Winter Solstice Yoga

The winter solstice is a special time of the year. Although it may be darkness and shortest day, Dec. 21 marks the first day of winter and a return to the light as days start to get longer.

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Yoga teachers – front row LT to RT: Tara Lazanis, Gisele Seto, Robin Golt, Mary Ann Enthoven, Jasmine Gercke; Back row LT to RT:  Sonya Beaudoin, Kreg Weiss, Ondine Guralnick, Barrie Risman, Bruce Chase-Dunn, Yasmin Fudakowska-Gow, Marianne Thorborg. (Missing: Alli Fear)

In June, I organized an outdoor community yoga event in honour of the summer solstice at Bota Bota Spa sur l’eau in Old Montreal. It was a huge success so it seemed fitting to plan something for the winter solstice as well. I teamed up with Barrie Risman, co-owner of Shri Yoga in Westmount to host Into the Light / Vers la lumière, community yoga classes on Dec. 21 in support of Dans la rue, an organization that assists homeless youth. Barrie and I hoped this event would not only raise consciousness amongst the attendees, but would also bring light to people experiencing some darkness in their lives.

The event was beautiful. We were thrilled to have had such a great response. We had nearly 75 participants,  live musicians Fugère Poirer and Ina Duarte and yoga teachers representing studios around Montreal – Ambaa Yoga, Bikram Yoga TMR, Cielo Studios, Enso Yoga, Gold’s Gym Sattva Lounge, HappyTree Yoga, Kreg Weiss Yoga, Moksha Yoga, Monkey Bar Gym, Robin Golt Yoga, Shri Yoga, Sun & Moon Yoga, Victoria Park, Yoga divinement adapté and Yoga on the Park.

Here’s what was collected for Dans la Rue:

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  • Soup / meals: 54
  • Beans: 7
  • Various veggies: 8
  • Fish/protein: 14
  • Fruit: 8
  • Veg juice: 1
  • Coconut juice: 1

Other food 

  • Granola bars: 16
  • Rice/pasta: 5
  • Chocolate bars: 3
  • Cookies: 1 box

Toiletries

  • Shampoo: 11YY-Dec-Into_the_Light-16
  • Body wash: 6
  • Bars of soap: 26
  • Tooth paste: 17
  • Tooth brushes: 26
  • Hand/body cream: 1
  • Deodorant: 21
  • Shaving cream: 2
  • Travel-size toiletries: 6
  • Lip balm: 4
  • Razors: 18
  • Pocket mirror: 1

Clothes +

  • Pairs of socks: 39
  • Gloves: 2
  • Underwear: 3
  • Backsack: 1YY-Dec-Into_the_Light-17
  • Duffel bag: 1

+ six $5 gift cards to Tim Hortons for hot meals

+ $580 in financial donations!

Thank you for these generous donations. And thank you to volunteers Loni, Myrna and Wayne and to sponsors Vega and Lolë.
Photos by: Craig Bannerman Photography

Related:

See photos of the event on facebook

How to donate to Dans la Rue

Summer Solstice Yoga

Yoga Kula Celebration on Day 108

 

Wanderlust Festival Tremblant Review

In short, I had a blast at Wanderlust Tremblant. It was a beautiful yoga and music festival organized in harmony with laissez-faire spirit of Montreal and polish of professional event planning.

This year’s Wanderlust Tremblant, Aug. 23-25, was a first year trial run. Just a short two and a half day event (instead of the usual four days) to see if Quebec culture would embrace Wanderlust Festival Inc., the New York City based company that puts on festivals around North America. Turns out, the response from Quebec was overwhelming. The festival was completely sold out. Organizers were thrilled and so were we, the presenters.

WLTR_ali-kaukas-Sat-Class-blogIt’s not that I didn’t think having a festival like this near Montreal wouldn’t be incredible. It’s just that, one, I didn’t think Quebec would ever be host to a big West-Coast style yoga fest, and two, if we were, I wondered how Quebecers would react.  Quebec has a reputation for being resistant to mainstream things and late adopters of new-wave health. We like to do things our own complicated, Quebecky way. We feel and behave like outsiders in Canada and are often left off the radar.

However, things are clearly changing and starting to happen here. A new invigorating energy is sweeping through my old, sometimes crusty, yet loveable province of Quebec. The Yoga Community Montreal Festival doubled in size this year. The Lolë White Yoga event at the Olympic Stadium in July had 5000 participants. Wanderlust Festival rolled through town and sold out. And, Montreal is now home to CityTV. The skies are opening up above Montreal and possibilities are growing.

