🦃ON NOT LETTING THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN🦃

coffeemug-elephantturkeys.jpg

I’ve loved this mug ever since the stationery-store wandering days of my youth.

Where I live now we have real turkeys. Wild ones. While they have their own charm, there’s no denying their clumsiness. They’re big, heavy, and slow, really awkward fliers.

We all know what its like to be held down by the turkeys that show up in our own lives everyday. They’re the little annoyances that nag us, snags that need untangling, and misunderstandings that need to be clarified. They’re the myriad frustrations that tighten our jaws, hunch our shoulders, restrict our breathing, and contract our energy.

And of course, there are also the inner turkeys that sabotage our freedom and hold us down. The habits, foods, even relationships that no longer serve the forward movement of our lives.

This poor elephant seems to have surrendered and accepted the reality of his situation.

But we know that isn’t the only option. Yes, letting go and releasing the weight of those nagging frustrations is essential. More importantly, though, are taking steps to restore our lightness of spirit.

Moving, literally, helps a lot. So does conscious breathing. So does being in meaningful community with others on the same path. It’s springtime. Nature is supporting us to take flight, to blossom, to renew.

We’re building an online yoga community of sincere students and teachers dedicated to self-study, forward movement and expansive growth through yoga.

If you’re called to be part of a small, intimate group that supports your growth, empowerment and independence as a practitioner, I’d love to have you join us.

DM me for details.

💛VALUE CREATES VALUE💛

A recent New York Times article pointed out how convenience has become a major driving force in our consumer economy. Our choices in the marketplace consistently demonstrate this. We’d rather use something easy and simple (Netflix) over something cheap (network television). 

Furthermore, because of economies of scale and the power of our buying habits, convenience begets greater convenience. The more we buy from Amazon, the more powerful it becomes, and therefore it can make itself even more efficient and easier to use, which leads us to value it even more.

I believe a similar dynamic is at work in yoga, though its about benefit and importance, rather than convenience. 

The more we value our yoga, the more valuable our yoga it becomes.

For the casual, once-in-a-while practitioner, the benefits of yoga are likewise casual, easily replaced by a different kind of workout or another self-help method.

But for the committed practitioner, one who places a premium on practice time, on learning from seasoned teachers, on dipping into the wisdom of the tradition regularly, a whole new level of benefit ensues. Practice becomes rich, deeply nourishing and rewarding. This, of course, strengthens our commitment to practice.

We start to schedule and prioritize practice times as sacred appointment with ourselves. We sit for meditation even when it means taking time out of a busy day. We stay the course when practice feels boring or lackluster. This leads to greater, more palpable and lasting benefits. A lovely feedback loop results that strengthen, deepen and expand the ways in which yoga serves us in our lives over time.

I've created a new online program to explore some of the approaches to practice that have helped me to treasure, and, in turn, extract the enormous value from yoga for the past 25 years. Truly, these are some of the KEY understandings that have worked for me and continue to support me in every area of my life. I can’t wait to share this with you!

https://barrie-risman-yoga.teachable.com/p/evolving-your-asana

The Most Important Skill in Yoga is THIS

One of the most important skills we develop as we continue down the path of yoga is this: The ability to WELCOME ourselves back, and begin again, AND to do it with compassion, self-acceptance, and sensitivity.

Read More

💥Rekindling the Spark💥

The smell of the earth this morning brought me right back to the Catskills, to the ashram where I lived in the early 2000’s. 

It brought me back to the many, many mornings I walked from my dorm room to the early-morning chant at 4:30 am in the dark, wrapped in a shawl. 

It brought me back to the feelings of devotion, one-pointedness, and community. But most palpably, it brought me back to the LONGING I experienced during those years.

It was there, in the darkness of the early mornings, first in India and then Upstate New York over the course of 7 years, that my longing took root. What began as a desire to be happy with myself and content with my life blossomed into a yearning to dive deep into my inner being, I longed to uncover the truth, the wisdom and the magnificence of that place within me that lies independently from the ups and downs of outer life.

