HappyTree is in full bloom!

Dear HappyTree Community,

Hello from sunny Marrakech!! I have just had the incredible privilege of hosting HappyTree’s first ever overseas yoga and wellbeing retreat, with Bhaksar Goswami and Lisa Lajoie. My most heartfelt gratitude to everyone who joined us – it was amazing to spend a week with you all, soaking in the magic of Morocco. The week was such a transformational experience that we will be repeating it next year and announcing dates for 2018 soon!

As we spring into spring, the April Challenge is a great way to shake off any remaining winter heaviness and start the new season with presence and vitality. I love the energy at HappyTree during our challenge and I can’t wait to get back and see how everyone is doing! Tara Porter and her Bhavan 2 crew are back for Kirtan this Saturday, April 8th from 6:00-7:30 pm. Celebrate and be uplifted through music and chant! RSVP on Facebook.

Our family yoga program continues to grow, in no small part due to the passion and hard work of our very own Jenny Berthiaume, who is offering our first Fertility Yoga series this spring. Our family yoga program continues with Prenatal YogaMom (or Dad) and Baby Yoga and  Yoga Birthing workshops. We have also expanded our teacher training offerings in partnership with Amanda DeGrace of Little Lotus Yoga. This May we are offering Kids Yoga teacher training the weekend of May 5th – 7th and Prenatal Yoga teacher training module 2 on May 26th – 28th, 2017.

Our great line up of series, workshops and special events continues this spring. Following the success of her first Master Class at HappyTree, Barrie Risman is offering a 6-week Evolving Your Yoga series, starting April 14th, 2017. Our Master Class Series, which started in January with Dawn Mauricio’s meditative exploration of intention and presence, continues with more leaders of the Montreal yoga community. Join us for the fourth and last Master Class of 2017 on May 21st discover the famous Dr. Bali Method with Dr. Madan Bali himself. All our Master Classes are open to all levels.

On April 21st we are thrilled to welcome back Bram for his Shedding Fear, Insecurity & Anxiety with Yoga, Meditation & Spirituality workshop. Also this April, my four-day intensive Yin Yoga Teacher Training is already sold out! If you’re interested in taking it, you can add yourself to our waiting list by calling 514-846-9642, or register for my next Yin Yoga Teacher Training taking place on the 10th-12th and the 24th-26th of November. Registration is already open so reserve your spot now!

I’ll also be joining Lyne St Roch for her Bleue Lavanderetreat on July 8th and 9th, 2017. I will be giving a 90-minute yin yoga class during this retreat which also features meditation, qi gong and vinyasa yoga. Lyne is one of the pioneers of yoga within Montreal’s francophone community and we are also excited to welcome her to HappyTree for a two-hour workshop on the evening of October 11th, 2017. More details on Lyne’s workshop will be coming soon.

I look forward to sharing our new schedule, plenty of good vibes and our love of yoga with you.

Love and hugs,

Melanie Richards

Founder/Director HappyTree Yoga Studio
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What’s New in 2017

Happy New Year!!
Holiday cheer at the HappyTree staff party!
May 2017 bring exciting changes and new adventures to your life!
Sonya is on maternity leave!
Our beloved Sonya Beaudoin and Brian Tuck are certainly both embracing new beginnings this year: Sonya has started her maternity leave and Brian has taken the leap of faith to become a flight attendant and travel the world!
Bram Levinson is also focusing on travel and writing his new book; he will remain an important part of our Tree by offering workshops and participating as a guest teacher in our 200-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training (which only has one spot left by the way – it’s not too late to apply!). Though we will miss seeing them every week, we couldn’t be happier for them as they each enter a new and exciting chapter of their life!
I personally have never been more proud of what we are offering you this coming year. In line with new beginnings, we have hand-picked some of the best teachers from around the city to join our stellar team,
Evolve your practice with Barrie
including Barrie Risman who comes to us with over 20 years of teaching experience and who has led teacher trainings and workshops throughout Canada and internationally, since 2004. You can now take her class at HappyTree on Fridays from 4:30-6:00 pm and you will be able to join her Backbends Master Class and Evolving Your Yoga series this spring.
Meditation with Dawn Mauricio
We are also welcoming seasoned master yoga teachers Dawn Mauricio, Carina Raisman and Dr. Bali for our new series of Master Classes. Each two-and-a-half hour class will be a marvelous opportunity to those who are thirsting to learn more and go deeper into their practice – whether it’s through meditation with Dawn, anatomy with Carina, or by discovering the famous Dr. Bali method. All levels are welcome.
Kundalini with Shabad
To help you explore yoga “outside the box”, we have a fantastic lineup of brand new series. Learn different styles of meditation with me, apply yoga philosophy to your life with Bhaskar and take a journey into consciousness through Kundalini Yoga with renowned teacher Shabad Saroop Singh Kalsa. To make it through the dark days of February, take Susan’s iRest Yoga Nidra series and to maximize your vitality this spring, learn about Ayurveda with Dominic.
We are pleased to announce that Mom (or Dad!) and Baby Yoga and Prenatal Yoga are now drop-in classes on our regular schedule and our new Family Yoga 6-class card gets you into both! We have new dates for Jenny Berthiaume’s Yoga Birthing workshops and if you are interested in learning to teach Prenatal and Kids Yoga, we have trainings coming up this winter and spring with Amanda de Grace from Little Lotus Yoga and Jenny!
Last but not least, I am thrilled to annouce our first HappyTree Yoga Retreat in Marrakech, Morocco!! Embrace adventure and join me, Bhaskar and Spiritual Master Lisa Lajoie half a world away on the trip of a lifetime, March 25th-April 1st.
HappyTree Retreat in Morocco!
You can also catch Bhaskar and I at Expo Yoga, February 11-12, or join me in Magog for a Yin Yoga workshop at Lyne St Roch. Follow me on instagram and join the #defiexpoyoga challenge of 10 yoga poses over 10 days from January 10-19!
I look forward to sharing our new schedule, plenty of good vibes and our love of yoga with you this vibrant and happy New Year!
Love and hugs,
Melanie Richards
Founder/Director HappyTree Yoga Studio
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Help Us Keep Gentle Yoga at HappyTree!

“I find Gentle yoga to be such a positive, uplifting experience. Sometimes, I feel like a totally different person after yoga class. I may have come there tired, anxious or stressed and after yoga I feel happy and relaxed.”

– Cancer patient and Gentle Yoga student

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Since 2007, I’ve had the privilege of teaching yoga to cancer patients. Beginning at the Montreal General and The Royal Victoria Hospitals, I volunteered under Cedars CanSupport twice a week, guiding patients through gentle stretches, deep breathing and guided relaxation to soothe their nerves and calm their minds prior to chemotherapy.

The classes were so well received that in 2008, CanSupport and my yoga studio, HappyTree, launched a partnership to offer gentle yoga free of charge for cancer patients and survivors.

