Ālambana – A Key Aspect to Living a Yogic Life

During my recent trip to the Himalayan Institute (HI) in Pennsylvania for a 10 day intensive yoga teacher training, I discovered an aspect of yoga which felt very foundational and woven into the practice and living a yogic life. Ālambana revealed itself to me as a positive influence for any student or teacher of yoga, as well as in our overall lives.

AlambanaThough I may have heard the Sanskrit word ālambana before, this time it’s essence ingrained in me. Sanskrit words typically carry the vibration of many english words, encapsulating much essence in their meaning. Therefore in looking up ālambana on Wikipedia, you will see a long description for english understanding. That said, my during my studies, what kept standing out for me was the essence of support and foundation that ālambana offers to our lives and our practice.

During my stay at HI, I could feel ālambana vibrantly in the community living environment. There are around 100 people at any given time, who live there or come and go, through this amazing facility every week. Everyday we come together for practice, share our meals, enjoy conversation, meet new people and connect. The feeling when you walk though the halls is community support, all are included and no one feels alone. It is a beautiful experience that brings to mind how much happier we are when we feel connected to and the support of our communities.

While on course there, I chose to share accommodation with another lady also taking my course. This offered a supportive and nurturing relationship by being there for one another to download our days, discuss learnings, and feel connected. I made a new friend and felt a balance of support and autonomy though our time together. The feeling of connection truly supported me in my growth and enjoyment of the whole experience. I believe we gain more together than we do alone.

Turning our attention to the foundation of yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you will discover how ālambana is woven into living a yogic life. There are foundations which move from one teaching to the next and from one practice to the next. For example, in the eight limbs of yoga, when integrating the 5 yamas (restraints for a wholesome life) into your life, you first need to follow the foundation of ahimsā (non-harming) in order to practice satya (truthfulness), followed by asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (moderate lifestyle), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness). The same can be said for the second limb, the niyamas (observances for a healthy life). Each supports the next in how we can use them to live a joyous and self-aware life.

When we look at the third limb of yoga, the āsanas (postures), ālambana offers diverse supports. In āsana, the postures begin from the foundation of the floor as you in moving in and out of postures. We also use the support of the breath through the movements, which I will touch more on later. In my training, I discovered more ways of using supportive props such as blocks, straps, chairs, and blankets, as well as modifications to the poses to cultivate a more individual and beneficial practice. Learning about these supports and seeing the differences they made for each of us doing similar postures reiterated to me the need to ensure as a teacher and a student that we must learn to work with our body, as it is today, rather than trying to force our body into a perceived notion of what an āsana, or any other aspect of life, “should” look like. Though I have known this on some levels, it certainly has me looking deeply at my perceptions.

On another level of āsana, we can look at the breath and its relation to our practice, as well as our lives. Our breath is an indicator of stress and unease or comfort and calm in our body and mind. For instance, when we feel anxious our breath quickens and when we feel relaxed it slows down. In our āsana practice, learning to be aware of the breath supports us in understanding ourselves and our needs. If we are striving to get somewhere in our practice our breath will likely quicken or become shallow. However, if we move mindfully with gentle effort in our postures, allowing our breath to maintain a deep and smooth flow, we help bring balance to our nervous system and feel better in the posture. This in turn helps us when we encounter effort or agitation in our daily lives, to remember to breathe and be more calm in our actions.

The final aspect of ālambana, I want to share today is in meditation. When we sit down to meditate with supports we can deepen our experience. First, we need to sit comfortably in a supportive posture where our spine can be straight. This is very important for the mind to be able to settle into the meditation. If it’s distracted by discomfort your meditation will be challenging. Therefore sitting in a chair or using blocks/blankets can be helpful. In this way, the pelvis is neutral and the knees are in-line with or lower than the hips, which allows the whole body to be comfortable. It is also important to ensure you are warm. Then we can turn to the support of the breath to center the mind, allowing focus and concentration to emerge. Once we feel centred, the use of a mantra supports the mind’s wandering tendencies. It gives the mind something to do, an anchor to keep coming back to, when thoughts do come in. Now, fully supported from our practice and props, our meditation experience can deepen.

