yoga

Fear Not

Fear Not

Fear, and its many declinations, is not a favoured topic, I know. 

Scrap that. 

Fear is, culturally speaking, one of our very favourite topics. Disguised in layers of judgemental slurs, bold red letters, makeup, photoshopping (funny how this could read photo-shopping), what-will-others-think?

How do I overcome and grow? Two things have helped me.

Bhuvaneshvari: Wisdom Goddess of the Cosmos

Bhuvaneshvari: Wisdom Goddess of the Cosmos

Of all ten MahaVidyas (Great Wisdom Goddesses), Bhuvaneshvari is the most closely tied to the element of Space. When you think of Space, you may see grand valleys or open skies as seen from the top of mountains. She is bigger than big, she holds it all and beyond. Yet, you can also find her in the infinitely small.

Books of 2015

I’m so excited to share my favourite books of 2015 with you! I’ve been hard at work on my new website (I hope you like it!), and have gotten behind on posts. Better later than never, as they say. 

As I compiled my list of favourite books for 2015, I realized that fiction has completely disappeared from my new line-up shelf. I was not expecting that! If you’re curious, check out the list of 2014

Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley

Every year I add one of David Frawley’s books to my reference shelf. In 2015, his work on the ten Mahavidyas swept me off my feet. I keep going back to it over and over. I love how detailed and concise his compilations are. Here, he covers the whole range, from mantras to yantras. Now, if he could fulfill his wish for a whole book on Tripura Sundari… 

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

You may have come across Amanda’s amazing TEDtalk, or you may know her from her punk rock music, or via her prolific husband, writer Neil Gaiman. Her talk rocked my world, and so did her book. It’s hard enough to ask, but it may be harder still to receive. If 2015 has given me one lesson, it’s this one: for some of us, giving is a lot easier than receiving. There is vulnerability in receiving, but there is also grace, trust, and connection. Amanda Palmer does a great job at putting all of it in perspective by sharing her own stories of discomfort, refusal, misunderstandings. It felt like she was talking to me, directly. A great read!

We make countless choices every day whether to ask or to turn away from one another. Wondering whether it’s too much to ask the neighbour to feed the cat. The decision to turn away from a partner, to turn off the light instead of asking what’s wrong.

Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.

Those who ask without fear learn to say two things: with or without words, to those they are facing:

I deserve to ask

And

You are welcome to say no.

Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.
— Amanda Palmer

Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton

This book is more about falling in love with meditation than about learning to meditate. Sally Kempton has a powerful yet understated way of appealing to the receptive part of us waiting to be embraced and loved. Meditation is not a linear process, and it certainly is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This book provides a wide range of experiential techniques, as well as guidelines to stay on track. This is a wonderful read if you’re experiencing a falling-out with your practice. 

Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief by Dr. Herbert Benson

If I write that Dr. Benson’s research is uncovering what we always knew, you’ll think it’s useless. But that’s exactly what he’s doing, and he’s helping the modern homo scientificus that we have become make peace with the fact that we are first and foremost feeling and believing beings. Dr. Benson was a pioneer in the research on the relaxation response in the 70s, and he has since made great strides in demonstrating that relaxation can be used as an actual healing method. In Timeless Healing, he explores the relationship between healing and beliefs. I needed to read this book to understand that my beliefs have a direct impact on my wellbeing and on my ability to recover. It was about time!

Yoga of the Nine Emotions by Peter Marchand

This book came recommended by Julia (find her at thetalsam.com). I really didn’t know what to expect. Within the first few pages, I knew I’d learn something and that it wasn’t all a waste of time and resources. By the 100th page, I knew I’d never deal with my emotions and those of others the same way. Rasas, or emotions, are powerful teachers. Learning to experience them without judgement can actually free us from our own limitations. The author even explores sadhana, practices, that can help us engage deeply with our feelings in a systematic exploratory manner. Although Joy and Love rasas may seem like the ideal emotions, I’m completely in awe of Wonder right now. I remember the child within.

Teacher's Savasana

Ever wonder what teachers do during your savasana? Most of the time, they don’t do savasana. They meditate, or stretch quietly, or even do a headstand, as one of my Toronto fellow teachers once said.

