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Grounding and Gratitude

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I have been driving from St. Catharines to PYC since the first day the studio opened in Clarkson Village.  There was something about the energy of PYC that kept bringing me in, driving an hour each way to a class that I knew would inspire me, and ground me and connect me into something powerful.  Let’s be clear, I made the time to do it, I worked part time as an office assistant, yoga instructor – teaching 10 yoga classes a week, mother of 2 kids, and a wife. It was a priority for me.  I didn’t quite understand it all at the time; I simply knew I loved to be there.

I started becoming a part of the community even more, I attended Baron Baptiste Teacher Training Level 1, Level 2, became a certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Instructor and started participating in all practice teaching sessions, all trainings offered by PYC because I wanted to inspire my students, as Kinndli and Pauline had inspired me.  At times, I wondered, “What am I doing?” “What purpose was there to keep coming back to PYC and being a part of their community when I lived so far away?”  It wasn’t sustainable over the long run.  A conversation with Kinndli, telling me about why she opened her first studio – her needing to build the space that she craved from the Baptiste community right here in Canada, set off the light bulb moment (amazing how one conversation can do that).  It was time to step up out of my comfort zone!  I needed to bring this incredible studio and community home to St. Catharines. Create a place that inspires me to practice and create the community I loved so much, at home. Instead of waiting for someone else to bring it to me, I had to do it myself along with my partner Andrea. It was time to step up into something BIG, it was time to bring PYC to St. Catharines.

Pauline became my mentor.  I admire Pauline; she never once told me what to do.  She encouraged me to find my feet, get grounded, really get clear on what I wanted to build and create in my life, find my drishti gaze, my focus to where I was headed.  I can’t even begin to say how important that is. Throughout this whole experience, with all the ups and downs, that is the one thing that I needed the most.  To have my feet planted firmly on the ground, to know what I wanted to create and to keep stepping towards it.  Opening a studio is not easy, but when you know exactly what you want, where you are headed, it is simply a part of the path to where you are headed.  All of this is living yoga, not simply doing the physical practice, the asanas, but starting to live your life through yoga, grounding down-finding your feet in who you are, what you are up to in your life, using your drishti, your focus, to bring the practice to your life, not just the one hour on your mat.

Pauline and Kinndli – I am forever thankful to all that you do and the communities you have built, my life has changed so much because of you both.  I am honoured to be a new affiliate studio owner and to be your friend as you spread your love all across Canada!

I am moving forward with complete excitement about bringing PYC to St. Catharines with my amazing partner Andrea.  She has been right by my side for the entire journey!  I absolutely love the energy, the community, the practice, the space (lets face it, I could go on forever here), and so excited to be bringing it HOME!

Let’s Light it Up St. Catharines!  Are you with me???

-Darlene Berg

Celebrate Your Triumphs!

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Have you ever criticized yourself for not doing something perfectly? Perhaps you’ve become frustrated with those things you might not be or might not have (yet)? Or compared yourself, and your assumed ‘short fallings’, to the successes of others?

Now (and really think here), do you regularly take the time to sit down and acknowledge all of your triumphs? Really taken the time to celebrate what you do and who you are? From the smallest everyday moments, to the big breakthroughs, that YOU create for yourself?

Which shows up for you in your life? If ‘column A’ shows up for you more often than ‘column B’ things can change and you can do it by celebrating the triumphs as they come your way, one at a time!

Take the time to enjoy what you are up to everyday; some might call it ‘the ride’, ‘the journey’ and some might just call it ‘life’. This isn’t a race to the finish line so slow down, take the time to soak it all in and celebrate every single triumph in your life.

There are days when simply getting out of bed can be a triumph. Sometimes the triumphs can be found in smiling when you are feeling down, taking a breath when you want to scream , in the moments where you choose activity over being still, or even when you choose stillness over activity. You can truly find triumph in anything you do and it is a conscious choice.

For me, this 40 Day journey has been about celebrating my small meditation triumphs. So I never made it beyond the 15 minute mark and found it difficult to stay consistent day to day. SO WHAT! I congratulate myself now for the commitment I had to always give it another shot, to always go back to stillness. A series of triumphs!

Take the time to celebrate the triumphs in your life; the big and the small. You will tap in to joy that is unparalleled and powerful! Enjoy the ride!

