Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pop-Up Yoga Halifax: Community Yoga at it's Best

This summer's Halifax Yoga in the Park has been phenomenal; with great regular turnout of 30+ yogis and lovely yoga teachers giving their time so that we can practice under the sun and near the ocean each week.

One such fabulous yoga teacher is Brigitte LeBlanc (a fellow francophone!). A Facebook friendship revealed that Brigitte not only gives back to her yoga community at HYITP, she helps organize something called “Pop-up Yoga Halifax”. It immediately made me think of Much Music's Pop-Up Video (all you under thirties, non Canadians are missing out, seriously), and as such I had to find out more.

The yoga world is weirdly sliding into the exhibitionist category (Tara Stiles practicing in a glass,vehicular cube around NYC, yoga selfies in dangerous shoes and clothing, yoga selfies in GENERAL). I find this sad because I like the idea of subverting “the man” (whatever that really means) or fine, just bringing something like yoga to the public sphere, but these recent “yoga selfies” trend aren't my cup of tea.

Which is why Pop-Up Yoga is perfect. The very premise of a spontaneous (yet planned enough in advance to attend!), outdoor (and public, but organized for an actual practice in beautiful spaces) and affordable yoga class in Halifax rocks. I was a bit curious on how it works, and the why so Brigitte was kind enough to answer a few questions for me (Merci!!).

If you live in Halifax, be sure to check out her Facebook Page: Pop-Up Yoga Halifax

1. What is Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Pop-Up Yoga Halifax is an opportunity to do yoga in a non studio setting, at different locations throughout the city with an affordable cost of $5. We believe that yoga should be fun and affordable, and with the summer season upon us, it's a good way to get outdoors, breath in deeply and feel the sun be pushed away by a gentle breeze on your skin.

2. What brought you to organize Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? One day, Rebecca Blanchard (my partner in this project) and I attended a drop in class which cost us $20 for a 45 minute class. We felt like yoga had become an activity for the rich, and those who need it the most (well...everyone!) should have access to it without breaking the bank. We also thought it would be a great opportunity for both her and I to get experience teaching without being hired at a studio. I work as a massage therapist, she works as a nurse and we both love yoga and wanted to teach in our spare time. We didn't want it to feel like a job, but an offering to our community of yogis.

3. What have been the challenges in organizing Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Just like any project, you start with a concept and you roll with it. Every step leads you to another and sometimes you need to take a step back. The vision has shifted since we began, and is progressing in ways that we are excited about. We asked two other teachers to join us, which is incredible. It’s nice to work on this as a project and have 4 teachers with different visions mix ‘em up together to get a blissed out brainchild.

4. So far, what has been your favourite moment during a Pop-Up Yoga Halifax practice? My favourite moment so far has been our first class. It was a beautiful day, we had a good group of people show up and I just really felt like a proud mother of a beautiful newborn. Although child birth is more painful then the process we went through to make this happen, but you get the symbolism, right? Perceive and conceive

5. What would you like to see Pop-Up Yoga Halifax become?
We would love to offer Yoga classes within local businesses. I see us offering classes in coffee shops, on rooftops, in art galleries, and in conference rooms. We're hoping that once the weather gets cold, that we may continue offering yoga throughout the city in fun locations. We hope to partner up with festivals, and events. Maybe even local dj's who would like to perform a set during a class, or maybe a local whole food company would offer free samples to our yogis. It's a great way to bring like minded folk together, and build a healthy and happy community, while bringing something new to the HRM.

5. We love having you lead during YITP, you have such an open and connected style. What has led you becoming a Yoga Teacher and what do you feel is important in sharing the practice of yoga? I've never been good at sports and I wasn't the athletic type growing up. Being in the health care industry, being active is something that is important to me and I feel that Yoga is suitable for anyone! It is also very complimentary to Massage Therapy since it creates body awareness. I always found myself offering stretches and strengthening postures to aid in my clients dysfunction in their body. I wanted to learn more, not only to deepen my practice, but to also empower my clients to heal. 

I like creating a mind/body connection during my classes. Where is it in your life that you can be more flexible, where is it that you require strength? Challenging yourself in these postures go way deeper then your superficial body. They translate into your relationships, your reactions, and more importantly, they encourage you to breath and be calm when faced with challenges. Yoga is a moving meditation, and in my opinion a great yoga practice should leave you feeling grounded, connected and inspired.
Body glorification has been linked to yoga, and even though this comes along with the package, and is a wonderful result of a consistent practice, there is so much more to value when it comes to yoga.