In May 2016, CanSupport sadly informed us that due to reorganizational issues associated with their amalgamation into the new McGill University Health Centre, it was no longer part of their mandate to sponsor the classes and our funding would be cut as of June 1st, 2016.

While we were all sad to receive this news, I’ve been touched by the outpouring of support through both written letters and testimonials from my gentle yoga students. Not only have they shared their stories with me personally, they have also been willing to share them publicly on CBC News and CTV News.

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“Since I have been regularly attending Gentle yoga classes at HappyTree, I no longer take any pain medications, I sleep well and the mobility of my arm has increased tremendously.”

– Cancer patient and Gentle Yoga student

It is with their encouragement that I have launched a GoFundMe campaign to keep the classes going.

With your help, we hope to continue offering free gentle yoga to a community of people who really need it – many of whom could not afford it otherwise. Your donation and the simple act of sharing this story with your friends and family will go a long way in helping us to reach our goal.

With sincere and heartfelt appreciation,

Melanie Richards

Founder & Director, HappyTree Yoga Studio

“HappyTree is an extraordinary place: I start to relax as soon as I open its doors and walk up the stairs. It is the singularly most positive, supportive and empowering environment I have ever been in.” 

 

– Cancer patient and Gentle Yoga student

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Summer Newsletter 2016

Melanie Richards – owner and director

Dear HappyTree Community,

In true Spring style, we had an exciting time of new beginnings and growth last semester, with our first Yoga for Children Teacher Training and bilingual Yin Yoga Teacher Training, as well as our expanded Prenatal Series, Mom (or Dad!) & Baby Yoga, Family Yoga and Birthing Workshops.

Don’t forget that throughout the summer, our popular Prenatal Series and Mom (or Dad!) & Baby Series will continue and we are offering a summer Yoga Birthing Workshop on Sunday, July 17th for our expectant moms & dads! To follow our new Summer Schedule, click here.

HappyTree’s FIRST Yoga for Children Teacher Training with Little Lotus

On a personal note, I’ve been keeping very busy with some fun new projects:

I am now blogging for Expo Yoga, Quebec’s first major yoga exhibit happening at Palais Des Congrès de Montreal, February 2017;

Adding my voiceovers to myvirtualyoga.com video

Adding my voiceovers to myvirtualyoga.com video

shooting videos for myvirtualyoga.com  (go tohttps://monyogavirtuel.com/lt/melanierichards and punch in the promo code M714V923Y for a two week free trial!);

and you can listen to my Yoga Crush podcast interview titled, “Crushing Self-Doubt by Defining your “Why”‘. Yoga Crush was recently labeled a ‘New and Noteworthy’ podcast by iTunes in the business category!

My Yoga Crush Podcast

It’s hard to believe that we are wrapping up our 2016 Hatha Teacher Training…
 
“I can proudly say that taking the 200-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training at HappyTree was the best decision I’ve ever made. It changed my life, introduced me to some amazing people and reconnected me with my yoga practice.”
– Mitzi Perez, HYTT student class of 2016

 

…but we are now accepting applications for our class of 2017! Make sure to get yours in before the end of July in order to take advantage of our Super Early Bird specialClick here for the application questions.  We have a FREE information session on Tuesday, July 19th at 6pm, so come by our studio lounge and get all of your questions answered. For more information and to RSVP click here. Meet Melanie Richards and some of our special guest teachers, plus hear live testimonials from recent graduates!

This Fall, we will also be holding a Gentle Yoga Teacher Training, Yin Yoga Teacher Training and Postnatal/Mom & Baby Yoga Teacher Training. Register early while there are still spots available!

I will also be teaching at Wanderlust Tremblant this summer…

Yoga Festival Montreal in November…

…and at the Yoga Expo in February 2017!

Our new HappyTree t-shirts and tank tops are finally in and we’re loving them!! Get yours in studio before they sell out!

 

I look forward to seeing you all in class this summer!

Love and hugs,

Melanie Richards
Founder & Director, HappyTree Yoga Studio

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My Yoga Story: A Girly Yogi by Claudelle Anderson

When I first started teaching yoga a few years back, some of my students began calling meClaudelle-e1455583763749-272x300 the girly yogi. Why did they give me that particular nickname you might ask?

The fact that I love sparkles, wear pink all the time and have a voice that sounds like Tinker Bell’s could all be valid options! However, I choose to believe that it is because my yoga story is one for the girls… one that will inspire them wherever they are.

Why?

Because my story is their story.

It is a story that has been and will be experienced by so many girls and women in the world.

It is one of change, resilience, hope, and love.

My yoga story can’t be understood without observing my evolution. They simply are two parts of one story. So here it is:

It all started when I was a little girl.

I, like so many children out there, embodied the true essence of life: I was joy, I was compassion, I was wisdom. I was love.

From the youngest age, I was told that I had a very unique spark about me and that my dharma was to share it to the world… and I did naturally. In fact, I was that little munchkin who would smile at strangers in the supermarket until they would smile back at me. I was the one who would sing to old ladies at the pharmacy while they were waiting for their medication, just to have the pleasure to see their gorgeous wrinkly face brighten up. “Score! I helped that person to be happier today! 1 down 7 billion to go! Who’s next?” I would say. It was clear that my purpose in life was to guide people into shining their inner light out.

However, as I grew into a teen my true essence got clouded. I, like too many young girls, started to change, to loose myself and to dim my light. Why? Because my 21st century adolescence welcomed me with a series of very confusing “rules” that darkened my world: don’t be too loud, but don’t be too shy; don’t be too fat, but don’t be too thin; don’t be to smart, but don’t be dumb; don’t be too nice, but don’t be mean; don’t say what you really think, but don’t lie… What a nightmare! It made me feel like I was all wrong and could never be enough. However, since I had a natural need to belong, I, like many others before and after me, decided to abide by all these dos and don’ts… no matter what it took.

We often wonder why growing up is so hard. We wonder why so many teenagers and young adults feel lost and end up engaging in bad coping mechanisms? My answer to these questions is that there is nothing harder than trying to find yourself, when the world tells you who to be.

Luckily, in the midst of it all, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a wonderful place… a safe haven: HappyTree Yoga. The very first class I took as a Dawson student, was taught by none other than Melanie Richards. Seeing this amazing teacher stand there with confidence and beauty, talking about the powers of our hearts and the splendour of our souls, I was inspired like never before. As soon as the last OM had been chanted at the end of the class I promised myself: “One day, I am going to be just like her.” I was only 17, one might say that I was still young and naïve, but I knew within my core that yoga was my future.

Through the years that followed, I encountered difficulties and moments where my spark was drawn back in. However, contrary to before, I wasn’t alone to face the world and its many demands anymore… I had yoga by my side and it is what got me through. Yoga became a compass that always showed me the direction back to light and to happiness.

Every asana teaching me self-love and respect.

Every member of the yoga community, embodying the true meaning of friendship.

