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"People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit in the right hand corner"
I don't try to control a sunset.
I watch with awe as it unfolds."
Carl R Rogers
I've always loved this quote. Probably because I've always had a tendency to pick myself apart. Thinking that if I could just fix this, change that, tone this, then I'd finally feel comfortable and happy in my own skin. But a funny thing would happen when I'd actually make these changes. Whether it was trimming down, toning up or changing something about my appearance - I never felt any better about myself when the changes were made. That critical voice in my head would just focus itself on something different. A new problem I had to fix. It was this never ending cycle of not being happy with who I was.
This week we're building on the focus from week one - pressing into the floor. The focus for this week is actually engaging your legs when you practice. I noticed this year in my yoga practice that I have been cheating in a big way when it comes to leg engagement in my practice - especially in downward facing dog. Watch the video and think about actually engaging your legs in your practice this week. They're your biggest muscle group!
Quick question: does rushing ever actually help your cause? Let’s set aside those rare moments where hurrying is essential - like when you’re running through the airport to catch a flight. I’m talking about speeding through your to do list and just trying to get everything done as quickly as possible.
I’ll answer for you.
It definitely doesn’t.
As a yoga teacher, it’s a little funny to admit that I spend a lot of my time racing around. From place to place, class to class. One of my students joked that I should buy a company speed boat to get around faster. ‘Namaste’ then pedal to the metal. Some days that’s what life feels like up here.
Last week I had a few minutes to spare between classes. Instead of taking a break I decided to quickly tackle the chalkboard bubble letters for our posters - if you’ve ever had to write these you know it’s not an easy task. I scribbled away, eyeing the clock and then stepped back to admire my masterpiece. It said:
EVENTS AND WORKSOPS.
I'm introducing something new to PYC Muskoka this summer that the yoga nerd in me is quite excited about. I've put together a theme for every week of our summer up here. The theme isn't a pose or even a group of poses. It's an action, often a simple and subtle one, that I want you to think about while you practice. I'll be recording a video that briefly explains the theme and will be weaving it into our classes in the boathouse. Feel free to follow along from anywhere!
We're starting your summer off with your connection to the floor. The theme for this week is the power of pressing. In any pose that you're in, I want you to think about what part(s) of your body are touching the floor and to really intentionally press them down into your mat and then notice what that does to the rest of your body.
This is one of the 'ground rules' I set on the Friday night with participants of the PYC Muskoka Yoga Retreat. If you're smart, you'll realize that this is just my genius way of ensuring that I don't have to deal with any complaints as the person running the retreat. Ha - that was a joke. If something important is not the way it should be, participants have my full permission to break Rule #5. It's simply in place to make participants aware of just how easily they default to what's wrong. I was inspired to add it to the weekend after I saw this picture posted by my friend Natalie, the founder of Well&Tight, back in the winter.
I'll start by saying that I consider myself to be a pretty positive person. That wasn't always the case - those of you that were spared the emotional rollercoaster ride that was pre-yoga Jenn can consider yourselves lucky. Through practice, meditation and I'm not afraid to admit it: talking to a therapist (yoga isn't one stop shop for mental health, it's an important piece of the puzzle though), I've trained my brain to to focus on the good and opened my eyes to all the countless things I have to be grateful for. My life is pretty awesome, so when I saw Natalie's post I figured it would be a breeze. I already do that anyway, don't I?
I lost my contact lens at the yoga studio the other night.
This might not seem like the end of the world but for me, it's a bit of an issue. Without special hard contacts I can barely see - so if you've ever seen me in a yoga class that I'm not teaching and I don't smile or wave at you, I'm not avoiding you, promise! It fell somewhere as I was taking it out of it's case, which is pretty inconvenient in a busy yoga studio on a Monday night in-between classes. People everywhere. Imagine looking for a needle in a haystack. Only it's a really expensive custom made needle that you're supposed to use everyday for a year or two. Oops.
Two of the sweet girls working the desk that night were on their hands and knees scouring the floor with me. When I explained that it wasn't a daily but a pretty special custom made lens, one of them looked at me and asked how I was being so chill about it.
I explained that the contact was already missing so there's really no use in me getting upset about it. I obviously wasn't bouncing off the walls and cheering, but it really wouldn't help my cause of trying to find the missing contact if I let myself get worked up about it. Remember - this was right after I practiced - 'Zen Jenn' was out in full force.
I spent last weekend with 51 amazing students who attended the first PYC Muskoka Yoga Retreat of the season. A lot of our time in meditation and practice was spent bringing more awareness to what our mind is naturally drawn to and with that, deciding if we need to set the intention to focus on something else.
