I’ve been feeling the need to write something all week about the current racial tensions in the U.S amidst the murder of George Floyd.
Because “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” -Helen Keller
” The Only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Racism is about human dignity.
It’s about life.
It’s about death.
It’s about my faith as a Christ follower.
And it’s absolutely about yoga.
Let me begin with transparency by saying that I come from a long line of staunchly proud southern Americans. I am half American. I am white. I am well educated and come from a European worldview. I occupy a place of privilege.
I’m going to be naked here for a moment in the hopes to break myself free from my own prejudices and hopefully to give many of you the same opportunity. Only things hidden in darkness have power. Once they come out into the light their power is gone.
When I first heard about the murder of George Floyd, my initial reaction was to think “it’s being overblown because he was black, the cops were probably acting in self defense even if that’s not what the video looks like etc.”
Please be gracious with me. I’m sharing this because darkness needs to be shown light so that the darkness no longer has power. I have this darkness in the corners of my being….and I suspect a lot folks out there do.
I knew this thinking was not a reflection of Jesus or of truth but my culture has been deeply ingrained in me. I had to stop and take my thoughts captive. I liken it to social justice infused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with a generous dash of Jesus and an undertone of the yogic philosophy of Ahimsa (non-harming).
I’m going to leave names out to respect privacy – My white American cousins who live in the deep south adopted a black baby just over 15 years ago. He just turned 16. I don’t know him super well cause we only see each other once every couple years at large family gatherings but I can tell you that he is kind, quiet, an incredible athlete, loves Jesus and is one good looking young man.
Well, my cousin shared that she prays every time he leaves the house that he will be safe because she lives in fear that he will be the victim of racism just because he is a young black man. And the murder of George Floyd really shook her up.
That’s when I realized in a very deep way inside my body that racism isn’t just a nuisance of a social problem. It’s devastating. And it’s real. Very real.
I know it sounds really bad because I’m a social worker and could write you a thesis by the end of the week on fancy terms like “interlocking structures of oppression” and describe wonderfully sounding ways to implement social justice. I have always said I am against racism and addressed it when I’ve heard it but I didn’t really get it in the deep fibres of my being until it became personal.
And I think a lot of us privileged folks are probably in the same situation as me. And I think it’s time we acknowledged it.
You see, Ahimsa – the yogic philosophy of non-harming – isn’t about saying weak pacificsm. It’s not about the absence of action (although sometimes it might be). Rather, it’s about using our power in a positive way to help prevent harm to others.
It’s not the white saviour rushing in to save the day cause that does way more harm than good.
It’s using the power we have in a way that supports our black and Aboriginal communities using their power.
And it all starts with learning about these communities. (I will write more about my experience with this in another post).
I am not an expert on racism. But I am going to share something that I have learned in my studies of trauma about the relationship between trauma and race..
Statistics typically show higher crime rates amongst marginalized groups of people – so as a culture we have this collective mindset – like it or not – that this is because there is something wrong with these groups of people.
Slavery is trauma.
Trauma is held in our bodies. Trauma alters the neural pathways in our brain. It deeply affects our nervous system.
Trauma is devastating to our body and our mind.
And it gets passed down through generations.
The effects don’t stop just because we don’t have plantations with black slaves.
It doesn’t stop just because we don’t have residential schools anymore.
Black slaves experienced severe trauma. Their mental health was affected. Their nervous system was affected. Not to mention their physical bodies.
Oppression is trauma. Captivity is trauma. Being beaten is trauma. Being called names is trauma. Being told you are worth less because you can’t sit at the front of the bus or share the same classroom as a white kid is trauma.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Trauma have been documented and research by countless trauma experts like Bessel Van der Kolk, Babette Rothschild, Judith Herman and Antonio Damasio.
And guess what……high risk behaviours like drug use, violence, crime are all symptoms of trauma.
So let’s start by acknowledging that white people inflicted severe trauma on black people and that accounts for much of the “social problems” we find in these communities today.
But let’s not stay there and berate ourselves about it because that just makes it all about us again.
Let’s bring it into the light – say it like it is.
And then learn.
I don’t have prescribed action steps other than this because I’m on this journey too.