Every teacher showing me the characteristics that makes up true light-seekers:

  • Unconditional love taught by Melanie.
  • Compassion taught by Sonya.
  • Wisdom taught by Bram.
  • Hope and perseverance taught by Brian.
  • Female power taught by Christine.
  • Authenticity taught by Veronique.
  • Life alignment taught by Asami.
  • Joy taught by Jade.
  • Care taught by Manon.
  • Equanimity taught by Bhaskar.
  • Surrender taught by Anna.
  • Determination taught by Dave.
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Claudelle’s Rise&Shine Yoga Series

Every practice inviting me to rise back up and shine to my true self and my purpose.

This long journey eventually led me to join HappyTree Yoga’s teacher training programs (Gentle, Yin, and Hatha). In fact, the more I practiced and the more I reconnected with my inner light, the more I felt like wanted to help others find their own inner light. In other words, I wanted to educate my fellow women and men on how to use yoga to find light, positivity and strength. With the support of my mentor Melanie, I was able to do so, through my Rise&Shine Yoga initiative – early morning classes that invite you to rise and shine to your true self. As nature goes from darkness to light, so do you!

Moreover, I was recently given the opportunity to teach the Family series, where I get to see pure light in action through every little yogi! I feel so fortunate to teach them, because I believe that yoga will give them the tools to keep on shining so bright as they grow up.

So this is my story.

Like I said, I am just a girl… a girl who got the chance to become a yogi… a girly yogi, who’s purpose is to empower girls and women through yoga, showing them the way back to their inner light.

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Claudelle’s 4-Week Family Yoga Series

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I Have Found My Path: My Yoga Story by Jenny Berthiaume

JennyWhat is a yoga teacher? When I was 16 and I started practicing yoga, I had my ideas. A yoga teacher is everything zen. A yoga teacher never loses her temper or has relationship difficulties. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that this particular yoga teacher is very much human.

While it keeps me on a spiritual path, Yoga helps me to remember just how human I am. It helps me to be compassionate and forgiving with myself and others, as we all have our difficult moments.

Yoga allows me to be a more patient and loving mother, wife and friend. It keeps me strong physically and mentally and keeps me disciplined. It brings clarity and focus. Also, it’s pretty freakin’ fun!

I started practicing yoga when I was about 16. Rodney Yee’s VHS in the living room. I was drawn to yoga, Indian food, vegetarianism and burning incense. Other that that, I was pretty typical for my age – weekend drinking in the bush and stealing my parents’ cigarettes.

I kept up some kind of practice on and off again for years. Yoga and meditation got me through university exams and treeplanting in BC. It was the constant when I lived in the UK and backpacked throughout South America.

But it wasn’t until I became pregnant in 2010, that yoga started to play a much bigger role in my life, and it wasn’t until three years ago that it became front row, centre.

When I found out I was pregnant, I ditched my hot Moksha classes and started an energy exchange at Bliss. I took prenatal classes with Jill Campbell and Leah Vineberg, two amazing teachers who planted a prenatal yoga teaching seed, and continue to inspire me. Prenatal yoga, as well as Yin classes with Leah, kept me centred and calm through surging hormones. The classes helped with back pain, congestion, heavy legs and other typical pregnancy side-effects!

In these classes, all the women shared so much. None of us felt alone in the new sensations and challenges that can come with pregnancy. We also got a great workout and left sooo relaxed. I aim to bring these elements to the prenatal classes I now teach.

I continued practicing yoga in a mom and baby class and trained to be a doula and breastfeeding support mother with Nourri-Source. When I was pregnant the second time, I went back to prenatal yoga classes as often as possible.

Jenny 2But shortly after my son’s birth, I crashed. Hard. Coincidentally (not really!) it was one of the first times in my adult life that I didn’t have a regular yoga practice. I found myself so angry that I punched holes in the walls. My health was bad and energy completely depleted. I was intensely paranoid my children were going to die (just to give a few examples of what kind of crash I’m talking about). When my son was about three months old, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I saw a therapist and went on medication for anxiety/depression.

Those days are admittedly a bit of a blur now, but at some point in all of it, I decided I needed to make some big changes. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my life as a journalist. On what seemed like a whim, I did levels 1-3 of Radiant Child Yoga teacher training. It got me moving, singing and breathing. I decided I was going to teach yoga. I was determined and had clear goals.

I weaned off my medication and started teaching yoga to kids. Fate also introduced me to my beautiful friend, sister, teacher Mélanie Faucher who enlightens and inspires me every day. She found room for me in her heart and studio. Things felt right, for the first time in a very long time. There was no doubt I had found my path.Jenny 3

Soon after, I did an amazing Mom and Baby yoga teacher training with Jayme Hernandez. Not long after that, I did HappyTree’s Yin Yoga training. I fell in love with Melanie Richards, and her studio and during that training and my yoga practice became more and more regular. Especially yin. How I loved and needed yin yoga.

Since my Yin training, I completed Re:source Yoga’s 300-hour yoga therapy training, and here I am, happily working as a full-time yoga teacher.

My personal practice looks nothing like it used to. Which is normal I guess, but the contrast still shocks me. I remember a time when yoga was like a competitive sport for me. I loved how it kept my body strong and lean. I sweat, lost weight… Then things changed so much when I began doing prenatal yoga. I so clearly saw the direct results of the simplest of pranayama techniques and how something like an “Om,” would get me through labour. Then came the Yin and Restorative phase.

Now that my kids are pretty much weaned and way less dependent on me, I’m at HappyTree five or six times a week, where I teach and also take classes from all of our amazing, diverse teachers.

While my teaching style is mostly on the gentler side, I find myself back in “yang” mode when I go to yoga classes these days. As opposed to six years ago, though, I don’t find myself looking around the room for anything other than inspiration. Seeing someone do an advanced posture used to make me feel intimidated or inadequate, I now cheer for their accomplishments and find fun things to work toward. Yoga has taught me that I can be and do anything I want.  I love building up to fancy “party tricks,” as Brian calls them. King Pigeon is not out of reach!Jenny 4

I also now know that yoga is about so much more than asana. I try to live my yoga. I use it in my daily interactions and especially in motherhood. If you want to yell at your kids for doing something ridiculous, just bust out ujayii breath instead– works like a charm.

I don’t really do physical activity other than yoga, so the muscles in my arms are solely from doing so many chatturungas (okay, probably also lifting people’s babies in our postnatal classes!) But it’s not just my muscles that are getting stronger and more defined. It’s my entire being.

I am human and like anyone, I have issues and challenges. But I am a strong, beautiful and courageous. These are just some of the things that yoga has taught me.

