Tag Archives: Yoga

Berlin Musings

As I take some time following the Prague Yoga Vacation to unwind in Berlin, I find myself observing sensations and emotions bubbling up that fascinate me. 

I’m in my favourite city in the world, the one I’d live in if I ever left Montreal. The current weather is hot and sunny, and all is well in my world. And yet, even with all of that in place, I still feel a yearning. For what? No idea. But it’s there. An itch, a restlessness, a hunger. It may be the swell that propels my current creative projects into structure and form, it may be the knowledge that I go back home this week. Regardless, it’s there.

I’m left wondering if we ever really find what we’re looking for, if we ever truly find long-term, full-spectrum, 360-degree peace. And trust me, I know that typical yoga psycho-babble would have me recite some Hallmark affirmation about the universe providing or meditating on it all. My version of that would be to simply observe, to ask questions and know that this experience may seem individual, but is quite the opposite. I believe we live with the hunger of the unfulfilled. 

And so, the conclusion I have come to is that if we live authentically, aligned with our individual dreams and intuition, then we do find what we’re seeking, but only temporarily. Pockets of perfection, I like to call them. I often experience these moments when I’m teaching or lecturing, when I find myself exactly where I want to be (like here in Berlin) and, most intensely, when I find connection with others. 

There’s always a wistfulness when these pockets of perfection, these heartbreakingly pure moments begin to fade, slowly transitioning into what was. But I am awake enough to recognize them as they occur, and even more so when I have faith that there are more waiting for me as I navigate my way through this experience of life. 

The final word here? Make your pockets of perfection. They rarely come to you without effort and perseverance. Make more moments that inspire you to keep making more moments. Have faith that they’re just around the bend. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes along the way 🙂

Top 50 Yoga Blogs – doyouyoga.com

best-yoga-blogs-2016-badgeThis week in classes I’ve been asking students how their day-to-day experience might be altered by waking up every morning asking, “I wonder what amazingness today will have in store for me” as opposed to waking up and thinking, “I don’t want to go to work.”

This morning I woke up to an email from DoYouYoga.com letting me know that this blog has been included on their Top 50 Yoga Blogs list. Amazingness indeed!

Check out the entire list here: http://www.doyouyoga.com/best-yoga-blogs/, and thank you DoYouYoga.com!

Joan

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Today is one of those days when this blog becomes so much more than some words written for the benefit of others. Today I am using this medium to pay hommage to a woman who changed my life. If my post from last year about my teacher, Joan Ruvinsky, went unnoticed, check it out here.

I got home from Baltimore this afternoon and picked up a voice mail telling me that Joan had passed away. She had announced that she had incurable cancer in January of 2015 and I was in England when I found out. Writing the blog post linked above was how I processed the news, which was traumatic for me. However, in the past 14 months, Joan and I have been in closer contact than we had ever been before, and through her example, texts and the time we spent together she taught me more than anyone ever has in any studio. She taught me how to die, and in doing so, taught me how to live.

I am because Joan was, is and always will be. We will always live in a world where Joan is. I want you all to know how much this woman, this energy, this spirit that was Joan, meant to me and how grateful I will always be for the time we had together on this human, material plane. I have no doubt that Joan and I will continue to interact in other ways and on other planes. For this moment, let me simply say that I love her, that she changed my life and that anyone who learns anything from me is learning from Joan.

Thank you, Joan. Talk soon.

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Top 50 Yoga Blogs

Top yoga blogs

Source:rebateszone

I’m very happy to see that this site has been included in a new compilation of the Top 50 Yoga Blogs! After almost 7 years of writing here, this blog has been, and continues to be, instrumental in helping me get out what I believe needs to be communicated. And, as the writer in the compilation of blogs wrote, “All lists are subjective in the end”, but regardless, I appreciate my blog being included in this list amongst other great sites promoting health and wellness along this path we each find ourselves on.

Check out the full article here!

A Moment To Reflect

E B - Bram photo cover HIRES CC 06409With the intention of NOT making this post too lengthy, I feel that it would be irresponsible of me to not take a moment to acknowledge this past year and how pivotal it has been for my journey. I have the tendency of constantly focusing on the present moment and my future plans and projects, and so I felt like today, the last day of 2015, would be a great time to look back.

