Teaching a student who is new to yoga is not an easy task, and not for every teacher. For me, it’s a deeply embedded part of my teaching practise and easily the most rewarding demographic to work with. I take a lot of joy in showing students how to enter the world of yoga asanas in a safe and healthy way. I stress modifications that allow the body to be as anatomically correct as possible while still focusing the body’s energy.

In each class I teach that is targeted at beginner level students I notice the same common errors and misgivings that really hold students back from reaching the full potential packed into these introduction classes. So here’s a quick list of the ten most important things to know as a new student to my, or anyone’s, yoga class.

1. Everyone starts somewhere, and chances are there are people in the room starting at the exact same point you are.
One of the biggest fears of new students is that they are not good enough at yoga to come to a class…. Ummmmm…. Let me set you at ease for a second…. (Whispers) Intro classes are to introduce yoga to brand spankin’ new students. Trust me when I tell you that you are not alone and you will fit in just fine, especially because the vast majority of people in class have the exact same fear. You don’t need to be flexible (that’s what yoga is for), or strong (yeah, yoga’s for that too), you certainly do not have to have a fancy mat or super expensive yoga clothes nor do you need to be a certain shape, size , colour, age or gender (yoga’s pretty awesome like that). Just come with an open mind and you will do great.

2. People are not looking at you….. Well not really.
The hardest thing to get over is the fear of being judged and comparing yourself to those around you. In the beginning you will spend a lot of your time and energy in class focusing on what people around you are doing and trying to mimic them. Don’t. It’s a trap. Glancing over to make sure you’re on the right foot is something entirely different to pushing your body past it’s comfort zone because the girl three rows in front of you has her leg halfway up her back in dancer’s pose. You are here for you (I would hope). You have nothing to prove. No one is judging you, especially not the teacher, who is the only person you should be referring to anyway.

3. You MUST start in the intro class.
There’s a few reasons for this. First and foremost it is for your safety. The beginner or intro style classes are there to make sure you have a strong and solid understanding of the foundation techniques before you move on to harder classes that work at a much faster pace. It doesn’t matter if you’re a triathlete, gym rat, crossfit junkie who used to be a pro dancer, if you’ve never done yoga before you need to start from the beginning. From my stand point, I do all that I can to give intro students the tools they will need to enter the next level of classes comfortably and with the confidence to try harder postures. Without this background you are likely to get into a flow class (or power, which really people, don’t do until you can comfortably kill it in a flow class) and you will feel lost, discouraged and abandoned. Take the intro, gain everything you can and then move on. Though I must say I have regulars who have taken my intro to yoga class for years, so don’t feel like you have to ever move away from it if it is fitting your purpose.

4. Don’t bring any extra crap into the room with you.
Some studios might have a different policy on this, but everywhere I’ve taught feels the same, no extras. Just you, your mat, a water bottle and a towel if you need it. If your using a locker a little key is okay, but tuck it as close as you can to your mat. Leave your bag, key chains, lanyards and cell phones(!) in the locker rooms. There is nothing you need and it causes a huge tripping hazard for your teacher, not to mention it takes up valuable real estate in a busy class.

5. Bring normal water.
This is especially important for hot yoga. Don’t be tempted to put ice cubes in your water. Drinking super cold water is counterintuitive to warming the body (especially if you’re working on using ujjayi breath) and just makes the outside of your bottle weep causing a great big puddle on the floor. Try to avoid the temptation of fancy waters as well. Most of those add extra sugars which are unnecessary and sodium which is much more helpful after class, not during. Just plain old boring water is best.

6. Do not chat in the studio.
When you get to the building itself, lower your tone and choose a softer volume. When you enter the actual yoga room, please don’t chat. If you are at class with a friend it is best to hang out in the lobby before class starts to have a catch up. Before class people are looking to relax in contemplative silence. Most people come from very busy lives so these moments of silence are coveted and sought after. On that same note, if your mat has a Velcro strap, please undo it in the change room not the studio as it is WAY louder than you think it is (plus, see #4). After class many students choose to stay in a meditative state for a little longer and nothing is worse than the moment you say namaste having a conversation pop up in the back row. Just be mindful and respect those students around you.

7. Always look at the teacher’s mat for props.
Not all teachers do this (but they really should). Whenever I teach I will always put any props I intend on asking you to use on my mat. So as soon as you enter the room take a look to see if there are any blocks, straps etc and arm yourself with the same set. It’s also important to note that I encourage everyone to always grab a block, just in case. It doesn’t matter if you’re in an intro class or an advanced practice, a single block can make the difference between a tight, forced hamstring and a beautiful released pelvis.