I don’t remember when I first heard the word yoga, but I was interested in many things as a teenager, and when I got a subsidized membership to the West End YMCA in Toronto at 17, I decided to try it out. What I remember is sitting in a circle, being led by a Kundalini instructor clad all in white, with his head covered. I had tried Judo as well, but yoga was much more my speed! I appreciated that it was a practice for myself individually, without the pressure of evaluation or competition. After that first foray I attended various yoga classes on and off for another 18 years, and began to practice at home and on vacation. I even spent a weekend at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in New York state with a friend, which was a really incredible experience.
During those same years, I completed two university degrees, including a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Midwifery) from Ryerson University, and I gave birth to two children. During my first pregnancy I practiced yoga almost every day, and felt healthy and strong, despite the challenges of being a practicing Registered Midwife at that time. I added hypnobirthing and meditation to my yoga practice, and all three helped me prepare for and have a gentle, natural home waterbirth. In my subsequent pregnancy I practiced yoga again, but found it more challenging and practiced less frequently. I had another amazing home water birth, but I felt the delivery was lengthened by a baby in a poor position going into labour, which I attributed to my lack of yoga practice after about 35 weeks of pregnancy.
When I was on maternity leave for the second time, I decided to take the plunge and attempt Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga by Sarah. It was a big decision and certainly a challenge as I had a toddler and a 5-month old baby, but with the support of my partner I was able to successfully complete the training (with quite a few lunch-time trips to breastfeed!). A year later I began to teach Childbirth Preparation workshops and Prenatal Yoga at Yoga by Sarah, continuing at Lost’n’Found. Since I didn’t return to midwifery practice it’s a delight to share some of my knowledge and experience of pregnancy, birth and the early postpartum period with clients. I especially enjoy sharing things I wish I had known as a new mom! In every class I do my best to encourage clients to love themselves, connect with their babies, move intuitively, challenge themselves, respect their bodily limitations and manifest the birth of their dreams. We still do poses like warrior two and triangle, but these poses are connected to a larger purpose for mom and baby. Yoga can bring calm and energy to a stressful and tiring time of life (pregnant or otherwise), and I fell blessed I can share the practice with others. For me, any day when I can do yoga is a good day.
Written by: Daya Lye
With the rise of adaptive stress in today’s society, it is no wonder that conditions such as anxiety are increasing in incidence now more than ever before. As the speed of life itself fast tracks, we are up against all sorts of stressors. We are required to do more, achieve more, and simply be more than ever required before in history. Smart phones are within an arm’s reach at most times alerting us of emails, notifications, and instant news. As harmless as these stressors may seem, it is feeding into the problem we have today of trying to do too much too quickly, causing a rise in the hallmark of our age; anxiety.
Anxiety is defined by psychiatry as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. There are many different categories of anxiety disorders ranging from mild to severe, and can affect one’s ability to cope with day to day life. Historically, harmful situations triggering feelings of anxiety and therefore setting off the “fight or flight” response were necessary for survival. Humans were needing to fight off other predators or run from danger, so the response of the body increasing sensitivity to our surroundings and raising the heart rate was absolutely necessary. The difference today though is that these anxieties are stemming from financial worry, family life, stressful work, or the recent pandemic. Although these stressors are reasons for concern or worry, they are not typically life and death situations requiring a full “fight or flight” response from our bodies.
In Canada, it is estimated that the economic burden of mental illness is $51 billion per year, and once a Canadian reaches the age of 40, 1 in 2 have or have had a mental illness in the past. With daunting numbers like these, it is important to know that there are alternatives to the conventional medicines that can come with a whole array of frightening side effects. One of these alternatives is a magical amino acid found in green tea – something called L-Theanine!
L-Theanine is an amino acid that was first discovered in green tea by Japanese scientists in 1949. L-Theanine can be found in nature in green tea, black tea, as well as various types of mushrooms. It is also used today in supplement form due to its ability to effortlessly cross the blood brain barrier and work its magic on relaxing the central nervous system. L-Theanine is perfect for those suffering from anxiety due to its anxiolytic properties – reducing anxiety without acting as a sedative that would make you drowsy. It works to increase serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gammo-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain, which slows the over-firing of excited neurons therefore lessening feelings of stress and fear; reducing both physiological and psychological effects of anxiety.
