing at myself, and sharing my struggles with loved ones ended up being as rewarding as the changes themselves. Suddenly, this way of consuming is something I’ve fought for, something humorous, exploratory, and uniquely mine. So, in the light of a new day, I can move forward armed with new habits and, most importantly, a little more self-love.

 

 

 

Yoga is the Medicine: Dealing with Allergies

Spring is a time that we welcome with open arms, especially after terribly long winters in Edmonton. The trees start budding, the streets buzz with people out for walks, yet it’s also the oh-so-dreaded time for seasonal allergies to kick in. Although I only face minor irritants, my partner suffers from seasonal allergies immensely. The snow mould in the air makes him congested, sneezy and flat out stressed and exhausted. So, besides taking antihistamines and putting our humidifier on high at all times in the house, what else is there?

Yoga!

Simply put, yoga helps reduce stress and inflammation and opens the body up, getting rid of blockages and things we generally hold onto throughout our day. Tie allergy season in with a cleanse to reduce inflammation, and perhaps you’ll find a little extra reprieve from your seasonal congestion.

Posture Talk

Yoga is known to help reduce allergens. It forces you to focus on your breathing; observing each exhale and inhale as you move through your practice. It may be a challenge at first, but after you get a few sun salutations in you, things will start to open up. 

For dealing with congestion, heart opening postures are great to help open nasal passages. Heart openers can be anything from things like cobra pose (bhujangasana), fish pose (matsyasana) and good ol’ sun salutations. These postures help you open up your body and help the blocked-up internal gunk, like congestion, move along. Other postures you can try to help open nasal passages include shoulder stand (sarvangasana), plow pose (halasana) and backbends (urdva dhanurasana).

As with all yoga practices, a good dose of pranayama techniques and meditation can also help alleviate stressors in your body. Techniques such as alternate nostril breathing and Kapalabhati help open up your nasal passages, giving your mind and body a bit of solace it so badly wants.

It’s All in How You Frame it

There’s something quite magical about yoga that helps me frame my body and mind. I like to think that it prepares me for times when there is extra stress on the body too. Yoga is definitely known as all-out de-stressor and for some who really suffer from seasonal allergies, it could be just what you need to relax the mind and open the body.

Food for Thought: Nourishing Relationships

If you could look inside the part of my brain that dictates my relationship to food, you would see a carnival of emotion: all the wild excitement, anticipation, and thrills that come with the fairgrounds. For me, getting on a ride is not all that different than eating something particularly delicious and experiencing the layered satisfaction of each bite. I love food… but food doesn’t always love me. Now insert the inevitable letdown that comes post-carnival, when you realize that baked/fried treats named after animals are just never a good idea (elephant ears, bear claws, or corndogs) and that the inevitable penance for your sins (shame-spirals, panic workouts, or new restrictions) may not be worth it. It can be a rocky relationship indeed.

When I was asked to do the SATTVA cleanse so that I could write about it, I knew it would be difficult. Like so many people, my relationship to food has always been emotional rather than practical. In North America, we eat for many reasons, the least of which is often hunger and, while some of us simply lack nutritional education or basic salad know-how, the reasons for unhealthy food habits often lie deeper within. Nutritional knowledge doesn't necessarily mean nutritional execution.  

Mind the Gap

Often, we eat to bridge a gap, whether it's a gap in self-esteem, security, pleasure, contentment, or peace. In an anxious and hectic world, dark chocolate is often a quicker solution than therapy, consistent self-care, or real change. As we work through the cleanse, the deprivation of "comfort foods" bring our cravings into the light of day. In this place, we can get a good look at them, notice what they're related too, and make some changes. Since starting the cleanse, I have had to face up to some of my own gaps. I eat for pleasure and to calm anxiety; however, the truth is that food doesn't really solve my problems in the long run. It is simply an ineffectual avoidance strategy. To undertake true change in our relationships to food, we need to acknowledge and address the gaps we are filling.