8. Don’t leave.
Important! Especially in a hot class. If you feel you need to leave the room please make eye contact with your teacher and let them know you are okay (a simple thumbs up will do). I, by nature, am a worrier so believe me when I tell you I will be completely thrown off thinking about whether or not I should come and check on you until the moment you return. And the last thing you want while peeing is me popping my head in on you! That being said, there are very few reasons to leave the room during a yoga class. Pee before hand, make sure your water is full and do anything else you need to. If you get over heated in a hot class take child’s pose or lay in corpse pose first, if the feeling does not pass or gets worse wave your teacher down and let them know (when it comes to feeling faint in a hot class our first priority is to make sure you are okay so we will want to go with you for a moment or get another staff member to tend to the situation). Do plan to be there for the entire length of the class. If you know you can’t stay for duration of a class my suggestion is to not take that particular class that day, or make alternate arrangements so that you can stay. If your studio is more relaxed about leaving early, just make sure you let your teacher know before class even starts so that they can signal you when it would be an appropriate time to leave (often right before savasana). But keep in mind that skipping savasana to get to the showers first is NOT COOL.

9. Listen to your body.
Don’t be a hero, you’ll hate yourself tomorrow. Push only as hard as you can. This means maybe not bending your front leg quite as much in your warriors or dropping your knees in the flow throughs (or not taking them at all). I often remind my students that most postures have an easy version, a super hard version and about every version in between, even though to an outsider they all look exactly the same. The difficulty comes from how much effort you put in, so listen to your body if it’s telling you it’s getting tired. And when you do get tired, take a break. Drop down to child’s pose for as long as you need to in order to regain your breath, and then come back. Everyone takes child’s pose, in fact, the more seasoned you get in your yoga practice the more of often you will allow yourself to take it.

10. Don’t be afraid of me!
I want to answer your questions, help you in any way I can and be there for you however you need. I always encourage people to come talk to me after class yet very few students do. I won’t say all teachers, but I will say the vast majority of yoga teachers really truly want to help. This is our life’s work and we are so very passionate about what we do. Sharing our knowledge is why we teach, or at least why I do. You will never find me unwilling to stay late after class or annoyed that someone had an anatomy question (or a spiritual one, man I eat those ones up!). So take me up on the offer as I extend it on behalf of all yoga teachers, have no fear, we’re here for you.

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A new year is upon us, and as with most people, I am prompted to look back and reflect on the year that has passed. For me, 2013 represented a whole new beginning in life. A chapter that has changed my perspective dramatically and shifted my goals to match. Becoming a mother was much more than a simple addition to the family, it was a beautiful awakening to a slower paced and more simple life.

As I look back on this amazing year, a few important events stick out to me. The first, of course, being the birth of Charlotte. She has altered the way I view life. More specifically, the way I perceive time. I am more patient than I ever thought I could be. You see, each day I have the rare opportunity to watch someone discover, explore and experience things for the very first time. From watching how our shadows glisten against a snow bank to laughing as we play peek-a-boo for the thirtieth time in a row, my days are filled with such wonder that I choose to consider every moment precious. Because I cannot get this time back, so I best use it as wisely as possible.

With that shift in my perception came the second big event, or change I should say, I simply care a lot less about being “somebody”. I had this notion that in order to be successful in my field I had to be well known, have countless followers on various social media sites and be working towards pseudo-celebrity status. Well let me tell you! That just seems like a lot of effort and time to put towards my ego. Time better spent make sheet forts and funny faces in the mirror with my little ball of snuggles. When I really examined why I wanted these things it was because that’s how I had come to classify success. But what is success to me? What is my personal end game? I want to be well respected in my field. I want to be considered an expert at what I do. And though it may seem like it at first, the instagram gurus and teachers with tens of thousands of facebook fans are not necessarily more of an expert… they just have a great marketing team!

I also had the revelation to stop pursuing goals that are important to other people and not exactly important to me. It is sometimes hard to carve a place for yourself in an industry full of so many talented yoga teachers. And every now and again you get wrapped up in a conversation, drop an idea, and get the encouraging jeers from the people around you to make that your new life’s purpose. What… wait… how did that happen!?! Luckily I learned to forgive myself long ago for changing my mind, so a simple shift in focus is no big thing for this coming year.

The plan for the next 365 days? Focus and continue to grow in the direction that suits my purpose. Learn more, read more, do more. My focus is to be the best version of my true self, a mother, a wife and a yogi.

