Got A Pain In Your Neck?

If you’ve ever experienced a pinched neck muscle then you know how debilitating it can be.
Try a Downward Dog pose and release it for a few deep breaths and release. It may seem counter intuitive but by putting weight on the shoulders, then releasing, you allow the muscles in the surrounding area (shoulders and back) to relax. Don’t let neck and body pain ruin your day, a little bit of yoga goes a long way!

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Do Yoga At Work

Corporate Yoga

Who’s doing yoga at work?

Bridgepoint Active Healthcare
10+ years, Tuesdays + Thursday’s over lunch

Wesllspring Downtown and Westerkirk House
10+ years of supportive Cancer care, symptom management, recovery

These are private classes, however contact me if you want to do yoga at your work!

Finding a Yoga Studio that Best Suits You

I’m trying to imagine a person with little to no yoga experience today looking for a studio or teacher. I also imagine that in the early stages of post cancer treatment, there are many physical changes one has to adjust to.

We know that movement and relaxation can contribute to physical and mental well being. I think if you are a person who wants to start a yoga class in your community,at any stage of your cancer journey, veer  on the side of caution and listen to the wisdom of your body… start slow and steady if you are new to yoga.


All people have tension in their bodies and an imbalance to various degrees from the right to left side. As time passes, people hold emotions in their bodies, they have injuries, they get cancer, they have surgeries. We are all working with something.  Most classes focus on a persons well being. I think that an experienced teacher can tell when they see a person move…where they are tight and where they are tender. Some people are more comfortable than others sharing personal information. Feel free to let the instructor know where you are tight. It will help them help you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want your focus to be on increasing flexibility or relaxation or both?
  • Do you think it makes sence to stay in a pose for a time to give the body a chance to let go or are you the type who prefers to keep it moving and get more of an active work-out?
  • Would you like hands on assists and verbal correction or would you prefer the teacher do the movements with you ?
  • How far are you willing to travel? Do you like music when you practice? How much are you willing to pay?  Do you prefer a male/female instructor?
  • Do you want to attend a class in the day or at evening? Is a small small class better for you or do you like the big groups?
  • How much are you willing to share about your cancer experience and any mobility issues you may have?

Here are some questions to ask studio or instructor:

  • Is your instructor certified? In what style? How much experience do they  have  Don’t be afraid and ask questions.
  • Does he/she do hands on assist? (do you want to be touched)Does  the instructor  make corrections or do they think the body will eventually finds it’ s way to proper alignment?
  • Is the instructor comfortable suggesting modifications or is the expectation that everyone does the same movement?
  • Does the instructor have any experience with cancer patients and are they aware how to modify movements if necessary.

One style is not better than another. It takes time to understand how simple and complex the practice is. One starts off by doing yoga and over time… yoga does you!  Bring a friend, ask questions!  Information is power and clarity will bring you closer to what you want.There are far too many styles of yoga for me to list. I am sure I would miss many… I will leave you with a few general styles that you can work from.

  • Hatha… can either mean a more gentle style or a style that holds poses for a time.  There is no guarantee it will be “easy “ so ask
  • Ashtanga…another style that could be quite athletic or not…it really depends on the training of the instructor.  In some ways a more modern type of yoga
  • Bikrim:   has 26 postures repeated and done in a hot room.  Challenging and athletic in nature.
  • Vinyasana :  has flows…series of movements that are done in a sequence.  Teacher does flow with participants.
  • Iyenga:  Similar to some Hatha styles; very precision oriented; very classical style; good for detail oriented folks; Poses are held; Props are used;  Blocks, bolsters and belts are common. Hands on and corrections
  • Restorative:  an extremely gentle yoga with lots of bolsters, blankets and no strenuous movement
  • Sivinanada:  has a series of movements that are repeated.  Classical style. No props
  • Kripalu  teacher usually does class with participants…a flow of movements…poses held but not as long as in hatha styles. More gentle and more variety than in vinyasana.  Classical style

Try out some different styles. Don’t feel obliged to make a commitment.  Remember, this is your time and you can design it how you like!