Be Responsible to Yourself

The cleanse has also reminded me of the social politics of eating. When you abstain from unhealthy foods in a group scenario, others around you tend to feel guilty for indulging, sometimes causing things to take an awkward turn. I learned this the hard way when, after sharing my journey with food, a friend chose to condescendingly refer to my healthy choices as a "fad diet". While this was discouraging and frustrating, I learned that: a) I needed to expand my social group to include people with shared nutritional goals and b) the way I treat my body is 100% my choice. We each must live with the impact of unhealthy food on our bodies and, though it's easier to put something on your plate than qualify all of your food choices, it's not worth it in the long run. In times like this, actions speak louder than words. Do what is best for your body and leave your defensiveness at home. If someone asks you why you are eating the way you are, have a short answer and only elaborate as much as the relationship warrants.

Have Grace (and better goals)

 

None of us are perfect. Your desire for unhealthy foods will not change overnight and self-control takes time to cultivate. When things don't go as planned, keep your goals in mind over your mistakes. If your relationship to food is an emotional one, think of it like a breakup. Rarely, in relationships do we experience a clean break. This is why the word “rebound” exists! If food has been a significant relationship, allow yourself a period of transition, while setting your eyes on goals that are reasonable and achievable. When it comes to these goals, choose wisely. It’s easy to look at all the “fitspiration” that plagues the internet and idolize someone whose only qualification as your hero is their perfect body. Are they also a good person with a balanced life and healthy relationships? Help yourself redefine success by looking up to better role models who have more than just their pant size and spray tan working for them.

 

Ultimately, improving your relationship with food is not something you will do in a day. It will take time for your brain to want new things, to accept new goals, and believe that you deserve a life built on a nourishing foundation. Whether you are cleansing with us or not, I hope you will take the month of May to reflect on this crucial relationship and eat with a little bit of grace. 

 

Align Your Body with a Cleanse

Eating mindfully is a type of meditation. If we become hyper-focused on the things we put in our bodies, it will help us stay aligned and help us tune into higher functions of the mind and body. As the sattva cleanse comes to fruition for the month of May, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind to help you along your cleanse journey.

Meal planning

I find it helpful to meal plan once a week, creating a grocery list of only the items I need to prepare meals and snacks that will fuel my body all week long. Creating a grocery list also helps you stay focused. If you stick to what’s on your list, you’ll keep your budget in mind and keep the not-so-healthy foods out of your cart. These tools will come in handy when temptation to keep refined sugar and salt out of your diet.

Eat mindfully

Mindful eating also helps us stay focused when a craving sprouts. When cravings come up, ask yourself if there’s a deeper need for this in your life? Am I stressed? Is this my response to an emotion I’m feeling? Meditate on these cravings that rise up within yourself to understand your deeper holding patterns in the body. Your cleanse will help you target these cravings and desires head-on and softly work through them.

I also encourage you to tune-in when you’re eating. Put the phones and other electronics away when you’re having a meal. Focus on what you’re putting in your body and be grateful for the food you have. This practice alone will help you get more personal with how you fuel your body. It’ll also help strengthen connections. If you have kids, a partner, or live with roommates, putting the electronics away will give you the space for conversations, which has a much bigger impact on us than staring at those little blue screens for hours on end.

Practice patience

Be patient with yourself as you start your cleanse. It can be a huge disruption to our regular eating patterns. It’s going to take time to change the patterns you’ve built up over time but graciously accept each new day and each new feeling or emotion that comes up throughout your month. Cleansing is never an easy task but I hope these simple food thoughts help you stay focused for the entire month. Happy cleansing everyone!

 

Connect the Dots... in Nature...

Sometimes, the busyness of life gets in the way of us truly slowing down; truly enjoying each moment. How often do you make a point of shutting down the electronics to get outside? If this isn’t part of your daily practice, consider integrating nature in some small way once a week. It’s amazing what opens up inside of us when we make a little time for Mother Nature.

