Go with the flow

It’s been so long since I’ve written a post, I feared I would have forgotten how to, or that it wouldn’t be as easy as I usually found it.

After staring at my screen for the past 4 hours, I know this to be true. It is good to be back, but a little strange after our mini-break for all things wedding, new-job and regular family chaos mixed in.

So bear with me, I may be rusty.

I’ve had these past few months off from work in which I’ve had to face down my own ego on quite a few occasions. There was a lot of swallowing my pride and observing my natural patterns to find areas where change could take place. I was stuck and getting unstuck isn’t always the easiest feat, but much like being determined to run a half marathon without really training (more on that later), I was determined to use the blessing of time to my betterment.

Throwing myself into my practice was the thing that saved me, I truly do believe. Saved me from my demons and gave me permission to be kind to myself about where I was in life. Learning to let go during class, to be present, mindful, to slow down in my daily life, to live in the moment and accept what it brings and work with it, no matter how the world presented itself to me. I could go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned in the hot room, dripping in sweat, breathing through the movement of the postures with ease or at my edge filled with effort, really forcing myself to internally scan where I needed the most of my self love.

The one thing all of these lessons has had in common though, is that the more you go with the flow of life, the universe if you will, the easier a time you will have.

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I do not mean that you will not struggle. I do not mean you will not hurt, ache, cry, or feel heartsick at any time. I do mean that you will find greater ease when you let go, and go with the flow.

I do not mean you should not pursue your passions or goals and things that set your heart on fire with relentless thirst. I do not mean that you will get everything you think you want, when you want it. I do mean you will have a greater chance of finding the REALLY right path if you do. You will be where you are meant to be, truly.

It’s the act of tapping into synchronicity – the more you pay attention to the little directives, signs and signals you’re being shown regularly, and do your best to quiet your ego and its hunger for centre stage as the main driver, the flow becomes more apparent, your path more clear. And I know from experience that the more you listen for the signals the stronger the frequency becomes. The more you pay attention, the more sense everything eventually makes.

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Growing up, and (let’s be honest) even into my early adult years, I learned a lot of tough lessons the very hard way, by being my own worst enemy and pushing my own plans and agenda on my life. Pushing so hard to get to where I thought I ‘should’ be, where I was convinced I belonged, what my ego told me I wanted, needed and could not live without. Life has a funny way of letting you get only so far and then shutting you down before redirecting you – in my case, always with great force that taught me a lot about putting yourself back together after you’re busted apart for regrowth and redirection.

As I look back on these lessons, I can see if I had applied even a bit of what I’ve learned about synchronicity through yoga, the harm and pain would have been notably less. I am sure the scars from those events would have healed quicker too, maybe might not be so apparent today.

I heard recently that the true act of yoga itself is not in the hot room and really starts to transform and change your life when you begin to practice what you learn on your mat in your life. In all of your relationships, in your employment, in your head with your running commentary to the world and ESPECIALLY to yourself – even in line at the grocery store. The conscious act of slowing down, breathing, actively quieting your inner monologue and literally going with the flow of your day, or the flow and direction of your life, can make or break the kind of life you have.

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As it unfolds in front of you, accept it as if you had chosen it, do what you have to in order to change what you’re able, but for the most part relax, be still and try to work with it.

~ Toni

Welcome, new Yogi

I watch you cautiously enter the studio – a place that at first glance can seem so intimidating, I know. You’re not sure what to expect or if you wore the right thing, or if you’ll even be able to make it through the hour you’ve set aside for you. I can see you are nervous, almost timid.

You’re greeted with warm smiles from the volunteers and instructors gathered hospitably around the front desk, waiting to help you sign up for a class, answer your questions, show you where the facilities and different tempered rooms are. These friendly faces put some of your fears to rest, at least for the moment. You can feel the shift of energy in the air as more students flow into the studio.

I  keep observing you from across the airy, open, sunny front room. I see your shoulders relax down your back slightly, ease entering your eyes and recognition of something almost home-like about this place  flashes in them. We catch each other’s gaze and share a small, but sincere smile.

You wander down the hall into the change room, where I am sure you’re talking yourself into class. Not sure what to expect, not sure if you’ll like it, not sure if it’s for you. Scared of the heat, the poses, the unknown.

I know this feeling all too well. I think every new yogi does.

What I want to tell you is that what you will find in the heated yoga studio upstairs is going to surprise you, maybe even scare you a little.

