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November 2011

Earth to Yogi: Your Body is Calling…Pick up!

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Injury can be one of our greatest and most frustrating teachers. Just when we think we are on a certain path in our practice, we are forced to slow down, modify and pull back. We have to set up camp and hang tight.

Slowing down is not an easy task and often comes hand in hand with frustration and resistance. All of a sudden, we’re forced to put all that yoga stuff into practice. We have to get present to our current situation, to our bodies and what feels right.

Then comes the hardest part. Acceptance. How many times have you heard that word in a yoga room? We need to accept where we are, and this can be incredibly difficult.

I’m speaking from my own personal experience in my practice right now. I got present to my back injury about a month and a half ago. I’m not sure exactly what I did but all of a sudden any twist would leave me with a tight pain in my right, mid-back. Day after day, I would feel the same pain every time I practiced – so I modified. I shared my frustration with people in the community. I even backed off enough to take a few days off and after a while, it seemed I was in the clear. This past weekend I felt like I was finally 100% – surely I could jump back into full expression in every pose.

Yah…not so much.

Too much, too soon. I ignored my intuition and let my mind get in the way. I wanted so badly to be back to my “regular” practice (what is that anyway?) that I pushed my bodies signals to the side. I felt tight but muscled through countless back bends and here I am, sitting at my desk with a sore back and heating pad.

True practice comes into play when things don’t go as planned, when we are pushed out of our comfort zone, when we face one (or more) or life’s many different challenges. Whatever that might be for you; an injury in your practice, an illness, a loss, relationship issues, money problems or just feeling unhappy, listen to your body, your gut, your intuition.

Put your yoga into practice.

At the end of my class yesterday, I opened up that magical, amazing book from the front of the room (FYI – Journey to the Heart) and flipped it open to a random page. This is what it read:

Sometimes the Road Gets Rough

Feel your fear and frustration about slowing down, then settle in for the ride. You may not be going as fast as you’d like, but the journey hasn’t stopped. You’re not doing anything wrong. You are going slower, but you’re still moving forward.” 

– Melody Beattie

A gentle reminder to slow down, listen to my body and give it time to heal. I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that that reading came to me when I needed it most.

Whatever challenge you might be facing right now, realize that you’re exactly where you need to be. You don’t have to rush. You don’t have to force. Get present and remember that no matter how slow, you are always moving forward.

Life’s too short…. Eat Dessert!

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I have always wanted to start a nutrition blog. I love all things food. The taste, the smell, the excitement of eating! I know, kind of obsessive. The texture, the flavour and the variety… Ahhh so delicious. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

I decided to commit to contributing a nutrition blog last week in the midst of working a set of 4 nightshifts. I teach yoga and also work as a police officer in Mississauga. The practice of yoga has created awareness on how my food choices lend a major impact on my energy level, especially when working a 12 hour rotating shift schedule. In an attempt to feel lighter and create more energy, I decided to commit to eliminating meat, dairy, and gluten while working this specific set of nightshifts. My diet focused on fresh fruits, veggies, and natural proteins ranging from nuts, seeds, quinoa and gluten free brown rice pasta. (Which is incredible by the way!) I was amazed at the outcome! My energy was through the roof and I stayed up the entire night without crashing in a parking lot at 3am. (Yes we do that! When it’s not busy of course) To top it all off when I got home at 7am after a 13 hour shift I started cleaning the house and re-organizing my closet! Who does that!? Normally, I would sink into my bed amidst a series of moans and groans, complaining to my fiancé about how exhausted I was.

I felt great and therefore decided to continue with this strict food plan. I created a food log and posted it inside my kitchen cupboard to keep track of my progress. My intention was to create awareness and continue to monitor how I felt based on the food I was consuming. I used resources such as healthy cookbooks and tested till perfect recipes I had gathered from many hours of getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. This was perfect I thought.  What a great time to start a food blog. So far this week I made quinoa with roasted mushrooms, a broccoli salad with almond butter inspired dressing and my fav – oatmeal walnut cookies with chunks of dark chocolate. I took pictures of the results, dancing and laughing my way around the kitchen brainstorming ideas.

As I drove around today while working dayshift, I started circling the outside of Whole Foods at Square One deciding what I was going to eat for lunch. It was then I realized I was procrastinating writing my first blog post!! I realized it was because I was too busy worrying about ‘the plan’ and what to write. I have so many ideas, so many recipes and so much to share so what was taking so long? I was too busy thinking of the perfect recipe to start off with instead of being present to what was right in front of me!

We all have within us everything we need to know, all the tools we need, to take action and commit to something right now. And at that moment, as I circled Whole Foods, all I could think about was chocolate cake! So I dropped my strict ‘plan’ and inside I went and picked up the most scrumptious looking molten chocolate lava cake I could find, added a small coffee to my order and sat peacefully enjoying every bite.

Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘the plan’ we miss out on the present moment and what our body is really asking from us. As I enjoyed my delicious cake, I took the time to pay close attention to the moistness, the intense chocolate flavour and the sensations that arose in my body. I didn’t end up eating the entire piece of chocolate heaven. A couple bites were all I needed! I was present to the experience in my body and therefore knew when it was time to call it quits before quickly dropping energy from an unnecessary sugar high overload.

