Yoga

On Yoga School

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It is difficult to put my experience here in India at yoga school into words but I’ll try:

Painful. Tiring. Hot. Flies. Inspiring. Cows. Mountains. Rain. Enlightening. Humbling. Gratifying. Love. Car horns. Beautiful. Tough. Rewarding. Terrifying. Meaningful. Simple. Complicated. Frustrating. Wonderful.

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Every day I went to classes and talked to friends and teachers and friends who were my teachers (and teachers who were my friends) and got filled up to the brim with wisdom and information, almost like taking a jug to a tap of cold water and letting it fill to overflowing. Every night, or every night that I wasn’t too exhausted, I sat on my bed with my coloured pens and tried to write it all down so that it wouldn’t slip away.

Now six weeks later I have a little book full of quotes and lessons and messages from the universe. I have stronger and more flexible muscles. I have a stronger and more flexible mind. I feel quieter. A friend in the course told me on our last day that she’d seen a subtle shift in me over the weeks, that I seemed to have softened – I feel that too, slightly. Most of all though, I feel humbled. I am sure that I know so much less than I thought and much less than I want to know. I am also sure I have much more work to do than I thought on myself and my behaviours with others. I am ready to keep trying my best, forever and ever.

So I’m officially a yoga teacher now, but I feel more like a yoga student than I did when I arrived. I don’t feel ready to teach classes, but I simultaneously feel excited to share what I’ve learned. More than anything, I feel ready for the next stage in this great safe beautiful adventure that is my life.

The picture at the top is one of those pages on which I tried to carefully record all the wisdom from my day. I chose to share it because it seems to contain some of the biggest lessons that kept coming up for me throughout the course.

Namaste, everyone!

And thanks as always for your love and patience while I took a little long sabbatical from the blog. It always seems to call me back at exactly the right time for me. Thanks for reading!

Sit With It

Sit With It >> Life In Limbo

One of my very favourite yoga concepts is the idea of sitting with things. When you’re holding a yoga pose that is challenging or annoying or otherwise uncomfortable, yoga asks you to just stay with it, to be there with those irritating feelings. It doesn’t tell you to try to fix or change the situation in any way, and it doesn’t offer you any tips for avoiding that discomfort. It just says: Can you be here with this right now? Can you feel this irritation and not react to it?

Obviously, this idea is helpful beyond the yoga mat.

Sit With It >> Life In Limbo

This is a pretty counter-intuitive idea for me, the idea of tolerating things I don’t like or that don’t feel good. I think that for a lot of us, it’s very, very difficult to avoid the temptation to do something about the things that bother us or stress us out. And yes, often we’re right to take action – if our problems can be solved by sending that one email or changing our shoes, then of course we absolutely should. Except that I think by always doing something every time we face an annoyance or issue, we’re out of practice for those times when there is nothing that can immediately be done.

Right now, I’m 5 weeks out from leaving Korea. I have a to-do list full of logistics to sort out, things to buy, and details to arrange. I’m making progress, slowly but surely chipping away at my list, but a bunch of my tasks have to wait until I know more or when it’s closer to my departure. I hate that. I want to check off everything, right now, clear my plate and get my ducks in a row. I constantly feel like I should be doing more and preparing more and getting things lined up before I start traveling.

Sit With It >> Life In Limbo

Today, I realized that what I really need to do is sit with this. I don’t need to try to eliminate the (inevitable) feelings of stress by running around putting out fires and trying to get things done before their time. I don’t need to hassle people for answers or worry myself about whether or not I need certain documents. I just need to sit here, acknowledge that it’s sometimes overwhelming, and give myself permission to not do anything about it for now. Recognize that I’ve always gotten everything done before and will again, in time. Let things proceed at the pace they’re meant to. I just need to breathe, sit with it, feel the feelings, and try to let them go.

One Simple Way To Make Better Decisions

One Simple Way to Make Better Decisions >> Life In Limbo

Yesterday, I signed up for my yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. This exciting decision has been a long time in the making, and like any big decision, not without its fair share of uncertainty.

When it comes to making big choices in my life, I do not often have a crystal-clear, lightning bolt moment that speaks to me and tells me exactly what to do. Whether it’s been deciding where to go to university, or if I should backpack for three months on my own, or move abroad to teach English in a foreign country, for me the process is not always simple or intuitive.

I do believe strongly in intuition, and I’m always working on listening to my gut and choosing the path that feels most right to me. I try to pay attention to what I feel in my body: does it feel exciting or does it make me anxious?

