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I’m a rock n roll, smoking, martini drinking, latte-obsessed Hairstylist….or at least I used to be…..
When you think of a ‘Yoga teacher’ I’m not likely the image that comes to mind. So how did a rebellious, tattooed, heavy metal lover become a Yoga Teacher?
Allow me to explain:
In 1998 a co-worker suggested that we all register for a Monday morning Yoga class together. Since Monday was my day off and I’m naturally a night owl I was less than excited about this morning idea that’s for sure. Also, I had zero interest in Yoga, sure I had moved my body a lot in my past, I had been both a bodybuilder and a runner, but Yoga seemed a bit ‘woo woo’ for me. It brought to mind images of hippies in white clothing on a commune somewhere, not something I as a rebellious lone wolf could see myself doing. But with promises of lattes and door-to-door delivery, I finally caved in.
That first Yoga class completely rocked my world, in all the best ways. I had never felt so relaxed and centred. For the duration of the class, my mind focused on one thing and one thing only… Yoga. As an adrenaline seeking, type-A personality this was miraculous. I left feeling like I was walking on a cloud. I clearly remember saying to my friends, “I’m going to do Yoga forever”.
And so I kept going to classes long after my friends had moved on to other past times, and my relationship with Yoga deepened. I started going to classes more often and practicing a few of the poses I could remember at home. Yup, Yoga had begun to seep into my bones, I was hooked. Gradually my practice of Yoga began to create changes not just in how I felt in my physical body but how I saw the world around me, myself and my life outside of my Yoga practice.
Fast forward to 2000, I was now not only a successful hairstylist but also a hair color expert and platform artist. I was making amazing money, in addition to my clients at the salon, I was traveling around the country, teaching hairstylists what the new latest and greatest in hair color and color techniques were.
From the outside, I looked like I had it all. I got treated like a Rock Star, wined, dined, stage, mics, models, music etc. I was in a position most hairstylists dream of.
While I loved my time on the road it was really high stress and hard on me physically and mentally. And all the while I had a closet philosopher hiding in me, I was always reading Yoga and Meditation books on the road.
When I did get back to the salon and worked with my clients I felt less than inspired, it was impossible to let my creative juices flow when every second girl in my chair wanted the same boring blond highlights that I could do in my sleep.
I wasn’t getting the same creative high I did on the road. I also just didn’t feel like I was contributing to the world in any real positive way. I mean sure I was making people ‘pretty’ but even that had lost its importance.
I was helping people feel better about their appearance but what about the inside? I was starting to feel like my job indirectly made people feel ‘not enough’ just like the marketing I hated from major beauty companies. “You’re not pretty enough or good enough without _____”.
I began to feel a disconnect between my Yoga and my livelihood. I wanted to help heal our world, to contribute, make a difference. I had been an activist on and off for years but now I felt called to do more. Now I wanted to help people feel beautiful from the inside out. I knew how much peace Yoga had brought me and I wanted to share that peace with the world.
I also knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up my hairstylist lifestyle forever. Being on the road, the drinking, the smoking, the crazy amount of espresso I consumed to keep going day to day, was taking its toll on my body and my spirit.
I was starting to develop work-related injuries and had to cut back my hours at the salon, so I knew it was just a matter of time until I had to find something else to do for my livelihood.
I did a lot of soul-searching and realized what I loved most about my current career was the teaching. I truly came alive when I was teaching or learning (two sides of the same coin). I realized I could keep my love of teaching and just change what I was teaching. I could teach Yoga, something that truly spoke to my heart.
But in order to do this I had to overcome many obstacles:
But I knew I had to make a change so I signed up for Yoga teacher training and went to ‘Yoga school’ while still doing hair so I could work my way through school.
In 2004 I graduated from my first teacher training and with the help and encouragement of my fella, I went for it! I ran eyes on the horizon and jumped, I found my wings on the way down.
But it wasn’t without big sacrifice…
Due to the staggering debt I had incurred from medical bills, I had to declare personal bankruptcy (one of the hardest but best decisions I ever made). I swallowed my pride, got a part-time job in a coffee shop working for minimum wage and started looking for teaching gigs. It took 2.5 years, two jobs and six days/week before I was able to quit my ‘joe job’ and just teach Yoga.