Heather Coates

Listen Up! It May Be Your Body Speaking

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Last week was week #4 of the 40 Days to Personal Revolution and its focus was Restoration. I have to add that this is also the week where we are invited to take on a 3 day fruit cleanse. In the past I have always been game, and even excited, to take this on but was a little resistant this time around; I may have even muttered the words, ‘I’m not doing this’, once or twice;) But after a great fruit shop, and allowing myself the space to feel prepared, I felt more ready than ever!

And then it happened. Day 2. The day when I barely made it out of bed, to only return, when I realized that I was sick with what felt like the flu. After another five, count ‘em five, hours of morning sleep and I relocated to couch where I spent the duration of the day. I was still committed to the process of the fruit cleanse but I thanked the 40 Days Gods for including miso soup as part of the process. It got me through.

On this day I had no choice but to surrender. My body was sending me a message (loud and clear!) that it was time to give it a rest, slow down, switch off and RESTORE. And that I did…I even have the Homer Simpson dent in the couch to prove it!

I share this with you because I was inspired by the power of my body last week. Its power literally took me to my knees because it had been trying to send me a message and I wasn’t listening; I didn’t trust what it had to say. Someone once told me that the word power is defined as ‘the absence of force’. Recently, I’ll admit that I’ve been forcing my body and my mind to stay busy and last week was a clear reminder that I can step into MY true power, my health and my authenticity, by simply being still and breathing. I am ready to listen to what my body has to say, my life depends on it.

I ask YOU, are you always busy? Are you so busy that you are already on to the next moment? Do you live in the future, in the list of ‘to do’s’, and not in the present moment? When you do stop are you able to really stop, switch off and find restoration?

Believe me, it’s possible. Try it for five minutes in the morning and five in the evening. Simply sit in silence and listen to the sound of your own breath. Do this to honour your own body and to avoid being ‘taken out’ for an entire day like I was.

Trust and listen to your body because it will lead YOU to your most authentic, powerful, happy and healthy life!!

– Heather Coates

A Practice in Equanimity

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Reflecting, and blogging, on the week past has been an interesting project to take on. It has really enabled me to get real with what is working and where there may be room for growth and opportunity, not only within the 40 Day journey but also on my mat, in my meditation and my life! Thank you for reading:)
I have been stuck on what to write on for Week 3 its focus, equanimity, and its connection to my meditation experience. And then it hit me.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I have noticed significant shifts in my life when I take the time to ‘Hurry Up and Sit Still’. During our third week of this journey I noticed a shift in my reactivity and my ability to take a breath before taking action.
Equanimity was presenting itself off the mat and in my life…
Last week when I was stuck in yet another long queue at the grocery store I waited patiently, the clock kept ticking and I began to notice that I was going nowhere fast. I was beginning to get hungry; starting to run late and as a result was getting a little agitated. I kept breathing. As my breath became more shallow and as my heart rate started to increase (note the drama here;)) a woman cut in front of me (I went silently crazy in my head!) and simply asked, ‘Can I skip in front of you with my bag of apples, they are the one thing I forgot in this shop?’ One big breath and I simply responded, with a smile (a natural one to boot!) I might add, “Yes, no problem.” And there it was, my breath neutralized, my heart rate subsided and it was time to move on.
My point is that meditation comes in many forms and can help us out in the most seemingly frustrating situations. I could have taken this incident home with me and made this woman the reason why my day went this way or that, or done the opposite, which I did, and simply took a few breaths and decided to move on.
Have you ever been stuck in traffic in the morning and it ruined your day? What about waking up to dishes in the sink when you did them the night before? How about someone cutting in front of you at the store? Someone driving super slow in front of you….someone doing something……..someone else doing something else….and so it goes.
And now you get to choose how you react, if you do at all. You get to choose. And in this past week I have noticed that I have chosen differently. If something has affected me I acknowledge it as something that I am creating and not making it about ‘someone’ else. It has been powerful.
So I ask you to do the time or at least make a practice of it. When that ‘someone’ has done ‘something’ can you choose to not react and simply let the next moment be about something different. You have a choice and the choice is ALWAYS yours.
Practice some equanimity in your everyday life. It truly is a gift. To meet life as life meets you.