As far as my shift in career focus. I am choosing to spend more time on my knowledge and approach to helping my students and less time on pushing myself to be a “popular teacher”. I have already made the shift in my classes and it feels glorious. I am back to my roots again, teaching a more authentic version of yoga (to me anyways), and most importantly, I’m not apologizing for it. I am pushing my students away from their purely western comfort zones and infusing a little more tradition into their lives. It makes me feel the way I did when I first began my journey as a teacher… like I could actually instill some sort of inspiration and change to the world around me. If this makes me slightly less popular for the time being, I’m happy to bare that cross. I think in the long run the people who come to yoga for more of a connection than a work out will find their way to my classes. The universe always matches energy (you get what you give).

This year promises to be rather entertaining on all fronts and I am looking forward to embracing all that it has in store….. oh, and  I’m going to give this whole blog thing another go…. hopefully I can stay committed this time around.

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As a proud Lululemon ambassador I have the privilege of receiving new products to check out from time to time. Last week a care package came in the mail containing a new pair of Wunder Unders made with Full-On Luon, Lululemon’s fantastic new creation.

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For a full run down of why this fabric is new and different from regular Luon, check out their blog post
http://www.lululemon.com/community/blog/introducing-full-on-luon/?cid=FBfullonluonblog
The nitty gritty super basic outline of the differences? They are thicker and tighter but look the same.

What makes them great? In two words, the feel. Like I said, they are thicker and tighter. Why is this awesome you ask? With a little less stretch than current Luon, these Wunder Unders feel like they hold you more securely. I’ve practiced in them once and taught in them twice and must say they hold their shape perfectly. Like a second skin. Then there is the actually feel of them, it’s like cotton. So soft. The colour is a really rich black, making them seem even darker than the current Luon fabric.

There are a few draw backs (if you could call it that) I should mention. They are a little bit shorter than the traditional Wunder Under Pants. To give you reference, traditional WUP can pull over my heel to just about the back of my arch where as the new WUP using Full-On Luon fit nicely underneath my ankle bone (I’m 5’9 with a long inseam). So still long enough, but with no extras.
The only other thing is that the waist is a little bit tighter. This is to be expected as the fabric itself is a little more snug, but I just thought I would let you know. So if you can, pop into a store and try them on to make sure you’re picking up the best size for you.

All in all I’m really excited about the new fabric. It takes me back to the sweet days of thick Luon that made a lot of sense for teachers. High quality, super durable, and an amazing feel.

I love the direction that Lululmon is going. I’m not going to lie, there were a few years there that I didn’t find a whole lot that find my purpose, or my body. But over the past year or so, I’m back on the Lemon Train. Designs are making more sense for the activities that they were made for, but there are still fashion oriented pieces (which I love). They are owning the fact that there are certain clothes that are just made to look beautiful and not necessarily created for sweating in, and this change in perception is what I appreciate most about the Lululemon of late.

As the yoga culture becomes more diverse, so do the options for yoga related clothing. No longer does society automatically think of packed rooms filled with perfectly toned young women flowing through the Bikram series when they hear hot yoga. In the same respect, Lululemon is not the only choice anymore. But I’m a Lemon Head. Even with the ups and downs, I stick by them. Why? It’s actually not for the clothing. It’s because of the company and how truly amazing they are. They are dedicated to helping their employees reach personal goals. They reach out to the community, build a strong following and even help promote local teachers (like me) through their Ambassador program. They hire super positive, over achieving people that would bend over backwards to make your day happier (and if this is not your experience, say something. Go straight to the top by contacting the GEC at gec@lululemon.com because they care about you, how you feel and yes, even your yoga pants…. especially your yoga pants!)

So to close out, these pants rock and if you love Wunder Unders as much as I do, you should probably go get them. Seriously, just do it.

Who do you want to be?

Is that not the most daunting question on the face of the planet?! We have all been asked this question from a very young age. With each of life’s milestones our answer tends to change. When I was five I wanted to be a singer and at ten a veterinarian. By the time I was only 12 it was dancing that monopolized my mind. As time went by and the dream of dancing started to become a reality I thought about whether I would ever want to do anything else with my life. Since then, I have left the world of dancing my self and started teaching. A wonderful experience, but not the only part of my life now.

When I was 16 years old I discovered yoga. It helped me through injuries, both physical and emotional. It not only changed the way I looked at fitness, but at myself and my place in this world. Was my plan beginning to shift again? Ten years later and I’m still involved in dance, but the majority of my life revolves around my love of yoga. I’m not sure when I decided yoga was my dharma…. but it is.

I’m still slowly making the transition out of the dance world and into being fully engulfed in the yogi side of things. Each and everyday I become a little more of the latter, and thank the universe for it.