The finer points

  • Here’s the deal, nature is very good for you. Why, you may ask?
  • You slow down. The lists stop forming in our minds and everything that is not important in that moment just dissipates.
  • You breathe differently. Part of the process of slowing down means that the rhythm of your breath changes too.
  • Your brain activity changes. The patterns in nature offer a rich complexity to our thought process and cognitive functions shift.
  • It boosts your creativity and curiosity. Just look around and observe all of the textures and forms of our natural world. There’s so much beauty and elegance in natural environments that our bodies crave.
  • Want more details, take a read through this Huffington Post article. It’s a good one!

Try them out!

With many national parks nearby and a beautiful river valley in the heart of our city, get outside and get your heart pumping. Or find a quiet space to close your eyes, meditate and listen to the stillness in your surroundings. Inviting friends along for the ride is also a great way to connect. You get a chance to bond and tune-in with nature. There’s something really special about getting outdoors and it leaves a lasting impression on us.

To help calm the mind and body, try out some outdoor activities like starting a garden, hosting a stargazing session once a week, planning a hike in one of our national parks, or join an outdoor yoga class. Did we mention that the Sunday Sessions will be moving outdoors soon? It’s definitely something to keep on your radar to help you connect with the most simple and authentic self: you + nature = bliss.

And with all of these stellar reasons now in your arsenal—most of which help me connect to my happy place when I get on my mat to practice—consider combining nature with mindful, yogic activities. Your mind, body and breath will thank you for it.

 

Trials in Consistency

We all want to succeed, craving some version of life that we have imagined for ourselves. What is your philosophy for arriving at this imagined destination? Do you reach out and take what you want? Do you slowly cultivate this life from within? Do you wait for inspiration or act quickly and ask questions later? Are you satisfied? Should you wait for things to line up or make it happen by yourself? Should you be rushing alone or acting as part of a team?

These questions are nothing new to those who desire a life filled with meaning and purpose (which I suspect is all of us). Some find purpose in simple tasks and others in grand design; yet, whatever kind of life we are hoping to create, something often missing from our collective strategy is consistency. As we get closer to the SATTVA cleanse in May, I attended the info session on what to expect. As we worked through a series of asanas meant to clear and activate the mind and body, our instructor spoke the word "consistency" into the room and I felt a familiar stab in my heart—the signal that something is hitting close to home. To commit to anything with success, we first require commitment to consistency. In all spheres of life, we are subservient to the daily repeating of hours, days, weeks, months, years, seasons—repeating ages of joy and loss. Habit is built into our very solar system as our earth beats the same track around the sun and, while change is inevitable and everywhere, there is also an eternal repeating of things that works its way into our lives. We are habitual, for better or worse.

While many of our habits are beautiful, our society carries some negative ones that bar us from consistency. First, we allow technology to interrupt the flow of our lives and pull us aside from the necessary work that needs to be done in our day: emotional work, work on our passions, work with our bodies.  Additionally, we tend to focus on quantity over quality with how we use our time, giving a little time to too many things rather than spending quality time pursuing few select interests. We have learned that our happiness is the primary goal and struggle to work at things that do not provide satisfaction quickly; and so, naturally, we get bored. Maybe this is the fault of media, which taught us to crave sensory stimulation over and over, or maybe we had parents whose vocabulary didn’t include the words “structure” or “bed-time”. Regardless of the why, we are left responding to the challenge of living in a vacuum of discipline.

For myself, this looks like being distracted by too many goals. I find my life so full of interests and passions that I am not left with enough time to commit consistently to anything. I would love to be an excellent yogi, runner, rock-climber, foodie, blogger, artist, spouse, friend, faith-seeker, and plant-mother, who works a meaningful part time job to support it all. I want to get a beagle who I name Charlie and I think it would be really cool to do triathlons. Needless to say, I can’t do it all. This is the part where we could go on a tangent about priorities but I'll give you some credit and assume you know what those are and have the wherewithal to select the most healthy and necessary goals for yourself that build on your strengths (adulting level-up); however, once you have chosen these priorities, consistency becomes the real battleground for long-term growth.

