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. 

IMG_8354.JPG

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. 

IMG_8502.JPG

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. 

IMG_8490.JPG

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

IMG_7884.JPG

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

IMG_8470.JPG

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.
 

______________________________________________________________________

 

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

2016-05-18 09.15.37.jpg
2016-05-19 17.42.28.jpg

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.

20615064_10154987989842582_498333997_o.jpg
20615223_10154989233227582_166052780_o.jpg

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.

hannah.jpg

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.

IMG_1244.JPG




 

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. 

ROAR!.jpg

Plastic Free Yogi: Back to EARTH SCHOOL

plastic free yogi logo tree pose-06.jpg

HEY. SO I have a challenge for you? I really really need you to take an honest look at all the disposable plastic waste around you. When look in your fridge and have an eyes wide open look at the contents and its packaging. Peak in your garbage bin and go look really closely at the grocery store. We are wrapped in waste and choking on plastic. It's really time to get some better practices. I am really looking forward to calling in more community leaders to help support plastic free yogi and get this project in more movement. Want to get involved? Send me a note at danielle@lovelightyoga.com and start encouraging your studios, workplace and homes to break up with plastic. Just say NO. 

IMG_1405.JPG

LOVE these glass straws from my sisters at Simply Straws. They have gifted the last two Yin and Justice crew their awesome straws and encourage us to all get on board and #stopsucking. I would LOVE if you told your local restaurants and cafes that you would like to see no straws as as start to great changes. I am SUPER curious to get involved in policy change in Vancouver too this year. We are supposed to be aiming for the greenest city by 2020, but I see so much waste in your streets, so many businesses using styrofoam and just lots of talk. Where is the direct action and by-laws? Lets craft mega change today and gather our yogis for the great shift. 

Danielle 

East Van Roaster Community Project.

Do you love coffee and love chocolate?

You have to check out one of my favourite social ventures in Vancouver called East Van Roasters

East Van Roasters (319 Carrall Street in the Rainier Hotel) is a 16-seat specialty cafe and social enterprise of the PHS Community Services Society.  Designed to provide pre-employment training and work opportunity for the women residents of the Rainier Hotel, East Van Roasters creates organic ‘bean to bar’ chocolate and coffee roasted and prepared on site.  Delicious organic drinking chocolate and coffees, hand rolled truffles, single-origin chocolate bars and select pastries are offered Tuesday-Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturdays 10am to 5pm. East Van Roasters will supply freshly roasted coffee and cacao nibs, as well as couverture and customized chocolate wholesale to industry professionals and businesses.  Come in and see how chocolate is made right from the bean! 

Our Yin and Social Justice Group took a visit and a information session as part of our program to understand creative ways to support community, different ways to leverage our connections and really understand the complicated levels to social ventures, fair trade, travel, production and more. We are also using this project to keep us connected as a group... Chocolate is heart medicines by the way! Check out some images below and have a peak at their products. Where do you get your coffee from? What cafes in your area carry EVR? What does your company drink? Got special events that could benefit from a chocolate catering? I encourage to go check them out and also watch in the big glass viewing chocolate making space. its AMAZING. Thank you Shelley and Sarah for the great night and continued 

IMG_1313.JPG
IMG_1321.JPG
IMG_1357.JPG

Honouring Your Process by Dia Penning

This past week, I was in Vancouver with an amazing group of folks. Many were First Nations or mixed First Nations. We were all at a different place in our process for understanding how we have been colonized. With my co-leaders we compared the process of understanding oppression to the five stage grief.

At first there is denial. It may be what we tell ourselves as young folks, or believing the interpretations of those around us. Maybe, you assume that racism is not happening on a micro level or that it doesn’t effect you because you have a middle class job or live in an affluent area. You might hold on to the idea of meritocracy and believe that everything is equal, if only everyone worked equally as hard.

Finish Reading here on Dia's blog The Equity Collective 

ROAR!.jpg

Guest Blog with Hannah from the Social Justice Training.

I sit here, writing, still embodied by the practice of yin yoga. Three days into the four day training and I feel as though I have opened up new channels in myself and have begun to bridge the two worlds in which I study, both Yoga, and Social Work.

 

In the yin and justice training, we have been discussing the concept of two opposing worlds, from internal and external, to right and wrong. We have been learning how to understand such concepts as binary, and as created by Western society. Additionally, we have been feeling into the exploration of everything as being fluid, everything as fluctuating, and everything as being in or part of a transition. Yin is an individual practice that, again, to bypass the paradox, is practiced in community, and is perfect for those who are seeking some rebellion.

