I spent the most incredible Saturday at the 5th Annual Victoria (British Columbia) Yoga Conference. From 8 am until 6 pm, I was asanaing and journaling and meditating up a storm on the beautiful UVic campus (which made me want to go back to school…like that’s anything new).
If I really sat down and thought about it, I’m sure I could come up with 50 things I learned yesterday, but in amongst all my spiritual awakening and dreaminess I’m a realist, and I recognize and accept that no one wants to read that. And so, I give you seven things:
1. I am divine.
Ok, like, I already knew this, obviously.
No, but in all seriousness, when you’ve just spent 90 minutes laying on the cold floor meditating (see #3) and listening to the soothing voice of a doctor of TCM talk about the seven essentials of the Tao, when you’re surrounded by likeminded people in a place of acceptance and love and dedication, when you’re feeling totally in tune with the universe and all the creative forces surrounding us … when you’re experiencing all that, over the course of just a few hours, it is deeply comforting, deeply touching and motivating – and instills a deep sense of responsibility – to hear (and believe) that you are one with the Creator and, as such, are yourself a divine entity.
2. Handstands are scary even when someone you trust is holding you up.
The way I see it, there are two things currently keeping me from being able to do a handstand: my arm/shoulder strength, and my flexibility (I’d have to kick into it almost from downward dog, which equals a lot of force that could topple me over). Oh, and also fear.
As it turns out, even when someone is guiding your legs up and holding you in place at the top of the pose, handstands are bloody terrifying! I’ve had my feet supported by the wall, and even my crazy-low ceiling, but hanging out there in handstand with my trustworthy (and strong!) partner keeping me afloat, all I could think was “nope, nope, nope.”
It’s ok, I’ll get there. Because…divine, yo.
3. Cold floors are not conducive to a focused yin practice.
My one and only complaint about the event is the bleeding awful, freezing cold floor on which we had to sit and lie in various Yin poses. For an hour and a half.
A note to the planners of this wonderful conference: I love your beautiful souls, but a window-lined ground-level space with ceramic tile flooring is not the place to host a relaxing, introspective 90 minutes of spiritual guidance. I really, truly tried to meditate on humility and non-violence, but I’d get about forty seconds into my focus and, upon losing sensation in my head/back/butt/toes, would switch to thoughts like “they say it can’t happen but it has: my muscles have frozen together.”
I apologize whole-heartedly to the leaders of that particular class (this beauty, and this beauty). Their teachings were informative and inspiring, and I wish I could have given them the attention I instead had to redirect to my sub-zero extremities. I tell you, that class took Super-Chill to a whole new level.
4. My body can manage only a finite number of chatarungas in one day.
Just like the ligaments that connect the bones can only handle so much stretch before they tweak (oh yeah, check out my anatomy learnin’), my arms and back can only take a certain number of down dog-plank-chaturanga-up dog-down dog before I am in serious danger of being unable to lift so much as a sock.
I was smart when designing my schedule for the conference: I purposely selected two easy-going classes in between two more taxing flows. I figured after the first 45-minute sequence, five hours would give me more than enough time to recover before I had to do similar movements all over again. Not so much.
I’m not saying I couldn’t do the second flow class. I could, and I did, but wow – fatigue. I’ll be doing chatarunga from my knees for the next couple of days…
5. If one part of our body isn’t working properly, other parts have to work harder, and those are the ones most likely to get hurt.
My last class of the day was mega-informative Functional Anatomy, taught by a wildly knowledgeable chiropractor and yogi who also happens to be freaking hilarious (she’s listed here). We learned about rotation and joints and the glutes. We also learned this super-relevant concept: if one of your vertebrae, for example, isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do (as you may guess, I don’t have quite enough knowledge to give a more specific example), the vertebrae above and below it must work twice as hard to complete your movement.
This means, if/when an injury happens, it won’t be the former vertebrae that gets hurt, it will be the over-worked, under-paid neighbours who’ve been picking up the slack.
This is why you should fix problems you notice in your body. Sure, it might be “just” a sore foot, but favouring the ball of that foot means you’re putting undue pressure on the heel, the opposite knee, the hip, etc, etc.
6. I love chanting.
My first afternoon class was an incredible ceremony led by this amazing woman. Created to “empower healing and change,” the session consisted of meditation, qigong, a bit of journaling, and choosing and writing down an intention and something we wanted to rid ourselves of. It also involved 108 repetitions of the Chamunda mantra, an Indian chant intended to banish negativity and speed the fulfillment of intention.
It was intense, tiring, energizing, enlightening, and meditative, all at once. And when we were done and some moisture had returned to my mouth and throat, I really just wanted to do it over again. Fascinating.
PS: Our teacher also read this beautiful poem.
7. I need all this.
The people, who are ordinary people, but who have carved a space in their lives for self-care, for exercise and eating well, for mindful living and oneness with the world. The instructors, who are so knowledgeable in their fields, so successful in their practices, but who still take the time to come here and share their incredible gifts. And the movement, which could be approached as plain old, calorie-burning exercise, but is instead rightfully elevated to a wholesome mind-body connection, a search for truth both personal and universal.
I found all these things at the Yoga Conference, and it further solidified what I already kind of knew. I need yoga, and meditation, and spiritual “something” in my life, every. Single. Day. I need to pursue paths that make this integration possible.
There’s nothing in the world wrong with working a corporate, 9-5 job and making time for your yoga practice before you go or when you come home – that’s tremendous, and probably more than I could manage. But personally, I want these practices to be my life (not just in them, you know?).
There are many steps to take, and much dedication, to get there. The first, for me, was quitting my job a year ago and becoming a freelance writer: setting my schedule, choosing my work, working from home. The second is Yoga Teacher Training, which I’m planning to begin this fall.
Even though there are many steps to take, I feel whole, because yesterday’s experience showed me what I need to feel whole. That’s half the battle right there, yeah?
❤ , Peace, & Flowers