It’s about the Music, and much more

One of the things that I have learned through my journey as a spin instructor is the power of music to move people. More and more I find myself deeper in appreciation of music, and the artists that create it. There is nothing quite like that feeling on your bike when the energy, your body, and the entire room is on the same wavelength.

Also, as a person who enjoys dancing on occasion, finding music that moves me off, as well as on the bike is important. I think the later part of this year will find me delving deeper into dance as a form of self expression. For now, here is my playlist via spotify from last week for your listening pleasure.

 

For me, spin is much more than a group fitness class. It is an opportunity to connect and inspire people on other levels. Last week, I chose to speak on John Legend’s Marching Into the Dark.

Legend explains the song briefly in the Los Angeles Times:

“The idea of struggle and the idea of putting your life on the line for an important cause, the metaphor we use is that they’re chasing a fading star into the dark. They’re struggling for an end they may never see. Everything I talk about – improving our schools, prison reform, making sure everyone has an equal opportunity – I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, frankly, I’m pessimistic. But I’m optimistic enough to know that even the little wins count. So the struggle is worth it.”

In my class, I used the metaphor of marching into the dark to reflect on moments in life where you don’t know exactly where you are going, the outcomes are unknown, but you believe in what you are doing so you keep going, you keep marching.

For everyone facing adversity in the moment, keep marching. The light is near at the of the tunnel.

Blessup.

Fear of Failure

Some people are afraid of failing, so much so that it paralyzes them, preventing them from reaching for goals or working toward any dreams they may have. I will share a recent story of one of my personal “failures”, in hopes of inspiring you to go for what you want in life – all in, balls out.

As many of you who have been following my fitness journey know, I had been with Undrcard Boxing Studio up until recently, when I stopped spamming my ig feed with self-promo for my classes there.

Truth is, I got cut. Notwithstanding I had some of the shittiest time slots, but at the end of the day people weren’t coming to my class in numbers that were expected. At first when this happened I was really sad, it shook my confidence as an instructor. Overtime though, I came to accept the fact and realized, maybe I am just not marketable as a boxing coach. It sucks.

Lessons learned though, you will never know until you try. At this point, I have no fear of failing, there are far worse things in life. So my friends, fail greatly, fail publicly, fail often but keep your head up and try again.

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. ~Michael Jordan

This experience though, will not stop me for trying to be the best fitness instructor I can. I still work at all my other studios and have recently joined the team at Fithouse, which is a beautiful space with amazing coaches. Crossfit is another challenge I am excited to take on. I also have no regrets being at Undrcard for the time I was there, I have met some lifelong friends that I know will continue to inspire me throughout life.

I don’t know where this fitness thing will eventually lead me, I only know that I have big dreams that are bigger than any one studio.

 Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill.

I miss all the trainers at Undrcard, but I still go there to box, this was awkward for me at first, explaining to people why I wasn’t teaching anymore, but I got over it. It’s still one of my favourite boxing gyms in the city, even though they did fire me.

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Portraits by Asim Pt 1/3

Last year I was lucky enough to step in front of the lens of Asim Overstands. Being in front of a camera is an awkward thing, it exposes our vulnerabilities in raw and vivid moments that are captured real-time. I absolutely love photography, and have a true respect for all of the shooters out there.

This is the first of a three-part series with Asim, shot all in the same day. It focuses on my passion for movement in various forms.

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The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

Interesting read from Waking Times that explains some of my experiences I wrote about in my last post. I take solace in knowing that other people have shared similar experiences, including Forrest Yoga Leader, Jose Calarco, who is currently writing a book about his story.

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

Soul Stories

Today is Day 4 of advanced yoga teacher training with Ana Forrest. So far, this has been an incredible experience for my mind, body and spirit. Each day, we begin at 8a with a 4.5h yoga ceremony, including song, stories, intention setting, and an intense asana practice. Following the break there is lecture, teaching, partner/group work and we usually end in ceremony with dance.

Day 2 intent was connection with spirit, and for the first hour or so of the practice I found myself in tears. A lot of these tears I have cried before, so it was more healing and cathartic that my practice would bring up past trauma.