Originally published on Wellspring: Pass It On! 

Why Is It So Hard To Establish A Yoga Practice?

Because no one can really show us how.

I’ve been teaching yoga for twenty years and to master the art of practice is exactly that:; an art form and in my experience, something that does not come easy and something that is earned by each of us. So if you struggle in your practice, I think its par for the course. How does one become disciplined? There are no magic answers. How does one inspire one’s self to achieve what is best for the self and those they make contact with? It’s a process. We fall off the horse and get back on.

Lower your expectations. Be nice to yourself. Don’t expect to recreate a practice for the same time you are in a class. A short focused practice is a more realistic goal.

Once i connected with yoga, I attended four classes per week for years to give myself the practice without having to rely on the discipline I knew I did not have. I wanted to practice but I just couldn’t. One of the mistakes I made was that I was looking for esteem as if the more I did yoga, the better I was and the less I did…’

I was a perfectionist when it came to my yoga and a tyrant . I I had unrealistic and unattainable goals. Fortunately, I was accepting and nurturing and open and loving and supportive to my students. I didn’t know how to extend that to myself.. The pressure was exhausting. I was aware of the dynamic that I had set up in myself but I didn’t really have anyone in the yoga world to process it with.

My practice or lack of it suffered for many years. The more my inner tyrant cracked the whip, the more my inner rebel rebelled. I really had declared war on myself. During this time I got a hamstring injury (not from yoga. When we know each other better I will tell you how I got it). I was in a lot of pain for a long time and I lost a lot of flexibility. I honestly had no idea how to inspire myself . I tried for many years to ignore it my injury and discovered;“The more I resist, the more it persists.”

Yoga was bringing me closer to myself and showing me what my inner world was all about. It takes It takes time to establish our patterns and to undo them. .On an intellectual level, I realized my own judgement was holding me back but I really didn’t know what to do differently. That first step to change for me was being open to doing things in a different way and really living the truth that what I was doing was not working.I think it is fair to say that transformation is experiential. Sometimes we have to saturate what does not work in order to move toward change…. I understood how open and free the body could be yet I couldn’t find a loving way to take myself there.

Eventually, I started to do a gentle practice and found a teacher to work with me. Enter Patricia White. I was ready to open up to different ways of working. Her style is powerful and she focuses on balance and the entire body being involved in movement. She does some very serious slow cook yoga.

I started to work from a place of listening. I was inspired by working with Patricia and motivated to shift things for myself. I put value on undoing and breathing and letting go. I was looking to balance my body. I took on the challenge of discovery and was motivated to “Keep the monsters at bay.” I started to practice from enthusiasm and inspiration. I saw that my hamstring injury was my gift.

Unravelling the layers of resistance is a long process for some people. I get students who mirror me so I see things in them that I have gone thru and I see physical things thru them that my body also does. It really is a work in progress for me now and I mostly welcome my aches and pains as a challenge to see what I can creatively do to move beyond it.

Inspiration, motivation, love, enthusiasm, being clear, calm, regrouping, moving thru blocks, releasing pain, lengthening tight muscles…these are reasons for me to practice. On a practical note I don’t put a time line on my practice. I practice 5 to 6 days a week. I try to work with myself and practice in the morning when I am fresh. I use these inspirational tricks on myself instead of an iron fist. I show up, do my best and let it be what it is.

I am grateful and try not to chase it.Like the weather, there are good days, bad days and go thru the motion days. I devote myself to the whole ball of wax: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I don’t pressure my students to practice because I don’t want to set them up for disappointment. I think for someone who will be doing yoga for years, the discipline of practice It will evolve naturally. I let people know that if they want to practice and are not sure what to do, I can set them up (for free) with a personal practice. Few take me up on the offer.

It takes a lotta love!

Originally published on Toronto Body Mind