In short, L-theanine can help to reduce feelings of anxiety, while simultaneously promoting a feeling of productive relaxation! My favorite way of getting a daily dose of L-theanine is to have a matcha latte or drinking an iced green tea (the real kind, sorry Nestea!) This way, you’re not only getting a healthy dose of L-theanine, but also benefiting from other beneficial nutrients and antioxidants! Supplements are also available, but as always ensure to be referred to a professional product by your Practitioner.
Written by: Quinn Ponton, Holistic Nutritionist CNP
Questions for Quinn? Reach out via email: email@example.com
Growing and carrying a baby is hard work! Especially so with common symptoms like low back pain, sciatica, sore and swollen feet and legs, and sleep disturbances, to name just a few. These challenges are very often combined with paid work, household responsibilities, and maybe a toddler or older children to care for. Pregnancy can also be a time of increased anxiety and stress, when moms-to-be might worry about the health of their baby, labour and birth, transition to parenting, relationship changes and financial challenges. So the last thing a pregnant person might then want to do is add something else to their plate! But doing the “work” of yoga can help so much to decrease or prevent common aches and pains of pregnancy, promote relaxation, aid sleep, build confidence for birth and parenting, and build a community with other expectant moms. It’s also fun and it feels good! On top of all of these benefits, the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (meaning you can talk but not sing) throughout pregnancy to improve physical and mental health and prevent pregnancy complications.
Different aspects of yoga practice are helpful for different pregnancy challenges, and of course each person will have their favourite parts and poses. Just spending time in an activity with the intention of self-care is beneficial in itself, and the added discussion of connecting and sharing that care and love with baby can help promote prenatal bonding. The mind-body awareness and relaxation techniques in yoga can help to decrease anxiety and stress, for instance by decreasing heart rate and the stress hormone cortisol. These techniques include things like increased body awareness, progressive muscle relaxation, various breathing practices (pranayama), and guided imagery, all of which can be used later to promote sleep, and provide comfort and relaxation in challenging times such as labour, and the everyday stresses of having a new baby. In my classes I offer a guided birth visualization, and centering and savasana practices specific to pregnancy, to encourage relaxation, bonding, and confidence for labour and birth.
The poses themselves, or asanas, can be so beneficial for reducing, and perhaps even preventing, many of the aches and pains of pregnancy. Now that I have been teaching prenatal yoga for more than two years, I’ve heard lots of feedback from clients who have said their low back pain and hip pain are decreased when they come to class, and that if they miss a class they feel more stiff and sore. For instance, just the simple poses of cat and cow (marjaryasana and bitilasana) and child’s pose (balasana), stretch the low back and alternately elongate the front and back of the spine, which go a long way to alleviate low back pain. An added bonus is that at term these poses also help keep the baby in an ideal position for labour, which may help shorten the length of a birth. Another great example is that a very tight piriformis muscle in the glut can cause or mimic sciatica, so stretches such as pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana) can alleviate or prevent this. More energetic poses, such as the warriors (virabhadrasana), not only build strength and concentration, but can increase the self confidence needed to bravely enter the new and life-changing journey that is giving birth.
Pregnancy specific yoga of course avoids poses that require lying on the belly, strenuous core strengtheners and other contraindicated poses, and is often a more gentle class suitable for beginner or intermediate practitioners. Many of the same poses used in a Hatha class are practiced, but often with additional props and modifications for increased comfort and safety, as well as new meanings and connections to the unique physical, mental and emotional experience of being pregnant. Some women may still find that certain poses will create discomfort – for instance inversions can exacerbate heartburn, and symphysis pubis or sacro-iliac joint pain can be triggered by lunges and other poses where the legs are used asymmetrically. Make an instructor aware so any uncomfortable poses can be modified or avoided. Many women feel too nauseated to participate in yoga in their first trimester, so just do what you can. Remember, too, that a pregnant body is changing rapidly, and the baby’s position in the uterus changes frequently, so a pose that worked for you one day, might not work another. If you listen carefully to and respect your body’s cues, and tune in to your baby, you are loving yourself and your baby with your yoga practice. Enjoy and practice on!
Written by: Daya Lye
I was asked to write a blog for the studio about what my hobbies are. I thought to myself, you want to know my hobbies?! Almost a month had past and I found myself doing everything and anything during quarantine, except write this blog. I believe it is safe to say that blogging is not a hobby of mine. I then received an e-mail from LNF’s Assistant Manager, Quinn, two weeks after the initial inquiry about how my blog is going. Lying in bed I sadly responded to her e-mail with, “nowhere. It has gone absolutely. nowhere.”
