I am so delighted to be living, working, playing and … finally! offering another in-person workshop on the unceded traditional homelands of the Ktuxana Peoples (known as Fernie) again this summer.
New, advanced, rusty …. this workshop is for anyone who wants to explore their practice through the lens of playful curiosity. Weaving movement, breath and philosophy into three days of yoga in the beautiful East Kootenays – Summer just got better!
INVESTMENT: $220. $50 non-refundable deposit to register. Remainder to be paid in full by July 1 (increments of choice welcome!)
REGISTRATION: Please email your name, how you found out about the workshop and any questions to: email@example.com to confirm your spot along with a $50 e-transfer to the same email. Alternate forms of payment are also welcome. Please email me to arrange payment if e-transfer isn’t your thing.
I wrote the post ‘A Polar Bear in the Jungle’ a long time ago and thought i had published it, but there it was in my drafts! Huh? I taught the workshop that prompted that post and was looking for it because i had the same feedback after teaching that workshop as i did with a class last night – which prompted today’s post. Since writing about the jungle over a year ago, i’ve gone down even more movement, breath and trauma-based trainings, and the post i was writing today (keep reading 😉 is simply a continuation of what’s always been. So, without further ado, here’s that original post from June, 2021:
A Polar Bear in the Jungle This week at work I commented that I love when something is so obvious(!) In a workshop along time ago, Judith Lasater said: “everything is subtle until it’s obvious” Life’s like that and sometimes the journey takes awhile, but then you turn a corner and … Bam! Obvious happens.
I’ve been on this yoga path for a long time. Long enough to have gone deep and come up gasping. Tread the calm and survive the turmoil. I’ve struggled in one way or another for most of the journey. Questioned. Tested. Volunteered. Worked. Went. Took. Taught. Assessed. Passed. Advanced. And trained. Through it all, I did what was required. What was expected. What so many before and after me had done, succeeded and thrived at. I dove in and tried my best. Truly. At times I loved it – especially the connection with some of the folks and experiences that only true immersion into something can offer.
I knew something wasn’t working for me. Earlier this year another obvious thing was pointed out to me: when your inner world doesn’t jive with your outer world, things come out sideways. My yoga life was like this for me – had been for a long time. The lack of jive for me was real.
I’ve been alluding that the ‘problem’ was the outer world. I’d been trying to articulate it, but couldn’t, because I knew that it wasn’t quite right. So when this story wound around the corner as it always does for me – everything became clearly…obvious.
In anticipation of a workshop that I’m teaching in the hometown of the yoga community i grew up in I’ve been considering the delivery of what I now have to offer. Mostly because of experience (life and training) outside of my yoga lineage, my teaching has evolved since the days when I attended workshops, taught classes, and trained and assessed teachers in that community. When I go back, it is important to me that I stay true to myself and be able to honour the deep roots of that community and all that it offered me, but my inner world of now was not jiving with my outer world of then and I knew my delivery was going to suffer until I could reconcile myself in some way. As I was vacuuming this morning, this is the story that wound its way into my periphery.
I have, for the most part, been a polar bear in the jungle. Somehow (that’s a therapy session or 2;) my iceberg drifted far from its home and I ended up in the jungle. A beautiful, colourful, lively environment where everything seemed to thrive. As i landed in the jungle, it’s not like I was a fish trying to set up shop in a tree – I had the ability to walk on land, eat what it offered, make my way to the water, appreciate all the Others who made their home and thrived there. It was a viable possibility that I could make a life in that jungle. Except I was too hot to move, hated being a vegetarian, couldn’t hunt because i stuck out, and no matter how much I tried to fit in and learn the language, I often felt alone in the jungle. Because of that, I started to blame the jungle for my situation. But – here’s the obvious part in case I have to point it out… the jungle can’t help being a jungle any more than I can help being a polar bear. It’s never been the jungle’s fault that it’s a jungle, or that I ended up in it. It’s not my fault that I’m not a scarlet macaw that can take flight. We both did our best to make it work and there were enough times of solace and joy to keep trying – but the jive was never really in sync for me. Sometimes (often?) it’s the friction that has the best lessons. And this lesson took me 20+ years to learn: The beautiful jungle will carry on – thrive, grow and evolve as it has. There’s no need to resent the jungle or the macaw that lives there. Or myself for being a polar bear.