 

Yin is a different yoga practice than the usual. Dynamic styles of yoga trend more so toward the reinforcement of tyranny in our systems at a micro and mezzo (individual and group) level of practice. Styles such as flow or vinyassa encompass more so the Western ideas of “getting it done”, and “right and wrong” , or as one woman in our training described as “being a good student”. The combination of yin yoga and social justice aim to decolonize our yoga practices in the West, primarily through recognizing that every person’s experience is different, and that every person, no matter what, has a gift to offer.

 

Today in “class”, we divided ourselves into pairs and discussed the difference between Sameness and Oneness, each person had 5 minutes to talk about their thoughts on the question without interruption. What I found myself saying was profound, theoretical, and empowering. Yoga, and other mindfulness practices, tend to idealize this concept of ‘oneness’, without actually differentiating between sameness, of which may be very hurtful. None of us have the same story, and to interpret another's story through a biased and personalized lens is egocentric and potentially destructive. I believe that the concept of oneness has a theoretical and mystical resonance.  Oneness may encompass connection, emotion, and relationship, inter/ra personal relationship and our relationship to the earth we live from, and hopefully with.

 

The yin and justice training seems to be guided by multiple theories. A feminist theory arcs over and weaves through the room filling each breath with a depth of understanding social justice from a lens, that I believe, needs to be the first thing sold in the glasses store down the street. Similarly to the Social Work program I am in, we discuss the differences between equity and equality, honouring that each body needs to be met where they are at, and not necessarily where the individual beside them is. We discuss intersectionality, racism, whiteness, and oppression.

 

We learn that paradox only creates opposition. There is no need to choose, either love or hate, or to live externally or internally, but to move through it all.

 

I grew up with a Western perspective of my senses, learning from an early age that just as we can control our thoughts, we can control our emotions. Of course, I still believe is true, however, it is in this mindset that I’ve also learned to avoid my emotions, and be “strong”. I’ve learned to live from my mind rather than from my heart. Chastity Davis spoke of this today in the training as she was presenting on her idea of “heartfulness”. She spoke of the value and importance of mindfulness, and also that heartfulness (her new coined term) needs to be the next step. Yoga has been this for me, I have learned that through mindfulness, or rather, cultivating an awareness of my body, my thoughts, my emotions, etc, I am able to consciously sink into my emotions and allow myself to feel them. It is like writing poetry. Personally,  I write the best poetry when I am angry. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, it is through feeling that we are able to move through the emotion and come out on the other side. Metamorphosis. Change. Through this process, with appropriate support, we are then not only connected to our bodies on a deeper level, but we are able to take the anger (for example) and use it to fuel our passion that brings us out into the world to take on the injustices. Talk about empowerment!

 

And then the day of training ended, and as I came out of a deep 2 hour yin practice, I heard Danielle’s voice as she softly guided us to move and feel our mouths, to wiggle our ears, and to gaze into our eyelids.  These are the places where our senses connect from internal to external, where we hear one another,  where we speak truth, and where we see change happen. She then guided us to feel into our entire bodies that are guided by and smothered in senses. It is through these senses that we make sense of the world (no pun intended..).

Acting shapes and playing games in yin and justice. gotta find the balance between the parts. 

Acting shapes and playing games in yin and justice. gotta find the balance between the parts. 

Yin and Social Justice Shapes.

We had a great offering of the 30 hour Yin and Social Justice in Vancouver with Dia Penning and Chastity Davis. Join Danielle and Dia in 2018 for Yin and Social Justice at Hollyhock on Cortes. 

Enjoy an exploration of these shapes from our 4 day training with a diverse group from across Canada and California. 

Day 1

  • Float on back, with a bolster or rolled blanket under the knees

  • Right knee to chest, holding with both hands. Knee could be wide or narrow: 3 minutes

  • Right ankle to left knee, like a number forth. The right hand could reach between the legs and both hands clasp beyond the left thigh. 6 minutes

  • Repeat the last two poses!

