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YOGA STORIES

It is here that we celebrate the beauty, transformation and healing that yoga can bring to the lives we live, no matter where we came from or where we are going. We celebrate each individual's voice, their path and their truth. We become inspired to remember to always come to our mats in times of struggle and times of peace. We learn to take yoga's lessons off the mat as well. We celebrate the beauty of an asana practice, and the sheer magnificence of its power within our bodies and out in the world. 

Monday
Apr142014

James

What initially inspired you to do yoga? 

Mayhem… Literally :-) !  I had been medically diagnosed with what western medicine labels Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This medical condition was as a result of karmic conditioning ie. Life lived pretty hard.  I have been (along with many other brave beings) over exposed to trauma as a result of working as a Correctional Officer in a Maximum Security Penitentiary for many years.

Years previous I had been introduced to yoga by my brother Alistair and his girlfriend Madhuri.  I remember enjoying it as a teenage however I was still interested in more ‘active’ (relativity) and more ‘extreme’ activities such as Downhill Mountain biking and other sports. I would be lead back to yoga years later but I now realize the seed had been planted then as a teenager.

Fast forward to the age of 31 and I have an amazing medical doctor who is also a yogi and meditator.  Forever grateful for that combination.  The groundwork had been laid to guide me back to being exposed to the practice.  Circumstance and living had beaten me and allowed me to develop what Chogyam Trungpa would have called neurosis. (PTSD)  It made sense to delve into the practice.  Surrender!

What do you remember about your 1st yoga class?

I remember a lot about that class.  I was blessed with a brilliant teacher by the name of Lara Franck.  At the time I didn’t realize, couldn’t realize the blessing in having an extraordinarily skilled teacher for my introduction to yoa.  I now am even more grateful I went every day to practice while she was in my immediate sphere of influence!

I remember buying a three month pass knowing I was stubborn and it would force me to return.  I remember the class was full of older women.  I remember shaking like a leaf in my first revisit to a standing forward fold and looking at the more experienced, older than I, woman to my right, who clearly had been practicing yoga for years.  I remember looking at her folded gracefully in half and thinking, ‘I’m in good frickin shape and I’m shaking like a leaf… how is that older lady not shaking… she is older… and skinny and stuff…’

Most of all I remember the feeling in Savasana and MORE importantly the feeling that I carried with me upon leaving until I returned the next morning for another class.  I was hooked from the get go!  Endorphins and energetic flow lead me to actual sleep.  I hadn’t sleep a good nights sleep in months.

What keeps you coming back to your mat everyday?

 The Mayhem if I don’t come back!!!  Haha… the challenge, the progression of practice, the physical pain if I don’t for a few days, the mental anguish of the people immediately around me in my life if I don’t practice for a few days, my job, … the habitual patterns that got me here in the first place… just with the volume turned down you know!

This practice has revealed little bits and pieces of truth and awakening allowing me to peek out from behind the cocoon of my habitual patterns every once and a while.

What part(s) of yoga resonate with you?

The plethora of full spectrum teachings that progress the individual practitioner towards living their practice and affecting wholesome change that is ‘basically good’.  You can take it as deep as you like.  As my teacher often says, ‘you may come here for a tighter butt but maybe you will pick up Samadhi along the way!’

As I have taken on a teaching role in the past year I have been graced a whole other level of resonation.  To be given the opportunity to share that, which has helped me to rapidly and progressively, change my truth towards aligning with that which is basically good.  To be able to teach and spread this practice to my peer prison workers, their families, friends, and the general public is pure MAGIC if you ask me.  To be able to watch yoga deconstruct ego and force true self to the surface.  To watch people tangibly change their experiences of their bodies, to alleviate little bits of suffering here and there, and most importantly to watch them get ‘it’.  Smiles!!!  

Heads up I make all my students take seated meditation for a ‘substantial’ (relative) amount of time, at 99 percent of the classes that I hold at my home.  I love being a meditation dictator! 

How has yoga affected your life?  

At the risk of sounding grossly cliché the continuing practice of yoga quickly graced me the opportunity to reside higher along the spectrum of happiness and contentment.  Overall it has been a gradual steady opening that at times accelerates to tumultousness in all areas of life… hahaha.. its funny cause its true… 

Again to laymenize (the language of me) it make suffering less in all areas of my life.  Practice has taught me experiential impermanence through both stillness and movement.  From inversion to seated meditation the dynamics of this practice will interweave into your being if you apply the right amount of effort.  Its magic!

