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Gratitude Abounds

grat·i·tude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

I have much  for which to be grateful. My life is incredibly blessed and each day I wake up feeling the need to pinch myself.

This past  year, I’ve said good-bye to a career that I had developed for 30 years and opened a door to do what I love: teaching yoga. Let me clarify. Teaching yoga to those who may not be able to have access or knowledge that such a powerful healing modality is available.

Last year, I sat down with Katie Robinette, Executive Director, Healthy Minds Canada, and we discussed  the possibility of creating a program to reach schools and youth who may not have access to yoga. I shared with Katie several articles and studies which proved the benefits of yoga on not only your physical health but mental health, also. To be honest, after years of trying to get a program like this off the ground, and having had lots of interest but not a lot of financial support, my expectations weren’t that high. Surprisingly, Katie, after sifting through the support materials, was interested and went full guns to help find us some funding. Within a few weeks, our initial grant from ParticipACTION came through which supported our first program at Lakefield District Intermediate School and the Peterborough Leisure Opportunties for Teens outreach.

A few months later, RBC Learn to Play Project also came on board which allowed us to expand the program to reach a greater number of students. In less than one year, because of the support of Healthy Minds Canada, ParticipACTION and RBC Learn to Play Project, the Bend and Unwind School Yoga program is now in three schools in the Peterborough area, the Peterborough LOFT program and offering yoga to youth in the criminal justice system through Dalhousie Youth Support Services. We are teaching 12 classes a week and reach over 300 youth through this program.

I am also grateful for the support from Kelsea at Affirmats who generously supplied some beautiful yoga mats with lovely affirmations on them. To see the youth at today’s first class dash to those brand new mats, unwrap them, and “oohh” and “ahhh” over their beauty was wonderful to see. Halfmoon Yoga Products has also been very generous and supplied us with some straps and cosy blankets.

I am overwhelmed and grateful for the support of Healthy Minds Canada, RBC Learn to Play Project, Affirmats,  Halfmoon Yoga Products and Kingwest and Company who provided financial support. And, after hearing one of the youth whisper to a friend after a yoga class, “I’m so glad we have this. It helps take my mind off all the bad stuff”, I know the young people are grateful, also.

With gratitude,

Pam

                    

Finding Joy

I have a confession to make: I have a hard time finding joy in Christmas.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to love hiking through a snow-covered forest to find the perfect tree, bringing it home, making hot chocolate while waiting for the tree to “fall” and decorating.  We’d make gingerbread houses from scratch thanks to a fail-proof recipe and directions from Canadian Living and spend the evening staring at the tree and watching classic movies. A few years ago, I started to find it harder to find the joy in what I perceived to be  the extra “work” that went into the season. I started to feel frustrated about the expectation that the shopping, decorating and the creation of a massive meal, including homemade trifle, and clean-up,  seemed to fall squarely on my shoulders while others relaxed by the fire. I’ll leave my feelings on forced frivolity and over-the-top consumerism for another time.

This year I decided, for the sake everyone’s sanity, I would stop trying to be Martha Stewart and scale back on my expectations of myself.  And it was a wonder how much easier and more enjoyable the holidays were. I also decided that instead of working the week between Christmas and New Year’s, as is my custom, I would take my kids down to the Himalayan Institute as part of their Christmas present. This wasn’t their first trip down and I was thrilled they were looking forward to the time away as much as me.

Something magical happens when you make your way down the hill to the Main Building. It’s almost like this invisible cocoon starts to wrap its arms around you in a gentle hug, and this transformation begins. Moment by moment, you feel the weight of the world slowly ease away.  You find yourself smiling at everyone in the halls, holding doors open for others, helping people up and down the stairs that need some extra support. You find there is no impatience with yourself, or with others. You find the time to do the things you always want to do. Like puzzles with  your children and morning hikes to the pond and forest. Or trips to Moka, the on-site chocolate boutique to savour the most decadent chocolate to ever tease your taste buds. Self-judgement and criticism become distant memories. My children, too, melted into the Grace of the Himalayan Institute. They welcomed the opportunity to have “quiet time” and voiced how nice it was to just be able to BE.  They love the gentle rhythm that is HI. I love the fact that they are happy to visit and appreciate the wonder of such a place.

I’ve written before about what a miraculous place the Himalayan Institute is and this trip, again, provided another miracle. It gave me the opportunity to find Joy. For that I am grateful beyond words.

 

If you’d like to experience the magic of HI, please follow this link:

Retreat Center

 

Until next time, may we be the Light,

Pam

Healthy Minds Canada “Bright Futures” Conference: Food and Health

On August 19, 2016, I had the privilege of being a panelist at the Healthy Minds Canada “Bright Futures Conference”.

Over 110 people joined us to hear from over 30 panelists (experts, those who are living in recovery, and those who wear both hats!) share their stories of experience, knowledge, and insight regarding all things recovery.

They were also treated to a welcome greeting from Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister’s wife,  and a key note talk by Toronto’s City TV’s Tammie Sutherland.