-Heather Coates

Hurry Up and Sit Still

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If you read last week’s blog then you already know that I find meditation challenging. The simple idea of sitting with myself was often times scary, difficult and ultimately a boring activity for me to anticipate. I realized that I had created a massive block between me and the world of stillness.
As we moved through Week 2 with a focus on Vitality I got to thinking about my meditation practice (or lack thereof…yes, I continued to resist into the beginning of Week 2…) and reminded myself gently that my asana practice is a form of meditation; a moving meditation. Now I am not saying that this replaces the benefits of a seated, silent and still meditation but it was something that I had to realize was an accomplishment. I CAN meditate (the proof is in the asana pudding) but I had chosen not to, chosen to make it difficult and chosen to create a HUGE story around it. There was no ‘I don’t know how’, ‘I’m not good at it’ or any more excuses – I just needed to do it. And so I did.
So I am back on the meditation pillow (note: this is just a pillow from the couch;)) and as I type I remember…
I credit the positive changes in my life to the moments where I have taken the time to meditate. Taken the time to sit still and get clear about what I am doing with myself, where I want to go and what I want to accomplish. It’s no coincidence that I had huge shifts in my life once I graduated my PYC teacher training – I was meditating regularly. I should add that I am not sitting and pondering these things with a conscious mind but I find that when I take the time to sit and really empty, I get really clear in most everything I do.
By resisting my meditation practice what I was really telling myself was that I was undeserving of it and that is just not true. I acknowledge this lie and move forward with the power to hurry up and sit still

Heather Coates

Something’s Gotta Give

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I am in my second week of the 40 days program and I must say that I am really enjoying myself. In fact, I love this program so much that I’ve decided to take it on a seventh time. What’s not to love about this personal revolution though?! You get to do 6 days of yoga in a week, meditate every day, journal on your eating habits/patterns and go through some deep inquiry about your personal life…sounds pretty hardcore but totally doable right?!! Well, I must tell you that every time that I’ve participated, I’ve struggled with my meditation. I’ve constantly had to recommit to my meditation practice and realize just that….that it’s a practice! Well, I set out THIS time to really focus on that and it’s been going great. Here’s the kicker though….my asana practice is basically non-existent. My yoga practice that I love so much (my sanity!) has taken the back burner this time around and I’ve been making up excuses from ‘being tired’ to ‘having no time’ and simply just not wanting to hit my mat. What is it that I fear?

The very first time that I did this program I had been going through a difficult break-up. I resented meditation so much because it made me deal with the feelings that I had. I would immerse myself into my yoga practice so that I didn’t have to face anything else. Well now the tables have turned and there’s something on my mat to discover and I am resenting it. I am completely aware of this but yet I do nothing! If it’s not my meditation that’s lacking, it’s my diet or now…my practice. To really focus on one aspect of this program means I have to ignore some other components right? Something’s gotta give? Well….that’s the easy way out. The truth is, nothing has to be compromised. I can make time for my practice just as I’m doing for my meditation, my nourishment and my excavating questions. It’s a choice. If I want growth in my life, if I want to break the patterns that are clearly not working, I need to FULLY commit without judgement or guilt. I need to hit my mat 6 days a week and if I fall off the wagon…I get back on with more velocity, drive and heart. At our very first meeting I declared that I am letting go of my self saboteur and here she is….trying to take over control! She is so sneaky!! Well, I see her and I recommit to my declaration as well as my asana practice….which like I’ve said before…is indeed just that.

A Practice in (Im)Perfection

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There have been moments in my life (far too many moments to count) where I have chosen the idea of perfection, the “it’d better be perfect or I’m not going to do it at all” kind of attitude. As I reflect on my first week of 40 Days meditation I have to ask myself what a ‘perfect’ meditation means to me….
….I’m sitting in an empty, open air room with the sound of the sea nearby, I am wearing beautiful loose fitting clothes (of the Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love variety), with Kirtan playing softly in the background, my body is comfortable with stillness, my mind is at ease with silence and every now and then a sea breeze softly touches my cheek…..
But this is what any given day of meditation is really like…
….I’m sitting anywhere in my house that allows me to sit comfortably on the ground, I am likely in my flannel pjs or housecoat because it’s -15 outside, no Kirtan but likely the hum of an NHL game on the background of the next room, my back hurts and is screaming at me while my foot falls asleep, my mind is trying (and it’s trying hard) to create the next thing that needs to be done and every now and then a cat saunters along and head butts me to remind me that it’s still there…..
Ahhhhh, blissful ‘real life’ meditation. The kind that challenges and aggravates me but will, given the opportunity, set me free from the shackles of wanting to look good, needing to look like I have everything together and wanting (and needing) everything to perfect, including myself.
My meditation practice may not be a perfect practice but it’s mine and I will keep sitting down, in silence, to take it on one minute and one breath at a time. Today I recommit to myself, and to my meditation practice, and to the possibility of being blissfully imperfect and being perfectly okay with it!