This longing is and has been at the root of everything I do, everything I create, everything I offer as a teacher. It’s the common denominator of my life, my most fundamental motivation. 

It’s no longer about escaping myself or the world, but a way of bringing my best to bear on situations I am (that we all are) confronted with, both outside and those of my own habitual making. It’s a force that guides me to strive to live a responsible, purposeful life.

Funny that I should have this experience today, standing on the cusp of an exciting opening in my business, of putting my work out into the world in bigger, bolder new ways. That I should be brought back to the devotion and the longing that inspires my work is a sweet reminder of WHY I do what I do. It lies beyond any success and failure. When all is said and done, my longing and the path it offers toward its own fulfillment will remain.

Several teachers that have signed up for my new online program shared with me that the content is calling out to them in a similar way. It’s reminding them of what that led them to yoga, the moment they made it their own and knew it was THEIR path. It’s bringing up the longing to rekindle that original spark.

There is nothing sweeter then remembering our own initial stirrings. Over time they tend to get lost, buried in the business of life, forgotten as we get pulled out of our own experience, lost perhaps by our very participation in the modern yoga world. 

If you are feeling the call to go back to your yoga roots, to RECLAIM what made you love to practice in the first place through the lens of your knowledge and experience, I hope you’ll consider joining us. We begin March 20 on a springtime journey of exploration to uncover the gems of insight and inspiration that are still there, still precious, waiting to be dusted off, polished so they can shine their light on your life and practice once again.

https://barrie-risman-yoga.teachable.com/p/evolving-your-asana

Evolving Your Yoga

TO EVOLVE: to gradually become clearer or more detailed, to develop, elaborate, unfold, advance, progress, blossom, grow, mature, ripen, emerge

🐚🌀🐚🌀🐚

I first fell in love with this word as an Anthropology major in college. Tracing the emergence and adaptation of the human race over time was fascinating to me. But, honestly, the concept of evolving, adapting, and UNFOLDING has become even more thrilling and juicy as I’ve begun to see my yoga practice in this light, as not just as something I “do” but as something I grow and ripen, something that continually EMERGES.

It’s an ever-unfolding process that’s POWERED and INSPIRED by the very nature of life ITSELF to elaborate, clarify, grow, shift and progress. 

Do you sense the amazing possibilities that could be revealed in approaching your practice this way?

4 Seconds of Flow

I got stuck this morning. My 10-year old, bless her heart, missed her bus and I had to drive her to school. Granted, this was the first time this year that this has happened. And, driving her to school is not really a big deal because my schedule today is pretty flexible and the school is only about a 10-minute drive. Yet, I found myself critical, annoyed, frustrated. I could see that holding onto this episode was neither necessary nor useful. Stuckness.

After I dropped her off, I took the opportunity of being out earlier than usual to take a walk. After all, we are at balmy 15 Celsius and its a beautiful sunny day here. The snow is melting and the rivers are rushing. My lesson was right there in the flowing water: soften, release, and move on.

I’m always very clear with my yoga students that I am decidedly NOT a flow teacher. Sure, I can teach a good Vinyasa class, I’ve done it many times, but it's not my true love.

Yet, the IDEA of FLOW is very important to me, and, like any dedicated Vinyasa student knows, it’s about much more than gracefully transitioning between poses. It’s about learning to identify where I’m stuck, to have the presence of mind to see it, and then take steps to get back into the flow.

In my case, this was taking a walk outside, consciously focusing on my breath, and recognizing the lessons in water.

Like this stream flowing beneath the melted snow outside my house, I think about where, and how I can soften and let go of my ideas about how I want things to be long enough to once again tap into the flow that’s there just beneath the surface of my resistance.

After all, if the flexibility, attention to breath and graceful movement I cultivate in my yoga practice doesn’t allow me to flow more easily in MY LIFE then what’s the point?