The Wanderlust Festival Tremblant, to me, was a big step forward for the Montreal yoga community and it is largely due to the efforts of Laurentian yoga teacher Janick Leonard and her husband Patrick, who rallied to get the festival in Quebec. It brought together the Francophone and Anglophone teachers and students. It was playful and down-to-earth. The atmosphere was fresh and inspiring. The Tremblant merchants (many of them independent businesses) were over-joyed to have us yogis roaming the Village, popping into shops for this and that and lining up at the juice bar and restos.

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The classes were full of smiling faces. I led two bilingual practices. Saturday 8 am was inspired by my Yoga Basics video Centred & Sensual Yoga or Yoga Centré et Sensuel en français and was held outside at the base of Mont Tremblant with over 100 yogis in attendance. Afterward my yoga buddy David Good and I partook in Elena Brower’s core based class, which was great. We then fuelled up with a smoothie at Fluide before David’s Flow & Shine class, where I was one of his assistants.

Saturday evening Lululemon hosted a faculty dinner and offered us a chance to meet and mingle with the other instructors and musicians from around Eastern Canada, US and BC. The evening continued with music by Bears of Legend and Bobby Bazini on the main stage, which I unfortunately missed. I caught the end of Arcade Fire’s Sara Neufield’s fierce concert in the Chapel. Also a yoga teacher and Moksha studio owner, Neufield is brilliant.

 

WLTR_SundayClass-blogSunday morning, I taught a sold out Sustainable Yoga for Longterm Happiness class with live music by Peter Jack Rainbird. I have never experienced a room more powerful and connected. The students were so into their practice and so present. It was an honour to be part of it. Peter Jack and I worked well together. His gentle electric guitar music offered a beautiful soundscape for the practice.

The rest of Sunday was spent walking around chatting with friends and riding up the gondola to the peak of Tremblant to check out the view and throw down a few yoga poses. Ali Kaukas, the official Wanderlust photographer, was with us. She snapped this picture of Andrew Bathory, David Good and I in a partner pose. I think this sums up the Festival perfectly: gratitude, expansion, balance, nature and friendship.

 

*All photos taken by Ali Kaukas

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Related Articles:

Wanderlust Festival Experience 2012

Yoga Festivals : Getting Cozy in a Crowded Class 

Lolë White Yoga 2012

 

Balancing the Chakras

The success of the recent chakra balancing workshop I led in Montreal prompted me to write this post and share the information more widely. I was amazed how this work instigated a profound shift in all of the workshop participants.

Chakras, for those new to the term, are powerful energy centres located along the spine. There are seven charkas, each associated with specific physiological and psychological functions. The word ‘chakra’ in Sanskrit means ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’. Often they are described as ‘wheels of light.’  Whenever there is stress or dis-ease in the body or mind, the chakras are involved and affected. Over the years, I’ve found that working with chakras is greatly revealing and can radically improve healing. Although I offer chakra balancing sessions using gemstones and mantras, experience has shown me that the most effective way to increase energetic flow through the chakra system is by asking some tough questions.

Below is my chakra chart. Here’s how I  suggest you use it:

  1. Begin with a simple meditation. Sit comfortably and focus on your breath.
  2. Centre yourself: Feel the ground below you and connect to the ‘God of your understanding.’
  3. Bring your awareness to area of the first chakra and observe the sensation, color, shape and general energetic impression.
  4. After a few minutes, write down your observations.
  5. Then ask yourself the first question. (see below)
  6. Pay attention to what comes up. It may be an image, emotion or memory.
  7. Without analysis, write down your observations.
  8. Then ask the next question and follow the same procedure.
  9. When you’ve completed the questions for the first chakra, bring your attention back to the area of the chakra.
  10. Visualize the color associated to it and incorporate one of the suggested balancing tools: mantra, mudra or gemstone. (Do not do all three. You will be overwhelmed.)
  11. After a few minutes, set aside the visualization and tools and observe  the sensation, color, shape and general energetic impression of the chakra
  12. After a few minutes, write down your observations.

If you are up to it, you can then move on to the next chakra and do the same process. However, if this work is new to you, I recommend giving yourself at least a day in between each chakra session.  You may feel emotional or strange after this work. It can even be alarming. Breathe and let it go. Do some yoga and drink water to cleanse. Writing out what you’re feeling and your reactions then burning the pages is also therapeutic.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

CHAKRA

BASIC PROPERTIES

QUALITIES & FUNCTIONS

QUESTIONS

TREATMENT

chakras_1

1. Muladhara Chakra

First or Root Chakra

Location: Base of spine or coccyx

Color:  Red

Element:  Earth

Basic survival needs for food, clothing, security and shelter, as well as to earthly pleasures. Out of balance, we feel fear and disconnection. In harmony, we feel safe & grounded. What brings me security?