I want to tell you of the life-altering feeling you are about experience, the wash of emotion, the shift in perspective, the gains in confidence, compassion and strength you will feel.

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I want to burst at you with stories and antidotes of feeling yourself truly shut your brain off for the first time and the exhilarating calm that comes with that freedom.

I want to tell you, that if you just let it, this practice, those poses, this studio, will change your whole life and lift up your soul in ways you didn’t think were possible.

I want to tell you that it will only take a moment for you to fall so deeply in love with your practice and you’ll know exactly when it happens.

I want to tell you that it is okay to let go, especially here, and sometimes that very act might even come out as laughter or tears in class – and that’s okay.

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I want to share with you that the people that live, work and love here will become a second family to you, this studio a second home, if you let it, if you welcome it with open arms.

I want to calm your fears with tales of the incredible lives that have been changed by this bit of magic you’ve found, allowed into your life.

I want to warn you that you are about to challenge your ego, but it will be the best thing you ever do for your soul.

I want to tell you that you’re going to find out things about yourself that you didn’t know existed, had forgotten once were, and feel more you than you ever have in that 60, or 75 minutes of pure bliss.

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I want to tell you about the calm in your soul that will come when you become more aware and more present, at first in class, and then soon every area of your life.

I want to tell you that you will feel more in control and out of your mind in the most calming way, at the same time, in that room.

I want to tell you that when you adopt the true practice of yoga in areas of your life outside of the studio will be when you will truly understand what you’ve found.

I want to tell you to breathe your way through class and that you’ll soon realize that it’s necessary to breathe through life in the same way.

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I want to tell you so many things about what you’ve started by stepping onto your mat for the very first time.

But I don’t.

Instead I share one more silent smile with you as we both enter the room. I watch you find your place on your mat, sprawl out on the floor, fidgeting a bit as you start to relax. As I settle onto my mat myself, I say a little prayer for your practice and mine today, sending a little love, light and energy your way.

I can’t wait for the journey that lies ahead of you, the breakthroughs and breakdowns, the freedom from what is resting on your shoulders. I am so excited for you and your practice to unfold and the blessings it will so abundantly bring.

Welcome, new Yogi.

~ Toni

The girl with bad skin

I have started, stopped and erased the beginnings of this post about 5000 times and I still am not sure I want to write it.

You see, no one wants to admit to or highlight their flaws, especially ones that have been dealt with and endured for years by being masked as best they could be so the whole world wouldn’t notice. But I figured, there just might be someone else out there that needed to hear this, needed to relate, needed to not feel so alone, so here it is.

Up until about four months ago, you could not have paid me any amount of money to leave the house without applying a skillfully placed mask of makeup to cover up the skin on my face. You could not pay me to wash my makeup off when just relaxing at home for fear of my fiance not finding me attractive. You could not pay me to not wear makeup when working out, even though I knew how silly it made me look. You could not pay me to go on an early morning road trip without wearing makeup or go to the beach without making sure my skin was perfectly covered up, making me more high-maintenance than I ever wanted to be.

You could not have paid me, because I had severe adult acne and I HATED the way my face looked and felt.

While I always thought I had ‘bad skin’ because of the joys of puberty and chose to wear makeup from grade 8 on, I had no idea what bad skin was until I turned 26 and all hell broke loose. What used to be one or two blemishes, turned into cheek-fulls, a jawline packed and temples covered. My face was consistently swollen, red, and in so much pain. I wore my hair down 99% of the time so I would be able to somewhat shield my skin from onlookers’ eyes as no matter how much makeup I put on, the texture and surface of my skin was still a mess and I was convinced it was all people could see when they looked at me. I carried myself differently, almost always with my head down so others could not see on first glance what my face looked like. I felt like I was known as the girl with bad skin.

On top of how it made me feel about myself, I hated how it made Michael feel when he would forget and grab my face to kiss me and have me pull away with tears in my eyes from the pain.

It didn’t matter what I did, what latest, greatest product I used that promised to heal me, no matter how much money I wasted trying to figure out how to find balance in my skin, nothing worked. I had used every product imaginable, been poked, prodded and burned by micro-needling and laser therapy that was supposed to be a miracle treatment (it wasn’t… far, far from it!), fiddled with many natural remedies and sat in my dermatologist’s office more times than he or I care to admit, bawling my eyes out about my skin and how it was affecting my life, my confidence, and even my desire to plan our destination wedding. The very thought of being on a beach with my family and friends and having to get up early every day to cover up my face so no one would see the mess of my skin was giving me anxiety. I wanted to be carefree, relaxed and completely easy going that week, not worried about how my makeup was holding up so no one would see my real face.

