Bringing people together, and creating community is/and for Yoga!

Yoga in Bowness has always been about more than yoga. There was always a parallel focus on bringing people together, in community, with a common interest. Though to say that this is different from a focus on yoga isn’t totally accurate, as yoga truly is about a bringing together. ‘Yoga’ actually means ‘to yoke’ or ‘connect’, and at the root of the practice, we strive to create unity – with others, and within ourselves. This yoga community (sangha) couldn’t exist without everyone of you who continue to show up, building connections with others, and deeper connections within your self.

Yoga is both the path, and the destination – similarly, commUnity is both the effort you put in, and the reward you take home.

Especially now, in this time in our world, with so much change, so much shifting, and a common sense of chaos, we need connection more than ever! To para-phrase one of the great yoga teachers of our time (Guru Jagat) ‘Community, and spaces for people to gather in community are more important now than ever’. And yet, at the same time, it’s now easier than ever to be removed from community, to lose connection, and to isolate. These opposites often exist in our world, and in our own lives (not just in the sense of solitude & connection but in dualities of all kinds), so if (or when) you may feel the pull to withdraw, the need to remove yourself – for whatever reason – challenge that with the action of involvement – and see how it may bring about more ease and balance to your mind & life.

We’ve continued to survive and thrive because of your support, and because of you, we are where we are now. Our new home is a step towards building a stronger connection, to self, with each other, and within the greater community. As you come into our new space, we invite you to feel into the energy of community, and closer connections: engage in conversations with friends and new acquaintances, and dive deeper into your own self-awareness, and self-connection.  

And just like this community wouldn’t be possible without all of you, our new home wouldn’t be possible without the extraordinary help of a few very generous volunteers who put in many hours of manual labor with us to make it all come together so quickly. I’d like to give an extra special thanks to those who were there painting walls, donating & hauling boxes, laying floor boards, and more. Thank you to: both my parents, my partner Dan, Candace, Jacey, Holly, Kristen, Kelly, Rachel, Kara Lee, Richard, Marvin, Donny, Brit, and all of the guys from Simon House who were a huge help in all the heavy lifting! You have all played an invaluable role in the evolution of our community, and filled my heart with so much gratitude and joy to know that you care so much!

So let’s celebrate this community TOGETHER! Come out on Saturday November 25th for a special day of celebrating togetherness, with yoga by donation all day, a local artisan market, and sales on passes – so you can continue to deepen your connection to self & community!

We're MOVING on up!

Update: We have now MOVED, and are open for business in our NEW HOME on Mainstreet Bowness! Check our CONTACT PAGE for full details on location & parking.

Yes – the News is True! Yoga in Bowness will be MOVING into a new home in October, 2017! Our new space will help us to build deeper connections within our community, and bring a greater sense of energy & unity into our classes. With our new home, we’re looking forward to offering more classes, at more times you want them, longer workshops, and over-all more of what you’ve been looking for. And our beautiful new home also has a big bright window, and street-front access, so no more dirty, dark, back-alley entry-way, and most importantly a quieter space with no noisy neighbors! We're still going to be the same yoga community that you love, with some great improvements!

WHY do we want to move? Since our opening in our current space almost 4 years ago now, we’ve grown significantly and have outgrown our location, and feel that this move is a necessary step towards the sustainability of our community. Our priorities for the studio, and foundations that this community was built on, have always been to provide a comfortable, accessible, and affordable yoga space in Bowness, to build community and deeper connections with people and the true values of yoga. And these priorities have not changed. We are happy to say that the new space allows us to continue honoring these values, and gives us more opportunities to offer more of what you want.

Many of you know that we’ve faced some challenges in this building, and though we've tried to work around these issues for almost 4 years now, they do still interfere with our offerings, and worse: your experience. As a great Yogi once said "You need to either Accept the things you can not Change, or Change the things you can not Accept", and we are ready to make some changes to support the longevity of our community. This was no small decision to make, and though we’re excited to move past these challenges and into new opportunities, it's not without some sadness that we'll say good-bye to the space we've grown up in. But all big changes - and things worth doing - come with challenge, and we know that this is a challenge well worth doing.