I now have been teaching Yoga and Meditation since 2004 (fist pump). I get to create and hold space for my clients to heal and recharge their batteries. I get to inspire change every day. I truly believe I am helping to create a more peaceful world one student and one breath at a time.
I am so honored and grateful to be doing what I love and living ‘on purpose’.
And now I’m doing it all over again, I recently moved from Calgary where I had been teaching full time to Victoria, BC. I gave up my clientele and my safety net moved provinces and returned to school to study Chinese Medicine and Yoga Therapy.
So, I am rebuilding from scratch again. Being a Yoga entrepreneur is not always easy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
P.S I’m still a purple haired, heavy music-loving rebel, only now I drink Kombucha and OM a lot
Growing up with a single working Mom meant that crockpot meals were huge in my home. I’m not a huge fan of cooking truth be told. So while I rarely have the patience for preparing elaborate meals from scratch, I do Rock My Crock Pot on a regular basis. I normally make a whack of this soup, eat it a couple times and then freeze it in meal-sized jars so I have lunch or dinner ready to defrost as needed.
So if you’re a fan of yummy, healthy, vegan meals that even work on a student budget keep reading. Next to my favourite pea soup recipe, this Rock’n Red Lentil Soup is the meal that gets made and devoured most at my place.
I have a very large crockpot (like 6+ quarts) so if yours is smaller you may want to cut this recipe in half.
4 cups of dried organic red lentils
8 cups of filtered water (or organic Veggie Broth)
2 14.5 oz cans of organic unsalted diced tomatoes
6 organic diced carrots
2 cloves of organic garlic, I used mine whole but you could dice or mince
1 tablespoon of organic dried basil
1 tablespoon of organic dried thyme
1 teaspoon organic ground cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon organic ground black pepper
4 veggie soup cubes (or you could swap the water for veggie broth and skip these)
Dump it all in a crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours
If you’re going to freeze and thaw, let the soup thaw completely in the fridge before heating up. It also tends to thicken from freezing so you may want to add a small amount of filtered water to it as you warm it up.
When we say we are going to a Yoga class or we are practicing Yoga, we get a particular image in mind. This likely includes a bunch of people twisting themselves up into pretzel-like position. But what does the Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ actually mean?
The meaning of the word Yoga is union. It is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yup’, (pronounced yug) meaning to join, to unite but also to control, to discipline to master. The English word ‘yoke’ is also derived from the same Sanskrit (Indo-European) root.
So although many of us think we are “doing Yoga” we are actually practicing the postures or Asana (more on that in a later post). The word Yoga actually has a much larger all encompassing meaning beyond the physical poses.
In the video below I’ll go into more detail on this.
So now you can tell your friends you are going to Asana class and giggle when they give you funny looks 😉
Peace, Love & Asana
Those of you who have practiced Yin Yoga know that it is quite different than more Yang forms of Yoga. So it would go to follow that the breath techniques are different as well. In more active forms of Yoga the breaths are sometimes used to bring energy up. But in a Yin Practice we want to keep the energy very grounded and in the lower or more ‘Yin’ areas of the body.
One of the easiest Yin Breaths to practice is belly breathing, or Diaphragmatic breathing as it is know in anatomical circles.
Sadly in our culture we are often breathing high up in the chest or rib area and this shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. We aren’t using our full lungs so we aren’t using fully oxygenated air. That can make us feel short of breath, anxious and tired.
Deep abdominal breathing allows for full oxygen exchange. Full deep breathing can:
Because most of us aren’t breathing from deep in the belly regularly at first it can feel an bit unnatural, but nothing could be further from the truth. We already breath this way when we sleep we just aren’t aware of it.
So with a bit of practice and mindfulness you’ll be able to access this breath as your default way of breathing.
In the video below I’ll walk you through ways to practice ‘Belly breathing’.