Consider:

  • What does flow look like for you today?
  • Where might you be stuck in work or life?
  • What are the tools you already have and know well (asana, breath, nature, etc.) to soften, let go, and move on?

We’ll be delving deeper into the point of yoga practice and how to actually USE the tools and practices we know and love even MORE fully beginning next week.  If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider joining me!

Bursting the Bubble

A studio owner once told me that she wanted her space to be like a bubble, a place where students could temporarily escape their worries and be surrounded by an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and good vibes.

popping-bubble.jpg

Wow, sounds great, I thought.

I really like and respect this person, and actually, I love what she’s created. Yet, something didn’t fully resonate with the bubble idea. It got me thinking about how I approach practice and teaching.

I completely agree that we all need healthy ways to escape, regularly. Time alone, self-care appointments, things that give us relief from the stresses of daily life are rejuvenating and VERY necessary. I love those “Calgon – Take me away!” moments of my day (for those of you who remember those old commercials). Yoga practice can certainly fill this important need to just get away from it all for a while. ESPECIALLY on a day like today, when the weight of the world weighs so heavily on us. You can bet I'll be soaking in a hot bath tonight!🛁

For me, though, yoga is at its MOST powerful (and exciting) when we use it not ONLY to escape our lives but also to learn how to approach our lives with greater presence, compassion, and purpose.

Have you ever gone back to work after a vacation and quickly (like by lunchtime on your first day back) felt like the vacation never even happened?

Wouldn’t it be great if your vacation could also give you the tools to carry the ease you felt and the remembrance of what’s most important to your regular life? That’s what yoga is for me.

The thing I LOVE AND TREASURE MOST about practice is how it helps me become the person I want to be the other 22.5 hours of my day.

So, I use my practice to cultivate the qualities I want to experience more of, to show up for the rest of my life with. I practice to interact with myself - my body, my breath, and my mind - in a way that fosters more awareness, a greater understanding of and compassion for my struggles. And, honestly, sometimes this is simply about trying to keep my wits about me as I navigate these crazy times we are living in.

This is why yoga - at its best and most powerful - is NOT an escape for me, but more like a training, with less and less distinction between practice time and life. And this is what I endeavor to bring to my teaching, to help students uncover the POWER and POTENTIAL of yoga to infuse itself into every area of their lives.

If you’re ready to burst the bubble and live your yoga even more fully, it would be my honour to accompany you on this next step in your yoga journey. It begins with my upcoming, free webinar on MARCH 1. The link to the recording will be sent to you if you can’t participate live.

🎊Beyond the Bells and Whistles🎊

When I teach at conferences and festivals, I always find that the exact right people show up for my session. This weekend at Expo Yoga in Montreal was no different. As usual, I was delighted to be with a group of curious, engaged students interested in taking their yoga a little bit deeper, getting some input on refining their practice and exploring how to integrate the lessons of the postural practice into their lives. 

And, as usual, I’m the teacher without the awesome playlist, without the elaborate ritual, without the bells and whistles. 🛎

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against a great playlist. I LOVE to groove out in my practice from time to time. And, I LOVE ritual, sacred circles, ALL OF THAT. It’s just that for me, the bells and whistles often sound loudest when I get to go deeper INSIDE my experience. Awakening a new awareness, discovering a new connection, inhabiting my own strength or softening into a deeper release – these are the things that light me up. And those experiences, for me, are often best accompanied only by the music of my breath and the sweet presence of other yogis. 💡

Call me traditional, call me old school, but for me, music, cool lighting, and other trappings of commercial yoga culture can be a distraction to accessing the thrilling experience of expanding consciousness in my body.

Silence is how I get to OWN my experience in practice, keep it with me, integrate it into my being, independent of accouterments.

If you, like me, are ready to go beyond the bells and whistles and unlock a deeper level of empowerment, awareness and refinement in your practice I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming free webinar on THURSDAY, MARCH 1. 

I'll reveal some of the key approaches to practice that have made yoga an incredibly valuable support in all areas of my life and fully integrate the physical practice into my journey of self-discovery. 

