Lotus Flower Inspiration

All of us, children and adults, are beautiful flowers. Our eyelids are exactly like rose petals, especially when our eyes are closed. Our ears are like morning glories listening to the sound of birds. Our lips form a beautiful flower every time we smile. And our two hands are a lotus flower with five petals. The practice is to keep our “flowerness” alive and present, not just for our own benefit but for the happiness of everyone.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Since coming to Mount Madonna, my education on the finer things of all things yoga (think Ashtanga Yoga and its eight limbs — we’re not just talking asana) has multiplied beyond my wildest perceptions. My meditation and pranayama practice has lovingly developed to an almost daily tradition that allows for a deepening of clarity and vibration in my life. It’s indeed beautiful and awakening in its energetic magnitude. In our weekly classes, I have learned so much more about the art of yogic breathing, the ability to go inwards, the energetic properties of prana (life force & vitality) which flows through each of us, the chakras and so much more.

With learning more about the chakras, as they are associated with our pranayama meditations, the imagery of a lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera) comes up quite often. When we are taught about of the chakras, the lotus is visualised as seated on the crown (Sahasrara) in a subtle form of a thousand petaled lotus that opens upwards to receive divine cosmic energy. Also, it is typical for chakras to be depicted as either flower-like or wheel-like. I was truly curious about the symbolism of this flower. And so began my research. According to Wikipedia.org, in Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire, and is a symbol of wisdom and purity. According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk, and lotus flowers bloomed everywhere he stepped. The lotus flower grows from the bottom of streams and muddy ponds to rise above the water, opening when the sun rises and closing when the sun sets, sinking below the muddy water, resurfacing the next day, untouched and unsoiled.

From this interesting blog, the author states that the eight petals of the flower could be taken to signify the eight noble paths. The white coloured lotus stands for mental purity and spiritual perfection, the red for purity of heart, love and compassion, the blue for wisdom, and the pink lotus is often considered as the supreme lotus reserved for the most exalted deity. This behaviour of the flower is a metaphor for the mind … without spiritual knowledge, the mind withdraws its beauty and form; with sadhana, the mind blossoms with illumination. Overall, the lotus flower is an archetypal symbol of the evolutionary potential and sacred development of each human being, signifying purity of consciousness and the journey of transformation from ignorance to awakening. The ‘Enlightened Yogi’ lives like a lotus flower, being fully grounded in earth yet aspiring towards the divine.

In Sanskrit the word for lotus is padma पद्म. The lotus posture (Padmasana) takes its name from the position of the feet and legs, representing the petals of the lotus flower. This asana helps to open the hips, strengthen the back, and increases flexibility of the knees. Padmasana (Pronunciation: pad-mah-sa-na) is also used as a base for meditation, chanting, and pranayama as the pose creates a natural balance throughout the body / mind, facilitating relaxation, concentration and ultimately, meditation. I however beg to differ when sitting in lotus pose for any length of time. In doing full lotus for any length of time, my knees and hips both start to ache with raw pains shooting through my legs. Luckily, there are a few variations …

  1. Ardha padma-asana or half lotus posture (ardha means half) is where one foot is placed on top of the thigh and the other is placed under the opposite thigh (full Padmasana places both feet on the thighs). When I sit in this posture, I must periodically alternate my position so that I get an equal stretch in both knees, as it is a “two-sided pose”.
  2. When full or half lotus is not comfortably available to a person, one can practice baddha kona-asana (bound angle pose).

