Category Archives: Yoga

Yoga & Activism

26563_409223819257_4397157_nA few years ago I had to miss a workshop being given by local Yoga teacher Allison Ulan that focused on Yoga and activism, and I was gutted to miss it. From my point of view, there seems to be a growing divergence between the physical-only focus of the practice, emphasizing solely how the body is being placed in any given pose from the non-physical byproducts of asana. While I absolutely do not want to minimize the importance of proper alignment and body awareness in the practice to avoid injury and to promote longevity in the practice, I also take issue with yoga being taught with little or no illumination of where the physical practice brings us emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

The asana practice does a few things: it allows us to release the tensions that have landed in the body by moving the frame in ways that are atypical of a regular 24-hour cycle of movement. Areas that we may not have even been aware of that had been carrying tension on a somatic level are suddenly manipulated to work and gradually release whatever was being carried there, either spontaneously or more gradually. The practice also allows us to breathe consciously for an extended period of time, teaching us that to focus on a deep, nourishing breath throughout a period of physical movement and potential challenge is to teach us that a conscious breath is all we need to navigate moments of challenge, fear and adversity outside of a yoga class. It allows us to detach from external stimuli and spend some time with our bodies, and ultimately, with our Self to check in with whatever is in the moment. There are countless other ways that asana benefits us, but all those benefits, as far as I’m concerned, all lead to the same realization: that we are fully-formed, powerful beings with unique voices and points of view, and that it is our responsibility to speak up, to act, to pursue relentlessly what we believe to be right and true and fair, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. Yoga shows us how unity presents itself as separation, and once we clue into how far we’ve strayed from acting in the best interests of ALL of us, we find our words and the right language to speak up louder and clearer and more peacefully than we ever thought possible.

The philosophical, emotional and spiritual epiphanies that await every person who begins a yoga practice, even if that practice begins for the sole purpose of exercising the body in a non-gym atmosphere, need to be emphasized. Movement and breath and alignment are absolutely essential, but if they’re not partnered with guidelines and insight for spiritual evolution, then they’re no different than a gym workout. Yoga is everything, and it’s my hope that all teachers, instructors and light-bearers understand this.

What I want you to know is this: You are not allowed to have rights and squander them by not knowing how they were hard-fought for, by being indifferent, lazy or dispassionate. It is your responsibility to know who fought for what rights you have, especially those you take for granted, for those that you think are normal in this day, age and geographical location. If your skin colour is anything other than what’s considered “white” (but which is, in fact, more of a pinkish-beige), you better pay attention. If you’re a woman, pay attention. If your sexuality is anything other than 100% hetero, pay attention. If you fall into ANY visible or audible minority, pay attention. In fact, you know what? Pay attention, every single one of you.

Yoga is activism. It is a call to what is and a call to right action in the face of what is. It is finding your voice and then using it to ensure that no one feels excluded or inferior, and to make sure that the freedoms we are blessed with at this point in time are never snatched away in the name of power and oppression. Freedom should never directed towards some, it should be the right of all.

There are moments where I struggle to find inspiration to channel and pass on, but I definitely find it on occasion. I want to thank Allison for inspiring me all those years ago. I want to thank Sharon Gannon & David Life for creating the Jivamukti community and inspiring action, change and freedom for all. I want to thank Seane Corne for living everything I’m trying to express, for being the example, for being an inspiration and for the teachings, past and future, that I have been graced with. I’m doing everything I can to inspire and awaken, and will continue to do so until I can’t find the air to propel my words from my body. Until then, I’m focused on being awake, and on waking everyone else up.

Stay alert, stay together and stay awake. We are changing the world, one unique voice at a time, and, occasionally, as a collective roar of peaceful warriors. Let’s keep it going 🙂

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Where The Heart Is

20140331-013144.jpgThe longer I live, the more I recognize history repeating itself. I have observed myself date the same kind of person over and over until I understood what I was doing and why I was doing it. I have recognized patterns in my behaviour related to eating, exercising and spending money. I have seen others close to me repeat patterns and behaviours as well, as we are creatures of habit which feed off of familiarity. And, as infuriating as it has been at times, I have also had front-row seats to the Québec language issues and the “will-they-or-won’t-they” issue of Québec separating from Canada.

I’m not gonna lie. When I allow myself to get emotionally caught up in Quebec politics, it ain’t pretty. I’m a passionate person, much like my fellow Québécois (and for those of you who believe that if my mother tongue isn’t French, I’m not allowed to call myself Québécois, I offer you this: I was born and raised in Montreal. Montreal has always been geographically situated in Quebec. I’m Québécois, born and raised. If you don’t like it, bite me). I have had moments of such utter despair at the mismanagement of our city and our province and the seemingly deep-rooted need for our leaders (and I use that term VERY loosely) to promote division and hatred that I’ve often spoken to those closest to me about the possibility of just getting the hell out of what I considered to be a sinking ship. All because I felt like my home was under fire.

I visited New York City for the first time in 1989 and immediately thought that I could live there. It felt right. I’ve had dozens of moments like that in my global travels, finding countries that feel right. When I’ve spoken to my partner Stephane about possibly moving, he’s always been more reticent. He has roots that run deep here in Montreal and Québec, and once pointed something out to me that I found fascinating: I was born an Anglo in a French province, I was born gay and grew up fundamentally believing that there must be something wrong with me because I wasn’t seeing my sexuality mirrored by the people around me, and I was born into a Jewish family and went to Hebrew school for my primary education, taught at an early age that I belonged to a religion whose people had been kicked out of every place they had ever tried to settle in and had to have a state created for them so that they could simply call somewhere home. I have grown up believing that roots don’t grow very deeply, even in a place I’ve called home for what seems like forever. And then yoga found me. Directly across the street from where I was living in 1999, I stumbled across my first yoga teacher. And my roots started sprouting.