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From Coma to Chair Pose: My Yoga Story by Brian Tuck

In July 1999, my life changed forever. I was 19.Brian Tuck

I had been having a sore throat and a terrible cough to the point where I was having trouble breathing. I visited the CLSC (a local government health clinic) and was diagnosed as having anxiety. I was told, “you just need to learn to relax more”, and sent home. What the doctor on site hadn’t diagnosed was that I had actually developed double pneumonia, bronchiolitis (something usually only affecting children) and was coughing up blood. I also began urinating blood as my kidneys were beginning to fail. My body was shutting down.

Just two days later, I have a vague memory of crawling to the phone and knocking it off the hook to dial 911.  I had started coughing to the point where I could no longer catch my breath, let alone speak. I muttered the words, “can’t breathe…” to the dispatcher, but it’s all I could muster.  Paramedics and fire trucks arrived as first responders and broke open the door. There was no fire, only my lungs enduring respiratory failure.

I woke up one month later from an induced coma, during which I had been hooked up to a life support machine.  Doctors still had no idea what was wrong with me.  Dozens of tests, experimental chemotherapy and rest had not concluded much, but I started to be able to breathe on my own and was eventally removed from the ventilator.

One week later, I was finally diagnosed with Good Pasture’s Syndrome; an autoimmune disease that affects one in a million people, that attacks the lungs and can involve a kidney transplant. Thankfully, my kidneys were miraculously spared.  Once they realized what was wrong with me, I was treated with plasmapherisis, rounds of blood plasma transfusions to remove the antibodies in my system which had been causing my illness. As I continued to heal, the sedatives were reduced and the real work began.

I had lost 50 pounds, couldn’t eat, sit up, or go to the bathroom on my own.  For weeks after the coma I lived with two chest intubations to drain my lungs.  Out of fear and confusion from being initially highly medicated weeks prior, I literally pulled the first one out of my lungs. To this day I still have permanent nerve damage in my chest.

I had to use a wheelchair, then learn how to walk again through countless sessions of physiotherapy and with the help of a front wheeled walker. Finally, after two full months in the hospital, I was given a walking cane and said goodbye to the incredible staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

I was given a second chance at life, but inside I felt defeated. I had lost chunks of my hair from the chemo and my face was swollen from the cortical steroids. I was so thin and weak that I was afraid to leave the house for months. Spending extra time with loving family and friends allowed me to see the scope of how this affected everyone around me. My mom and best friends stuck by my side everyday and put the missing pieces of my life back together from when I was on life support. Hearing that at one uncertain point, the closest people in my life were emotionally preparing they may have to say goodbye forever, to this day still haunts me.

Psychologically, I had to re-evaluate my life, begin the healing process and wrap my head around what had happened to me. While in my coma, the doctors told my family that after surviving this, I will lead a normal life, but that I may never be able to run for a bus or walk up a flight of stairs without becoming winded. After a year of recovery, my life soon returned to a ‘new’ normal.

Unfortunately, this is not where my journey with yoga began…

Despite everything I had been through, I quickly resumed a pack-a-day smoking habit and returned to my new office job; the grind of working a 50-hour week.  At the same time, I got a modeling contract with an agency and began living off coffee, cigarettes and late nights.

When I look back on that time now, I realize how young I had been, and that my priorities hadn’t yet sorted themselves out. I also believe that I was unconsciously resisting the reality of what had actually transpired in the preceding years.

At the age of 26, I had developed pleurisy in my lungs and they were beginning to collapse again. I was back in an ambulance. This time I realized that it was my fault. I had been given this second chance at life… and I blew it.  I was told that if I didn’t make drastic changes in my life, I may end up living with an oxygen tank by the time I was 30.

This is where my journey with yoga began.

At first, I was so nervous, having never done any real exercise before in my adulthood. I was the type of person who skipped gym class as often as possible. So, diving in head first, awkward and shy, I committed to 4-5 days of yoga per week and fell in love with it for the rest of my life! Doctors asked me what I was doing and whatever it was, that I should keep up the good work. I had never really tried to excel or push my personal physical athletic boundaries before.  But just a year later, I was a yoga teacher and had left my day job.

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This a photo of me finishing last at the Verdun Triathlon 2015!

Having healed through my yoga practice, I then realized what I was capable of. This realization opened the door for me to cross-train with other modalities over the years. I began running and completed my first 5km race, then a 10km race, and then a few half marathons. Crossing a finish line still gives me tears of joy, as I wasn’t supposed to be able to do any of this! I am now scheduled for my second Triathlon in August 2016. As it turns out, I’m good at swimming and biking too…who knew!?!  While I’m not very fast (I’ve even finished last!) I always finish what I start. Although, for me, I believe that I have won because I can put so many things behind me now and keep moving forward.

When I look back, I believe that the three most important things I learned from this challenging time in my life are:

1. That I am doing and will continue to do everything in my power not to end up on a life support machine, in a wheelchair or use a walking cane again. I will keep my immunity and strength up through nutrition and hard work;

2. That my goals are redefined, i.e.:

a) I want to lead a happy, simple, SLOW, but active life. I don’t care how fast I can race, I’m still in awe that I can move; and

b) I want to be able to carry my own groceries until I’m 99 years old.  If the universe or genetics have another plan that is out of my hands, then I’m ok with that, but in the meantime, if we have two working legs we should use them (because my students in wheelchairs at the hospital and the seniors I teach with limited abilities work equally hard);

3. That we have to re-frame and re-phrase the stories we tell ourselves, and even some of the stories that others tell for us. Those doctors and nurses took excellent care of me, but if I had listened to everything that they told me, I may never have tried running because they had told me it may not be possible (I believe they cared deeply and were simply wanting to give me clear expectations and not false hopes). I never thought I would ever consider myself an athlete today, but here I am.

I have taught yoga for almost 10 years now. I offer a regular practice to those of all abilities. I also enjoy introducing stronger and challenging postures to all levels of yoga because I find that it’s exciting to work with a sense of possibility.  Through modifications of the postures and by offering various assessments and steps to achieve a challenging posture, this allows us to continue the process. We get stronger, build discipline and face what needs work.  Ultimately, we challenge commonly held beliefs about what we think is possible or not. This work happens inside and outside the class. For many of us, simply making the time and showing up to practice is enough of a challenge, sometimes staying longer in a posture or respecting one’s limits are another. My goal is to make the yoga learning process more accessible throughout this process and bridge these gaps.

I’m equally passionate about customizing the learning process in yoga and incorporating modifications to make yoga accessible to everyone. I teach Chair Yoga to seniors and people living with limited mobility because I will never forget what it was like to lose the ability to walk.