I’m comfortable changing my mind about my career pursuit for two very important reasons. The first being that I have a truly amazing husband that supports my pursuit of happiness. The second being that my mother has successfully changed her mind about her career a number of times.

Whether you are able to find your dharma at 18 or 68, there’s always time. Life changes, your priorities change, and yes, even your dharma can change. There is no harm or shame in starting over.

I’m so lucky to be a part of the yoga world. As I begin to step back into teaching yoga after having Charlotte (only a few classes a week) I remind myself that each day I need balance. To be the person I want to be, I need to have a strong identity as a yogi, a mom, a wife and a wonderer. Can’t wait.

Well after a few months off to have my beautiful baby girl, I’m back!

How have things changed since little Charlotte came along? I’m finding fewer hours in the day dedicated to housework and more and more of my time spent adoring this amazing little creature. Each day is something brand new. I’m learning just as much as she is and am so happy to have the opportunity to hang out with her all day.

A lot of things change when a baby comes along. I can not wait to explore all of those changes and how they affect the way I approach my life and my practice.

It seems that time has been flying by as of late. Days are suddenly weeks and weeks are magically turning into months. Life is getting busy in preparation for baby, and a lot of things have been placed on the back burner in favour of getting ready for our little one’s arrival.

Yesterday was one of those days where I had the opportunity to slow down a little bit and have a moment to breathe. Even though I had a busy day of meetings and classes, I felt like I accomplished a lot and made great headway.

One of the things I was thinking about today was authenticity. Being an ambassador for Lululemon, I have the wonderful opportunity to connect with the store, brand and it’s community. Yesterday I had a great coffee date with the manager and assistant manager of the store I represent, and the recent issue of luon quality came up. Whether you’ve heard or not, lululemon had a quality control problem. One batch of black luon that was used to make pants is slightly transparent… not a great problem to have. But like champs, lululemon recognized the issue, pulled all the pants off their shelves, and are informing the public as best they can to try to get them all new pairs of pants. I find this amazing. The transparency displayed by such a large company is refreshing. They are proud of their product and quality, and want to right the wrong.

This just made me think of what it means to be authentic. Lululemon demonstrated the authenticity of their brand, but how does that concept translate to me, as an individual? You sometimes hear it in the yoga community as a bit of a buzz word, but how do you actually stay authentic? I think the most important part is knowing who you are in the first place.

But if that’s the most important part, what happens when you’re not quite sure yet? Take me for example, I’m still figuring out who I am in regards to my relationships with the yoga and dance worlds. As I choose to slowly exit one and take on more of the other, the who I am drastically changes. Dance has been my identity for a very long time and as that changes, so does the way I define myself. I’m starting to identify more and more with the yoga side of my life, so with each passing day I find myself questioning how to communicate this change. Do I need to be one or the other in order to be a “true” representative of my personal brand? I don’t think so, at least not yet. Each day I evolve into a new version of me, and that’s particularity exciting and difficult at the same time. Only difficult because it requires me to continually reevaluate my focus. That’s hard.

As I start to think about my schedule for after I come back from my little baby break, I am forced to make choices about who I want to be over the next year. I’m still not sure, but I’m working on it and doing my very best to listen to my own needs rather than the voices around me. I think that if I can approach each day this way, it will help me stay authentic to who I choose to be, not to who the people around me perceive as my persona. Interesting….

Every now and again you need to take a step back and remember what you’re doing here. What are your dreams and goals? What makes you get excited, in that giddy loser smile across your face type of way?

I am flighty.

There, is said it! Well, maybe flighty isn’t the right word…. I change my mind a lot.

I have a hard time staying in one place for too long. So when I feel like my life is no longer moving forward in any aspect, I normally rid myself of that part of life no matter how tough. The problem is that I sometimes regret getting rid so quickly. So I’m trying to change the way I look at things. In order to keep myself happy, I must keep moving forward. In order to keep moving forward, I must have goals to work towards.

I set goals in January, and I think it might be time to have a little check in with how I’m doing.

1. Practice yoga everyday, even if I can only manage a few salutations or a long savassana
-I must admit, I’m not doing the best job at this. I try to blame being tired from growing a baby, but it’s simply a habit that I am not quite there with yet.

2. Meditate every day
– Ummm…. fail. I’ll try harder to suck less at this one!

3. Write something here, every day
– Well, everyday was an ambitious statement I guess, but I am at least getting here once a week or so.

4. Become more active in my local yoga community
– This one is coming. I am making the connections I need to burst into this goal!

