Musings :: réflexions

May 2014
Leap of faith.

On Friday May 2nd, 2014, Sudha Carolyn Lundeed, a guest teacher from the Kripalu School
Restorative Yoga Teacher Training
of Ayurveda in Massachusetts, tried twice to cross the border into Canada from the USA to teach a 4-days Restorative Yoga Teacher Training at Prana Shanti in Ottawa. With the requisite paperwork in hand, she had no reason to believe she would be turned around due to the "foreign workers" political hot potato simmering in Canada.

I had been invited, together with Nancy Williams from Perth, to assist Sudha in teaching the session. Fifteen minutes before class began, Devinder Kaur, the owner of Prana Shanti, briefed us on the situation and invited us to consider options. Nancy and I opted to co-teach the session if Sudha could be "Skyped" in class. With the help of Chandler, who provided technical support, Sudha was successfully "beamed in".

The ingredients which made this teacher training possible included Devinder's open mind; Sudha's deeply personal experience of restorative yoga which allowed her to transcend the technical boundaries and let us experience her heart and soul; Chandler's ability to tweak and constantly improve the technology; the participants' willingness to  trust the process, each other, and to trust Nancy and I in our new role as Sudha's co-teachers.

It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust
(Bruce Springsteen)

May 2014
Yoga for Cyclists: 6 Poses in 6 Minutes.

When I started bicycle touring in 2003, I felt like the muscles of my legs, hips and back
Yoga Stretch in Lake Placid
forgot how to relax. As a result, I started stretching every 10 km or so to “rejuvenate” these major muscle groups.  Today, I practice a mindful stretching routine which allows me to ride longer distance while maintaining strength and flexibility. The routine can be completed in 6 minutes flat! The perfect spot is under a tree or along a fence anywhere “en route”.  Ideally, it should be repeated at appropriate intervals (e.g. at 60mts; 120mts; every other hour thereafter). Click here to access MY TOP 6 POSES.

August 2013
What you focus on grows.

A wish come true

Ottawa, August 2012, 14:00 PM. I am sitting at a picnic table in the park behind Sylvie Gouin's house, one of four yoginis entering week 3 of our Inspired Living Yoga Teacher Training journey. My colleagues and I just regrouped after walking in the park, observing the manifestations of Prakriti in nature. Sylvie joins us. Her opening question : "What are your plans for teaching yoga?"

As a singer in a classical choir, I am aware of the benefits of a regular yoga practice on my performance. Could yoga support singers and musicians? It is my turn to speak : "I would like to teach yoga at CAMMAC". CAMMAC is the Canadian Amateur Musicians facility nestled on Lake MacDonald in the Laurentians, south of Tremblant. I have been a participant in their summer programs since 2008.

One year later

CAMMAC, August 2013, 6:30 AM. I am walking down a path that leads to the
Yoga at 7:15 AM at CAMMAC
Gaby Studio, a turn of the century boathouse transformed into a music studio where I teach my yoga classes. A gentle breeze creates ripples on Lake MacDonald as the sun slowly lights up the mountains on the opposite shore. A few clouds linger on the lake, waiting for the heat of the sun to dissipate. I start humming, the notes seem to skip on the surface of the lake. Participants arrive and lay their mats on a beautiful wood floor: families with moms and dads; teenagers just getting our of bed; grand parents and every age group in between. The piano in the corner stands guard.

7:00 AM. All 20 of us stand on the deck, admiring the glistening mountain on the other shore, standing in Tadasana, breathing fully, rythmically, to the sound of the waves lapping the deck under our feet.

I have been given the opportunity to teach at CAMMAC for one week this summer. This opportunity to serve this community of musicians is a dream come true... and I am filled with gratitude.

Om Shanti

June 2013
Lord Shiva at CERN.