Relationships are a great example of this; if you love someone, you tend to make time for them. Continuously maintain time (and effort) and your relationships tend to grow but stop putting in time and we all know what happens. While we understand this principle in human relationships, we rarely think about it when we are building a picture of the life we want, creating a habit of high expectations before the habit of consistency. To me, consistency means many things. It means the ability to be resilient, even when you fail, and step back up to the task at hand. It means loving yourself enough to provide time for your passions. It means that even though life comes with to-do lists, technological distractions, and people unexpectedly showing up at your door, you stick to your priorities as best you can and sometimes, for the sake of consistency, we also learn to give things up. Naming things to give up is surprisingly easy: checking our phone 50 times a day, obsessing over Instagram feeds, Netflix until 2 AM, and the food that distracts us from making healthy choices, to name a few. Consistency looks like little sacrifices and little gains over a long period of time. Personally, it looks like getting up at the same time every morning so that I can start my day with some reading and calm before the rush, laying out my clothes the night before, and doing little things to set myself up for success.

Consistency does not mean that you act perfectly every single day; it means that you continuously try, respecting that change takes time and effort, while being willing to let go of things that were never really necessary. For the next month, I will be taking on the SATTVA cleanse to improve my relationship with food and build some better habits within my current fiasco of a meal-prep system. I'm excited and a little nervous for the challenge but, mostly, I'm trying to view it as an opportunity to work on stability in my life. Instead of viewing this as one month of restrictions followed by a return to old habits, I'm choosing a small step in my growing process, a way to give my body a rest from digesting inflammatory and processed food, and an opportunity for some self-reflection.

I believe that we are all capable of consistency. For some, it’s a personality trait that gets lofty titles like “steadfast” and “even-keeled”, but for most of us it will take a little work and a lot of time. My point is, that it’s possible and, more importantly, necessary in the achievement of our goals. The thesis is simply this: if you are chasing dreams, seek consistency; if you are seeking consistency, choose to do less and you will have time to do it better. If there is no room for a single thing to be removed from your life and your daily struggle is more to minimize the whirlwind of stress that you find yourself in, do your best to get through this patch with as much self-care as possible; however, if it's not just a patch but your entire life, I hope you will take the time to take a step back and see if the your expectations need to change, if there are people who could share your load, and if what you're chasing are really worth it.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The "Yes" Detox

Photo: Stefan Stefancik

Photo: Stefan Stefancik

For a repeat people-pleaser, saying no is the most powerful thing I can do to get back in balance; however, it’s a huge challenge for me. So, here’s me putting my intention out in the world: I must stop saying yes to things unless it makes me happy. Don’t worry about your innate niceness and people-pleasing ways. 

Let this blog be a piece of inspiration and a little extra support in saying yes only when you really mean it. At the moment, I’m stuck in a loop of where I’ve said yes to so many things that I don’t have time for myself, to do those things that I love and make me happy. I don’t have the time to get on my mat to practice without giving up something equally as important, sleep.

It’s better to say no to things and support your friends, family and colleagues in different ways than to burn yourself out because you are innately kind and helpful. Let’s flip it: be kind to yourself and give yourself the best love and support possible: say yes when you really feel strongly about something and you can see the long-term goals.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this people-pleasing loop. I encourage you to go on a simplifying detox and ground back into what makes you happy. Slow down and enjoy every moment rather than making crazy to-do lists and running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

Here are a few tips to try. They’ve definitely helped me tune into what’s important in my life and I hope they help you prioritize what you need too:

●      What’s in it for you? Ask yourself before you embark on a new ‘yes’ project. Can you see yourself happy in six months’ time, let alone a few weeks down the road? If the answer is no, then you need to kindly decline.

