My Secret Revolutionary Agenda

Emma here, and I’m going to let you in on my secret revolutionary agenda for teaching yoga. My agenda is Body Positivity, with a side of creating a better world.

When I teach a yoga class, I’m teaching breath, poses and mindfulness. But underneath all of that, I am inviting presence, softness and forgiveness for all the ways that we have abandoned our bodies, and the bodies of others. I am creating space for people to come back to their bodies, rekindle connection, and emerge with a renewed relationship with their bodies. This is how I am quietly working to change the world. 

How we think and feel about our bodies is political and world-changing because it affects how we think about the bodies of others around us. It affects which other bodies we believe are deserving of care, attention, love or rest. It affects how we vote, what we buy, who we listen to, and how we bring up our children. Body Positivity as a practice can reshape how we see not only ourselves, but all the bodies around us. 

It’s about unwinding our attention from how we look to what we want – what kind of world we want to live in. If we’re not preoccupied with our weight or shape or height or skin, what would we spend our time building? Body Positivity is about remaking our world, remaking our definition of beauty and worth, remaking our lives to celebrate the beautiful differences that we have and are. 

Body Positivity was at its inception, a political stance. In the mainstream it has been whitewashed and watered-down to simplified slogans like “love the body you have”. Body Positivity was created by Fat, Black, queer women and femmes, and was intended as a political statement/practice for those whose bodies were the least accepted by the mainstream. Remembering this history, we can think of Body Positivity as a collective practice with a radical intention. Rather than mainly considering our perception of *our own* bodies, can we commit to accepting, loving or uplifting *all* bodies? Particularly those bodies that we might not see regularly represented in our world?

A Body Positive Yoga Practice does not need to include directives to LOVE YOUR BODY (has hearing that helped anyone actually love their body, ever?). Body Positivity is not about cheerleading or slogans. It is about presence and awareness, excavating old beliefs and cultivating new ones. 

I rarely say things like “Love your body” in my classes, because it isn’t that simple, and it isn’t the point. You don’t learn to love something by being told to do so. You learn to love something by getting to know them, and seeing their wondrous and curious quirks! You learn to love something with presence, attention and consistency. 

A few years ago my friend Simone shared a Body-Positive idea with me that I have never forgotten. It seemed like an idea to remake the world. It was revolutionary and ground-changing and incredibly simple. It was this: At the Jewish summer camp where Simone worked, they had one rule for the kids. NO BODY TALK. This meant that talking about other people’s bodies was off the table, including compliments (about clothes, jewelry, haircuts).  

I was flummoxed. 

“So the kids can’t even say they like another kid’s shirt?”

“No, because one kid getting attention for their shirt might make another kid self-conscious if they never get compliments on their clothes.”

I continued to prod.

“What about if you were wearing something really interesting, like a really unusual hat?”

“They can talk about that. They can ask questions. One thing we suggest is that they ask for the story of someone’s hat or shirt. That way it’s a bit more about curiosity than approval or status.”  

I loved this idea for so many reasons, one of which is that it de-centres what is at the surface and asks us to look deeper. It’s easy to talk about someone’s haircut, but how are they actually doing under there? Body Positivity is not about just saying nice things to yourself or others; it’s about really getting to know ourselves, learning the deeper stories and hearing the difficult truths. 

My deepest hope is that the practice of Body Positivity will help us recognize and celebrate the gorgeous differences in all bodies, and that out of that will grow the seeds for a better world. 

Many of these ideas were inspired by Sonya Renee Taylor’s work, and her amazing book “The Body is Not an Apology”. What I am calling Revolutionary Body Positivity, she calls Radical Self Love. I really, really recommend her book.

Want to reflect a bit more on these ideas? I made you a downloadable set of journaling prompts for you to cozy up to with your pen for some deeper thinking and feeling.

And, if you want to be part of an intentionally Body-Positive space, join our 30 Days of Body Positive Practice, starting Jan 2.

Let’s make community care the new buzzword

Self-care is a buzzword, and we use it liberally at Queen Street Yoga. It can be an important practice of slowing down, taking time for yourself, and caring for your heart, body and mind. However, self-care and yoga practice can be inaccessible to many people. What we need to complement self-care and enhance overall wellness is community care, where people “are committed to leveraging their privilege to benefit others. ¹

Community care takes the onus off of the individual to take care of themselves, all by themselves, and places the responsibility for care within the community, in friend networks, or through structured groups or organizations. For true wellness, “people should receive community care from both their government and their friend networks.” Of course, we know that that doesn’t always happen. And recently, with drastic cuts to provincial healthcare, education, and the arts, more and more community care is being taken away from those who need it most. 

We want community care to become as strong a buzzword as self-care. We also want it to mean something, and to actively practice and embody it. Two ways that we are amplifying the principle of community care at Queen Street Yoga are:

Continue reading “Let’s make community care the new buzzword”

The Body’s Intelligence: How Craniosacral Therapy works

by Amanda Ingall

My first craniosacral treatment was a pivotal moment in my life. Somehow the appointment brought me into a deep place of connection with my mind and body. I left feeling completely relaxed, my movements felt fluid. I felt connected to my core. I wanted more.  

