Yoga Of the Month
December’s Yogi Of The Month is new to studio yoga but I feel that she has been practising her own yoga for life. She has consciously worked on who she is and what this life is all about since she was young. Her journey to where she is now has not always been easy. All that she has been through has made her who she is now, an amazing strong women. When Grace came back to a studio for yoga recently it seemed to fit and she is making incredible progress in her asana but more importantly she is finding inner peace through the practice and her own self work. Grace is an inspiration, she has seen yoga changed her life and will share that with you.
1. What does yoga mean to you?
It would be easier to list what yoga doesn’t mean to me than to list all the things it does mean to me. But here it goes;
Yoga to me, means ME time. I mean real me time, get to know “me” time. I don’t think I really knew myself until I started doing yoga. I thought I did, I thought that I knew “The Story of Grace” – events and circumstance that defined her, formed beliefs of what she liked and didn’t like, what “kind” of person she was. Now I see that that was all a story I had made up based on events throughout my life that I just kept repeating with little to no introspection or understanding. I have realized there is so much beyond what/who we think we are. It’s interesting to go in there and hear the story, to notice it and dissect it, almost like it’s being told by someone else. When we go deep into the body, into poses and postures, it gives way for our mind and hearts to follow. The body has proven, for me, to be the gateway to my unravelling.
2.When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
I only started doing yoga consistently two months ago. I have done it before, here and there. I went to a studio about 5 years ago for a month and then found out I was pregnant with my twins, so I had to stop. I didn’t see changes in my body fast enough, so I didn’t bother going back. At that point I thought yoga was for exercise, which is actually funny to me now. To be honest, the exercise aspect of yoga is the last reason I go. Now that I have been going consistently I am amazed at the changes in my body, body image expectations and my confidence.
3.Have you had any teacher(S) in particular that helped you along your journey, if so what made them special?
There are three teachers that I make a conscious effort of attending their classes each week.
I finally gave yoga a real shot because I went to a private class on a friend’s dock one Sunday morning that Laura Martini had been asked to come and instruct. Her voice drew me so deep into myself, it was astounding. I felt an internal shift or click. I knew that I had to find out more. It was like seeing a twinkle and following it to find it’s source. I had no idea where it was going to take me and I don’t care if I ever find the out because following the path the twinkle has taken me down is more satisfaction and peace than I have ever found in my entire life. I feel like I woke up. I just knew I was where I was mean to be that morning. I feel like I started living on purpose.
I had a very ground breaking class with Shauna Nyrose – I kicked up into headstand and fell and hurt my shoulder. My ego was hurt more than anything and I cried in child’s pose rather loudly. She was amazing and I am so glad she was there for me. Shauna makes a very conscious effort of guiding a flow of postures that will inwardly direct your awareness and her efforts derive astounding results.
Tamara Logan ignites a fire in me I didn’t know I had. I never knew someone else could spark your confidence like that, help you demand more love from yourself. She just lives loudly, and by example and I love it. Truly amazing and inspiring. I beam when I walk out of her classes.
All three of those teachers touch me deeply and I am grateful to be able to experience them all, because they are such great journey guides! Sometimes I humbly and humorously refer to myself as their “super fan.”
I keep coming back to the mat because it’s new every single time. I learn something new, I go a little deeper, I conquer a wee bit more and most of all I am learning to let go of expectations and confronting/exploring fear instead of backing away from it. Going into a yoga class with expectations is like trying to walk normally with ice skates on. It’s just a disaster and causes immense frustration. There is no possible way to expect a certain outcome or experience for your practice. You go there to find out what you need to sort out. To notice what it is you need to notice. To go into the dark and find your way out. It doesn’t ever go as planned because each day is new and you have something to work out on that mat and you just need to let your body be your guide. The mind can do very sneaky tricky things, the body doesn’t lie. The build up of unprocessed thoughts and events can be immense when you first start doing yoga (or letting yoga do you) but a regular practice lightens the load.
5.What does yoga bring to your life?
Yoga brings a fullness and depth to my life that wasn’t there before. It has created a space for me to rejoice in every little inch of progress because I know what it all adds up to. It has brought a new sense of slowness, a “stop and smell the roses” kind of pace. It harnesses my gifts instead of boobing trapping myself with my disabilities. Yoga brings true happiness to my life. Happiness that I wasn’t aware of but has always been there. It really allows it to shine through. Another big bonus to yoga is that I feel extremely comfortable and confident in my body. I have hated my body since I can remember. Loving your body is such an essential part to treating your vessel properly and being healthy. There is so much less negative energy being emitted.
6.How has your practice evolved?
So far, my practice has started to evolve from serious to not so serious. I am still serious about improvement but I smile more at myself in the mirror, and I have let go of the competition. I look around to be inspired to keep kicking up, or bend back a little more, but not to beat myself up because I’m not there yet. I allow myself an out loud laugh from time to time if it needs to be let out.
