Monday, September 29, 2008

Yoga During Uncertainty

Maybe you know this already.

Saffron (Sandy) used to own, with her brother and sister-in-law Steve and Virginia Selemidis, the "Coach and Lantern" Pub in Ancaster. It was their creation during an economically challenging time period in the early 90's. There was a rental space in the building they owned that had to be filled, no one was making offers.

Saffron had the idea, suddenly as usual, to open a British Pub during this hard time. To say this was a risk is not to understand business very well. Most businesses fail within 5 years. Restaurants rarely make it 2 years. This was an incredible risk that the banks wouldn't even make direct eye contact with.

The restaurant was a smashing success. There were lines up and down the sidewalk.


Well, the three of them were a talented business team, able to work very well together. They learned how to use each of their strengths and minimize each of the weaknesses.

They also had made a move that proved to be very beneficial from a business standpoint that they hadn't realized.
What do people like to do when times get really tough, and when the future looks dicey? If you guessed drink beer, wine, or liquor in excess you win the prize.

During times of uncertainty it is much easier to sell people alcohol as a quick fix that dulls the senses and makes it easy to forget the worries of the day, if only for a few hours.

After years in this business, Saffron saw some of the lowest sides of people. It really shook her trust of the goodness of people. She saw the dark side all to often.

She didn't want it anymore. There had to be a better way to be a part of the community. It was successful, there was money and respect from people but the dark side left such a mark. She wanted to leave a mark of beauty, respect, and love. This is where she turned to Yoga.

Yoga comes at uncertainty from a different angle.

As things start to get uncertain many of us will be tempted to dull the senses. To close up from the pain. Yoga does not teach us to ignore or hide from fear or pain. It teaches us to be sensitive to it and look at the best ways to work with it, around it or through it if we have to. Maybe there isn't even anything there at all, or at least not the monster we thought it was.

As uncertainty sneaks in to your life how do you choose to respond?

Do you take care of the things that matter most? Yourself, your family, and your community?
The Daily Practice of 7 minutes of Yoga brings you back to yourself where the heart of Yoga really resides.

Take this time to reclaim your life, even in uncertainty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

America's Next Top Model

I used to be a TV junky.

I would watch whatever was on TV when I was home. Most often it was reruns of the Simpsons or other such Sitcoms, lots of nature programs, movies, and a few PBS shows (my particular favourite being Leo Buscaglia's lecture series).

Since getting married I have become unplugged. I thoroughly enjoy this fact. The freedom in time alone for other more worthy pursuits has been well worth it.

Every once in awhile, I do watch it when I am out visiting family. It sucks me right back in like a vortex. At least now I can reflect on things afterward instead of being hit by program after program.

A couple weeks ago I had a chance to watch America's Next Top Model with Tyra Banks. I try to keep an open mind about these things. If you haven't seen the show, a bunch of hopeful models go through the gauntlet to prove that they are worth bringing into the modeling world. I guess it would be like a sport tournament to decide the winner etc.

There is one major problem I have with the mentality, let's set aside the drastic things the women do to stay looking like that (eating cotton balls soaked in lemon juice, no calories feel full, brilliant), and that is the way that the winners are to be determined.

At the end of the show Tyra said something that bothers me still today. They had selected 14 of the 30 (my numbers may be off) that the show started with. She turned to the ones who had not been picked and said to them "Look at these women, they just wanted it more than you did".

This is the most idiotic thing I have heard come out of anybodies mouth.


No matter how hard they all try. No matter how beautiful, how poised, how unique, how much they sacrafice, how much they "want" it. There will always 14 on one side and 16 on the other side of the selection process. Even two complete equals in all respects will have some difference between them, and an arbitrary unimportant, impersonal, and ridiculous method will be used to select the "one".

If she had said. "I think, in my experience, that these women will sell more products" there would be no viewer ratings though would there but surely there is a ratings grabbing way of saying that? Am I that out of touch?

These are impressionable young women who have already, most likely, taken more than a slightly skewed approach to personal development.