Though we each come to yoga for various reasons, such as healthy living, easing pain, or finding peace and balance in our lives, the supports we can offer ourselves are endless in our practice. It does not matter how long you have been practicing or how you feel on any given day, remembering to invite ālambana into your practice will deepen your experience every time. I invite you to also discover how ālambana shows up in your day-to-day life, in community, work and family. Please share your experience in the comments or connect with me.

OM, Shantih, shantih, shantih

Come Home to Yourself in 5 Simple Practices

Sitting in the stillness of my home today looking out the window at the blustering blizzard that is surrounding us, I see the magic of inner strength all around me. The winds today are gusting between 30 and 100 km/hr. Those gusts have quite a lot of force within them, yet the hard and soft wood trees that surround our home, continue to blow, then stand up, blow, then stand up, swaying and always returning to their home base.

While I was washing dishes and watching the trees swaying in the wind, I was reminded of a conversation I had recently with a client about coming home to ourselves.

We were talking about when we don’t feel aligned with our self, our inner truth, how it is easy to make decisions that we regret or don’t really serve our needs. But when we take time to feel that inner connection, check in with our needs, how we easily take action aligned with true meaning in our lives.

Over the years, I have had this feeling more times than I can count. Something in life knocks me off my track, and I stumble, becoming unclear of what I truly want or need.

When I have allowed these events to continually push me around, I felt like I was swaying out of control. I became frustrated and annoyed at myself and life, felt insecure and unsure of myself, my decision-making would go down the tube because I couldn’t easily trust my judgment, and so on…perhaps you can relate?

Coming-HomeWomen I work with have often expressed these same feelings, when they feel disconnected to that home within themselves.

This is why I want to share some practices I find helpful. Full disclosure here, these practices are what I use to continually bring myself home. If and when I get lazy and don’t do them, that’s when I feel myself fall off course. When I stay grounded in these practices, I can easily sway with life and stand back up.

  • Eating Well – When I put good food into my body, I feel better, I make better choices, and I feel my self-worth grow. When I chose food that doesn’t serve my well-being it is easy to let go of my true needs for what might be easiest instead of for my best.
  • Journaling –  When I take the time to write and reflect on my thoughts, it helps me to clearly understand what I need. Sometimes it helps me realize how my perspective is stuck, discover how I want to grow, or brings me back to my simplest truths.
  • Physical Activity – Whether it is stepping on my yoga mat, going for a nature walk, or dancing my heart out (hence why I love Chakradance!), taking time to connect with my body always helps me feel at home. Without it, I feel stagnant and life dredges along.
  • Meditation – Slowing down, getting present, and noticing my inner world through meditation in a key practice for coming home to myself. Finding that mindful connection with my breath, observing the workings of my mind, and continually coming back to the present moment really simplifies my experience. The winds of the world fade away and I sit in the peaceful stillness of myself.
  • Values Reflection – When the world feels confusing or I fall into uncertainty, coming back to my values helps me stand taller with what is important to me. It can be as simple as noticing how I’m living my values, or not, to help me remember and come home to my true needs.

Each of these practices cultivates mindful self-awareness. By being present to our experience, through our body and mind, we can feel grounded in our truth and create lives with purpose and meaning.

When we cultivate self-awareness, we stand tall in our core-strength, always able to come home to ourselves, no matter what life throws at us. Tweet and share!

When you incorporate practices such as these, what is your experience? And what practices help you come home to yourself?

Please share your comments and let’s help each other continually live from that sacred place of home within ourselves.

xo, Brenda

If you feel some support could help you find your way home, please connect with me. Through life coaching, yoga, or other mindful practices, I would be honoured to help you discover your steady and peaceful core.

The Blessing of Quality Time

I went back home to Alberta this past week to see my family and friends and meet my new niece. Each experience felt so amazing as I connected with long time friends and close family, and got to spend much of my time was with my sister. Every day full of talking and laughing at life’s amusements and memories.

Since I moved to Nova Scotia, spending this amount of time with my sister has been quite challenging, with both of our lives so full of commitments of work and family. So when I booked this trip home, my plan was to spend a lot of time with her and help her in what ever way I could with her new baby.

