I can't remember the first time I heard this quote...
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -Lao Tzu
But it stuck with me then. And it still resonates for me today.
I think it's because, all too often, we tell ourselves that we can't do something because that "something" seems so far off from what we feel we can do today. And yet, what we often fail to realize or remember is that everything we've ever undertaken, every new skill we've ever learned, every ability from crawling to walking to reading or writing or math has begun with the tiniest of baby steps.
Yet, somehow as adults, so many of us struggle with the concept that what we envision ourselves doing or wanting to do must be obtained instantly in order to be successful.
Let me give you an example that's personal to me. Yoga. ;)
See, the thing is, that what I thought I needed to be in order to practice Yoga was - a Yogi. I looked at images of people in fancy yoga poses - all of them extremely thin and super flexible - and thought "I could never do that."
But I am reminded every time I teach that the "that" I thought I couldn't do, I do every day.
I may not look like the people I saw in magazines and on TV back then. But I sure as heck do some fancy poses (for me). And I am pretty darn flexible and strong. I'm not afraid to try deep backbends, twists, or balances. I'm not afraid of poses like side plank where all of my body weight rests on one arm and the outside edge of one foot. I'm not afraid anymore because I began with a very small step.
For me, my small step was a video with a 15 minute simple and accessible practice on it that didn't ask me to do more than breathe, stand and move simply.
Here's the cool part though. I built Body Positivity Yoga to give people a place to take those small steps.
No matter what journey you're on, no matter what your goals are, we can support you in a space designed to make those first small steps less scary and more... exciting! and fun!
The reason I'm passionate about what we do, here, is because THIS is the place I wished existed when I was taking those first steps. A safe space, that would meet me where I was in my body and in my life. A place where I could meet other people who were also taking their first steps. And seeing many people take their second, third, twentieth and fiftieth steps too because this practice grows with you.
It's powerful stuff, this Yoga, in the way that it can grow with you.
So, I challenge you to challenge yourself - to make that first small single step. <3 You never know where you'll end up - but it's bound to be an awesome journey.
See you on the mat!
I find that it's all too easy to be hard on myself. To look at what I feel are shortcomings. To see where things aren't going the way I think they should and to assign all sorts of self-blame.
My inner critic is a bit of a crankypants, and I really feel like sometimes that's the only voice I hear.
Do you ever feel like that?
I think it's all too common.
Opening a brick and mortar business is filled with thousands of opportunities to question my self, to wonder if I'm good enough, if I can really do this. And I think that is all normal. But it certainly is unpleasant.
The reality is that I am forging new territory.
Yoga studios have been around for ages. But Body Positivity Yoga is different. It's first and foremost a safe space for all bodies. Yoga is the practice - but the reason, is to make people feel good about themselves - to realize they are worthy of their own attention. Worthy period.
In some ways, it's a Yoga studio. But in other ways, and at it's heart - it's a "feel good about you" studio. And the more I remember that and move it in that direction, the more I realize that having some non-Yoga offerings that speak to the importance of self-love, self-care and a positive body image is going to be an important part of what happens next. And I'm so excited and so passionate about doing that.
But then my inner critic climbs onto my shoulder and says (shouts) "who are you kidding?? Who do you think you are?" And it's super hard not to listen to that voice. As a new business, it's not uncommon for our classes to be very small - which is great for our clients who get tons of one on one attention - but for me, and maybe some of our teachers - it's an opportunity for that little voice of self-doubt to creep up.
And so, today, my mantra is - it's okay. I'm going to make mistakes. Things are going to feel scary. But It's okay. And maybe most importantly -- I can do this.
One of the things I've found most challenging about, first, becoming a Yoga teacher and, second, opening a Yoga studio is knowing just how different I am from the stereotypical Yoga teacher or Yoga studio owner.
I've rarely met another Yoga teacher I didn't like or feel safe with, and yet often I really just feel like I don't quite live up to the standard.
Of course, that's silly, because what standard? And who is imposing that idea on me? The reality is - nobody. The soft little whisper of insecurity comes from inside myself. And so it is something that I constantly evaluate - and re-evaluate. Do I belong? Yes. Who says? I do.
Giving myself permission to do this Yoga thing differently has always been a journey for me. Some days I feel like a rebel warrior queen - forging my own path valiantly and with courage and fire. Other days, I feel mousy and small, wishing I "blended in". This is normal. Having stronger days and more insecure days. This is all part of the self acceptance path. It's not always going to feel easy or permanent. But I keep travelling it because to offer this healing approach to Yoga - one that intends to empower others - I need to keep showing up to do the work myself.
