Special Event: Yoga at the Surrey Museum

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Special Event: Yoga at the Surrey Museum

Announcing a very special event this weekend, Yoga at the Surrey Museum!

This Sunday, October 14, 2018.

Click HERE to be transported to the City of Surrey Website for more information.

This is a new event for the City, and for me. I’m so pleased to bring some soft Sunday Jazz to the museum for folks to lean into with their bodies, moving and stretching to the soothing sounds of Chris Botti and Sade!

Come and participate in culture in Cloverdale!

I’ll see you there on the mat. And by the way… Bring Your Own Mat!

Jai Bhagwan

Meet Me at the Temple

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Meet Me at the Temple

One of my favourite days of the week is Friday! And not just for the universal “Thank God it’s Friday” axiom, but because Fridays are Temple Days for me. Friday is the day of my Sangha, my yoga community practice. I consider this my ‘home yoga group’, my yoga family.

If you’ve been to one of my classes, you’ve probably heard me say “My week is an arrow, pointing at this hour”, and it is so true. Friday morning yoga class is my reset, my opportunity for integration, for connection and for authentic movement. I frankly feel the most ‘me’ in this hour.

I get to both witness and be part of the therapeutic flow between lush, fun, hand-picked bouquets of music, fascia-deep stretching, bone-density building strength work, and ripe core presencing.

I especially love the openness of this group. This is a drop-in class, so there is always fluidity in who shows up, but there is a core group of mavericks who show up every week: body willing, truth-telling, sensing and open to whatever the muses have channeled for me that day.

There is TRUST in the room, and it is palpable, built upon a model of invitations, self-choosing, multiple modifications, and most importantly, self-respecting movement that is intended to open, soothe and satiate even the most savage of beasts with creature comforts, with the odd psychological or philosophical wisdom pearl thrown in for good measure.

I am exceedingly grateful for this practice and my community. With so much heart, so much generousity and so much interest in our collective good health and wellness. The South Surrey Recreation and Art Centre is a veritable bee-hive of activity.

Blessings and Blissings, my Sangha.

The light in me, sees and acknowledges the bright light that blazes in each of your hearts.

Joani-la

Malasana & Autumnal Light: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Malasana & AUTUMNAL Light:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than any other season” ~ Jim Bishop

I just got in from my morning QiGong and meditation practice at our river front. I’m absolutely gobsmacked by how wealthy I feel being in nature on a day like today. It is chilly, with evidence of frost on the forest floor. However, the sun is spilling down in cascades that sweeps the earth in brilliant patterns, and renders leaves transparent as the sun screams through their thin flesh, laying bare their bones.

This morning, I chose Malasana as my meditation pose, the Garland posture. The deep squat is a very frequent resting body posture for those countries that do not depend upon the use of chairs for comfort. Chairs are brutal on the human spine, and one of the major causes of back issues. In countries that ‘live and work on the floor’, spinal issues are much less of a concern.

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The deep squat is a position of work, rest, eating, child birthing, visiting and joy around the world, but not so loved in Western culture, due to the collective tightness of our hamstrings, and the weakness of our knees from lack of opening to their full fulcrum abilities.

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Children squat with ease, and frequently use this as a restful play position. This should tell us something about the dangers of chair dependence, the impact of years of sitting, rather than moving, and offer us a way to become more nubile, more flexible, more grounded and weightless… by practicing Malasana… the deep squat.

I am a fan of the internet meme: Sitting is the new smoking. Sitting in chairs that is! Sit in squat for lower body health. And… some extra bonuses are a good stretch for the pelvic floor, an important balance to conscious strengthening work through kegels. And the pressure of the belly against the thighs can activate and stimulate the vagal nerves, inspiring the rest-inducing and system restoring parasympathetic system. Can you feel the ahhhhhh?

I find when I am in Malasana pose, especially today, drenched in sunlight that pours down in golden sheaths in the amber autumn ambiance, I feel ironically free of gravity, weightless and unbearably light. I feel both connected to the earth, but also buoyant and free, ethereal, skybound.

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The squat is also common in the animal kingdom. These deLIGHTful frogs appear suspended as they fold their legs into garlands around themselves. Grasping with their tiny toes, they allow their weight to hang from their spines, in a natural and passive stretch that opens up fascia, melts muscle tension and builds strength.

Try it for yourself at some point today. Pause for a moment, and avail yourself to the lightness of Malasana. And preferably out doors in this resplendent sunshine. Here on the West Coast,fall sunshine is highly economical and rare. Like Gold itself, this light is precious and precarious. One feels rich and abundant in its radiant presence. Experience Gratitude in Garland pose by adding in Anjali Mudra (prayer hands). Wonder-full.