This is the kind of thinking that truly bothers me. There is far too many things out there tearing people down for not being good enough. Hard work is good, absolutely. But Dylan Armstrong, the Canadian Olympic Athlete who came 4th by 1 cm, shows that hard work and discipline and everything associated with it must be the reward, if there is one. This is what needs reinforcing, the experience.

Find joy in what you do, regardless of the outcome.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Honesty as a policy?

In Yoga, there are the Yamas, or social ethics. The first being Ahimsa (non harming) the second being Satya (truthfullness).

One of the hardest things I can think of is the act of being totally honest with yourself.

I have to admit, I like to delude myself quite often.

It works both ways. Thinking I am better, smarter, or cooler than I really am. In other words forgetting that my sole purpose on the earth is to serve others.

But that is already written about regularly.

Strangely, it is much harder sometimes to be honest about where I are limiting myself. Where I believe I am incapable of something or bound to a label of myself.

Take for instance the label of procrastinator. It had become such a belief at times that I truly was that person, until I started to learn who I really was.

We create who we are each day. When we truly live in the present moment, now, this breath, we can't be a label. This moment hasn't happened yet. We have never been here before.

Take for instance the approach to an arm balance or deep thigh bending posture where we "know" we have weak arms or weak legs or something else like that (even believing we are strong because we always have been). When we approach a pose as we were and not as we are, we rob ourselves. We enter the posture with a predetermined outcome and we will work to satisfy that belief. Neither stretching ourselves to grow nor being compassionate with ourselves when we need nurturing.

What this means is that to get the most out of life we have to engage in what we are doing at that moment. See what is possible. Who are we really? If nothing had ever happened before in our life, what would be possible this moment?

It is called a Yoga practice because we get a chance to fracture these beliefs every time we come to the mat.

I practice as often as I can and reap the benefits in all other areas of my life.

Practice yourself and see.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mark Whitwell

This past weekend we had an excellent opportunity to study with Mark Whitwell at the Yoga Festival of Toronto.

We have had the good fortune of being able to study the ideas and concepts of Yoga with a variety of teachers from all walks of life and, quite literally, from all corners of the globe.

Some experiences are very informative, some bland, some completely distasteful.
The trick is to evaluate what is relevant to us and what is not.

This is a tricky situation. Sometimes the very work we need to do is the work we least want to do. Or for some of us, we are stern task masters that keep taking the joy out of learning and focus on the strict discipline.

Our workshop with Mark was a breath of fresh air. It felt as though we were given the gift of Yoga all over again.

Mark has some simple but profound concepts and principles that he put forth in his classes.

Things like " Do your Yoga, not just any popular American brand of Yoga, but your Yoga"

Or "Yoga is Strength / Receiving, the union of Masculine and Feminine"

Or "Yoga is your direct participation in life as Life"

He reminded us that Yoga is not about attaining some pose or some distant point or goal. It is about receiving the experience we have right now.

What we have been practicing and studying over the years, and what we have taught for that matter, continues to evolve. The time that we spent connecting with the beautiful power of our breath, while peeling away all the rest of the unnecessary baggage, has been one of the most joyful experiences.

What is absolutely fascinating is that we can never know exactly how this will affect or change our future. It makes life magical and wondrous.

Don't be afraid to experiment with your own experience of personal practice. Not one of us will ever fit into a system. The joy comes our of that direct experience.

"Do Your Yoga"

Thank you Mark!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Non Violence

We are taught in Yoga to observe Ahimsa or nonviolence. Great leaders of humanity from all times have also taught these things. Gandhi and Nonviolence are synonymous. So just what is it that they are talking about?

When practicing Ahimsa we first need to remember that this is a universal principle. Meaning that we must consider ourselves in our nonviolent behavior. We also must realize that absolutely perfect Ahimsa is not possible. Even a vegetarian must eat living food of some kind or may inadvertently cause another life form to expire. We can also be extremely hard on ourselves and others, expecting everything to change for the better in a moment. This will put us into a conflict at sometime or another. With our self, with someone we are close to, or even a stranger.