7.How might you and/or your life be different if you hadn’t found Yoga?
I would still be searching from something externally that I have always had within. I felt like I was flat lining for the longest time. I have suffered from depression since I was 14 years old and have been on 6 different medication off and on. I am not currently taking any medication and I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been. If the vehicle for my journey was a car, I feel like I have jumped from the passenger seat to the drivers seat.
8.What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
My practice is usually incomplete without a shoulder stand. The reason for this is odd, but humour me for a second. I have big boobs and they have always bothered me and I chose to let them create a lot of self-consciousness, to the point that I had a reduction 7 years ago. To my initial dismay, after having children they came back in full effect. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find yoga tops that wouldn’t give me massive cleavage. When I do a shoulder stand my chin goes in between my boobs and it makes me laugh. Being chin to boobs helped me to find humour in the fact that I have been ashamed of my chest all these years, for no good reason. I use to feel like being chesty made other people uncomfortable – but really it’s just me. I now wear my boobs with pride because hey, that’s what I was given and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!
9.Tell us about an asana you struggle with.
I struggle with Balasana – child’s pose. I find it hard to be still, sink back and relax. When I fell while kicking up into headstand, and Shauna told me to get into child’s pose I immediately started sobbing. I think it’s a hard place for me to go emotionally so I continue to work at it. I know I need to be easier on myself, take breaks and not see that as a sign of weakness. At the end of the day we are all still children in a way. Child’s pose brings my awareness to my struggle to accept failure and mistakes a natural part of learning and growing. My teachers will say “you can get off the yoga bus at anytime and take child’s pose.” I feel like when I give in to my inner child there can be a loss of control and I think that can be scary for me.
10.Who inspires you, on or off the mat, what keeps you going?
I am inspired by my children. They have taught me what being your authentic self really means. They have also shown me that moments of weakness are where we find our strength and when you fall you get back up and keep going. I can see that falling is an essential part of moving forward and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It takes true strength to push past your edge, stretch your limits and come crashing down. I was afraid to fall when I first started doing yoga and it prevented me from giving difficult poses a try. I am so thankful that my teachers encourage falling, and help me to see how necessary it is for improvement.
11.What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
For beginner students to have a safe practice, I would say honour yourself! Listen to your body. Recognizing the difference between fear and ego is crucial. The body can be pushed through/past fear by bending the mind, ego tends to push through the mind by over-extending/bending the body. Injuries happen when we don’t listen to our bodies and take the time to ground, build a solid foundation and try to move too quickly – before having done the prep work and before we are truly ready.
To a beginner teacher I would say – be compassionate to yourself. Find what you think makes you special, grab that and shine it brightly to your students. As a yoga student I have found that when my yoga teachers are real and authentic I can relate and I can feel my fear dissipate because I know I am not alone in my journey/practice. I feel supported by someone who has been there, right where I am, feeling sensation and battling with the fear surrounding it.
13.What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice, was there or is there anything that has helped you along the way?
I think understanding that my edge is a hard but moveable wall has helped me tremendously. I recognize when I am there and I play with pushing it ever so slightly forward. I don’t notice the growth or improvements right away but I can feel the benefits of going deeply into my edge and stretching it out ever so slightly the next time I come to my mat. The growth is in the journey. Often times I forget that each transition from one pose to the next makes up all the individual parts that give birth to a new pose/posture. We often look at our yoga practice much like our lives – we forget that although getting to where we want to be, getting into that posture we have been longing for, is awesome – the real juiciness is in the journey – those bits and parts that are the transitions in between each pose and that’s where it’s at!
Grace is grateful fulfilled in her role as a financial advisor/coach. She takes a holistic approach with her clients creating a space focussed on abundance, by help them foster individualized freedom in their lives through their finances. Grace feels very blessed and challenged by her two little teachers, 4 year old twins – Oliver and Lilly . Winfield is now her home, after moving there 6 years ago from the opposite end of the country, the tiny but beautiful Prince Edward Island on the east coast. Although having only been practicing for 2 months now, Grace has found that the teachings and practices of yoga stretch far beyond her mat helping her in every day challenges sparking the fullness that comes with being present in all areas of her life – both in her career, as a mother and a partner. Grace would like to extend gratitude to Shauna Nyrose for thinking of her to be featured as yogi of the month!
– I’m not sure what to say about my blog? I had “For some raw and honest insight into the day to day challenges and triumphs women face to be their best selves, or just to feel some comfort and have a good laugh, visit Grace’s blog at www.gracesprogress.blogspot.ca
Here are some posts from my blog directly related to yoga:
The photos were done by Krista White Photography. Grace loved them and is very impressed with the quality of the work and the fun in the process.