6. Besides yoga, what is/are your life passion(s)? I love gardening and plants. I feel like I need a bigger home to accommodate for the current jungle of plants that I live amongst. I love creating vegan and vegetarian meals. I love DIY projects. I am passionate about leading a life through a perspective of love. I am passionate about people. 
More then anything, I am passionate about health care and about healing, and the whole concept surrounding it. I believe in the bodies wisdom to heal. I'm passionate about helping people and assisting them in their process. I love learning about natural remedies, and encouraging optimal health through nutrition. I am constantly reading and learning about all things health care related. In September, I will be opening up a clinic called "Anatomy: A Massage and Wellness Centre" and feel like this will be a true creative expression of that which I am passionate about.

Brigitte LeBlanc

Brigitte has a lusty love affair with yoga. She began this beautiful relationship back in 2004 when she took her first yoga class in Canmore, Alberta. Even though it has been an on again and off again relationship, she is now committed to her practice and has found a soul mate for life. She has practiced in numerous locations around the world, exploring what it means to truly know herself. She took her month long, 200hr training in Guatemala. It was an unforgettable journey which led her to her bliss. Brigitte is a Registered Massage Therapist, a co-coordinator with Pop-Up Yoga Halifax and she is currently enjoying the creative process of soon opening her own clinic in the heart of Halifax. You can find out more from her website

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

YITP Tips and Tricks for the Teacher and the Receiver

Yoga in the Park is now mid-season and we have had a wildly successful summer so far! (*does happy dance*). It truly is something lovely to look out each Sunday and see 30-40 odd people that don't look like carbon copies of a young white woman all present and ready to practice together under the sun.

There are a few things/tips to consider for both Yoga Teachers and Yoga Receivers for YITP though, so I thought I'd share a few extra insider tips here :)

Tips for Yoga Teachers:
Leading a YITP outside is an amazing and fulfilling experience. It also poses some interesting challenges.

  • Projecting your Voice: It is *much* more difficult to hear your voice, instructions and suggestions with the wind, the sounds of the ocean and a wide open space for your voice to travel. Demonstrating while you talk becomes almost impossible; no one will hear you while your facing away in downward dog. YITP also attracts a more varied yogi, several who most certainly have some level of hearing loss (like yours truly, it's not just the wisest appearing among us with evidence of experienced life that may have hearing loss!). The best strategy? Project your voice (while protecting it!), face your yogis and:
  • Have a demonstrating buddy next to you. I've done this twice, and although kinda weird (since I am far from a model asana practitioner) it does allow other yogis to see what the heck you're describing while permitting you to continue said describing. Just make sure you introduce why the demo buddy is there- otherwise it's a bit awkward (who's the keener at the front???)
  • Reference Nature: We're outside- think about changing your spatial references from "the floor" or even "the mat" to "the earth, the ocean, the sun, the sky". It's one of the beautiful parts of practicing outside, remind people of that.
  • Consider Nature: Think about the wind making balancing postures more difficult, the squishy grass making for non-solid bases in standing postures and the possibility for dog poo when arms out for supine twists. Balancing postures are often extremely challenging outside and it's nice to be reminded of the extra trickiness so as not to be too discouraged. 
  • Consider alternatives for Savasana: Laying out, face up to the sun for long minutes at the end of the practice may not be the most relaxing or comfortable (or safe!) end to a yoga practice. Maybe shorten your savasana, offer alternatives (seated meditation) and suggest that yogis cover their face. The end goal isn't laying on our backs, but integrating and absorbing our practice- however that may be.
  • Leave out all "extras" that might detract from Nature: Music and technology is a big one. I've found that blocks and straps are nice, but practicing outside is really about connecting with Nature through yoga. The more "extras" we have, the less we're truly experiencing the natural moment. 
  • Please no pictures! True consent during a yoga practice isn't given. I know it looks really cool and we just want to share, but getting consent without pressuring the yogis to give it (no matter if you ask first- are they simply going to walk away after setting up their yoga mat?) is unlikely. Instead of experiencing the practice through a lens, take a breath and practice fully observing what you're having an urge to photograph and keep that in your memory to cherish. 
Tips for the YITP Yogi Receivers:
  • Bring LOTS of sunscreen: and apply liberally. No really. You should leave YITP with a sense of peace and renewal, not a sunburn. Skin cancer is serious business- don't mess around!
  • Bring Water: Staying hydrated is so important. Reusable water bottles are better than plastic disposables, and stainless steel tend to be the best. I've found that the BEST for keeping water cold is the insulated stainless steel coffee mugs topped with ice cubes. My Klean Kanteen coffee container, although smelling slightly like coffee, really kept my water cold during an hour out in the sun. 
  • Use a YITP specific mat: (or no mat!). This is only if you happen to have two, relegate one to "YITP" for several reasons: a) it will get dirty. Which is kinda gross. If it's your YITP only mat that means you only have to wash it every so often instead of directly afterwards. Bonus! b) nicer, more ecologically friendly mats made of rubber biodegrade in the sun. You should actually keep your nice rubber Jade mat FAR AWAY from any sun exposure if you want it to last. 
  • Talk to the Teacher Before YITP Begins: even though we're not in a traditional class setting, it's important to share injuries or discomforts with the teacher. If you don't feel ok with that, the nice thing about YITP is that honestly, you can spend the entire time in child's pose and that is just fine. YITP really is about what you need- so be sure to take it!
  • Look out for dog poo: Seriously. It is everywhere. 
And above all else: enjoy sharing your practice outside, surrounded by the ocean, the sun and other lovely yogis!