I typically use that time to meditate and watch over students, as if watching over their sleep. During my first teacher training, in one of the most memorable sessions, we were teamed up in pairs of two and asked to lead each other through a full restorative practice. Our teacher warned that we might be tempted to do “something else” during a long-held pose. And she insisted we sit mindfully next to our student, as if to ward off bad spirits and vampires. Basically, she wanted us to practice the most fundamental pose of all: attention, presence. It’s one thing to pay attention to your own experience, it’s another to be present for someone else’s practice.

<strong>For me, the experience was one of well-wishing</strong>, not only for the yoginii in front of me, but for everyone, no matter who they were.

There is something very profound about well-wishing for others, as a practice. Yes, you can wish well to others, in the passing, but you can also sit and intentionally explore well-wishing in silence. (My advice would be to start with a person or pet for whom it is easy for you to feel positive, and slowly make your way to people who leave you indifferent, and finally to people who upset you. You’ll be surprised how much space it might create for you.)

Like everyone, I’m not perfect. Practicing well-wishing during savasana is a way for me to keep exploring my intentions and motivations as a teacher, and to stay connected to the real reason I started teaching in the first place: inspiring transformation and empowerment. This practice leaves me fulfilled after class, and it helps me tame the critics’ voice inside me, the one that lists everything I said and did “wrong” that day. Here’s another little yoga teacher dirty secret: we encourage and empower our students to go beyond their fears and judgments, yet we are oftentimes our own worst critics. And that’s part of our learning.

So today, I taught two classes. Two sweet long savasanas, where I sat upright and guarded the room against evil spirits (in a figurative way, of course). And when I arrived home, I felt fulfilled. And really tired.

Teachers need their savasana too, after all.

Balancing Stress

Dear Stress,

Here's a note to let you know I’m doing fine without you. Thank you for checking in a few times this week with our old friend Digestive Discomfort. I assure you that you did not have to trouble yourself. Would you please find something else to do? Go do yoga or something.

Sincerely,

Myriam

As I mentioned in my last post about stress, it’s important to reconsider the benefits and aches of your relationship to stress if you wish to part with him (yes, in my creative unconscious, stress is a Him. Don’t ask me to explain.)

What we refer to as stress is in fact a normal response from the sympathetic nervous system to perceived threats, whether it be a wild beast, a bad driver, an unforeseen event, or bills.

That response in itself wouldn’t be so bad for us personally if it weren’t for the resources it borrows from other systems in the body, especially from the parasympathetic nervous system. When you feel threatened, your sympathetic nervous system calls for all resources to be directed its way so it can prepare the body to fight or run by speeding up the heart beat, dilating the pupils, drying the mouth, constricting blood vessels. You get the picture.

The nervous system comprises sub-systems, two of which are important to understand to have a better relationship with stress. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the counterpart of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). You can think of them as two scales of a balance. When the SNS is activated the PNS loses some of its resources, and vice versa.

Ideally, you would want both sides of the balance to be roughly equal in their share of resources. The SNS controls the fight-or-flight responses. We are so well accustomed to this reaction that we barely notice it anymore. Unfortunately, we spend too much time on this side of the scale, and we forgo the necessary restorative and renewal phase of the process once the potential threat is done with.

This deprives the PNS of its resources on a regular basis. And this is where it hurts the most, because the PNS is associated to our digestive, reproductive, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Ergo, when you are always stressed-out, or “normal” as it is, you are seriously compromising your digestion (heartburn, constipation, bloating, anyone?), your capacity to have children, your heart rate (headaches, high blood pressure, anyone?), your body’s ability to protect itself from colds, flus, viruses.

Restorative Yoga aims to trigger the PNS response so it can take back its share of resources within the body. The result is a feeling of lightness, rejuvenation, and calm. After practicing Restorative Yoga, it is typical for practitioners to say that they feel clear-headed, rested, balanced, more comfortable, more open, more present.

Come and experience the wonders of Restorative Yoga with me. Check Myriam's schedule.