What is yoga?

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What is Yoga?

Classical yoga is an eight-step path towards understanding the self in relation to the universe. Patanjali was a sage who described a systematic approach to awareness of the self. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are notes written by his students and exemplify the intention to understand and harness the restless mind. Thus, the practice of yoga is a multi-step process that results in ultimate awareness of the self.

Is there a goal of yoga?

The intention of yoga practice is to find peace within. It’s a disciplined approach to knowing that true happiness comes from the self and that attachment to external forces is only a fleeting sensation of joy.

Finding this state of peace does not have an end point but rather is a lifetime’s worth of work. Yoga is the guide toward ease and flow. Flow state can be achieved momentarily from other activities – like surfers or artists who lose themselves in their work. That fleeting moment when performing a task and the mind becomes completely focused. There is no future or past, just here and now. It’s a loss of sense of time. This flow state is the goal of yoga. With practice, the flow state, the blissful awareness of now, the peacefulness of self, can become part of daily existence.

How do you do yoga?

Since yoga is a multi-faceted technique for peaceful existence, doing the practice extends to more than just being on a yoga mat. To do yoga is to adhere to a set of guidelines for coexisting with the world around you. Life is full of challenges, surprises, victories and moments of euphoria and sorrow. Doing yoga is allowing the moments to happen around you, but not reacting to their outcomes. Also, life includes possessions. Things, relationships, jobs, friends, experiences. All of these possessions contribute to a rich and fulfilled life, but their presence is temporary.

Doing yoga is allowing those things and experiences to gracefully come in and out of your life without allowing them to cause suffering. Pain from their loss is inevitable, but suffering due to that pain is optional. Doing yoga is peacefully accepting that everything is impermanent.

So what about the poses?

Yoga asana (poses) is the physical part of the practice. The poses stretch and strengthen the physical body. Practicing the poses of yoga is starting with the most obvious part of the self (the body) and gradually including the breath, the mind, the intellect and the spirit.

Practice each pose with the intention of finding stability. Blend movement with resistance to achieve balance. Upon “mastering” a yoga pose, you are controlling your body and instructing it to do something in particular. With that mastery and control, you move on to mastery of the breath, then the mind, the intellect and eventually the spirit. 

Psychologically, yoga poses are a paradigm for balance within and control of the mind. By doing yoga poses, you convince yourself to create certain shapes with your body; by manifesting this control over your physical self, you practice control and mastery over your emotional self.

It is the combination of physical and psychological control that makes yoga simultaneously powerful, appealing and intimidating. Yoga asana is the first manifestation of yoga for many students and the physical shapes are exciting, challenging and unfamiliar. Taiga teachers are trained to instruct the poses in a safe and accessible way while representing the power of the practice through discipline and patience.

We describe the poses in terms of their shape but remember that poses and the "ability" to do them is just a fraction of yoga. Since the poses are the most obvious part of the practice, it’s easy to misconstrue yoga as a physical feat. But in fact, yoga is an eight-step path towards finding bliss in actions and reactions to your circumstances.

Join Taiga teachers in any of our 16 classes a week and discover your yoga. Click here for the schedule!

Want to dive deeper into your practice? Sign up for Yoga Teacher Training in June and July 2019. You’ll spend 200 hours examining yoga’s history and practice and emerge as a Yoga Alliance-certified teacher. For registration details see: www.katecovello.com

 

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Teacher Feature: Danielle McPhail

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Name?

Danielle McPhail.

Hometown?

Ajax, Ontario.

When & where did you start practicing yoga?

I took my first Yoga class back in 2010.  It was in Vancouver, BC at the Semperviva Yoga studio on 4th street.  The class was a Hatha yoga class.  I remember falling in love with Yoga and the way that it made me feel from the moment that I stepped onto my mat that day. 

What initially brought you to yoga?