IN-JOY! And squat. Your primal self will love you for it.

Resisting Insouciance: A Prescriptive Poetic Invitation

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Resisting Insouciance:

A Prescriptive Poetic Invitation

(Inspired by the poetry of Celeste West[i])

 

 

Unscare your stable sensations of security,

Unveil and unshame your liquid sensuousness,

Uncritic your imaginal creativity,

Unreject your resolute will and boreal intuition,

Undefend your majestic heart,

Unsuppress your sovereign voice,

Unworry, unstick your lucid and fluid mind,

Unstop your lavish, secret sense of wonder.

 

Uncleave your bodymind

Ungrind your porous bones

Unmachete dense dentrites

Unanxiously sit in the quiet forest of your mind

 

Unresist the beckon to root and reach,

            Uncomplicate your ferocious desire for peace

Unagonize, unneglect and unburden your fecund, velvet self

 

Unlisten your desire to conform

Unblunt your thirst for justice

Untether the leash that chokes your love

Undampen the fire that drives your hunger

 

Unruffle your luminous feathers

Unhide (from) your feral self

 

 

 

© Joani Mortenson

September 22, 2016

  

[i] Unstiffen your supple body, unchatter your quiet mind, unfreeze your fiery heart. ~Celeste West

This poem was inspired by the words of Celeste West. I first read these precious and profound words on a small sign by the door of our Osteopath, Karen Angelucci of Birthright Investment. Click HERE to be whisked away to her nourishing website. We highly recommend this earth angel for your body’s every need.

Serve Lovely Tea, Invite Reverence & Create Hospitable Space

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Serve Lovely Tea, Invite Reverence & Create Hospitable Space

The above photo is from one of my most favourite sites, Unsplash. It caught my eye as I was browsing the latest of their Creative Commons photos. I continue to be so grateful for generous artists who share their delightful work with no cost to me. Thank you,
Loverna Journey
@loverna
, for your photography.

I was drawn in by the beauty of this photo, and it struck me as a way to talk about creating reverent pauses in our lives. So often, our pauses are expressions of frustration, signaling lack or deficit, or worse, noticing how someone else, or something else robbed us of our equilibrium, our comfort, our sense of familiarity. We let out a strong sigh when our nervous systems get overloaded as a way of literally letting off steam.

Pause… Let’s invite in another kind of pause.

The Pause of Prevention. The Pause that fills our cups, the pause that puts patience in our emotional bank accounts.

The Intentional Pause. The Pause that refreshes. The Pause that doesn’t drain us, but fills us.

What if at some point today you stopped what you were doing, gathered up just a few simple items, perhaps a candle, a flower or fern, a fond object, and served lovely tea. That tea that you hold on to for company, that tea that you save for a special occasion. If you are like me, you have lots of them in your cupboard, along with those nice mugs that you don’t use daily.

Use them. Enjoy them. Create a sacred space with them.

Bless your own bounty. Serve yourself some lovely tea. And pause while you savour the aroma, the flavour, the trajectory of how those leaves that grow in a field, probably very far away, made their way to you, through numerous industrious hands. Pause to give thanks. Pause to enjoy. Pause to savour.

Even if it is only for a few minutes. Take that sigh, in an intentional way… notice the tension that creeps into your body in an average day, and decide, for just a few moments, to let it all go.

If you want to alter your life, start by creating an altar of reverence, start by deciding to create hospitable space for yourself, for your friends, for your family. Start Now!

Don’t postpone joy.

Don’t wait for the next best thing to arrive.

Carpe Vida. Seize Life.

Jai Bhagwan.

Shift Your Weight, Like a Heron

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Shift Your Weight, Like a Heron…

If you’ve ever taken a yoga or movement class with me, you may be familiar with one of my oft used nature-based similes… Shift your weight, like a heron…

In my yoga teacher training, we were guided to rely on nature for metaphors and similes, because nature provides direct experiences that are easy and safe to relate to. If you live on the West Coast, chances are excellent that you’ve had the opportunity to observe a heron standing very still in the water engaged in food foraging. Herons take their time… they pause… they breathe very slowly, slowing their heart rate and increasing their focus and attention to make their beak strikes count. They are efficient. They are intentional.

Herons appear to embody ‘weight sensing’ before shifting into ‘weight activation”, to borrow terminology from Laban. This slow shift a heron makes illustrates a material and corporeal demonstration of intention. Intention feels very much like an internal process, though it can be triggered or motivated by external stimuli. A heron watches the water closely, waiting for food to swim by, and only when food is in view, do they dive in after it.