As part of the ceremony, Jose and Ana are encouraging us to share our soul stories, so for the first time in a long time I will articulate mine:

I am about to share with you an experience that happened to me about 7 years ago, when I was 25yrs old. To this date I still have no explanations as to what, or why this happened to me.

I was in Vancouver, and had recently returned from living in Beijing for a period of 10 months. I was in a phase of transition at the time, recently having graduated from university and trying to find what to do with my life.

I remember a heavy energy surrounding me, it was as if I was stagnate and nothing moved in the Universe for me. I became depressed and was searching for answers. Leading up to my experience were two events, related or not I do not know.

The first being, was that I was convinced by an acquaintance at the time to sign up for this personal development course: PSI Seminars. The course really tries to break through barriers and makes one take a deep look at life and how they operate as an individual. As I am one to be critical of myself, this course literally destroyed me. I remember being incredibly sad and angry for the entire week, and it threw me deeper into my depression.

A second event that occurred was my first ever Satsung. As some of you may know a Satsung is a practice of yoga without the Asana, so there is chanting, circle sharing, visualization and meditation. I remember vividly us standing in a circle and channelling light energy through our crown and projecting it from the heart.

The day after the Satsung is when the magic began in my life. Similar to an experience shared by Tom, another student in our intensive training with Ana, I began to see messages in all things, one that would lead into another into another. I felt as if I was being guided by synchronicity, that I was connected to all things. That night however, is also when the darkness came. I began to see dark figures that were frightening, and one that followed me home that afternoon.

The events that occurred after are extremely hard to explain, but I began to leave this reality and cycled into another.

The night after the Satsung I went to a fundraising event, where a few of my friends also attended. At this point I was seeing messages of a battle between light and dark, I would see either an extremely dark, or light energy around people. There was music and energy moving through my body that was not mine, I was still being guided by some force.

Hearing that I was acting extremely out of character and out of body, my mom and another close friend flew from Calgary to Vancouver to get me.

In Calgary I cycled deeper into a manic state, with various paranoias, psychosis, and unexplainable events. There was incredible darkness in that experience, but magic at the same time. I won’t get into all of what occurred, but am happy to speak upon this experience in detail in person.  I lost sleep for at least three days, and thought I had died three times in the course of this period.

I remember going to a physician who had no answers, they referred me to a mood disorders clinic. My family, thank God, did not medicate me – they believed that I would become dependent on pharmaceuticals. We found our answers with a Buddhist priest, who excised the energies from my body. I remember seeing a dark energy in the main priest, her eyeballs were entirely black. When she touched my rib, I felt an incredible pain stabbing through me. I don’t know how many times we went to her house, but there were also other Buddhists present.

Following, I regained sleep and my thoughts began to slow and normalize. I fell again into another depression and for at least a year it felt as if I had no spirit. I would socially isolate myself and spent a lot of days in extreme sadness.

Yoga was my first step to recovery, I flew back to Vancouver to do my first 200YTT that summer. I learned to reconnect with myself and breathe through all the hard parts in life. I spent the following year slowly climbing out of this dark place I had sunk into, I am grateful for all of my family and friends that were there to support me along the way.

Life is a strange thing. We can’t always explain what happens to us, but all I know is that it all happens for a reason, this experience gave me true empathy, it taught me resilience, and luckily it hasn’t hardened me, although I am very guarded energetically because of it. Now I can say that I have healed, it has taught me compassion and has given me a deep appreciation for life, and all of my faculties. Now life is as vibrant as ever, with the full force of Universe around me.

 

Whole time they wanna take your place

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
L.R. Knost

Recently this was read in one of my yoga classes led by the lovely Bobbi at illume. No matter what happens in my life, it seems that yoga is where I find myself again. Yoga is both my therapy and my celebration, it is where I connect with both my true and higher self. It is where I find my edges and smooth them out, where I find my potential, my challenges, where I workshop my roadblocks.

I for one know, (as many others know all too well) that life does not always go as you plan. Sometimes the things you put your heart into, that you work in earnest for do not always work out the way you envision. All of the hours of sweat and toil and sleepless nights may, in the end lead to disappointment. Life is full of disappointments, of heartbreaks, of situations that will test you in one form or the other. Everyone will have their own individual struggle.

Often though, there will be “collateral beauty” in even the worst situations. If you haven’t seen Collateral Beauty I would highly recommend it, Will Smith knocks it out of the park with his performance as a bereaved father. Understanding how death ultimately makes us see life in a new light. In the same sense how recent hurdles have made me take a step back to re-evaluate my life and the things I want to focus my energy on.

They say that you only fail when you quit. Sometimes it feels as if you are fighting an uphill battle though, where the odds are against you, people doubt you, and you feel perpetually exhausted. Taking a timeout is sometimes the best thing you can do, either on or off your mat. When life takes the wind out of your sails you can either change direction or start paddling.

Just because something is ‘out of your comfort zone’ does not make it out of your capacity. If you currently feel deflated, I’ll leave you with this:

For now, I’m going to keep pushing upward and onwards, I hope that you do too, my friends.

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Knock on Opportunity’s Door

Knock on opportunity’s door, and when there is no answer keep knocking. Find all of the doors and keep knocking. Then, find the windows, either someone you know, or someone that sees your effort will eventually let you in.

This post is for anyone that is just starting out, whether that be as a potential teacher or anyone pursuing something new for the first time. I will share my stories, of how I got my opportunities in this city, maybe if just to spark a bit of inspiration. To encourage you to go for things, even if you may or may not know what exactly it is you are reaching for. To ride through the waves of disappointment and rejection, and to keep trying.

I completed my first 200 YTT in 2011, (for anyone that doesn’t know that is a 200h yoga teacher training) and at that point I did not really want to teach. Although I did dabble with a few private lessons here and there, these were far and few in between. This did however plant the seed for the things to come in my life years later.

Coming back to Calgary that year, I did a few random things, one of which was working at Village Ice Cream. I figured after completing my Honours degree in Biotechnology, why not? During my stint at Village Ice Cream I also started teaching MMA Bootcamps at Athlima Fitness, which is run out of the martial arts studio where I had completed my black belt. I had originally asked the owner of Athlima, Master Bobby Triantifillou if he need a yoga teacher, and instead he was looking for a trainer. I began training at Athlima, and started to lead weekly bootcamps.

What started as a hobby for me soon turned into a passion as I found my foothold in fitness.

Seeing results in my own body and mind created the impetus to pursue fitness further. Completing my personal training certification was the start, as I decided to deepen my knowledge in yoga, movement and all things that made me feel alive.

At the beginning of 2016 I took a Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Ning Gao. Ning’s personal story is quite inspiring, and her strength as a yogi and teacher drew me to the Yoga and Beyond community. There was one night I arrived late at the training and was locked out, instead of leaving I decided to stay. Shortly after the training I got a call from Ning saying there were a few spots at the studio open to teach. This was my first official teaching position as a yoga instructor at a studio.

My second try at a studio position was at illume hot yoga, which I chose initially because of its proximity to my house. At first they were not hiring for yoga teachers. One day I was passing by the studio and the owner, Telara Renz called me in and asked if I would be interested in Surfset. Not knowing what that was I took the opportunity to learn and expand. Eight months later I am teaching not only surfset, but yoga as well as spin at illume.

This last story, and probably most interesting, is how I was hired on by Undrcard Boxing Studio. I had applied online and got the generic HR reply, “we are full but will keep your resume on file etc etc”. In the meantime I had interviewed for a few other studios. Around the same time, local photographer Asim Overstands and I decided to do a shoot. We had been in discussion about shooting for about a year but I never felt ready. Asim made the process really casual and I was actually happy with the results. He posted a moving portrait of me shadow boxing on his instagram feed and Joanna Magik, a co-owner of Undrcard came across it. We were introduced via Asim via email and I was invited to Undrcard’s second pop-up event at Commonwealth. I met some of the team and mid-way through the event was told I was part of the crew!

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#UNDRCARDPOPUP at Commonwealth, photo via Michael Benz.

So there you have it, a mix of connections, fortune, timing, and tenacity got me to where I am today.

Here’s the video by Asim

 

 

Sun Salutations for Surya

What a year.

It’s not even half way through the first month and already, two times has death been brought closer to my reality. During the holidays my friend’s puppy almost died on me, and just recently my friend and fellow yogi Scot Schiebelbien (Surya) had to undergo an 18h surgery for a brain tumour.

