Plastic Free Yogi

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HEY YOU! I have a call to action for you. 

With all these videos and articles about plastic in the world, we sure don't see a lot about the YINDIVIDUAL efforts we should be making. You need to take direct actions to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

Please don't say you recycle....that actually should be the last ditch effort when you make waste.  Changing your patterns, behaviours and habits around waste and consumption is really yoga in action. INCOMING RANT! I think in this so called consciousness world is making SO much waste. Plastic mats, plastic based clothes, plastic wrapped super foods, take away power drinks..its all just ENOUGH! I would love to see this idea of 'yoga' as our relationship in the world and what we create/produce/leave behind.

SO I DARE YOU! Can you break some of the waste making habits, change your shopping patterns, make new decisions and commit to less single use items? You can go without, change it up or better yet....lets work to change policy and practices to lessen our addiction to plastics. 

I know you can! YOGIS, you have super powers that can make a global difference. Teachers, use your platform for good inspiration and CALLS TO ACTION. Just start, stand up, take a stand and shift the forms of society we call 'normal', cause I know that all yogis know what it is like to FLEX life! 

Malas, Power Pieces and Crystal Consciousness

I LOVE making these pieces as malas and power pieces for many years. I post them when I make them on Instagram and make custom pieces as well. I LOVE crystals and their powers, magic and the intentions you infuse into them. I give thanks for all the royal and radical necks wearing my pieces around the world. Thank you for being part of the creative fuel and flame! Send me an email if you are YINTERESTED in a piece! danielle@lovelightyoga.com

Danielle.

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Steam Chalice: Lung Power and Herbal Support

Before you go ahead and make a cannabis comment or joke, take a moment to step back and see the power of the herbal world. I am talking mint, rosemary, sage to name a few. One of the best ways to get these medicines into your lungs and prevent all the coughs and colds this season is to STEAM. Herbal medicines in the forms of tinctures, teas, and steams are great ways to infuse your life with new life!  

I was introduced to the steam chalice in Jamaica about 5 years ago and was a great way to feel the power of the breath as the water bubbled and see the relationship between fire, water, earth, wood and AIR. In yin yoga, we are always looking at your relationships to the elements and their ability to heal and guide us. Its been an honour over the years to steam with so many different people, holding prayers and ceremonies for wellness and revolution. It is an amazing way to connect and full joy all the pathways to spirit and our goal of real roots wellness. Thank over the years for all the time and chalice my sweet friends in Jamaica and for all the opportunities to urban steam and share.  I have a handful of steamers for sale in Vancouver, so link up and full joy the medicines. I grow my own mint and rosemary for these, and also love me a turmeric and ginger steam. 

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Bob Marley Beach a few years back, working the big chalice and seeing if my 15 years of pranayama have really trained the lungs! 

Urban Steaming means getting the charcoal hot on the stove or with a torch lighter, getting all the herbs out of the apothecary that we grew in 2017. Mint is my current favourite, to open and invigorate the lungs. 

Urban Steaming means getting the charcoal hot on the stove or with a torch lighter, getting all the herbs out of the apothecary that we grew in 2017. Mint is my current favourite, to open and invigorate the lungs. 

coconut charcoal, coconut steamers, eastvan mint and some hot chocolate. sounds about right. good to steam and reason with some humble brothers. Grateful for the gentle yogi men in my voice, scheming and steaming the revolution.

coconut charcoal, coconut steamers, eastvan mint and some hot chocolate. sounds about right. good to steam and reason with some humble brothers. Grateful for the gentle yogi men in my voice, scheming and steaming the revolution.

UP your WOO, tis the season for MAGIC!

I was speaking to a friend the other day and she said she wanted to get more "WOO" in 2018. I LOVE THIS. You can read into this word as more magical, more spiritual, adding more ritual and seeing all these so called 'coincidences'. Here are a few ways you can infuse more spirit into your daily. 

1. Seat Quietly in the AM: Take 5-10 minutes to seat in the am, in your bed even! Spend a few minutes breathing and being grateful for the path, journey and the magic of your body to shift and change with the seasons. Notice the reflections and subtle movements in and around you. Make space to digest your dreams and start a new day with a full heart. 

2. Add essential oils to your daily world. Slide a little roller into your bag, or a little dropper. Add a few drops in the day to your neck or wrists and just shift the energy in and around you. Send one moment having a good smell of your favourite scent. Mine are lavender and cedar and allll the oils that we distill in Jamaica. Join us in our Jamaica 2018 retreats to learn how to wildcraft plants and distill their natural essential oils. 

3. Get a deck of Tarot or Animal cards. My favourite deck I have been using for years is called the Tao Oracle by Ma Deva Padma. I lay out the cards, asked a question and wave my hand over them until one calls my attention. It is ALWAYS so stop on to the ask. You gotta believe in magic for magic to believe in YOU! 

4. Get a few crystals and house plants around you. I love to build little alters alll over my house and if you have ever traveled with me I add rocks, shells, little statues, shiny objects, little plants in jars of water. Anything that is natural and special and makes me stop to pay attention to the world around me with NEW EYES. Go YINTO nature and have a moment were you remember you are made of earth and you are the earth. 

5. Bath in salts, oils and herbs. Nothing says magically cleansing when a special bath. I add candles and recently got a unfinished piece of wood to set across the tub for a working table and a platform for hot tea, rad crystals and a journal. Imagine wishing away all the things that prevent you from seeing your own magic. 

6. Light candles and lower the lights in the evening. Set an evening tone, the magic hours of darkness and quiet, where you can work and think in a different way. Take a moment to stare at the flame and feel the metaphors in fire. You don't need a big campfire to feel the power of a simple and subtle of FIRE. 

7. Yin Yoga once or two a day! Take a rebellious moment in the day....one where you stop, still and feel. You gotta find the link back to source to stay magical and inspired and feeling your yinner movement is a really special way to do this. Take a few minutes to feel below the surface and into the subtle. Its a metaphor for the unseen worlds within and around you! 

What else do you do to feel special and magical on the regular? Love to hear about your ways 

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Yin and Reconciliation Educational Retreats 2018

SAVE THE DATES! 