REGISTER HERE:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/evolving-your-yoga-3-principles…

The link to the recording will be sent out if you can't participate live.

I can't wait to share this with you!

Making Your Sacred Offering (& Your Offering Sacred)

What is your framework for making your work, the tasks of your daily life, more meaningful than simply getting things done?

What are the things you do, in yoga or otherwise, that help you to remember the bigger vision underlying, and perhaps inspiring, your efforts?

How do you use your practice to empower you with the strength and courage to meet the challenges of your day with sensitivity and presence?

In short, DO YOU USE YOGA TO HELP YOU IN THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? If not, WHY not?

Read More

By Rote or Remote?

Congratulations! You made it to your mat. Whether in a studio, YMCA, or your living room, you’ve shown up.

That certainly deserves applause because yoga, like any other pursuit, works best through repeated effort over time. Abhyasa in the tradition, neuroplasticity in scientific terms. Whatever we label it, it’s true that the most important thing you can do in yoga is simply to keep showing up.

And, yet, there is SO MUCH MORE. 

And here’s where the question of HOW comes in. Not just DO you practice (I’m pretty sure that you do, at least most of the time), but HOW, how do you practice?

By rote? Mechanically, uninspired and just going through the motions?

Or by remote? Your body is there but your mind is scattered, distant, distracted?

boss-fight-free-stock-images-photography-photos-high-resolution-sunrise-snow.jpeg

Believe me, I’ve been in both of those places!

I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Think about the sunrise. It happens consistently without fail. And every day is new and different. It’s not always unforgettable, or spectacular. Sometimes its quiet, muted. But every day it is unique, and fully WHAT IT IS. It is perfect.

Your yoga practice can be the same way. By approaching your practice through the lens of the timeless (yet exceedingly relevant) wisdom at the heart of this living tradition, practice is never the same because WE are never the same. Our bodies, our minds, our needs are always changing. It’s like viewing a masterpiece of art. We can do it again and again and always get something new, different, and more nuanced out of it. When we learn how to engage with practice this way, it never gets old because it is a continual unfolding of the truth illuminating our present experience. We get insight, we see nuances, we make shifts. It is exciting!

“Principles for an Enlightened Practice” are approaches, entry points into practice that are designed to help you make your yoga new and uniquely yours every day.

They are the keys I have found over 25 years of practice to experience freshness and greater enjoyment and extract deeper benefit in my practice every day. And to INTEGRATE all the juicy insights and aha moments I get on my mat into my life.

Join me for my upcoming, free webinar to start working with these transformational approaches to practice so that every day you show up it’s new and perfect, like the sunrise.

 

What REALLY Matters?

I almost skipped (or at least postponed) my morning meditation today in favor of being “productive.”

As my coffee was brewing, I glanced at my Facebook feed and saw:

- an account from someone in Montecito, CA about the devastation happening there.

- a crowd-funding campaign for a friend who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer

- A tribute to an old friend who recently passed away.

- A blog post from a colleague about her experience of grieving a recent miscarriage.

- Many, many messages of support and good wishes from friends all around the world for what all these people are going through

Struck by the intensity of all this (especially at 6:30 am, and especially before I’d had my coffee), I felt a sudden sense of urgency. Immediately, I sat for meditation.

I sat because all this news was a stark reminder that, for me, there is NOTHING more important than taking time DAILY to get perspective on what really matters, to remember the preciousness of life, and to become present to the extraordinariness of each day we are given.

I don’t doubt that most would agree all this is important, even necessary, for living a purposeful, inspired life.

The thing is, we need a WAY to do this, consistently and effectively. That’s where practice comes in. A daily, scheduled, sacred time for practice, whether it’s asana, mediation, prayer, reflection, or something else, practice is about bringing us back to the awareness of what matters most.