Surya has always been the picture of health, with his rock hard abs, fiery spirit, huge smile and his inspiring acro yoga practice. Acro yoga is a physical practice combining acrobatics and yoga. There is nothing like the freedom and strength you experience coming into some of the poses in acro yoga. It is generally practiced with another person or in a group, so fostering trust and releasing fear are also big themes.

Needless to say it was a surprise to myself, and all of us that have known Surya of his emergency and life-threatening condition.

surya3Surya, again going against the odds is recovering and regaining function. I hope to see him soon, but am giving him a bit more space and time with family and those closest before reaching out.

The one thing I love about the yoga community is the willingness to come together and support each other. I am grateful to call both illume hot yoga and Yoga and Beyond studios where I both teach at and call home. Both of these studios are fundraising on behalf of Surya to support him during his recovery.

Last night at illume we held an hour long sun salutation practice led by both myself and the owner, Telara Renz. It was a challenging and lighthearted practice with ten others from our community. That was actually the first time I have done a continuous sun salutation practice, but there is something about moving with breath in that way. It is like after a certain point you get into a zone and it lifts your to a different level of consciousness almost. Last night also highlighted to me the importance of proper alignment when doing sun salutations, one thing that my recent training with YogaWorks has emphasized.

Yoga and Beyond is continuing to hold fundraising classes for Surya, please check the schedule for times and information. Another way to help is online through his gofundme campaign: Help Surya Fly Again.

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Time is precious

Generally the holidays are a time to decompress, spend time with family and friends and enjoy some feasting along the way.

Although I did do all of the above, I also agreed to dog sit. Mind you, I have never owned a pet let alone a dog in my life.

Besides the peeing and pooping on my carpets and destruction of handmade gifts I had kept for years things were generally going well. That is, until the third day I had noticed the dog (by the name of Mercy) had low energy and was not eating. By that evening it seemed like she was having breathing issues, so we took her to Calgary North Veterinary clinic, open 24h for emergencies.

Mercy had fluid in her lungs and when they started to drain it, they found she was hemorrhaging. It was a life and death situation at this point and they had to tap her chest to remove the blood. It turns out her clotting factors had been diminished due to acute toxicity by exposure to rat or mouse poison in the last 3-5 days. We don’t know how or when this happened, but as a puppy she could have gotten into anything, it could have been something outside she had stepped in, who knows.

It was a sad and stressful few days as we prayed for Mercy.

On New Year’s eve Mercy was released from hospital, surviving the incident. Her and I spent the night together on the couch, I don’t even think that we made it to count down before we both passed out.

Although I am not an animal person and would probably never own a pet, I have bonded to this one in particular. It was definitely not the NYE I had planned for, but the lessons I have learned over the last week give me an appreciation for life going into 2017.

You never know when it will end, when you will go from a rambunctious puppy to fighting for your life.

Time is precious.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”

So love harder, enjoy each moment and don’t take anything for granted, even the puppy that you once couldn’t wait to get back to her owner, and now has a piece of your heart.

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This is Mercy, who I think is named appropriately:

Mercy: “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, also a fortunate circumstance”

 

 

New life, who dis?

Welcome to my humble spot on the interweb.

This blog is for anyone who is interested in scratching the surface of my mind and learning parts of my story, thank you for taking the time anonymous reader. Whoever you are, I am hoping to build a community here, so feel free to get in touch! This is also a place for fitness, health and lifestyle inspirations.

A quote from the late Maya Angelou reminds me why I do the things I do, and why I do them in the way I do:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

At 31 I feel I have reached a point in my life where I have started to “come into my own”, I have more energy than I did in my twenties, am in the best shape of my life (although this is a constant process), and give less ducks than ever. I can say, I do love life for what it is.

2016 was a whirlwind in terms of my entry into the fitness industry in Calgary. I started teaching yoga and surfset in February, learned to spin and teach in October, and am starting with Undrcard boxing studio, opening tomorrow on boxing day. I will be posting my teaching schedule in the new year.

To say the least I have strayed a bit from my Biotechnology roots.

Apart from my passions for movement and fitness, I work for a small start-up called Vivametrica, which produces health analytics using wearable device data. I think however people are so much more than a sum of their parts, so rather than describing the mundane details of who I am I will let you figure that out.

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