Fall tune-up to Balance your body & life

As Fall starts to settle-in, the warmer weather, longer days, and time spent outdoors becomes minimized, and the start of school (or work) signify the end of summer. Saying goodbye to summer isn’t easy (especially for us Calgarians), but the last few weeks before fall can be an important and rewarding time if given the proper attention. It’s a time to reset, take stock, set new goals, and get organized for the upcoming season.

To help you transition more smoothly from the summer season, we’ve got some yogic insights and tips for supporting your whole system in this seasonal transition.

In Ayurveda (the sister-science to Yoga), Fall is the season of Vata (one of the three Doshas, or constitutions present in all of us), which represents the air and space, within and around us. This dosha, and the Fall & Winter season that it dominates, show qualities of quick movement, changeability, lightness, dryness, and coolness. The external environment that demonstrates these qualities, is also representative of the increasing vata within us & potential to create an imbalance within.

If you regularly have a Vata predominance, or even if vata is usually lower or balanced with the other two doshas (pitta and Kapha), then there’s a good chance that as the season shifts into Fall, the vata qualities in you will be amplified, and leave you feeling a bit out of whack. Common vata-excess symptoms are:

             -       irregular digestion, gas, constipation, intestinal cramps, bloating

-       nervousness, anxiety, panic, fear

-       twitches, tics, tremors, spasms

-       dry or chapped skin

-       low body weight

-       dislike of cold and wind

-       difficulty tolerating loud noises

-       light, interrupted sleep

-       spacey, scattered feeling

-       excess thinking or worrying

But no matter how off-balance you may be feeling, there’s a few simple lifestyle and diet adjustments you can make to reduce or pacify vata, and bring yourself back to balance. A few key guidelines to minimizing the effects of this high-vata season, and help you feel more normal again are: Warmth, Routine, Serenity, and Nourishment. Being mindful of the following 6 tips will help to support your system in finding balance and comfort this season:

1.     Stay Warm

Keeping your body warm and comfortable as much as possible, and try not to let yourself get too cool is so important (and makes sense) through-out this season. So pile on the warm sweaters, scarves, blankets, and all the cozy things!

 

2.     Clear out the clutter, and make space for new.

Any seasonal change is a good opportunity to go through your closet and remove the clothes that you’ll no longer need, and bring out the ones you will. In the Fall, with the increase in Vata-induced busyness, it’s extra important to remove whatever is no longer needed. And this goes far beyond just your closet. You can apply this concept to your kitchen, your desk, your whole household even, but more than that – your mind! See below for more …

 

3.     Stay calm, and Meditate!

With excess Vata, we tend to be more spacey, scattered, and busy-brained. This can make it challenging to stay on task, to complete tasks, or keep focus on anything. When things feel a little out-of-order, being frustrated, frazzled, or upset only makes it worse, so stay calm and you’ll regain control more quickly. Meditation, and quite observation of the mind and it’s thoughts, are a powerful practice to help reduce the mental-clutter, and clear out some space to help you focus on what’s really important. Meditation is the practice of keeping focus in the mind, and like all practices, develops a strength and consistence over time – meaning you’ll experience less monkey-mind, and more quiet space, the more you do it. And one of the greatest reassurances that I ever had when practicing meditation, was a study that showed that even if you’re experiencing scattered-thinking while practicing meditation, the practice is still working! So don’t give up just because it seems like ‘it’s not working’ – keep at it, and trust me, you’ll feel more clear-headed and focused after even just a few weeks!

 

4.     Get back into Routine

Setting a routine for your daily activities, is important in balancing our inner-environment including our doshas. Try to make a schedule for yourself for each day, and plan to wake, eat, work, at the same time. Creating routine in our schedules and outer environment helps to build regularity and routine in our inner environment as well. Your bodily systems will start to regulate around your daily routine, and you’ll feel more at ease and in the flow with each day.

 

5.     Gentle daily activity, with a focus on stretching

Yoga is a perfect activity for this time of year – and anytime really (you didn’t think I wouldn’t slip that in there did you?! :P). The mindful movements of a yoga class help your system to intelligently remove what is not needed (like mental-clutter, stress, tension, toxins, blockages, emotions, and even stale energy), making space and again helping your whole system to focus on, and use energy for what is important. The breath-work and movements in yoga can also help build your internal agni (fire), which works to keep you warm, supports digestion, and promotes better circulation throughout your whole body. PLUS, the soothing music we share in a yoga class, works on your system to help you feel more at ease, relaxed, and sooth your system. Other gentle activities are also great this time of year, and taking a walk in nature is another one of my favorite ways to get some activity and observe the shift in the environment around us.

 

6.     Choose foods that are Vata-Pacifying

Our food, of course, has a huge impact on our internal environment, including the doshas. So making diet choices that will calm the vata dosha, will help you to rebalance and feel more you, as we settle into the season of Fall. In addition, keeping regular times for meals, letting lunch be your heaviest meal of the day, and not rushing, or multi-tasking while eating, will also help to balance the vata dosha. Ayurveda looks at the foods we eat in terms of amplifying or pacifying our different doshas, so for the coming season, we want to ingest fewer of the vata-promoting foods, and more of the vata-pacifying foods. The lists below are not necessarily suitable to everyone, or necessary for everyone either. If you have specific dietary issues or preferences, that can be prioritized, but you might consider making small adjustments by limiting, or including more of the below.