Where do I feel most at home?

What do I need to survive?

Mantra:   LAM

Mudra:  Ring & thumb

Gemstones:  Garnet, Smoky quartz, Ruby, Bloodstone, Black tourmaline, Obsidian, Red Calcite

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2. Swadhisthana Chakra

Second, Spleen or Sacral Chakra

Location: Below the navel in the lower abdomen

Color:  Orange

Element:  Water

Directs our reproductive organs, sexual expression, and creativity. The health of this energy center indicates the ease or dis-ease we have with intimacy & creative power. What are my passions?

In what area(s) does my creativity flow?

What is intimacy to me?

How do I create intimacy?

Mantra:   VAM

Mudra:  Pinky & thumb

Gemstones:  Blue-green Turquoise, Blue-green Fluorite, Amber, Orange Calcite, Vanadinite, Orange camelian

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3. Manipura Chakra

Third or Solar Plexus Chakra

Location: Just above the navel in the solar plexus

Color:  Yellow

Element:  Fire

Described as a ‘shining gem’ & the center of personal power, it governs digestion, self-esteem & emotional balance. This is our source of  confidence, courage and vitality. What brings me strength & confidence?

What do I want?

What is my ‘shinning gem’? / What am I great at?

What stands in my way?

Mantra:   RAM

Mudra:  RT hand  LT, thumbs touch; Pinky, ring & thumb.

Gemstones:  Yellow Jasper, Golden Calcite, Citrine, Lemon quartz, Topaz, Moonstone

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4. Anahatha Chakra

Heart Chakra

Location:   Heart or center of the chest

Color:  Green

Element:  Air

Connected to breath, feelings of compassion, understanding, forgiveness & acceptance. Preserving this center allows us to know unconditional love. Who was I before my heart was broken?

Who or what can I forgive?

What do I want most in my life?

What do I love about myself?

Mantra:   YAM

Mudra:  Palms touch in prayer position

Gemstones:Malachite, Jade, Green Peridot, Rose Quartz, Kunzite, Morganite, Green Tourmaline

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5. Vishuddha Chakra

Throat Chakra

Location:  Throat

Color:  Blue

Element:  Ether or Space

This chakra governs personal expression, communication, and the thyroid gland. When free from obstruction, we feel at ease to speak our truths, to trust and to let go of tension. What do I want to get off my chest right now?

How do I express myself in my highest state?

What gifts do I have to share?

How do I want to express my creativity?

Mantra:   HAM

Mudra:  Middle & thumb over knuckle

Gemstones:  Sodalite, Blue Calcite, Blue Kyanite, Angelite, Blue Turquoise, Saphire

 

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6. Ajna Chakra

Third Eye or Brow Chakra

Location:  Forehead, between the eyes

Color:  Indigo or Midnight blue

Element:  n/a

No element is associated with Ajna other than light itself. The act of seeing, both physical and intuitive, stems from this energy. When balanced, we have clear thoughts imagination and wisdom. Who am I?What guides me?

How do I know if something is right for me?

Where & how do I rest my mind & allow my creativity to flow?

Mantra:   KSHAM

Mudra:  Interlace fingers, indexes extend

Gemstones:  Lapis Lazuli, Azurite, Sugilite, Iolite, Turquoise, Tanzanite

chakras_7

7. Sahasrara Chakra

Crown Chakra

Location:  Top or just above head

Color:  Luminous colors

Element:  n/a

Described as a one-thousand petal lotus of rainbow colors so luminous, it turns white. This is our gateway to the divine. This centre is connected to spirituality and cosmic consciousness. It governs our sense of belonging. What is divinity to me?

How and when do I interact with the divine?

What is enlightenment to me?

How can I be of service?

Mantra:   AUM

Mudra:  Index & thumb

Gemstones:  White Calcite, White Topaz, Amethyst, Selenite, Celestite

 

 

Related Posts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Outdoor Yoga

There are few things  I enjoy more than outdoor yoga barefoot in the grass. I love the feeling of the earth beneath my feet, the breeze, the sun, the sound of the wind in the trees and reaching up to the infinite space above me. Now is the best season for outdoor yoga (before the mosquitos and thick humidity set in), so I thought I’d offer some suggestions.