Any thoughts/suggestions from your YITP experiences that I missed? Please share!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking Back Saying No to Technology while Remaining Cool

If you asked my friends whether I'm easily reachable through technology, they would definitely answer with a resounding "Not even close!".

I know it's weird, especially for someone who blogs, is an active twitterer and Facebook user. But I've noticed this natural trend in the past two years to disconnect.

The realization that perhaps this was more than just a passing trend occurred to me tonight: when the thought "I should check my gmail" caused twinges of anxiety and annoyance.

Although I've embraced technology (I am JUST at the cusp of the generation that has grown up with computers, video games and such), I've always been a stickler for "non tech time". Immediately when we got our iphones my pet peeve was being accessible, with the EXPECTATION that I would be RIGHT THERE to text back every minute of the day. I quickly informed all my friends that during work hours, I was at work- so my personal cell was on vibrate.

Often though I would forget to turn my phone back on sound when I got home. To be fair, if it's an emergency they should call and leave a message. Or text Andrew. (How many times do I get the "tell your wife to check her phone" text...:S). It drives me crazy to here text after text after text- even if the other person might not necessarily expect an immediate answer- the pressure is there to check "just in case". Which annoys the hell outta me.

I have a very important (to me) no cell phone in the bed rule. I leave my phone downstairs to be charged over night. If someone texts me while I'm getting ready for bed or sleeping, ah well. They should know better than texting someone past 10pm. Seriously. Our bedroom is moving towards a "no technology zone". I never want a tv in our bedroom and the laptop and ipad stay downstairs. I just have to wean Andrew off bringing his iphone upstairs (he hides it from me when he checks his twitter feed before getting out of bed in the morning...).

The bedroom is for sleeping and connecting couple time. There is enough research out there that strongly indicates that having technology (tv, ipad, iphone, laptop) in the bedroom is sleep disrupting and stress inducing. My sleep is precious, no messing with that!

Finally, email. I dread dread dread checking my gmail accounts. I'm attached to my email for work all day- I definitely do not feel like responding or considering issues via email while at home. So I just don't check them. For weeks. Which makes the process of checking my email even more stressful.

With smart phones we are increasingly tied to our technology- and it's harder and harder to disconnect. However, I firmly believe that this disconnect from in real life interaction is an important aspect to our disconnect with our natural world, the decrease in motivation for environmental personal action and our increasing everyday stress levels.

I am taking back my right to turn off my iphone, to saying "no" to being available every minute of every day and that this still makes me fantastically fun and not a luddite.

Leave your iphone charging on the counter and experience life 100%, instead of through moments between checking your twitter account or through the lens of your iphoto.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GPB: BirdNerding: Caving to the Squirrel Baffle

Happy Day after Canada Day!

I'm not sure if I truly shared here how much my life currently is spent thinking about bird watching and planning how we can attract different birds....

Over at the Green Phone Booth, my post this week is an update on the birds we've managed to attract and our latest, ridiculous, birdnerd purchase.

Go on over and take a peak!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bugs are Gross: The Yoga of Gardening

(Warning, this blog post does have some photos of bugs... but I've tried to intersperse some pretty garden photos to make up for it)

I am not a fan of bugs. I'm the person that will squish a bug without hesitation. Release it outside so it can crawl back in? No thank you. Once, during my speech therapy visit at a daycare, while sitting as part of their circle time, I saw a spider crawling amidst our preschool singing fun and in front of all the children, squished it with gusto. The teachers were not impressed.
LADY SLIPPER! This flower is endangered in NS. It's illegal to pick them- I was yelled at by a park ranger as a child for picking one- they only flower every SEVEN years! A true treat.

I thought these gorgeous purple flowers were weeds, until they bloomed! Good thing I resisted pulling them up!