I feel lighter and more clear than I ever have, because when I realized the friction I’ve been feeling was of my own making (sorry jungle) it simply dissolved. I’ve been trying to blame something fundamentally beautiful (me/the system) for how I feel. The time it took to get me to the obvious moment, makes the softening that much sweeter.
For the 1st time in a long time I really want to teach and as I root to myself those who want to play with me on the currents of curiosity and possibilities are appearing.
Thank you Jungle, for everything, it’s truly has been great. The friction was clouding my appreciation of all you have to offer, but now I can say I’m so looking forward to the visit! See you soon! 😘
A lot has happened in the year since i wrote that post. In addition to what i’ve explored in a yoga context, the recent circumstances of my life have been full of rich opportunities in which to practice the yoga of pivoting and adapting to weather storms of uncertainty. Because of all of that i’ve evolved, as has my practice, so how can what i offer not be Different?
The following is the post that i was writing today when i went searching for the polar bear. I’m so very grateful for this place that i’m at now, where curiosity trumps the need to be ‘right’….
I taught a Senior Teachers Showcase class for the Yoga Association of Alberta (YAA) last night. It’s a great series for a super organization that’s supported yoga and the training of teachers in Alberta for many years. One of the things i like about the organization is that it maintains high standards that are inclusive rather than requiring a high buy-in that creates exclusivity. (Which can be the case for traditional schools that recognize and hold validity within only the structure of their institutions.) The inclusive nature of the YAA exposes its members to many different forms and expressions of yoga so that each person can determine what fits them best, which is something i very much appreciate.
Even at that i still received comments after class, as i did with that workshop so long ago, saying that what i offer is ‘different’ (i get that a lot and i like it ;). Although it may look and feel ‘different’, it can be nothing other than yoga because pretty much that’s the only lens i live my life through, move through, observe through, play in, create in… So, when i ended class with the following poem I felt very much like i was (am) speaking to the beauty of where i see yoga heading today and the direction i want to go.
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right Flowers will never grow In the spring.
The place where we are right Is hard and trampled Like a yard.
But doubts and loves Dig up the world Like a mole, a plow. And a whisper will be heard in the place Where the ruined House once stood.
I have both doubts and big love for all things yoga (i think both are equally important). They’ve kept me coming back to the mat in a way that has dug up my world while at the same time creating a safe place for me to be ‘homeless’. I am so very glad to be hearing the whispers and following them to a ‘different’ way of being that thrives on curiosity, exploration, acceptance and patience. A way of being that values mistakes, wobbles, detours, and questions without answers. It’s the safest place for my nervous system to deal with whatever life (or the mat) brings. And that, my friends, brings me great joy – even in the tough times. As a dear teacher said to me not long ago: “Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
If you need a better handstand, i’m probably not your girl.
If you’re looking to pass your next assessment, don’t call me.
If you want to play in a space that makes room for a beautiful mess and a softness that says, “hey, nervous-system, you can stand down for the next little bit”, reach out. If i’m not the one that jives with you, maybe i can recommend someone who does.
One week from today i’ll be back in Canada after being away for just over 6 months in Costa Rica. My partner and i decided to come to the tropics to see if a different setting could offer us the chance to explore a less-stressful life than we had in Canada.
The plan is that if all is well in Canada, we’ll head back to Costa Rica after a brief visit to finish out the 2 years we’ve given ourselves to see how things work out. Lately i’ve been worried about coming back down because, frankly, i’m getting bored. In the beginning we were busy getting established and exploring different parts of the country – which didn’t lessen the stress, but kept us busy and working towards common goals. Then we had some health challenges that kept us either in bed or focussed on figuring out what to do to get out of bed. Not necessarily the fun we were hoping for but, again, it kept us busy and moving forward – or at least upright lol.