When I suggest moving like a heron, I’m using this simile to invoke the sensing of the body first. Feel your weight, allow the sensation of gravity to become predominant in your experience of the body. One of my teachers calls it “making a date with gravity”. Then, with intention, shifting weight onto one foot before moving the other. This, slow and methodical intention, the literal deconstruction of movement, provides an opportunity to slow down, to pause, to reflect and to breathe, and to decide what to do next.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz about busy, the memes that help remind us to resist the cult of ‘busy’ and to take time for self care. It seems we are collectively inundated with ‘busy guilt’ as we are busy being busy. I am not here to ‘busy shame’ you.

Rather, I’m here to inspire you to consider the benefits of slowing down, taking time before shifting from one gear to the other.

Admittedly, I know myself well enough to know that I am a slow processor: I have the kind of temperament that prefers slower transitions. So this works very well for me and my constitution. In my experience, it also works well for children.

I’ve been inviting others to shift like a heron during movement practices, yet in my business life, I’ve not given myself enough time to be heron-like. So this year, I am taking on the heron as a true spirit-guide. I’m taking the time to sense where I am, and where I want to go before I strike.

This year, I am pausing. I am doing less than half of what I’ve done in the past in order to decide how to shift with efficiency, with grace, with elegance, with intention. I am taking the time to view the entire pond before making any moves.

I am taking time to observe. I am taking time to write. I am making time to move with intention, sensing first, then moving with clarity.

There are myriad moments in a day when we could choose to pause. Pay attention to how you move in your environment, in your own eco-system. Notice when you might sense first. Try it out. Experiment. Be curious about sensing before moving. Does it serve you?

Another movement instruction Joani-ism is that “I offer invitations”. I will often explain before a class that what I am offering are merely invitations, and sometimes it is most empowering to decline an invitation. So… my invitation here is to shift, like a heron.

Does that work for you?

Are you willing to share your experience?

I’d love to hear from YOU.

Keep Knocking...

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The following poem is one of my favourites. I recall my first time reading this poem, finding it, of all places, in a washroom at Banyen Books and Sound in Vancouver. I was reminded of it this morning, having just watched a short video by the actor Will Smith, who waxes about the importance of self discipline in order to achieve 'success' (however one may define this for themselves). 

The grit, beyond the cheese, in Will Smith's diatribe on self discipline is that he equates this resourceful behaviour with self-love. I really appreciated this framing of what some may find unpleasant, the tapas, the heat of disciplining one's behaviour towards health, and often away from hedonism, or id-focused living where we allow our wants to supersede our needs. Instead of focusing on the slog-thoughts of trudging through one's plan, an attitudinal reframing of this work as investing in one's own growth through the self loving acts feels way more hopeful and helpful to me.

This brings me to a few of my own favoured practices for elevation and self growth: Meditation, Music and Movement (and reading Rumi's ecstatic works). Rather than include Will Smith's video (which you can Google is you wish!), I offer a video of music that supports the ascendency of Rumi's poem, and promotes meditation and easy movement. It may even support chanting along, creating an internal vibration that is soothing to the nervous system. 

My invitation is to play the video and read the poem. Pause. Give yourself some time to absorb the offering. Weigh what it means, if anything, for you. Allow and accept these gifts, releasing what does not serve, and integrating what does. 

Keep Knocking... and the Joy inside will eventually open a window. 

 

THE SUNRISE RUBY


In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.

She asks, "Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth."

He says, "There is nothing left of me.
I'm like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight."

This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!

The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.

Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.



Coleman Barks, Tr., The Essential Rumi (San Fransico: Harper Collins, 1995)

Courage Does Not Always Roar...

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"Courage Does Not Always Roar....

Sometimes, it is the Quiet Voice that Says, "I will try again tomorrow".

~ Mary Anne Radmacher.

One of favourite quotes ever. In the history of Ever.

I first saw it on the bathroom wall of my favourite therapist of all time, the inimitable Susan Armstrong (who has a practice in the Okanagan... she is THE REAL DEAL).

I am currently writing a course on trauma sensitive and decolonizing yoga teaching strategies, and this quote is like a bolster under the legs of my theoretical perspective on "resilience" and "courage". 

These words: resilience and courage,  are often used as psychological whips that produce deep shame when someone is so depleted of energy they cannot produce, perform or rise as others may decide they should.

These words are sometimes oppressive even if they are intended to be helpful. I love this quote's approach to courage. It signals the inclusion of waiting until it arrives, rather than expecting it to always move you forward like a lion. Sometimes, courage needs the right context to show up. Sometimes courage is quiet. Unassuming. Sometimes it subverts and disrupts what we expect. 