Feeling slightly regretful, I emerged from the bedroom fully dressed and ready to go to LNF to record some online yoga classes for you, our beloved community members. First things first, breakfast! While making breakfast for my husband of nearly nine months, I continued to think about my hobbies. It seems quarantine has made me forget basic things about myself. However, I did not feel too discouraged since my whole life and the entire world feels a bit out of practice.
I updated my husband on my assignment, smiled, and asked, “what are my hobbies?” He quick wittedly responded with, “snacks and naps, of course!!” We both started laughing uncontrollably. He wasn’t wrong because I do enjoy both of these things and I did of course just emerge from bed after totally mastering Savasana. Yet, I find these things to be basic needs rather than hobbies. Also, not very fair since we are in quarantine and snacks and naps help me to get through the day. Seriously.
I guess you can say, I dug a bit deeper within myself by reading an old resume of mine! My hobbies were listed as, Yoga, meditation, event planning, cooking, travelling, and knitting. Ah-ha! That’s them, my hobbies.
All of these things have been a large part of my life for quite some time. I started doing yoga at Brock University to help get me through my studies in Psychology. It’s a journey that has been ongoing since 2007. Some of you may know that I initially was a member of Yoga By Sarah, dating back to 2009. I love so very much both then and now, yoga and meditation. It changed my life and I am so grateful for this. I have been practicing daily every morning in my home, since quarantine and social distancing has begun. However, this does not compare to the several classes a day I am accustomed to teaching. I truly do miss each of your faces and souls.
Knitting is a self-taught skill that I began during the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, as a smoking replacement. Yes, I know, I used to smoke cigarettes. So, gross. Let’s chalk it up to I was a stressed-out university student, with little insight to self-care. I was nineteen after all. Being a retired competitive figure skater, I recall watching a variety of skating programs, while learning to cast on, cast off, knit, and pearl. I made a white scarf that I still have to this date. Since then, I knit anything and everything! And, I smoke nothing. Blankets, hats, mittens, Christmas ornaments, stuffed animals, pillow cases, hair bands are to name just a few.
Party planning and hosting gatherings is another thing I love to do. I absolutely love cooking large meals, baking goodies, decorating my home, and opening my doors to my most near and dear. My parties hold a reputation of having the best food, ambiance, music, and fun! I have held many themed parties and I cannot wait to plan my next big bash once quarantine and social distancing has been lifted. In fact, I declared this exact thing in a text message to my friends a few days prior to writing this blog. The message stated, “once this is over with I am having the biggest party yet.” My girlfriend’s responses read, “thank god, this is the best news of the day, and Yes! I cannot wait.”
Travelling is also another love of mine. I love exploring the world, submerging myself in other cultures, and visiting friends & family across the globe. I have been to many countries such as Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Panama, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and so on. Australia is my favourite since my brother and his children live there. And yes, I did practice yoga in each of these countries. My most memorable time was doing yoga while in South Korea. The teacher of course spoke Korean, it was hilarious since I couldn’t understand anything, but I did what I could on my mat. This memory still makes me giggle and smile to date.
Just as quarantine was put into place, I had a trip booked for my mother in March. The plan was a weekend getaway in Atlantic City for spa, fine dining, and an evening with Michael Bublé. Since, that was cancelled I have a wack-load of credits with various airlines and Ticketmaster. Another thing I look forward to rebooking with my Mom once this is over with.
I guess I always have known my hobbies, but so many of them have been directly affected by COVID-19. Listing the things I love to do and not being able to do them ache my heart quite a bit. But the silver lining in it is that, I have been spending more time with my husband, my dog, and my three cats. I also have been playing online games with my friends and family. Beyond that, I have been engaging in lots of artistic activities that I did as a child and teen. Without knowing it until writing it now, I had revisited my past hobbies. I have been knitting, painting, colouring, and drawing quite a bit. All of which have made me feel empowered, relaxed, and centered.
So, there it is, my hobbies. Thanks for reading and discovering little more about me.
With love and gratitude.
Angela Theuerle (pronounced thur-rell) lol.