We’ve all done it. Declared a new path forward (“No more facebook, I am going to read a book instead!”) only to find ourselves, hours later, back in the habit. Scrolling, barely present, and regretting it later.
It’s not your fault. There are literally millions of dollars being poured into making smartphone apps, television shows, and sugary/salty foods addictive. It’s big business. Manipulating human habits is an enormous business.
We are a small business. We want to make space for people to connect with their bodies, examine the habits of their mind and movement, and learn to care for themselves in our overly busy world.
It’s hard to compete with big business. And we don’t really want to. We are not interested in manipulating people into yoga and meditation. We refuse to do it. Many marketing strategies suggesting that to grow your business, you need to create a problem for people, and tell them how you are going to solve it. (We recently saw a website for meditation that wanted you to click on “10 ways you are messing up your mindfulness practice”. Yuck.)
A Message from Leena & Emma: We *love* Chris. He is a riot. He’s deeply thoughtful and deeply funny. Which is why we asked him to lead a retreat for QSY this fall, along with the wonderful Leslie. Chris approaches his yoga and mindfulness practice with zeal and curiosity. We’re tickled to share this story about the first time he tried a float tank. It gives a little taste of his humour and personality. Check it out!
Last year – after years of hearing hype and fanfare – I decided to try out a sensory deprivation floatation tank. Everyone I knew who had tried them swore they were deeply restorative. A wonderful place to relax, notice your experience, even meditate. So, I eagerly went to my local float place determined to check out the salt water experience for myself.
I was feeling worked up, and they were feeling impatient with me. So their shortcut to harmony was to tell me to “relax!”
You can imagine how that went.
I didn’t lash out at them, but I did feel hurt. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but I had real feelings about the situation. And being told to relax was a quick dismissal of my feelings, rather than an acknowledgement of them.
I have this same thought about the phrase “Love your body,” which is a phrase I don’t really use, especially not when I am teaching yoga. I don’t think it’s bad, I just think it’s on the same end of the spectrum as “relax.” It is an instruction that, while well-intentioned, might miss the point. Telling someone (even yourself) to “love your body” may not acknowledge the real and complex experience that you have with your body. That it might be hard to love your body when you feel that the world has been telling you it’s ugly, dysfunctional, or bad your whole life. It might be hard to love your body if your body is the site of trauma. It might be hard to love your body if your body is in pain a lot of the time, or experiences anxiety or depression.
What I wish my friend had asked me (instead of telling me to relax) was simply “What’s going on?” Taking a moment to acknowledge my feelings might have made a huge difference in how I was able to be present.
I called it my artist’s retreat, to describe to others why I was going away all by myself.I have always been one to juggle too many balls in the form of jobs, socializing, craft projects and learning new things. A few balls in particular had been dropped for too long, so I decided to set aside some time just for them. I began constructing an agenda of how I’d spend my time on my fantastic retreat: yoga practice, meditation, plenty of sleep, hikes and bike rides through the wilderness, and above all, making a lot of art.
I booked a cabin for the week leading up to the Summer Solstice. I was ready to get up early, tackle my art and get somewhere with my meditation and yoga practice.But my retreat had something else in store for me.
Arlene started coming to my classes ten years ago, when I was teaching out of a small rented space in Waterloo. One day after class she came up to me and said something I have never forgotten. With a big smile on her face she exclaimed, “I think this yoga is actually making a difference! Yesterday I was playing with my grandkids on the floor, and I realized that for the first time in years, I was actuallycomfortable sitting on the floor with them!”
I think back to that story often. It has stayed with me and became my inspiration for learning how to make yoga more accessible and useful for people in their golden years. Arlene, who was now completely sold on yoga, rallied a crew of friends to help me get a Basics class going at a time that worked well for everyone. I have been teaching that same group of students now every Wednesday morning for the past 8 years. It’s been fun and fulfilling to learn alongside those folks, many of whom are 60-75 now. One of my students, in fact, just turned 85! These past 8 years of teaching this demographic of “goldeners” and the continued studies I’ve been doing in strength and functional movement, led me to develop courses and special content for people 50+, specifically myYoga for Dynamic Aging course that launched last spring.