Tips for Outdoor Yoga ‘en plein air’

  1. Timing  It’s best to practice is before 11am or after 3pm to avoid direct sun (and Pitta time). YY_beach-Yoga-blog-may2013
  2. Location Location   This part needs subsections–
    • Doing yoga on the beach sounds a lot better then it actually is. Dry sand is unstable and it gets into all these awkward places… Wet sand is more stable, but it will still find its way up your mula bandha.
    • Lawns, docks or decks are the best outdoor practice surfaces.
    • Somewhat even ground is preferable, but life’s uneven, so a few bumps or dips ain’t no big thing.
    • Hills and valleys definitely offer some unique challenges which you may or may not be willing to embrace. (Chatarunga downhill is always a fun one to practice!)
  3. Sun protection  It’s best to wear sun glasses, a hat, sun screen and practice in the shade.
  4. Mat or Not?   Unless the ground is damp, I prefer to practice without a mat; just my barefeetand hands in the cool grass. In flow practices, I find the mat distracting, as it usually bunches up and moves around on the uneven ground. Plus, in the sun, it gets really hot. However, I may use a mat, towel or blanket for seated and restorative poses, and for sure on a deck or dock.
  5. Pollution  Use common sense and avoid practicing outside when smog warnings are in effect. It’s also best to stay away from busy roads, places that stray pesticides (ie golf courses) and any other area where air quality is greatly compromised.
  6. Bugs    The birds, bees, mosquitos, ants and flies all live outside, so if you’re going practice outdoors, don’t be surprised to hear, see or feel them buzzing around doing their thing. Accept this and prepare yourself accordingly: find a breezy spot where bugs can’t linger, use
    citronella oil or another natural bug repellent,  wear long sleeves, pants and/or a bug netting!
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  7. Your practice   This could be a whole other post, but here’s a simple outline to follow:Start with basic grounding poses and focus on your breath — cross legged pose, child’s pose, reclined pose, etc.
    • Warm up with sun salutations or simple fluid sequences that connect movement and breath (vinyasa).
    • Do standing and balancing poses, and root your legs into the ground — triangle, warriors, tree, eagle, dancer, etc.
    • In the seated sequence, include forward bends, twists, core work and maybe an arm balance or two.
    • Close with backbends, an inversion (legs up a tree is a good one) and a rest in savasana or another restorative pose.
  8. Sounds   Accept the sounds of dogs barking, people chatting, cars driving by and maybe boats passing. Unless you are alone on an isolated resort, this is the inevitable daily ‘music’ of life. Tune in to your breath. Let yourself be inspired by your environment and enjoy the flow.

 

Enjoying your outdoor yoga experience

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If you think you need a little more guidance than the above practice outline, I have a gift for you! A free download of my  30 minute Vinyasa Flow audio practice.  I also have a whole collection of Yasmin Yoga videos. More details

Morning Yoga by the Lake

Each summer since ~ 2004, I offer a Morning Yoga by the Lake program in Pointe Claire Village: Five consecutive sunrise practices out on the water following with breakfast  (see photos). It’s pretty sweet.

Check out my events section for details about the next Morning Yoga retreat.

 

Related Articles

 

Big Yoga Kula Celebration on Day 108

Nothing is more powerful and important to me than the coming together of Earthlings. So on this fine Earth Day, I thought I’d share with you details of the beautiful events that took place on April 18 in Montreal.

Welcoming, uplifting, magical and happy are some of the words I would use to describe last Thursday’s Yoga Mala practices in celebration of our diverse yoga community and 108th Day of the Year.

There were five locations around Montreal (Le Studio Wanderlust, Naada Yoga, HappyTree Yoga, Viveka Yoga & H~OM) hosting simultaneous community practices of 108 Sun Salutations. Yoga teacher David Good also organized a practice in Toronto. Over 30 yoga teachers led sets of Surya Namaskar and we had nearly 200 participants joining us. We also had several online participants tuning in some as far away as Europe and Vancouver!  It was amazing. I am still buzzing with joy thinking about it. (See photos)

HappyTree-108-3I taught at Montreal’s new Wanderlust Yoga Studio on the Plateau. We had 75 yogis and yoginis at our location. A screen was set up so we could connect to the other 108 events via a webcast. Each event invited teachers from neighbouring studios and did their own thing at their pace, but it was nice the screen with everyone practicing all over the city.

A few things touched me deeply. As we were setting up, a percussionist named Gotta showed up and asked if he could play for us during the practice. Two other musicians, Marc-Joseph Chalfoun and Frederic Jean, also arrived with their instruments. They practiced, then chanted and played guitar as we completed our last set of surya namaskar and entered savasana (relaxation).

Equally amazing was the young man who did his first yoga practice ever at the 108. I noticed him early as he was at front and not your typical flexible, lean yogi. He would do a few sun salutations and take rest in child’s pose. Then he would do a few more and sit out a few. I was impressed at his perseverance.  But it was only afterward, when he came up to thank me, that I find out he had never done yoga before. He also expressed how nice it was for him to feel included.

