Let Your Heart Be Your Compass

I felt the sudden urge to share the background story about how I ended up becoming a student of yoga.  This should hopefully give you some context for some of the things I'm going to share with you regarding my work with Anne.

The following passage is adapted from my Yoga Teaching Training application to 108 Yoga, back in 2012.  And, it is no coincidence that I started finding hearts that same year. I believe that timing is everything once the decision is made to start making positive changes in your life. The supports show up to make it possible for you to align yourself with what it is you truly want. These supports can come to you in a lot of different ways, whether it's through the people you meet, the circumstances you find yourself in, or through something as simple as seeing a heart shape.

It is also important to note, that the quotes I inserted throughout my application were ones I picked up along the way, even before I started practicing yoga regularly. I would come across these and jot them down in my journal.  When you notice something that speaks to you. listen to it, write it down, revisit it, because it's the wisdom of the heart that is trying to tell you something.

...From my YTT Application (2012):

We begin our journey of spirituality, when we sever our intimately sensual relationship with fear – Dr.T.K.V Desikachar

My yoga journey began after a desire to change the course of my path…a life path that was directed by fear and insecurities. Before I started my regular yoga practice my life was unmanageable. My work, and some, but not all, of my relationships were anything but positive and caused me a lot of angst.  Negative thoughts and behaviors, and misperception clouded my sense of self. Stress, worry and the illusion of control were common themes. I knew there was more to living a more fulfilled life, but I felt trapped by anger, frustration, shame and self-doubt.

Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom – Victor Frankl

During the Fall of 2010 is when my course took a different turn. After experiencing an anxiety attack, somehow I knew that was my body’s way of telling me something had to change. I immediately started counseling and was blessed with a lovely counselor who helped me realize that I had a choice to make, and it was up to me to do the work.  Her suggestion was to start doing things for myself, so for me, these included things like better self-care and practicing yoga more regularly again. Soon after making the decision to implement these changes, the 108 Yoga Groupon popped into my inbox.

I started at the studio the week of my 30th birthday in February of 2011, and my six-month sabbatical began on June 30 that same year. This couldn’t have come at a better time, because I had lots of free time to devote to the practice. I arrived in Ireland on July 1 to do some sabbatical research and soon discovered it was going to be so much more than that. There was something about reconnecting with my ancestral heritage that opened my heart up even more to the healing process and put me more in touch with my spirituality. As one of my friends in Ireland said, the country is “one big open heart.”

That year was all about empowering myself in my ability to self-heal.

It was through the teachings at the studio that I became interested in the body’s ability to heal itself through chakra work and ayurvedic practices. Before I left for Ireland I started seeing a Reiki practitioner and I continued treatments and counseling once I returned to Canada. I also explored other complementary modalities, such as osteopathy and massage therapy.

Let your heart be your compass, your mind your map, your soul your guide and you will never get lost – Unknown

In January 2012, Dorothy, the owner of 108 Yoga at the time, offered The Four Desires workshop. Through this workshop, I discovered that my life’s purpose (dharma) is to provide direction for myself and for others, and I decoded my Dharma as “I am a compass.”  With my inner wisdom as my guide, I am able to align myself to True North, in order to clearly see the path that was intended for me. Along with seeing hearts, the imagery of the compass is another symbol of growing in the direction of living a more fulfilled life.

Through practice we develop faith in the wisdom of our spiritual intuition, faith in the continuity of our practice, and faith in our deepening understanding of yoga – Vyasa’s Commentary on the Yoga Sutras

It was not until I rediscovered the benefits of yoga that my life became manageable. My perception of the world around me began to change. I started to love and nurture myself and started taking better care of myself.  For example, being more honest with myself, making sure I get enough sleep, eating well, fostering positive friendships and relationships, and trusting my inner guide.

A daily practice allows me to further my personal development, attain mental clarity, quiet my mind and keep my heart open.  Yoga is the foundation necessary for living my life’s purpose, with authenticity.  My life is now abundant, and serene, as yoga provides for me the peace of mind, contentment, self-acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness required to set myself free.


Love, SJ

WOD the hell am I thinking? Part 5

WOD the hell am I thinking? is a 5-part guest blog post series for CrossFit Ironstone.

It was our fourth and final week for the Foundations class this week. We covered a lot of ground, including the front squat, the snatch and the clean and power clean, and the thruster.

In addition to the Foundations classes, there is a lot happening at the gym. I’ve been trying to take advantage of it all, in order to get the full experience—going to yoga on Sundays, tried out the mobility class, and I even signed up for the CrossFit Open—which I am told is like “CrossFit Christmas” as it only happens once a year. Four weeks ago, I never would have thought doing something like this was possible!

The CrossFit Open is an opportunity to participate in something bigger—a new workout gets announced every week in March, and the same workout is happening all over the world. Participants have a few days to complete the workout and then scores are submitted to CrossFit. It is scaled this year, which means a lot of the workouts can be modified and done with lower weights. I see this opportunity as a fun way to get to know everyone, and track my progress.

I was really nervous for my first Open workout last Saturday, but now that it is complete I’m so glad I decided to do it. Participating in this event has been very motivating and a great learning experience. My yoga tools are constantly kicking in; however, as I remain mindful of just doing what I can do now. I’m not focusing so much on my score, as I am on practicing my technique and having fun cheering others on.

One of my favourite things about Ironstone has been getting to know everyone, and hearing others stories—From the practical: How they got here? How many times week do they go? To the more personal: What did they overcome? What are their goals? Who inspires them? There is so much dedication, positivity, and inspiration all happening simultaneously under one roof. This is the part that has contributed to my overall enjoyment of this experience.