WHAT & WHO makes our community what it is, is not in our walls. It’s very important to us that we keep our focus, and the atmosphere of our space the same. We know there have been a lot of great experiences here, and that the energy & "feel" of our space is unique, and what many people say they love so much. But we also know that this feeling doesn't come from the walls or the location of our space - it comes from our People! Our Teachers, staff, students, and the way we operate & what we teach, are what give our space it's amazing warm welcoming feeling - and none of that is changing!

WHERE is this new wonderful location? It's just across the street and east half-a-block in the blue building behind the bus stop. The address is 6323 Bowness Road NW, and our new home is the street-level space with the big window on the right! Check out our CONTACT PAGE for more info on the new location & parking.

WHEN is this all happening? We are expecting to be in & operating from the new space on October 23rd. Renovations have begun, and we’re working hard at building a comfortable and supportive home for us to move into in a few weeks time. During this time, we will continue classes and usual operations from our current space, and hope to have only 1 day of closure at the end of our move. During the week of October 16th, some pieces from the studio will begin to be brought over to the new space, and we may look a little bare & empty for a few days. At the end of that week (Oct. 21 & 22), we'll be finalizing the move, and taking everything else with us. We will be closed on the Sunday (Oct. 22), so we can hopefully re-open in the new space on the morning of Monday (Oct. 23).

HOW can you help? Firstly, if you’re interested in helping with this transition, then we THANK YOU so much! You’re truly a great part of this community, and we’re grateful to have you. The biggest thing you can do, is to just keep coming to classes! Just showing up on your mat, and being a part of this energy is the greatest support we could imagine! However, if you are interested in lending a helping hand during the move, then we would welcome any extra support in the renovations, and man-power to make this move more manageable. If you’d like to volunteer some of your time & effort for the move, then please email Ashley (info@yogainbowness.com) for more information.

And lastly, we appreciate your patience and understanding while we go through this transition, and get settled into our new space. Though we will try to make this move as smooth as possible, like with all change, there is sure to be some bumps and kinks along the way. Please allow some extra time to receive a response to your emails and inquiries over the next few months.

We thank you all so much for being such wonderful bright lights in this community! It's been an amazing 4+ years so far, and I know it will continue to be even better as we go forward. I am so filled with gratitude for all of your love and support for our community, and know we wouldn't be here without all of you! We truly believe this move is going to be a stepping-stone in our growth, and an important piece of bringing our community even closer together. We hope you'll share in the excitement with us, and look forward to classes in our new home soon!

With heart-filled gratitude and utmost appreciation, Love & Light

Ashley

Spring Tune-in with Yoga: Tips and insights into aligning with the season for energy, growth, & ease

Yoga helps us in many ways to transition through the seasons: it shows us how we are intuitively attuned with nature, it makes us more sensitive to our bodies and what they’re telling us, and it encourages us to let-go and be comfortable with change and growth (amongst many other wonderful things). As we move into the season of spring, and shake off winter – much like nature, we have this stored energy & inertia that inspires growth, renewal, new life, and requires a cleansing of the heaviness of winter.

This is the perfect time to adjust your practice to align with the changing season, and really reap the benefits of that potential for growth, expansion, and new beginnings that spring brings. You may feel called to more vigorous practices which help to build energy & heat, and cleanse the body of heaviness left behind from winter. Some asanas (postures) in particular can also help with the transition from the cold and stagnant season of winter, to the warm and active state of spring:

-        Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) are invigorating, and a great way to invite in the sun’s warmth & energy, while moving any stuck energy or physical blockages.

-        Twisting Postures (held in stillness or with movement) which “wring out” the torso, help to eliminate blockages & stimulate internal movement by increase digestion & circulation.

-        Inverted postures (legs up the wall, shoulder-stand, headstand, etc) will drain excess fluids from the lower extremities (further assisting in the detoxification of our bodies), but also help us to see things differently, change our perspectives, and prepare for something new.