Each of the hosting studios had with amazing stories of their own. A 10-year-old girl completed the whole 108 at Naada Yoga. HappyTree Yoga’s event was sold out. Some people couldn’t practice, but came anyway to just to enjoy energy. A few people showed up at Viveka Yoga expecting Yin Yoga, but stayed for the 108 and loved the practice. H~OM Yoga Center’s owner Helene was also thrilled with her event. She said the atmosphere was unbelieveable.

Here are some comments I received in the days following the event:

I hope you are happy with your event last night! We had such a great time at Viveka. 37 brave participants showed up so the room was pretty packed. Thank you for including me!
 Marianne Thorborg (Yoga Teacher)

Thank you so much !!!! I did it from my basement connected to Webex!!! It was great!!!  Namaste!
– Andrea Herrera-Gayol (Online Participant)

Thank you so much for having organized the 108 sun salutations event.  It was truly a great success at Happy Tree!  I realized while watching everyone on their mats how beautiful it is to join the community together, and to raise the vibration of our MTL Kula.  I had goose bumps!  It was very inspiring to be a part of this event and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to teach a segment of it.  I spoke with someone after we finished, and she said that she had tears at one point from the awesome feeling that infused the studio… it touched many people to share this moment together, so thank you so much!  – Sonya Beaudoin (Yoga Teacher)

It was AWESOME. The synergy between teachers, studios and students was perfect. It’s like we are all still on a high from it. This is what yoga is. Synergy and community. – Erik Giasson (Yoga Teacher)

Yasmin, Thanks for last night. It was amazing, I applaud your vision!  – Jill Campbell (Yoga Teacher)

It was Unbelievable!  We had so much fun. There is so much buzz and everybody is talking about next year. Hopefully we’ll do it again.  – Melanie Richards (Yoga Teacher)

For 108 Sun Salutations (about 2hrs of flowing), we share the excitement, the poise, the reverence, the sweat, the dare, the placidity, the bravery, the warm fellowship. We come together & unite as a community of like-minded individuals. (…) During this flow of existentialism, we combine & extend our energies as one & each in their authenticity grace their surroundings with this magical vibe of wellness. Imagine the whole world doing this!   – Shélia Bessette (Yoga Teacher)

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My sincere gratitude to the hosting studios, the yoga teachers, participants, musicians and supporters:

May this movement continue…   Happy Earth Day!

How to do 108 Sun Salutations

April 18th is the 108th day of the year.  It is significant for me because three years ago on this day, I set out to do 108 sun salutations for 108 consecutive days*. It was such a beautiful journey, the details of which I chronicled (read more).

Often I did my yoga malas (108 sun salutations) alone, but occasionally, I invited others to practice with me. Learning different variations of surya namaskar from yoga teachers of diverse backgrounds and traditions was a highlight of my 108×108 project. These community practices were so powerful and inspiring that every year since, I bring people together to do 108 sun salutations. The theme is always Cultivating Community (Kula).  Contact us for details about the upcoming Day 108 yoga mala practice!

Tips on how to do 108 Sun Salutations:

  1. Intention  This practice is a prayer in movement. Create an intention, dedication, or prayer for healing.
  2. Time  Best time for 108 Sun Salutations is early in the morning. (Sometime we practice at night, because it’s most convenient for studios. I hope that the community-spiritness of it will out weigh any ill effects of practicing late at night.)
  3. Sets  Divide the Yoga Mala in nine sets of 12 sun salutations. You can do something a little different in each set — change the variation of sun salutations, the focus, or the intention.
  4. Opening   Your first set should be like a warm up or opening series. Gradually increase your back bends — small locust, sphinx, baby cobra, cobra, upward dog on your knees, then full updog. Do two sun sals of each for set one.
  5. Holding   Hold downward dog for five breaths every six sun salutations and two breaths for every other.
  6. Counting   If you’re practicing with a friend, count out loud. You count even numbers and your friend counts odd or vice versa. In a group, each person counts a sun sal in turn. Alone, count in fours, twelves and nine sets of  twelves.
  7. Focus  It’s interesting to focus on different body part in each set. Example: Pay special attention to the placement and movements of your hands for 12 surya namaskar; then your shoulders, neck, head, heart/chest, spine, hips and thighs,  knees, and feet.
  8. Rests / Pauses  If you are feeling dizzy or ‘Vatic’, do a brief child’s pose with your forehead on the floor, between your cobra / up dog and downward dog. You can also rest in child’s pose for five breaths instead of downdog.
  9. Alignment & Breath  The movements are repetitive, so be sure you stay conscious of your alignement and breath in each pose. Create length in your spine at all times. Seek to liberate the space around the base of your neck — look forwards, back of neck lengthening, in cobra / updog as opposed to looking up. Engage the legs whenever and soften the backs of your knees. When lowering in chatarunga, keep shoulders at the same height as elbows and neck long. Breathe and enjoy.