Foods to Enjoy

  • Foods that are naturally sweet, sour, and salty in taste.
  • Warm foods, both energetically and in temperature. Whole, freshly cooked foods.
  • A limited selection of legumes, including mung dahl, tofu or tempeh that is well-cooked and warm soy milk spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Warming spices like ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cumin, but not extremely hot spices like cayenne pepper.
  • Plenty of room temperature or warm drinks.
  • Dairy, as long as it is not very cold. Avoid drinking milk with your meals. It is best to have it warm and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, at least an hour before or after other food.
  • A generous amount of high-quality oils or ghee in your daily diet.

Foods to Reduce

  • Foods that are bitter, astringent, and pungent.
  • Foods that are cooling, both energetically and in temperature.
  • Dry and light foods (e.g. popcorn and crackers).
  • Too much raw food, especially in the mornings and evenings (salads, carrot sticks, raw fruit, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, etc.)
  • Most beans, including cold soy products.
  • Highly processed foods (like canned or frozen foods, "TV" dinners or pastries).
  • Cold or carbonated drinks.
  • Caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants.
  • Overeating or eating very heavy meals.
  • Eating fresh fruit or drinking fruit juice within ½ hour of any other food.
  • Foods or drinks that contain refined sugar or corn syrup.
  • Deep fried foods.
  • Hard alcohol.

If you find this interesting and would like to learn more about Ayurveda, check back on our Yoga Mix page for upcoming workshops on Yoga & Ayurveda! And in the mean-time, you might find it interesting to try this simple online test to learn more about your own unique dosha balance: https://theholistichighway.com/quiz/

That Yoga Body

I’ll admit, many many years ago, I used to think that I wanted “a yoga body”, and part of my motivation for practicing, came from wanting to look like the “yogis” on the magazine covers, and be able to do the “crazy” postures that they were doing. Luckily, that motivation was enough to keep me sticking with the practice, to a point where the magic of yoga started to work on me. Little did I know, as I came to my mat each week, the movements and postures I was so focused on “achieving”, were sneakily working deep in the background, to swap my motives for a kind of contentment and ease in life I had never imagined. And as I continued to practice, my awareness of, and appreciation for the other limbs of yoga, and the true purpose of yoga, slowly continued to develop.

This may sound familiar to some of you. Or maybe you had (or have) a different initial motivation than I did. But likely somewhere along the way (to yoga class), you’ve thought or heard others say something about wanting some version of the “yoga body”. And you know what I say – Great! Which you might not have expected … so let me tell you why.

There’s many reasons people might come to yoga in the first place: to lose weight, gain strength, become more flexible, de-stress, heal injuries, sleep better, meet people, reduce anxieties, build healthier habits, because their friend / spouse asked / told them to, or because they simply wanted to try yoga. And still – I think this is all GREAT! Whatever motivates you to get on your mat, is a good place to start! Like I said, I too began my 15 + years of practice with vain intentions, but that intention was my path to a much greater purpose.

The beautiful thing about yoga, is that no matter what your motivation for getting on your mat, the practice will work on you to develop all of the deeper aspects of yoga. So as you focus on and build a practice that serves your initial intention, all of the more profound aspects of yoga start to develop in your life as well – usually without you even noticing! Like I said, yoga can be sneaky like that.

And yes it’s true – yoga can also do all of those other great things for you too (there truly are many wonderful side-effects and benefits to this practice). But the REAL benefits of the practice are not in the pounds you might shed, or the ability to wrap your leg around your head – but instead on the lasting and positive impact it will have on the deeper workings of your mind, body & soul. But, like I mentioned in my own story, you don’t even have to be aware of the real purpose, the greater benefits, or care about the other aspects of yoga at all to still experience them – with enough time and practice - you just will!

Yoga is both the path & purpose. This phrase confused me for a long time when I first heard it, but I can now confidently say I understand, believe in, and have experienced the truth of it. And it was only through experience that this was possible. Yoga - as you’ve likely experienced - is a sort of practice, maybe encompassing physical, mental, energetic, emotional, cathartic, meditative, challenging, restorative, joyful, peaceful, and many other approaches that train you to pay attention to, and connect to your self. It takes many forms, and there are many different “types” of yoga that work in different ways, for the same purpose. But what is that purpose if not for better sleep (or insert any of the possible great benefits / initial intentions of going to yoga)? Again, your reason may have started out being “to getting a yoga body” or some variation of that, but through the practice of yoga, that shifts. Yoga also becomes the end – the purpose. And I don’t mean that Pose you might finally nail!

The term “Yoga” is a Sankskrit word meaning “to yoke” or to connect. Yoga is Connection. Connecting your mind to your breath, your breath to your body, your body to your spirit, your spirit to nature & others, others to the greater community, and the greater community to each other – and so much more! Yoga is about making deeper and more solid connections in your own inner environment, as well as in the outer environment. So the “end”, the purpose of your yoga practice is to connect – to find Yoga. Through your practice of paying attention to your body, your breath – and seeing the connection between all aspects of you – you grow closer into connection. Yoga is both the path & the purpose.

Yep, that's it - Yoga's about Connection. So you don't need an incredible physique, or to be the most flexible person to practice. Yoga doesn’t care if you can touch your toes, if you would like to loose some weight, or WHY you’re coming to class – it only matters that you’re there, on your mat, willing and able to experience the teachings. So no mater what brings you in, there’s no judgement, and there’s no expectation. This is why we offer so many different types of classes and approaches to yoga, all with exceptional teachers - so that no mater where you’re at, or what you’re looking for – you’re going to get it - YOGA that is … and maybe that yoga bod too ;)

Finding Balance in changing seasons. What does it mean for you? And 5 tips to support yourself through it.

It’s usually this time of year, where I start to feel a little burnt out. Energetically, emotionally, physically exhausted, with little left to give. Sometimes it manifests as a cold, sometimes as anger, sometimes as apathy, and often as lethargy. And I know for many people, this time of year can be challenging – the excitement and inertia of the new year has worn off, you’ve maybe fallen off the bandwagon of your resolutions, and the winter & snow is still here, making us more reclusive, and less active. I’m finally starting to recognize this pattern, and see why & where it starts. The long winter season (though I do love it), is often very busy, with holidays and cramming in family visits, planning & preparing for the new year, and even spending time getting out to play in the snow – all add up. Mentally and emotionally, increased life and work demands pile up quickly and increase stress. So there’s the personal factors, but then we compound that with the changing of seasons, and the time change, that shift in our foundations even in the slightest way, and you’ve got a bit of a perfect storm.

But why would the changing of seasons be difficult on us – especially when the new season has been so long awaited! Simply put – because it’s change. We get used to something (even if it’s not what we want or like), and settle into our “comfort zone”, and then the idea alone of changing that can be daunting. The mind gets caught up in all sorts of reasons why the change will be hard or undesirable, and compounding the stress. There’s also the physical adjustments in your body that come with the changing seasons. Winter is a dormant season, and so too, our physical systems and energy are naturally slower moving, stagnant, or sometimes even stuck. And as we move out of winter & into spring, we’re bringing in more movement, expansion, and growth. So the stagnant, sticky things require more of an initial push to get going.

It makes sense then why we’re affected by seasonal changes, and why we might be feeling a little extra pressure, stress or dis-ease at this time of year. The trick then, is to bring in some practices that will help you to align more with the coming season, and transition through this change with ease. There are a many approaches, and habits that can be integrated into your routine, that will allow you to thrive and maintain optimal vitality and health through this shifting time. Some general rules of thumb, that are consistent through many disciplines, are:

1.     Listen to Your Body.

Our body’s have a natural alignment with nature, and are always providing insight and information into where you’re at and what’s going on, you just need to be able to listen. However, the ability to “tune in” to our bodies has become more and more difficult in these modern times, with so many distractions. Which is why practices like yoga, meditation, and general mindfulness become even more important. Practices that give you the time and tools to pay attention to the cues of your body, serve you beyond just the practice itself – they allow you to more easily tap into that state of self-awareness and stay “tuned in” more regularly. Listening to the cues of your body, will guide you towards what you need to support your unique system in the season of change. Maybe it’s more activity, maybe it’s more rest, maybe it’s more light, maybe it’s rising early or eating differently – likely many of these things will be “speaking to you” at this time of year, but your body will know best, and it’s important to listen to what you truly need.

2.     Stay Active.

As mentioned before, the dormant energy of winter creates stagnant, or even “stuck” areas in our systems (physical body, mind, energy, etc), that may need a bit more of a boost to get moving into the spring energy. The easiest way to bring mobility into the systems and energy of the body, is to move your body. Get active in whatever way you enjoy – maybe running, snowboarding, going to the gym, climbing, or yoga, whatever your preference, if you put some energy in, you’ll be surprised by how much energy you get back in return! As you break up the stagnant energy and bring some mobility into your body, you’ll get a surge of that spring energy for growth & perseverance.

3.     Prioritize Sleep & Rest.

The change of seasons and additional stressors this transition brings, can be taxing on your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and illness. Making sure you get enough rest each night will help your body to recover from the day’s stress, and stay strong and healthy into Spring. In addition, as we move into the “buzzing” energy of spring, some people may feel the excitement and energy of the season more than others, and may end up doing too much, too quickly. As you get ready for the coming season, ensure you also give your body adequate time to relax and restore to keep you balanced while you transition from the heavier winter energy to the more active spring energy.

4.     Spring Cleaning.

We’ve all heard the term, usually in reference to your home, or office, or another space. Maybe start by spring cleaning your home & cupboards, which will certainly help to remove any “stale” or unneeded items & energy, and maybe inspire you to go deeper. Get rid of any old clothing that you no longer like / fit, expired supplements and vitamins, old grocery items you won’t use, books you’ve read and don’t want to keep, or any Thing that doesn’t serve it’s purpose in your life anymore. These items not only take up physical space, but carry an energetic weight in our homes & lives as well. Cleaning your home & removing items, helps to create space (again physically & energetically) for the new, growth, and expansion, to align with the spring!

5.     Eat Fresh Seasonal Foods!

As much as you can, it’s helpful to eat foods that are in season, and even better, if they’re locally grown. Locally sourced foods save a huge amount of resources in getting the food to your plate, but more than that, they have the greatest nutritional value, as they’re fresher, and spend less time in a box or on a shelf. Eating seasonally, brings in nature’s wisdom to your diet and body. The foods that grow in season, are the ones that nurture your body the best through the seasonal change. A few fresh seasonal foods you may try incorporating into your diet during this spring transition are: Asparagus, Apricots, Arugula, Rhubarb, Radishes, Spring Onion, Mustard Greens, Potatoes, Strawberries, and any Wild Foraged foods. For some great healthy recipes with these foods, check out this great blog post HERE.

I hope this helps you to stay balanced during the seasonal change. We’ll look forward to sharing practice with you in class, and continuing to support your health and wellbeing this Spring & beyond!

Love & Light

Ashley

30 Day Yogi Challenge. Taking Yoga off your mat & into your life

The greatest yogis I know, aren’t necessarily those who get on their mat and practice asana on a daily basis. They’re the people who commit to a mindful, conscious lifestyle day in & out. Working the deeper teachings of yoga into their lives off their mat, into their relationship with others, and with themselves.

Which is why the intention of this challenge isn’t to attend the maximum number of classes that you can in a short time period (which is rarely sustainable), but rather to create LASTING habits in your life that serve to better your over-all well-being - AND to serve as a reminder for ways we can bring the deeper & more subtle aspects of Yoga off of our mats and into our daily lives. Your practice on your mat is only as valuable as the positive patterns it creates in the other areas of your life. So enjoy your practice here, at home, at work, and wherever your life takes you, and watch what a positive impact the other aspects of yoga have on your whole life!

To Enter in the Challenge: Sign up online or in person, FOR FREE! Your name will be added to the challenge board & you’ll become a part of the community that will help hold each other up and keep each other accountable, as you develop a deeper practice – Together!

How it works: Over the 30 day span (from Feb. 26 - March 27), you will work to bring all of the below positive habits into your day, week, and month, and watch your life light up with ease & joy! You can work on the items in the list, in ANY ORDER (and you may want to start some of the items sooner than later). For each item on the list that you complete, you’ll put a sticker on the board at the studio (under that task number), and watch you and your friends grow. "Completed" items, are those that have been finished, so for example, item #1, is a 30-day commitment, so the sticker would be placed at the END of the challenge, after all 30 days were complete. Many of the items on our list will be completed at home, or in your own time, and as so, we are working on the honesty policy: Your honest effort, and your honest collection of stickers will be part of the challenge!

What you get: The biggest reward you’ll get from this challenge is the positive life-changing habits that will support your over-all well-being, and create sustainable change for the better. But, we’ll add in one more bonus: For each person who completes the challenge, you be entered into a draw for 3 MONTHS of unlimited yoga classes with us! And if you don't complete all of the items, there's no punishment, there's no shame, so why not TRY, and give it your best honest attempt?

Below is the list of items, of which you are to work to complete over the 30 days. Note that some items are to be done daily, weekly, or semi-regularly, so make sure you take a read through, and start on day 1! Below each item in the list, is a description, and explanation as to how the habit will benefit you, and how it relates to yoga. So even if you're not participating (though you really should!), then you can have a read through and learn so much more about yoga. Participants will be emailed the full list before the challenge begins as well.

1.     Start & End your day with a full glass of water – every day for all 30 days!

Most of our population lives in a constant state of dehydration, leading to many different ailments. Starting your day with a big glass of water, wakes up your internal systems and especially your digestive system so you’re prepared for your first meal. Ending the day with a glass of water helps to flush your system and keep you hydrated all 24 hours of the day.

 

2.     Keep a Gratitude journal for every day of the challenge!

Each of the 30 days of our challenge, write down three things that you’re grateful for that day. You can write it in your phone, on your computer, in a journal, on scrap paper (and keep it), or wherever. Strive to find something different every day to be grateful for! Recalling and feeling into the emotion of gratitude is a simple way to shift your perspective and re-pattern your brain to recognize the good & positive things, as much, or more than the negative. And the bonus of writing these things down, is that you build a collection of moments and memories that made (and will continue to make) you feel grateful, so the benefits last longer & continue to support your well-being. And as one of the great yoga masters has said “The Attitude of Gratitude is the highest yoga” – Yogi Bhajan.

 

3.     Make time for at least 3 minutes of quiet stillness for at least 17 days in a row.

In our often overly filled, busy lives, we’ve forgotten the value of stillness and quiet. As we discuss with many aspects of yoga, in order to create or bring in something new, you need to have the space for it to fit into. Taking a few minutes each day to be still, be silent, and observe your thoughts, your breath, your body, is one small way you can make space in your life for something new, or something creative (even if you don’t know what that is). It’s often been said that it takes 17 days of repeating something to create a habit. So maybe after the first 17 days, it will become a part of your daily routine.

 

4.     Give a sincere compliment to someone (anyone) for at least 10 days in a row.

This can be to different, or the same people. Practicing sharing your admiration is a great way to spread joy & love! And a great way to start to bring more awareness to the people you appreciate in your life.

 

5.     Give a sincere compliment to YOURSELF for at least 10 days in a row.

It doesn’t have to be written down, but do try saying it aloud (while no-one is around). When we retrain our brains to recognize the things we like about ourselves, we begin to remove self-destructive thoughts & habits that don't serve us. The human brain naturally developed a negativity bias (looking for & placing higher importance on the things that could harm us, be dangerous, or are just negative) to protect us. But this is no longer serving us. This means that we have to work twice as hard (or some say 5x as hard) to recognize the positive in a situation, and in ourselves, to overcome the negative.

 

6.     Do a meditation and / or pranayama practice every day for at least 10 days in a row.

If you need resources for this, our own Bridgette Shaw-Bane has some great FREE meditations and pranayams on her website, or ask any of our teachers when you’re here for class, and we’d be happy to help give you some guidance, or include it in a class (which is often done anyways). Both Meditation, and Pranayama are powerful tools to reign in a scattered, busy mind, and connect more deeply to yourself. These practices are a natural evolution of asana, and compliment any asana practice as well.

 

7.     Attend at least 10 classes in the 30 days, during the challenge.

Making a regular routine & habit of your yoga practice, makes it easier to keep with it when you really need it. And means you’ll see the benefits of your practice build more quickly, and last longer, so that yoga “high” will stay with you for not just the hour after class, but maybe a few days until your next class! And being present in your community means you’ll multiple the benefits by engage with others regularly, and building deeper connections, and support to help you stay on track when things get tough. An asana practice certainly isn't all that yoga is about, and actually is a rather small piece of the whole scope of Yoga, but it can serve as a powerful tool, and gateway for us to access the other aspect of yoga & deeper and more subtle aspects of our selves.

 

8.     Try a Meatless-Monday (or other day) diet, 4 times during the challenge, and ask / share a recipe with a friend.

A vegetarian diet has many benefits, both for yourself, and nature (animals, and the environment). The yogic principal of “Ahimsa” (non-harming), often leads to a vegetarian diet, to reduce our harm on the planet and ourselves.

 

9.     Try or Do something that scares you, each week of the challenge.

It doesn’t have to be huge – maybe it’s a food you’ve been nervous to try, or a yoga posture or class you weren’t sure about, a new activity you were afraid to do, or telling someone the truth about something (so long as it’s actually helpful & not harmful to the situation). As I’ve said before, our growth happens outside of our comfort zone. So facing a fear, and overcoming it, will give the experience of “it wasn’t so bad” and “I could do that again”, so that the next time a fear holds you back, then you have the courage and experience to go forward.

 

10.  Commit one day each week of the challenge to be TV free, and Social Media Free.

Your time and your energy are your most valuable resources. The time and energy we put into things that drain our attention (like mindlessly watching tv, or scrolling our facebook or Instagram feeds), not only waste some of your most precious resource, but also numbs your awareness. Learning to direct our energy, and conserve energy where it doesn’t need to be spent, is one of the deeper yogic principals: Brahmacharya. See how this simple shift just one day a week, again can create space & energy for the more important and valuable things in life.

 

11.  Shop only at a locally owned store for your groceries & snacks for one week, and ask someone a question while you’re there (can be food related, or otherwise).

Maybe you’ll run into someone you know, or see the same people and start to have more conversations and potentially build new friendships. When we shop local, we support our communities in many ways: helping to boost the local economy so our neighbors and friends can continue to work and earn the wage they need, and also by bringing people together in community in a more meaningful way. If you want to take this one step further, aim to buy mostly locally produced foods as well!

 

12.  Go to two classes that you have never been to (can be different classes, or the same one twice).

Diversifying your yoga practice, means that you’ll have a wider skill-set to use to honor yourself, and where you’re at on any given day. The only thing that is certain in this life, is change – and as your body and preferences change, your awareness of other approaches to yoga, will support you in staying with your practice.

 

13.  Have a conversation with someone from class, who you haven’t talked with before (though please keep conversations outside of the practice space).

A big part of our mission is to create connection between people, and build community. Taking an opportunity where you might normally rush in & out of class, to instead come early and enjoy a tea & conversation, is a great way to develop greater connections & bring more ease into your life. Being connected to community has a hugely positive impact on our over-all wellbeing, and is often mentioned as one of the best ways to improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.

 

14.  Make a meal for a friend, colleague, or loved one.

One of the great yoga gurus, had once said that if you do not know what you can do to support your community, and live your dharma, then one of the greatest things you can do, is to feed people. It’s a simple act that allows you to connect with another, and help support one of their basic human needs. Both you, and the person receiving the food benefit from this act, spreading the good karma beyond yourself.

 

15.  Donate 3+ items of your own (clothing or household items) to someone, or an organization in need.

We often hold onto the things that remind us of what we ‘were’ or ‘want to be’ when really they’re not reflective of who we truly are, and aren’t being used by us anymore. Simply removing these items from your closet & your mind, brings a greater sense of ease & contentment with who we truly are, and what we truly need.

 

16.  Give a simple gift to someone, just because you thought about them (not because it’s their birthday or any other special occasion).

It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, a simple home-made card, or a couple cookies, or a flower will brighten someone’s days for a while to come. Or maybe you have something of your own, that you no longer need, and would bring joy to someone else’s life – then gift that, and you’ll get even more benefit. Having an item to look at and remind you that you’re thought about, by others helps to hold you up when you might be feeling down, and give you a deeper sense of community and connection with others.

 

17.   Read a book you’ve been meaning to read for a while, or one that’s sparked your interest recently.  Bonus points if it’s a Yoga Book!

Reading and reflecting go hand in hand, and is one way we can introspect, and learn about & understand the world around us, and ourselves a bit better. Self-study (Svadhyaya, pronounced: “Swad-ya-ya”), is one of the important limbs of yoga, that points out the importance and benefit of introspection and deepening your self awareness. The interpretation of this limb is sometimes considered to be the reading and reflecting on sacred texts – which can include yogic texts, but many other wonderful books also offer us this opportunity. Some of the great yogic texts that you might consider reading: “The Yoga Sutras”,  “The Bhavadgita”, “Light on Yoga”, “The Heart of Yoga”, “A Path With Heart”, “Introduction to Yoga”, “How Yoga Works”, to name a few.

 

18.  Use Only Reusable bottles during the 30 days of our challenge.

Instead of picking up a coffee in a paper cup, or a plastic bottle of water from the store, make the conscious effort to bring your own mug / bottle / to-go cup. By bringing more awareness to our use of disposable, waste-making products, we can create a habit of supporting the health of the planet. Bringing less harm to the environment, by reducing our waste and impact on nature, helps us all in the long-run, so we can continue enjoying beautiful mother nature.

 

19.   Two Random Acts of Kindness.

Within the 30 days of our challenge, find a way to perform a random act of kindness – twice (can be the same thing twice, or something different, on any day, in any way). A Random act, means that you are not known as the “provider” of the act: you go anonymous, while someone (maybe a stranger) enjoys the benefits of your of kindness. Maybe it’s simply buying a coffee for the person in-line behind you. Maybe it’s brushing off your neighbours car, or shoveling their walk. Maybe it’s writing an anonymous “love” note, reminding someone how special & appreciated they are. You decided what, when, where, and how – so long as you’re not taking credit, it counts! Though we may regularly do kind things, or say kind words to others, there’s a small part of our ego that gets gratified in doing so. Remaining random / anonymous when creating joy for others, takes the ego out of it, and fuels a deeper contentment, selflessness, and experience in service for community.

 

20.   Work with a Mantra or Affirmation.

The language we use has a powerful effect on our psyche, physical body, our energy, emotions, and the perspective we hold. Many of us fall into the habit of self destructive language, using words like “should”, “can’t”, and other words that diminish your power and potential. Working with a Mantra or positive Affirmation brings awareness into your language that you use, and creates a shift in that language to be more positive and supportive. A Mantra or Affirmation can be any Short, Concise, Positive, and Present-tense Statement, that reaffirms a pattern you want to create in your life. For example, “I am healthy, vibrant and well”, “I am valued”, “I trust in myself and the wisdom within”, “I am exactly where I need to be” “Everything is happening For me, and not To me”. If one of these affirmations resonates with you, then you can certainly use it, but I encourage you to find something that you truly connect to, and can honestly put the power of belief behind. There are many mantras in other languages as well (Sanskrit or Gurumuki), which you can also use. If there’s a mantra you’re interested in, or curios about – please feel free to ask us & we’ll help you gain a better understanding, and practice in using it. How and when you use your mantra or affirmation is up to you, but here’s a few ideas & tips for you:

-       Start your day with it, say it in your mind first thing when you wake up

-       Put a sticky-note on your bathroom mirror and repeat your mantra / affirmation the whole time you’re brushing your teeth.

-       Use it as a tool to ground you, or focus your attention anytime you might be feeling overwhelmed, down, or scattered throughout your day

-       Use it as a meditative tool. Repeating mantra in meditation (maybe with the use of a mala), is a common and powerful practice for creating change.

-       Use your mantra / affirmation in your yoga practice – begin your practice with it, and end with it (mentally reciting it).

-       Recite your mantra / affirmation in your mind as you’re falling asleep at night.

-       TIP: Mantras & Affirmations become more powerful: when you whole-heartedly believe in what you’re saying, and the more often you repeat them. Sticking with one Mantra through these 30 days will help you to see more power from it, than if you’re changing Mantras each week. And Repeat / Recite your mantra / affirmation as often as you like! There’s no wrong way to do it, and there’s certainly no harm it doing it often!

 

New Years Reflections and Resolutions

A lot happened in 2017, a lot of change and a lot of learning. Often in reflection we look back with rose colored lenses and say “it wasn’t all that bad” – and that’s because we got through the challenges and came out on the other side. This perspective helps us to carry on, and over-come future challenges. But often we forget the other-side of what propelled our growth all together. All of our experiences lead us to where we are now, and each has it’s own way of giving us the lesson we need to grow stronger, taller, brighter, and lighter. So as we move forward, it’s important to recognize and appreciate both the successes and the failures, the areas of joy and the sorrow, the high-times and the low-times.  And often you will find, that the lows became the catalyst for the highs, that you wouldn’t have seen success without a previous failure, or that the greatest sorrows were followed by your greatest joys.

As I look back on the past year, and the history of Yoga in Bowness so far, I’m happy to say there are MANY highs, and only a few lows (though I’m aware of my rosey lenses here too). So I thought I’d share a few of those with you. Here’s the Highlight & Blooper reel from our past 4 years (and beyond):

 

Highlights

-       We’ve grown from having only 40 students in 2013 (at the Irish Cultural Center), to having over 4,500 students attend classes with us to date!

-       We’ve had an amazing team of teachers and staff with over 100 people to-date on it – most of whom have volunteered their time & energy to support this community!

-       We’ve maintained our warm & welcoming atmosphere, and it continues to be one of our student’s favorite things to comment on.

-       Our top-quality teachers continue to be what draws people in & back to classes – and is the #1 thing our students comment on!

-       Our teachers agree that our students are the BEST out of all students they teach, and are the main reason why they love our community the most!  

-       We’ve been able to offer over 150 free or by-donation classes to students since 2014.

-       We’ve fund-raised over $4,000 for local organizations and charities.

-       We’ve participated in the last 5 Bowness Street Festivals, last 4 ‘Run Bowness’, and many other local events engaging with the community that supports us.

-       We’ve donated space to some valuable local organizations for private classes consistently over the past few years.

-       We’ve had over 77 successful workshops since 2014!

-       Over 16 of those events have SOLD OUT (most of them being in the last 2 years)

-       We hosted World-renowned musician & teacher Jai-Jagdeesh for a sold-out 3 day event in 2016!

-       At the end of 2017 we found and moved into our new home on Mainstreet Bowness!

 

Bloopers:

-       At no fault of our own – but still deserves a spot on our blooper reel – we had a major plumbing back-up, in our old building during our Grand Opening weekend in 2014!

-       There’s been a few workshops that we thought would be great, but turned out were a little imperfectly timed, and didn’t run: only 13 since 2014.

-       We once miscommunicated and didn’t have staff on to let 10 pregnant women and our teacher into the studio for class (but it’s only happened ONCE in 4 years!).

-       We booked classes in the park, and then the park became a construction zone part way through the summer (luckily it was a rainy summer).

-       The bar above us in our previous location, had changed their schedule without us knowing, and a few times began playing live music perfectly timed as our classes were settling into meditation or savasana.

-       We once printed over 300 schedules with a few wrong times & mis-information on them.

-       A few teachers (myself included) have had a slip of the tongue during class, resulting in some laughter, embarrassment, and hilarity.

-       We were so excited about our new home, and opening it up to you, that we rushed the move in & will have to re-lay some of the floors.   :(

So even though we’ve had our ups and downs, and things certainly weren’t perfect, we were still able to move forward, carry on, grow from our lessons & continue to move towards our goals because of it! We’d love to hear your thoughts on some of our highlights and bloopers too. Please feel free to comment below & share your memories!

As you look back and reflect, it gives you a more honest perspective to look forward and plan for change and future growth. Which is often the initial inspiration behind New Years Resolutions. Often thought-up in the moment of great intention &  strong ambition, when the reality of our commitments and circumstances come into play, our New goals will often fall to the way-side. This is not news for most people – the most common thread between most people’s new year’s resolutions isn’t that they all wish to be ‘better’ – it’s that most of them don’t last.

So how do you make a new year’s resolution that’s going to stick with you through the year? I found a great little article online from another wellness focused small business, who’s simple approach and tips I think are certain to support a successful-resolution-fulfilling year for you (whether health related or otherwise). Read the full article HERE, or see my cole’s notes below:

 

1.     Don’t have an “all or nothing” attitude about it. Give yourself some flexibility, and time to grow into your new habit / role.

2.     Preparation meets Inspiration: Don’t depend on the excitement of your new goal to carry you through, prepare appropriately to sustain yourself when things might get a little harder.

3.     Kickstart Healthy Habits: Start small with baby-steps, and implement little things along the way. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to go from low-high gear all in one move.

4.     Community vs. Going at it alone: Getting support from like-minded people along the way, helps to carry you through if – or WHEN – tough times come up and old habits creep in. If you’re part of a supportive community, the group effort helps to hold you up.

5.     Small Steps for Sustainability: this ties into the first point of NOT going “all or nothing”, but instead, making small shifts each day to move towards the final goal.

6.     Sh*t happens: Recognize the small wins, not just the side-steps. It’s tempting  to give-up after falling off the horse once, but you would never reach your goal if each tiny bump in the road were viewed as a  huge blockade. So instead of beating yourself up for a small detour, acknowledge it, then look at how far you’ve come so far, and know that you can continue to pursue with more gusto than before. Then jump back on the horse & ride! Hey – look at our change and growth towards our goals, despite the list of detours we took along the way.   ;)

Thanks to Coach Keshava from Restore Human, for the great tips!

I hope this inspires you to reflect & resolve (with a sustainable approach) for a better 2018. And I hope we can continue to be a part of your wellness journey for 2018 & beyond!

Love & Light

Ashley

HIRING: Book Keeper & Financial Analyst. Applications due by Dec. 17, 2017

Yoga in Bowness Book Keeper &

Financial Analyst position

The above position is open and available for the best candidate to commence as early as December, 2017, and no later than January, 2018. This role is integral to Yoga in Bowness’s operations and success. The person taking on this role should have adequate and previous experience.

Interested and suitable candidates should submit resume and cover letter to Ashley: ashley@yogainbowness.com, Subject line: Book Keeper Application, no later than Sunday December 17th, 2017.

 

Job Description

The purpose of this position is to maintain an organized and proper book keeping process and files, manage the day-to-day financial pieces of the business, and offer a financially-informed perspective to the business owner to support decision making. This may include, but is not limited to:

-       Weekly review of client accounts, and communication to staff & clients about concerns & repair of debts owed, or funds needing re-allocation

-       Regular cash-out & deposits

-       Semi-monthly or weekly meetings with owner

-       Monthly invoice creation & collection

-       Monthly writing of cheques

-       Monthly collection & generation of receipts and expense & revenue reports

-       Monthly updates of budgets and KPI reports in Excel

-       Monthly uploads, organization and reconciliation of expenses and revenues into QuickBooks, and Netbanx

 

Hours: Average of 14-20 hours / month. More hours expected in December & January as we prepare for year end.

 

Pay: $17-$25 / hour, depending on experience

 

Role Expectations

-       Monthly collection of receipts, invoices, and expense records from owner

-       Monthly reconciliation and input of expenses and revenues into QuickBooks

-       Monthly & annual update of Budget in Excel

-       Monthly & annual update of KPI (Key performance Indicators) spreadsheet

-       Monthly preparation and collection of invoices from other contractors, with review, and write-up of cheques for payments to be made.

-       Bi-monthly count of cash / cheques in till, with reconciliation of sales in MBO, and deposit of funds.

-       Accurate & honest record keeping of hours worked, and creation of monthly invoice to be submitted to owner of YiB. If hours are outside of range agreed, explanation & record of hours must be presented.

-       Arrange and run weekly, or bi-weekly meetings with owner of YiB to discuss budget, KPIs, and make any necessary suggestions / adjustments

-       Send email notices for requests of needed materials / questions at least 4 days prior to meeting dates.

-       Prepare and present quarterly, and year-end budgets & KPIs with SWOT analysis.

-       Work with accountants to finalize year-end financials

-       Work with accountants to prepare necessary reports and information for tax purposes.

-       Be available to discuss budgetary / expense issues on a regular basis (may include phone calls, emails, or meetings sporadically)

-       Hours worked will be within the above stated range, with more hours put in around year end. Invoices with hours that exceed above stated range will be presented to the owner with justification. Work hours can fit into your schedule at any time of day, with the exception of meetings arranged with owner during regular business hours (M-F, 9-5).

 

The successful candidate will possess the following:

Qualities:

-       Polite and kind communications

-       Self-motivated, and disciplined to complete work

-       Efficient & Effective time management

-       Organized

-       Detail oriented

-       Reliable, and Timely

-       Trustworthy, and honest in handling cash

-       Willing to travel to studio & Bowness area on a weekly basis.

-       Maintains accurate and up-to-date accounting practice principals

-       Interested in working with small business (owner-manager), and preference for those with an interest in / practice of yoga.

-       Enjoys working with numbers, calculations, and creating mathematical approaches to problems / solutions

-       Has own laptop / computer (preferably with Excel and Word programs), and is willing to use it for work purposes.

 

Skills:

-       Highly adept at working on a computer, and able to learn new computer programs efficiently & effectively.

-       Trained in & knowledgeable in accounting and book keeping practices

-       Fluency with Quick-books book keeping software

-       Fluency and ease in working with Excel

-       Ability to understand and update a budget

-       Ability to review budgets and KPIs with an analytical eye, to help make suggestions for business going forward

-       Ability to learn new software & produce specific financial reports, and regularly review & manage client accounts (NetBanx, and MindBodyOnline: MBO)

-       Clear and polite communications in person, and via email.

-       Attention to detail in review and creation of invoices and record of hours / classes, to confirm payments, and write cheques.

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)