When my kids were little and they complained about being bored i would tell them that only boring people get bored. It was the best motivator i ever used – they both knew then and now how to self-entertain and motivate. We’ve landed in a remote part of Costa Rica that requires that ability and we’ve finally been in one place long enough to feel that sense of ‘sameness’ coming on. A call to the not-boring me is sounding!
I know that for some, this life of no obligations or schedules would be the ultimate freedom, but for many – by all reports – who leave Costa Rica or a place/life like this in under 2 years, it’s often because of the feeling of a lack of purpose. I can absolutely see how that’s a thing, because there’s a twinge of it creeping into my awareness. So yesterday i reminded myself of what’s worked for me in the past when this feeling has crept up. It’s the exact opposite of what works for my partner. We’ve been doing the ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ thing pretty well lately, so i’ve let myself start to depend on the partnership to fill me up, but that simply isn’t going to work. It’s not fair to either of us to ask for the relationship to do what i need to do for myself.
What works best for me is a schedule that keeps me on track on the days when something else doesn’t need to happen. I’m writing this because i want to, but also because i’ve put it in the schedule…Ha, go figure – tada! A sense of purpose leads to a sense of accomplishment which leads to me feeling better about myself which leads to me being a happier team player which leads to me being excited about coming back to Costa Rica.
It took me getting bored to turn to the tried and true strategies that i know work for me. I moved in with my mom for the last 6 months of her life so that my sister and i could be her full time caregivers. We were losing ourselves to the process and both of us were exhausted on all levels. One day my sister came into the house with a schedule that gave us both the time we needed away from the work to be the best team players we could be. Sometimes the schedule is about getting things done, that schedule made time for doing whatever we wanted. I’m forever grateful. It was the memory of that schedule that made me excited yesterday. It gave me hope that i will have that sense of purpose and accomplishment on this long stretch of sleepy beach that offers just that to anyone who’s motivated to do whatever it is they set their minds to.
For some (like my partner) a schedule seems like prison. Expecting him to follow one is not helpful! I know that what works for me doesn’t for everyone. But something does for everyone. Part of our life’s work, i think, is figuring that out. And being grateful for the remembering when we’ve forgotten.
Words… as i wrote the title for this entry that’s been so long in the making, the word Kind was intentional, but not in the way it struck me when i re-read it.
The kind of teacher i want to be is – Kind.
The making of a yoga teacher takes all sorts of differing paths. For me, it started as a 200hr Hatha training over 18 months. During that training, the majority of the teachers were either Iyengar, or Iyengar-influenced. The practicality of Iyengar yoga appealed to me. I’m about as far from an esoteric yoga teacher as you can get. A friend calls me pragmatic. As much as i don’t want to be that person, i simply am… as is Iyengar yoga. Sensible and practical. And so, over the next 18 years, i climbed the proverbial Iyengar ladder. 6 levels of assessments. 4 trips to India. Training teachers. Assessing candidates. It’s a journey unlike anything else i’ve ever done.
The problem with pragmatism is it can be a blinders-on way of being that has the potential to take a serious detour into permissive discipline. The kind of discipline that, for me, began to erode the connection to my inner voice, my intuition.
The unmaking of a yoga teacher also takes on all sorts of differing paths. For me it started in savasana. I was visiting a well-known therapeutic Iyengar centre for a week of training when the unrelenting voice in my head during every savasana said: “i don’t want to do this anymore”, “i don’t want to be here”. I had already begun to unravel myself from assessing as i didn’t really believe in the process, but i was also in the middle of formulating a teacher training program for the studio i was teaching at at the time. The easier, safer, expected route would have been to shut down that inner voice and simply continue on. Even though i struggled for some time (still am, truth be told) i knew that i could no longer over-ride the whisper that was getting louder with each savasana. I would not do what was expected – by everyone inside of the Institute of Iyengar yoga and by everyone who had sacrificed A LOT (family, time, finances) in my ongoing pursuit of being an Iyengar yoga teacher: Get over it, and get on with it. Keep going – everyone has doubts.