5. Record and publish a meditation CD
– The wheels are in motion, stay tuned.

6. Read one new book every month (related to something educational)
– Everyone warned my about how hard this goal was, and they were all right! I haven’t finished my January book yet let alone a February or March book…. ugh… hard

7. Indulge in my new found love of design by sewing, building and painting things for our condo to my hearts content
– This I’ve been doing pretty good at. Looking up little crafts etc on Pintrest and really getting my house the way I envision it.

8. Be an active mom. Take baby to social settings, classes and play dates
– Baby’s not here yet, so I get a pass 🙂

9. Be a better friend. Accept invitations even if it’s not quite my scene, and make more of an effort to create plans.
– I can honestly say I’m doing a better job with this. Though it freaks some of my friends out.

10. Change for the better. Watch less tv, go for longer walks, paint, visit museums, see shows and continue to live the life that Greg and I have carved out for ourselves. One of culture, health and continual growth.
– It’s getting there, one step at a time!

How are you doing with your 2013 goals?

After months of planning, I was able to surprise Greg with a trip to Vegas. We love Vegas. I saved up money for a few months so Greg wouldn’t notice, booked everything secretly, even got Greg time off work. We had a whole weekend of things plans for his birthday starting with a dorky date night at the pottery painting place on Friday night, where I told him what the plan was. We went out for dinner and drinks with friends on Saturday (Greg’s actual birthday), and then flew out on Sunday.

We had a wonderful time. Just took it easy, went to a few exhibits, gambled and enjoyed ourselves. The last time away just the two of us. Our babymoon.

Life is about to change so much for the two of us. It’s exciting and frightening all at the same time. We are getting closer and closer, and with each passing day my nerves get a little more on edge. I think being nervous is a good and natural thing. I’ve never had a baby before, so not knowing what to expect is the only thing I can expect!

In the mean time I have been settling my nerves with creative baby projects. So far I’ve made her a crochet blanket, an adorable little minkie blanket, pillows for the rocking chair, the crib skirt and a new cover for the ottoman. The next project is the nursery curtains (which I’ve been putting off because it’s a larger endeavour). After that I’m planning to make burp cloths, a diaper pad and I even found a little pattern for baby shoes!!! (bless pintrest) Maybe it’s just busy work, but it makes me feel like I’m at least doing something proactive.

I think what I’m most nervous about is what happens after you come home. Seriously, you just come home with a teeny tiny little thing. And then what? That’s the scary part.

Just ten more weeks. I’m hoping to get everything in order and ready in the next four weeks just incase. We are both very organized people who like to pre-plan and have all our ducks in a rows, so I think that will make a lot of my nerves calmer.

I can’t wait for what the next little while will bring. So many new experiences coming. This will be an incredible new chapter in our lives. Can not wait.

Sometimes it’s nice to take some time out of your day to have a chat. To remind yourself that there are people in your life that are happy to listen and share.

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting down for a tea with a great friend of mine. I don’t get to see her nearly often enough, but the majority of my relationships are the same. My friends are wonderful and amazing people, that I barely ever get to see. This is my fault. I’m not the type of person that has friends that I see every few days, and am super close with. I used to have these, and somewhere along the way I was hurt a few too many times, and now my jaded past affects how I deal with the people in my life. In the past fews years I’ve ben yearning to change this.

Tea last night was lovely. To spend a few hours with a girlfriend chatting about the good, the bad and the ugly happening in our lives. It was refreshing, and comforting.

Making outside connections is important in order to stay grounded. People need people. People need to feel as though there are others that they can turn to, outside of their partner. Especially if you’re like me and not close with your family, there needs to be other relationships in your life.

So I’m trying harder to open myself up to being a better friend, even making new friends! It’s working so far, and I’m feeling more social over the past few months. I think it’s become a priority for me because I’m preparing to be a mother, and I feel like I’ll need a few life lines to keep me moving in the right direction.

Let yourself open back up. Even if time and time again you get hurt, it’s important to take the chance to open up again. Put yourself out there, take a chance, and grow.

A lovely piece

Back to the Sutra

Yesterday I was witness to such a beautifully sweet release during a one-on-one with a student.  

When I disclose that I am a yoga teacher, people often ask “What is so special about yoga?”  There are many answers.   They are meaningful, but generic.  For most teachers, I suspect, the answer is not a thought that is easily encapsulated by words.  It is a feeling, a deeper knowing, of the true and lasting change that yoga can incur in the life of an individual or group.  It is a magical miracle.  It is a seeing-is-believing type of knowing that only comes through witness to the shifts that occur.

Yesterday, only one lady showed up to my class.  Some people are unsure about taking yoga one-on-one, but this lady was excited.  So was I.  Before we began she asked many questions.  She is currently taking a yoga teacher training at…

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