In the back of my mind, I assumed we would just be hanging out around her place with the her little daughter and my nephew. Yet over the course of the week, we encountered many life commitments that needed her attention. Not sure how I didn’t foresee this would be the case! But, here’s the wonderful part, even amongst running around, taking care of things, and managing life’s curve balls, we really just enjoyed being together. We drove many places, not once turning up the music or becoming distracted from the moment. Instead we chose to receiving each moment for what it had to offer, each other. And that was the true blessing, quality time.

This quality time didn’t have to be anything special, it didn’t have specific activities or expectations, it was simply whatever was happening was done, together. It was awesome! We took a day trip to go see other family and another day celebrated my nephews birthday, it was the act of being present to one another, giving and receiving that made it most meaningful.

Nquality-timeow back home again, I find myself reflecting on how this time of year is about giving. That doesn’t have to be giving of things, but can be giving of our time and attention, being with those those we love, creating a quality experience together.

“It doesn’t matter what I’m doing when I’m with family or loved ones, I’m simply grateful to BE WITH them.”

How does your quality time feel with your loved ones?
What intention might you make as you head into this holiday season of gatherings? What would make it most meaningful for you?

I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or send me a note!

May this holiday season leave you feeling blessed inside and out.

xo, Brenda

Give Yourself Permission

There is something you keep thinking of doing, but every time you consider taking action you feel guilty, afraid, or unsure. Maybe it’s been a long time dream or something more recent in your heart. Notice, how are you holding yourself back?

Take a moment to reflect on this inner desire, this recurring dream. When did it start? What is your expected result? What keeps you standing still when you think about it? And mostly, what’s important to you about it? You may be able to answer these, or perhaps the answers are a little cloudy. It’s okay.

I’d like to share with you a story about how I have been holding myself back and what I needed to actually take action. I hope it inspires you to check in and hopefully take action for yourself.

Over the past 4 years I have gone through a lot of transition, from work, to where I live, to how I live. And I absolutely love the changes, however part of my mindset has been stuck in the past. You see I changed my career, from a daytime job structure to self-employed. I moved across the country and did a complete 180˚ flip in my daily lifestyle. Self-employed work, has a very different feel in daily structure than “9-5” work. Yet, I have been stuck in this mindset of daytime job productivity, even though my work leads into the evenings, and sometimes even the weekends. When I am not productive all day long, I have had this self-destructive mindset that keeps showing up. “I’m not productive unless I am busy“. Which has caused me to often fill in my time with busy work. This busy work rarely feels fulfilling. So between lack of productivity and forcing myself to be busy, I have had feelings of guilt and sadness sitting within myself.

You see, in my heart I want to explore on hikes and go for walks during the day. One thing I love about this province, is you drive down the highway and there are cars parked in random spots, and I keep wondering, what amazing trails are they out discovering? Nova Scotia a beautiful province with so much nature to experience!

So, In my heart I know that a soul-rejuvenating walk or hike in the middle of the day would serve me well. What then is stopping me from doing this?

There is a bit of fear of walking down a trail I’ve never been on, by myself, but that fear also shares a twinge of excitement. The answer that really struck me though was that I felt like I needed permission from someone to go out and do it (like a boss, but I am my boss!). And that was it… I needed permission.

As an almost 40-year-old adult, why would I need permission from anyone to go do something I want to do? I decided to talk with my partner about this. I also felt a bit guilty going off on a hike when he was home working, but he had absolutely no concerns with me taking the time to do this and actually encouraged it. So that couldn’t be the barrier.give-yourself-permission

So I asked myself again, okay so now what is stopping you? My answer? Back to allowing myself the time to do it.

I remember back in the days of working at the bank, wondering how are all of these people out and about in the middle of the day? Why am I stuck behind these walls, this desk? How could I have that type of freedom for myself? Well, I finally have it, and didn’t even realize it, until NOW.

As I work with giving myself permission to go on walks or hikes, I make them part of my priorities, as a task. It feels amazing to breath in the freshness of the fall air. I’ve walked on a nearby trail a few times, hiked along the coast of Peggy’s Cove, and am excited to find more treasures for exploring.

Taking this time for myself is rejuvenating.  My body feels healthy moving, and being alone with my thoughts while walking is grounding. As a whole, I feel more connected to my soul. Plus, I find the more I do this, the better state of being I am in for my work. Knowing these definitely encourages me to make this time happen, but most importantly, I have to remember to keep Giving Myself Permission.