The unravelling that had already begun took on a journey of its own…
A move to a different city with no Iyengar studio where i took classes of other yoga disciplines and met fabulous, sincere teachers who were adept and masterful in their craft, not because of a grading system, but because they chose to deeply study what called to them. I began to appreciate my training and use it in a different way as i could go to any class and if not feel at home, at least not feel lost. I took a trauma-informed teacher training that had me look deeply at my privilege. I went down breath, spine, functional-range and pain rabbit holes. While i could afford to, i saw a counsellor who Kindly helped to unlocked some doors that helped me immensely.
In savasana today i had a flashback of the last time i was in India. It was in the evening at the end of a hot and muggy pranayama class taught by Geeta. People were fidgety. I was as well, but i knew not to move. There were bugs, i know because i clandestinely opened my eyes and was blowing softly at them so as not to draw attention to myself. Geeta finally announced to stop fidgeting and someone (who obviously didn’t know any better) said there were bugs. We were told that since the fans were going that could not be – we simply weren’t disciplined enough to do savasana properly. I had that flashback, because i moved to sweep a bug off of me during savasana today. Eventually i opened my eyes and simply watched the clouds and birds drift by. Maybe, according to some, it wasn’t proper, but it was mine and it was delightful.
The re-shaping of a yoga teacher is a continuous one. Truly an evolution for me – based on a new-found love for my practice. The physical part is more fun for me than it’s ever been. Mostly because i’ve given myself permission to let go of all of the ‘shoulds’ i’ve been taught. I’m not doing inversions at the moment. I do breath work, but no longer have a formal pranayama practice. I incorporate CARS and FRC into my physical practice. I show up and see what what happens. I read books/articles based more on science than on philosophy, and i listen to my inner voice – on and off the mat. Mostly, i give myself permission to fuck up, never mind not be perfect.
If you fidget in savasana. Or don’t know the proper sequence of things. If you skip a day (or 10). Give yourself a break. Be Kind to yourself -it does wonders. Find a teacher who knows their shit for sure. (One who knows their shit stinks too 😉 But most of all, find a teacher who is kind.
I want to be the Kind of teacher who makes your nervous system feel safe and leaves you wanting to do more – for yourself, not for me. It’s the Kind thing to do.
Standing on the very edge of something safe and solid while contemplating the next step can stir up many things… excitement, adrenaline, fear, anticipation.
Today as I stood on the edge of the peer, the metaphor it represented of my life right now was not lost on me.The butterflies in my stomach were quietly considering ‘what if?’Not what if I step off the edge, but what if I step into this life?Fully.
The move to this wonderland was prompted by many things. Things that cautioned me to take my time, see what comes, be patient, have no expectations, make no commitments…today though, it felt like I was ready to take that next step.Not to jump, but to drop anchor.Sometimes just as scary.
I am on the verge. Merriam-Webster.com: Definition of on the verge of : at the point when (something) is about to happen or is very likely to happen
My butterflies are fluttering a soft encouragement. ‘We like it here.’ They say.
Life is full of intentional irony… it also wasn’t lost on me that the stick I had been watching for (it’s different than looking) was waiting for me on my way back from the edge of the peer.I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t walked to the edge. Nor if I hadn’t turned back.
The butterflies settled then, knowing the wonders that brought me to this wonderland wouldn’t be forgotten or made less by choosing to drop anchor here.Even in the settling, great change comes.
I wrote about this phenomenon when I experienced it in Fernie. How significant it was when I recognized it: The saying of my name by a new person that has no agenda other than a willingness to spend some time with me.
Maria reached out and offered to take me on a ‘local’s’ hike. At some point near the top she said my name. ‘Sam’ Perhaps if you’ve never moved to a place that has little social connection, or anchors of an instant community (work, kids in school, family, etc), or come to a profound life experience that changes your close personal dynamics (divorce perhaps) this may seem insignificant.