Merry Christmas PYC!

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Almost Christmas! I woke up this morning to beautiful snow covered trees, my adorable puppy waiting to play, and thoughts of surprising my fiancé with breakfast in bed. Christmas is near and thoughts of family and friends quickly overcame me! As I planned my breakfast feast and started a grocery list I thought to myself, “What is the date today?” I looked around my kitchen for my cell phone, a calendar, anything to remind me. Nothing. So I went downstairs and turned on my computer. Ahhh… December 23, 2011.

I caught myself in a state of shock. December 23, 2011!? Christmas Eve is tomorrow?

What have I been doing???? So I reflected. My days recently have been filled with thoughts of my wedding, my wedding, my new house, endless ‘to do lists’ and did I mention my wedding? I knew going into Christmas holidays this year that my work schedule would involve 7 nightshifts in a row, that’s the nature of the job, and I was ok with that. So I threw Christmas to the sidelines!? Somehow along the way I lost myself this holiday season. No Christmas cards, no Christmas decorations. My fiancé and I agreed we were too busy and we would start next year.

As I opened my computer to check the date, my Facebook page automatically loaded and my Aunt Judy’s profile came to light. My Aunt Judy always makes me smile, she is the brightest light in our family at Christmas time! I immediately thought of my cousin Frankie who passed away this year and my family’s deep pain surrounding his death. I took some time to read through his dedication page and the tears started to flow. We miss you and Love you Frankie! I started to message friends and family and reflect on the holiday season. I started to dream about the wonderful Christmas dinner my Step-Mum has probably already started to prepare. I thought about my Fiancé and how I made him discuss wedding invitations last night. (Sorry babe!)

I thought about my family at Power Yoga Canada. This year, PYC taught me it’s ok to get a little off track… no judgement from this gal. Time to recommit!! Time to arrive! It’s December 23, 2011 and never too late to arrive. My holiday season is here and I can’t wait to jump right in. What are you grateful for this holiday season? I’m filled with gratitude for my job(s), my loving family, beautiful friends, my health, and my teachers. Looking forward to another year of growth, love, and light!!!

Merry Christmas!

This is it!

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I am sitting on a plane, jetting back to Canada.  I have spent a week in Tulum Mexico in Baron Baptiste’s Level 3 bootcamp.  Bootcamp.  Doing yoga in Mexico.  Gives the illusion that we are spending time on the beach and taking a yoga class.  This is an intense program of asana practice, self development and inquiry.  Intense doesn’t even scratch the description.  Don’t forget to add in F-U-N.

80 bootcampers arrived, reuniting with bootcamper friends, meeting new ones and melding together as a group for a week.  A community.  We support one another, laugh and cry, go upside down and bend beyond borders.  We cheer on self discovery and break throughs.  We ground down to rise up into our greatness, as yoga teachers, leaders and human beings.

One morning, we took a meditative walk on the beach in noble silence.  The ground rules were given – it was our job to stay together as a group, without verbalizing.  As we set out, the sun was blazing down on us.  We started as a big group, a nucleus, together as we were asked to be.  Over the 20 minute walk, we spread out along the beach, not so far that we lost our cohesiveness, just created some space between us.  We stopped for a few minutes, enjoying the sand, the water, the silence – being present to all our senses.  Our leader started moving back towards our hotel.  We all followed, in silence, together.

Last night, we had our farewell ceremony, still together physically.  Today, we awoke at different times, leaving the hotel by shuttle, travelling through the Cancun airport and on to planes taking us back to our lives.  The bootcamp community we lived as for 7 days is no longer together in Tulum.  Our nucleus has spread around the world, some space between us, sharing our hearts with our communities.  Japan, Australia, across the US and Canada, Alaska to Newfoundland.  Our greatness glows on, empowering others, inspiring lives and living in the right NOW.  The seatbelt sign is on.  Buckle up.  This is it yogi.

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.