My panel was talking about food and health and that old adage, “we are what we eat”certainly rings true. A few years ago, I was working between 12-15 hours a day. I would often forgo making a healthy meal because I “didn’t have the time” and  would hit drive-thrus. After a few months of this, not only did I pack on about 15 lbs but I noticed I did’t feel very well. I couldn’t concentrate, my moods were unpredictable, and my temper was short. I realized I had to make some changes because not only was I unhappy, but others around me were being affected by my behaviour. I started to take stock of what I ate and how it made me feel. I noticed if I cut back on the coffee, yes, cut back not cut off because that wasn’t in the cards for me at the time, and reduced the amount of processed food I ate, I felt better immediately. I also started to wean myself off my favourite soda because that, in combination with my favourite drive through chicken sandwich, seemed to have a negative impact on my mood.

Eventually, I found my way to Ayurveda and to say incorporating some of this sister science to yoga’s practises has been life-changing is an understatement.

In Ayurveda, we like each meal to consist of six tastes:

Sweet

Builds tissues, calms nerves

Fruit, grains, natural sugars, milk

Sour

Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals

Sour fruits, yogurt, fermented foods

Salty

Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion

Natural salts, sea vegetables

Bitter

Detoxifies and lightens tissues

Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices

Pungent

Stimulates digestion and metabolism

Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices

Astringent

Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats

Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs

By incorporating these tastes into each meal we are creating balance in our systems which helps alleviate some of the symptoms of eating a diet of made up primarily of one source or taste.

We also like to consider the following when preparing and enjoying our meals:

How was it sourced? Local and fresh is always best

Is the farm organic and if you are eating meat, were the animals raised humanely?

What is the atmosphere in which the food is prepared? Are you calm? Are you enjoying the act of preparing the food?

Are you able to enjoy your food with another person?

Are the devices turned off or in another space? Is the TV off?

Are you able to sit down?

Take a moment to express gratitude for the bounty on your table.

All of this might seem rather daunting but, truly, baby steps is the way to success. Perhaps pick one or two of these thoughts and try them for week, and then, when you’re ready, pick another and keep building on your foundation. Go for the 80/20 rule. Ok, start with 60/40 and work your way up. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you!

As Virginia Wolfe once wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

May you think well, love well and sleep well.

Bon appetit!

Pam

Healthy Minds Canada Partners with Roots and Shoots Yoga to Create “Bend and Unwind School Yoga Program”!

Spring has sprung and with it a new partnership with Healthy Minds Canada!

Roots and Shoots Yoga and Wellness is thrilled to announce our “Bend and Unwind School Yoga Program! Each session will include 12 half-hour long classes that have been specially geared to teens ages 13-17 and incorporate activities to create self-awareness, self-respect,  appreciation for others, and, of course, Yoga!

Our pilot program, launched in Spring 2016 at the Lakefield District Intermediate School and Peterborough Leisure Opportunities for Teens program, has been met with great feedback and we’re excited to continue the program at surrounding area schools and in the Greater Toronto area!

Some of the comments we’ve received are:

“Wow, I feel like I’m floating” Female student, LDIS

I thought yoga was going to be boring but that was really fun!”  Male student, LDIS

I don’t know what you’re doing in yoga at school but my son now pulls out his yoga mat when he gets stressed at home! Thank you for giving us some new tools”. Parent, Goodwood Public School

If you’re interested in learning more about our program, please contact Katie Robinette at:

krobinette@healthymindscanada.ca

 

 

Roots and Shoots Yoga and Wellness is grateful for the support of Healthy Minds Canada and ParticipACTION.

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Minds Canada and Roots and Shoots Get a Hand from RBC’s Learn to Play and ParticipAction!

Thanks to the generosity of ParticipACTION, Coca-Cola and the RBC Foundation, Healthy Minds Canada and Roots & Shoots Yoga and Wellness were able to provide over 30 yoga classes through our Bend & Unwind Afterschool Yoga Program to youth at the Lakefield District Intermediate School and Peterborough LOFT (Leisure Opportunities for Teens) program.

The Bend & Unwind began in the spring of 2016 and the youth (despite being a little apprehensive initially) thoroughly embraced the yoga and stress-relieving techniques which were shared during our time together.

Each class began with a centering breath, followed by the six movements of the spine, then core strengthening, and then floor work. Savasana was always a hit, with only a little encouragement needed for the young people to relax and just “be”. Some youth even brought pillows and blankets to class so they could completely relax during this time.

One of the supervisors of the program had advised many students had thought yoga would be “boring” but as they developed skills – and strength – the fairly aerobic vinyasa to Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” certainly changed that impression!

The amazing smiles on their faces and the complete focus spoke volumes! The students noticed increased strength, flexibility and felt better able to cope with the stressors of daily life.

Healthy Minds Canada and Roots & Shoots Yoga and Wellness are very grateful for the support of ParticipACTION’s Teen Challenge, Coca-Cola, and the RBC Foundation.

Together, we are helping our young people thrive in an increasingly stressful and challenging world one breath at a time!

 

There is Always Time for Prayer

I’m a procrastinator.