Now, as a yoga teacher, 17 years after my respiratory failure, having gone from being in a coma living off a ventilator, to re-learning how to walk, to finishing a triathlon, do I believe that you can hold Chair Pose or Plank a little longer than you think you can? You bet I do. My job is to help you believe you can too.  Imagine what else is possible…

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HappyTree Yoga Etiquette 101

  • Leave your expectations at the door.
  • Arrive 10 – 15 minutes early. This gives you enough time to remove your shoes and hang your coat. If it is your first class, give yourself an extra 5 minutes (arrive 15-20 minutes early) to fill out a form and familiarise yourself with the studio. This also ensures that you have a few minutes to set up your mat, gather your props and have to time to centre before class.
  • Please sign in before class. If you need to purchase a drop-in, class card or membership, please try to do so before class.
  • If you are late, we would kindly ask that you wait in the reception area until after the centering has finished (usually the first 10-15 minutes) before joining the class.
  • Minimize loud conversations in the studio. We encourage you to chat (quietly) in the lounge over a cup of our yogi tea before and after class in the lounge! Once inside the yoga studio however, we would ask that you please remain quiet so that yourself and the other students can enjoy a peaceful centring. 
  • Notify your teacher if you have any injuries, illnesses, are pregnant or if you have any other concerns. Your practice and your body are your responsibility.
  • Please consider other students and refrain from practicing if you are sick or unwell. This is best for yourself and for other students as well.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to have full range of motion. For hot classes, keep temperature in mind.
  • As with most exercise it is best to practice yoga when you are not too full or too hungry. Try to leave at least two hours between taking a class and eating. If you need to eat before class try having a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts.
  • Remember to drink water. Hydrate before, during and after class as needed. You can never really have too much water. We have free tea and filtered water in the studio.
  • Don’t skip savasana. Final relaxation in savasana is an important part of your practice. Don’t plan to leave class early. If you absolutely do need to leave early please be quiet so as to not disturb other students.
  • After class please clean up your area. Put away all props and if you have rented a mat, please use the mat spray, which can be found on the windowsill next to the blocks.
  • Avoid applying strongly scented lotions, creams or perfumes before class. Strong smells can distract others students as well as triggering allergic reactions.
  • Please do not smoke before class. The smell of cigarettes, tobacco or scented e-cigarettes can distract people and affect their practice.
  • Turn off any cell phones, iPads/tablets, MP3 players or anything that may beep, ring or vibrate during class. Take advantage of this time to unplug. Respect the time you have set aside for you practice and allow others to do the same.

Welcome! And enjoy your class!

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Yoga Words: Om

There are few more intimidating things for a first-time yoga student than having to chant OM at the end of class. Some people fear it will go against their religion, others snicker at the ultra Yogi stereotype it embodies and others still are terrified of hearing the sound of their own voice.

To set the religious record straight, Om isn’t the name of some obscure Yoga God. In fact, it isn’t even a word at all – it’s a sound. 

Through cymatics, the study of the effect of sound vibration on physical matter, we can actually see the beautiful elliptical patterns that it creates, like in this video posted by Grammy nominated composer, musician and researcher, Steven Halpern.

Pronounced AUM, it symbolizes the circle of life: creation, preservation and destruction. Hip Hop artist, Mc Yogi has his own acronym for the word: Almighty Universal Magnetic.

Whatever the meaning assigned to the sound, the experience of chanting OM speaks for itself. The feeling of calm and balance in the mind, good vibrations through the body and connection to community is palpable and very powerful.

So, next time you’re in class, let go of any self-conscious need to perform or “sing”, close your eyes and tune into the beautiful world around you.

Photo credit:https://www.pinterest.com/pin/532269249684239865/

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Yoga Words: Namaste

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Every yoga class I teach ends with us all pressing our hands together at the heart in prayer and saying, “Namaste” as we bow our heads to the ground in a sign of honour and respect. When I have new students in the class, I often take a few moments to explain the word so they don’t feel like they’ve ended up in some religious sect, forced to speak in tongues.

These muppets make an entertaining attempt at interpreting the word Namaste.

Namaste is a sanskrit greeting that says, “Hey, I might not always agree with everything you say and I don’t always like the way you act, but I recognize that we’re more alike than we are different. I honour the place of peace, love and truth in you that is the same in me.”

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I find this poem (author unknown) says it best.

After one such class, a student walked up to me and said, “You know, for three months now, I thought you were saying, “Have a nice day” at the end of class. Namaste is so much more meaningful – thanks for clarifying.”

Namaste y’all. 😉

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Yoga Myth Busters: The Biggest Yoga Lie of All Time

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“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that line…thinking you need to bend your body into a pretzel to do yoga is one of the biggest yoga misconceptions of all time. It’s akin to saying you’re too dirty to take a bath; or you can’t take a swimming lesson because you don’t know how to swim; or you’re too out of shape to start working out.

What I really hear people saying is, “I don’t want to embarrass myself”; “Please don’t judge me”; “I’m uncomfortable with my body”; “I’m afraid to look stupid”. Let me reassure you now that your level of flexibility has nothing to do with how good you are at yoga and if someone were to judge you in class, it’s a reflection of them – not you. In that moment he or she is not be practicing yoga no matter how flexible he or she is.

In case you missed it, click here to watch the Yoga Myth Buster video: “I Can’t Do Yoga Because I’m Not Flexible”, featuring Annakin Slayd.

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Hip Hop artist Annakin Slayd proves you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga.

Hatha yoga is and ancient system of postures, lifestyle principles, breath work and meditation designed to help us connect our mind, body and spirit. It’s a practice that develops equanimity and compassion. Flexibility is one of the many positive side effects of a regular yoga practice – not the goal.

You could be stiff as a board, yet focused inward on the sensations of your body and your breath without judging or reacting to what you feel and, in that moment, you’re further ahead than the dancer next to you picking her toenails and inwardly criticizing herself for not getting a pedicure, while her torso lies effortlessly flat across her legs in a forward fold.

Yoga is not a performance – it’s a practice of self-acceptance. Do it regularly and you will inevitably become more flexible; and as you connect with yourself and cultivate a deeper love and appreciation for your body, you may also find that you stop caring as much. It doesn’t matter why you start yoga, in the end all the benefits will come. The only pre-requisite is showing up!

Photo credit: http://static.squarespace.com/static/530565afe4b062287772255f/t/53d0a379e4b0e9800a555603/1406182268464/

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Who’s Your Guru?

It’s probable that when you hear the word Guru, one of the following stereotypes comes to mind:

1) A wise old bearded Indian man

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2) A smarmy, money-grubbing, power-hungry false-Guru

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Mike Myers portrays a Guru stereotype in The Love Guru

3) A revered expert in a particular industry, such as fitness or finance

5badfc_a78f6ce17e0c4dd5ac99ce2119070f01Fitness Guru, Billy Blanks

5badfc_d5a6fccbd3ec4af388563d1bde31ce2fKrishnamacharya, the “Father of Modern Yoga”, was the Guru of Sri Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga), B.K.S Iyengar (Iyengar Yoga) and his son T.K.V. Desikachar (Therapeutic or Viniyoga).

5badfc_af99dfbb7ebe458a825779b5f86824d6 Financial Guru, Suze Orman

Found in the earliest Hindu scriptures, the Sanskrit word refers to a religious teacher, master or spiritual guide. Guru also means “heavy” or “weighty” as in heavy with knowledge.