I hope this story of permission entices something with in you.

So I will ask you again… What have you wanted to do, but have not actually gave yourself permission to do? Why is it important to you and what would you need to make it happen?

I’d love to hear from you! Comment or send me an email about your inner struggle with permission or anything else holding you back.

Keep noticing… when you fight the flow, you stay stuck. Allow, accept, and always give yourself permission!


Make Your Dreams A Reality!

Today I saw a dream become reality and was it ever amazing!

My partner has been dreaming of flying a plane for many years. He has played flight simulators among other flying games for most of his life. Over the past few years since I have known him, his pursuit of his dreams has been humbling, yet extraordinary. If only we could all do what he’s doing.

You see the year after I met him, he decided it was time to learn the guitar. To his delight, with practice and dedication he can now play many songs he enjoys. Then as he looked out over the bay where we live, his long time dream of sailing became ever-present. He couldn’t wait any longer, he had to get out on the water. One year after we took a sailing course we bought a sail boat. And now I’d call us semi-intermediate sailers!

Now today! He set out on his next growth adventure, to fly a plane. I could feel my heart jumping with joy as he called to shared his exciting news about the flight. His voice was elated and his energy came right through the phone! It was more than he could express in words. This speaks such awesome truth to me.

When we feed our dreams with intention, practice and pursuit, we can achieve so much more than we may have ever thought possible!

Here’s the thing, if you have a dream, you need to take steps to fulfill it. Even if it is only seems like small steps, such as a flight simulator. Only by stepping into the experience will you gain an understanding of the power of your dreams.  From there, your inner power ignites and opens you to life changing realities!

What dreams are you holding on to that need your attention and action? Why wait any longer?

To bring attention to the other side of the coin, sometimes it is hard to recognize our dreams. Maybe they have been hidden for so long, we just can’t seem to see them anymore. If this is the case for you, it’s helpful to notice the things that excite you or dig back into your younger years and remember the passions you once had.

I’ll tell you this, even if you can’t see them, they are there, waiting for your love and attention. Now is the time to make them happen!

If you want to talk about your dreams or need help gaining clarity, please connect with me. I’d love to help you discover and pursue your dreams!

xo, Brenda

Seeing Beyond Your Limits

For sometime now, I have been working on being aware of when I limiting myself, based on what I expect to be possible. You see, we all have of some expectation of what is possible based on our own experience. When these limitations caused me to limit my intentions and thereby my actions, which impact my goals, I realized a new perception was needed.

Where do our expectations derive from?

Think back to when you were beginning to figure the world out. The experiences you had through your own trial and error, those which were imposed on you through your elders and friends, and those which were considered socially normal have impacted how you formed your perceptions of the world. These perceptions created your beliefs system, which then formed the boundaries of possible outcomes that you could easily fathom.

While many of these beliefs are valuable and needed, what I’d like you to consider today is, are any of these beliefs limiting you today in your life?

I’ll give you an example I worked through recently. I love sharing yoga and I enjoy that I get to teach multiple classes per week. I had been dreaming of making some yoga videos to share on the internet so students could practice at home when then wanted and I could share yoga with my family and friends that live across the country. Every time I thought about it, I felt scared that I wasn’t good enough and that people would judge me or my teaching style. The fear really kept me paralyzed in moving forward for some time. I decided to work on it with a good friend and coach I know. Through this, I was able to embody the impact I really wanted to see, to share yoga with even more people, and realized the impact my fears were holding on this actually happening. I had limited myself by not believing in my worth and the value I offered. I worried about judgment of others over my authenticity. Plus I had to learn to trust myself and my abilities now, not in a year or ten.

So I finally did it! I posted my first video in June of this year and have continued with more since then. There were a few realizations I found to be interesting in the outcome of the experience, that I am using to create new beliefs.

1. I am a good speaker.
2. People that I expected judgement from actually showed appreciation.
3. Being authentically me on camera feels amazing and I trust myself even more now.
4. Clients and friends have told me how much they value the online classes.
5. I’ve even taken it to new levels as I grow with these new experiences and created meditations and even talking videos.
6. I have a greater impact on the world when I give myself and my dreams opportunity.

So you know it’s coming… What are you holding yourself back from doing based on what you believe to be true?