I am honoured to be co-hosting and co-teaching again with the ever excellent Chastity Davis. Her work in community development and indigenous women's leadership has been potent and far reaching. Her work and experience is so inspiring in visioning better ways to move, create and contribute in this world. You might have experienced one of her amazing presentations on Heart Centred Leadership across Canada and Internationally.  Chastity recently won an amazing award for Best 40 under 40. I love this quote “I am committed to being a change agent in both my personal and professional life,” she said. 

We are excited to be hosting dates in Vancouver at Yoga on 7th.  Please save Sept 13th to Sept 16th.  This is open to yogis and leaders of all levels. Our classes will be yin yoga and our workshops will be focused on embodied themes of reconciliation and heart centred leadership. Looking forward to co-creating with both Dia and Chastity in 2018. Leaders gotta LEAD!  Join Dia Penning and I in Vancouver Aug 6-10th for Spirit and Justice, a 50 hour YYTT and at Hollyhock in September.

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Yin and Brains: The Adventures of Neurofeedback!

A few years ago I was co-teaching a workshops series on Yin and The Brain, was working with a client with a serious long lasting head injury and running a mentorship program for a high level academic with a concussion. I had no idea that I would not long after receive my own series of head injuries. One in January and another on in May 2017.  I will write more in the near future about these experiences and their lessons as I am just starting to feel like I will be recovering and be me again! What an interesting journey and an excellent opportunity to be your own subject. I am humbled by how challenging and long recovery, how amazing my support network has been and how much we learn about ourselves, our relationships and our world. I could write novels on all these things sooon....and I have a deep urge to rock out a podcast about a bunch these experience so other can hear it and not be subjected to a screen! Thank you world for teaching me ever more deeply about accessibility and our ability to heal and relearn. 

One thing that has been SO interesting and helpful is working with my friend and therapist Ki Speer at Bright Eyes Therapy. We actually went to high school together in Ontario and we reconnected via our yoga practices in Vancouver over the last few years.  I am EVER grateful Ki offered to help support my healing process when my symptoms were still persistent and ever shifting with my concussions.  Working with her has been amazing in healing and in personal interest. Learning SO much about trauma, somatics, the nervous system, hormones and so many endlessly amazing studies of ourselves and our environments. I have also been working on a special head injury project with a doctor and a famous artist....all 3 of us have head injuries and we are working to create better resource for those in need. 

All these studies have inspired the next big offering in BC in 2018. I am stoked to tell you to save the date Sept 3-13 for a Yin and Brains: a 80 hour Teacher Training and Retreat on an amazing organic farm with a bunch of guest teachers! What a blessing.  This will be followed by a 3 night retreat on Yin and Reconciliation from Sept 13 to Sept 16th, 2018 co-hosted with Chastity Davis.  If you attend both events you receive a 100 Hour certificate from Love Light Yoga School.  Both courses count as CEU for teachers.  Deposit information will be going out next newsletter. Send a note if you have questions or join the newsletter. 

Danielle@lovelightyoga.com

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A Yin Day in Jamaica, Join us on Retreat!

Nothing like an ital kitchen, filled with whole foods and great spices. Its a blessing to have my friend Agape rocking the best home cooked plantbased meals for our retreats.  Nothing like getting what you love to eat at home when you are traveling and experiencing new spaces. Join us for hearty stews, great vegetable, cob oven baked bread and herbal tea and coconut desserts! I LOVE to eat when I am away in places where the food grows close and warm! 

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Swim on at little beach right at the farm with the kid crew! these waters are so clear and inviting. Come and enjoy a cooling dip on the daily! 

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Ready to learn about collecting medicinal plants and herbs and prepping them for essential oil distillation? What an amazing and beautiful process to participate and witness, pure magic! 

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Prepping and collecting the plant materials for essential oil distillation. What a yin like vibe, slow and steady! 

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Yoga for Men: Yin Yoga Hip Series

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Start in a crossed legged seat, and maybe add cushions or a yoga block for height and pelvic tilt. You can also add blocks under your thighs for support. The cute cat prop is optional! Sitting tall, lengthen the spine and rotate into a gentle twist. Hold for 3 minutes, and switch sides. In the changing of sides, also change the cross of the legs. Hold for 3 minutes on the second side and relax the knees AND expectations! 

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In your cross legged seat, you can adjust the cushions to now use as a part heart opening shape and lay back. You can also do this on the flat ground. You can also add props or cushions under the knees or thighs to help the muscles let go. Stay for 4 minutes on each side. When you change sides, you just change the cross of the legs to the other leg in front or on top. 

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Extend one leg long and being the other foot to its opposite inner thigh, adding cushions under the knees might support tight hamstrings. Add a gentle rotation away from the long leg. You can place your hands on props, or maybe you lean over and bow over that bent kneed. Try to stay for 4 minutes, and then switch sides. Be patience, gentle and mindful. 

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This supine twist will be great to seal up this small series, but feel free to do them in any order. Yin Yoga is all about the feeling, the intention (dare I say yintention!) within in the shapes. Relax and accept the space that comes with time. In this shape, you start by shifting the hips in the opposite direction you are planning on dropping the knees. Think of a sideways chair! Stack your knees and ankles and look away from the bent knees if your neck allows. Tuck your shoulder blades under your body and let your deep breathing create the space all around and within. Try and stay for 5 minutes, before you switch to the other side.

Natural Beauty: A few ITAL Tips

I am SO excited for our New Moon Yin Series Retreats in Jamaica in 2018. One of the themes this year is making of healing products. We will be learning about essential oil distillation, fermentation, salve making, and other natural healing remedies. You don't need to be in the tropics to bring a more natural relationship to health and beauty. I personally haven't used any type of make or anything chemical on my body for I would say about 10 years now. Start simple and work towards a more ital version of you. Ital is a way of describing a way of eating, living and being in Jamaica that is natural, roots and connected to the earth. Here are a few of my beauty tips you can rock anywhere....looking at you city folks!

Green Clay Mask: SO easy and a great practice for your face wellness and you can even mask your whole body...if you want! I get the green clay in bulk at a health food supply shop. You make it with water to have the right consistency you like for your face. I add essential oils like tea tree for extra excellence 

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I have recently started my newest favourite winter practice, herbal baths! Not everyone has a bathtub, so for a hippie note you can also rock this bath in a large rubbermaid! I also recently hacked the bathroom by taking a long board of unfinished wood from our workshop and make a beauty bar in the top. Add a candle for extra fanciness. Run the water hot and add fresh herbs to the bath and then it steep and cool. I use rosemary because I grow a lot of it at my urban farm, but you could try a variety of herbs. The dish of cream here is shea butter, coconut and herbs all brewed in the crockpot for days. I use this to massage into my scalp and let sit, before the most epic hair washing sessions! 