PS   You don’t have to do all 108 Surya Namaskar. Factors of 108 like 27, 36 and 54 are also auspicious numbers!

*The number 108 is considered highly auspicious in many traditions.  We yogis practice 108 sun salutations on special occasions like the birthday of our teachers or New Year’s Day, or to raise money for a special cause.
(More about 108)

 

Related Articles

April 18 2010: Mission 108 x 108

Significance of 108

Best ever 108 practice with Cyndi Lauper

The end of my 108 x 108 practice

My Guinness World Record – story

 

 

 

Life of a yogini

Time’s flown by since my last post. Apart from my regular practice and teaching schedule, I’ve been especially busy and productive this winter. Some highlights:


YOGA BASICS DVD LAUNCH

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After months working in virtual isolation on my collection of yoga DVDs for beginners, it’s euphoric to finally celebrate their release! February was all about the Yoga Basics DVDs. The video triology came out January 2 and we had two huge parties to celebrate: Feb. 2 at  Lululemon Athletica Fairview in the West Island  and Feb. 13 at Lululemon Ste Catherine St downtown Montreal. There was a had a red carpet Mount-Royal Photobooth, plush gift bags, DJ Nkla, Ethereal Tribal belly dancers, live drumming by James Olmsted, raffle prizes and of course, a speech about passion and the meaning of yoga by yours truly. (see media coverage)

I am grateful to the event sponsors: Vega – my favourite whole food products to go; Yoga Jeans – world’s most comfortable jeans and made in Quebec; Rise Kombucha – fantastic fermented tea beverage; Juicy Lotus – best little veggie cafe in Montreal; Organic Traditions – the organic chocolate almonds are addictive; Vitamin & Sea – beautiful natural skin care line; David’s Tea – designer teas; Victoria Park – where I teach Barre and Yoga. (see my schedule)


ASTAP 2013 BEGINS

ASTAP_paulA.S.T.A.P. is my Advanced Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program, a 300 hour vinyasa yoga teacher training. This year, I am running the program with my longtime friend Jamie Lee, a fellow ashtanga teacher and fantastic visionary artist. Our group is fabulous. We are exactly half-men and half-women. This never happens. Yoga has, in recent years, been a mostly female activity. We began at the top of February. The schedule includes weekend workshops once a month  and one weekly practice session. (See their curriculum) I am encouraged and inspired by the diversity amongst our participants — retail owner, e-marketing master, financial planner, contractor, translator, yoga teacher and so on.


TORONTO TOUR

Fresh_yyA recent trip to Toronto convinced me that Montreal’s revival city is actually kinda cool. I loved running around town with friends dinning at great vegetarian restaurants and practicing with different instructors. Some notable TO destinations: Fresh  – my favourite is the ‘beach bowl’, sans sun-dried tomatoes; Live – a mostly raw resto with incredible desserts; The Drake Hotel – wicked decor and an amazing terrace; Ashtanga Yoga Centre Toronto – most popular Mysore program in Canada, because David Robson is lovely; Feel Good Guru – great little organic raw juicery;  Union Studio – I definitely recommend a Barre class with Christie Ness; And last but not least, the Art Gallery of Ontario – the model ship collection stands out most for me.

MARCHing on
I am currently on the train once again riding t to Toronto – currently on the train.  This time for the Yoga Conference & Show, where I am presenting three workshops: Immunity Flow Yoga; Yoga for the Ayurvedic Constitutions: Vata, Pitta & Kapha; Understanding a Balanced (Prakurti) vs Imbalanced (Vikurti) state.

All and all life is good!


SEE ME – FIND ME
Thur. Mar 21, 6:20am:
  I am on Breakfast Television Toronto – tune in!
Fri. Mar 22 :  I am interviewed on CTV TorontoSat. Mar 23, 10:30am : I am giving a demo class at the Toronto Conference Centre – see schedule.
Wed. Mar. 27 : The new RSVP Montreal Magazine comes out – look for my wellness section!
Thurs. Apr. 18 : 108th Day of the Year (and three year anniversary of my 108×108) – celebratory practice with me at le Studio de Yoga Wanderlust

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Chai recipes for Vata, Pitta, Kapha & kids

Given the season, here are some Chai recipes for Vata, Pita, Kapha & kids* too. Chai is medicinal and a great substitute for coffee or traditional hot chocolate and perfect for a wintery afternoon — think aprés-ski beverage! Mmmmm…

The word chai has a couple of meanings, which, in my opinion, are clearly related. In Hebrew, ‘chai’ means ‘life’. (It is also a symbol for the number 18, a factor of the auspicious number 108.) ‘Chai’ in many parts of the world, simply means ‘tea’. This warm and soothing beverage is usually made with spices, herbs and milk. In ayurvedic medicine, chai is considered a  rasayana, a remedy that lengthens lifespan. (‘Rasayana’ literally means ‘the path to [life’s] essence’.)

