Thursday, 29 August 2013

I Intend To Be by Peter Greenwood

CJ & I first heard Peter's story from his beautiful wife Melissa who works with us. His courage and strength is deeply moving, so we asked him to share his story with you, for a little inspiration before heading into the labour day long weekend. Thank you Peter!

I'm fairly new to Yoga, at least when it comes to Asana.  My down dog is awkward to say the least and there are many postures I am not able to do.  That is just the physical side though, as I begin studying the philosophical side of Yoga, I am realizing I have been on this path for quite sometime. 

In 2003, at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer.  This was a shock to say the least, but my prognosis was good.  Three years later, after the cancer spread to my lungs and I endured an above knee amputation of my left leg, I was given a 30 percent chance of survival.  I am now going on over eight years remission and life is pretty good.  But it took me a long time to get to this point, where I can say "life is good" with absolute faith. 

There are many definitions of what yoga is, one that resonates strongly with me is the unification of the heart, body and mind.  In retrospect it is easy to see, but when it happened, I had no idea that my diagnosis with cancer had pulled the key components of my being so far apart.  This caused me years of turmoil as my body was physically broken and incapable of many things I once took for-granted, my heart was incredibly thankful just to be alive after coming so close to death, and my mind was furious to have so much taken without reason and through no fault of my own.  To say the least I was left in a confused haze of existence.

I was mad and nobody could or would fault me for that, yet I had nothing to be mad at.  I was emotional and amazed by simple things in the world, birds and bugs etc. while my own existence continually broke me as I went from running a five minute mile to hopping and scooting on the floor.  And my mind just ran circles around itself, I had no idea what to do, eventually I didn't want to do anything.  I finally broke and literally locked my door to the outside world.  Daily living left me longing for a more vivid and authentic existence, after battling for my life most other things seemed lacking in meaning.  Luckily, I had some strong support and while these individuals gave me space to heal in my own time, they also pushed me when needed and kept me from completely shutting down.

The simple fact of my survival planted a seed in me, a seed of faith and belief in a higher power.  Through all the years I spent in and out of depression and doing my best to heal, even in my darkest moments, I never lost faith that I would find my way.  This faith came from the fact that even though I did everything I could, followed doctors orders and took countless supplements, whether I survived cancer or died was not up to me.  And if god, the force, the universe, whatever you want to call it, gave me my life back there must be a reason for it.  So even as I felt meaningless, I knew meaning had to be out there.  I found my faith in the simple fact that I was alive, when I very well could have been dead.

As I regained my faith in life I began to delve deeper and deeper into what cancer had done to my psyche.  This took patience, perseverance and strength.  I read books and wrote and wrote and wrote.  In the end, I came to the conclusion that healing takes time, often more time than we would like, and the only true path to healing is acceptance.  First there is accepting acceptance, then there is accepting grief, trauma, and loss over and over again.  These emotions are strong, and as I much as I would like to say they someday leave you, they don't.  Which is why throughout your life you may have to accept the same thing over and over again.  In the end though, as you accept your life, the strong emotions that brought you down will begin to lift you up.

When I first started practicing yoga I found myself overwhelmed by what I physically could not do.  In trying to move slowly and hold difficult poses, I had no choice but to spend intimate time with the loss of my leg.   Something I had avoided doing for years, but also something I recently decided I had to do if I was going to break out of the up and down existence I had been leading. Another simple yet in-depth definition of yoga is that yoga is the intention to be.  I started this year by setting the intention to be and to start proactively healing rather than waiting for healing to happen on its own.  I set this intention before I even found my way to yoga, but as I begun practicing more and more the reasons I set this intention have become clear to me.  After giving up on a yoga class and feeling down on myself I was able to put all the reasons why I intend to be down on paper.  This is what I tell myself whenever I start to doubt.

I intend to be for my heart and mind to continue healing, for the leg I lost, the stump I rely on, the years I spent depressed and confused, and the trauma I suffered through.  This is for healing and growth.  This is for my wife so I can love her with all my heart.  This is for my parents and my siblings because even in my darkest moments they never stopped believing in me.  And this is for my community far and wide for always having my back.  THIS IS FOR LIFE BECAUSE EVEN WHEN IT ISN'T FAIR, EVEN WHEN IT BREAKS YOU AND TAKES FROM YOU WITHOUT REASON, IT IS STILL BEAUTIFUL TO BE ALIVE! 

Peter Greenwood
To read more about Peter go to:

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Whole & Complete

The Ancient sages of yoga, tell us that as beings we are whole and complete. That we lack NOTHING.

Every cell of my being sighs in relief when I remember this, resonating with its truth, however it's remarkable how often I forget this. How often I ruminate on my own limiting concepts of Self or linger too long on a negative thought.