-        Backbends and heart-openers, are also particularly energizing for our whole system, but also help us to remove any insulation or shield we’ve developed around our heart space, so we can experience more gratitude and love in our lives – which are important qualities to have when working on growth and change. You can read more about heart openers in my earlier blog-post “Opening your heart through Yoga”.

-        Forward folds (either seated or standing postures) are great for stimulating the kidney and liver to strengthen their ability to support the body in clearing out toxins.

In addition to dynamic full-body movements and postures, we can also work with the breath (prana) to stimulate energies of spring. In moving into spring, we can continue to work on clearing out stagnation & heaviness, and building heat, vigor, and energy through breath work. Two great Pranayams (breath techniques) for this are Breath of Fire, and Kapalabati. Both are similar, in that they involve a pumping action of the low belly (the naval point), where the air is “pushed” out in short and rapid strokes. Both breath techniques will build heat & energy in the body, stimulate and tone the lower abdomen (again assisting in elimination & digestion), clear out excess mucous from the lungs & nasal passage (which can be especially helpful if you have seasonal allergies), and increase circulation of highly oxygenated blood (to boost alertness and stamina), among other benefits. For guidance on these breath techniques, visit any of our classes and ask our teachers to show you, or it may just be included in the class anyways.

Along with yoga asanas and pranayams, adjusting your diet for seasonal change is very beneficial too. You may already feel like eating lighter meals, with more spice and vibrancy (the more vibrant color your food, the more nutrients it has), as these types of meals will add heat to the body, and help in removing toxins and blockages. Foods that are particularly good for this are:

-        Green vegetables: which are natural cleansers for the body, and are high in nutrients that will help fuel you with clean-burning energy.

-        “P” fruits (pears, peaches, plums, etc): which are higher in fiber for removal of toxins and waste.

-        Herbs like parsley, cumin, black pepper, cayenne and ginger: which are natural cleansers, heat-builders, and also add great flavor to food to help reduce your salt intake.

-        Lots of water! This is a good idea year-round: drinking lots of water (there’s no such thing as too much), helps with removal of excess waste, toxins, and even fat, and keep you hydrated so your body’s systems can work efficiently and quickly.

Lastly, there are some lifestyle tips that can really help in the transition from winter-spring. Winter days are short and dark, and we often feel like staying in bed a little longer. It’s important to start to shed that habit, and begin to wake-up with the sun (ideally before 7am), and if possible get some natural sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. But this doesn’t mean sacrificing sleep – it’s still important to get adequate rest (around 8 hours of sleep every night) for your body to repair and prepare for more growth. This helps to sync your body’s circadian rhythm to nature and will help in balancing changing moods, hormones, and increasing energy levels. Then adding in some exercise, stretches, and dynamic movements (see asanas and pranayams above, - or come try a 6am class) first thing in the morning will give your body the boost it needs to burn up excess heaviness & sluggishness while also boosting your immunity. Another favorite practice of mine for boosting energy, and shaking off the stagnation and heaviness of winter, is listening to good music and singing (take a tip from the birds)! It doesn’t have to be in public – even just singing at home on your own has wonderful mood-boosting benefits. Furthermore, the vibrations from uplifting music can help shape our thoughts, the energy of our spaces and ourselves, so that we move in a more positive direction – which is important when we’re in a season of more intense change and growth. For a deeply effective experience with singing and music, try out one of our Kundalini classes, which always include great music, and positive mantras (chanted or sang) for a potent effect on your whole system.

I hope that you might be a little more inspired to look around at nature and seek to align with the changing season. With our inner landscape harmonized with the environment that surrounds us we can take full advantage of the benefits that the Spring season brings (growth, new life, and cleansing), to remove the heavy, insulating shell of winter and burst forth with renewed energy!

A little insight into what you didn't know about Yoga in Bowness, and what it's like to be a studio owner & entrepreneur.