Here are some great chai recipes I share with my ayurvedic clients.
*See below, if you’re not sure how to choose which chai is for you.

2013-Jan26-yas-chai

Chai is perfect on a snowy afternoon.

Vata Chai
(for calming and warming)

  • 3 c filtered water
  • 4 green cardamom pods (crushed)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 whole star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • Optional: 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
    +
  • 1 c almond, rice or seed milk
  • Raw organic sugar or Sucanat

Kapha Chai
(for stimulating & circulation)

  • 3 c filtered water
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger or ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp whole cardamom pods (green or black)
  • ½ tsp whole cloves
  • 1 star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Optional:  ½ tsp black tea leaves
    +
  • 1 c almond milk or seed milk or soy milk;
  • Honey or stevia
Pitta Chai
(for soothing and relaxing – not too heating)
  • 3 c filtered water
  • 5 mini rose buds or 1 tsp rose petals
  • 1 tsp black cardamom seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel
  • ½ cinnamon stick or ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean stick or 1 tsp ground vanilla
  • Optional: 2 tbsp pure organic cocoa nibs or 1 tbsp cocoa powder
    +
  • 1 c almond milk or seed milk or ½ c coconut milk
  • Maple Syrup or Natural cane sugar

Kids Chai
(for a hot chocolate alternative, good night sleep)

  • 3 c filtered water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c almond or soy milk
  • Maple syrup or honey

Directions
1. In a large saucepan, boil water over high heat;
2. Add in spices / herbs, reduce heat and let simmer for ten minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let tea cool for a few minutes before stirring in milk and sweetener to taste.
4. Pour the chai through a strainer into cups or mugs and enjoy!

(Makes about four cups of chai.)

 

* What’s my dosha?
Vata, Pitta & Kapha are the three ayurvedic constitutions or doshas. Although we have all three constitutions within us, one tends to be more dominant and/or out of balance than the others. In ayurveda, we treat the imbalanced doshas, so here’s a little guide to help you choose which Chai recipe is for you.

 

Choose the Vata recipe, if you have some or all of these symptoms:
You are cold all the time;
• You have digestive issues like gas, bloating and/or constipation;
• You have restless or disturbed sleep;

Choose the Kapha recipe, if you have some or all of these symptoms:
• You feel lethargic and heavy;
• You have a slow metabolism;
• You tend to oversleep;

Choose the Pitta recipe, if you have some or all of these symptoms:
• You have redness in skin and often feel hot;
• You have heart burn or feel acidic;
• You tend to have soft or loose stool;

Read more

Yoga Teacher Training Grads Leaving the Nest

I feel like a proud Mama. After two wonderful, full-on years, the students of my Advanced Student Teacher Apprenticeship Program (ASTAP) graduated this week. Each and every one of these graduates are strong teachers with a good sense of self. Their dedication to yoga, to each other and to the community fills me with joy.

Training yoga teachers is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve been doing it since 2007 and with each group, I learn so much. In teaching, it is not my intention to create carbon copies of myself, but rather to inspire students to integrate ideas and make them their own.

 

INDEPENDANT STUDIES
My ashtanga vinyasa based program includes a 20-hour independent study on a style or an area of yoga that has not been covered. The students research, attend outside lectures or classes and then give a presentation to their peers. This year, the topics were fantastically diverse:

Yoga for Belly Dancers – Susan Synder (professional Belly Dancer)
Therapeutic Yoga for Back Injuries – Gisele Seto (Budokan teacher & new YTT in yoga therapy)
Yoga for Less Stress – Susan Methe (Speech therapist)
Corporate Yoga – Jasmine Goyer (Marketing & PR Specialist)
Traditional Asthanga Yoga – Emilie Brunet (Student & Vegan Chef)
Yoga for Heart Patients – Bruce Chase-Dunn (Contractor & middle-aged Skateboarder)
Yoga for Happiness with Art – Wendy Tillett (Artist)
Kids Yoga – Catherine Kraus (Teacher & mother of three)
Restorative Yoga – Jenn Herring (Osteopathy student)
Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle – Kristianne Brunet (Student & environmentalist)

 

ADVANCED YOGA
The ASTAP program not only trains students ‘How to teach’; it pushes them to develop a self-nourishing advanced yoga practice. (By ‘advanced’ I don’t mean one-arm handstands, but rather an intelligent practice that is based on their unique needs and intentions.) They learn how to modify the traditional ashtanga yoga sequence to their level of flexibility, strength and energy. This ultimately helps them further understand and adapt to the needs of their students.