While in Europe in 2013, I toured the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva, CERN, which sits on the France-Switzerland border in Geneva. After a meal in the cafeteria made famous my Dan Brown’s novel “Angels and Demons”, I was startled by a large statue of Lord Shiva standing guard over the compound. Not a sight I was expecting in this scientific Mecca! As I approached the two-metre tall bronze statue, I could read the inscription:

“O Omnipresent, the embodiment of all virtues, the creator of this cosmic universe, the king of dancers, who dances the Ananda Tandava in the twilight, I salute thee.” (Source: verse No. 56, Sivanandalahari by Sri Adi Sankara). Presented by: The Department of Atomic Energy Government of India.

This encounter brought me to a standstill. I had just been to the facility where the Higgs boson – also referred to as the “God Particle” – was discovered in 2012. And here was Lord Shiva – also known as the incarnation of the Holy Spirit of the Hindu Trinity – who is referred to as the Creator/Destroyer. It was also fitting that Lord Shiva should be depicted dancing the Ananda Tandava described as the dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution in a place endeavouring to understand the beginning of the universe. 

To find out more, about the meaning of this gift to the scientific community, I recommend Aidan Randle-Conde’s “In the Shadow of Shiva”. 

Om Shanti

May 2013
Benefit-Concert a Success
The Choeur classique de l'Outaouais raised $12,000 for the Ottawa Heart Institute.

While singing for the 25th anniversary concert of the Choeur classique de l'Outaouais 2 years ago, chorister Benoit Richer collapsed and almost died of a split aorta while performing before an audience of 500 people.

Luckily, Dr Fraser Rubens of the Ottawa Heart Institute was singing as an invited soloist at that concert. Through his quick intervention and that of the Gatineau Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute, Benoit Richer’s life was saved. (click here for the full story).

I happened to run into Dr. Rubens 2 months after Benoit's life was saved and thanked him, on behalf of my Choir, for having saved the life of our colleague. During our conversation, we saw an opportunity for our two organizations to work in partnership to raise funds for the Ottawa Heart Institute.

Fast forward 2 years later: I have had the privilege of leading a team of kind and generous choristers to ensure the success of this benefit concert which reunited Benoit Richer and Dr Fraser Rubens on stage to sing a duet from Vivaldi's Magnificat. The benefit concert aptly titled "Magnificat" was a success and my Choir raised $12,000 for the Ottawa Heart Institute!

Singing brought us together; serving our community made us stronger.

Avril 2013
Yoga pré-concert

Le concert des 27 et 28 avril a été "Magnifique"! Le Choeur classique de l'Outaouais présentait le Magnificat à travers les âges... À la demande des choristes et de la directrice musicale, la préparation a inclus une courte séance de yoga avant de monter sur les gradins samedi et dimanche.

Debout, nous avons pris le temps d'activer la respiration abdominale et le système lymphatique. Ensuite, une séquence pour ouvrir la poitrine et le haut du dos, préparer les épaules et assouplir la nuque. Au programme, les 6 dimensions de la colonne vertébrale: légère extension arrière (chat-vache avec les mains sur les genoux), flexion avant, étirements latéraux et torsions, le tout au rythme d'une respiration bien contrôlée. Le temps d'établir notre intention pour notre performance et nous voilà dans un espace mental qui permet une concentration accrue pour notre performance.

Le dimanche, à l'entracte, après avoir été debouts 50 minutes, j'ai offert une séquence de revitalisation des jambes. Sans souliers, nous avons étiré nos orteils, les avons déposés un à un au sol, avons fait balancer notre poids sur l'avant puis l'arrière des pieds. En posture de la montagne puis du volcan, nous avons engagé les muscles des jambes puis les avons relâchés à quelques reprises. En posture de la chaise, nous avons pris conscience de nos mollets et du haut du dos. Nous avons créé de l'espace en étirant les bras vers le haut puis, avec le plongeon de l'ange, avons terminé notre course avec la poupée de chiffon qui permet un relâchement de la tension dans la nuque et la mâchoire, suivie du déroulement de la colonne une vertèbre à la fois. Le roulement des épaules a suivi.

Pour en savoir plus sur ces routines pré-concert, contactez-moi. Je serai ravie de vous enseigner les séquences individuellement ou en groupe.

March 2013
How does Yoga help reduce stress?