I remember the lady from my first class who I practiced beside telling me after a few months of dedicated practice, “James you have to keep coming.  I can see happiness in your face.”  That is when I began to truly believe in the transformational power of the magical practice of this conscious work that we call ‘yoga.’  This is truth!

What does it mean to you?

To me ‘yoga’ means conscious work at the level of working my self towards a more open heart, clear mind and free body.  Getting closer to our true selves.  

In the real world yoga means being more present in what I am doing.  This is true at work or with family and even pets.  Or even when I’m on my own.  Get back to being which is conducive to living life in coexistence energetically.  Not being burnt out and pissed off at the world.

To be conscious involves a certain amount of awakening.  Now that I have been graced these teachings by those who have come before me and been brilliant enough to figure out how to package these teachings to appeal to me, it is my dharma to bring the teachings to others.  That really excites me!  Also one has to remember that awakening is on a spectrum as well.  It is a continuous.  

Simply put the daily practice of yoga should contribute to me living a more mindful life.  I should more naturally paying more attention to whatever it is I am doing in the present moment.  Living my practice means I pay more attention to my intention and actions and the results thereof.  More specifically an ongoing non linear consideration of the following:  Right view, right intention, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right mindfulness.

How does yoga make you feel? 

After a full spectrum Asana practice 99.9999 percent of the time elevates (makes better) my mood and being.  If it doesn’t then I’m not surrendering enough to it.  As I now consider post meditation/mat practice part of my practice too that changes things… well considering that I run the full gambit of feelings, emotions, sensations during practice.  But when I sit and watch it that is when the magic happens… intuition!!!

Has it contributed to some healing in your life?

 Completely and with Produndity!!!

What makes you avoid yoga?  

It all comes back to fear doesn’t it.  Avoidance or aversion.  If I am avoiding my own practice these days I do so by saying, ‘well you have a full time job, plus you teach, plus you study, you can skip practice!!!’

Procrastination is procrastination…  If I don’t have a practice what is it that I am teaching.  Time management is my biggest challenge these days.  I’m learning.  That part with tumultousness at times too!  Love the path!

When the sun comes out I can get lost on my motorcycle and slack off on physical asana practice.  That is why some friends and I started a yogi motorcycle club.  Group rides will be happening this year.

What makes you commit to yoga?

Sometimes it is a remembrance that this practice gives me tangible results.  Other times I realize I am behaving like an asshole and should probably get to a class or engage in some home practice.  I was and can still be one sick mofo.  Practice reduces the dis-ease in my life that can manifest as disease or disorder ie. PTSD.  Yoga tangibly helps alleviate my symptoms.  I quickly came to the realization after dedicated years of practice that not only does it alleviate the symptoms and in fact has FORCED me to TRANSCEND that diagnosis.  The results have been rapid growth.  Again a term I first heard in a yoga studio, ‘post traumatic growth!’  

What about yoga enables you to help others and change the world for the better?

It is a practice that can allow one to transform themselves in a wholesome way, and progress towards living their practice and residing in awakening.  Its just that simple!!! (insert audible laugh) It is Dharma! (truth)  Tried tested and true over the expanse of space and time and at the risk of sounding overly pretentious… Legit!  By giving people this tool, this yoga, this conscious work, we are literally transforming the world one person at a time…. One practice at a time… now just think what will happen when 51 percent of people are conscious 10 percent more than they were yesterday.  Now what effect twould that have on their immediate environment.. keeping in mind that it is now a majority who have awakened to living a more conscious life.. that is our next ‘evolution’ a rapid raising in conciousness.  I believe we are closer than most think!  The curve of progression is getting steeper! 

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by and if so, what is it?

 

'unskilled farmers throw away their rubbish and buy manure from other farmers, but those who are skilled go on collecting their own rubbish, in spite of the bad smell and the unclean work, and when it is ready to be used they spread it on their land, and out of this they grow their crops.  That is the skilled way.  In exactly the same way, the Buddha says, those who are unskilled will divide clean from unclean and will try to throw away samsara and search for nirvana, but those who are skilled bodhisattvas will not throw away desire and the passions and so on, but will first gather them together.  That is to say, one should first recognize and acknowledge them, and study them and bring them to realization.  So the skilled bodhisattva will acknowledge and accept all these negative things.  And this time he really knows that he has all these terrible things in him, and although it is very difficult and unhygienic, as it were, to work on, that is the only way to start.  And then he will scatter them on the field of bodhi.  Having stuided all these concepts and negative things, when the time is right he does not keep them anymore, but scatters them and uses them as manure.  So out of these unclean things comes the birth of the seed which is realization.  This is how one has to give birth.  And the very idea that concepts are bad, or such-and-such a thing is bad, divides the whole thing, with the result that you are not left with anything at all to deal with.  And in that case you either have to be completely perfect, or else battle through all these things and try and knock them all out.  But when you have this hostile attitude and try to suppress things, then each time you knock one things out another springs up in its place, somewhere else.'