In India, the practice of yoga was passed down from Guru to disciple for generations before it was brought to the West and became readily available upstairs from every Starbucks.

My favourite etymological claim is that “Gu” means darkness and “Ru” means destroyer, as in the destroyer of darkeness and ignorance. The way I interpret that for my own life is that whatever experiences, people, books and teachers guide me out of a low vibration of fear, anxiety, self-pity and judgement and into a lighter state of love, compassion, truth and understanding are Gurus.

I believe that our life is a hero’s journey and that the obstacles we face reflect to us our darkness so that we may courageously face it, embrace it and grow from it. Like the symbol of the lotus flower, we make our way through the muddy waters of suffering and eventually – with help, dedication and hard work – rise above our difficulties, coming home to the purity of our true nature: love, light and joy.

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It’s not an easy journey and none of us can do it alone – nor are we expected to. As the age-old adage says, “when the student is ready, the master will appear”, so when you feel ready to face your darkness, ask for help and be open to receiving it. Your Guru may not come in the form of a bearded old man, but have faith that life will put the right teachers on your path.

If you’ve had a Guru help you on your path at a crucial time in your life, please share your story in the comments below.

Photo credits:
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http://www.alux.com/richest-fitness-gurus/5/
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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Ramakrishna.jpg
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3 Simple Ways to Live with Intention

1) Think of someone you admire.

How would you describe them? Do they have one or two qualities that stand out to you above the rest? Maybe it’s your mother’s compassion, Buddha’s wisdom, Picasso’s creativity or Batman’s courage. I admire Oprah for judiciously standing by her convictions and for the unwaivering faith she has in God and in herself as a child of God.

The qualities that stand out to you are the qualities that want to grow in you. They are qualities you already possess or you wouldn’t be able to recognize them in someone else. These qualities can now consciously become intentions you have for yourself.

“I intend to stand by my convictions and to have faith in myself and in Life.”

Watch my TEDx talk for a guided meditation and intention setting.

2) Cultivate the opposite elevated attitude5badfc_1f27855670ef4e149338097b3cb48b16

There’s a Sanskrit term in the Yoga Sutras: Pratipaksha Bhavana. In her book, “The Secret Power of Yoga, A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras” my spiritual teacher, Nischala Joy Devi, interprets Pratipaksha Bhavana as cultivating the opposite elevated attitude.

If you identify fear as being a recurring obstacle in your life, cultivate the opposite, elevated attitude of love, confidence, faith or freedom. Whatever the opposite of fear is for you, that becomes your intention.

“I have faith in myself and in the future.”

3) Choose how you want to feel

An intention is different than a goal. I could reach my goal of losing ten pounds, hating every self-depriving step of the way and still feel bad at the end of it. The real question is why did I want to lose weight in the first place? What is the feeling I associated with the fantasy of my goal? Was it a feeling of confidence? Worthiness? Desirability? Love?

Let’s say that love is the feeling I’m after, my intention is then to wake up everyday and love myself unconditionally. As I treat myself with compassion, I might even lose ten pounds as a side-effect because the love and understanding I showed myself meant I resorted less times to emotional eating. But, the way I feel about myself is not contingent on this external change – rather the change is a reflection of the inner-state I intended.

“I am worthy of love and compassion. I am loveable just as I am.”

What are your intentions for 2016?

Photo credit: http://www.amazon.com/The-Secret-Power-Yoga-Womans/dp/0307339696

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#MyEvolution: 5 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Rock-solid

January 1, 2016

 

1) Ask yourself why you’re doing it

Examine the intentions behind your resolutions. Are you doing it for yourself or for someone else? Are you doing it to gain approval and out of fear of rejection? Or is it for your own personal fulfillment, evolution and wellbeing?

The moment you try to prove yourself to someone else, you lose your value and relinquish your power. You’re saying someone else’s opinion has the ability to control the way you feel about yourself and determine your self worth. When making your resolution, do it to please only one person: YOU.

2) Examine how you feel

We have two basic emotions: fear and love. Choose to make your resolutions based on love. For example, if you resolve to lose ten pounds, do it because you love your body and you’re excited to feel more alive in your skin and not because you’re afraid that every guy or girl on Tinder will swipe left and you’ll end up alone forever (they won’t and you won’t). 

 Don’t let the fear of some douchebag swiping left influence your resolutions.

If thinking about your resolution gets you all juiced up and excited or brings you an instant feeling of relief, you know you’re on the right track.

3) Make your goals smart

Are your goals for 2016 Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound?

Rather than simply saying you’ll do more yoga, pick up a schedule, circle the classes you plan to attend each week and put them in your calendar. Learn more about SMART goals here.

4) Say it out loud (to the right people)

Write down your resolutions then share them with a few close relatives, friends and mentors that you know will be supportive. Saying your goal out loud will make it feel more real and it’ll help hold you accountable. 

NB: If your goal is of a personal and sensitive nature, refrain from making it your Facebook status and plastering it all over the twittersphere. Nothing kills a dream faster than online haters. 

5) Start NOW

Ten years ago, I was sitting at Starbucks and thought, “I want to open a yoga studio”. I had no money, no connections and no business experience. I wasn’t even a yoga teacher, yet. Rather than letting those glaring shortcomings stop me, I asked myself, “What can I do NOW to move in the direction of my goal?”

 A year before HappyTree became an incorporated business and a physical place, it was a series of ideas in my head that I transferred into a notebook.

I enthusiastically researched yoga teacher trainings and started a notebook with all my ideas. I followed through with the small steps and actions I had control over and those steps opened the doors to the next steps and the next, creating momentum for my dream to come true.

Two years later, against most odds, HappyTree Yoga Studio opened its doors and I never could’ve foreseen or planned the exact way in which it came to be. Don’t worry about HOW your goals will happen, just put one foot in front of the other a start. NOW.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Photo credits:

https://mrandmrswow.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/happy-new-year-bann
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http://e.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/inline-large/inline/2015/02/3042105-inline-i-1-kingbachswipeleft.gif
http://www.wordsonimages.com/ 

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The Unlikely Story of How I Started Yoga

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My sister got into yoga. Not surprising, since she was a gymnast and had the flexibility of a contortionist, whereas I could barely touch my toes. My aunt taught yoga. She was the black sheep of the family, living a vegetarian, “granola” lifestyle in the mountains of Whales. I secretly admired her but was way too materialistic and conformist to want to follow in her footsteps. Plus, I thought doing yoga meant I would have to give up eating meat.My university roommate went to yoga every Friday at the YMCA and I never understood why. To me it just seemed like a waste of time when she could be getting a real workout in our favourite aerobox class or on the treadmill, at least. After my parents divorced, my father gradually became a dust-to-dust atheist and I decided I didn’t believe in God either. I was very judgmental and weary of Yoga’s spirituality. Needless to say, if you had told me that less than a decade later I would be opening a yoga studio, I would’ve called you crazy.