  • Left knee to chest. 3 minutes

  • Left ankle to knee. 6 minutes

  • From the back. Knees wide and fall open, soles of the feet together, heels can be close or far from the body.  6 minutes

  • Supine Twist. From your back, hips off to the right a bit, knees over to the left. Knees and ankles stacked. Knees in line with hips and feet moving more towards the left. 5 minutes. Switch sides

  • Final Rest

 

Day 2

  • Bolster under the spine. Heart opener. 6 minutes

  • Child’s Pose with a bolster under the chest. Neck turned to one side. Switch sides of head halfway throught. 10 minutes

  • Heart Opener on the wall. Sit with the right side of the body to the wall. Extend the right arm out behind the body. Wrist in line with the shoulder. Start with the palm facing on the wall, than change the arm height and wrist angle as you explore the tension in the body: 3 minutes on each side.

  • Arms behind the back. Reach the right arm behind the back and reach for the left elbow. Reach shoulders and breath. Explore turning the bed to one side. Switch sides. 3 minutes each side

 

Day 3

  • Half Square pose with bolster. Right knee bent and on top of bolster. Left leg long. Fold forward and support knees if needed.

  • Supported Fish with bolster wide: 3 minutes

  • Dragonfly: 5 minutes

  • Dragon/Lunges: 5 minutes

  • Supine Twist: 6 minutes

 

Day 4

  • Forward Fold: 10 minutes

  • Cat Pulling its Tail.  Its like a supine twist with the top leg straight in line with the hips. Deepen the twist with your shoulder and hip placement:: 7 minutes each side.

  • Toe Squat. From hands and knees, tuck your toes (toenails facing the shins) and sit back on your heels,  4 minutes. 

 

Day 5

  • Hamstrings on the back. One leg at a time. Holding on the leg: 7 minutes

  • Flat Cat. From your belly. lift your left leg flat on the ground and up towards your armpit. Switch sides.  4 minutes each side

  • Sphinx. Starting from your stomach, press up on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders. relax the legs long and left the head drop back, or hand forward, or supported with a block: 5 minutes.

 

Guest Blog: Learning the Language of Our Body

Welcoming our guest blogger Hannah how just completed our Yin and Social Justice Training in Vancouver. Giving thanks for this great group and looking forward to the Holly Hock Edition in September 2018 with Dia Penning. Register early for a discount and apply for a scholarship. 

 

It was not so long ago that I raised my hand in class and asked why it is that people who have been emotionally hurt or offended can't work through it on their own (in their minds). The class response repeats like a slow-motion video consistently in my mind's eye. Immediately, ten hands shot into the air as I watched their jaws drop, like someone had physically yanked them all towards the floor. This was the moment when my heart and soul truly recognized the privilege in which I bathe. Supported by a community of wonderful people, a tight knit family, intellect, education, ability, and yes, even my society to an extent, I am mostly able to manage with western psychology. This is my privilege. However, in all this, I feel there is a disconnect in my mind, body, and spirit. My culture does not support my intuition, or my authentic, wild, expression. For this, I have found support through my practice of yoga, and through my involvement in the spiritual community in Vancouver.

There are multiple angles in which I thought about writing this blog post. Initially I was drawn to speak solely of intuition. In this search for direction, I realized that perhaps intuition is the basis, and what I wish to explore is the whole-istic framework of mind, body, and spirit. I believe this approach to be the ultimate solution for free expression, for healing, and for connecting with our intuitive, natural, selves.

Over the past year as I've been studying social work at the University of British Columbia, and it feels as though my thoughts have been rewired. In the program, I am constantly reflecting on my social-location, my biases, my prejudice, and my privilege.

Throughout the past year, which was my fourth year of university and my first year of social work, I must have written 80+ journal entries reflecting on class discussions, theories, approaches to practice, case studies, counseling, and even as far as reflecting on my reflections (metareflection)! At the time I thought this to be tedious. In reflection, however, I recognize the huge impact this constant digging through my mind and actions has left on me. As I've mentioned, it really did change the way I see myself and the way I act. It is as if the window I see out of has been dirty and the thoughtful reflections acted as windshield wipers, washing away smears of bias and prejudice to help drive me on the road towards clarity. Most profoundly, I've recognized my privilege.

I speak of this written reflection because this is one piece of the holistic puzzle in which I've begun to understand myself more deeply. As I've learned to unravel strange biases and dissect deep secrets, I am able to create a space within myself for a fundamental feeling of peace and appreciation. In counseling, there is a specific kind of therapy called narrative therapy. Narrative therapy cares mostly about using client-centered approach and on building a client-counselor relationship. This is achieved through story telling. I bring this up because I see narrative therapy as equivalent to yin yoga, diving deep into our stories, packed with intense emotion and attachment. With the release, whether through talking (to a trained counselor) or through breathing and stretching,  we learn to discover a comfort within our discomfort, within the stories we have created.