Some of these limiting beliefs I have come across in my life and through coaching others may hit home for you:
– Expecting perfection
– Feeling unworthy of more
– Fear of judgments or the unknown
– Not knowing enough
– Feeling to old or young, and
– Trusting of ourselves

Beyond-LimitsWhat would be possible for you if you could overcome those thoughts that limit you?

I’d like you to consider a few new perceptions I work with and how they could help you if adopted in your perceptions:

You are perfect in every moment of every day, exactly as you are.
You are worthy of so much more that you currently allow for yourself.
If you ever feel judged, it’s about them not you. Plus you are really owning your own authenticity, and that rocks!
You will never completely 100% know how something will happen, but you have 100% control over your actions.
You know what you want and that’s enough to get started, you’ll keep learning as you go.
Age is only a number, it’s about how you feel.
The more authentic you are, the more you will trust yourself.

Finally, I’d like to say, our limitations only create suffering. When we limit our dreams, goals, and desires, we limit our full potential. Overcoming the barriers of these limitations will propel you forward and help you live authentically and graciously, as you feel aligned with your truth.

I’d like to help you believe these about yourself. If this article resonates with you, please reach out and connect with me! My goal is to help you experience your life with passion, purpose, and clear perceptions.

Make today a limitless day!

PS…if you’re curious to check out some of my yoga and meditation videos, you can find a few on my website and more on YouTube. Thanks!

The Benefit of Our Similarities and Differences

How easily do you notice your similarities and differences to the people around you? We are programmed to see patterns, our brains naturally pick them up. Yet, if we only focus on one side of the pattern we miss something important.

How can our similarities and differences benefit us?

Recognizing the ways in which we are similar can help us not feel ostracized from one another. Over the last 50-60 years, our culture has been cultivating separateness, where we are striving for some ideal that often feels unattainable. Through these aspirations, many people are devaluing each other to climb higher, belittling others to make themselves feel better, or blaming others for their own inequities. Although we will each encounter different struggles or challenges in our lives, we are not all that different. We are all human and have the same needs of survival; food, shelter, clothing, and relationships.

Back in my 20’s when working at a bank in downtown Edmonton, was the first time in my life I noticeably acknowledged so many different types of people. Yet, I an awareness kept popping into my mind about the essence of our similarities, that our physical selves, our needs, were so similar. We are all in this life together. Though we often feel separate because of our individual lives, we all have this thread of connection in our humanity. Through our human connection, we can see that we are all the same. We are all trying our best to make our way through life. When we can see this, the world feels a bit smaller. You can feel closer to people you don’t even know, nor may ever know, but inside can relate to them, even without knowing their personal story.

If we can let go of judgment of one another and recognize our similarities, we can help one another survive, to be better, to do better and create stronger communities.

This is where our differences matter the most.

By noticing our differences, we have an opportunity to encourage each other to offer our unique gifts and talents to the world. Each of us has at least one, if not a few, gifts that are meant to use for the benefit of others. I believe this is our true job; to cultivate our talents, gifts, and strengths by learning and growing with them. Doing this serves our highest purpose and the world around us.

How do we recognize these unique gifts and talents? A while back I read a book called Strengths Finder. In it Tom Rath talked about our innate talents as being those gifts that we do easily that are so natural that we often think everyone can do them as well. It can be surprising when someone tells us that they find that thing we do challenging. These are our windows of opportunity, to learn how to share these gifts. But only through recognizing and acknowledging our differences can we come to value that which makes each of us unique.

When we feel our natural talents at work, it feels good. We are happy. We become fulfilled!

How then, do we keep both of these in mind and not separate ourselves or keep our talents hidden, and instead encourage each other to give our gifts, while remembering we are all doing our very best given what we have learned and experienced so far? One statement stands out to me.

Acknowledge our similarities and value our differences.

Similarities-and-DifferencesBy creating a community culture where we remember that we are all in this together, by letting go of old patterns of judgment, and empowering each other to fulfill our individual gifts, we can lift each other up and feel the goodness that transpires for the whole.

What can you do today to help create this mind shift?

Here’s one idea… When you find yourself or hear someone else judge someone for being different, ask yourself or them, “I wonder what makes that person special that they offer the world?”

Only together can we make this world an even more amazing place to live. Are you with me?

with love and gratitude,