At 21 years old, when I finally did try my first yoga class it was for purely superficial reasons: namely, Madonna’s arms, Christy Turlington’s abs and Gwyneth Paltrow’s butt. Even then it took my most influential trendsetting friend to convince me to go with her.

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My original motivation for doing yoga: Gwyneth Paltrow’s butt.

That’s when something unlikely happened: I started practicing yoga almost every day. I got the physical benefits I was after but the real transformation was something I never could have imagined or even thought possible:

I stopped being afraid.

I stopped being afraid of what other people thought of me and whether or not I was good enough for them. Rather than change me into something I wasn’t – as I had originally feared it would – yoga helped me be true to who I really was.

The background hum of anxiety, as familiar to me as my own breath, had disappeared.The fear didn’t go away forever but the state lasted just long enough to create a significant shift in my life. On the outside nothing had changed. I was still bartending at night struggling to make ends meet, but on the inside, I felt free. I went from placing my entire self-worth in other people’s hands to connecting with an inner-confidence that felt like coming home. The feeling was so powerful, that my outer-world eventually started to reflect my new fearless frame of mind.

I moved cities, changed jobs and enrolled in a yoga teacher training. Most astonishingly, I attracted the right people at the right time to realize my new dream of owning a yoga studio. Who knows where I’d be if I hadn’t given yoga a chance. It took a lot for me to try my first class, so I empathize with all the people sitting on the fence, which is why I came up with the idea for Yoga Myth Busters.

Yoga Myth Busters is a series of short videos that help debunk the false objections people have toward trying yoga. Have you ever heard or said, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”, or “I can’t do yoga because I can’t relax my mind”? Some Montreal celebrities have. Check out their videos here.

My goal is to help remove the intimidating barriers that keep people from connecting with their true, authentic power. Nothing lights me up inside like seeing people realize their potential!

I hope this blog will inspire you. Not only to try yoga, but to overcome the doubts and fears that keep you scared and small; to align with your inner-guidance system and have the courage to follow it; to expand into the amazing life you were meant for. If you have a yoga myth you would like busted or someone you would like to challenge, reply here or follow me on instagram @melhappytree using the hashtag #yogamythbusters.

Photo credits:
Nina Konjini
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HappyTree’s Prenatal & Baby Yoga Teacher, Jenny, Shares Her Body Image Story

Jenny Berthiaume

I teach prenatal and postnatal yoga. When I ask the students why they’ve come to class, there are many reasons, but one of the most common is, “I want my pre-pregnancy body back.” Sometimes women are thinking this before they’ve even give birth. The basic truth is… it’s not possible to have our bodies back. Just like we don’t get our prepubescent bodies back either. I know this after having had two kids. Being pregnant and giving birth changes us forever. There’s very little shrinking and a whole lot of growing.

It’s not to say we cannot look and feel like we did before pregnancy (and in many cases, myself included, even better!) but it is not the same body. We are not really even the same person. Pregnancy and motherhood changes not just our bodies, but the other things we talk about in yoga – mind and spirit.

When we’re pregnant, our bodies change before our eyes. We put on weight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. The legs, feet and hands can become swollen. Many women have nausea, heartburn and digestive issues. The skin often darkens, stretch marks might appear. Our bones and organs shift and compress to make space. Our hearts literally grow. And let’s not forget the other body changes!

Once the baby is born, we will naturally lose weight, fast or slower, depending on the individual woman. Our bodies continue to provide nourishment to our babies, as we nurse them and they’ll change again when our child weans. We regain strength of our core slowly but surely.

Like everything in life, the way our bodies look is not permanent. How much does a baby’s body change in his first 12 months?

I guess I always felt okay about my body. Perhaps in high school I felt a little short, thighs a little too muscular. A little masculine. I can tell you that after giving birth to two children and nursing for almost five years straight, I’ve never felt more feminine. And I don’t even have long hair anymore. I’ve never felt better in my skin. Most of this has to do with my yoga practice. I practice a lot. I try to do yoga all day long. Yoga got me through pregnancy, labour and continues to get me through the challenging job of being a mom to two wild kids.

It’s okay that our bodies will never be the same after pregnancy. In fact, it’s a good thing. Like we do in our yoga postures, observe, breathe, notice the differences. Be curious about your new body, and let everything else go.

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HappyTree Student, Trishia, Shares Her Body Image Story

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From the ages of 18 to 24, I struggled severely with anorexia. At my lowest weight, my 5”8 frame dwindled down to 89 pounds. This was without a shadow of a doubt the most challenging period in my life. During that time, I felt very unhappy and depressed; I was constantly obsessed with my intake and burning calories. The idea of eating out at restaurants with friends or co-workers gave me so much anxiety that I would avoid such occasions as much as I could. This left me feeling alone, disconnected and isolated. Living through anorexia was extremely draining in every sense of the word: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. At times I felt depleted and hopeless, as though this was just something I would have to live with for the rest of my life and mind as well “suck it up” and get used to it. I can’t even begin to describe the mental torture that I put myself through every single day – all of this while life, school and eventually a demanding full-time job continued (because life doesn’t somehow just pause because you are going through an eating disorder). The “light at the end of the tunnel” concept at that time for me was as real as Santa Claus.

Looking back, I feel incredibly blessed to have received so much support and love throughout that time. Healing for me was a LONG process, LONGGGG. My family and best friends were there for me and showed me love, empathy and compassion every step of the way which I will be eternally thankful for. In addition to regular meetings with my therapist at the Douglas hospital and nutritionist, yoga also played a big role in my recovery.

My journey with yoga started in the summer of 2010 (I had just turned 23 years old). Yoga helped me to regain balance in my life and to reconnect with myself, which I had somehow (temporarily, thankfully) lost along the way. I had become so disconnected with myself as a person, I felt overwhelmed with my issues, and I didn’t really know who I was anymore. Other than school, working out and worrying about my food intake, I didn’t make much room for anything else in my life. Friendships, relationships, learning new things and having new experiences had taken the back seat, WAY back. Yoga gave me a new focus, a challenge, something to dedicate positive loving energy into and an opportunity to invest in myself. For the first time in a very long time, it made me feel good to feel strong physically and to be fit and healthy rather than weak and emaciated. Yoga also game me a sense a pride and feeling of belonging, I was proud to be a yogi, to be talented in my practice, to be dedicated to something that brought so much positivity into my every day.

Today, I feel connected and committed to myself. I feel powerful within my own life and feel as though I can do anything that I set my mind to. I still have my “off” days (name a person who doesn’t); however anorexia no longer controls my life. I am strong believed that no hurt it wasted. You can either choose to let it knock you over or make you stronger. My experience has left me with me with so much gratitude and appreciation for life and a greater sense of purpose.

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Week 7: Self Care


IMG_6288Self-care helps us serve others better.