 

EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
These graduates are not virgin teachers either. Within a few months, they began teaching ‘karma yoga’ community classes in pairs. This allowed them to work together and slowly build their confidence. The grads say that organizing and leading community yoga was one of their favourite aspects of their training.

 

A NEW BEGINNING
It’s a little bitter sweet to see these folks go. I have really enjoyed working with them. But alas, I am happy to know that my students are now teaching and inspiring others to lead healthier, balanced lives. It’s a new beginning!

My 2013 Teacher Training begins in January and will be co-led with the marvellous Jamie Lee, ashtanga yogi, kinesologist and visionary artist. The program will include more ayurveda, yoga nidra training and studies in sacred geometry.

For more information, visit the 2013 ASTAP site

The Yoga CD that started it all

This is the story of how I produced my first Yoga CD and its evolution from a self-recorded demo to the disc set released in major retailers Canada-wide on November 1.

 

POWER YOGA (2003)

It all started nine years ago in a radio booth in the basement of the RMIT communications building on the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Street in Melbourne. My year aboard studying journalism and video production at RMIT was coming to an end, as was my time teaching yoga in Australia. I decided to record a yoga practice for my Aussie students to remember me by. I specialized in sound recording, so I figured I could self-produce the guided audio practice, Dharma Mittra style.

I started by recording my instructions for one pose, editing the “ummms” and breath clicks, then, for timing, I played it back while practicing the pose next to the sound booth. As you can imagine, this took a while. When the recording was done, a friend helped me with graphics for the booklet and took pictures of me in each posture on St Kilda beach. I got ‘an investment’ of $800 from my then Aussie boyfriend and had 200 copies of the CDs made.

I called it “Power Yoga,” as this title seemed fitting at the time. I was fairly pleased with the end product and my students were thrilled to receive a copies.

 

CORE STRENGTH POWER YOGA (2005)

I returned to Montreal shortly after the CD was completed with plans to return to Melbourne as soon as I finished my last semester at Concordia University. But life intervened at just the right moment. In the year that I was away, North America went crazy over yoga and there was a strong demand for yoga teachers. I had no intention of making yoga my career, but my classes exploded and I was having so much fun. I decided to re-publish my Aussie yoga CD with new photos and with music.

Turned out, my initial auto-recording wasn’t professional quality (go figure), so I ended up re-recording the whole project with professional sound engineer Alain Paradis. We recorded my verbal instructions as I guided my friend and student Laur Fugère through practice. Laur is a professional singer and music director (formerly with Cirque de Soliel), so she also helped me enunciate and project.

My friend Ali, then a photography student, agreed to shoot all the photos for the new fold-out poster I was creating to go along with the new discs. We shot with film (yes, film, not digital…) on a hill in a graveyard, because we needed an open space with a well kept lawn.

The process was long and tedious, but things were coming together. For music, I contacted Rivertribe, an Australian band I used to watch perform in the Victoria Market in Melbourne. I loved their unique sounds which are both earthy and transcendental. They agreed to let me use their music in my project at rate I could afford.
The graphic design was done volunteer by another (very patient and generous) student of mine. I bartered private teaching for a discounted price on manufacturing. We produced 1000 copies and all of them needed to be hand assembled by my group of friends and family members. A great team effort. Renamed “Core Strength Power Yoga”, my CD launch party was in June 2005 at Lululemon Athletica. To this day, that event marked one of my proudest moments.

Over the years, I sold about 750 copies of this CD, mostly by word of mouth to my students and at a few small shops around town.

 

VINYASA FLOW: YOGA FOR BACK & CORE STRENGTH (2012)

This past spring, my yoga dvd distributor, eOne Music, asks me if I have anything I could release with them in the fall, as my brand doing well with their retailers. I immediately think my little yoga CD. It needed a bit of a facelift, so this summer, my photographer boyfriend Craig Bannerman retook all the photos in his studio, and the graphics were redone by my designers Karine and Mike. This time, we kept the recording as is, but gave it a new name: “Vinyasa Flow: Yoga for Back & Core Strength.”

I am so happy to share this CD with a new generation of yogis. It’s a beautiful project. Great music. Great practice. It helps motivate the novice student to practice at home, outside or while traveling. And to me, this project embodies who I really am: an artist in constant transformation who appreciates where she’s come from.

See the trailer & CD info

 

PS Get FREE SHIPPING on Vinyasa Flow: Yoga for Back & Core Strength CD set and Yasmin Yoga DVDs from Nov. 15 – Nov. 30!