About a month ago, one of our long-time community members asked if she could interview me for a school assignment, and I excitedly agreed. The story of how Yoga in Bowness came to be, and what we're all about, is one that I've been asked about a lot lately, and this was a great way to put it into words. The interview was a little more lengthy and turned into a 12 page-report (which she got an A+ on!), but I thought you might be most interested in the below questions. I hope you enjoy learning about our humble beginning, our deep roots in community, and our values, vision, and mission.

1) Can you describe your role at YIB and how you came into it?

I am the owner / founder / manager / and one of our teachers for Yoga in Bowness (I wear many hats - including occasional janitor, administrator, marketer, and much more). As a small business owner, you have to be able to play all the roles.

It’s a rather long story about how I came into this role, and I really love sharing it, but I'll try to shorten it up a bit. I prepared myself for a career in any industry, by doing a business degree in University (though I didn't know what field I wanted to apply my skills to). Post-university I took a job with a not-for-profit hoping that would satisfy my interest in "helping" others, but it was not what I was needing, and I continued to crave something with more personal meaning.

I had a long-standing, consistent interest in Yoga, which after almost a decade of occasional, mixed with dedicated practice, led me to pursue my first yoga teacher training. I didn't go into the training with the intention of teaching yoga full-time (and certainly not owning a studio), but rather just to deepen my own practice and understanding in yoga. I started sharing the teachings with friends in small personal classes in my kitchen, or their homes, or wherever (which I had also done in University, though I wasn't trained to teach, but just shared what I knew from my own practice and studies).

Shortly after completing the training I was laid-off from my unfulfilling job (a blessing not so in disguise), and decided that in the interim I would start teaching yoga until I figured out my next career move. Almost immediately I met with a woman who ran classes at a community center close to my home to ask her about teaching with her, and we had shared a very serendipitous moment together. Her previous business partner, who was supposed to be taking over the whole business from her in just a few weeks, had just called her and told her he wouldn't be. With a sparkle in her eye she told me this, and that she was moving out of the country in a few weeks, and asked if I would take over her classes at the community center. I was taken aback, and thought about it for the next day, but couldn't ignore the signs that the universe was clearly pointing me in this direction.

Just 2 weeks from then, I took over the 4-times weekly classes as Yoga in Bowness at a community center just blocks from my house. After a year of teaching yoga full-time, and beginning to explore life as a (very) small business owner, I decided this was the life & path for me! With growing support and interest from my students, and no other time-slots available to rent the center I was teaching out of, I knew it was time to look for other spaces. It wasn't until six months of searching for other rental options and coming up dry, that I decided to sign a formal lease and build out a dedicated yoga space in our community of Bowness

Though I was reluctant to call it a "Yoga Studio", as I felt it might take away the great casual, community feel we had at the center, we took on that role and grew into quickly. With the help of friends, family, and some of our very dedicated (and still present) yoga students, we built out the space that you now know and love. I decided on the values I wanted to portray, and hired on other teachers to work with me, who shared those values. We opened the doors to Yoga in Bowness, as you know it, on January 13th of 2014, and had the instant support and excitement of our students, and the community all around us.

Just over three years later, here we are - growing a stronger presence in the city, engaging with new students every week, and continuing to share the values of yoga and community that I initially set out to. My role continues to evolve and grow as the business does, and I enjoy seeing the change, and taking on new challenges as we adapt to the evolving interests of our community, and changing environment in the city. It couldn't have all come together without the interest, support, and help of everyone we've come in contact with: teachers, students, karma staff, other businesses, the BCA and BRZ, and my friends and family who've trusted in my vision, shared in my excitement, and help me see through to the end of the challenges. Our roots are in community, and we've grown organically - responding to the needs and interests of our students and teachers, while maintaining a clear vision around spreading the knowledge and true benefits of yoga, as far as we possibly can.

So to simplify even more, on HOW I came into my role, I think the recipe would look something like this: Adequate planning & preparation (even though I didn’t know where I was going), putting effort into the things that gave me joy, listening to my intuition and following signs that stuck out to me, a heavy dose of courage and trust, with a sprinkled of serendipity.

2) Can you describe your organization's vision or mission?