Sometimes courage is the quiet lamb that needs to rest and gain strength.

Trust yourself first, to decide what expression of courage is right for you. 

As one of my most prominent yoga teachers shares, "May you be like the lotus, at home in muddy waters " (Judith Lasatar, inhabiting the original quote from Thich Nat Hahn's "No Mud, No Lotus" axiom). 

Life can be muddy, but without the mud, we wouldn't feel that oh so satisfying 'ssshhhhluckkkk' feeling when our boot breaks free from the muck into clear air. As care workers and support professionals, we can't, nor should we, clear other people's muck because it is their journey to traverse, but we can line up gum boots and rain gear to help others weather their own storms, and make their own way through their own muck, in the company of community. 

How are you expressing your courage today? Roaring? Or in quietude? 

 

I am Part of the Movement MOVEMENT

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Movements happen when consciousness is raised through awareness and action, action happens through intention, intention is informed by awareness. See the cycle here? We are witnessing and experiencing an uprise in the awareness and action of, as well as the participation in movement, because of the increasing understanding of the global and holistic healing aspects of movement; physiological and psychological, cognitive and spiritual. There are also huge community and relational healing aspects to movement.

We are in the midst of a MOVEMENT about movement.

*Ferociously Happy Spontaneous Living Room Dance*

"Together We Rise" is a pithy statement that reflects both the metaphysical and material aspects of coming to new knowledge, skills and awareness, as in, arriving in or choosing to be part of a movement. The pith of this is that it is actually happening, in big and small ways across the planet. We are moving as individuals, as groups, as cultures, as movements. 

The individual experience of being part of a movement is often one of a greater sense of community and belonging which promotes best-self behaviours. When we tap our universal need for belonging, for acceptance, for love and meaningful connection, our traumas can heal, our defenses can be lowered and we can be more authentically who we are, as our best selves with our most expansive capacities. 

For me, yoga, dance and intuitive movement have been the portals to self knowledge and community, to beauty, tenderness and compassion, to an expansion of myself and my agency in the world.

Movement is both my method of inquiry and my internal conflict resolution strategy.

In short, I believe with all my heart that MOVEMENT WORKS.

Movement animates. 

Movement both differentiates and bonds us. 

Movement is both expressive and functional. 

Movement fuels the exertion and recuperation cycle. 

Movement delivers one more deeply to oneself and thus to the world. 

Movement Reveals and Heals. 

Movement is life, life is movement. 

Welcome to the MOVEMENT. Your whole self is welcome. 

 

Nutrition Bomb: Rainforest Bark

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Lately, when I am asked to bring a 'nibbly', this is what I bring. Firstly, it is so DANG easy to make, and secondly, the taste is buckle-your-knees-good. Thirdly, it is sugar-free, so... you know. Right?

Recently, I attended a Meet & Greet afternoon hosted by Manipura Yoga College at OmTown Yoga Studio in Nanaimo, BC. I brought this om-mazing and ridiculously inexpensive and super easy to concoct treat.  As requested, I am delighted to share the recipe with you! 

The recipe is from the book "I Quit Sugar" by Sarah Wilson. I highly recommend this book. I first found it at the library, which is my favourite way to preview items that I covet. Cookbooks are among my biggest holdings! Books in general are my biggest vice, second only to iTune purchases. Sheepish Grin. 

Here we go! And in homage to all yoga practitioners, I have modified this recipe to suit my tastes; feel most free to modify it towards your own palate. I have learned that I have a hyper-mobile palate, so be warned. I like most things. You may not. 

Assemble: 

1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup of almond butter warmed or melted (I use Rainforest Butter, a Nuts to You Butter available at any health food store)

2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons of brown rice syrup (I used coconut nectar)

pinch of rock salt

handful of cacao nibs

Directions: 

Line a pie plate with baking paper. Combine the oil, butter, coconut flakes and syrup in a pan on very low heat (coconut flakes burn quickly) just enough to melt. 

Stir to mix all ingredients well. 

Pour directly onto the baking paper in pan, then tilt the pan side to side, spreading around the gooey goodness to even it out. 

Sprinkle handful of cacao nibs on top, and then sprinkle some nice course rock salt. 

Put the tray in the freezer for 2 hours. Then break up into shards and store in the fridge. 

That's it! Sooooo easy. And sooooo good. I'm sure you can think of other modifications too! Make it your own. 

Take Me to Your River

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I have recently watched a mini series that initially launched on HBO. It hasn't hit Netflix yet, but I'm sure it will, as the series was so successful they've planned a second season. Are you curious what it is? The series is called "Big Little Lies". And it was a phenomenal experience for me in so many ways. Though, the content was not as remarkable as the form for me. 