With the Foundations class wrapped up, I feel like I’m just getting started with CrossFit. I’m surprising myself with what I can accomplish and excited to discover what else is possible for me, and I look forward to seeing you there!

xo SJ

WOD the hell am I thinking? Part 4

WOD the hell am I thinking? is a 5-part guest blog post series for CrossFit Ironstone.

It was another great week at Foundations. Monday we learned all about the deadlift, and pull-ups, and we finished the class with an AMRAP that included pull-ups, burpees, squats and suitcase carries. On Wednesday, we learned about the push press and the push jerk. Patrick really emphasized the importance of technique with all of these movements. The things we all need to keep in mind are building a solid foundation with healthy nutrition, scaling, proper training, and practicing our technique in order to make progress.

When I was trying to come up with a theme for this week’s post, the first thing that came to mind was the importance of a strong community as part of living a healthy and balanced life. So far, my overall experience at the gym has been so positive and everyone is so supportive of each other’s progress. This support and encouragement keeps me engaged in the learning process, and it’s what keeps me coming back.

Since my regular yoga practice began roughly four years ago, my focus has been on only spending time with genuine people that lift my spirit, and who fully support me. I’m meeting so many wonderful, kind, like-minded people here. I’m always greeted with high-fives, and smiles, and not to mention, having fun!

During Foundations, I notice myself feeling a little timid, whether it be when trying a new movement, or adding more weight to the bar, but with the uplifting atmosphere and support from Patrick and my classmates, my confidence level to “just go for it” continues to rise with every class. This positive energy has definitely filtered through to my every day and I credit the strength of the community at Ironstone for this rise in positivity and for my enthusiasm to reach even higher.

xo SJ

WOD the hell am I thinking? Part 3

WOD the hell am I thinking? is a 5-part guest blog post series for CrossFit Ironstone.

Week 2 in the Foundations course was great! It felt so natural and powerful to work with weight on the bar.  I’m already feeling a strong sense of community and I think I can speak for the rest of the Foundations class when I say we are a fun, and supportive group. Monday night we chatted about nutrition, and it was our first time doing backsquats with weight on the bar, and did a RFT (rounds for time) workout that included 10 wall balls, 5 push-ups, and 10 lunges.  Wednesday we learned about the shoulder press, including weight, and then we got right into our workout. While working in teams, we did 3 rounds of 500m rowing, 40 kettle bell swings, and 10 box jumps, and finished off the night with a brief talk on mobility & stability.

One question that came up on Wednesday was whether or not the void of mirrors in the space is intentional. And, the answer was “yes.” Patrick’s argument is that the presence of mirrors sends the message that how you look is more important than how you feel. Trusting yourself and how you feel in a particular movement rather than focusing on self-correction is what is going to best support your process.

One myth about yoga is that you have to match some sort of model posture, and look a certain way during your practice, when this is not the case at all.  In a yoga class you’ll often hear verbal cues regarding checking in with your body, and how you “feel” in a pose.  While it is easy to get caught up in how something is “supposed to look” or how other people look, it is important not to concern ourselves with this idea. My downward dog may not look exactly the same way it does on the cover of a yoga magazine, just like my squat may not look exactly the same as my Foundations classmates’ squat. The ability to let go of comparison is the key to building confidence in myself, and in my process, and accepting that I may need to make necessary modifications to support myself along the way.

While I understand that learning proper form and coaching in CrossFit is absolutely necessary, my getting the feel for a movement is what is going to build my self-confidence.  This week, Patrick supportively pushed me to find my edge with weights and I’m excited about slowly gaining more strength with that new found edge. My workouts this week were challenging, and fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can build on for next week.

xo SJ

WOD the hell am I thinking? Part 2

WOD the hell am I thinking? is a 5-part guest blog post series for CrossFit Ironstone.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.  – Arthur Ashe

My first introduction to CrossFit at Ironstone was a lot of fun.  The sense lightness and positive energy of the space and the people in it captured me as soon as I set foot in door. I quickly realized that there is nothing to be scared of, because it’s all about taking the necessary baby steps towards a particular movement or activity while being fully supported along the way.

The “start where you are” quote came to mind immediately since it mirrors Pat’s advice to us.  I feel as though this quote could really be used as a tag line for a CrossFit gym, and any situation in life, for that matter. While using your body as your machine, do what you can do, and start where you are. It’s about focusing on the steps, towards making individual progress, and not trying to be perfect at anything.  In yoga, this is called “krama.” It literally means taking steps.

Although the CrossFit movements are high intensity, varied, and functional, the coaches are there to support where you are, and will help you scale and modify those movements to best suit you in that moment.

“Ahimsa” in yoga implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm. As with any activity, whether it be yoga, or CrossFit, making modifications is necessary to support yourself where you are while encouraging self-awareness and compassion to avoid injury.

Self-awareness, or “svadhyaya” can easily be cultivated in the Foundations course, because of the small group size.  I felt like I was getting more of a one-on-one coaching session with Pat, because he took the time to work with us individually to acknowledge where each of our starting points were with every movement. With that, it is important to intentionally find self-awareness in all that we do, and accept ourselves, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations, so there is room to grow.

I really enjoyed working out together as a group and while there is still a lot to learn, this introduction was not overwhelming at all. This first class included a warm up, and an overview of some of the basics of a squat, followed by a work out. Our first mini WOD together included a repeated sequence of rowing, ring rows, burpees, and sit ups.  I really like the variety in that, and since we barely scratched the surface, I’m already looking forward to the next one!

xo SJ