The Bikram Torture Chamber

For months, slaDE and I have been toying with the idea of going to an official hot studio Bikram class. We were lucky enough to experience a Bikram-style class without the heat, in Calgary at our local gym. But we had both yet to discover yoga in a sauna-like atmosphere, where one can barely breath and the sweat drips down your brow upon entering the room. Having the Rancho Bernardo Bikram studio just around the corner from our host in San Diego spurred us on to trying this yoga form. Bikram Sequence Bikrram Yoga (established by Bikram Choudhury) basically is an unorthodox Hatha-based yoga style that confines a large number of students in a room heated to a minimum of 105 degrees Fahrenheit performing a regimented and structured series of 26 asanas, which personally had me flip-flopping like a sweaty fish, questioning the integrity of the ‘yoga’ behind the practice’s name. Our 1.5 hour class was led by a sergeant-like instructor named Stefan. What made the class highly comical and slightly irritating was his accent and ‘teaching’ modus operandi. Stefan is Slovakian born … visualize, if you may, the rapid fire of a machine gun, on steroids, interspersed with English guttural sounds — so fast I could barely understand whether it was actually English that he spoke, or a new language with slang droppings inter-weaved between rat-a-tat breaths! Throughout the 90 minute Bikram spiel, Stefan stood completely still on a podium in a itty-bitty tightly hugging bikini, sweating buckets (wish I had that kind of metabolism and physique whilst rendered motionless). Not a single pose was demo-ed or adjusted. Truly, it felt highly advanced for any newbies, somewhat blasphemous and very un-yoga like, compared to our teaching style and methodology as taught in our Trinity Yoga training. But hey, that might be just me. Yoga in America has taken on new depths and meaning on this RV journey, thus far. And with just 1 class under my belt, I can positively say that I’m not a huge fan of Bikram or the teaching methodology which encourages pain thresholds to be pushed and crossed. But the heated yoga rocks my body and breath to new depths and heights of flexibility and stretch. Rock oN!

With all these new and unique styles of yoga popping up, I wonder what will be next on the menu selection for us. Perhaps Naked Yoga classes? Why not try Naked yogaFLIGHT??!!  Gives new meaning to letting it all hang out :).

so done!

2 months later with about 40 hours of blood sweat and effort, I have finally finished everything that I need for my official yoga certification to be a registered yoga instructor. How wicked is that! Now all I have to wait for is my papers to be marked and the official certificate to come my way. register with Yoga Alliance, and the world is then my yoga oyster. Yipppeee! RYT
Truly a weight off of my shoulders. It’s felt like a long slog, although I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning process. I was helped by many, inspired by those who love and care about me and totally supported by my husband, mentor and best friend. I am very thankful and grateful.

Busy as a Bee!

A busy bee I amI’ve been so GOOD at keeping my Project366 photos updated lately, but I’m finding that there just isn’t enough time for everything. SIGH 🙂
This weeks theme is a great one and I want to spend some time going through my photos to find those that best reveal this months / week’s theme. So you’ll have to wait a few days, sorry!

What pray tell has been keeping me a busy bee? Well last weekend I spent three lovely days studying Anusara yoga with the beautiful inspiring couple Martin and Jordan Kirk, laughing and learning through some incredible yogic breakthroughs, on my part. I felt so inspired within my own practice after just 3 days. It was a phenomenal educational experience, and I can’t thank them enough for their valuable time and intricate guidance.

Tomorrow is my full-on 3rd weekend of Aromatherapy Certification. I truly enjoy Blaine’s humour and style of instruction. However, I tend to get run a bit ragged with a full-time job and a crammed weekend of fascinating information action-packed with anatomy / chemistry / herbology / history tutelage. I give incredible kudos to my inspirational best friends Sandy and Lisa who are full-time working Moms going to school and with 5 children between them both! They are truly remarkable. And my workload indelibly pales in comparison ….
Life is grand! What an adventure 🙂

Tomorrow evening I’ll have the pleasure of spending a girl’s night out with my Niece, who happens to be in town from Vancouver, working at the Saddledome for a clothing designer. Should be a riot! And another full weekend.