I don’t know when or why it happened but to steal from Ayurveda, I’ve become quite kaphic in nature. I think this slow down has come from decades of burning the candle at both ends and now, my body and spirit are saying “Slow it down. Breathe. Enjoy the little things”. It seems to take forever to get anything done and I become easily distracted by watching the kittens play, the birds hop from tree to tree, and just as I’m about to get off the couch, I seem to notice that my cup of chai still has just another sip left and it is begging me to finish it. Well, you get the point…

Recently, I was visiting my home-away-from-home, The Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA. I love this place. In fact, as I write this blog, my eyes are welling up with tears because of the incredible love and compassion that envelops you the moment you walk through the door. The bright smiles, big hugs and genuine love from Roxi, Joy, and April that greet all who enter through the doors, encourage you to just exhale and BE.

One of the most beautiful experiences of HI is the gathering of the community for prayers at daybreak, and at the end of the day. We gather in the Sri Vidya Shrine and sing for 10 minutes or so and the feeling of peace and love that is stirred never cease to amaze me. The Bible says “when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” and you can truly feel the Divine surrounding and nurturing you during these moments and, truly, throughout the day.

I have also begun to join some of the residents after breakfast to sing the Annapurna stotram in the kitchen. One morning, I wandered into the kitchen, and surprisingly, no one was around. I eventually found Marc, one of the chefs, and asked if we were going to sing. He seemed unusually rushed and said, “is there no one here to sing with you? Hmm. It is my day off and I was just picking something up…” He stopped for just a moment and continued, “Yes, let us sing. There is always time for prayer.  It is important for us all, and it is important for me”. And so, the two of us sang this beautiful chant, well he sang it beautifully, and I fumbled along in my tone deaf way, but his words “there is always time for prayer” have stayed with me for several weeks.

We always seem to make time for everything but prayer and I often why. Why is it that I always find a reason to postpone doing the things I love and I know serve me well? I KNOW that practicing yoga makes me feel good and is good for me, and I KNOW that prayer makes me feel good yet these practices, at times, seem to fall to the side.

There is something truly magical about the power of prayer and in this season of busy-ness, I invite you to pause for just a moment and pray. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or long, formal. Just pause for a moment, inhale, exhale and BE.

May you find, love, joy and peace this holiday season.

Pam

P.S. If you’d like to listen, and learn, the Annapurna stotram, you can find it here:

 

 

Surviving Winter with Simple Ayurvedic Tips

This is a tough time of year for many of us and I daily hear people expressing how they suffer from interrupted sleep, dry skin, anxiety and more.

Winter is known as “vata” season. From late fall to early spring, the days are shorter, the air is cold and dry, and  we seem to feel out of sorts, “ungrounded” in many ways.

Happily, Ayurveda can offer some suggestions on how to survive the season, and get back on track.

First off, we all know the saying, “like attracts like” so let’s think about what the season offers:

cold, dry, windy, brittle..

What we want to do is bring some moisture, warmth and support into our life. Try to start the day with a nice warm meal. Perhaps you could make some oatmeal, or one of my favourite “go to” meals is kitchari”. Think of it as Ayurvedic chicken soup for the soul.

You’ll need:

1 tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) or just happy cow butter
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp good salt
1 cup of basmati rice
1/2 cup split mung beans
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium saucepan, heat the ghee and when melted, add the mustard seeds. Once they start to “pop”, add the other spices and saute for about a minute. Add the rice and the mung beans, and cover with enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover with a tightly fitting lid for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Garnish with the lemon juice and cilantro.

You could also start the day with a homemade cup of chai,  or as some friends described it to me after the passing of my father, “a cup of love”.

1 dried star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cardamon pods
2 whole cloves
5 whole black peppercorns
4 slices of fresh ginger cut in about 1 inch rounds
4 rooibos tea bags or 4 tbsp of loose tea
3 cups of water
1 cup of almond milk

In a large pot on medium high, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 mins. Strain and serve.

Recipes from “The Tastes of Ayurveda”, Amrita Sondhi

Chai is a meal in itself and is wonderfully satisfying.

Another thing we like to do in Ayurveda is practice “abyhanga” or self-massage with a nice warm oil. Typically, we like to use sesame oil, gently warmed, and we massage it all over our body, leave on for about 10 mins, and then hop in the shower. This helps moisturize our skin on a very deep level and provides lubrication for the joint because the oil is allowed to soak in. Don’t forget to oil the bottoms of your feet and be extra careful getting into the shower. Try this for a couple of weeks, and notice how much ore vibrant your skin is!

Neti pot and Nasya oil. We like to clear our nasal passages in the morning by using a neti pot and then lubricating the passages with a nasya oil. The oil, again, helps keep the nasal passages moist and actually acts as a barrier against viruses.

Before bed, try to practise yoga nidra or conscious relaxation. You’ll find a lovely practise here:

It’s also very important to get to bed at a reasonable hour, perhaps by 10 pm so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Try maybe one or two of these suggestions and let me know how it works out!

Take care and be well,

Pam