After my meditation, I went about being productive, but from an entirely different inner stance. Emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast for my daughter, and the simple tasks of daily life felt palpably sweeter, somehow poignant. The gift of meditation for me this morning was becoming available to notice and appreciate the blessings in my life, and to meet the pain and suffering of those going through difficulties with compassion and love.

What is the value of practice for you in your life? In your state of being?

Noticing the effects of your yoga on the rest of your day, and on your perspective of life in general, helps to solidify your commitment to it. And whenever you do, I encourage you to take a moment to thank yourself, actually honour yourself, for pausing from the business of life to remember what’s truly important.

How Does it Feel to Begin Again?

How was your practice over the holidays? Interrupted? Sporadic? Non-existent?

I can relate.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve experienced the full range of what I think of as ‘seasons’ in my yoga practice. There have been long stretches when I could practice uninterruptedly for (sigh) 2 hours a day. And, there have been times where yoga couldn’t, or didn’t, happen regularly. Whether due to travel, family or work responsibilities, injury, illness, or just plain-ol’ laziness, I have slacked on many occasions. 

And I know I’m not alone. For anyone who embraces yoga as a path of practice over the long haul, this is how it goes. Life, or oneself, sometimes get in the way.

But here’s the thing:

It’s okay with me. It's okay because I know I will start again. I always do. I’ve learned that I can trust myself to get back to a scheduled, regular practice time and begin, yet again. That’s what I’m doing this week.

More than that, I’ve learned to relish the opportunity of a new beginning, to once again enjoy the freedom of moving a stiff body as if for the first time, to greet myself in the space of allowing and acceptance, to breathe consciously, to turn within.

Remember: The starting point in yoga is always exactly where you are.

Self-reliance is liberating. It cuts through resistance, guilt and allows for the myriad fresh starts we make on the path. 

This week, I invite you to welcome yourself back. And thank yourself for showing up.

May you experience the liberating magic of beginning again.

Top Cold-Weather Yoga Hacks

Warm up with these tips from yoga teachers across Canada. I asked yoga-teacher friends from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, to share their top tips for getting to the mat when the temperature drops. They responded with some really enticing and cozy ideas, none of which involve practicing in a 35-degree room. Clearly, we Canadians have got this winter-yoga thing down! 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Read More

Traversing the Plateaus: How to Maintain Enthusiasm for Practice

Times when we feel stuck, or that we’ve used up the benefits of practice are important and even necessary. Rather than seeing plateaus in our practice as the endpoint of what yoga has to offer us, we can also understand them as precious moments of transition. They’re times when we are ready to go to the next level of depth or understanding in our practice, or to shift the way we practice.

Read More

Where Does Your Practice Thrive? 

My practice was honed in local studios, meditation groups, and retreat sites. These were places where other seekers welcomed me. They gave me the space to nurture my burgeoning pull toward spiritual life. The yoga spaces I frequented quietly celebrated what was inherently sacred within me, even when I had not yet fully acknowledged that place in myself.

Read More

Yogi Mind: Ekagrata

Watching the pouring of the ghee, my mind would often become transfixed on the steady stream of golden liquid. It brought a sense of one-pointed concentration. And, as my focus would eventually waiver, I would contemplate the many layers of the scene that all pointed to the same experience of undistracted focus - the complete focus of the priest as he gracefully handled the ladle, the continuous stream of the ghee flowing down, and the totality of my senses focused on the action. I recognized this as a kind of absorption, an experience of the state of yoga.

Read More

Approaching the Steady Center

When yoga and movement instructors refer to working  "your core" they're usually referring to the stabilizing muscles of the torso and pelvis.  While I understand and appreciate this use of the term, it doesn't felt quite right to me. The core of something means its most fundamental, central and foundational part, that which holds the greatest significance and importance. I guess I simply disagree with the idea that my "core" is a set of muscles, no matter how significant and important they are.  I consider this sense of an unchanging center to be the deepest and truest core. It’s an experience that is perhaps more subtle than the physical core, yet in my experience, even more powerful.

Read More