When I decided to evolve my simple weekly classes into a formal business, I really wanted to maintain the feeling of acceptance and inclusiveness that I had in the community center, and the other yogic values that I believed in (and still do). As a new yoga teacher in Calgary, I often heard the consistent belief of many “non-yogis” that they didn’t think yoga was for them because they weren’t “flexible / fit / spiritual / female / thin / hippie / young / wealthy / sexy / strong / weird" (insert any noun really) enough for it (like many North Americans still believe to be true). And though my practice may have started from a more vein and superficial intent, the one thing I knew to be absolutely true about practicing yoga, is that it could & should be available to everyone (so long as we allowed ourselves to experience it with an open-mind). So with my business, I wanted to be sure we represented that: that people who came in knew that they were welcome (regardless of their experience, status, or intentions), and they got a sense from our classes that they could start exactly where they were (no expectations) and we would provide them with the teachings to grow (in all ways). So thus, I created the following foundations for Yoga in Bowness:

-        Vision: “Yoga for Everyone, and for a Better Community” – the “community” part here is a representation of two things: my belief in yoga’s ability to help unite and uplift the whole community / society / world. Through this practice's deeper benefits that extend beyond the individuals, we create a ripple effect into the community and beyond - sharing the joy, peace, and contentment with ten-times the amount of people who actually come into class. And secondly, my interest in keeping a very community-centric approach to the business – where we would continue to grow and shape our future around the interest and needs of the community we served.

-        And we supported this vision, through our Mission: Our vision is to make yoga available to everyone by keeping it affordable, accessible and approachable, and our business is based around these 3 pillars: 

  • ­ Affordable: we are committed to offering quality classes at a lower price than other nearby yoga studios.
  • ­ Accessible: Yoga classes that almost anyone can enjoy. We ensure that all of our classes offer modifications and variations on postures so that each student can get an experience that works for them and their body. If you have specific concerns or injuries, our instructors are knowledgeable and will be able to suggest which type of class may be best for you, or if you might find more benefit from a private session to begin. 
  • ­ Approachable: Yoga shouldn’t be scary or intimidating, or create a space that encourages competition, or exclusion. YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE. We pride ourselves in creating an environment that is warm, welcoming, and inclusive. ­ Everyone is welcome! 

3) How would you describe the "culture" of YIB as an organization?

As described above, I really wanted to create an understanding that yoga is for everyone – so this played a big part in our culture. We value the diverse experiences, interests, needs, and skills of our teachers, staff and students. And by offering diverse approaches to yoga, we can support almost any individual in their discovery and journey into yoga. Additionally, because I wanted to keep a strong focus on community, I wanted everyone to feel as if they had a role in our growth. So though I am a one-women-owner-operator-teacher of the studio, there is a lot of support and interest in our continued success from others around us.

I suppose if I had to put it into two words, the culture of YiB would be “inclusive, and community-oriented” (ok three words).

4) How do you create and sustain that culture, in a city & society that often values more superficial and material things?

I encourage each individual to be authentic to themselves in all ways, and share that with everyone. I believe that everyone has a unique and special perspective and gift to share with the world, and by yoga can help you to get in touch with what that is. Then staying aware and connected to your own authenticity (your uniqueness as well as the things that unify you with others), you become a brighter light, more directed towards your passion (and true calling or path in life), and better able to succeed, excel, and propel others to do so as well. I stay true to myself – showing and being unafraid to express my authentic self, and celebrate that quality in others as well. And of course, as part of this all, I continue to share the science, and teachings behind how yoga helps us with this.

5) Has the modern day culture of yoga in general ever had an impeding effect on any part of your business? If so, how have you made changes to address this?

Yes, most definitely. Anyone in this industry could probably give you several experiences they’ve had where the general population’s understanding of yoga, has misconstrued what they do. There’s a really great meme that show several images, with text under each one saying “what the general population thinks I do”, “what my parents think I do”, “what my students think I do”, “what I think I do” – that relates to the varying and often incorrect perceptions around being a yoga teacher, or in the business of yoga.