Deep Bows and Deep Breaths to you
If you travel in Yoga circles long enough you are likely to stumble across words that may sound kinda funny or even intimidating. In some upcoming posts I’ll go into the meaning of these words for those of you who are new to ‘Yoga speak’. Even those of you with Yoga experience may not know some of these terms 😉
Let’s start with Kula. This word has a very similar meaning to the word Sangha. Sangha is often used in Buddhist circles to describe a group of Buddhists studying and practicing together or a spiritual community. Whereas Kula is less specific and could also refer to a tribe or even a village of people. Most often though when Kula used in Yoga circles it is used to describe Yogis and Yoginis practicing Yoga together.
Check out the video below for more detail:
So now when I call you Kula you’ll know I’m not swearing at you in Sanskrit HA!
I recently read an article entitled ‘sitting is the new smoking‘. Yikes! At first, glance that sounded pretty extreme, but is it really? It’s actually not an exaggeration.
Sadly chairs are indeed wrecking our backs (not to mention increasing evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes).
Since I am a teacher who specializes in Back Pain Yoga, I’m going to focus on that aspect in this post. We are hunter-gatherer creatures meant to walk and roam, run, squat and sit on the earth. This is how we are designed to function. Sitting in chairs goes against our fundamental design. Here are some surprising Back Pain Statistics:
So if you sit at a desk all day odds are at some point you will have pain in your back, hips or neck. If not debilitating pain, you will at the very least have chronic tension or discomfort.
Right now you may be thinking, I know, I know, but what can I do about it? I can’t quit my job. In the video below I go into more detail about the damage chairs do to our backs and some ideas on how to lessen the damage.
5 Things You Can Do To Get Out Of Pain:
I hope this post inspires you to not take your back for granted and make changes before you are in serious pain.
Here’s To A Healthy Back,
There are as many mantras as there are stars in the sky. Even if you may not know it, you are affected by the power of words each day in both positive and negative ways.
Each of us has a running dialogue within- “I am this. I am that. I can. I can’t.”
What if we could harness the power of words to access greater depths of ourselves and ultimately the world around us?
What if we consciously used these utterances to bring our awareness within and offered these repetitions to ourselves as a spiritual practice, or simply loving self-care?
Or what if they just made us a little more loving, a little more tolerant, a little more peaceful?
This is where mantras come in. Words are powerful, beautiful, transforming…
But what are true mantras? Where did they originate? And how do we create our own personal meditation practice using them?
The ancient origins of mantras:
The word “mantra” is a Sanskrit word. “Man” translates as “mind” or “thoughts” and “tra” can be translated as “tools” or “instruments”. So mantras can be understood as “tools of the mind”.
Mantras are said to have originated from illuminated souls before us, those who were divinely connected to the Earth, the Wind, the Sky. They listened deeply to the vibrations of the Universe, and from them, mantras were revealed and passed down through generations.
They are accessible to all of us at any point in our lives, and need not be connected to a particular faith or belief. The words we choose are powerful, and words that are spoken with deep intention consistently can be the most potent of all.
Creating a simple mantra practice is easy to do and can benefit anyone who is looking to access a deeper connection to the Self, nurture one’s own intuition and inner wisdom.
In most traditions mantras are given by a guru or spiritual teacher, however, this is not necessary. You can certainly choose a mantra for yourself. Some of the most popular mantras are listed below. If you are just starting a mantra practice, simply choose a mantra that resonates with you. Your intuition is always the best place to start!
Three popular mantras to try:
Om (or Ohm, Aum) is one of the most popular and ancient mantras derived from the primordial sound. It is considered the very vibration of the Universe.
This mantra is wonderful as it can directly correlate with the breath. Translated as “I am That. “That” can mean the Divine, She, He, Eternal, the Universe. So is the sound of the inhalation and Ham is the sound of the exhalation. It reminds us that we are all One.
Om (the sound of the Universe) is paired with Shanti meaning “peace”. You can chant this mantra for inner peace and with the intention of peace for all living beings.
These are only a few of the mantras available, so if none of these feel quite right a quick search online will take you to hundreds of mantras from varying traditions. You will know when you find one that resonates!
Starting a practice:
For those who want to start a formal mantra practice, begin by creating a sacred space. Find a place that is quiet where you will be undisturbed when you sit for meditation. You can have a decorated altar or simply arrange a space that is comfortable and that brings you joy when you are in it.