Jacqui and I at the Jays game last summer... even with makeup and a filter you can see it.

Jacqui and I at the Jays game last summer… even with makeup and a filter you can see it.

I had had enough. I was 28 years old and should have been long grown out of this stage in my life. I thought crazy things about why it wouldn’t go away, like it was my karma showing on my skin for something I’d done in the past, or that it was my body punishing me for choosing not to have children. Crazy, crazy things!

This past October, I again found myself in my dermatologist’s office, in tears, desperate to fix it. He tried, unsuccessfully, to convince me it wasn’t that bad, at the very least not the worst he had seen and asked why I was so upset. I responded, “You clearly have never had acne in your life, nor do you really understand how much pain I am in, how much my skin hurts, stings and throbs all day.” His sheepish expression told me that he hadn’t really been putting himself in my shoes, and that he definitely hadn’t ever experienced any sort of skin problem before. He reminded me about the option of Accutane, but not until the spring due to some of the more dangerous side effects that can be magnified in the winter months. I had always been dead-set against going on such a controversial treatment, but I was desperate. Devastated that Accutane was the only available option left, I told him I would try it. To carry me through until Spring, he prescribed me a topical treatment that shared some of the same properties as Accutane and suggested I look again at some other areas of my life that could be contributing to my flare ups.

Shortly after that visit I lost my job which reduced the stress level in my life significantly and meant I didn’t HAVE to put makeup on everyday. I made the decision with Michael to go back on the pill to see if the hormone regulation would help. On top of that, I cut most dairy from my diet, increased my daily water intake, started sweating without makeup on at Moksha and religiously used the prescribed topical treatment day and night. I stopped picking and poking my skin and let it be as often as I could.

Slowly, but surely I started seeing fewer new blemishes and the old wounds healing, and every day noticing a bit more skin that resembled a face I could love and less of a face like Freddy Kruger’s. I was so happy that I wouldn’t have to take Accutane!

I don’t know what specifically, or what combination of steps taken was the key, but present day, my skin is the healthiest it has ever been. So healthy in fact that I rarely even have to think twice before I leave the house fresh-faced and makeup free, something I had only ever dreamed of being able to do. So healthy that people who have not seen me for months can’t get over how great my skin looks. So healthy that if I told you I used to have a face FULL of acne only a few months ago, you would not believe me.

I wear my hair pulled back in braids or a bun all the time now, walk with my head held high and my face proudly on display for anyone to see. Don’t tell Mike, but I even got hit on at the grocery store the other day, makeup free, something I never thought in a MILLION years would happen.

No makeup selfie for the first time EVER.

No makeup selfie for the first time EVER.

But my favourite thing about my new, healthier skin?

Michael touches my face all of the time now – to kiss, to caress, just to love – and it makes my heart so happy it could burst.

It’s made me realize even more that the people that love me, for me, are not fooled by the misconceptions I have about myself and can look past my flaws even when I’m unable to separate myself from them. I’ve also been reminded that you should never give up on being an advocate for yourself. If I had not pushed back with my dermatologist just one more time, I highly doubt my skin would be where it is right now.

My skin is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But for now, I’m enjoying my new found freedom and confidence in this skin I’m growing into, and learning to love it regardless of its problems and issues… kind of like me.

~ Toni

Five thoughts every yogi has…but may not admit!

If you are one of our regular readers, then you know that Toni has recently found her love of yoga. On her journey she has brought me and our other sisters along for the journey, and I thank her for it. Yoga is a practice I enjoy, and wish I could go to more often, however due to life, the wedding and general laziness I have missed almost two months of reconnecting with myself during these sweaty sessions.

This weekend Cody and I, along with our wedding party, will be holding our buck and doe, and as I sit here thinking of the week to come and carefully planning out my life, I have decided that I will attend karma class this Friday in order to reconnect with myself and give myself a break from general wedding insanity for an hour before this weekend’s festivities!

I am a check-list queen, so with this decision of going to karma class my mind starts to go into overdrive, and once again I send myself into a tizzy thinking of all the things I need to accomplish before Friday. Turning off your mind and focusing on your breathing is the hardest part for me about yoga – turning off the list-making, double-checking, shit-I-forgot-that-and-that brain function is HARD WORK!