One question keeps popping in class these days: how does Yoga help manage stress? One simple answer: through breathing.
Could it be that simple? No need to contort our body into exotic postures? Well, conscious breathing takes a bit of practice. Right now, as you read these lines, your breath is controlled by the lower part of your brainstem which is also responsible for your heart rate. But unlike the heart beat, which only very advanced yogis voluntarily control, we can all control our breath.

When breathing is controlled by the brainstem, our environment impacts it directly. Breathing is accelerated by stressful situations, whether real or imagined! When we voluntarily take control of our breath, we signal our brain to relax. This includes connecting the inhale with the exhale and controlling the duration of the inhale and the exhale. This is one of the first lessons of Yoga: using our breath to connect our mind with our body.

While yoga postures (anasas) are usually the first things that come to mind when we begin practicing yoga, breathing (pranayama) is another key component of yoga. Breathing is our birth right. Controlling our breath is our built-in control mechanism to respond to stress and Yoga teaches us how to use it more deliberately.

December 2012

 My head is still filled with Handel's Hallelujah and the last notes from last night's Christmas Concert. My choir's performance this past week-end was outstanding and a 10-minute yoga sequence practiced immediately prior to going onstage was instrumental in supporting the 55 singers with their concentration. Heaven knows we needed good concentration to perform Bach's Motets!

My choir director gave me the opportunity to experiment with a short standing yoga sequence which included Mountain Pose, Volcano Pose, a chest opening sequence, tapping the lymphatic system, forward bend, shoulder rolls, belly breathing and establishing an intention for our performance. Most of my colleagues had never been introduced to yoga postures and with the instruction to "honour our body's intelligence" they set about creating space in their spine, filling the space with breath, letting go of "what no longer serves us", letting gravity open the back of their legs in Rag Doll and, with "soft eyes and a smile on our lips" they allowed the back of their throat to open up. We retained our focus as we made our way in silence up the stairs and onto the stage.

After Saturday night's concert - a 90 minute performance with a 15 minute break - we still felt energized and several colleagues mentioned the role the short yoga sequence had played in supporting their performance. We repeated the experience for Sunday's concert. After the last concert, our choir director attributed our level of concentration on stage to our yoga warm-up. Not bad for a 10-minute yoga sequence!

November 2012
One week after receiving my CYA RYT-200 hours, I taught 5 classes per week for 3 weeks. Here are some thoughts about my first steps into my new career.

1) Thanks to a "tried and true" Hatha Yoga sequence, developed and practiced daily since August, I was able to tweak it to fit the various class descriptions: Vinyasa Flow, Vinyasa Intermediate, Hip Opener, Introduction to Yoga and Gental Hatha Yoga Flow.

2) I used a number of references (websites, books, other yoga teachers) to help determine the asanas to be added to my sequence. My favourites: the Yoga Teacher's Toolbox by Joseph and Lilian LePage, Vital Yoga by Meta Chaya Hirschl, Moving Toward Balance by Rodney Yee and Nina Zolotow. Favourite Website: Yoga Journal.

3) I learned from questions raised by my students and by observing how they were entering the various poses. I ended up purchasing the Yoga Anatomy Coloring Book to get a better sense of the names and location of various bones and muscles and their interactions. I also learned lots about the lymphatic system in the process.

4) Before going to teach, I would replay the sequence physically and mentally as often as possible.

5) I learned about energy management. The first day, I taught 3 classes and I demonstrated the sequences each time. I realized that without proper integration at the end of each class (no Savasana for me...) and demonstrating postures only on one side, that I felt out of balance at the end of the day. In preparation for my second day, I read Megan Costello's post on " Energy Integrity for Yoga Teachers" and followed her recommendations before teaching my next two classes. It made a huge difference!

6) I arrived one hour ahead of time to clean the space, learn how to use the audio equipment, ground myself and get acquainted with the "business" side of yoga: running the computer program, using a scanning device for the first time, managing cash and credit card transactions, getting people to fill out waiver forms, etc... another side of yoga which I still have to master.

All in all, I am very grateful for having had this learning opportunity so early in my new career.