I’ve often called Fernie a place of orphans. I think Squamish is a bit like that. Transience has its own pitfalls to be sure, but the desire to reach out and build community creates an environment that offers the experience of hearing your own name in a new and exciting way.
Today was my Naming Day. I didn’t know I was quietly waiting for it – but my heart certainly smiled in recognition of the name that carries it’s home.
There is a practice I do (Fr Joe calls it a ‘dis-possession’ prayer)
“You (insert job, partner, kids, illness, and finally……… name) are precious to me but not my life
I have a life to live and a destiny to meet that is separate from you
Thank you for coming into my life and
It’s not my name that I say goodby to, rather the ties that my ego binds to it. And that’s what makes hearing my name in this way so significant. It was untethered and recognized me without labels.
I just finished watching a clip the Genovese boys put out on Pinkbike.com. (Google it, I have the free WordPress and can’t link) I see posts on Instagram every day from my son, Dylan, Andrea, FAR and friends that blow me away. I feel the Kootenay mountains that nurture such passion pull at me when I witness the incredible feats these people accomplish. I just passed my Senior Intermedaite 1 Iyengar assessment. It is a big deal, to be sure – one that I am proud of because of all of the years of work I’ve put in to get this far, yet it pales in comparison to what I feel when I witness what I consider to be these young people’s yoga.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ has a great essay about vocations (google ‘Elizabeth Gilbert vocation’ it comes up 1 St thing). In it she compares the difference between hobby, job, career and vocation. What is a hobby for many people becomes a vocation for a few. Skiing, biking…yoga. A type of calling that cannot be denied. The kind of calling that spurs part time jobs, relocations, budgets and sometimes a lack of understanding at the sacrifice people are willing to make when their heart is being drawn.
When we see the Instagram photo or the video clip, we see the result of passion that can turn into vocation. It’s that simple. What we don’t see are the 10,000+ hours that were willingly put in because of the passion that make the shot what it is. These kids aren’t ‘lucky’. They practice and have ‘tapas’ (burning discipline) like I’ve never had. They hurt. They fail. They lose. They get frustrated. Yet, I imagine that they can’t imagine a life not doing what they love. Each in their own way.
And, I am speculating – but like recognizes like – I would say that what keeps them doing what they do, is the same thing that gets me on my mat. That connection to the moment that feels like magic. Where you are so consumed in what is happening that there is no place in your mind for the to-do list, the grevance, the pain, the wants, memories or plans. Josh has said the perfect run is the one when he’s not thinking. When I ski, it’s all I do…not my vocation! But when I’m on my mat and in my groove – I can say the same thing. I’m experiencing. I’m fully and completely aware of what’s happening in my body. I’m unaware of time passing and yet I am absolutely present. It’s what yoga means to me. It doesn’t require a mat, or skis, a bike or the Kootenay mountians (although they help!!!), it requires passion. And for each of us it’s different. Sometimes it pays the bills. Sometimes it is a bill. Sometimes it’s academics or a trade. A canvas, or an instrument. A Harley or a horse. Whatever it is, it’s the calling to a heart that stops time and thought. Challenges growth and demands competency. And, especially, creates connections that foster support when you’re willing to step into what is drawing you.
i didn’t ask permission. And I can’t imagine they’ll ever read this, but I hope they are ok with me posting some pics of what inspires my yoga. From right, clockwise: Josh, Paul, Dylan, Andrea
I’m sitting in the Schipol airport in Amsterdam as I write this blog. It is significant, as this is the final stop before going ‘home’. Edmonton isn’t home for me yet. I know now that Medicine Hat never was and that Fernie always will be. For now…
Home. Some people never leave it. For some people they feel at home wherever they are. For my son, home is where his friends are. For others, it’s where their family is, or where they grew up.
My heart is aching for the 3 hour drive from YYC down hwy 22. That drive that I’ve done solo, so many times now, that takes me home. To my small group of friends that hold my heart and make my home. Because, for me, comfort is in that place. Comfort that provides a safe place for me to be uncomfortable. And I am right now. Uncomfortable.