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I have been making different potions, lotions and salves for yearss...ever changing the ingredients and intentions. This was is a herbal blend, with lots of rosemary. Its part shea butter, part coconut oil and all amazing. I slow cook it in the crockpot, but you can also do low heat on the stove over time. 

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I LOVE alll kinds of essential oils. I was SO stoked to last year run about and participate in oil distillation in Jamaica. We will be wildcrafting and doing that again in our Retreat Series in Jamaica. Come and learn about the power of oils. I LOVE these two to drop on blemishes and spots to help them dry out. You can use your finger or a qtip to dab a bit on any spots you would like to disappear! 

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Drink TEA! I drink a lot of water and teas. I LOVE to boil herbs and make what some call 'bush tea'. I grow some of my own herbs like mint, sage and borage. I LOVE this one pictured called Jamaica in some places, other people call it sorrel....and its all delicious! This one was gifted to be my a friend and you boil the flowers until you get a great red colour like this. Looking forward to time in Jamaica where lemongrass tea, wild turmeric and all the others are waiting for a good brew. 

Can't wait for you to take a step towards some natural beauty, both on the inner and outer worlds. If you are looking for a reset, get some yin yoga in your life....or please do join us in Jamaica in 2018 so you can get a first hand experience of natural living and natural remedies.

Spirit and Justice: 50 Hour Yin Leadership Training in Vancouver.

SAVE the DATES! Its an honour to be setting these dates in advance to be working with Dia Penning again in 2018. We are stoked to be presenting another edition of our Yin Leadership Training. This is a 50 hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training that will be for activists, community leaders, yoga teachers and interested students. Part of the great work that we do to encourage people to explore where their hidden biases exist, both in their forms, their opinions and in the world. Its been an amazing journey to work with our Yin and Justice groups over the last few years and start to bring some real potent dialogues into yoga space. As a teacher, its been a honour to have such a variety of interested students in these spaces that bring such an inspiring and amazing collection of experiences.

Our last #yinandjusticetraining brought social workers, experienced community leaders, artists, new and experienced yoga teachers all from a variety of backgrounds. These themes seem to bring highly involved and inspired change makers to mat to really explore and discuss the uncomfortable truths and start to dissect the structures in which we exist in.  This is why yin is so well paired with social change.  Getting into the awkwardness of conversations and ideas that are sometimes new and different to us requires the skills that we cultivate in yin yoga. This 5 day teacher training will have pre reading, homework, yin classes, discussions and workshops. We are excited to be bringing together a closer examination of Spirit and Justice and how we can weave the two together in your modern worlds and classrooms. 

The space is limited to a group of 15, and we have a small number of possible scholarships based on application. The 50 hours counts towards your 200 Hour Love Light Yoga School, or as CEU or a stand alone certificate. This event is all levels and open to everyone. You can read more here and pay the deposit here.   Dia and I are presenting at Hollyhock in Sept 2018 as well. Chastity Davis and I are hosting two special retreats in 2018. Sept and October 2018.

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3 Poses for a Peaceful Upper Body.

Enjoy this upper body series with my friend and fellow yoga teacher Jason Worton. You can check out his classes in Kingston, Jamaica and give a listen to his medicine music as a great soundtrack for this 3 part series for the upper body. I encourage you to try all the shapes, commit some time to each one and see if you can repeat them for a few days. Just start! Yin Medicines are slow, steady and reveal over time. I guess you peace, patience and practice. 

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Chose any seat that suits you, could even be in a chair. Work to lengthen your spine and align your neck so your head feels tall and like you are wearing a crown. Take your right elbow into the crease of your left elbow, like you are making a little shelf. Soften the shoulders and see if the hands will touch or wrap. Breath between the shoulder blades and try to stay for 1-3 minutes. Keep breathing and direct your attention into the centre of your discomfort. Use your intention and time to soften any knot or obstacle.  Do both sides and try it twice a day for a few days. I promise there will be a change you can feel. 

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This pose can be done on the ground or using a wall instead of a mat (and if you are not of the earthly on the ground type!) Extend our your right arm onto the ground long and away from you, or stand next to a wall and outstretch your arm until your wrist is in line with your shoulderish.  The ground version you will shift your body weight until you feel it across the chest and in the wall variation you would turn away from the wall. You might add pillows under your chest if you are using the ground and you might tuck your free arm on your back. Do each side for 2-4 minutes. 

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This one is best when seated on the floor, but will also be great in a chair in the middle of your day! Find a comfortable seat for your knees and work your spine tall and strong. When you feel like your seat is steady, life one arm and lean over the to opposite side. Use the reach of your hand  for intention, draw the shoulders away from the ears and let the knees feel heavy and weighted.  lean back slightly, as the natural tendency will be to lean forward! BREATH deep into the side body, fill between each rib and make space. Look for tension and chose to disrupt it! Yin Yoga is a practice where you are hunting for tension with patience and kindness, so when you find it, you are able to sit with it, identity it and most importantly...unravel to release it! 

Its about the WE: co-blogging with Dia and Danielle

It’s about WE - Tiny Yin Class

Playlist-15 minutes

Las Cafeteras-It’s movement time

Borders-ST. Beauty

Peace Train-Cat Stevens

 

Yin Yoga is the humbling practice of making decisions, sitting in sensations and discomfort, and adapting the circumstances as opportunities arise. As yin yogis, we are forced to embrace our differences and abilities as our super-powers, to speak truth to how our bodies are different and the circumstances that shape them even more different. On the mat we explore the limitations of our physical form as well as those created by our habits. We allow ourselves to ask many questions. Including, how can knowing ourselves support the development of understanding the differences that lead to social inequity? How can we know ourselves better to know others better? Yin allows us the container for getting to know ourselves as well as understand connection.

 

When we examine sensation and discomfort, we explore the ways in which individual bodies store emotion and memory. This can lead to the understanding of how our collected history and personal trauma show up in our tissues. Paying attention to those sensations, the movement of energy and the thoughts that accompany it, is the practice of presence. Being present in the moment and to what is happening in our bodies--our habits of disassociation or over-thinking--allows us to build internal resources as well as our connections to others. One does not happen independent of the other. You can not do external work without looking within.

 

As one develops the capacity for sitting with challenge or discomfort, they are able to use that skill in interpersonal relationships as well as in examining inequitable structures. The more internal resources are cultivated, the larger the capacity for action rather than reaction. Meaning, one is able to slow down and act from integrity rather than react from habit. We are able to hold complex truth as well as paradox, to observe that multiple things are happening at once, and that each individual only understands their experience. With practice, one can expand their imagination and understanding to include the experiences of others. The great work that yin provides is that the physical form can be set in shapes to expose the truth, by allowing you to distill your thoughts for both internal and external understanding.

 

Yoga is a practice, social justice action is a practice. Both are disciplines that inform and support one another. Interrupting habits on the mat allows for a greater ability to interrupt external habits that do not serve equity and justice. Through the practice of long held poses and attention to the action in your mind, one is able to explore connection.  Yoga philosophy begins to hold a different kind of clarity. Violence is seen not just as a physical act, but also in thoughts, assumptions and repeated behavior. Honesty is not just about lies that one tells, but also about history that one refuses to address. Truth is an interactive practice. We are called to participate and negotiate with our knowings.

 

In this practice, the body and attention teach that an individual’s path through the world has consequences that affect others, whether one is conscious of it or not. We are led to the discovery of our interconnectedness, while acknowledging that we each have different paths and realities—that no one truth is absolute and that we must be able to hold paradox to move forward.

 

When we are able to understand sensation and discomfort as a hallmark of change, we are able to challenge our habits and develop new ways of being. We are able to understand emotional holding, the impact that it has under the surface of our skin and that this holding too often dictates our reactions.  Learning to disrupt the stagnation in our physical systems can be an entry point to addressing  the systems of the world.

 

Square Pose

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This one is a simple and potent offering for the hips. A cross legged seat is the beginning with a padded or soft surface for your ankles. Keep cushions near to place under your knees. Cross at the ankles and work your shins forward and away from you.  Allow the head to bow and the torso to tilt forward until you feel sensation in the outer hips.  If you are feeling it, you are doing it.  Be mindful not to force or press your way into this or any shape. The real medicine is patience, time, and the active participation of letting go.

 


 

Time is the magical container of yin.

 

In a physical posture we consider things like pelvic tilt, how far forward you fold and the angle at which you bow. Aim to stay on each side for 3.5  minutes (or the length of each song), then switch legs (different cross of the ankles) and stay for another 3.5 minutes. Allow yourself to marinate.

 

Fine tuning our own sensitivity and getting to know ourselves is the magic of understanding how we participate in systemic change.  It is the attention to internal work and external work, simultaneously.


 

Forward Fold

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This shape is an opportunity to bow, settle and humble for a moment to assess the truth. Add a cushion under your hips to support the tilting of your pelvis. Think of props as compassionate objects that can meet you where you need to be met.  If your knees need support or you know your legs are tight, add a pillow. Your feet may be close to one another or far away, depending on what your body needs for the day. Forward fold as you bow your head.  Let  your spine, legs and belly dictate where you stop. Social change and true yin is directed by sensation, feeling and inner knowing that is supported by an intentions cultivated over time and space.  One develops their own compass as one begins to better understand themselves. It can be the relationship with emotional flexibility that helps to guide our reactions. Spend 2-6 minutes here as you breath deeply, embrace the feeling of resistance. Great change occurs when loving and subtle pressure is held. It can bring about systems change as a reflection from your inner knowings and resources.

A regular practice of Yin or other form of mindfulness will allow you to see how the practice on the mat of subtle adjustments, pausing to digest and exploring the spaces in between that  begin to inform your actions  and reactions in the world.
 

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Danielle Hoogenboom founded Love Light Yoga as an expression of her yoga practice and creative interests both on and off the mat.  She is passionate about yin yoga and its ability to heal, change and transform ourselves, and the world around us. Believing that all people are invited to the healing of yoga, Danielle teaches a diverse schedule of classes and workshops that range from the practical theory to the mystical and sacred parts of yoga.

 

With a Masters degree in Arts Integration, ten years as a social justice and racial equity professional and twenty-five years of yoga experience, Dia Penning supports students in slowing down, examining limiting patterns, and exploring creativity. She views yoga as a tool for social change, integrating it into her work as a social justice coach by encouraging a deep exploration of structural inequity through personal transformation and paradigm shift. She has consulted for a variety of clients including University of California at Berkeley, University Of Illinois at Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Commonweal in Bolinas, CA.

Love Light Clothing SALE!

Did you know that I started my clothing line about 7 years ago? I wanted to find an alternative to the main stream overly tight, overly plastic made in far away places gear that was out there....so being that I went to art school, I decided to try my hand at fashion! 

What a wild ride! From fabric sourcing to pattern making to grading (fancy word for making all the different sizes!).  It went from a 'what should I make and wear' to what are the peeps looking for? One thing I never thought about when I was working on this product and teaching as the cost of increasing production! So in that time I also learned about the politics of clothing and its contents and creation. We are so accustomed to cheap and fast fashion.

I am stoked to be having a big fall SALE so I can get back to creating some new pieces! You code YinLove when you check out for two more weeks on my website for 50% off clothes. I am reallly looking forward to working on a few new pieces and some really special co-labs.  Do you have a LLY piece? Love to hear about why you LOVE them...and if there is something special you have been wanting, send a note...this is a fashion revolution! 

Jah9 rocking some yoga moves in her dropbottoms

Jah9 rocking some yoga moves in her dropbottoms

Kinnie Starr rocking LLY classic tank and the epic tights

Kinnie Starr rocking LLY classic tank and the epic tights

Aya from the clothing line "Aya Wear" showing that the crop top isn't just a coverup, but a perfect beach top! 

Aya from the clothing line "Aya Wear" showing that the crop top isn't just a coverup, but a perfect beach top! 

Jah9 pairing warm socks with her kicks and dropbottoms. 

Jah9 pairing warm socks with her kicks and dropbottoms. 

Plant Based Yin Retreats: The ital is VITAL!

With all the fads and trends in the world, the vegan lifestyle is a beautiful monster. It is both beautiful that people are transitioning for themselves and the environment and its making an impact on the world. But we don't often talk about what is actually being eaten?

Food from far far away...fake meats and quick sweets. Just cause there is no animal in it, doesn't mean its actually good for you. So here comes a better way to understand an life mindful diet. Ital. Its a term used for a natural foods, plant based and simple diet that many practice as a spiritual diet in Jamaica. Strict ital is so salt or oil even, or food cooked for stored or prepared with the tools of Babylon ( a modern and wasteful world of opposition and imbalance!). The ITAL is VITAL for a healthy body, mind and spirit. Our relationships to our bodies need the most alive and vibrant and nourishing simple foods to fuel this beautiful and personal and potent vehicle of life. 

One of the mega reasons I love Jamaica so much is that its so easy to be a plant loving vegan and even on the road. I have gotten so much respect as a strictly plant based empress that rolls with her own calabash ( a hollow gourdlike bowl) and my own cutlery...including a glass or metal straw. I have STRICT no waste making rule for eating. My own need for nourishment should never override the delicate system of nature vs bad minded waste! How can we do so careless with our resources? Its an important thing to eat healthy and well, and with no animal products.....but make sure as a pure italist you are looking at the container of the food as well. 

And for those that say its hard to eat #wastefree, I say.....TRY HARDER! Have mantras like 'NO CUP, NO DRINK. Say no to packaged food and buy local and bulk..or just say NO. In a world of convenience and ease....its the land that pays the price. Plus, think for a moment....why would you ever want to put hot food in plastic or styrofoam? That poison is now on route to your lips! USE your mouth to demand better options for food and eating. AND blesss UP the italists and naturalists that are keeping the organic vegan and wastefree dream alive. I hope you can join us on one of your plant based yin retreats soon in Jamaica....where you can eat the most amazing and fresh delights and catch a vibe of the ital is VITAL! 

peppers anyone? farm fresh in Jamaica! 

peppers anyone? farm fresh in Jamaica! 

The ITAL is VITAL

The ITAL is VITAL

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Jamaica Essential Oil Distillation Project

Check out this amazing website filled with information from my friends rocking this project at Yerba Buena Farms and their newest community offering called The Jamaica Essential Oil Distillation Project.  I am VERY excited to be hosting our six part yin yoga retreat series at this farm on the sea. It was an honour and privilege to learn about distillation and help prep so many natural wonders last year. I spent nearly two months with Agape and her family and I feel so blessed to have been healing and learning more. This year we are excited to collect, learn and distill with our yoga crew as both an opportunity to grow our knowledge and heal ourselves. 

From the about section of their website:

We are surrounded with aromatic plants here in Jamaica.  We have plants whose oils are sold commercially, such as cinnamon, pimento, orange peel, bay and more.  And we have lower-yield oil plants that are still immensely valuable because of how medicinal and interesting they are.  What we don’t have is easy access to learning about how to transform the sea of aromatic plant material around us into essential oils that can be used in our products, as medicine in our homes, or even just for sale.

Imagine that a farmer who has fevergrass plants all around his yard, a few cinnamon trees, a patch of french thyme and some bang grass roots lining the roadside, can turn these raw materials into valuable oils for sale.  Any of us can get some cedar sawdust from a saw man, gather pimento leaves left over from pimento harvest, and even get orange peels from people who sell peeled oranges in a big town.  All of these materials would be wasted if we didn’t gather them, and all of them produce large amounts of valuable essential oils.

SO EXCITED to be returning to the farm again this year to deepen on my personal practice to medicine making and natural lifestyle. This years Yin Yoga Retreat have the educational focus on skill and knowledge to natural living and linked with poses. Self Care vibes are UP, as we will be making oils, tinctures, tonics, salves and more. Come and join us for one or some of our new moon offerings from January to June at this amazing seaside farm in Jamaica!  More info here.

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Guest Post: Self Care and Community Care by Hannah

On the last day of the training, we each took time to ask ourselves a question and then respond to it in a five-minute, uninterrupted conversation within a small group. I asked myself how I could become more confident explaining my passion for, and the relationship between yin and social justice to people who may not be totally open to the idea. After speaking for five minutes on the topic, again, a yin tactic of really spending time and energy delving into the thought/position/pose/question/etc, I came out of the ramble with slightly more clarity, concluding that what really needs to be done is to sit with myself for longer periods, and more regularly. This way I can feel the work that is being done within myself, and speak truth from my own experience rather than speaking from a grasping mind trying to understand and dissect ideas.

 

These first few weeks of September have been the first days of my fourth year of social work. While discussing class guidelines one day, my classmate explained the popular acronym, W.A.I.T, which stands for “Why am I talking?” This hit home for me as the concept of W.A.I.T reminds us to check in with ourselves before acting. This is yin and justice. The ‘yin’ invites individuals to check in with themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and/or mentally, and ‘justice’ is then seen through action in the following steps.

 

Humility is a word that stands out for me after taking this training. Finding the humility within one’s self to recognize that there is work that needs to be done, and to then actually spend time doing it. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s about accepting them and learning how to change these mistakes that will bring forth greater change inside and out.

 

This leads me to ally ship.  I’d like to share my process of learning how to be an ally to people who may face greater discrimination and (systemic) oppression in life than I do myself. These are systemic injustices that I speak of. What I’ve learned thus far is that I am not an ally until someone who needs me to be an ally calls me their ally. I do not assume ally ship. Ally ship too comes from connecting and building relationships, like with any relationship, there needs to be a foundation of trust. Once trust is established, I believe that the most effective way to make change and take action toward social justice is to listen. “Listen, Listen, Listen” as Anne Bishop puts it. Here is a link to her steps to becoming an ally, and where I source my points from: http://www.daa.org.uk/uploads/pdf/How%20to%20be%20an%20Ally.pdf

 

It’s not an easy process, but it’s an important one, and it’s worth it. “Facial justice” as Danielle described, is a good metaphor for understanding systemic injustice. If you stretch your right side and not your left, you have not provided the whole system of your body with relief, only half. This is a very simple example of giving to those who might have an easier time navigating the system, and not to those who have more barriers. Another note on facial justice and yin yoga includes doing it now. Right now is all we have. If we can work out the small bits of tension in our bodies now, then the facial tension will not continue building on itself until the entire body is stiff and tight. A lot of our emotions directly affect our physical bodies, and vice versa. I felt this the other day in my practice; the state of my mind directly affects the state of my jaw. When my mind is busy and irritable, my jaw is stiff, that’s just the way it is! As Gabor Mate says in his video & book titled When the Body Says No, “We can’t separate the mind from the body and we can’t separate the individual from the environment, we can’t.” Here, Gabor Mate is discussing a more scientific explanation of how the body and the mind are linked, he uses an example of stress. When we are stressed mentally, we have a physiological response; our hearts race and we begin to sweat. Learning how to feel the reactions that our physical bodies can create space for our minds, emotions, and spirits can support the release of tensions we simultaneously release tensions physically. 

 

And do I feel uncomfortable writing these blogs, sharing my work, doing the work, reflecting on my own social location, and relating it back to Chinese medicine and the art of yoga, YES! But that is the process; I am working on accepting the vulnerability and become more comfortable in my own discomfort.

 

With all the natural disasters that have occurred in the past month (hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and floods, all around the world) I think the world needs to wake up and really recognize that our mother earth is demanding that we seriously face our discomforts… We can begin by taking small actions to reduce our carbon footprint and maybe that means going one more day without a shower, or saying “NO” to a plastic straw ;) and also to remember the classic “self care”, although this time lets bridge it into “community-care” and start really moving forward to create collaborations, trades, and spaces to share creative expressions, to have some equitable spaces for people to come together as “one” (read previous post).

 

To Hannah, yoga is a practice of deep inward connection and of surrendering with integrity and joy. With a dedicated practice over the past 5 years, Hannah has found yoga to be the tool she has needed to not only release and strengthen physical body tension, but to return to a calm and easeful state of mind in times of stress. Having completed her 250hr Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in February of 2016 at Langara College, she has been sharing her teachings ever since while also now completing her fourth year of Social Work at UBC. Hannah's grounded and warming energy holds space for deep restoration, connection, and playfulness.

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Guest Blog: Yin and Justice By Simone

The first time I went to a Yin class was in 2011.  It was candlelight yin and even though the poses were held for so long I felt so relaxed that parts of my body shifted.  I do not consider myself a yogi even though I do own a yoga mat, a bolster, straps and blocks.  I have been practicing yoga on and off for over 15 years.  I first was exposed to it at age 10 from a family friend who definitely would be a self-identifying yogi.  I liked feeling strong when I did it so it makes sense that when I was reintroduced to it as a young adult, it felt like “home” in my body.  

When I signed up for the Yin and Justice course, I was drawn to it because I love yin yoga so much.  The justice aspect was something I was curious about and since my friend Chastity was going to be involved I wanted to participate.  We were required to submit our thoughts before the course started.  We had to say what we wanted to leave behind and what we wanted to keep with us that was working for us in regards to oppression.  I had to look up the definition to fully absorb the idea of this word.  

 

op·pres·sion

noun

  1. prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.

"a region shattered by oppression and killing"

synonyms:

persecution, abuse, maltreatment, ill-treatment, tyranny, despotism, repression, suppression, subjection, subjugation;More

 

    • the state of being subject to unjust treatment or control.

synonyms:

persecution, abuse, maltreatment, ill-treatment, tyranny, despotism, repression, suppression, subjection, subjugation;More

    • mental pressure or distress.

"her mood had initially been alarm and a sense of oppression"

 

It is such a strong word.  The definition makes it sound like the worst thing imaginable.  And that is exactly what it is.  It is this horrible feeling that makes me feel shame, insecure, scared, alone.  So much emotion by one word.  I feel all those feelings and it makes me want to cry.  But then I tell myself I am ok, I am here today because I have overcome oppression time and time again.  

I have heard the word lots before but never used it myself.  I said in my response that I wanted to leave behind my anger and I wanted to keep up my ability to speak up for those that cannot.  

Danielle called me back to say I was welcome to join in the course.  She said she was drawn to my statement about being so angry.  It is nice to get a positive response to anger.  Most people coil away from that emotion.

I am angry.  And hurt.  My body knows these feelings too well.  The anger sits in my hips and my neck.  My hurt is heavy in my chest and sometimes I catch myself holding my breath.  Yin yoga holds poses for long periods of time so that you learn to “sit” through the pain until it releases, which gives new blood flow to areas that were locked up before.  My anger has me locked up and I need to stretch it out of me!

I learned a lot in the 4 day course.  It was difficult to stay present sometimes.  The conversations got heavy.  I cried too often when I spoke.  We were a group of women sitting and stretching together while talking about how to be more aware of how we engage; within ourselves and in the world.  All around the idea of oppression and white privilege.  I am certain it was just by chance that we were all women, but it would have been nice to have a couple guys there as well.

The yin aspect was great for me because I am a physical person who absorbs things better if I get to be moving.  We learned about the 5 elements and how there are yin organs that correlate with each element.

Quoting Danielle, “Anger lets you feel the love.  Anger is the wood element.  Love is the fire element. You need wood to make fire.”  It’s so beautifully simple.  I am grateful for my anger, because it has been feeding my fire my whole life.  I didn’t let go of my anger after the course, but I am learning to be kind to myself for being angry.  I need to stay in love with who I am while being angry.

A lot of women in the course work in social services and literally live in the “justice” world.  I do not.  I work as an electrician.  In a man’s world where I am congratulated all the time for being there.  Women always say, “Oh, that is so great you are an electrician. I wish I was brave enough to do that.”  Or “tough enough.”  Something along those lines is the standard statement.  Men also congratulate me, saying “good for you!”  I guess that is them acknowledging that it must be hard.  But for some reason, I always dismiss their congratulations.  I think it is because I wish I could just be an electrician without being congratulated.  It is our internal systems that have been set since birth – gender specification.  Boys are meant to play with cars and wear blue.  Girls are meant to like dolls and the colour pink.  Those ideas are what start a life long internal dialogue of how we are supposed to be in this world.  I heard my nephew tell me that I couldn’t do something because it was for boys.  I was saddened that he had this idea already, but I accept the challenge to change his idea.  I have to change my own ideas of the way to be every single day.  

 

We had this one exercise where we had to stand in the room based on a scale of 0 to 10.  0 being one wall and the otherside being 10.  When a question was asked, we had to stand where we thought we were on the scale.  Then Dia asked 2 different people on opposite ends of the scale to say why they stood there. One question was “individual” and “community.”  Everyone but me stood closer to the “community” wall.  I was on the other side of the room, identifying myself as an 8 on the scale, closer to “individual.”  When asked why I was there, I got emotional and did my best to summarize my reasoning.  I said that I wished I had a sense of community and would love to be standing over there with everyone but the only reason I am where I am today is because of me.  I had to figure it all out and I did it without a supportive family.  My parents are both gone and even when they were alive, it was me working to keep them functional.  My “individual” state is something I have had to be in order to thrive at life.  One of the girls moved closer to my side when I started to say all this and she later confided she felt the same way.  We also had another question on “feminine” and “masculine.”  I was alone on that one too.  When the “feminine” was asked what that meant, the answer was surprising to me.  It was about being soft and comforting.  The words chosen were all the positive aspects of “feminine.”  But those were not the thoughts I had when I heard the question. I thought about my mother and my step-mother.  Two women with amazing artistic, feminine qualities who were dependent on my father because they were not educated and couldn’t make their own money.  I stood closer to “masculine” because I figured the only way to survive is to be like one of the boys.  Don’t get married, because then I will have to have kids and if I have kids then I have to stay at home and if I stay at home I am dependent on the husband.  Then I become lost.  Being a mother and a wife.  Not myself.  That was my internal dialogue in less than a second.  It is interesting to hear other people’s reasons for choosing things.  It opens up something inside me, or maybe it actually takes down some walls I have been keeping up for a long time.  It was a good exercise and sticks out in my mind strongly.  

Dia said that “white privilege experiences loss to create equity.”  I understand that to mean, in order for it to be an equal playing field, the white privilege needs to end.  The idea of oppression is absent in a white persons head because they do not have to consider it an issue.  When they fill out an application form for a job, they do not have to check off any box that asks if they identify as a visible minority, a status Indian, a non-status Indian, a metis.  I look white but I still have to check off one of those boxes.  Next to that I also have to check off the female box.  Boom….in 2 check marks I have triggered any employers idea of what to expect from me.  White privilege comes along and says “Oh man, you are native AND a girl! You must have it so easy!”  Then I have to remember to breathe and explain that I am actually having a harder time as a female, native woman in BC trying to find a job as an electrician.  That statistically, since I started in the trade in 2011 there were only 3% of women in the electrical trade.  A statistic that has not changed 6 years later.  So when I get congratulated on being an electrician, I dismiss it.  Because I should not be congratulated.  I just want to be treated the same as everyone else… an equal.   

I was born to a Dene mother and white father.  I was always told by my mother that I was a half breed.  A term I still use today which probably some people are not comfortable with.  My mom also told me I am half Chip (short for Chipewyan), which 7 years ago my cousin said that I cannot say that anymore.  I had to look up the origins of this word to understand why.  Being told “you can’t say that anymore, it’s not politically correct” is not enough of a reason to me.  Turns out it was the Cree who called us Chipewyan because of the way our leather clothes were designed, with points at the end.  It was not something we called ourselves, therefore we were no longer going to use that name.  I accept that reason because it makes sense to me.  I am sure a lot of people would think twice about using certain words or terms if they knew how they originated.  

My father grew up with a deep rich heritage filled with prairie French and privilege consisting of a successful family owned business and an excellent education.  My white grandmother Solange experienced lots of difficulties.  She lost her husband while she had a 2 year old daughter, a 12 year old son (my father), 14 year old and 16 year old daughters.  She herself was triggered by his sudden death and succumbed to a lifelong battle, which is now known as bipolar disorder.  Somehow she managed to keep the family business afloat despite being a woman in the 1950’s running a gas station in western Saskatchewan.   Men made it very clear to her that she had no place running that business and was eventually bought out by one of the men who told her so.  She may have had white privilege, but she definitely was a woman working in a man’s world.  My father always spoke so proudly of his mother, my grandmother Solange (Sally to the English speakers).  I am certain it is why my father wanted to empower the First Nations in Canada.  He witnessed oppression his mother experienced as a widow with a family to support, running a gas station post-war.  I never knew that was the word I was looking for…. Oppression.  

Reading the other guest blogs from the course, I feel like mine isn’t ready or good enough to be posted.  But I have put this on the back burner for a month, stewing in my mind.  I slept a lot after the yin and justice course, recovering from the mind opening experience.  I read Dia’s blog, about the 5 stages of grief in accepting white privilege and recognizing the impacts of being colonized.  Chastity had said that we are all products of colonization, either as the “colonized” or “colonizer.”  My internal struggle is real and I am a product of both sides.  My mother’s family all suffer from being colonized.  My reserve is Clearwater River Dene Nation, which is just next to the village of LaLoche, SK.  

Last year there was a mass school shooting and it shook me to the core.  My father was a teacher in LaLoche 40 years ago.  He could have been the white male teacher that was killed.  My 2nd cousin was wounded in the shooting and we only met after it all happened because I never go back to the reserve.  I met Chastity through our mutual friend Duane Howard, who is an actor and Drug & Alcohol counsellor.  They felt called to go to LaLoche and perform a Letting Go ceremony.  I brought them to my community, but like I said earlier, there is no sense of community for me even there.  I have family there and they are always so gracious and welcoming.  But the average person who doesn’t know me sees my white skin and thinks I am a new school teacher in town.  The stand-in Mayor told me to my face that I am not from there.  It all hurt, just like the whole community is hurting.  In a state of shock, they all walk around doing the best they can to get through every day.  And that is what I do here, thousands of miles away.  

I struggle with acceptance and a sense of security.  Apparently, this is a result of being colonized.  The “Indian” in me was to be killed out by the government when they came to Canada.  Land was taken from us and so were our homes.  My mother and her siblings all went to Residential Schools (my mom only went to grade 3).  My grandmother was not even registered at birth, because back then a lot of families would not report their new births.  The crimes and abuse they experienced are in my blood.  We were made to not feel secure, to have self-doubt.  I read so many books about the horrible history of Canada and it makes me angry.  I want to be the white privileged kid, who is ignorant to the crimes against my native side.  But I do not let myself be the white privileged kid.  Instead I silently lick my wounds and hope that my pain isn’t so obvious.  I want to be a softer person who can remember empathy and compassion when people are so ignorant.  So, I will just remember to breathe, stretch out my muscles and remember that  I am trying to be better a person, and that makes it worth it.

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Guest Blog: Yin and the Turtle.

Love having our guest bloggers rock out the words post training. This one from Yin and Social Justice in Vancouver with Dia Penning.  We are hosting another edition at Hollyhock on Cortes, BC in September 2018. Hope you can join us. 

Thanks Kristin for your insight and words. 

I’ve always been inspired by turtles and the strength they have in being slow and steady on the earth but determined and fast in water. I sometimes joke with people that think I take too long or that I’m too slow to move that I am a turtle and they just need to bare with me because it’s coming. The queen of slow living, my mantra since I was a kid who grew up readingThe Tortoise and the Hare and taking it to heart has been, “slow and steady wins the race”. I was a yin yogi before I knew what yoga was.

After 4 days of the Yin Yoga and Social Justice training with Danielle, Chastity, and Dia, I began to re-examine where I’ve been active and where I’ve been slow to move. Where I’ve been able to swim fast through things and where I’ve been stuck. Places in my body that feel open and places that feel tight and heavy. Spaces I have access to and spaces where I’ve been shut out. 

I wrote and re-wrote several different pieces. It's taken me a while to write this. Back and forth. Should I say this or should I say that? Will this be appreciated? Will that offend someone? What do I even mean? 

I’m a Libra always looking for balance. It can be quite exhausting to live in my head. 

It was interesting to re-visit learnings in a new way in our four days together in the training. Learnings I thought I already understood. I completed my Social Work degree at a university that examines racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism, etc. in every course I took. I thought I understood my social location, my privilege, my identity. I thought I was solid in my understanding of the ways I move through the world.

Oh, but there’s so much to learn and un-learn.

I realized in this training that I have been really stuck in my struggles and pain. In becoming stuck in my struggles, I started to become blind to my power. I have started to become blind to my privilege. I have become blind to the ways in which I move through the world untouched, unscathed, and with access because I have been so focused on the ways in which I’ve been harmed, hurt, and denied. Not to say the hurt and injustice isn't there and doesn't need space. It does.

The thing is, I have both experiences simultaneously. Both experiences are true. Both need attending to. 

During the training, I spoke to Chastity, another mixed heritage Indigenous woman and a facilitator of the training, about this space we occupy as mixed heritage Indigenous people. I kind of wanted to know, what’s the deal? What do we do? Is there a club I can join? How do I convince other Indigenous folks that I’m Indigenous even though my skin is white? How do I convince the settler colonial world that yes I’m white too but that’s not the full story? And how do I deliver my story to them in a way they’ll hear me? She told me something that I’ve felt so deeply in my body before and knew to be true: there just isn’t many examples of us yet, there are not many people to go to for answers on what our work is. Of course there are mixed heritage people everywhere and there always has been, but our stories have been denied, shut down, quieted. The world we live in assumes whiteness, assumes we are white until proven otherwise, assumes we don’t have a story outside of whiteness. I felt a little broken and a little overwhelmed with this realization. I was hoping there would be a club I could join. I was hoping there was a manual I could read. Turns out this might be part of the work…

Then as a group we dug a little deeper into our privilege. Before this training I understood on an intellectual level that, yes, I have privilege. I am a white skinned, cis-gender, able bodied (relatively) woman who has lived a pretty heteronormative existence with access to health care, clean water, education, housing, and first world safety. I always thought I “did my work”, so to speak, and that I acknowledged my privilege and used it to centre the voices of folks who don’t have the same access as I do. To some extent, I have. I don’t want to completely deny the fact that I have done some work because I have and sinking into self-deprecation is a recipe for more inaction and a trigger for my depression. And still, I knew there was more to the story. 

What I couldn’t shake was this feeling that maybe I have been too slow to start some conversations, too shy to call out injustices, too stuck in my own pain to take action and maybe, too comfortable to move. In the supportive space we created during those four days, I had the emotional/physical/mental space to look non judgementally at what’s been going on for me. In that observation, I was able to look closer at how I’ve held or not held myself accountable. I was able to look at how my pain was keeping me stuck in ways I didn’t realize. I was able to look at the ways in which I keep my pain close because it feels comfortable. 

A lot became unstuck for me during those four days and it has continued to create shifts in my life. I moved through a lot, i sorted through some emotions, I released a lot of physical tension, I released some outdated stories about myself, I came to some stark realizations. I usually live with jaw/neck pain and tension and depending on what is going on in my life, it can range from debilitating to a nuisance. During my sleep I often wake up with pain in my hands and jaw from clenching my hands and grinding my teeth so hard. The tightness and restriction in my body was also causing a rigidness in the way I saw myself, a constricted feeling in the way I carried myself in the world. During and after our four days together, I noticed I had a lot more space in my physical body and i woke up without pain my body for the first time in what feels like ages. 

Part of the work for me is realizing that I have to keep investigating, holding space for myself, moving through emotions/patterns/pain in order to keep conscious of the power I do have so that I can take action. Privilege is a power in this world that can be used in material ways to keep oppressive systems in place or it can be used to disrupt those systems and point out the injustices. I have a lot of power and I have a far reach in disrupting racism/colonialism/ableism etc. Also, I need a lot of support and need to move through a lot of pain/sadness/grief because of my shifting identity and the trauma I have experienced. It’s both. It’s always both. It always was both. With this shifted perspective, this little bit more depth to my analysis, I hope to keep moving. 

I kept thinking about my turtle analogies throughout the training and I went back and forth on whether I still feel turtle-like or if maybe that doesn’t work anymore. I came to the conclusion that I still really like being a turtle. Whether slowly walking on the earth or swimming fast through the water, and sometimes somewhere in between, I am still like turtle. Slow but determined. Fast and active. Protected by a shell if I need it.  

Kristin Kowalko

 Kristin is a mixed heritage woman of musgamagw dzawada'enuxw First Nations and mixed European descent. She lives on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people in Vancouver BC where she works as a Social Worker supporting youth and families. 

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