What I experienced that day is something I now call the wisdom of the body. I also think of it as the body’s ability to heal and restore itself.  This happens when a therapist is able to listen and respond to the body’s intelligence, rather than impose a treatment from the outside.  Craniosacral is a form of bodywork that works from the inside out, moving from your body, outwards into the hands of the therapist.

So, how does it work?

Craniosacral Therapy works with the cranium (your skull) and it’s connection to your sacrum (the back of your pelvis). Let’s start with the skull.

Your skull is miraculous. It is a moving, pulsing structure. You may tend to think of your skull as one piece, like a coconut, but it does in fact have seams or sutures that join the bones of the skull together.  These sutures have a zigzag pattern and the reason for that is that your skull actually moves, expanding and contracting with a rhythm; a pulse that is created as your cerebrospinal fluid circulates. Your whole body rolls within this rhythmic tide, causing not only movement within the skull, but also throughout your whole body.  It travels along the spine to the sacrum; shoulders and arms roll In and out, hips and legs roll in and out, organs rotate around their axis.

Continue reading “The Body’s Intelligence: How Craniosacral Therapy works”

A different way to get outside – Forest Therapy

This post is by Kristina Domsic, one of the facilitators of our upcoming Seeds of Intention: Yoga & Nature Retreat, May 24-26.

One of the things that makes our upcoming Seeds of Intention retreat unique is that participants will get to try out Forest Therapy, also known as Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, with a certified guide. This is an amazing way to explore the beautiful landscape around Harmony Dawn retreat centre. The landscape of rolling meadow, gardens, and forest around the centre have so much to offer.

When people first hear about the idea of forest therapy, they often have an intuitive sense of some of the ways this practice could be beneficial; since we were young, many of us have heard that fresh air is good for us! When we have felt overwhelmed by stressful situations, loved ones might have suggested we go for a walk to help shake it off and gain some new perspective. That part makes sense.

So, why not just go for a simple walk outside on your own?

Well, going for a walk outside on your own is definitely a good idea. But, there are also some stand-out benefits to joining a guided Forest Therapy session! Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect on our Forest Therapy sessions at the Seeds of Intention Retreat this spring:

1. Time to unplug

Continue reading “A different way to get outside – Forest Therapy”

Everybody has trauma & how yoga helped with mine

This post is by one of our core teachers, Leslie. 

If it weren’t for yoga, I would never have re-learned to enjoy my body.

As a child and teen, I was heavily involved in physical activity, but in my post-secondary years I succumbed to a sedentary lifestyle. The workload of university was overwhelming, but my total lack of movement or exercise occured, in large part, because of a string of traumas. These events left me feeling disconnected from my body, and more often than not, fearful and self-loathing.

Even though I knew it would help me, I resisted all physical activity. Sports were no longer any fun, and going the gym to “work out” seemed not only boring, but overly aspirational. Moving my body felt difficult, pointless, and unpleasant. Any movement or exertion which made me aware of my body, brought with it reminders of my trauma, and the pain that still lived within me.

In my final year of university, a friend convinced me to try a yoga class in the campus athletic centre. I was seduced by the mystery around yoga, and since it was the adventurous thing to do, I decided to join her. I still remember how the instructor led us through a soft and slow-paced class with careful instruction and plenty of room to be a beginner. I’ll admit it: I was hooked.

Continue reading “Everybody has trauma & how yoga helped with mine”

No one wanted to leave

Last night at the end of class, no one wanted to leave.

Everyone rolled over and sat up. We sang Om, acknowledged the land and said Namaste to end.

But nobody moved.

It was 9pm, and the light was starting to fade from the sky. We could hear the class in the next room start to stir, floorboards creaking as people walked back and forth, putting away their props. But in the front studio, it was utterly still.

Some people had their eyes closed. Some kept their hands in a prayer position in front of their hearts. Some people had their heads cocked, like they were trying to hear as clearly as they could the depth and detail of the silence.

Continue reading “No one wanted to leave”

Re-Post: 3 Reasons our Restorative Immersion is for you

This post was originally published on our blog in January 2017.

My name is Emma and I am a Restorative yoga evangelist. 🙂

In our busy world, Restorative yoga is an effective way to learn how to slow down and deeply rest. Restorative yoga can help you to reduce stress and support your body’s innate responses toward balance and health. As a very gentle form of yoga, Restorative yoga integrates resting postures, breath techniques, and meditative relaxation. I want to share with you three reasons why our upcoming Restorative Yoga Immersion is for you.

After this immersion you will be able to:

CUSTOMIZE a restorative yoga sequence to meet your specific needs

MEDITATE in a restorative pose

GIFT this practice to friends and family

3 reasons.jpg

CUSTOMIZELearn to design a sequence that meets your specific (and changing) needs

Continue reading “Re-Post: 3 Reasons our Restorative Immersion is for you”

Your body and mind are not a problem to be solved

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.)

Continue reading “Your body and mind are not a problem to be solved”

Salty & Pissed Off: Misapplying Radical Acceptance

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 emerged pretty salty. In more ways than one.

Continue reading “Salty & Pissed Off: Misapplying Radical Acceptance”

Don’t Tell Me to Relax: Body Positivity & Mindfulness

The other day, someone told me to relax.

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.

Continue reading “Don’t Tell Me to Relax: Body Positivity & Mindfulness”