Pune becomes a bit of a home while we are there. The rickshaw drivers, maids, landlords and shopkeepers, little communities that we begin to care about. The students at the institute, the friends you make or reconnect with while you’re there all become family. The Insitute itself especially feels like home. It is familiar to the point we notice if something’s been moved, added or changed since the last trip. I wonder what happened to the coconut walla when he’s not on the street after class. I tip our rickshaw drivers a little extra, because I am worried, as they are that, that the foreign students may not be enough to support them too much longer. The building and community around it, the students and the teachers all feel like home to me. I was surprised how sad I was to leave this time. I’ve never been sad before, but that’s because I always knew I would be coming back. I don’t know that this time.
So, I relished the crazy rickshaw ride with Amin to the airport last night. Soaked in the craziness of India as I’ve come to know it, because there’s no better way to be ‘in it’ than an open air rickshaw navigating the masses on a Saturday night in Pune. I’ll take that with me in my heart as I make my new home in Edmonton. I’ll take it with me whenever I go back home to Fernie or Valemount.
You know when the last tumbler falls into place and you feel/hear the little ‘click’ of the lock that’s about to open? Or the proper arrangement of the puzzle piece as you place it in its right spot? There is this sense of ‘aha’ to the mystery of what’s been before you the whole time…
Prashant has been gathering us at the far corner of the practice hall to look at a magnificent tree in the courtyard just outside the window all week. He’s been using it as a metaphor, analogy, teaching tool. He’s been talking about rendering and seasoning in conjunction with it as well and I’ve been standing back letting it wash over me. Because I just cannot try to understand that man. Either he makes sense to you, or he doesn’t. For me, whether I understand or not changes with the day and the topic and how he ties the philosophy to the asana work. So my mode of operation in his class is to just let the commentary roll over and through me until the tumblers fall into place.
Which happened today… Click! i wasn’t getting the ‘seeaasson, seeaassonning, seeassonned (season – but say it like that and you’ll get the rhythm 🙂 that’s been a big theme for him the last few classes. It’s not far from the rendering idea, but deepens the lesson of it.
What finally made it click for me was his use of the imagery of seasoned wood used to make a door compared to unseasoned wood. In monsoon season, the unseasoned wood expands with the moisture and is difficult to close, in the dry season, there’s gaps that let bugs in because it shrinks. When seasoned wood is used, however, it always works properly because it is unaffected by the external forces. It is in a non-dual state! Ha! Tumble, tumble, Click!
And this we take back to the asana. The rendering effect the physical practice has on our consciousness, will over time, season us to a non-dual state if we do the work. Not to become disengaged or separated, but so that we work properly no matter what external forces, people, attitudes, climate we are exposed to.
India is filled with external forces that test how seasoned I am! The assault on the senses, the effort it takes to go anywhere or get anything done, the yoga we are expected to do… And then throw in the extra glitch, because there’s always an extra glitch in India! Illness, accidents, riots, floods, this year it’s a currency debacle that has everyone scrambling to try to get money – I’m going on my first scooter ride today to try to get some money today. Everyone that has been here before just went ‘Holy shit!’ Everyone else – you have no idea!! All these things prove that I’m still in the seeaassonniinnnnggg phase, because I am affected. Relatively I’ve got it easy here but I still don’t want to go to the bank to stand in the throng of people just to find out there’s ‘no money left, come back tomorrow’. I get tired waiting for my bill. I sneered at the lady who sat on my mat yesterday. Have i lost it? No. I’ve come a long ways since the first year when I stopped going to classes because I knew if I kept going I might never come back. I’ve matured since my second trip when the classes kicked my ass physically and I felt like a failure for most of the month. I’ve transformed since my 3rd trip which was the first after my separation and I was emotionally raw.
Each trip here, just like each time I step onto my mat, is a rendering. Sometimes the effect is a relatively swift awareness of acheivement – like doing an assisted drop back to Urdhva Dhanurasana today, sometimes it’s the slow steep that can only click the lock into place by trusting the process. Letting the effects of the work wash over and through me, render and season me, until…