Unfortunately, our new house appears to be built on multiple giant anthills. Trillions of ants surround us. I swear. For the past few months we have fought the fight of the Ant. Tiny sugar ants that roam the kitchen floors (and sometimes counters- ew!) by the dozens. When they found their way upstairs in our bedroom I drew the line. No more Ms Nice Nature Loving Yogini. I was going to kill them all. Or at least find a way to keep them out. After a month we're at somewhat of a stalemate with periodic Ant Attacks (today dozens of sugar ants found their way into the kitchen under the cupboards, like jerks).

Pretty magenta lilac bush- who knew they could be this colour?
The following semi-natural approaches have (kinda) worked:

  • Diatomaceous Earth: Much of our house has this white powdery substance lining the baseboards. It looks like crap, but ants can't walk over it. It's seriously cruel actually, the Diatomaceous earth cuts at the ants and dehydrates them until they die. I know.'s natural and won't harm our cats if they try to eat it (which they haven't). They do tend to alternate course and try to find another point of entry. So a two-pronged attack is necessary:
  • Borax and sugar water: This came from my dad's suggestion to get liquid Ant Raid, specifying that we needed a 7% borax ratio. Which made us think- why purchase liquid ant poison, if it's just the borax that kills them? We have borax, we can make our own liquid solution and we'll know for sure that it just has borax, sugar and water. 
Our cat proof ant trap
Borax Sugar Water Ant Poison:

1 part sugar
4 parts water
Boil the water and sugar together, allow to cool. Add slightly less than 10% of the volume in borax. Mix and keep in a glass jar out of reach of children and pets. 
Using jam jar lids (or pop bottle lids) add liquid. Leave it outside or inside where you see the ants and keep away from pets and children. Allow the ants to leave with the solution (they bring it to the nest and it kills more of them that way). We used an old yogurt container with small holes cut in the bottom, put the jam jar lid with the borax solution inside and sealed it away from the cats. 

My new hummingbird feeder spot. We shall see...
These awful little bugs have even invaded our hummingbird feeder. For the third time tonight, I had to clean out the feeder since it had become cloudy with ant remains. WTF ants? Don't MESS with my bird feeders! I have been forced to place the hummingbird feeder on the clothesline next to the finch feeder. It's a bit ghetto... but this is serious business. Plus at least I resisted putting legit ant poison all over the hummingbird feeder.
These little white flowers are so cute. I thought they were wild flowers, since I found them nestled in the middle of a little wild plant section- but have since discovered they were planted their on purpose some time long ago!

The epitome of bug grossness, though, was this weekend:
ew ew ew ew ew ew ew
OMG the entire stem is covered. took these photos tonight. We should really spray the lupines with water tomorrow...

Saturday I decided that I would cut some of the beautiful lupines and lilies growing in our yard and make a bouquet for our kitchen. I was super proud of my Secret Garden Flowers (each bloom is a surprise!) and posted a photo on Facebook to prove it. The lupines and lilies smelled amazing and I did a happy dance each time I walked by the evidence that to no credit to us, we had an awesome flower garden.

And then Sunday I noticed dozens and dozens of seafoam green little crawly things ALL OVER OUR FLOOR. I nearly lost my mind. Yelling for Andrew to come over, we spent frantic moments searching and squashing this little buggers and flushing them down the toilet. They looked eerily like wood ticks, only green and I had a (shameful) moment of panic: "WHAT IF THEY'RE BABY TICKS????" (If you don't know what ticks are- good for you. They are awful and currently are a problem and lyme disease carrier in Nova Scotia. Each evening after our garden inspection we do full body tick checks). In order to kill ticks you need to burn them or cut them in half with something sharp. They don't squash.

Gross creepy crawly talk break- these are my favourite flowers in the whole garden. Originally they were among the half dozen I thought were weeds- specifically I thought they were grass gone to seed until they flowered! They're still pink and puffy weeks later!

Anyhoo... Andrew in his calm manner looked our creepy seafoam green bugs of death and informed me that in fact they are aphids. Not ticks. Also, they have a fairly short life span. And they love lupines. A quick look... and to our horror the lupines in my beautiful bouquet were COVERED in them. Cue second panic attack. ("what if they fly????" "they don't fly, Lisa").

Since neither Andrew nor I wanted to touch the flowers, we put the entire bouquet, vase and all, out on the deck and left it there overnight.

Andrew threw the flowers out in the compost this morning.

(pretty plant photo to balance gross aphid photo. Also- I have no idea what this plant will become- any thoughts? A weed or a flower?)

Lessons learned:

  1. Dunk flowers in a bucket of water prior to bringing them in the house (thank you Teresa for that tip!)
  2. Rip up all the front lupines in the fall. 
  3. Learn to love lady bugs.

These are herbs our of control in the front garden- the herb on the left has actually grown into the lawn- so every time you walk over it, a delicious smell wafts up!