In our westernized world, we tend to latch onto tangible, material things, and the idea of “perfection”, and we want it quickly. We want to know the exact science, with proof and years of studies to back it up, for why or how things are. And we want to SEE the results – faster, quicker, better, and more conveniently (read: without effort). Unfortunately for those who subscribe to this, they have a difficult time believing in yoga. Though there are many more studies and scientific proofs now, about how yoga benefits us, there is still much of this practice and process that can not be seen, measured, or even explained in scientific terms. And unfortunately for those who want the immediacy of our “convenience-oriented” society, the process of yoga (though has some immediate effects) is a long-one, and as one of the great yoga masters Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said “Yoga is for everyone: the fit, the weak, the young, the old … except the lazy” – it takes effort on behalf of the practitioner.

There are many yoga businesses and teachers who cater to our modern convenience lifestyles, with “built to awe and soothe you” environments, class types that are meant to please students, and especially marketing that continues to perpetuate the belief of yoga being only for those who can touch their toes or contort themselves into unrealistic pretzel-like shapes (or again – insert noun here). They create an expectation and culture around yoga being exclusive and as a “short cut” to certain material gains.

All of that goes directly against the core purpose of yoga, and the values that I believe in and put out there. So I (and we – those who share my values), have to work hard, and consistently to represent them, and help change the general population’s beliefs around yoga. Not to mention those who profess to be teachers of this ancient practice and yet promote and display values that distract from, or are completely opposed to the true authentic purpose of this practice.

6) How do you make your business stand out among the many yoga studios that exist in Calgary? What makes you different?

To be honest, this is a tough one to answer, as I constantly struggle with trying to put into words, how we are different from other studios. To “stand out” as a yoga studio in our city is a challenge on it’s own. There are more yoga studios per capita in Calgary, than any other Canadian (and maybe north American) city! This means, you have to put yourself & your message out there, louder and brighter than others, just to get noticed. Having a business degree (with a major in marketing) certainly helped me to understand this, ready to put the effort forth into working on it. But the biggest support we have for this, is the shared experiences of our staff and students. Word of mouth goes a long way, and every individual explains our space a little differently, in a way that lets their passion and excitement shine. However, one thing that is very commonly said & heard, is that of all the studio (to teach or practice at) – Yoga in Bowness is their favorite! Which just makes my heart sing!

I believe it’s the real commitment to the real purpose of yoga (awareness and acceptance of your authentic self) that makes us different. It’s felt & seen in different ways – through teachings, through the smile on the person at the desk, through the genuine interest of our students in theirs and others well-being, and through our no-ego, no-expectation environment.

7) Do you find differences and challenges between your role as a yoga instructor and that of the business owner?

Yes – definitely! There are significant differences in being a yoga teacher and a business owner: mostly differences in priorities, types of work, skills, and abilities. Managing these different roles can certainly be challenging, but it’s also part of what makes me love my life. I have the ability to explore and practice multiple disciplines and areas of interest and talent in my work. And being consistent in the way I handle my work (and I suppose my perspective on life in general), makes it easier. Though we are not as much of a traditional business as other studios, and maybe as some people think we should be, my approach to the business stems from my approach and beliefs in yoga: it’s organic, fluid but firm, and consistent. I share these values in my teaching, as well as in my business, and it makes my transitions from role to role more seamless – as if they were simply different spices I am using in my “soup of life” (hahaha :P).

Opening your heart through Yoga: how it works, and why they’re some of our (and my) favourite experiences to include in yoga practice.

If you’ve been to even just a few yoga classes, you’ve probably heard the term “heart opener”. This term, though often used to describe back-bending, chest-opening postures, actually digs so much deeper than that. Heart opening in yoga can happen through posture, breath, or meditation – and affects not just the physical structure of the chest (layers of tissue, bone and muscle) where the heart resides, but the energetic and emotional capacity (love, compassion, acceptance, gratitude, to name a few) of ourselves as well. So why do we work on that space so often in yoga, and how does this affect our lives off of our mat?