Hold on a second! I can hear you saying. I wear practical, supportive footwear. I don’t even wear high heels! It is *not* my shoes.
I know. Your shoes may seem like a smart choice. But…it’s probably still your shoes.
Alright, the shoe thing is a bit of an oversimplification. Your feet probably hurt for a number of reasons. One is that our culture has created a flattened world so that our ankles, calves and feet are conditioned to walking only on artificially flat and hard terrain. This has consequences for our feet and our whole bodies, as our feet are deprived of the different kinds of movement and conditioning they would get if they had to walk on different textured and varied ground. And don’t even get me started on how much we sit. So partially your feet hurt because they don’t move enough, in enough different ways.
I asked people to gather together near my mat, and I acknowledged that we all live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. And that a land acknowledgement is only the first step in growing awareness and beginning to redress the harm that has been done and continues to be done to the land and the First Nations people.
I was nervous. I am always nervous to do a land acknowledgement.
I think I am nervous for several reasons. One is that I am afraid people might be angry that I am bringing a political issue into a space where they might not have been expecting it. Another is that I am afraid I will somehow do it wrong, say it in a way that somehow shows my ignorance about the issues. Should I say First Nations or First Peoples? Should I say Indigenous or something else?
This thoughtful post was written by Natalie Barrales-Hall, a member of our 2015-2016 Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). Natalie has worked as a community and youth worker, and in February she began teachingQueer & Trans Yoga at Queen Street Yoga. Natalie strives to facilitate safer spaces for students who may not see themselves represented in mainstream yoga spaces or those who may be questioning whether yoga is really for them. Her approach is gentle and permissive, and she invites students to consider a practice of gratitude and self-compassion.
Whether emotional, physical or traumatic, I’ve been thinking a lot about pain. Maybe that is because of the injuries and losses I experienced during the course of the training program (don’t worry, it wasn’t the yoga asanas!), or maybe it’s informed by my work and holding space for people who are hurting, or maybe it’s simply because pain is an inevitable part of being human. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about it and in all my thinking, I’ve started to wonder about the stories we are told and tell ourselves about pain – pain as the cause of loss and disconnection, pain as a source of growth and healing, and what pain says about us and how we show up in the world. In early 2015, I was struggling to understand and manage increasingly severe knee pain which had, for all intents and purposes, come from “nowhere”. In my efforts to alleviate the pain and restore full range of movement, I was encouraged to pursue further testing to rule out any underlying injury. Thus ensued a 4-month long process which concluded with a visit to an orthopedic clinic, where upon reviewing my MRI, I was reminded of one of the first stories I can remember being told about pain: this is your fault. As the weeks passed, I would be offered many more stories by practitioners who suggested that the pain could be the result of a meniscal tear, pelvic alignment and related biomechanical concerns or energy stagnation. Continue reading “Pain and the Other Voices In My Head”
This blog post was written by Emma, Lead Teacher and Creative Director of Queen Street Yoga.
We chose the holiday wish this year–“Wishing You a Body Positive New Year”–with a lot of care. We hope people will participate in yoga as a way to celebrate and enjoy their bodies, rather than fix or change their appearance.
All the time, but particularly at this time of year (New Year’s Resolution time!) there can be many subtle (and not so subtle) messages from our culture about bodies. About what we should be eating, and not be eating. About what we should be wearing. About how we should look and present ourselves. So much of these messages (coming from advertising, the people around us and even the voices in our own heads!) are focused on appearances, on what our bodies look like, or what they “should” look like. Continue reading “Wishing You a Body Positive New Year!”
Monica made these cookies for a few of our holiday staff get-togethers, and they pack some punch! Try making these at home to add a gingery kick to your December. Enjoy them with tea, coffee or something stronger. 😉