I see this a lot with my students too. Their feelings of inadequacy or  how they lack a sense of love and belonging. It amazes me how even in a yoga class people use this as another opportunity to beat themselves up or measure their self worth, by getting competitive with the other students around them or giving up on a pose when their neighbour can do it better.

Why is it that we're looking outside of ourselves for validation, instead of looking within ourselves and remembering our innate gift. We are already whole and complete!

Well, I sure don't have all the answers, however I do know that believing I'm whole and complete is one thing and putting action to that knowing is another. That when I remember my birth right as a whole being, to experience the wonderment of this world, to give & receive love, than my question to my Self is,

        How can I participate in this wholeness?
        How can I see the external experiences (even validations) as reminders of what I already know?
        How can I let go of the self defeating games I play and show up as a the woman I know I am?

Really it comes back to the little things I do to each day to help nurture my shift into reality. The reality that I am greater than I perceive. To paraphrase Brene Brown, "I am worthy of love and belonging. I am enough".

Here are the little things I do to help me remember;

Sit Quietly (meditate)
   Take 5 mins out of your day and sit quietly. Ignore the messy kitchen and ringing phones. Turn off the computer and open the blinds. Sit on the floor, in a chair or lie on the couch if need be. Close your eyes and direct your attention to your breath. Don't need to change your breath, just notice it. Relax your shoulders and feel the moment and you in the moment.

Get on your Mat (practice Yoga)
   Whether you're taking a class with us on or visiting one of the many kick ass yoga studios out there or just practicing on your own, moving your body and taking care of yourself is another way of taking care of your spirit. As Marc Holzman said "you have to create an area for which consciousness can flourish", so let's participate in creating a healthy arena so we can remember our whole hearted nature. Everything counts, whether it's 5 minutes or 2 hrs, just get on your mat.

Question how you show up each day
   One of my favourite sayings from Oprah Winfrey is "take responsibility for the energy you bring into this room". You impact others and others impact you. If you live with others, you know this to be true. So when we remember this, then we are forced to be mindful of our choices and the way in which we chose to show up in the world. I'm done playing the "should" game. I chose to show up as the woman I'm meant to be (even if that means some one wont like me), because I'm done trying to be the woman I think I'm supposed to be. I hope you will be bold, be accountable for your energy and speak your truth too.

From my heart to yours,

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Space to just be.

There are many things I have learned from my beautiful Grandmother. To write thank you cards, how to say Grace, to bake, to sneeze hard, to laugh harder, to always learn the rules and respectfully push the boundaries. The list goes on but one thing that she always did was she held space for me. She held space for me to be me. She encouraged me and she cheered me on, she always listened and she always, without judgment, held space. I never felt like I couldn’t be me or had to behave a certain way. I always knew that she would greet me with a huge smile and hug me way too hard, and this never changed. Not even when I last saw her on her 96th Birthday.

This is a beautiful way to treat each other. Grandchildren, children, siblings, parents, friends. To hold space for each other to just be. We are all unique and we all have offerings but there is so much pressure to be a certain way or fit into a predetermined “way of being" that doesn’t always feel right for everyone. I think it would be amazing if we all just accepted each other as is. If we could hold that space for each others to be themselves and to know that we can do the same. There are no mistakes here, everyone is a diamond.

I am thankful for many things in my life. I am thankful for my Grandmother and the many lessons that she taught and even after her death is still teaching me.



Thursday, 8 August 2013

Lets talk about Poop!

In Ayurvedic medicine (also known as the science of life), your Agni or digestive fire is the most important element within the body as it helps you digest your food, which in turn is responsible for nourishing your body and eliminating toxins. To quote the world famous Ayurvedic Doctor, from his textbook on Ayurveda, Dr. Lad says; "Agni is the main source of life and if you worship agni, you will be blessed with perfect health". 

This was a profound statement for me when I heard it years ago. I've struggled my whole life with digestive issues and was diagnosed almost 10 years ago with Ulcerative Colitis. Through the process of healing myself and finding the digestive balance I need in my life I've learned to listen to my GUT. That our guts are sometimes the first sign to what's going on in our lives and if we're open to it, our digestive patterns can teach us how to find desired harmony and a balanced life. I do this the best by taking an interest in my poop. Yup, I said it....POOP. 

A friend of mine once said, "I can't have a good yoga practice till I have a good poop, and sometimes I need a good yoga practice to poop!" She followed this up with a good chuckle. There's truth in this statement. 

The thing is, if my poops are regular and normal I feel good and I stay grounded and centred in my life/practice. If my poops are off, than I know I need to re-calibrate and ask why? Is it stress? Is it food? What do I need to change to find peace and settle my digestion? Here's a fun and bright chart from Infographic, to help decipher your poops in the hopes of better Agni fire and digestive health. 

Here's to Optimal Health!