I travel around the world teaching yoga now. I’ve just returned from Calgary and Canmore in Alberta and can tell you that there is love there. Whether it’s my brother and his beautiful family with whom I stay during my trips over, whether it’s the blinding generosity and beauty of the studios and communities that welcome me so unconditionally or whether it’s seeing more of the beauty that Canada has to offer, I now know something that has previously eluded me: home is wherever there is love. And those roots that began sprouting when I started practicing yoga have created an interconnected, global web of “home” that I could never have predicted.

I can land in Paros, Greece and be home. I can run my fingertips through the clear waters of Croatia and be home. I can quietly walk through a moss-covered graveyard in England and be home. I can find myself at a Hammam in Istanbul and be home. I can be leading a class under the blazing Santorini sun and be home. I can be teaching at festivals around North America and be home in every location. With all that said, I know this: my truest home is Montreal, and it’s home for the very simple reason that it’s my epicentre of love. It’s where I have the longest history of loving and being loved, and that has created one hell of an imprint.

I know love and love knows me. Well. I often find myself a wee bit overcome at how much love there is for us to observe, engage in and experience. Maybe I’m delusional, and maybe I’m blessed. Doesn’t really matter, to be honest. I’m choosing to focus on Montreal and Québec as an epicentre of love. I refuse to be dragged down to the bottom of the human condition by politicians that have absolutely no consideration for our well-being. I refuse to be affected any longer by the hate that is spread first by the politicians, and then by people via media (social and otherwise). I’m smarter than they are. I’m smarter than that. And so are you. Montreal is my home and there’s room for all of us. I choose to understand that the political landscape will always swing like a pendulum on a grandfather clock, and will continue to travel the globe teaching love, teaching truth, teaching yoga. If, one day, I find myself somewhere with an undeniable pull calling me to uproot from Montreal and make this new location home, then I will. And the more time I spend there immersed in love, then the more that place will give Montreal a run for its money as my primary home.

For now, I’m here, in Montreal, home, with love as a constant in my life. It is with this motivation and intention that I am asking every single one of you to go out on April 7 and vote. Be smart about it, vote with your gut instinct, but understand this: you’re not voting for the party leaders. You’re not even voting for the parties themselves. You’re voting for love. WE are voting for the love of our city and our province. We have been complacent for too long, allowing irresponsibility and corruption to seep into our home.

On April 7 we will stand up together and vote for the love of our city and province. And on April 5, make sure to come out to my classes at Lululemon Greene Avenue (9-9:50am) and Luna Yoga (11am-12:30pm) for Yoga Votes Saturday to participate in a moment that will further empower and galvanize everyone in attendance to use their unique voice to effect change. All for love.

All for Montreal and Québec. It’s time to begin the healing and bring our home back to what it once was, what it will be again.

Stand up with me.

Yoga Votes Saturday – April 5, 2014

voteMy career and my intention has been steeped in directing others to the truth about who we are as human beings, to understand and acknowledge that we are not our bodies, we are not our jobs, we are not our responsibilities, we are not our successes nor are we our failures. All of these things are temporary and transient. What we are is the unchanging energy that animates each and every one of our frames. Without that energy, we are simply dead bodies. This energy existed before we were born and it will outlive our bodies. It is an energy that is untouched by illness or mood, an unchanging observer that perceives the world around itself using the body’s senses.

This understanding of the Self eventfully brings clarity and perspective to students seeking truth and answers in their lives. This perspective and clarity allows us all to stop getting caught up in the ever-changing sea of daily dramas that seems to ricochet us from emotion to emotion, and to start focusing on what really matters: are we loving? Are we compassionate? Are we being loved? Are we free, and are we ensuring that freedom is not selectively doled out to the fortunate, but rather a birthright for all? Are we serving others?

We are in the weeks leading up to a very important provincial election here in Quebec. I’m not going to start preaching or sharing my own political beliefs, because I believe that we are all entitled to our own opinions and don’t want to be that person that polarizes others. I want to bring people together. I don’t care who Quebecers and Montrealers vote for, but I do care that a huge percentage of the population here does not take the time to go vote and exercise a right that others around the world are fighting to the death to have.

It is with the intention of galvanizing people who typically don’t vote because they a) don’t believe their vote will make a difference, or b) can’t be bothered to take the time out of their busy schedules to go to the polling stations, that I am creating one day of classes that I will lead, and I’m calling it Yoga Votes Saturday.

On Saturday, April 5 I will be leading a free yoga class from 9:00-9:50am at Lululemon Greene Avenue, and a paid yoga class at Luna Yoga from 11am-12:30pm. It is my hope that my regular students will bring people they know who are not regular voters to these classes, as well as people who have not yet taken my class. I aim to empower people to find their unique voices through the yoga practice, and it is with this voice that we effect change. I aim to get at least one person to the polling station on Election Day who would not have gone without having heard me speak and teach. It is my aim that we wake up as a society and realize that we have the power to make a difference, to effect real change and to step up in our own lives and start living consciously.

I am asking each and every one of you reading these words to get up off your chair, out of your house and be there at either of my 2 classes on Saturday, April 5 and to help me mobilize fellow Montrealers and Quebecers to stand up, be heard, and, ultimately, be a part of one of the most important elections we will be faced with. It’s not enough to share a Facebook post or Like a status. It’s time to do something real, so let’s do it together.

See you all at:

Lululemon Greene Ave – 1394 Avenue Greene, 9-9:50am

Luna Yoga – 231 Saint-Paul Ouest, Suite 200 – 11am-12:30pm

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