We have tons of time to chat about the perfect healthy recipes, why we should eat this or that and what to eat before or after yoga practice. But let’s not take this too seriously and remember that life’s too short to get in our heads and constantly stress about the perfect eating plan or outcome. When you focus on simple body awareness and allow yourself a treat every once in a while… the results are magical.

So go ahead… eat some dessert!! Pay attention and enjoy each and every bite. I promise it will be well worth it!

With Love,


Small Change Adds Up

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It’s a running joke (slash ongoing battle) between me and my husband; my love of using exact change. His aversion to change is so strong, he won’t even carry any. He pays for his purchases exclusively with bills, and will toss whatever change he’s given into the car’s cup holder or our coin tin at home.

This habit of his is just fine with me. I happily dive into his discarded coins on a regular basis; he keeps me in my takeout coffees and feeds my parking meters. The best part about his change-hoarding habit is our yearly trip to the ‘Coinstar’ machine, when all that change turns into several hundred spendable grocery dollars! Over the course of time, small change can really add up.

Lately I’ve been seeing how this philosophy can extend into everyday life. Having given birth to my first child twelve weeks ago, I’m finding myself presented with a bit of a double-whammy: I have work to do to get my body, my nutrition, and my yoga practice back to where I’d like them to be, but I have very very little time for myself.

I spent at least eight weeks completely stuck in inaction: there was so much I wanted to change, that the prospect of initiating that change was just plain unappealing. I wanted all the bad habits that took over during pregnancy (too much sugar, too frequent coffees, lots of napping and cheese with everything) all gone, right now. All or nothing! Valuing this sort of black-and-white thinking kept me stuck, spinning my wheels. Every single thing I wanted to change stayed exactly the same.

So I took a page from Lululemon’s book and decided to ‘do one thing’. Finding myself depressed at the prospect of giving things up, I shifted my question to “What can I add in?”. Beautiful. I started by adding a walk every single day, no matter what circumstances arose or excuses I invented. I didn’t always want to go. I might not even have always enjoyed it…. but I was always glad I went.

A week went by and I was inspired to do more. I looked at the way I was eating. What can I add in? Mentally I wanted to get complicated about this, to make lists or even a meal plan, but I’m beginning to realize how much I complicate things with maximal planning and minimal action. So I just ‘added in’ one meal a day that was full of colour. And again, while I didn’t always want to wash sprouts and chop peppers (isn’t there a frozen pizza nearby?!) I got a total charge both physically and mentally from a plate full of vibrant colours and therefore bountiful nutrients.

So these two little changes are now beginning to have a big impact beyond themselves. Consciousness has begun to arise and is spilling over into other parts of my day. The days of going to Starbucks for an extra-whip latte because I’m out and because I can are over! Or at least less frequent. And while I may not be back in my skinny jeans, I do have at least one pair of jeans that I can fasten again. And that’s something.

So I invite you to ask yourself – Where in my life do I desire change right now? The answer to this one’s simple: it’s the first thing that flashed into your head. Now commit to doing one thing: what can you add in (or if you like, take out) that supports you in achieving this change? Keep it simple, keep it easy. Resist the temptation to be perfectionistic, black-and-white, or all-or-nothing. Just do one thing. And watch your small change start to add up.

~ Samantha Newton-Switzer

Let the Fog Lift

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Fog has always fascinated me.

One moment everything in sight seems crystal clear and then in an instant the fog creeps up. Before we know it, we’re surrounded by this thick fog and can’t even see our own hand in front of our face.

Last night, in our Your Life Design meeting, the idea of starting something out of nothing kept coming up. Pretty daunting, right?

OK, I’ve got my big idea! It’s crystal clear and of course I’m willing to put it into action BUT… (cue fog)

I don’t know where to start.

And there I am again, big idea in my head, but frozen stiff in the fog. Paralyzed by the future and how on earth I am going to get from here to there. I was in this headspace last night for the first half of our meeting. Every answer to the questions being asked was “I don’t know” and all my best yoga breathing and reminders to let it be were not taking any of the frustration away.

The moment I put my hand up and shared that I was in a fog, it lifted. Just as quickly as it crept in, it seemed to vanish. My vision got clear. I started to see where I wanted to go, but more importantly, the steps I need to take to get there. What I’ve never realized is that EVERYTHING starts from NOTHING. I’m definitely not the first person to have an idea and not know how to make it a reality. It’s okay to admit you don’t know what’s next.

We can get so caught up in where we think we’re headed, that we lose sight of where we actually are in the moment. When I’m on my mat I have to remind myself again and again that the prize is in the process. It’s not all about getting to a certain expression in a pose, but enjoying each breath along the way. Last night I realized that it’s not all about getting to the end result, the goal, the destination because what’s the point of arriving if I haven’t enjoyed the journey? It’s about acknowledging the unknowns, letting the fog lift, and embracing each step along my path.

So this week is all about reminding myself to:

Come back to the present moment.
Take a deep breath.
Place one foot in front of the other.
Take today’s step (no matter how small it might be).
Trust that in the end, it will lead me where I need to go.

– Jenn Dwyer