It may seem like a contradiction but is makes sense when you think about it: If we’re running on empty, we’re more likely to feel irritable or frustrated when giving to others, no matter how much we love them.

When energy is sapped, good will is susceptible to being clouded with resentment and altruism tips toward martyrdom. Appreciation for life and the people in it is nearly impossible, resulting in strained relationships, stagnation and feeling miserable.

One of my favourite quotes is the Sufi saying, “Give from the overflow of your well, not from its depths.”

To experience the true joy and fulfillment of benevolence, fill your energy bank account first and then give a tithing of your time and effort from the surplus you’ve created rather than donating from your overdraft and feeling stretched.

I know from experience it’s easier said than done. One of the hardest things I did recently was leave HappyTree in the capable hands of my employees with absolutely no contact for ten full days while I filled my own well at the Vipassana meditation course.

The first five days, the balance of my mind was tested by intense feelings of anxiety, guilt and attachment similar to what a parent might feel leaving their small child behind. By the end of the course, however, the deep sense of calm, peace, joy and gratitude that emerged benefited my business far more than if I had stayed in town working. My productivity, patience and inspiration were flowing and I felt renewed appreciation for having chosen a path that serves and benefits so many.

The real key is maintenance – establish daily and weekly self-care rituals for a good quality of life that sustains yourself and others.

Self-care Goal Setting Tips:

1. Establish a daily yoga and/or meditation practice

2. Plan and save up for a vacation or retreat

3. One day a week, turn off your phone and disconnect completely from email and social media

4. Schedule “me time” in your calendar and give it the same importance you would any other commitment or appointment

5. Be selective with how you spend your time and whom you spend it with. Make sure you keep a good balance between activities that bring “energy in” and “energy out”.

6. Get out of victim mode: if something’s not working for you do something about it. If there’s nothing you can do about it, save your energy by letting go of resistance to it.

7. Don’t wait until your sick or burnt out to take time off.

8. Re-commit to your goals from previous weeks of our challenge. Feeling good isn’t just a summer fling – it’s a life-long commitment!

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Week 6: Gratitude

Our thoughts are addictive.

Did you know that we pensivehave around one hundred thousand of them a day and that eighty to ninety percent of those thoughts are the same ones being repeated over and over again?

These thoughts create a groove in our brain, and our body and emotions are hardwired to respond. The emotional and physical responses then feed back into our thoughts, reinforcing the pattern, deepening the groove.

Did you know that it’s impossible for you to have even one angry thought without at least one muscle in your body tensing up?

Dis-ease in the body takes on a whole new level of meaning when you understand all of this. As powerful as our minds are, we can only have one thought at a time. In other words, it’s impossible to have an angry thought and a grateful thought simultaneously.

Which one will you choose? Consider this when making your decision:  

Source: http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

We understand that in order to get bigger muscles, we must train regularly; to succeed on a test requires studying (for most people anyway). The more you practice, the better you get.

It’s the same with gratitude. You might have to fake it for a while, but as your gratitude muscle grows stronger, so will your ability to attract more like thoughts and more things to be grateful for.

Grateful people have magnetism, charm and they’re fun to be around because they take responsibility for their own happiness. Anyone can be a grateful person.

Here are some suggestions to get started and to stay the course:

Goal Suggestions for Week 6:

1. Start a gratitude journal: Every night before bed, go over your day and write down a minimum of 5 things you were grateful for

2. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, gently forgive yourself

3. Actively replace habitual, negative thought patterns with a personal mantra or affirmation

4. Give a prayer of thanks before every meal

5. Express your gratitude directly to the people in your life

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Week 5: Sacred Space


11698696_10153454016497387_7081710779380592436_nWhen teaching us about abundance, Nischala Joy Devi – one of my favourite spiritual teachers – declared, “The Universe wants to give you stuff, but there’s no room in your closet!”

What do you want to make more room for in your life? Satisfying relationships? Meaningful work? A deeper connection with life/spirituality? Material abundance? Time for yourself and freedom in your schedule?

In a world of instant gratification and never enough, it’s good to remember that some things still require space, time, perseverance and a little patience to grow. A closet full of quick fixes and a schedule filled with busywork can actually work the opposite way we want it to, and leave us feeling scattered and unfulfilled.

Make room in your life for what really matters with these 4 tips:

1. De-clutter

Give away what you don’t need and make room for abundance. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner-world. The morning I got back from a 10-days silent meditation retreat – my mind purified and much clearer than usual – I cleaned and de-cluttered my house like a Disney princess on speed for six hours straight, happily packing up beautiful clothes and jewelry to give away to my friends. I felt generous, appreciative, abundant and loving. Naturally, my content and joyful inner-state was extending into my external environment. It was a magical day. On ordinary days, it’s good to know that the rule works both ways. De-cluttering and giving things away can help you feel amazingly clear, focused and ready for a fresh start!

2. Schedule Daily “Me” Time

IMG_4652Schedule one hour for yourself everyday to connect with something bigger than your day-to-day problems. What you do in that time is up to you, as long as it fills you up and inspires you. Walk in nature, take a yoga class, paint, write, play, create, dance and listen to music. Dream. Pray. Think Big. What matters is that you show up for yourself because you are the most important person in your life.

NB: saying “yes” to yourself will mean saying “no” to other people occasionally. However, when you take care of yourself first, you naturally have more to give to others. Give from the overflow of your energy well – not from it’s depths. Taking care of you is the most unselfish thing you can do!

 

3. Create a Sacred Space


IMG_3291_2Gather objects and pictures that spark your imagination and evoke inspiration, appreciation, love and devotion.
It could be pictures of Jesus, Bruce Lee, Krishna, Jay Z, Superman or your grandmother. It could be all of the above as long as each one has special meaning for you. Choose an area of your home, no matter how small, and set up an alter with these powerful personal and universal symbols. Spend time in your sacred space everyday. Soak up the good vibes and let your subconscious mind take care of the rest. Don’t be surprised is your life starts moving forward in new and positive ways.

4. Allow Extra Time

Allow an extra 15-30 minutes to get everywhere.

Not only will you avoid rushing, Lilykinsyou’ll create space in your day for serendipitous encounters. Being relaxed means being in the flow and open to signs from the universe. Trust that people and events come into your life at just the right time and in just the right way.

A perfect example of this is how I met my cat, Lily.

Driving down Saint-Jacques, I had just finished telling my friend that I wanted a cat when we stopped at a red light next to another car. In the passenger seat was a man holding a small kitten. He noticed me staring and smiling at the cat, rolled down his window and asked if I wanted to keep her. In disbelief, we both pulled to the side of the road. As it turns out, the kitten was on her way back to her foster home because the man
discovered his girlfriend was allergic (he considered giving up the girlfriend but lucky for me it was the cat that got the boot!). I adopted her later that week and now I can’t imagine my life without her!IMG_4560

 

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