●      Do you get enough sleep at night? This is another big one for me. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, watch out! Either I’m in a constant state of brain fog or I turn into a grumpy bear. Neither are good options, so if it’s going to significantly affect sleep, kindly decline.

●      Is your to-do list manageable? If it is, that’s amazing! Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re struggling to complete current projects, then there’s no way you should add another thing to the plate. Kindly decline until you have more time in the future to dedicate to something new.

●      Does this help you reach bigger life goals? Ask yourself these questions: What are the top 3 most important things in your life right now? How about long term? If new opportunities come up and you’re struggling to say no, compare it to what’s important in your life. If they don’t align, kindly decline until something that does line up comes into your life.

I recently read an article and they quoted the best piece of advice from none other than Phoebe Buffay from Friends. Let me set it up for you, “Pheebs, you wanna help?” To which she replies, “Oh, I wish I could, but I really don’t want to.”

For a people pleaser, this would kill me inside to say something like this to my friends. But, as part of my new intention for the year, I’m going to try it out. Maybe this means I’ll get more time on my yoga mat! How awesome would that be!? Time to try it out so I can ground back into what makes me happy and who I am. Happy grounding everyone!

Lessons from the Garden

Change has been on my mind a lot lately. As the tree outside my window tries to push buds into the world, I notice a thawing in all areas: excited planning of outdoor adventures, summer drinks appear on menus, and Edmontonians become far friendlier as they are freed up from the stress of running into icy winds. In myself, I notice the desire to take action on things that I only have energy for in spring, when the world is starting to freshen up and I am driven to carry that turning over into my own life. In recent weeks, this has led to deep cleaning my floors and minimizing the contents of my garage and pantry with both vigorous brutality and little warning. 

This time of year sparks a mood for change and, as we emerge from hibernation and catch the fever of activity and outdoors and sunshine, we are in a perfect position to take stock of our lives and decide what areas could use refreshing.

Personally, the need for growth is revealed to me through reading and, lately, I have been enjoying several books on existentialism and meaning (light topics, I know). Between all the words of heavy philosophy I have waded through, a single truth has underlined my explorations: that growth and purpose are indispensable to the human spirit. As we enter adulthood, and set the routine of our lives, it's easy to think that by our late 20s we should be finished. We are handed a pass/fail perspective of life where the superficial elements (car, house, money, spouse) are given greater value than the functioning of our private worlds; yet, even with all these things, are we not limitless in our ability to be unsatisfied? There is the trap of stagnation, where so many of us sit back and quit growing, becoming frightfully bored or simply losing focus. Our society is full of cautionary tales about remaining static, though we rarely heed their wisdom—coining terms like "midlife crisis" and "empty nester" to describe individuals who face the trial-by-fire of an uncertain identity. These words roughly attempt to communicate the fact that there is little meaning to a life without internal purpose. 

It is important to note that when I say internal, I do not mean a selfish life that is only concerned with one's own interests. I simply mean a life that is not dictated by the superimposed structures of success that others will place on you. I mean having healthy expectations of yourself and working to live up to them because it benefits everyone to be in the presence of someone free from the insecurity of trying to "measure up". 

When we look at humans, we see that from birth we are meant to pursue life with a level of curiosity and discovery; a life as brief as ours is wasted sitting still. So, as we stand on the cusp of transformative springtime, I want to encourage you to consider areas of your life that may have fallen asleep. Learning to pursue growth and purpose is relatively straightforward—we simply follow the breadcrumbs of our interests, skills, and the encouragement of people who we trust to be in our corner.