Firstly, it’s helpful to understand how it all works together. Your physical structure of your body, the energy you have in your daily life, the way you perceive the world around you, the thoughts you have, and the emotions you experience – are not all separate functions that operate in isolation. But in fact, all of these aspects of yourself are part of the many layers of your being, which are intricately tied together. It’s nearly impossible to affect one without having an affect on the other.

In yoga, we largely focus on this – how the movements, postures, and breath within our physical body affect our internal landscape – shaping our thoughts, emotions and whole state of being. We also consider the energetic realm of our self: chakras (energy centers that have a physical location in the body) being some of the more common considerations.

Heart-openers are widely used in yoga because many of us develop a shield, or a sort of armour around our heart-space from years of improper, or unsupported physical posture, and emotionally challenging or damaging experiences. Stiff muscles and inelastic tissues, cause the bones (ribs, breast-bone, and spine) of the chest to fix in place, and restrict the mobility and flexibility of the chest & space around the heart. The heart chakra (Anahata chakra) also has it’s physical location in the center of the chest – and partially depends on the circulation of energy, life-force, chi, or prana, to be stimulated and kept in balance. This physical and energetic shield also restricts our emotional capacity to relate to one another, to open up and show our true selves, to love, feel compassion, empathy, and gratitude towards ourselves and others.

Through postures that extend, expand, lift, and add more mobility and space to the chest, we being to remove some of that tension in the tissues (softening the armour), and encourage more circulation of blood, oxygen, and prana through the area, and the heart chakra. With heart-openers, we may feel a release of upset emotions, as well as a flood of joyful emotions. The effects can be immediate and also long-term.

Yoga, through all of the different approaches, attempts to remove any blockages we have that prevent us from understanding ourselves more deeply, and relating to others from a more authentic place. Heart-opening is some of the most effective work we can do for the above reasons. It allows us to experience greater depths of our own selves, and to recognize and understand these qualities in others. As you begin to access that space within yourself more readily, you can balance the influence that your head and your heart have on your thoughts and actions, and may even find that you have a greater sense of “flow” in life – with less challenges, less blockages, and a smoother, easier time achieving your goals and desires.

And since these effects can last long after you roll up your mat and leave the studio, heart opening has the power to positively affect the way you see yourself and the world around you, and how you interact with others. For this reason – heart openers are some of my favourite experiences to share – because it causes a ripple effect from every individual into their lives and everyone they connect with.

So WHAT are heart-openers? Like I said before, they can come in many forms – from postures, to breath-work, meditations, and even journaling or deep introspection. Common heart-opening postures include: cobra pose, upward-dog, camel pose, boat pose, bridge pose, fish pose, and dancers pose, to name a few. Almost any pranayama (or breathing technique) could be considered a heart opener, as it will all help to bring more oxygen in, and balance the right and left sides of the body (and heart). And there are many meditations that focus on clearing physical, energetic, or even mental blockages from the heart-space, which can also be very effective for healing old traumas (all part of removing the armour). To build more heart-opening into your practice, keep an awareness of this space, work on lifting the chest and collar-bones (especially with the inhales), keep the shoulders soft down the back (when possible), and visualize or feel an invigorating energy moving towards the heart.

Consider building a more heart-centered approach in your yoga practice, and watch how it positively changes your life off your mat.

Love & Light,

Ashley

7 Yogic Tips to sticking to your New Years Resolutions

January is a wonderful month to plant seeds – and I’m not just talking about gardening here. The season of winter is tied to our sense of will and courage, to dig deep into our selves and plant the things we want to manifest in the year to come. A new year often fuels that sense of motivation to work towards what we want, and so we often create “new years resolutions”. And though we all have good intentions in the way of sticking to our resolutions and making this year better than last, the inertia often fades and our will power dwindles as we encounter challenges along the path to our goals. The good news is that this is normal, and a part of the usual path of creating change in your life. But how can you set yourself up for success in staying on track and achieving your goals this year? There’s lots of tips out there, but here’s a few from a yogis’ perspective:

1.    Create an intention that’s deeper than the initial outcome you’re looking for. Ask yourself “WHY?”, and then ask it again, and again – until you guide yourself to the real intention behind your goals. For example, if you’re wanting to loose some extra weight this year, as you look deeper you might find out that you want to live a healthier lifestyle over-all. When we can understand and “plant” a powerful and real intention into the mind, all of our thoughts and actions fall inline with that intention – as if we were programed to work towards it. It becomes less of a struggle, and more effortless to achieve your goals. This can be difficult to navigate on your own, which is why we have planned a great workshop for you THIS SATURDAY: Transformative Intentions, that will help you to find that “seed” intention, and show you how to work with it in your yoga practice, and life off your mat.