Sit in a comfortable seated position and take notice of the breath. Let your thoughts play without judgement. Soon they will slow and your breath will deepen.
When you feel ready, begin to chant your chosen mantra out loud. This can be on any pitch that feels comfortable for you and at any pace. It may take some time to get used to chanting out loud if you have not done so before, but roll with it and keep going! You will eventually get into a natural rhythm that feels good for you.
After you feel you have reached that natural rhythm, begin to lower the volume of your chanting for a minute, then again to a whisper. Ultimately, we want to bring the chant within and hear the mantra silently. This brings the awareness deeper and is considered the most powerful of all practices.
Set a timer if you like or chant as long as you feel you would like to. If you find concentration is hard, just start small. Your meditation practice need not be an hour a day! Just waking up in the morning and chanting a mantra is a beautiful beginning. The next day chant it twice and so on.
Your mantra will become like an old friend with you always. You can chant your mantra silently while you walk the dog, feed your kids, wash your dishes, brush your teeth, just before sleep, you get the idea!
Mantras aren’t just intended for formal practice. Bring the wisdom you have acquired off the cushion and into the world! Enjoy the benefits of creating a new positive groove in your consciousness and watch your life begin to shift with the magic of mantras.
Sign up for The 7 Day Mantra Challenge! Learn all about the power of mantras in this week-long challenge with Saraswati.
This post could stir the pot a little and maybe even cause a wee Yoga uproar. Believe it or not, Yogis just like everyone else can be pretty attached to ‘their way’ of practicing being the ‘right way’.
So if you are a Yoga teacher or a long time practicing Yogini and you are reading this, I encourage you to keep an open mind on this and try it out for yourself.
My first 300 hour teacher training was taught almost exclusively by Iyengar teachers and it was such an amazing training as it had such a diverse group of seasoned teachers. In addition to our traditional Asana training it included a strong therapeutic foundation, as well as a good degree of Restorative Yoga training.
I’m so grateful for that foundation and I look back on those days with such a fondness and reverence for my teachers. During my time in the Iyengar circles it was drilled into us that all forward bends should be practiced with a flat back period, no questions asked.
A couple years after graduating I discovered the work of Paul Grilley. I felt like the anatomy training I had in my teacher training barely scratched the surface and so I bought Paul’s Anatomy For Yoga DVD as a means of extra self study. Needless to say this DVD literally pulled the Yoga Mat out from under me! So much of what I had learned didn’t ring true and for the first time what was happening in my body made sense. That DVD changed the way I saw my body and my students bodies forever (and for the better).
Before studying with Paul I had never considered that someone could choose to practice a forward bend with a rounded spine or what the benefits of that might be (let alone how good it feels). Now I alternate practicing with a flat spine and a rounded spine depending on my needs and intentions at the time.
In the video I’ll go over this in more detail including why one might choose whether or not to let their back round in a forward bend.
Please note: If you have bulging or herniated disks it may not be a good idea for you to round your spine in a forward bend so please check with your health care practitioner before attempting this video.
Here’s to happy hamstrings and spines!
The following is a guest post by my Vedic Astrologer Lorae Marsten. I was highly sceptical about Vedic Astrology at first since I tend to have one foot in the woo woo and one firmly planted in practicality. I thought getting my chart read was a bit out there for me but Lorae and I have a mutual friend who raved about her so I gave it a chance. I was blown away …no joke by how accurate and useful the information Lorae gave me was, and so she has made me a believer 😉 So with that in mind I’ll hand this post over to Lorae.
You may wonder, ‘What does Astrology have to do with Yoga?‘ Actually, the answer is Plenty. The two are deeply entwined and each adds to the other. Vedic Astrology and Yoga, along with Ayurvedic Medicine, are three sister sciences that can provide a framework for a healthy and worthwhile life. Here is a simple example of the connection between Yoga and astrology: Ganesha, the great remover of obstacles, is a representation of the intelligence and wisdom of planet Jupiter. So….. if you have ever chanted the Ganesha mantra in class (or any other mantra) you were calling forth the higher energy frequencies of a particular planet or an energy associated with a planet. Pretty cool!!