I became interested in Yoga as a way to manage stress and anxiety while I was a full-time student in graduate school.  Movement has always been healing to me.  I was a competitive dancer from the age of six to nineteen years old so physical activity with movement and flow feels more natural.  I had been teaching Pilates for a couple of years before moving to Vancouver, but I was looking for more.  Making the decision to go to a Yoga class eight years ago was one of the best decisions that I made for my mental, physical, and spiritual health.   

What is your favourite yoga posture and why?

Downward facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana, is my favourite yoga posture because it has the ability to help me in so many ways.  Not only do I feel the beautiful stretch in my claves, back of my legs, upper back, and arms, it also helps me to change my perspective as my head is below my heart in this pose.  Downward dog did not always feel comfortable for my body to do, but with practice it has easily become one of my favourite resting poses.

What has yoga done for you as a person? 

Yoga continues to be my way of coming home.  What I mean by that is that Yoga has allowed me to work on my relationship with myself and my body in a way that is more nurturing and kind.  This relationship with my body has always been unhealthy for as long as I can remember.  At the age of 12, I developed an eating disorder that kept me in a constant state of fighting with my body.  Being a competitive dancer highlighted this struggle as well.  Eating disorders are one of the toughest illnesses to treat due to their complexity.  They are also very misunderstood in today’s society.  I can honestly say that Yoga has been one of the most important gifts that I could have ever given myself in my healing journey.  Yoga not only helps to strengthen my body, but it also teaches me how to deal with discomfort through the gentle control of my breath.  With that being said, I always remind myself that Yoga is a practice.  Some days I feel great stepping onto my mat, while other days can be more challenging.  The key is showing up for yourself and getting on your mat.   

How would you describe your style?

My style can best be described as healing.  I tend to integrate a foundation of Hatha Yoga with my knowledge of Counselling Psychology in order to create a class that is holistic: integrating the mind, the body, and the spirit.  Yoga Psychology is one of my current interests and it has taught me how Yoga can help with illnesses like anxiety, depression, trauma, and so much more.  Often times, in my work life, I notice that the traditional psychological interventions are falling short or not creating long-lasting results.  I believe that Yoga can often be that missing piece.  My style focuses on coming back into our bodies in a safe and loving way as this can feel vulnerable for many people.  I love to integrate more of a flow in my sequencing, but also the time to pause and reflect as that is how we begin to learn about ourselves

Is there any particular teacher, style, or studio that influenced you?

Semperviva Yoga studio in BC had the largest impact on my teaching and my life.  It was an inclusive place that provided a sense of community, much like Taiga Yoga here in Yellowknife.  Gloria Latham, the owner of Semperviva, has had the most influence on my teaching and style.  She is such a strong and powerful woman.  Her style is fierce, but also gentle.  The most memorable moment in her classes will always be the dance parties that she has at the end.  She turns the lights off and the music up.  I remember at first I was a little bit apprehensive, but in no time we were all dancing and moving in any way that felt good.  Ashley Turner, founder of Yoga. Psyche. Soul., has also inspired my deeper learning of the connection between Yoga and Psychology.  She is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist along with a Yoga teacher.  She has helped me to integrate my passion of helping others with my love of Yoga.   

What is the biggest takeaway for you from yoga?

My biggest takeaway from Yoga is that Yoga is a practice.  It is something that we must continue to come back to time and time again.  There is no end point to Yoga.  This practice is not all about the poses.  I feel that sometimes we put so much emphasis on the physical practice of Yoga that we forget about the other aspects including the breath work, focused attention, discipline, meditation, and bliss.

What is yoga to you?

Yoga is healing.  Yoga is life giving.  Yoga is a coming back to the true essence of who you are without all of the worries, distractions, and negative self-talk. 

What are you working on in your practice?

I am currently working on listening to what my body needs during my practice.  I can often become distracted by thinking that I need to do a tough physical practice with many poses.  I am continuing to learn that it is okay to slow down.  I try to listen to how I am feeling that day and structure my practice based on what I need.  If I am feeling lethargic, I increase my physical practice.  If I am feeling overwhelmed, I may just do a child’s pose for my entire practice. 