This past year was replete with travels. From England to the USA, from Italy to Greece, with a few trips to Toronto as well. The yoga vacations continued and evolved, bringing some familiar faces back together while introducing new ones into our roaming family of seekers.

My second literary labour of love was born just six weeks ago and is already almost sold out of its first printing, and there are some pretty impressive moments related to A Year In The Light: Daily Spiritual Life Hacks, Intentions & Reminders yet to come. The social media campaign created by the readers, in the same vein as the one begun years ago for The Examined Life, took off and keeps on keeping on, which makes me happier than I can say.

I let go of the morning television spots I have been doing for over two years on Breakfast Television Montreal, as I do with anything that I feel my time with has run its course.

And, of course, the teaching. 2015 has seen more workshops and yoga teacher trainings occur, giving me the honour of being able to facilitate the spiritual journeys of more and more people, an honour I take more seriously than I could ever express. The great news is that I will be on the faculties of two more yoga teacher trainings in 2016 at Energie EnCorps as well as at Jazz Yoga. Adding these to the Luna Yoga, Happy Tree Yoga and M.Power Yoga trainings I am already a faculty member of allows me to reach markets in Town of Mount Royal and the West Island, and I am grateful to be invited to do what I do in these areas. 2015 also saw me join the faculty of the Toronto Yoga Conference and Show, and I am happy to say that I will be back in 2016 for more of the goodness that the event offers.

I can also say that this past year has been instrumental in teaching me about life and death and the role of the seeker to pursue beauty and light, especially in the darkest hours. I feel more spiritually aware and anchored than I have ever been, and I know that this process of unfurling into deeper layers of awareness is occurring even as these words spill out.

With all that said, here’s the bottom line: I sleep at night. I work hard. I continue to learn how tricky it can be to balance work and non-work time, and can say that I have never been happier. I set my intention to be of service to as many people as possible and know that there are dazzlingly brilliant moments lying ahead for us all as long as we understand that the meaning of life is to be here for each other.

I hoped to not write too much for this post. I could go on, trust me. But I’ll wrap it up with gratitude: thank you. To every one of you who reads my words, comes to my classes, lectures, workshops, book launches, retreats and who supports my efforts with an encouraging smile or thought. To those who have created the physical spaces for me to bring my offerings to, to those who have come forward as retailers for my books, to those who believe in me when my own belief in myself wavers slightly. Thank you.

This journey is magnificent in all its blessings, its chaos, its murmurs and its subtleties. And while the words escape me to convey just how grateful I am to be witness to this spiritual pilgrimage/trek/journey that I have only read about and seen in films, trust me when I write that I will communicate every step of the path as it occurs to remind the world of the expansiveness of the possibilities that lie in wait for those of us pursuing light.

Happy 2016 to you all, and I mean that with every fiber of my being. Be well, be happy, be peaceful and be kind. Here’s to the coming year in the light!

My Two Cents

As we creep closer and closer to another calendar year, I’ve been noticing more and more videos, social media and blog posts, webinars and courses on goal-setting as a way to profit from the New Year’s Resolution craze. Personally, I believe that New Year’s resolutions are ineffective and their own form of self-hate, as they typically come about by looking at some aspect of ourselves that we dislike and then vowing to change that aspect by committing to a practice that is not healthy, beneficial or respectful of who we truly are and how we operate in our own lives. I believe that we force ourselves to suffer by trying to tweak that thing that we think is a problem, and from what I’m seeing, there are tons of people ready to not only reinforce that there is something wrong, but that the only way to deal with it is to adhere to some unrealistic regimen.

If you want to take advantage of a new year to create a healthy habit, then work with intention. Set your intention to be loving and kind throughout 2016, especially when you feel pulled into anger or impatience or disregard. Set your intention every day to be loving and kind. Start with yourself and then redirect that lovingkindess outwards with no specific direction. It will land where it is meant to in ways that are unknown and unpredictable. Stop instigating change by using criticism, fear and judgement as catalysts and understand that love takes care of it all. Start there.