During a regular yoga practice the following five thoughts regularly occur for me:

1. Must remember to _____ after class.

Fill in the blank for yourself, you name it I’ve thought it! Pick up coffee, get yogurt, call Cody and confirm that thing that I was suppose to confirm with him yesterday but didn’t. Call my mom, call my grandma. List list list list list, to do, to do, to do. I CAN’T STOP!!! Make it stop!

2. Don’t fart…don’t fart!!!!!!

There is one position where you lie on your back, curl your knees to your stomach and literally massage your colon. The instructor will even explain to you that this stretch is perfect for your lower intestine and your digestion. What I think every time I get into this position is, “I am going to fart and it’s so damn quiet in here, everyone is gonna know it was me, and then I am going to laugh, and not just like a little giggle, but a full blown laugh where you are laughing because it’s awkward, and you then realize you are laughing because you are uncomfortable so you laugh because you are not supposed to laugh and then it just keeps going!”, so instead, I just clench my butt and hope and pray that I do not fart. Or should I try to slowly let it out, and hope that it’s quiet…nope…it’s gonna be loud…hold it in, hold it in!!!!! This is one of the main reasons I choose a spot in the back corner of the room, so if I do fart, I can hide.

3. I should have shaved my ________! 

Now for this one, it’s usually my armpits as karma is hot yoga, so you never wear long sleeves and if you do then you are either straight up CRAZY or you are trying to drop in a weight class before your wrestling meet tomorrow. Now again in a yoga practice you are supposed to be focused on you, how you are stretching, your breathing, what is comfortable for you, but I am a Portuguese woman whose father blessed her with all the hair in the world. I can bet you 1 million dollars that my armpits close to waxing day would distract even the most seasoned yoga veteran. As I raise my arms in the air to get into that final position of a pose, and you out of the corner of your eye see the long luscious locks I can grow from under my arms, well it’s enough to throw anyone off their game!

4. Don’t fall! DO NOT FALL! 

The karma class on Fridays at our local Moksha Yoga studio has a capacity of about 40 to 45 and it is ALWAYS PACKED!!! So when you are bending and stretching and trying to contort your body the way that the instructor is guiding you, there is always one position which leaves you on one leg! These are usually to promote balance, but I think its just the instructor trying to play human dominoes. One of these days, I am going to fall over and knock the next person down beside me. Until this happens, know that when I am on one foot I am not breathing in and out and focusing on my breath, but rather chanting “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall!!!”

5. I can not believe this much sweat can come out of one person! 

Honestly, it’s shocking! The amount of moisture that comes out of one’s body during a super sweaty bendy class is disturbing. And surprisingly, it doesn’t smell as bad as you would think (THANK GOD FOR DEODORANT). When I go home, I can wring out my clothes and, if I wanted to, I could make a pretty penny selling Eau Du Jacqui (trust me, I cringed as well as I wrote that; it won’t happen, I promise…ew). And to be honest, Toni sweats WAY MORE than I do! I think it may be a hormonal imbalance, but the jury is still out on that one!

If you have the pleasure of being beside me in our next yoga class, please know that all of these things are true, you lucky devil you! 😉

~ Jacqui

Working to a better me

I am not the biggest fitness guru in the world, not even in this sisterhood, but I do have a few things that I love doing as I work my way to a better me.

1. Hot Yoga:
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I have Toni to blame for this one. I didn’t think I would like it at all. I thought I would hate the heat, and just hate the fact that my body can’t do all the yoga poses. However, the first night I attempted this I felt so calm and at peace with my body and myself afterward I knew it was love. I love my body for all its largeness, but know it can be better. And now I can listen to my body better than I have in the past.

2. Crunches:
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I have a love for them. I can do 96 of them in a row, which I am pretty damn proud of myself for. For this I have to thank my old burlesque teacher, Miss Sassy Ray. She is wonderful, and showed me that no matter what size you are, you can dance, crunch, and wiggle with the best of them.

3. Eating Better:
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Less fast food, less junk overall, and just trying to put more veggies where there is too much starch. This one is hard because I live with so many people, with varying likes and dislikes, but I have found ways to sneak in the healthy stuff.

I am not the best at being healthy or treating my body well, but I am on a road leading to a better me, and working on a better happiness for who I am, what I look like, and my size.
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~ Andreah