I borrowed the series from my local library and viewed it while exercising on our elliptical machine. The first two things that struck me about the series were the remarkable visuals... the cinematography is exquisite as it takes place on the gorgeous and succulent Coast of California in Monterey. The director of photography, Yves Bélanger, accomplished the feat of creating intimacy in each and every frame, often taking my breath away with sheer gorgeousness. 

The second aspect that gripped me was the music. Oh, my, but this series, like many others, has a very carefully, well-crafted and curated soundtrack with tunes as deeply sensuous and a music director as intimacy-focused as the director of photography. Together, this created a lush landscape upon which to place the intertwined stories of modern day problems of the privileged. For me, the drama was secondary to the feast for my senses, steeped in sights and sounds that moved me deeply. 

Spoiler alert: This series could (and most probably would) be shockingly triggering for women who have experienced sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence, so my advice is to be mindful of your psyche if you choose to view it. If either of these circumstances are potentially re-traumatizing for you, then I would suggest forgoing the series and instead just listening to the melliflous and benevolent soundtrack. 

Race is also an issue on this show, though only in they way it is presented, rather the stunning lack of it. The series team missed an opportunity by not making race a potent content point. I admit it struck me as odd and incongruent that so many of the recording artists featured on the Big Little Lies soundtrack are of color, especially when the cast is almost entirely Caucasian, and notably the leading cast consists of three white women. I can see how this could create a valid criticism of the show, but it certainly upholds my thesis that the content focuses on white privilege and their everyday lived experiences and problems. 

Returning to the soundtrack, the primary purpose of this post is to invite you to check out this incredible music and to lose yourself in the meditation and movement it inspires. 

Here are my three favourites tunes from the Soundtrack. I hope you enjoy them as deeply and sensuously has I have. 

The first is "River" by Leon Bridges. Oh, my but this song is for me a wild ride of (sh)ear-joy. I've linked a YouTube from the artist (as opposed to the soundtrack set) as it was produced to be a stand alone mini film. It is a treat to watch as well as listen to. I'd love to hear what you think. The first time I heard this song, I knew it would live long in many song sets for yoga, dance, movement and other sensory experiences. Wink Wink. Take me to your river, I wanna go. Take me to your river, I wanna know. Oh, yes, Oh, yes, Oh, YES! 

The second is the theme song for the series: Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka. I enjoyed opening each of the series' seven episodes, watching the main characters traverse the winding roads that hug the shoreline with their elegant children in tow on an incredible drive to school that felt more like the initial ride of a long-awaited vacation. I had no such experiences being ferried to school. Ever. There is a grit to this song that foreshadows and underscores the brutality that unfolds within the connected story lines. The slowly urgent pace of the song moves the story along week to week, and when I listen to it my living room, inspires me to move in ways that arc into space in a languid, dreamy way. 

The trifecta of new songs I was introduced to on this series is This Feeling by the inimitable Alabama Shakes. I've included a live version of the song here, because watching the tenderness of the lead singer Brittany Howard is so worth the watch. This woman is a Goddess of creating ambiance with her voice. This song offers so much hope with the refrain "I'm gonna be alright". 

I hope you enjoy these offerings, and I would really love to hear what you think? Do you like these songs? Does a favourite emerge? Have you seen this series? What are your thoughts and feelings on the form? The content? The alchemy of both? Dialogue? Rants? I'm open for business! 

New Website; Fresh Wishes

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Welcome to my new succulent space.

My cyber shingle and ethereal gathering space.

Blessings to my dear friend Jay Suttonbrown of Manipura Yoga College for introducing me to Square Space and the agentic wonderfulness of being able to create, maintain and update my own website. I'm so thrilled to have a space to call home, and to source you with current, relevant and reverent resources. 

I hope you find this site interesting, challenging, resourceful and germane to your growth, health, happiness and peace. My intention has been to create a thriving space where conversations could be lingered over, where wine could be sipped whilst savouring lush and contemplative photography or listening to a podcast, where coffee, tea or YOU could be percolating while reading a rousing regaling post, and where you could also find that sultry song you loved so much during yoga or dance class with me. 

Please. Make yourself comfortable. You are welcome here. In the words of one of my favourite people on the planet...

Show up. 

Be present. 

Tell the truth. 

Susan Armstrong 

May your time here be well served. And may you know that even though it is fun to look around, exciting to learn and beguiling to find resonance with others, the true source of your wisdom lies within you. As Rumi says, "Remember, the gateway to the sanctuary is inside you". Now, make your own wish. 

c/Joani Mortenson, February 2018