In theory, a boathouse yoga studio is filled with the perfect sounds to fuel your practice. Birds chirping. Water lapping. Wind rustling. It sounds pretty dreamy doesn't it?
In reality, there's lots of other sounds. Machinery helping the boys work hard at the marina. Boats pulling up for gas with music blasting through their speakers - sometimes it's Van other times it's Gangsta Rap. Kids shouting that they've finally found a frog. The pounding of a hammer fixing something at a cottage across the way.
You never really know what you're going to get on any given day.
It's a completely uncontrollable environment.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Do you ever wonder if you're making a difference?
I know I do. Maybe it's because I've been positively impacted by so many powerful people in my life so far. Maybe it's because I'm in a line of work where - if I do my job well - people can leave their time with me feeling better in some way than they did when they walked in. Maybe it's because I've always had a tendency to overanalyze life and why I'm here - anyone else with me?
Whatever it is, every so often I find myself questioning whether my words and my classes are having a positive influence on the people reading - that's you - and the students in my class. I think it's human nature to fall into the trap of thinking that our day-to-day actions don't matter all that much. After all, we're just one tiny person in this massive world full of people. Do we even have enough reach to make much of a difference?
I've done my best to keep the writing weekly in hopes that I can still 'teach' someone something while living abroad. It's a lot of me staring at a computer screen typing away instead of having students around to interact with. In a way, I lost touch with that teacher-student relationship and the impact that I can have on people through sharing the powerful practice of yoga.
I leave London tomorrow.
And like I've felt about a lot of things this year, I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I'm so excited and ready to hit the ground running with PYC Muskoka. On the other hand, I'm actually surprised at how sad I feel to be leaving here. I guess I should clarify, I'm not at all surprised by the fact that I'm sad to leave Mike, that's a given. But I'm sad to leave our little home. I'm not sure when it happened but somewhere along the way this year, I actually settled in. It took longer than I thought it would and there were moments that I wasn't sold on this whole London life but now I'm already excited to head back here in the fall.
I'm a big believer in pausing to reflect on big life experiences and how they've helped me grow. I can thank the overanalyzing, deeply emotional side of me for that. It feels like I blinked and this year abroad is over, but looking back, there are several key things I'm taking away that can be applied to anyone's life, whether you're living on the same street you've been in since you were born or are about to embark on a big life adventure.
There I was strolling down Regent Street after a class at Psycle London. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about commuting in this city, it’s that patience doesn't exist and walking down any crowded street is a little like survival of the fittest - may the most aggressive Londoner win.
But this morning I didn't have my game face on. I was in no rush and so distracted by my free smoothie for hitting the milestone of 25 rides that I almost didn't see him coming until I'd already been bumped. Actually more like body checked, in the arm so hard by a man in a very nice blue suit that my smoothie went flying. He was moving so fast that it took him a few strides to even turn around to see me crouched on the sidewalk collecting my cup and leaving the remnants of my smoothie reward splattered all over the street.
I had a serious moment of hesitation shortly after I published last weeks post, What Makes You Happy? I shared it with the world and then went to the kitchen to tackle the piled up dishes before going to bed. I was scrubbing away at a pan when I started overanalyzing this blog, my writing and what it is exactly that I'm trying to share with you.
I started worrying that I might be coming off as 'preachy' with these posts.
Come on, the girl who has never had a corporate job, has lived a really blessed life and hasn't even hit 30 (that's coming up fast ha) somehow thinks she knows how I should live my life. Cue the eye roll. I'm with you! According to Urban Dictionary "the cut and dry definition of preachy is a term used to describe a person who is more times than not, giving advice in an irritating...or overbearing way." You know, those people that try to shove their ideas down your throat.
My approach to happiness is a lot like cooking - and come to think of it, I'm a lot better at cooking up happiness than anything else I've tried. I know that there are several key ingredients that I need to whip some 'happy' into my life. When I get the recipe right, I feel great. When one of the ingredients is missing, I feel myself start to slip.
I'm not shy about the mental health struggles I've had in the past. I've shared plenty of times on this blog that for a long time - the first 20 years of my life to be exact - just 'being happy' was something that felt really hard for me.
I should probably clarify that when I talk about happiness in this post I don't mean the over the top kind where you're smiling ear-to-ear and super jazzed on life. That kind of joy is the absolute best when it feels natural but I don't think it's realistic to expect that all the time. I'm talking about the peace of feeling content with whatever life looks like right now - even as it unfolds around you and things inevitably don't go as planned.