Recently, during a conversation with my wife, I started thinking about Urdhva Dhanurasana. Upward Facing Bow Pose. It's a crazy backbend. Here's a cute teddy bear doing the pose:
I've always had a bit of a block about this pose. The times I've tried I couldn't lift my shoulders or head more than (what felt like) inches away from the floor. And so I convinced myself that "I don't have the arm strength" for this pose and just chalked it up to yet another inaccessible classic Asana.
So during this conversation with Peggy, I was trying to show her how I would set up for the pose, were I to actually attempt it. And she came over and offered up some tips.
Now this is funny because Peggy doesn't really do a lot of Yoga - but her sister was a gymnast ages and ages ago... and she remembered this backbend and so she stood over me and I vaguely remember her touching my hips and saying some stuff about pushing forward or something as I tried to lift up...
And then BOOM. There the pose was! I was in it! I was so shocked that I brought myself back down and looked at her - mouth agape. "You lifted me up!"
But she looked at me and insisted "No I didn't!". What she'd done, was very lightly guide the direction of my movement, the way that I might do with a student in a Yoga class. I didn't quite believer her, to be honest, so we did it a few more times. I was too nervous to try it on my own just yet and I hadn't warmed up properly so it wasn't the best FEELING pose in that moment, and so I knew I had to stop for the day - but still!! I got up into it. Amazement! Jubilation! Excitement!
So, yesterday, while I was at the studio hosting Open Yoga (a span of time where students can come in and work on their personal practice with me there to offer alignment tips etc), I took advantage of some quiet time to do my own practice - one that would prep my body for Urdhva Dhanurasana.
When I got to the point in the practice to attempt the pose - on my own - I got out my smartphone and hit record, thinking that when I couldn't get up, I could watch the video to analyze my own alignment and see where my mistakes might be. (You see what I was doing there??).
This was the result:
Boom!!! There it was AGAIN. This time, on my own.
This is some crazy stuff, yo.
And the biggest lesson, in all of it - is about self-perceived limitations. As in, so many of the limitations we think we have - the things we "could never..." do sometimes are completely and totally within the realm of possibility - even likelihood, were we to open up to our own actual potential. And believe.
Instead of worrying about whether I fit in - I am committed to spending much more time being that Rebel Warrior Queen.
Look out world....
This is one of the quotes that really stands out to me from my most recent adventure: Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training.
Wow. What a wild ride. For the past 12 days I have been soaking up everything I can... so much knowledge about pregnancy, labour, birth, and motherhood. I've learned about vaginal birth and cesarean births, home births and hospital births, births with doctors, mid-wives, doulas, and births in the water and births with music, and so so so much more.
But I've also learned more than I ever could have thought possible, in an experiential way, about the power of community and connection - of being accepted exactly as you are in a circle of women that is healing and supportive and full of admiration, respect and reverence.
I've made lifelong friends - of that I am sure.
I've come away not only with knowledge of yoga poses and alignment and making the physical practice of Yoga safe for pregnant mammas, but I've learned how to offer tools to pregnant women that will help them in their labour, their birth - and beyond: tools to empower women to trust themselves, to accept their own power, to embrace and trust their innate intuition and inner authority and to have a pregnancy, labour, and birth experience that will be meaningful for them for the long term.
I've seen (and experienced), first hand what happens when women claim their power, when they stand up and say YES, I can do this. YES, I deserve unconditional love and acceptance. YES, I can be fierce. YES, I can forge my own path even when surrounded by dozens of people telling me how I should experience my life. And these are the tools I am excited to offer - not only to pregnant mammas in the prenatal yoga I will offer at the studio, but with all the people I teach.
I know that these past 12 days have not only changed my teaching, but also my life.
Yes, when women embrace their power - their innate inner wisdom - they are amazing to behold. And wow - what they can accomplish. I am moved and I am humbled and I am in awe and deeply, deeply grateful.
One thing I've been learning, perhaps even the hard way, lately is that building a business, whether it's a brick and mortar business, or something less substantial requires patience. And lots of it.
I like to know what's going to happen next. I like predictability. I like (and crave) routine. Being the owner of a budding new Yoga studio involves none of this. But it does require loads and loads of patience!
Unlike owning a retail store or other sales-driven/goods-driven business, Yoga is something unique. Different. And the business of Yoga requires a lot of heart, a lot of soul, and the willingness to cultivate it so that it can grow - much like growing a garden.
Opening the doors is like planting the seeds. Spreading the word is like water and sunlight. It comes a little tiny bit at a time and it's organic. You have to give it time to work.
I suppose realistically, I knew that I wouldn't swing open the doors to crazy busy classes - but there are times it's really scary! When people come, they tell me how much they like the space, how different it is from a stereotypical Yoga studio. They tell me they feel safe. That it makes a difference. And hearing that is what makes it easier to be patient, to trust, to watch, to cultivate.