For me however, things that are exciting can also be extremely overwhelming. Things that make me anxious can end up being exactly what I need to do. I’m still working on figuring out which signals are red flags that I should listen to, and which are just par for the course when you’re making the kinds of choices that push you far outside of your comfort zone.

One Simple Way to Make Better Decisions >> Life In Limbo

Last night when I was turning this decision over in my head, at one point I just Googled “How to make decisions”, and the first result was a TED talk by Ruth Chang. Her talk (which you should really watch) really resonated with me because it articulated something I feel I’ve known and acted on intuitively but never realized it’s what I was doing.

Her idea is that hard choices are hard precisely because both options have major upsides and downsides, making neither necessarily better than the other. She says: it is not that one of the two options is better and we are too stupid to know the difference. Instead, the two options cannot really be compared because hard decisions like these are driven by our personal values, not statistics or objective data.

Her recommendation is to see hard choices as a chance to create our own reasons for making a particular decision. We can use hard choices as an opportunity to express our personalities and become the people that we want to be. 

That was what I subconsciously did when I chose my wonderful university in a vibrant city over the other great one that I also loved the idea of. It’s what I did when I mapped out an itinerary for myself traveling by train through countries in Europe I’d never visited. It’s how I decided to move to another country instead of settling down back home and starting a 9-to-5 job. And ultimately it’s how I decided to travel to the birthplace of yoga in northern India next year to study, even though the idea of it intimidates me.

One Simple Way to Make Better Decisions >> Life In Limbo

All of the big choices I’ve made in my life have not been immediately obvious to me as the “right” or “perfect” decision. All of them have scared me both before and after I made them. And all of them have led me to exactly where I feel I was meant to be. One of my favorite quotes from Marie Forleo is: “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” You may only know what’s right for you once you start walking down the path, after you make the decision and take the risk.

I know I want to be a person who follows her heart, who does things that scares her, who invests in herself, and who pursues adventure despite uncertainty. These are the things I hope my choices reflect.

The truth is, I am so lucky to have had these decisions to make. I try not to take them or myself too seriously, because as one of my great friends says, “I have no reason to doubt that everything will work out just fine”. After all, it always has so far.

The next time you find yourself faced with a big decision, realize that the answer may not be as simple for you as checking in with your gut, and that’s okay. Try using the choice as an opportunity to make a statement about who you are or who you want to be. See what happens when you make your decisions a conscious blend of intuition and intention. Ask:

What do you want this choice to say about you?

24 Before 24: Try Acro Yoga

Acro Yoga

For the past month, I’ve been taking an acro yoga workshop at a studio near me. It has been so awesome.

Acro yoga is a combination of acrobatics and yoga, and in some cases massage and restorative poses. The teacher I learned from, Mindy, studied at AcroYoga Montreal – which I wish I had known about back when I actually lived in Montreal! I am officially putting their teacher training on my wishlist of workshops I want to take, because after only a month I can already tell I would absolutely love to teach acro.

There’s something both beautiful and frustrating about an activity like this, which you can only do with a partner. I’ve found it beautiful in that I am able to totally trust a complete stranger to support my weight or that someone totally trusts me to support them. Not only that, it’s beautiful because it’s collaboration in its purest form. I’ve learned that acro works best not when you’re awkwardly trying to guess what your partner is feeling or wanting to do next, but when you’re talking the entire time about small adjustments and how you’re both doing. I don’t think I have enough of that kind of collaboration in my life, but it really does make me feel connected and happy.

The frustrating part, of course, is that as incredibly fun as it is, it’s not something you can practice on your own. After the class, all I want to do is come home and keep practicing!! Back before my dear friend Dylan left, he good naturedly put up with my demands to practice (even though the button on his favourite shorts was once an accidental casualty) but most of my other friends aren’t yoga people so I can only really practice during class time. I’m not used to this, since most of my favourite activities are solitary ones, but I think that makes acro kind of special.

My work schedule means that I’m probably not going to be able to participate in future higher-level acro workshops until January, but I might just keep going to the beginner’s level to continue learning and having fun. Acro makes me feel awesome: strong and light and giddy and in awe of both my own body and what other people can do with their bodies. It’s just so much fun and a really great workout too!

Ps. I actually did get that mermaid bind I was going for in the last photo, but no photo because very soon after we fell out of it. So, action shot it is! Thanks to the ladies at Kaizen for snapping these photos, and both basing me and flying with me!

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