Coming into alignment, coming into breath

alignmentHaving put my back out on Friday, I surely didn’t feel like particpating in Ally’s tremendously challenging and amazing classes. However, I did feel that attending her class would be an awesome opportunity to actually assist, in both adjustments of alignment and in facilitating proper technique demonstrations. In truth, a student will be my biggest teacher! I still feel so new and inexperienced in the realm of teaching …. and the yoga class substantiated the intimidation I felt just a few short months ago in taking the Trinity Yoga training. Trinity eloquently states: “Adjustments or enhancements assist students to move into deeper places, allowing them to surrender and experience the asana in its truth – effortless.” As a Teacher, I am constantly striving to cre8te a comfortable space of exploration for my yoga students within their own practice. I know that from my experience, especially when first starting yoga, I felt uncomfortable and uncertain in my movement and alignment, hesitant and unsure as to what was ‘proper’ and complete. What I didn’t quite get at the time was that the asanas returned to the breath and to the listening of my own body cues. That has come (and continues to reveal itself) with time.

yoga girlThe general principles / guidelines / rules of yoga technique and alignment, as stated in my educational manual from the training, are:

  • Stack the joints.
  • Engage the foundation / connect to the earth
  • Thighbones back / upper arm bones back
    ( Roll the shoulders up, back and then shoulder blades soften down the back as the upper arm bones draw back )
  • Sacrum / tail bone drops
  • Head floats back
    ( draw jaw back ‘into the drawer’; fill out into the back of the back of skull until neck is completely neutral / stacked — floating )

What a tremendous learning experience Ally’s class was …. and my journey has only begun! Both scary and exciting; a kaleidoscope of emotion continues to reveal itself from the experience.

Namaste …

Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga GirlJust settling back into the swing of things and the normalacy of life today. Slade and I completed an incredible and intense 60 hour, 6 day yoga teacher training course yesterday, through Trinity Yoga.. Our Level 1 — the first of 3. The yoga course was so fantastically interesting, very revealing about who I am, and what I want from yoga (initially it was just to deepen my yoga practice, rather than to become a teacher). In a nutshell, challenging — physically, mentally, emotionally and yogic-ly. The greatest task for me was in standing up and teaching a group of people through a completely unfamiliar yoga ‘template’.

To top it all off, biking started off each and every single morning of the 6 days with a blast of cold air sheathing me like a bubble gum wrapper — tight and uncomfortable. The roads were slick with ice, and heavy traffic made me uneasy in my navigation. The average temperature last week was -20 degrees Celsius. This coupled with the long 12 hour days has left me completely and utterly drained (and trained :)). Throughout the week, I found myself getting up at 5am to do my homework and study — when we would get home the night before, I only had enough energy to make food for the next day, read a bit (falling asleep) before beginning the literal cycle all over again. Initially I couldn’t wait for the 6 days to be over. The third day (also known as hump day) was my turning point — I completely lost any and all emotional control. When I tried to speak through poses in front of my peers, I would break down and weep … a combination of fear, anger, anxiety and denial. But it did get better. I wouldn’t say easier however. We met some amazing people through it all. The connections were strong and intense. The bonds unbreakable. As for continuing through to my 200 hours, the next course that I am interested in (slaDE also perhaps?) is in Nelson BC. I think if I can get some experience guiding students (my coworkers) through a 50 minute yoga practice during lunch time a few days a week in the New Year, I will determine then if I will continue on as an instructor …. I am thinking that this is a path that I would like to follow. Especially if it provides an extra income and skill for when we start travelling! However, it’s not about the destination, but rather, the journey and experiences along the way.

I am so glad that I went home the week before last for Uncle Ralph’s funeral. I can’t buy that time, and work can always wait. The time away was so incredible in that it gave me the opportunity to spend quality moments with my family and friends. Under difficult circumstances, indeed, and emotional (i.e. even more tiring and draining), but still so worthwhile coming home for, being there for my Dad and also the other family that needed me and whom I needed to be with.

feetEven with the last few weeks off, I don’t feel rested at the moment. With both weeks being super busy, I am only finding that sense of peace and quiet today. slaDE~ went snowboarding this morning (departing at 6am — completely nuts, considering how taxing this past week has been!). However, I just wanted to relax before starting a week of work again tomorrow. I am grateful that Slade went and pursued his own passion today, giving me the space to just breath. He’ll love the snowboarding experience this winter I am certain. I was gifted beautiful cross country skis (through freecycle!) and hope to use them this winter. No downhill for me though. My knees took a pounding that last winter and I am trying to be very good to my body, listening to all that ails me in the aches and pains department.