I first came to yoga as a teenager. I saw it as a chance to “lean-out”, or escape from life. Escape from the conflict in my home, the worries of everyday life, and the constant striving to be closer to what society told me was perfect. After years of practicing yoga and mindfulness, I now have a deeper understanding that yoga provides an opportunity to gently lean in. Yoga and mindfulness help us to cultivate resilience to be able to live life, this unpredictable event we all get to participate in. The process looks different for each person, which I believe is part of the magic of the practice.
I believe that any opportunity to help others foster resilience is a gift. To me, this looks like teaching yoga, teaching workshops, connecting with others, and encouraging self-compassion.
Many people come to yoga for the physical benefits, and this ancient medicinal practice has a sneaky way of keeping people for mental benefits. Combining the breath, mindfulness, and movement has an amazing balancing effect.
If we think about our nervous systems, we can reflect on where we are at in our lives most of the time. Do we spend time stressed at work? At home? Do we take the time we need time to breathe and relax? We know that chronic stress can be detrimental to our health and well being. In yoga, we get an opportunity to practice balancing our nervous system to make it more resilient. This doesn’t mean being relaxed all the time, but it does mean being able to efficiently come back to a relaxed state after dealing with a stressor.
In yoga, we get into positions where our hearts beat faster, our muscles get hot, our legs shake, and the pose feels stressful (think chair pose), then we counter this with a pose that allows us to breathe slowly, the heart rate slows, and we feel relief (for me this is Uttanasana). These physical postures alone help us to practice resilience.
Additionally, yoga asanas encourage strength and range of motion. We build body awareness and we start to recognize how our bodies feel. We can more easily identify injury, pain, and prevent it from happening in the first place.
These are only a few of the benefits we see from yoga. One of my favorite things about yoga is the intentionality of it. We place our toes on the mat one by one, we root down, we rise up, we breathe with fluidity. I can recall times in my life that I perceived as extremely stressful. I could catch myself in almost any moment holding my breath. It took a vigorous practice of very intentional movement, breathing (and many sighs) to obtain the natural fluid breath. In this place of natural breathing, it is easier to lean in and focus on what is in front of us. It is easier to critically think. It is easier to look outside ourselves. It is easier to contribute to the lives of others, and I think this is what most of us are here to do.
Yoga is a very special practice and I am thrilled to share it with this community. The social connection and sea of support we can create by bringing people together to practice has a mighty influence on resilience. Social connection is essential in being resilient to trauma and stress, and we can see in our modern society how the limited social connection can be. When we make yoga accessible, we can bring people together from all different walks of life to practice resilience and self-compassion. We can come together to care for ourselves so that we can care for others. We can come together to reset. We can come together to be present. We can come together to step away from our egos, or a society that is telling us to be a certain way and we can be as we are together. This is powerful!
Mentors and education that have shaped me:
UVIC- BScN, RYT 200 hr Moksana Yoga, Public Health Nursing, learning CBT, Dr. Hari, Ganga, Bahdra and Devan Pallatheri, Ganga Trauma-sensitive yoga therapy, working with Lifetime Networks, working with Together Agaist Poverty Society, working with Island Sexual Health Society, Brief Action Planning- CCMI, CCHL- Health Leaders community, Brain on Yoga- Ajna, Paul Mohapel's neuroscience lectures, Natalie Rousseau, Sean Corne, Be More U and The Purpose Project, Robyn Unwin, Jodi and Guy LeMasurier, Work Experiences on Neurosciences unit at VGH, Anusara Yoga by Jon Boyd, Nicole McLellan, Toko Pa Turner, Rick Hansen, Gabor Mate, Russel Brand, Esther Perel, Ellen Mahoney, my soft-hearted mother, Ida Winter, Laura Macdonald, Miki Agrawal, Pema Chodron, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, my incredible sister, my best friend Lissa Moffatt and her family, Jo-Anne Mama Moffatt, and my beloved George Bovell.
Thank you for transforming me.