Organic growth is a thing. And it's a thing that takes time. One student comes and has a lovely class and tells a friend, and it grows from there. The challenge is allowing that to happen and resisting the urge to force growth on the business faster than it should actually happen! We all know that adding chemical fertilizers may speed growth of a garden over the short term, but can have long term disastrous results.
And so I sit. And I breathe. And I trust. And I watch. And I cultivate from a heart-centered place of love for what we're growing, a place where anyone can come and practice Yoga in a non-judgemental, non-competitive place full of love and acceptance. That's what Body Positivity Yoga is all about.
Have you ever had something happen, some turning point, that feels like it's been a moment in the making for a long long time?
That's how I felt recently, when I found myself on the back of a horse for the first time in almost 20 years.
It was a powerful series of events that brought me there, almost like signs - pointing me in that direction. But it was surreal.
I grew up loving horses. I loved being near them. I loved touching their velvety noses. The first time I got the chance to ride one, was on the beach when I was 10 years old. I cried. Pure joy.
A couple years later, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with a close friend who owned horses. I helped her muck out stalls and we got to ride the horses a little here and there. It was one of the most memorable summers of my life.
And then, when I was around 15 years old, my family went back to the beach and mom decided to take us on one of those beachside horse rides. My mom, dad, and little sister were already matched up and mounted on their horses and the horse handler was getting ready to find me one when he told me something along the lines of.... "You know, if you're too fat, you can hurt the horse when you ride.... I better get you a bigger horse." and then off he went to find me a "bigger" horse. I rode that day - and cried again. This time, not from joy, but because I was devestated to learn that my fat body could potentially harm these animals I loved so much.
I was somewhere between a size 9 and 12 at that time in my life. Chubby, sure, but hardly huge! And it never occurred to me that the dude was being a jerk. Maybe he thought he was helping me? Maybe he thought that his little comment would "encourage" me to lose some weight since I seemed to love horses so much? I don't know. All I DO know is that I never went near horses again after that day. I couldn't stand the idea that I might hurt them.
A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a fabulous body positive blog: A Fat Girl and a Fat Horse
The day I found that blog was the first day I allowed myself to think about horses since that day at the beach. Suddenly, I was face to face with the idea that the dude on the beach may just have been wrong. That maybe my body wouldn't hurt the animals that I love so much. This blog showed me that there were many plus size riders out there. There are many different kinds of horses out there and many breeds are perfectly strong enough to carry a curvy girl rider. I mean, just think about the men with all that armor back in the day - or some of those big ol' cowboys!! There was just a lot of stigma against heavier-set female riders - just as there is a lot of stigma and stereotypes in Yoga.
After that, I kept running into people who rode horses, owned horses, or loved horses. They seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. One day, when I was teaching a public yoga class I ran into a curvy girl who mentioned getting back into riding recently. We chatted a bit and then afterward I couldn't stop thinking about the idea that the possibility of riding again might exist. So I asked her if she'd give me some advice on where I could consider riding again... just to see.
This student called me one day to excitedly tell me about - of all things - a body positive place to ride just around 30 minutes from where I live. No way. But sure enough - there it was. The Grene Wode.
When I went to their website for the first time, I cried again. This time - with relief. They had pictures on their website of bigger-bodied people on their horses! Finally.
I took a friend with me and went out one day for a lesson and to meet the stable manager. Being on the back of a horse (a beautiful black Percheron named Tascha) again was amazing. Almost unbelievable to be honest. This experience has bloomed into a regular weekly lesson - and me offering Body Positivity Yoga classes at the stable! What a fabulous chain of events.
he picture at the beginning of this post is me with Tascha. You may not be able to see it - but I'm grinning like a fool.
I'm so excited that the studio has come to be!!
We're open. We have classes. Things are happening! It's AMAZING!
Seeing this become a reality is a dream come true. And I have to admit that it feels pretty amazing to be surrounded by others who are passionate about this space and what we're creating that is so different from what has been done before.
Life feels like it's full to bursting with great things. There's been a lot of fear about making this step - and yet I couldn't be more grateful that I made it. And I couldn't have done it without my wife, Peggy, who has been so supportive and so helpful with looking at the bigger picture from a business perspective and helping to set the studio up for success. Forging new territory the way that we are comes with a lot of challenges. We don't fit the existing mold so we're making a new one. And for someone like me who likes to color inside the lines, this is no easy task!
But I'm confident that we've created and are continuing to create truly honours the Body Positivity mission: to make yoga accessible to every body.
This last weekend was the kick-off workshop in the Introduction to Body Positivity Yoga series and I have to admit that it was such a wonderful feeling seeing so many brave women taking a chance on me and what I had to offer. It's not easy getting the nerve to go do something new, in a new space and many of the students who find me and the studio come with a lot of trepidation. What if they really can't do it? Will they feel out of place or will they "fit in"? Will it really be for them?