I understand yoga to be a holistic practice on its own, although I am also a believer in yoga as one branch of the holistic tree, complementary approaches in both eastern and western medicine encompassing the rest of the tree. Just as Yoga is one branch, so is the mind in a mind-body-spirit holistic practice. Journaling is the mind piece, the piece that brings an understanding of justice and of privilege.

Body is another piece.

In yin, we hold our bodies in positions for longer periods of time and allow our bodies to stretch deeply, massaging and loosening our fascia and connective tissue. It is in these poses that our bodies are able to process and reflect, in the same way our minds do on paper. In my own practice, holding deep poses like pigeon pose for long periods of time has allowed me to get into my own body and feel what my hips are holding onto. It makes me feel very uncomfortable at times, but in this discomfort I am able to breathe, and I am able to be, so be.

In recognizing my privilege and really honouring all of the support there is around me, there are still times when I am hurt, sad, disconnected, or to put simply, dealing with shit. Sometimes I wonder if my lack of religious and cultural upbringing has me searching for a deeper meaning, and if a lack of cultural practices actually breed a soul with less meaning and/or purpose in life. I question this because I see myself and those around me searching through various cultures from the East, from Africa, India, Indonesia, etc, in search of something, a form of understanding. I am so thankful for the exposure to different cultures, practices, and rituals that have been brought to the west for the lessons they carry with them.

Through an exposure to these various practices and teachings, I have learned how to tap into my own centre, my own heart, and into my own body. Yoga has been the support I've needed for my own self-care and self-healing.

Additionally, yin yoga is empowering. This practice reminds me that if I tune into my breath and ground myself, I am able to find comfort in discomfort through an exploration of my senses and by drawing them inwards. Feeling my own body is so empowering, it gives me control of the way I choose to move, it gives me choice, and in choice there is freedom.

May we all take time to learn the language of our own, unique bodies..

20638956_1614242061974103_8526243358851322882_n.jpg

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.

Guest Blogger: Yoga and Social Justice Thoughts with Atum

For any practice to take effect in the outside world, or to have enough meaning to propel us to
want to share it with the world, it must start internally. It makes sense then, that in any conversation
about our practice of yoga or of justice, before even combining these elements or considering their
reach with others, we must grasp them for ourselves. In order to truly understand the world and the
way things are, we must first start from an understanding of ourselves and where we stand as
individuals. It is key to note that yoga and justice are not separate or distinct ideologies, but lend
elements of themselves to each other. One informs the other.
So where do we stand? We can begin by asking a few simple questions. What do I know about
justice? What are my biases and prejudices and where did I learn them? Who taught me to be biased
and who taught them? To what I do display hate/resentment? What is this school of information based
on and where did it come from? How does what I believe serve me? Who am I helping when I act on this
information? Maybe write it down and think about how you are serving justice in your own life. There is
a lot that we have come to learn and live by that we never stop to question or re-evaluate. It is my belief
that any practice of justice must involve a constant and consistent self-evaluation, and an openness to
receiving new insights. Are my ideas of justice consistent with my culture only? Do any of these things
amount to reciprocity and balance? Fairness? Equality? What else can I learn? And having knowledge of
this, what can I do, as an individual, to upheave some of these patterns and replace them with
something more progressive, more inclusive, and more open. We must always challenge ourselves to
see more and learn more and to be exposed to more ideas that can help to inform our opinions about
the world, about each other, and none more important than about ourselves.
This is not an abstract think-piece. These words serve only to encourage self-observation and
self-evaluation, without judgement. So often our social structures give us reason to believe that justice
is a form of or is tied to judgement, but let us explore an idea of justice without consideration to
judgement. (A strange consideration, since how is something just or unjust without a judgement, right?
But…) let us just for a moment, conceive a world where we have no need to judge, because what is just
is what already exists, underneath the layers of injustice and hardship. These things that we deem
unjust about ourselves, are they really what makes us who we are, or are they things we have inherited
from the outside world; and if they are the latter, what can we do to release them, to make way for that
which is just and true to shine? The answer may lay in the softening of our edges, the pattern of our
breath, the difference between resistance and surrender, the relief during the release, the letting go of
some our learned behaviours and practices. Spirit dwells in ease.
In our practice of yoga we are often confronted with ourselves sometimes in ways that can be
frustrating or difficult to face. When the conditions seem too much to bear, it may just be a calling to
find ease. Find more ease with yourself, ways to be less tense, less rigid, less formal and structured.
Sometimes, allow yourself to just soften, to root and ground in the midst of uncertainty, to find the
patience to flow through changing tides. Sometimes we do would do well to put down the façade of
surefootedness and allow the unknown to be our guide. Sometimes we have to trust in the things we do
not yet understand and be moved by them. These very things can inform us greatly, and perhaps bring
to light new concepts, new ideas, and new ways of looking at old things. We might see ourselves a little
differently, and in so doing find a new way to see the world.
Maybe just breathe a little deeper into your belly for the next few moments and write down
what justice feels like to you right now, and whether you think you have been a just person, and how
you could bring a little more justice to your own life and to your own self. Let your yoga practice inform
a deeper relationship with yourself and thereby all these things about you that you are beginning to
remember. Breathe and go slow…
Love & light till a nex’ time
Atum

IMG-20170802-WA0059.jpg

GUEST BLOG: Healing Occurs When I Feel.

Please enjoy and reflect on this wonderful guest post from a Social Worker in Vancouver that prefers to not be named. I am very excited to be starting this series of guest posts when I have been posing yin questions out to the community. I am very interested in telling new stories about yoga, who practices and its social impact. I hope you enjoy this! Want to contribute to this blog, send me a note at danielle@lovelightyoga.com and lets tell new narratives together.

Love and Justice, Danielle

from our Yin and Justice offering in Jamaica in March. Staying connected, feeling in and making change. Yoga in Action! 

from our Yin and Justice offering in Jamaica in March. Staying connected, feeling in and making change. Yoga in Action! 

Healing occurs in my body when I take the time to feel through my discomfort. When I give myself space. When I let my body tell me what it’s feeling, when I let my emotions bubble up and out, when I acknowledge and breath into the tightness, constriction, pain. There’s a lot of pain. Some days my body needs time to heal and I am learning about what it means to allow that and not push myself to “get my work done”. There’s a lot of work. 

 

I am from the Musgamagw Dzawadenuex First Nation (Kwakwaka’wakw) on my mothers side and of mixed European descent on my fathers side. I am a cis-gendered able-bodied light skinned woman and if I did not explicitly share my First Nations lineage, you would assume I was a white woman. I am a Social Worker and over the past ~7 years, I have worked with many different people across many different scopes of practice from DTES community work to prevention work in schools to working in long term care facilities for seniors. 

 

I grew up without my Indigenous culture. Growing up, I did not have access to our language, our dances, our songs, our traditions. The beginnings of my education about my culture and my people was through academia, studying Social Work in a program that centred Indigenous voice and perspective. I liked school, I liked education and learning. I had a intellectualism that I kept close, it felt safe. When I learned about the painful history of colonization, I got angry and stayed angry for a while, but tried to keep that anger contained in academic pursuits, in heady conversations about anti-oppression and social justice and decolonization, not realizing my body also held that anger and trauma. It still does. When left unchecked, I still centre my intellectual experience. I stay in my head and I ignore my body until it screams at me and I can’t ignore it anymore. 

 

What I have found in both my work as a Social Worker and my own personal work re-claiming my identity and my voice as an Indigenous person is that I have to take things slow and take things in my own time (on my body’s time). When my body insists I slow down and I refuse to listen, I get sick or I get debilitating pain in my body that slows me down anyway. I’ve learned to stop pushing my body past it’s limits  and that means saying no and slowing down a lot more than I feel comfortable with. This can also make me unpopular in my Social Work practice, in social justice circles, and even within my own family where the unspoken norm is to go, go, GO, without stopping even when sick, tired, or in pain. In a world where we normalize over-work, being “sooooo busy”, and chronic stress, it’s hard to stand up for being slow and gentle. 

 

 I know, love, and work with many incredible thinkers, community builders, makers, creators, and warriors and I respect and honour their commitment to action. They inspire me with all the work they do for our communities. However, I often find that all this action creates a culture of being so busy and overwhelmed, that the bar is impossibly high. I wonder about who’s important voice we’re losing because of the impossible pressures we’ve created in our colonial capitalist society and then replicated in our social justice communities. Who loses access to community and social justice work because it’s so centred on what our bodies and minds can produce? When your worth is measured in how much you can get done for an organization or cause, what happens to folks that can’t keep up?

 

 In my professional life as a Social Worker, I am constantly asked to do more and be more. Funding cuts, high turnover rates, increased caseloads and other insidious systemic issues make this work demanding and increasingly, unsustainable. I have witnessed other Social Workers and health care professionals burn out, get sick, and then be replaced by someone new. I have seen that cycle repeat itself over and over. It’s become normalized. We lose important voices in Social Work, usually the voices of BIPOC folks, because of the unsustainable demands of the work. When it becomes normal for organizations to lose workers to workplace stress and vicarious trauma, it’s easy to feel dispensable. 

 

My work as a Social Worker and my work in re-claiming my identity is inextricably linked to collective healing. I have realized how important it is for me to listen to my body and let my body guide me. The work of healing myself is also a collective healing work. Body based therapies and practices are not frivolous acts of “self care” for only the privileged few, these are important times of collective healing. When I listen to my body, it usually has a lot to say. It takes strength and courage to listen to my body in a world that puts so much value on what our minds can produce. 

 

I think of yin yoga as important collective healing. The act of slowing down, focusing on the breath, and listening to the body is needed across all sectors, but most importantly for people doing social justice work. This type of healing has sustained me in this work. It’s helped me remember that my body is a sacred site of wisdom. My personal resistance to our capitalist colonial white supremacist reality is to stay soft, slow, and gentle. My work in this world is to be a voice for the importance of listening and being with our bodies. 

Chastity Davis: An Introduction as special guest for Yin and Justice

Chastity will be contributing over the weekend for your Yin and Justice Training in Vancouver. We are excited to have her share with us her experience working with First Nations across Canada. Chastity is a yoga practitioner and great studier of yin yoga, that is supportive fuel for her advocacy and justice work.  We are excited to have her share her diverse offerings with this course and share teachings of this land. 

Too Much Yang will Bang: Guest Blog by Aljah Mystic

Bless up the Yogi Brother Alijah Mystic that took part in our Yin and Justice Training in Jamaica in February 2017 and in March 2016 in Kingston. Check out this latest song inspired by the yin trainings and look out for his classes soon!  

Aljah Mystic: Check out this You Tube offerings and stay tuned for this yin inspired album. Soon come! 

Aljah Mystic: Check out this You Tube offerings and stay tuned for this yin inspired album. Soon come! 

 

PART ONE

Too much yang will bang I take my reference point from the yin and yang energy
That represents the balance between/of two main energy in the world ok I said main energy  so let me give some idea of how these two energies or represented 

We have hot and cold 

                 In and out

                 Up and down

            Left and right 

I we were to make a song or poem  out of these power words it would go like this. We must be in and out flow left and right getting  hot and cold as we go up and down releasing  energy that makes the globe goes round and round ever yining and yangING to the sweet music of life. halo Jah 

That would be if the song was so in the world that we are living in to day the mines of most of the people and mainly world leaders,act on only one energy and that in my view is the yang energy . Please don't yang at me yet for my accusations am just here to open a new site the sight of balance  vision

    Let us bring back the energy words back instead of using the conjunction and we will use or with the or as the middle word you get the feeling that you are doing one or the other and if you are doing one or the other you are not balance  things are not equal you are inefficient etc etc

We are living in a world that believes in dominance we will all most for sure activate our most dominant energy at the time all the time without any thinking of balance or is this the right energy for this moment 

         This is the song that we are singing .I must be hot or cold in or out Up or down Left or right as long as I continue to live. What a boring song there is no dance no music such ego one or the other the best one that serves my purpose so much yang no blance and this is the way people are living today they think mainly about individual dominance and that's where the yang energy is very high