If You Remember One Thing…

The reason some get a thrill out of extreme sports is the same reason why some love exercising or binge-watching television or spending money or drinking alcohol or practicing yoga or getting a massage or ingesting drugs or hanging out with friends or meditating or eating or listening to music or having sex or doing whatever it is that brings them contentment. The elation they feel is the result of releasing the contractions or tensions they have absorbed in the body through the pairing of their thoughts with the events they encounter in their lives. We seek relief and release so that we can let the tensions that have landed in the body as contractions dissolve. This allows our musculature to de-contract, to relax, thereby permitting our breathing to deepen and our mind to stop obsessing over all the details typically keep us busily distracted. These outlets let us breathe deeper than we typically do, which brings about the sensations of ease and peace. When discussing the topic of smoking cigarettes with students recently, a few students who had been smokers told me that they loved their cigarette breaks so much because it was in these breaks that they had the opportunity to intentionally take deep breaths as they inhaled and exhaled. They loved smoking because they breathed deeply.

There will be tension relievers that will be productive and those that will be harmful. There will be those that will carry us safely to a place of well being and others that will have repercussions that would be better anticipated than faced. Remember this: that which brings you release which allows you to breathe deeper does not have to be what instigates your relaxing. You can instigate your relaxing. You can intentionally remember to breathe deeply when tension overwhelms, when situations spin out of control and when your fears and insecurities start to distort your understanding of what really is. If you remember one thing, let it be that breathing deeply when things go any way but the way you hoped will save your life. It will keep you in reaction, perspective and clarity. Simply by breathing deeply.

Give it a try. You will see what I’m talking about sooner than you think.

Of This, I Am Sure

FullSizeRender (1)Three and a half years ago I woke up from having a dream while visiting my extended family in England and immediately wrote down its contents because I knew it was somehow necessary. I then wrote about it in the blog post Repairing My Cabin, but, in a nutshell, I felt that, through the dream, I had been called to India by a sadhu or guru there waiting for me (visit the post from 2013 to read the details of the dream).

I spent some time yesterday with my friend Nadia and our teacher, my guru, the igniter of my mission and life’s work, Joan, and towards the end of the visit we got to talking about India. I’ve never been, and to be honest, don’t really feel the pull to go. Regardless, I found myself relaying the contents of the dream I’d had all those years ago and told them that I suspected that I had been called to Mother India and had so far ignored that call. Without batting an eyelash, Joan explained to me exactly what that dream meant. She explained to me that for whatever reason, my family stemmed from the yoga lineage, and that I had been the one to answer the call. She explained to me that I had been initiated into the lineage on an astral plane. She explained that what the sage had handed me was my mission to devote my life to this lineage. She explained to me that my immersion in the water was my baptism, and that I had answered the call by devoting my life and career to this path I’m on. The second she told me this I understood, with a peaceful certainty and finality, that I really am the vessel for a divine will that is greater than any words could attempt to describe.

I thought I had chosen this path I’m on as a way of doing what I love to do as a career. I thought I was taking a massive risk to pursue my passion and not settle for a well-paying, secure job with benefits that everyone would approve of. I thought it was all up to me. And then I started having moments of teaching where words were coming out of my mouth and I didn’t know where they were coming from, nor where the knowledge they were conveying was coming from. I started to get students coming up to me after class telling me that it was like I was talking directly to them. And this continued to happen. Often. Really often. I began to not remember what I had said after a class was over, hoping the right words came out and I didn’t offend anybody. And then I started to understand my role as a vessel.

The universal law of Divine Proclamation states that “the ability of an individual to express, speak or proclaim in behalf of the Divine Forces is in direct proportion to the ability of the individual to cease expression, speech or proclamation in behalf of the self.” I was living this law. I had stopped speaking on behalf of myself and found myself speaking on behalf of forces greater than us. And it now happens almost every time I teach, speak publicly or write.

Joan’s presence in my life is so profound from a teacher-student point of view that I really can’t find the words to describe it. I have no doubt that there is a transfer of energy, of information, of insight and of wisdom that I get from her, often without a single word being spoken. This blessing of having a teacher for sixteen years who infuses my life with worth, vital information and clear direction is something I will take to my grave with me. I have never felt so filled with purpose, so sure of why I am here and what I am supposed to do with this time. And I have never been so certain that I am carrying out my dharma as a vessel for the divine. Of this, I am sure.