The intention of Vedic Astrology is to help you grow and evolve and to point you in directions that will lead to a happier life. It provides an accurate picture of your tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and can point out areas of success or difficulty in your life. A good astrologer can predict when, or if, events will take place in your life. The best part of this is that, just like a great Yoga practice, you can feel more relaxed in your life, have more clarity, and you can also receive guidance on things you can do, to make good situations better, and improve difficult ones.
Western astrology is often seen as an entertainment but Vedic Astrology is taken very seriously. Called “Jyotish”, or light, in many parts of the world, no one starts a business or gets married without consulting the wisdom of Astrology. Important festivals and meetings are all timed with the celestial rhythms as well.
Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, which is lined up well with the seasons, whereas the Vedic, sidereal zodiac, is accurate with what is happening in the sky at the moment. Therefore, some of your planets may change signs if you have your Vedic chart done! We also recognize a number of powerful, distant stars and star groups, called Nakshatras, and their influence; the Moon’s cycles; and the Dasha Cycle which determines when your planets are most active in your life.
This Astrology is practical, accurate, and aims to help you grow in consciousness and have a good life. It is not meant as entertainment. Here are some examples:
1. We provide remedies for problems, to strengthen weak areas, and reduce or avoid difficulties as they arise. One common remedy is prescribing mantras, sacred sounds which create powerful creative vibrations. It would be very practical and beneficial to know which mantras would be most effective in your life. Other remedies can include prayers, wearing gems, helping the poor, and more.
2. Depending on your chart, certain career paths will be more suitable and successful for you than others. Also, some times are much better than others for taking a big step, eg. going back to school, or starting a business. It can be extremely useful to know when and how to move forward!
3. You can learn about the various Moon phases, and use them to improve time management: some are good for removing obstacles, some for celebration, wealth creation, romance, etc. Some other moon phases are best for resting, planning or meditating. Using knowledge of the Moon Phases, you live more in the natural flow and don’t have to second-guess yourself about decisions.
4. Relationship astrology can help you choose a good romantic partner. Find out if this person will be faithful; if the relationship is likely to last; if you will feel valued, loved and respected; if you will prosper together; and if you will be sexually compatible. Relationship astrology is also very useful in choosing a good business partner too.
You bet! You can learn more about yourself, manage time wisely, avoid difficulties and stress, and make better decisions. Astrology can even help you improve your Yoga practice by pointing you to types of practice most in line with your unique life path.
How the sessions work: You start by contacting me with your request and forward your birth information: date, time, and place of birth. Then you agree on a time for the session – which lasts about half an hour. Many of these sessions are by phone. Other clients prefer their sessions to be in person.
I will explain where your planets are in the sky, and what that means about you, also the Dasha period and what it might bring to you, as well as your Nakshatra or birthstar, and its gifts for you. If appropriate, I will suggest a remedy for you.
I also offer full, more in depth readings, Transit Readings (what is happening this year), and Relationship Readings.
I have an intro mini session for promo for you (Nyk’s community) for $30 until the end of 2016. This is a great gift for friends or family members, as well as yourself.
Lorae Marsten is a Certified Vedic Astrologer, meditator, healer, mentor, and a long-time Yogi. After a life-changing encounter with a Vedic Astrologer in Kathmandu, Nepal, she began learning about the myths and legends surrounding Vedic Astrology and Yoga, and later with the encouragement of her teacher, Dr. Baskaran Pillai, began training as an astrologer. These days Lorae is on a mission to help bring more happiness, health, and meaning by using the power, beauty and practicality of Vedic Astrology to Westerners.
You can learn more about Lorae, Vedic Astrology and book a session here.
Sleeping swan pose is a variation of swan pose only folded over the front leg. Folding over the front leg will increase the sensation in the hip, butt, IT band area and is a pretty sweet hip opener.
If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.
If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.
Once you’re able to settle into this pose it is quite soothing for the nervous system so is a great pose to do before bed. Feel free to have blankets and pillows near by for comfort.
In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how to, including how to use props and modify sleeping swan.
Here’s to happy, healthy hips.
Nyk Danu Yoga ~ Victoria, BC, Private Yoga Sessions & Yoga Classes
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