Gandhi said "We must be the change we want to see in the world". However he also didn't say that this had to happen overnight.

Every time I have had an insight surrounding my actions on the Yoga mat or in life there is a period right after where reflection is necessary. Take for example our training as teachers. When something was given to us, whether it was an adjustment or a change in thought pattern, it threw everything we had been investing in out the window. When I had Triangle Posture down, holding my toe and extending fully, I felt accomplished. When I was told that I was doing it wrong and that I was hurting my hip I was taken back. Disillusioned, not wanting to change something that I considered myself good at. At first I wanted to stop practicing it altogether. After all it would be embarrassing if I couldn't demonstrate the full postures to students when I am the teacher and a supposedly advanced practitioner. I wouldn't look perfect.

This internal conflict affects my outer world too. If I have these expectations of myself, what do others feel in my presence. The words that aren't spoken. Is it compassion for yourself?

Ultimately, we all can choose two ways to process this kind of input. I have learned to take the harder road that creates the growth rather than the easier road to decay. Sometimes I do complain and delay that choice though. I am, however, getting more graceful at it.

Finding the way to face myself and the world with more and more Ahimsa.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I don't know why we have to be committed to something for it to really make a difference in our life, I do know that until we make that leap of faith we cannot participate in the world as a complete human being.

How do we commit to something that will make our lives better?

Why is it so easy not to do the things that are good for us?

I have come to believe that we are a meaning making creature. It has to mean something for us to do it. It has to pull for us to make it through the inertia of inactivity. Frankly, the "because it's good for you" line doesn't have much pull. We need to dig deeper than that.

It is the "what for?" in our lives that really drives us. Money doesn't drive us. What we can use the money for is what drives us. In the same vane, good health doesn't drive us powerfully to commit. Why do we want to achieve good health? Most of us know or believe that to feel and be healthy is a great place to be. Unfortunately that still isn't enough.

Our suggestion to help step up your ability to commit is to consider making the beneficiary someone other than yourself. We all know of parents that will go to great lengths to create the good life for their kids only to fall ill in their later years from neglecting there own health.

We must start to realize that the better health we have, the better it will be for our kids because we will be active and vital in their life for a long time. The better it will be for our parents and siblings. The more we will be able to volunteer when we reach that point in our life. Having good health doesn't just affect us. It saves the earth and all the inhabitants because we will have the wherewithal to make a difference.

A famous business philosopher Jim Rohn says it well. "Take good care of the body, we need it to carry out the wishes of the mind and spirit"

Consider what you could do if you had the energy and stamina to make that difference you want to make.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yoga and Money

What does Yoga have to do with money?

Yoga isn't a single event that happens once or twice a week. It isn't even your daily practice. Yoga pervades every area of your life, you just aren't aware of it yet.

The most powerful moment I experienced in my personal practice was when I realized that it didn't end once I left the mat. In fact, the hardest part of Yoga happens the moment I leave the mat.

Money is a real world issue. No matter how much positive thinking you do, no matter how many poses you accomplish, you will still have to make the car payment or rent or phone bill. How can we possibly be happy and fully functioning people if this area is out of balance. Every class offers us a chance to make this relationship.

Worrying about money does nothing. You can worry all day and it doesn't change a thing. Believe me, I have tried to worry a bill paid but it hasn't happened yet.

Worry is an apprehension of things to come. Yoga teaches us to pay attention to the present moment. When I worry about money I no longer am living in the moment which is all that I truly have.

This can be a hard connection. Which is why we need to practice so much. I set aside some time each day where I will practice being in the moment, practice not looking into what benefit I will get or who I may impress. Coming to the mat is a chance to give up worry. We can always use perspective when we start to worry. In Yoga we come to the breathe. In money we come to the breathe?

You won't believe how much that can change your life once you really start to live it. Don't worry just breathe.