Any words of wisdom for the Taiga community?

The hardest part of your practice is simply getting onto your mat.  Once you are there, you are home. 

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Yoga Book Suggestions by Anne-Marie

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Within my 15 year relationship with yoga I have had the pleasure to have been exposed to a few books that have been particularly impactful on how I view and practice yoga. I am not claiming these are the best books ever written on the subject but they are authors that I read at times in my life when it was information I was hungry for and have proved to be extremely influential in my practice and in my teaching.  Chances are if you ever come to my classes, many of the things you will read in these books will seem familiar because their influences (along with specific podcasts and online teachers I may discuss at a future date) now permeate how I feel and talk about yoga. Some of the ideas in these books now form the foundation of how I view the practice.

1.     Yoga and the Quest for the True Self – By Stephen Cope

Stephen Cope is probably one of the largest influences on how I view yoga. I read “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” every couple of years. It was life changing when I first read it at 25, and it remains my favourite book on yoga to this day. It is written by a psychotherapist who uses a narrative story of his journey as a yoga teacher and the growing pains of the Kripalu ashram to explain how the techniques of yoga and psychotherapy have similar processes for human healing and emotional development. It will not resonate with every reader but if you are interested in the practice of yoga from a psychological perspective, it is worth a read.

2.     Bringing Yoga to Life – By Donna Farhi

I actually can recommend all of Donna Farhi’s books. Her book “Yoga Mind, Body, Spirit” was one of my teacher training manuals and her “Breathing Book” was my introduction to pranayama. She is easy to read and explains things practically and simply. “Bringing Yoga to Life” was my first deep exposure to the view that the skills cultivated in a yoga practice were skills that could be used outside of the studio in everyday life.  Up until that point I had been a very asana based practitioner, focusing mostly on the physical aspects of the practice. Reading this book expanded this perception and made me look at my practice as a life practice to bring emotional freedom to my choices and relationships.

3.     The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama – By Richard Rosen

This is one of the fundamental books for anyone interested in the breath aspect of yoga. The book comes with a CD of the exercises to practice with. One of the reasons this book was so influential for me was because it’s very pragmatic and clear and yet the exercises were very subtle. I had always been curious about the ability of the breath practices in yoga to tinker with energy in the body and mind, but up until reading Richard Rosen I had only really been experimenting with more complex techniques. This book and the recording present the most basic of practices and in coming back to the absolute basics I started to experience my regular breath so much more profoundly. This was huge for me. The subtle nature of watching natural breath brought my practice to a whole new level.

Happy reading!

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Student Feature: Trina Rentmeister

Meet Trina!

Meet Trina!

Name: Trina Rentmeister

Hometown: Yellowknife

Months/years practicing yoga:  Started with Judy when she was at the Racquet Club – 10-15year?  Ask Judy!

Favourite class offered at Taiga: Power. I like the way the class combines many poses into a sequence to create a flow of beauty.

 

What is your favourite yoga posture and why?  Bird of Paradise pose.  Balancing and twisting and stretching all at the same time. 

What are you working on in your practice? Someday I would like to master the Hand Stand.

What keeps you coming back to Taiga?  Great Atmosphere and Qualified Instructors!  Peace and Tranquility.

Trina in a beautiful  Bakasana  (Crow Pose)

Trina in a beautiful Bakasana (Crow Pose)

What words of wisdom do you have for the Taiga community?   Yoga is a practice you can do all your life, at any age!  A regular yoga practice keeps our body in shape, your muscles strong and your mind at peace to be able to cope with daily life. I am very proud to be a mother of yogis.  They enjoy it as much as I do and it is nice to go together as a family.  My husband is my next challenge – to get him hooked!  Thanks Taiga!

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