And the best feeling in the world is the huge smiles that spontaneously erupt on their faces when they realize yes... they ARE welcome. yes... they DO fit in. yes... this space IS for them.... and yes... they CAN do it!
That is what makes it possible to push through any of my own anxiety or fear, any of my concerns about not "fitting in" in the broader yoga community, any of my fears of failure. Every single one of those smiles make it all worth while and proves that I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.
I am beyond excited at our progress with the studio. And by progress, I mean - finally there IS some! ;)
Opening a brick and mortar business has a lot of nuances to it. There are many (many) more steps than you can imagine, and even more when the property you are leasing is in the process of also being purchased by your landlord. Phew!!
But, we're finally approaching the point when the work (and the fun) really begins and that has me over-the-moon excited!
As you can see, we were recently able to have some Coming Soon signage installed on the windows. So now, people driving by our empty little space will see that something exciting is about to happen. WOO HOO!
In celebration, I have now launched the Body Positivity Yoga studio's website <---- click here and Facebook Page <---- click here. Please do like and share this with anyone in the area who may be interested in checking us out!
We're definitely going to be opening this spring. I have an incredible team of awesome teachers I'll be working with and we are going to have a fantastic schedule.
One exciting thing about this space is that it is accessible - including the washroom. No stairs. And a properly outfitted washroom. That means Chair Yoga (wheelchairs welcome) classes will be added to the schedule, finally! I have to admit, that was one major downside to teaching out of older or heritage buildings, previously.
We've picked out and ordered our flooring and we've picked out paint colours. We've collected a couple fun things to hang on the walls. There's a few more physical things we'll need to pick up but we have most things decided. Next up is cleaning and renovations. We'll be getting that started around the middle of next week. Exciting!! :-) I'll be taking lots of before, during, and after photos.
Hooray for seeing this all come to be! It's going to be so amazing.
I just can't keep the details all to myself any longer so I have GOT to spill the beans about the most exciting (and scary!) thing I've ever, ever done:
As most of you know - I'm opening the very first ever Body Positivity Yoga studio. That's right, an entire studio where the driving philosophy behind ALL classes is creating a safe and welcoming space for ALL bodies. The very first of it's kind in Canada. And it's going to be pure magic.
Not that I'm biased or anything.
For those of you who are local, the studio is going to be right in the heart of downtown Maple Ridge, BC - about 15 minutes (or less) away from the Langley via the Golden Ears bridge and about the same distance from the Tri-Cities area and a bit longer from the rest of the lower mainland. If you know the Maple Ridge area, the studio is going to be located about a block and a half away from Haney Place Mall/Lougheed Highway.
It's exactly what I always dreamed it would be. It's a cute little space and class sizes will be small and intimate - which means that no matter what class you take, you will get personalized attention. No generic mall yoga. No huge classes. No mats jammed up against one another so that you don't feel like you have enough personal space. Just sweet Yoga in a space where you know, without the shadow of a doubt that YOU BELONG.
I am creating the space I dreamed about when I was new to public Yoga classes. I'm creating a space from the heart that embraces the kind of Yoga that completely transformed my relationship with my body. This is the stuff dreams are made of, people!
The hardest part about all of this is really the waiting!! :) I've been working on this for months and with this space, there's still some red tape to trudge through before we can begin so I haven't been able to get in to start renovating yet. I am chomping at the bit - seriously. We have picked out what we think we're going to want to do for our lighting, I have paint chips for the walls and an idea of what I want for flooring. When we get the green light from my landlord that we can go in and get started it's going to be full steam ahead!! In the meantime, I've had my hands surprisingly full with paperwork, systems setup, and - most excitingly - meeting and interviewing other teachers so that I can bring a team on board, right from day one.
For those of you who are also eager for the studio to launch, we're aiming to open by no later than April 1st - and hopefully a little bit sooner - so stay tuned (this is going to be so epic)!! We are going to have a wide variety of class times available in a number of styles for you to choose from. Gentle Yoga, Yin, Restorative - and more!!
And because I can't contain myself, I thought I'd share with you a sneak peak of the studio's vision and mission:
A world where Yoga is available for Every Body.
Body Positivity Yoga's mission is to provide a safe, supportive, accepting and nurturing environment for all people to learn and enjoy Yoga and other forms of mindful movement without judgement or assumption. It is for this reason that Body Positivity Yoga studios, classes and workshops are always 100% diet-talk free spaces.
Our mission is to meet you where you are and compassionately guide you "on the mat" as a means of providing the tools you need to walk a path of empowerment, self-acceptance and self-care "off the mat".
Our primary objective is for all students of Body Positivity Yoga to understand that each of you are an integral, welcome and priceless part of our collective community and that you have a unique gift to offer the world - exactly as you are.
THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME!