What is Yin to Me?

Yin, to me, is similar to the psychological concept of rapprochement. It’s learning that you can always come home to grounded security, peace, and compassion. Far too often in this world, we stray from “home” (i.e., our true selves), much like an infant exploring his or her surroundings.

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From Trauma to Teacher


Guest Blogger: Lisa Melton

I feel dark today. I’ve woken up with a heaviness in my body; my skin constricting my happiness. I go to the washroom and can’t even look at the “You are beautiful” sticker that is fused to my mirror. My first thought this morning? Wishing I had a knife so I could carve out my insides and start afresh. I crave lightness, to feel good in my skin, to feel calm in my mind. My distaste for this increasing heaviness pushes me to question why I fill myself with unhealth. I know my being is too full. I know I am uncomfortable. Yet I continue. I have done this my whole life. I have always hidden it and yet, today, it feels unbearable and as though I am experiencing it on a new level.

For some reason I am taken back to my first day of Yin Yoga Teacher Training (YYTT). I was so shy and embarrassed by my body. I convinced myself that everyone would laugh at me because I wasn’t skinny and wearing Lululemon. I was convinced everyone would judge me for invading their sacred space with my old yoga pants and my used, two dollar flip-flops. I never imagined that I could ever teach a class. Me? Stand in front of all these thin, powerful women and try teach THEM something? To have them listen to me speak and have them give a shit? right. Don’t get me wrong, I have done some serious work on myself in regards to dealing with and overcoming my life’s experience to date. Somehow, I was gifted with an incredible chance to experience this YYTT. But I was terrified. But, I went.

For four days I was essentially a mute, frozen by my fear. I was overwhelmed by information that was spoken in a language I hadn’t really heard before. I was floored by the amazing women I met. One woman was from Iran and I was struck by her tenacious articulation. Another woman possessed her Master’s in Divinity, she struck me with her ability to express what she needed in any moment. Yet another woman was a badass,tree hugging, animal activist who always graced me with her smile and her willingness to listen. These women, among the others in the group, helped me to begin feeling like my voice mattered… like I mattered.

Day after day, everything got heavier and more challenging. By day four I was raw. I was exhausted. But, I went. From day four on I wept every day. And for the first time, I didn’t judge myself for it. I wept in front of others and they respected my need to do so. They just sat with me or handed me a box of tissues. They allowed me to have that moment with myself – what a gift! Day after day, things began to change inside. I no longer weighed myself upon waking. I no longer worried about my clothes not being expensive enough or ‘yoga’ enough. I stopped looking in the mirror. Not because I couldn’t look at myself but because I was now able to see myself so much clearer without it. I began to feel good in my skin and I no longer woke up feeling as though I wanted to scrape my insides out.

Our incredibly inspirational yoga guide gifted us all a yoga pillow that she made. I, for whatever reason, used it to cover my eyes during our morning Asana sessions. I loved the way it removed my sense of sight and how it helped me delve deeper into my body. Suddenly it occurred to me, having the yoga pillow over my eyes allowed me to quiet the acute hyper-awareness I had utilized as a way to survive in this life of mine. In that moment, I no longer needed that comfort and protection. In that moment, I was ok without it. When i removed the yoga pillow from my eyes I fully embraced this new vision, a new way of looking at the world and my position in it. This was when it happened. We were asked to teach the class. Gulp!

Nervously, I stepped out in front of my peers. I was to teach them two of my favourite shapes. I was terrified. But, I did it. In the beginning, I stumbled over my words as though rocks had been sporadically placed beneath my feet. My first shape was feet up the wall. I had always loved how I would feel tingles down my legs, as though the stars were filling me up with hope inside. The next pose was a supported heart opener with the yoga pillow over the eyes and a sandbag across the stomach. At this moment, Olafur’s ‘Tomorrow Song’ came on my iPod. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I hopped up and grabbed my journal. I began reading a piece of writing I had done on what Yin means to me. Suddenly I felt confident in my words, calm in my delivery and my heart was truly open. This moment changed my life. My voice mattered. My life experience mattered. My ability to connect with these breathtaking souls mattered. The song finished and I quietly went back to my mat. After collecting themselves, one woman said it was like she could feel me, another said I felt really authentic, another mouthed the words, “I love you”. This moment changed my life.

My life has been a messy mural of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Two failed marriages. Drug and alcohol addictions. And a level of self-hatred and hopelessness that, in many life questioning moments, I never thought I could overcome. I have always searched for love, thinking that in hearing those three words I would be saved from myself. And here, in this moment, a stranger only had to mouth those words for me to hear a voice arise from inside myself. I didn’t need to actually hear her say those words to me – I could hear my voice in my ears. This is the first moment that I thought, Yes! I could be a teacher. From that day on, whenever I said, “I’m not a teacher” at least one woman would say ‘Yet!’. And then I too began saying ‘yet’.

So, I bring you back to present day. The day where I awoke to a life of darkness, another day where I wished I could take that knife and carve out my insides as a means of cleansing myself. This day where I find myself restricting my tears in spite of this quiet soul’s whisper that says “It’s ok, it’s just a little healing”. Truth be told, I have not done Yin since I completed the teacher training. Boy, do I feel a difference! Sharing my experience here has helped me to understand that I have been given a gift. For me, to teach Yin would be a radical act of surrender and self-love. Teacher training changed my life. My eyes have been opened to what I am capable of feeling and I can no longer go back to my old self soothing patterns of over-consumption on any level. That first teaching experience, combined with a number of experiences since, has shown me that I can be a teacher. Because I matter. Because my existence in this life matters. My wounds can be my weapons and I can share my experiences so others can ignite their own self-love.

I used to think that in order for my life to matter, I had to die in the name of something honorable. Today, as I write this, I believe that in order for my life to matter, I need to live in the name of something honorable. That something is me.

Wanderlusting: The Collective Power

I loved my time at Wanderlust! Not for the advertising, the shine or the big bang of the yoga business; not for the market of plastic wrapped samples, or even the commercialism of an industry exploding. I love it for the people. ALL the PEOPLE.

I can’t even express to you the beauty of seeing over 500 bodies move at once. Yes, Seane’s classes as the event headliner are packed. And yes, I know one assistant in a room isn’t much, but it really does call for people to be honest with where they are and to show up none the less. Assisting in the classes over the weekend meant I got moments with new yogis curious about the glitter of a festival:, men brought by their wives and rocked on the mat for the first time;. women that were due in a few weeks, bodies of many levels and sizes. Experienced teachers and famous musicians;, kids reading books on mats while mama practiced;, teens in groups giggling;, completely advanced students doing mind blowing things; and, other people that couldn’t keep their left straight from their right.

One of my greatest moments of the weekend was working with a man in a wheelchair in a Vinyasa class. No feeling or use of his legs, and in fact, Seane and I met him at Wanderlust three years ago and supported him in class. There are no words to express the moments of humanity, between he and I as we worked together to rock a yoga practice that was seated and support and creative enough to get some serious stretching on! We were grateful for each other, our stubbornness to find a solution together, while laughing and caring deeply,  between strangers sharing over this practice of adaptable yoga.

Me and my yoga hOMies spend time chilling in nature, bathing in the river, introducing each other to out of town friends and ruminating on yoga and life.  We meet international artists, hung out  backstage with rock stars that are really just happy, but tried traveling people.  I feel this is the deep practice of yoga, like its meaning intended; union, to gather and connect. Yoga; to create strong bonds that not only change the world, but our view of the world.  I give thanks to those that make it work and gather there.

I also feel a deep honour to meet and get to know the crew and staff, the musicians, the event crew and everyone else from behind the scenes. As I love to produce my own events, I love to know the team behind the scenes. I am curious about how a festival with a dream grew huge, expanded internationally and recently added a media company to their offerings. Thats a big and beautiful reach, so the question is... what are we really saying to the collective?

I spoke to many powers that be about there being a way to be wayyy more plastic free and to include more diverse community. To connect to local resources and progress businesses that BC really works.  I had some really interesting conversations with people to hear about the bigger view and vision of their projects. It’s pretty amazing, and it's a privilege to be in the conversation. If we think about yoga and systems of oppression and structural troubles, we do have to enter the system with our privilege as a tool, that our voices will be heard in the shifting of the course.  

I have attended this event every single year it’s been in BC. I have taught once, and all other times assisted my friend and teacher Seane Corn. I know the grassroots rebel yogis in my community always think it's strange that I would show up and support a big box event. I know, I at times feel that same way. But I go not for the shine, but for the multiple opportunities to connect to people. It’s an honour and a privilege to spend time with my teacher, and mentor in the yoga industry that I look up to. Her work in the world is major -spiritually speaking- and her deep call for humans to rise up and participate in the bigger knowing of life is revolutionary. And this is actually it. We can spend all our hours judging and wanting things to be different. Great change requires great action. Deep change requires numbers of people to step outside their daily lives and look upon the world with bigger eyes.

It’s way too easy to judge, complain and interpret from the outside. We must participate, communicate and show up in the world if we want to see change occur. We need to meet each other where we are on the path and offer up compassion and guidance before judgement and criticism.  

These events call the masses from all over to be together in ways we can’t even imagine. I have met and maintained friendships from all over the world that created new projects and inspirations. I have received invites to come and share my skills all over the world and also share moments when we realize this crazy world is a small miracle.

What I am trying to say is that my attitude toward big box yoga events changed this year: We have a powerful system, hating from the outside doesn’t always affect change. Let’s use this system to harness the change we want. There are so many good things happening here. There are people and exchanges happening. Affecting change from the inside can be more potent than criticizing from the outside. There are many roads to Nirvana. Rise up, step in and participate with a bigger picture in mind, with courage to hold steady, and to embody the principles of a teacher. Not everyone is where we want them to be in their evolution.  And many need guidance, or at least a chance to see another option. Rocking out your authentic nature with solid and true values is really how you can be the change you want to see in the world. So hold steady world, get on the battlefield Arjuna and step up and be the best you, with your greatest tools, to make the most profound change.

New Class, New Ways

Friends! It’s been a busy and excellent summer with our Yin Teacher Training offering at Yoga on 7th. What an amazing and diverse group. It’s a deep honour to gather teachers that call people to a space to create great things together. The idea of yoga as union, or community, is in full action. Great things get birthed when we show up, honour each other, support one another's growth and do our best to acknowledge the beauty of our healing. THANK YOU! That was one of my most memorable and beautiful opportunities as a teacher to witness this group transform and connect. I feel the rumbles and waves cultivated from this look at yin yoga as a social practice with deep power to heal and transform our communities. Give thanks to the warriors of light that force the darkness with open hearts. LOVE

We loved our time at this little studio in East Van so much, I have decided to offer up a weekly session of yin classes starting Tuesday, September 8th, 7:30pm, at Yoga on 7th. This 90-minute class will involve longer holds and my new super yin love –sandbags. The beautiful part of offering up yin in an Iyengar studio is that there are more props than your average space. Come along to this class that will utilize longer holds, more props and insight into another realm of yin. I am stoked to share some deeper variations and an opportunity to experience yin with more attention to props and also a place to experience with a safe depth that a regular public class passes. Excited to have another weekly yin class when I am in town and I promise when I am away, you’ll have an excellent prop-loving teacher. Let’s build this yin vibration together for a more relaxed fall. I give thanks for all the yin love and the requests for more offerings. Drop in rate is $15 for 90 minutes, no one turned away for lack of funds.

Stay tuned for the end of October for more Yin studies. We will be offering 6 weeks of Saturday sessions to dive into the yin world of educational studies with the amazing Love Light Yoga team of RMTs, TCMs and other amazing healers that really propel our natural health understanding to new levels. This series will count as continuing education credits or towards a 200 YYTT. Looking forward to heading back to school!

Doctor’s Opinion: Why Go on a Normal Vacation When you Could Go on a Healing Retreat?

Guest Blogger, Dr. Tanya Hollo, ND

Everybody loves vacations. But not everyone comes back from their vacation feeling rested & restored, like they’ve learned something new about themselves & the universe, and healthier than when they left. There’s this amazing kind of vacation that actually accomplishes those things: allow me to introduce the healing retreat.

The first healing retreat I went on blew my mind. My entire life has changed because of it. I’ll tell you a bit about my experience before I talk about all the amazing things a retreat can offer you, and there are many.

Ayahuasca & Perspective Shifts: My Point of View is Different From Yours and That’s Okay

A few years ago, I went to the Jungle, for an ayahuasca group retreat with Gabor Maté. Maybe some of you have seen TJ Dawe’s play, Medicine, which he’s touring at the Saskatoon Fringe festival this summer, or the Nature of Things documentary, that the lovely Robin McKenna helped to make. Both of these featured Gabor’s work in bridging Amazonian plant medicine with modern stress and addiction theory, where nighttime ceremony experiences are coupled with daytime group psychotherapy. The goal is to help uncover patterns of behaviour and the origins of those patterns in childhood traumatic experiences.

Everyone has experienced some level of trauma, some more severe than others. The idea is that chronic stress and addictive behaviours develop out of a learned suppression of emotions, and a need to escape the pain. It’s not a conscious choice: behaviours that developed as coping mechanisms in early childhood are still being activated in the present, so it’s like the mind/body is reacting to something that happened a long time ago as if it is still happening

Uncovering these patterns becomes a pathway to healing. Now, I’m not entirely sure how it got uncovered – Gabor is a notorious laser-beam when it comes to pointing out tension and suppressed emotions – but it went something like this.

We all went around the circle, and each person shared why they were at the retreat. I went last. Somehow it came out in my speaking that I feel in colours.

Gabor: You feel in colours?
Me: Yes? (Thinking "doesn't everyone?")
Gabor: Can you describe that?
Me: Well, whenever I have an emotion or feel a physical sensation (and I'm being generous here; there's no way I was that articulate back then), I see a colour. It’s always there when I close my eyes, but sometimes, if the feeling is strong enough, I see it out loud. Like with my eyes open.
Gabor: That's kind of weird.

And there it was: my entire worldview shifted. Not because I had been called weird (truthfully, I still wear that as a badge of pride in my heart), but because the only thing I had ever known, the only way I had ever experienced the world had just been called into question. Not everyone sees things the same way I do. 

Fundamentally, this is true for everyone. Everyone has a view from which they experience the world, and that view was shaped early on in life. For me, there’s a beautiful, rainbow-like, actual visual effect in the way I see things, and not everyone has that, but the principle is the same.

(On an awesome note, it turns out this phenomenon of seeing colours when I have feelings or hear sounds (that happens too) is called synesthesia. I’ve known about synesthesia for a long time, and always thought it was so cool, without ever even considering the fact that I might have it.)

“I felt the most connected to people when there was a subconscious belief that they understood me, that they were speaking my language.”

Over the course of the week, we took the discoveries deeper. It turns out that not only did I see colours when I had feelings, I learned at a very young age to suppress this side of myself, to not talk about it, because people didn’t understand when I did. Underneath the beautiful rainbows was a deep sense of loneliness that I felt as a result of not being able to express myself.

I had one experience in ceremony where I got to look at all these experiences I had, in conversations with others, where the focus was on colours. All of my favourite people has talked colours with me at one time or another; there was this one game I loved to play where a friend and I would name a colour, then by talking about all the things associated with it, the colour would take on a personality. Like red, the kind of passionate, strong, fierce one; or white, the kind of peaceful, calm, accepting one.

I felt the most connected to people when there was a subconscious belief that they understood me, that they were speaking my language: the language of colour. As I said before, I wasn’t exactly emotionally articulate back then, and speaking in colours allowed me to express, or at least feel, these emotions.

10 Reasons Why Retreats Are Awesome

These discoveries were incredibly liberating for me, and I truly don’t believe it would have been possible for me to achieve the depth of understanding that I did had it not been for the retreat setting.

Let’s look at some of the things that a retreat has that daily life (generally) does not:

  1. Nature - It is so good for you to get out into nature. Things move slower, air is cleaner, and being in nature actually lowers your cortisol levels. (Cortisol is your main stress hormone.) And whether you believe it or not, plants have an intelligence and a soothing presence; whether you believe that’s through consciousness or just through their lovely smell is up to you to decide.

  2. A group - There are many benefits to working through your stuff in a group setting. The group serves as a big, ugly mirror, and helps you see that your problems are really similar to other people’s problems, that you’re not alone, and that humans are really amazing and wonderful and lovable. Plus you get to make new friends who are interested in bettering themselves. Pretty sweet.

  3. A facilitator - A facilitator is literally someone who helps make things easier. How wonderful would it be if life always came with someone to help you see things clearer?

  4. Intention - It’s possible for life to always have an intentional focus, but it’s much more common for us to forget what and why we’re doing things. At a retreat, there is a constant reminder of why you’re there, and who you’re there for: yourself.

  5. The food is taken care of - Really, it’s just so nice to have someone else prepare your meals for a period of time, especially if they’re healthy and nice and made with love, as they often are on retreat.

    And some of the things that a retreat doesn’t have, that daily life generally does:

  6. The mundane & little stressors - Like driving and traffic, waiting in line for things, emails, phone calls, groceries, picking up kids,

  7. Constant computers and cell phones - It’s so good for your brain to put down the internet for a while. And when you’re on retreat, you get to put down the internet and submerse yourself in nature, allowing your brain to relax and focus on something with a bit more temporality to it.

  8. People who want things from you - Bosses, kids, husbands, wives, moms, clients, students, etc. While having most of these people in your life is generally a very good thing, getting away from them all for a while can help you really appreciate having them around when you do.

  9. Familiarity - There’s something about stepping outside of your comfort zone and the places you know that serves as a catalyst for healing and transformation.

  10. Overstimulation - Let’s face it: Western society is nuts. There’s so much going on, all the time, that it’s hard to relax and take a real break.

I’ve since gone on several retreats, both in the same setting and in different contexts. I’ve discovered much, much more about myself, the way I relate to the world, and where it all comes from.

I believe there’s more available in a healing retreat than there is in a regular visit to a doctor’s (or therapist’s) office, and there doesn’t need to be ayahuasca there for you to have profound healing. Even more gentle retreats achieve significant health effects, by taking a little break from life and creating a community goal of self-betterment.

I strongly encourage anyone facing health challenges, or anyone who has stress in their life, to consider a retreat for their next vacation.

Dr. Tanya Hollo is licensed to practice naturopathic medicine in British Columbia. She is a member in good standing of the BCNA and the CAND, and currently practices in Gastown, Vancouver. She is excited to be co-leading the first Moon Medicines retreat on Salt Spring Island at the end of August (with Danielle Hoogenboom). Later this year, she will be returning to the Jungle to study with her soon to be father-in-law, Gabor Maté, so that she can further incorporate techniques of deep healing and integration into her medical practice. She lives with her almost-husband, Daniel, in a basement suite in East Van. You can find out more about naturopathic medicine and how to book an appointment at www.drtanyahollo.com.

Announcing the Complete Schedule for the July '15 Teacher Training in Vancouver

Monday July 6, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomIntroductions, Intention Setting and Yin Overview
Dr. Tanya Gee: Yin, Yang and the Dao. Mysticism and Medicine

Tuesday July, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomPoses, Placement and Form
Danielle HoogenboomPose Variations and Props. Working with Diverse Populations

Wednesday July 8, 2015
Harmony Shire: Anatomy: Fascia and Function
Harmony Shire: Anatomy: Bones, Organs, Muscles

Thursday July 9, 2015
Obediya Jones Darrell: Meridians and Muscles from Eastern and Western Views
Obediya Jones Darrell: Assisted Yin, Partner Work and Thai Massage

Friday July 10, 2015
Dia Penning: The Business of Yoga & Navigating Politics
Dia Penning: Systems, Privilege and Karma Yoga: Yoga off the Mat

Saturday July 11, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomElements and Understanding: Learning to Un-Sequence
Danielle HoogenboomVariations and Long Holds: Dissecting an Inner Practice

Sunday July 12, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomGroup Teaching and Body Feedback: Learning together
Danielle HoogenboomEmotional Wellness and Class Themes

Monday July 13, 2015
Dr. Tanya Hollo: Organs and Emotions
Dr. Tanya Hollo: Natural Health and Nature's ConnectedCycles

Tuesday July 14, 2015
Nicole Marcia: Trauma Sensitive Yoga for Mind, Body, Spirit
Danielle HoogenboomWord, Sound, Power: Finding your Unique Voice

Wednesday July 15, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomAsana Lab and Practice Teaching
Danielle HoogenboomPresentations, Group Reasonings and Future Resources

Thursday July 16, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomSpiritually Speaking: Sacred Modern Living
Dr. Elizabeth Ormandy: Ethics in to the World. Living Yoga to Create Change

Returning h'OM'e to Yin

It's very easy to preach and preach, but when put into action, practice and self reflection are what affect community change. Yin is more than a style of yoga, its a vibration, an essence. This feeling of slowing down and moving more mindfully allows the cycles of life to do their thing. With the energy of spring all around us, it’s easy to get caught up in the energy of growth. If we are the ones that direct our attention and intention, nothing could be more potent than stopping and stilling.  Think of it as nurturing the nature of the foundation of future growth.

I have spent the last few months shifting, traveling, working, writing, planning, supporting, building and shifting. The winds continue to change for me, a self employed young woman building a small product and service empire on the road.  Although I practice daily contemplation, meditation, and take solo time to reflect, it seems my asana shifts in the spring. There are so many things happening and many things on the spring cleaning, planting and sorting list.  It’s hard to rein in your own energy at times, when in fact this is the exact time to do it.

There is pulsation to go go go, move move move. This is when our practice is needed the most. When the world is shifting and changing, when the pressures of the outside world grow heavier, it is time to retreat inwards to set the tone for future endeavors.

I use gardening as a metaphor for this process: Time is of the essence, nothing can be rushed and we must use our senses and inner nature to feel into the right timing. There is no map or plan to gardening, just like no map to life.  Prepping the soil, making the lists so all the timings are just right for seeds, for starts and for the planning of future outcomes. All of these things take a moment to step back and sort.

The great thing about your Yin Practice is that it will always be there for you to return to. Now is the time. Stop drop and YIN! Simplify the moment, take an easy shape and slow it all down. Connect to the beating of your heart, and use the power of your breath to slow your systems. Link up with the vibrancy of the inner worlds, feel their potency move through you, and shift. In this place, we can make peace with change.