2.    Planning, Preparation & Prioritizing. No goals are achieved just by thinking of them then waiting for them to happen. It takes some effort to do something new or better, but the good news is that that hardest part is the first step. Planning & Preparing yourself for the following steps your going to take towards your goal is the crucial first step. If you want to manage your stress better this year, but you don’t plan how and when you’re going to work on it, then you likely will continue on being overwhelmed by stressors. Many of us run our lives from an agenda or schedule: planning work, school, family events, and other activities into time slots, that we stay committed to. If you treat your goals in the same way (planning the time into your schedule) this will help you to make it a priority, and keep you on track with your goal. You might find it helpful to sign in for our yoga classes online in advance, then you can put it right into your schedule, and know that you’re busy working on “you” at that time.

3.    Share your goals with others, and get support. The biggest challenges are usually not conquered by one person alone. There is power in community, and there is no shame in looking to yours (or ours) for support. Even if your goals seem small, or like you “can handle them on your own”, it helps to have others aware and supporting your goals too. This makes you accountable to other people, and we often feel a greater sense of commitment to sticking with something if we know others are part of it. So make plans with a friend to come to class once a week together. Or talk with our teachers and staff and share your goals with us, so we can help you along the way too.

4.    Get comfortable with being out of your comfort zone. No change happens within your comfort zone – this is where things stay the same, and we settle into patterns and habits (whether good or bad). If you want something new or different, you have to get outside of your comfort zone. This can look different depending on what you’re working on, but it’s important to recognize when you’re shying away from something just because it’s different of what you’re used to.  In yoga we have the opportunity to practice observing our reactions to change, and challenging ourselves to push past what we’re used to. We get the opportunity to see things from a different perspective, and can

5.    Use positive language. Our words and thoughts have a profound effect on us, shaping our perceptions, our physical bodies, and our whole lives around us. When you’re working towards something, it’s important to highlight the benefits and think about it positively, rather than the challenges or what you don’t want. If you’re planning to attend early morning yoga once a week, but every time you thought about it, you said “it’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning”, then it will likely be hard. But if you thought “I always feel so good for the rest of the day after that class” then you’re more likely to get up and get to class.

6.    Practice some acceptance and forgiveness. Know that there will be ups and downs along the path of change. It’s a long-term journey, and you’ll go through moments of feeling invigorated and excited about it, and moments of being unmotivated and bored by it. If you’re able to accept this, and forgive yourself for the “cheats” or times you missed something, then you remove the burden and guilt that comes with it. You know that it’s a temporary down, and you’ll be back up soon. Instead of falling off the wagon and feeling defeated & staying down, you get look forward to getting back on, and knowing you’ll do even better next time.

7.    Express gratitude. Seeing what you already have and are grateful for in your life, rather than looking at what you lack in your life, is a guaranteed way to add more happiness and contentment into your life. When we’re grateful for what we have, we’re more positive and better able to cope with stress. This goes hand and hand with achieving our goals. You may find that as you feel more grateful for what you already have, that your goals change, or become closer in reach. As well, the challenges that you face along the way to achieving your goals become easier to manage and overcome. One of the best ways to harness the power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you're grateful for each day.

Now that you’re armed with a list of tips for sticking to your goals for 2017, it’s time to put them into action!

Best wishes, for a prosperous and joy-filled year. Myself & the whole YiB team look forward to sharing in your journey and supporting you in whatever way possible along the way.

Love & Light,

Ashley (Owner and Teacher)