In my own pursuit of growth, I have found the most (unintentional) wisdom in a choice I made years ago in University. A terrified first year in a Fine Arts program, I made the decision to say yes to any opportunity that I would normally avoid because of fear or insecurity. Without knowing it, this small mental adjustment paved the way for many positive changes to happen that year. Suddenly there was room for openness, curiosity, and risk at a time in my life where these were desperately needed. What have you always wanted to try but never bothered? What have you left undone for simple fear of failure? What areas of your life could use more compassion? I think wellness tends to be one of the areas that could always use a little more grace. Judging our bodies less and taking time to nourish ourselves with good, nutrient-rich, food; getting the necessary amount of sleep, not just when it's convenient; spending time with people who truly have your best interest at heart and listening to what they think of your problems; taking breaks because it's more than your legal right, it’s a necessity; and spending time blessing your physical body with activity are small changes that chip away at stagnation.

In a regular yoga practice, we are offered a supportive place for personal growth. In that physical space between rest and effort, we access a quality of focus that can be directed to any intention we choose. When you hit the mat this week, I hope that you will use that clarifying space to let go and embrace your life as something beautifully unpredictable, full of limitless possibility. As we reach into that possibility, in all areas of life, we start to remove some of the limits that we have placed on ourselves or that others have applied to us. When you leave the studio, I hope you contain fewer inner-walls than you came in with. I hope you talk to a stranger because they might have something to teach you. I hope you consider how all the small choices and you make are shaping your values. I hope you decide to undertake new challenges that you wouldn't normally try and that you end up on paths you didn’t foresee. Then, I hope you learn something new that changes you in a deep and wonderful way.

The month of May is dedicated to refreshing our bodies inside and out through dietary and other cleansing activities—a perfect time to take the newness of spring into your body and listen to what that body is telling you it needs. The wonder of spring is this: though everything must grow to survive, even the seemingly dead can come alive and flourish with a little nourishment.

 

 

The Low Down on Yoga Nidra

Low Down on Yoga Nidra

Doing yoga in your sleep? Sounds like my kind of yoga!

Now that I have your attention, let’s back up for a second. Yoga nidra is not doing yoga in your sleep. It’s another one of those ancient practices, aptly described as yogic sleep, a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping or the "going-to-sleep" stage. It’s a deep, meditative practice without the formalities of sitting in - what could be uncomfortable for some people - meditative postures. Instead, you lie on the floor like you do in savasana and go to work on your body, breath and mind.

For someone who has a lot of trouble falling asleep or having a full, restful sleep, this practice has really helped me calm my mind, soothe anxieties, and allows me to drift into a deep state of meditation. Yoga nidra has helped me accept the feelings that arise that moment right before you drift into sleep land, which as it turns out, is when I’m feeling the most vulnerable. Thankfully, yoga nidra helps to calm my mind and body and work through stress, accepting that these feelings may come and go but that they aren’t my reality.

The name of the game is conscious relaxation.

Let’s walk through how this works.

  • Lie down on your mat and close your eyes.

  • Start mindfully breathing. Deep inhale and exhale.

  • As with anything yoga related, set your intention. (I often focus my nidra practice on gratitude. Rather than “counting my sheep” to help me settle into sleep, I think about all of the great things in my day that I am grateful for.)

  • Release all tension in your body. Scan from the tips of your toes, to the tips of your fingers, and out through the top of your head. Let go of anything that is no longer serving you in this moment.

  • Find your inner drive. The best way I’ve had this explained to me is to find my happy place. (Very Peter Pan-esque, hey!) Is this place somewhere you’d like to revisit? Is it a feeling or state of well-being when you’re feeling your best? Concentrate on this.

  • Breathe into this space. Breathe in peace and gratitude and breathe out insecurities and negative thoughts.

  • As emotions or thoughts come up, acknowledge them. Mull them over, and let them go. A good method is to ask these thoughts or feelings what they need. Where do you feel these thoughts in your body?

  • At the end of your practice, come back to your intention for a moment. Breathe.

  • And slowly bring yourself back to a wakeful state, just as you would from the end of a meditation. Be gentle and give yourself the time to slowly come back.

  • The interesting thing about a yoga nidra practice is that you really do learn more about yourself. You learn about the thoughts and feelings that occupy your subconscious and you understand how to work with these thoughts and feelings rather than bury them further inside of you.

Now that you have a sense of what it’s about, you can catch a weekly yoga nidra class at the SATTVA School every Sunday from 8:30 to 9:30pm with some of your beloved instructors to go deeper into your nidra practice. You can also access a full guided yoga nidra sequence on SATTVA Online that will easily lead you right into sleep. 

JAMIE AUSMUS

Clearing Space: Simple Steps for the Home Practice

Yoga Practice at Home - Sattva Yoga Studio

The studio is an important place in any yoga practice. It is a separate space from the rest of our lives, providing relief from the usual distractions: the phone bill on the counter you need to pay, the files that have yet to make their way into the cabinet, the jam that your child has inevitably smeared somewhere (I don't have kids so I naturally assume they all have jam-hands). The studio lets us connect to our teachers, our peers, and our inspiration. It stands apart as a space where anything is possible and we can connect to some much-needed positivity while tackling our fears, our flexibility, and our self-love.

That being said, sometimes we just can't get there! Our schedules are impacted by the unexpected and the timeline gets thrown out the window when family emergencies, snowstorms, and car troubles abound. Also, let's not forget those days when we can't seem to pry our tired bodies off the emotional floor of our lives and make it to class. Therefore, with reality in mind, I hope that the following tips for a successful home practice will help bring the studio to you and keep your practice on track, even when your life isn't.

1.     Designate a practice space: While having a dedicated yoga space in our homes is the stuff of dreams for most of us, it is still helpful to repeatedly practice in the same area of your home. Whether this ends up being the living room or the foot of the bed, pick a place that you have a positive association with and build on that. Choose someplace that feels comfortable for you and is preferably not a work zone like the kitchen or laundry room. Hard floors are nice as they help with balance but they are not the top priority if it means practicing in a space that pulls your focus to chores and distractions.

2.     Respect your home practice and make sure others do too: Communicate with the members of your household that the next hour is yours. You wouldn't stand up in the middle of the studio and take a call, so don't do it at home. Turn your phone off, close the door (if there is one) and allow yourself to take the time that you need for self-care. It is highly unlikely that a disaster will occur in the next hour that you need to respond to and, best of all, showing respect and love for yourself sets a healthy example for everyone who shares your home.

3.     Clear the visual landscape: One thing that is great about the studio is the lack of visual clutter. If practicing at home is going to become a regular part of your routine, consider minimizing the landscape of your chosen space. Do you have shelves piled with knickknacks? Overflowing magazine racks and shoes spilling out of closets? Curate the space you intend to practice in, keeping only objects you love. If you plan on minimizing, it is helpful to take all the extra items you would consider parting with and add them to a donation bag in the back of a closet. After a month or so revisit the bag and, if you haven't missed any of the items inside, recycle, donate, or trade them.

4.     Find a great instructional resource: One of the best things about SATTVA are the instructors! Adjustments are one of my favorite things in the studio, along with the humor that always seems to find its way into a class. Needless to say, good instruction makes all the difference in yoga; so, unless you're used to self-guided practice, make sure to use an instructional resource that you connect with. Thankfully, SATTVA's website offers online classes for just $10/month, where the studio posts all the monthly sequences and many other great tools. They also have 30 minute sessions available for when life is overwhelming and you have a little less time on hand. 

5.     Set the mood: Whether you're a morning or an evening yogi, take a few minutes to get into the right headspace for your practice. In the AM, this could include an energizing cup of tea or coffee and 5 minutes of reflection before setting your intention. If you're a night person (my personal preference), light some candles and dim the lights. If auditory stimulation is important to you, incorporate a soundscape that inspires you by throwing on some music (pretty much all free streaming services have yoga playlists). Some other sensory favorites are incense, nebulizers, or some essential oils rubbed onto the temples and wrists.

6.     Make an intention list: Sometimes when we walk up to the mat, it can be hard to find our intention. Whether it's racing thoughts, a rough day at the office, or lack of sleep holding us back, having a starting point in those less-inspiring moments can be helpful when that living room session feels flat. Keeping a list of intentions to guide our practices can be extremely helpful. Enter the yoga journal! Each time you practice, make a point of noting your intentions, what you're learning, and a positive gain from each session. Keep the journal or list in your practice space and, on days when you're having a hard time setting the tone on your own, flip through the pages and see what inspires you. Sometimes just seeing your progress can provide a little attitude boost.

7.     Make a schedule and stick to it: If you think you can reasonably practice 3 times a week, schedule it! Pick the days and times where you would like to be in the studio and if you ever just can't seem to make it there, try and squeeze in a short session at home. Staying accountable to your goals will feel incredible.

8.     Refresh your weekends: Weekends are often the time for catching up on things like work, sleep, and time with loved ones (hopefully not in that order). The idea of the "weekend warrior" has us scrambling to pack those the "S"-days with rushed activity. Take time to catch up on personal time as well, starting your weekends with a little asana. The bonus: for days where you don't feel like leaving the bedroom, you don't have to. Simply roll out of bed, leave on the comfy sweats, and put in a little quality time on your mat. You'll be glad you did. 

Finally, dear friends, wherever you find yourself this week I hope you feel encouraged to roll out your mat and spend some time in that important business of self-love. It will always be worth it. 

-Holly de Moissac

Discover the Rhythm of your Breath

Ojjayi Breathing Technique

I’ve heard it referred to as the “ocean breath” but my first instance with ojjayi breathing was something totally unexpected. It happened during my first ever yoga class at, what was then called The Yoga Loft, now the Sattva School. I hopped into a class with a friend of mine, who recommended I try out sattva. I was brand new to yoga and brand new to this school. We dove into our sun salutations at the start of class and all I heard was what I honestly thought to be the instructor turning on their “jungle sounds” playlist on their iPod. Hilariously, and much to my surprise, the jungle sounds and feeling in the room was actually created by my fellow yogis around me! Every time I get on my mat to practice, I think back to that day and smile. My how far I’ve come since that firs day at Sattva!

Let’s take some time to talk about our breath, since it’s such a pivotal part of our practice.

What is the ojjayi breathing technique?

It’s an ancient yogic breathing technique in which it first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras) and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.

In Sanskrit, the prefix "ud" (उद्) added with the root "ji" (जि): "ujji" (उज्जि), brings the meaning "to be victorious". Ujjayi (उज्जायी), thus means "one who is victorious," or in our breath’s case, “victorious breath."

How do you do it?

It’s essentially a constriction at the back of your throat and sounds just like a whisper. It’s audible and you feel it, meaning, you feel it in your body and you feel your neighbour too.

Why do we use it?

Now this is the tricky part: sync your breath with movement. To put it into the simplest form I can, we use ojjayi breath in our practice for rhythm. We use it for connection. We use it for balance. Ojjayi breathing also helps us regulate the heating of the body and helps us release tension as we flow through our practice.

It’s quite a challenge to move through a practice and maintain a steady, even quality to your breath, but that’s what makes yoga so fun! You’re in a constant mindset of fine-tuning and making small adjustments. Over time, the more we focus on our breath, the more it becomes second nature and truly part of our practice.

Concentrate on the Breath

Even when I’m going about my day, when I get stuck on a challenge that needs lots of concentration, I catch myself in mid-ojjayi breath. When I started realizing I do this throughout the day, that I’ve trained my body and breath to connect over the years, really does help me work through problems with a sense of groundedness and connection to the moment I’m in. How cool is that?!

Remember, it takes practice to find your breath and it takes patience. Dedicate a practice on your mat to sticking to rhythmic breathing and see how far you get before your mind wanders. And when it does begin to wander, kindly bring it back and try again. Without the breath, there is no life to your practice and you just move from one pose to the next, rather than wholeheartedly moving as one: body, breath and mind.

JAMIE AUSMUS