If we're breathing, we are alive.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Personal Responsibility

The Dalai Lama of Tibet speaks often about the theory of Universal Responsibility.

I had a hard time with it at first. Not that I don't agree, however I had spent so many years looking for "The Guru" or "The Answer" and was so disillusioned, that taking responsibility for the situation was just too hard and bitter a pill to swallow.

I was willing to give up my own power and give it to someone else freely. I would seek Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Doctors and all kinds of other health as well as spiritual solutions. Only to find that they didn't fix me. I spent years being frustrated by not having the solutions available to heal myself in 30 days or less.

Unable to practice some of the basic postures in Yoga was really starting to bother me. Why can't I do the poses I want to do? Why don't I have enough time to find the right teacher? Who is doing this to me? I was a victim and slave to my own thoughts.

I must admit, I don't learn this lesson easily, and quite often I have to revisit the learning. The big lesson here is, "Until I take full and final responsibility for the way my body, mind, and spirit respond to the challenges of the world, I will be giving up the most important part of my life." I may as well be donating my power (and money) to others while relinquishing any possible benefit that I could gain.

All the health care and spiritual guides can be helpful. They can in fact be life saving, but until we take up the reins of our life we will be a slave to whatever resource gives us that benefit.

The Dalai Lama's theory can be explored deeper. Once we can take full responsibility for ourselves, then we can start to pick up responsibility for our families, our communities, and ultimate the entire world. Imagine for a moment the entire world taking charge of their lives and making a difference. Owning the problems instead of seeking someone to blame, a villain to hunt. If I haven't lost you (I hope I haven't) you can see why this is such a profound theory.

You can learn more about this at the Foundation for Universal Responsibility website.

It is a hard concept to bear. The fact that we and we alone are mostly responsible for our current health, wealth, and happiness. Once you make it through that first tough part though, it is the most freeing feeling you can imagine.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why be Physical

How can a physical practice make a difference in the world?

One of the great problems in the world today is the incredible lack of consciousness. Most of us realize that we are not present very much of the time. We are thinking about our past or our future. Thinking about what we do or don't have. Caught up in the battle to get ahead or just keep afloat. We are dealing with family or customer or money issues. We feel that we haven't made any progress. Worry that we won't get out of our assorted traps. We get concerned that our bodies or bank accounts won't hold up as we age.

So much of our present moment time can be eaten up with this endless mind chatter that we really and truly miss out on what life actual is. Now.

There is a great Yogic saying that Baron Baptiste quotes quite often. "You are either now here or nowhere". The only difference is a little space.

So that leads us to the initial question. Although we can consider that we are not our actual physical body as in "I am not my thoughts, but the thinker of my thoughts". We are in this particular body presently. This body is a tool or vessel that we care for, perform actions with, and receive the consequences from those actions good or bad. The body is very useful for coming into present moment awareness.

Consider how we relate what we feel into our physiology. The way our gut can turn or clench when we feel torn or stressed, we can actually feel a heart ache in our chest. Many of us walk around clenching or tightening certain areas of the body without even realizing it. This all stems from our current levels of unconsciousness.

Time must be taken to reclaim our bodies and therefore leave a space open for reclaiming the present moment. A physical practice such as Yoga (though any physical movement can do this with correct intentions) causes challenges and sensations (sometimes even pain) to come up for us. These are the doors that are unlocked leaving us to choose whether or not to open them. Yoga is particularly good at finding our weaknesses.

Saffron and I talk privately often about what we want to come through in our classes. We deliberate on how much we want to focus on our demonstrations. What Saffron or I demonstrate is only intended as an inspiration, to help you see what is possible. We are not guru's or sages, we are guides pointing out pitfalls and helpful clearings, offering encouragement. You are, however, left responsible for absorbing this. We each have our own personal journey. Our own practice in presence. Our ego's die slow and painful deaths.

Ultimately it doesn't matter what we do as much as who we are while we do it. What is this human being?