PART TWO

I spoke about yin and yang,now I will talk about one way they are represented as energy bodies around us. We will use a tree for example,the outside of the tree could be the yang side and the inside could be the yin side within those moments of representations the yang would represent out for out spoken outgoing etc and the yin would represent in for inner strength inner talent what I can do from within like within the tree lies countless art work halo Jah.keep your mind on the tree let's look at it from a different angle look at the inner core of the tree that is known as the heart of the tree we find the yang energy and on the out side of the tree you find the yin energy now you might be saying how is the inside yang and the out side yin and you just said that yang is outside and yin is inside,remember I also said  within those moments of representations and within those moments yin and yang was representing in and out and within these moments yin and yang is represented in the manner of Wich part is harder and Wich part is softer and the inside is harder representing the yangenergy and the outer part of the tree that is softer  is the representing yin energy do note that some trees are harder on the outside  and softer on the inside yin and yang dances again we rest on yin and yang for now and talk about  world leaders I say that they are full of yang energy and I need to explain

      Lets take a moment to think then I ask the question how do we select a leader of most group,organization,companies etc.I wonder if we took a moment to think before we say in yang mode who is the toughest of us all (yang) who is the most outspoken the best the baddest,fastest roughest strongest biggest etc lets face it in most cases that how most leaders are selected 

   Mantra of the yang leader

I am the biggest am the baddest 

am the toughest am the fastest 

am the roughest am the strongest

Am better than the rest I could care

Less am the best you can't test 

I win all contest  yang yang yang

  I would say yang where is Yin in your fight to be the king you have only task her in the bin,yang would say so what if am bigger badder etc We are living in a competitive world yin moment take yin out the  bin who or what is the competition !!hey I said something!! Yang said something  yin said something yang would  say again I compete against all yin would say there is know  competition lets  put them together yin and yang the competition in within all let us all do our best yang is the competition that most be kept like the tough yangheart of the tree lies within the soft yin barks of a tree ,and if we most be yangon the out side because the sun warm in our face we most all remain cool as the inside of the tree remains cool knowing that there is always the support of the Forrest. yin on the inside yang on the outside, yang on the outside yin on the inside in the everlasting dance of life .Its a dance not a race of life.I said race or races leaders or selected among races and sometimes world leaders and maybe because we think it's a race we think we need the yangest leader to lead and if every race pick and  yang leader to run its going to be yang on yang

 

Yin Warriors in Jamaica, 2017.

Call to Action: Guest Blog with Dia Penning.

Call to Action by Dia Penning

The point of my work, why I do the things I do, is to make the world a safer place for my son.

He was my point of radicalization.

He is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me moving when I am tired of talking to white people about how to do better.

He keeps me asking questions when I have been told that I am not black enough or educated enough or when I face my own imposter syndrome. I keep myself moving because I know that it takes everyone of us working as hard as we can in order to create change in the world. It takes us all to be open to accepting our own pitfalls or spaces of ignorance.

Activism that produces change takes humility.

I am a teacher. Over the years, I have taught and created curriculum for every age from pre-k to seniors. I’ve worked with pre-school parents, college faculty, high school artists, dancers that hang of sides of building and park rangers. I use techniques for deep reflection and community building. I encourage connection from the heart and a deep listening to acknowledge the wholeness of other human beings. In all the spaces I have worked, there are two questions that I ask.

When was the first time you noticed race?

And

What was your call to action?

I ask these questions so that we have a compass for one another and learn that while we share similarities we also have many differences. I learned this way of understanding this way of looking at the world in two spaces. The first was the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Technology Education at Columbia College in Chicago, the second was at World Trust Educational Services.

In both spaces, I was able to examine my own learning curve in the company of allies and friends. I built my capacity for humility, for being ok with not knowing and for finding opportunities to learn. When I had my son, I was able to recognize the stirring in my soul to create a space to keep him safe. The challenges that I faced up until his birth provided me a map for question asking and collaboration. Every year that he grows, the more he is able to see and understand, the more committed I become to forming alliances across the globe to create spaces of sanctuary and learning.   Read the rest of Dia's post here. 

Holding Space: Guest Blog with Dia for Yin and Justice

r the newsletter, please connect to this blog with this intro:

 

Co-Teacher Dia Penning of Commonweal and the Equity Collective  collaborates with a number of folks regularly. She uses a series of agreements to support the work and transformation. In the following blog she outlines these agreements indicating that we all have work to do. Internal work. External work. Collective work. 

 

As we take time to examine our relationship to violence and honesty, there are ways that we can be intentional about how we interact with one another. These agreements shape the time that she spends with students, clients and in workshops. They have become a calling card for how she interacts with folks, professionally and personally. They will also serve as a foundation for the upcoming workshop Yin and Social Justice.

https://theequitycollective.com/2017/06/13/holding-space/