I’m having trouble conveying what is in my heart right now, but I’ll try to do my best here: Joan shows me what a real teacher is. A real teacher is one who awakens the student to their spirit, to their path, to their reason for being alive on earth, to their individual dharma. A real teacher ignites true understanding that is felt on a somatic level, not memorized from a textbook. A real teacher transmits what the student needs to know to then be able to find themselves undeniably aligned with forces greater than anything they could have ever considered as possible. A real teacher gives the student their life, illuminated and brilliantly meaningful.

Joan has done this for me for almost two decades. I hope that by accepting what was given to me in my dream years ago, I not only honour the example set by Joan, but that I leave at least one person understanding just how deep this student/teacher relationship roots itself. I hope that I affect at least one person as deeply as Joan affects me. I hope I serve as purely as she does.

Thank you Joan.

 

This One For Matty

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soutenir-mathieu-leroux#/story to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.

A Pill to Swallow

10827994_10153292025159258_1015895408197009231_oA few months ago I organized a yoga benefit to raise money for Women Aware, a Montreal-based non-profit organization that provides assistance and “long-term support to those living with the dynamics of domestic violence.” At around the same time I became part of the #HeForShe international campaign put together by UNWomen. This campaign is a call that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all,” essentially serving as a call to all men to raise their voices and awareness to fight the inequalities and suffrage women are exposed to simply because they’re women. I got involved with them for the same reason that I organized the fundraiser: I was traumatized at an early age when the concept of rape was explained to me and since then I have felt a visceral alliance with anyone dealing with the fallout of violence against women.

My career started out almost seven years ago as a yoga teacher, but little did I know that in finding my voice to teach I would find my voice to start speaking up for those whose voices have been muted by abuse, inequality and sheer terrorism. By now, most of you know that I’m not a mild-mannered, meek teacher. I have an opinion, especially when it comes to injustice, and I’m not afraid to voice that opinion, especially when I come across intolerance of any kind. I have been told that I can be aggressive in my expression, that I’m not adopting the right “yoga” attitude of non-judgement and compassion. Hear me now, because I won’t ever be repeating myself: I understand that every single one of us has the potential, if influenced by certain variables, to do or be anything or anyone, and I use the “There but for the grace of God go I” expression daily. I also feel tremendous compassion and empathy for those who have perpetuated the cycles of chaos and violence that they have found themselves a part of. With that said, I also believe that we have to stop tip-toeing around in this moment of political correctness so that we can expose the root causes of how we’ve arrived at this moment in time with such a heavy cloud of ignorance, darkness and intolerance weighing us down. And so sometimes I’m going to communicate in ways that you may not want to hear your yoga teacher or spiritual guide communicating in. To those I may be offending, please accept my apologies now and understand that all my actions in my career and on my path of dharma stem from the desire for peace, compassion, unity and spiritual understanding. Also understand that this is the way I’m doing it. My way. If it doesn’t resonate with you, there are hundreds of thousands of other teachers for you out there, and I encourage you to seek them out.

10413309_10153081125548426_3971799968709502221_n I, as I progress in my studies and work with helping others heal from their emotional and physical wounds, am constantly helping women heal from sexual assaults. This is an epidemic, take my word for it. And it’s unacceptable. It keeps coming up, over and over again, in the work that I’m doing. The pain and trauma that is being afflicted on women in the name of power, of control, of taking what someone else thinks they’re entitled to, is reprehensible. And I will continue to raise awareness with MY voice to make sure that we don’t get complacent or ever think that violence in any form is a necessary evil that we have to learn to live with. Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit, and I will continue to call it with every person I encounter who has been hurt at the hand of someone else. I will write (as I did with this blog post months ago for International Women’s Day), I will speak, I will teach and I will continue to learn so I know what I’m talking about and fighting peacefully in the name of.

Understand this: violence against women is not going to be tolerated. I will make sure that women’s voices get heard, even if it means me raising mine to amplify theirs. This path I’m on with yoga means nothing if all I’m doing is instructing people to fold forwards or balance on their tip-toes. My path is one of awakening, for myself and others, so that we can address what needs to be addressed without fear of rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes we need a little shaking to wake up and see clearly what we have been allowing to occur right on our doorsteps.

To support Women Aware, please visit their website that is hyperlinked above.

 

 

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