If we could leave every class with only one thing, one message or sensation, it would be the ability of each student to truly feel their own powerful presence. To walk out of a class room and really see the world as it is right now.

This is what is needed in the world right now more than anything else.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Biggest Loser

Not that I am a fan of the show, or that I even know much about it.

But I do have some thoughts that I would like to share about the concept of this show and the others similar in form to it.

We are obsessed these days with our weight.

Somehow or other we believe that we need to embark on a pain filled journey to whip ourselves into shape so that we may fit the images we are bombarded with on TV and in other media forms.

We want to be a part of the clinic that sculpted whatshernames body after having a baby only 6 weeks ago.

And what about those that have fallen of the wagon. Oh boy, have they ever let themselves down.

I really believe that the whole concept of 30 - 60 day weight loss or fitness programs is damaging to us.
It takes years to ingrain healthy habits that we can still rely on when things are tough.

What if instead of a complete makeover that lasts one weekend, we really only looked at one thing each year that we could improve (even only slightly) and decided to make that fully a part of our lives before moving on?

We would have some wonderful golden years to look forward to wouldn't we?

Take time with yourself. And enjoy the process.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Death of your Yoga Goals

The death of the ego.

One of the hardest things about Yoga is the lack of competition. We have become accustomed to measuring ourselves up against a standard or another individual. I would be lying if I said it was easy for us to go to a Yoga class and not look at the other students there and compare our own abilities to them. Being teachers, it is very difficult to not be the best all the time.

Saffron has become much better at it then I have. Perhaps having been in competition for so many years as a professional dancer gave her the incentive to move on from it. Comparing or competing against others does have its merits , however, not in very many places.

Think of the workplace, colleagues competing against each other for rank or favour creates animosity and secrecy. The opposite that any successful company would choose to foster. Synergy and teamwork will always be more productive and profitable.

What about family. The media regularly reports of the family squabbles over who gets what and how much. One can only imagine the joy found at those family reunions.

So what does this have to do with our practice? Everything. Our regular practice will pit us against our internal enemies. The ones that tell us we are not good enough just as we are. That we have to be compared against someone or something weaker. The regular practice of Yoga will open up the real you and that is the biggest challenge we could every face. Know thyself. The only real accomplishment we can keep in our life is the mastery of ourselves. Comparing ourselves to someone or something external from us will lead to defeat sooner or later.

Do we have to accomplish all of the complex postures with ease? Of course not. Yoga is a practice. The whole purpose is to see who we can be during the process of challenge, the journey. It is where we spend our whole life anyway.


Friday, June 27, 2008

The Challenge of Change

Human nature almost inherently despises change. We constantly seek to find a level where we can just coast. Whether it is in our education, career, even our health, we believe that as long as we do all the hard work now we will be free and clear later.

We all can admit that when our normal daily routine is disrupted we tend to feel like the day just didn't flow right. When our life goals and plans don't pan out, we feel devastated.

Funny thing is, change is one of the few things you can absolutely count on. Change in seasons, in relationships, jobs, locations, and probably the hardest to take, change in the body. There is hope! Suffering only comes when we resist it, fight it, hold on to our past or future ideals. The tighter we hold on the more it hurts when we are ripped from our cozy quarters. Nothing is permanent, it is all changing.

Just notice the next time something is not going exactly as you expected it to. Pay attention to what you may be resisting, then, as the Zen Buddhist saying goes, "Float like a leaf on the river of life".


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Starting post of Daily Yoga Practice

We always seem to be excited about something, maybe we are just too excitable. We hope to have some fun with this new blog.

We want to help create the awareness of the great things that are possible with commitment to a daily practice.

In this blog we hope to outline some of the obstacles that can and do come up for us all. This isn't meant to be another monologue so speak up! Let your voices be heard. We have allowed this blog to accept anonymous comments so that you can speak openly.

We do choose to edit comments that feel are not appropriate for the purposes of this site, however we will explain the reasons for doing so.

Let's take care of ourselves.
Saffron and Byron Selorme