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 


 

Thursday
Jan162014

Kelsey

What initially inspired you to do yoga?

I have been involved in sports all my life and been very active. About one year ago I started suffering from joint issues and pain. I was getting back adjustments almost weekly and was eventually put on arthritis medications at age 28. The joint pain and inflammation got to the point I was told to avoid physically activities. I decided to give yoga a chance as a last ditch effort before avoiding physical activities all together. I'm kinda “hard headed” (I call it determined, others would say stubborn) so being told I couldn’t do something anymore was not the answer for me. 

What do you remember about your 1st yoga class?

I have only been practicing yoga for a little over one year so my first class is still fresh in my mind. The three C’s: calm, clarity and crow. I remember during my 1st class having this sense of calmness and clarity in my mind. It was the first time my mind was not stuck thinking about the events of the day; my mind was quiet and still. The instructor whipped out crow as if it was nothing and I remember thinking “yeah that will never happen”. I made it my mission to nail crow and worked almost every night until I got it. The first time I held crow for more than a few seconds I felt so accomplished! Still to this day every time I hold crow, I return to that “I can do this” feeling.

What keeps you coming back to your matt everyday?

I love going to class and learning new poses that look so crazy I initially say “no way” but then try them anyways. It’s a way for me to overcome my self doubt and it shows me at times I don’t give myself enough credit for what I can do.  Eight angle, who knew?

How has yoga affected your life? What does it mean to you?

Yoga keeps me pain free, sure I still have what I refer to as bad joint days but those are few and far between. I have not had to take my arthritis meds (except on bad days) and I have only had about two-three back adjustments since I started yoga one year ago. Not only has yoga helped my physically but it has also provided me with a sense of balance in my life. Whenever my days get crazy and I’m full of stress, worry, doubt; I know my practice is always there for me. 

How does yoga make you feel? Has it contributed to some healing in your life?

After I get done with class, I don’t have the energy to stress or worry. My mind is clutter free and my body/joints feel amazing. I leave class with this sense of stillness in my body and my mind and a feeling that I can take on anything!

What makes you avoid yoga? What makes you commit to yoga?

Even on bad days, I go to class as I know I will leave feeling better than when I walked in. There have been days that I’m not as focused and fall over in tree pose but I’m still able to say “At least you went. Today was just not your day. You really rocked corpse pose though”.

Do you have a favorite quote you live by?

“When you get into a tight place and everything/everyone is against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

 

Wednesday
Jan152014

Allison Marie

What initially inspired you to do yoga?
In my own personal practice I'm inspired by my results, and always having something new to work towards.  I'm also so inspired by the kids I teach yoga to (preschoolers with disabilities).  For some of them just staying with me for 40 minutes is a challenging task, but they do it.  The other day the kids were choosing the pictures for their yoga poses.  This one little guy who often isn't engaged during the day was in each of the poses before I could even model it for the group.  It was so great to see.

What do you remember about your 1st yoga class?
My first yoga class was in high school PE, and I'll be the first to admit that I played a lot of sports in high school and I wanted an alternative to a sweaty gym class so I picked yoga.  Little did I know I would still be doing it 10 years later.

What keeps you coming back to your mat everyday?
I am a person that craves movement, but yoga for me is such a calming movement.  I can just zone out, lose myself in it, and not have to worry about what is next.

How has yoga affected your life?  What does it mean to you?
Yoga has a calming effect on what most medical professionals would label an ADHD mind.

What makes you avoid yoga?  What makes you commit to yoga?
I have been known to avoid yoga classes in certain places because of a snotty elitist attitude held by many. Some days I just need to practice on my own.  It calms my "monkey mind".  It is easy to commit to teaching the kids I teach too.

What about yoga enables you to help others and change the world for the better?
Although it may not be something that is going to change the world I do strive to make kid's yoga more accessible especially for underprivileged children and children with disabilities.

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by and if so, what is it?
"Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving."

Monday
Aug262013

Madelaine

What initially inspired you to do yoga? I came to Yoga through the desire to shape my life in a new way without originally knowing exactly what that meant. What I liked about the idea of attending a yoga class was that it would be something I had never done before. And, what kept me there is that it provides me with a sense of flexibility towards always remaining open to new possibility and places within myself.

What do you remember about your 1st yoga class? My first Yoga class was at Shanti Yoga Studio in Nelson, British Columbia in 2003. I recall feeling more awake to the moment than ever as I practiced on the studio's hardwood floors and the sunlight streamed in through the elaborately-sized windows. I noticed how present everyone was in the room around me and felt at home for the first time in a long time. Both within the space around me, and inside of myself.

What keeps you coming back to your mat everyday? The need to connect to myself brings me to my mat. While, also, the realization that if I don't show up for myself, no one else will, either. The awakening came to me when practicing Yoga through the years that the experience within ourselves is the same one we'll have outside of ourselves. In noticing the quality in which I show up for myself, I am empowered in the knowing that others are then able to show up for me in a similar fashion.  As a catalyst for supreme health, Yoga reminds me that my breath, movement, and my overall experience, are directly related to how I feel, and Yoga makes it possible for me to be aware of feelings and to cultivate more of the ones that are life-enhancing and life-giving!

What part(s) of yoga resonate with you? The idea of inclusiveness within a community has been around for centuries. However, the actuality of having people from all walks of life, in one room, doing our best to show up in such a way that inspires non-judgment and compassion for ourselves and others is incredibly rewarding on a physical, mental and emotional scale. 

How has yoga affected your life? What does it mean to you? Yoga has returned me to the moment at hand, it has rekindled my understanding of what the value of simplicity is, and has transformed my personal ability to show up within a moment as myself, by being true to myself, and listening inward.  

How does yoga make you feel? Has it contributed to some healing in your life? Yoga has creating more space in my life for original, self-directed moments to appear. Yoga has helped me reclaim my power and continues to each time I show up for myself, in the knowing that no one else can show up for me, unless I do.

What makes you avoid yoga? what makes you commit to yoga?  If I ever find myself avoiding yoga because of feeling caught up with my own story or someone else's that is no longer serving them, I come back to my simple sitting exercise. This helps me to feel the strength of my center and gets me moving on the mat again.

What about yoga enables you to help others and change the world for the better? At the heart of Yoga it is a very inclusive practice designed for everyone. Yoga is for each and every human alive who makes the choice to stop long enough to open to the possibility of experiencing the moment anew. I have been working to specialize in teaching people who are in a time of transition within their lives. Yoga has healed my own fears, and past traumas. And, I have seen the process of reconnecting to the self, the breath, and the power within, work in people's lives for the greatest good of all many, many, times. That is what I aim to continue to be a part of over the upcoming years.

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by and if so, what is it? There are so many, but this is the one I'm living by as of right now: "Life isn't about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself."

 

Madelaine Standing lives in British Columbia, Canada and profides an assortment of well-being offerings ranging from Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, Life-Empowerment Classes and Healing Thai Yoga Massage.

Learn more about her and her mission below:

STEADY STREAM WELLNESS | THE REINTRA HOUSE PROJECT

 

Tuesday
Oct232012

Chanda

What initially inspired you to do yoga? My sister was handed book called Waking by Matthew Sanford. Upon receiving it, she was excited about the story... one man losing movement due to a spinal cord injury, only to reclaim it a different way through adaptive yoga by reconnecting the mind and body in the most powerful way. With my sister being a yoga therapist and me having a spinal cord injury, Matthew's story inspired our new found venture. We no longer lived on polar opposite ends of movement. After reading Waking, I must admit I was still struggling with the possibility of me doing yoga. "How can I do yoga when I can't move my own?" However, with props, a belief that simple is more and an amazing yoga therapist, I do yoga!

What do you remember about your 1st yoga class? I remember feeling my body in ways I had never felt in it before. With paralysis, you always seek this experience. The new feeling offer a new connection I was excited to extend.

What keeps you coming back to your mat everyday? The ability to connect with portions of my body that I naturally do not feel day to day due to my paralysis.

Chanda is the founder of The Chanda Plan Foundation, which is all about "Improving the quality of life for persons with physical disabilities through education and programs to access integrative therapies."