Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Harry Potter Knitting

The whole world has been thrown into chaos since March 2020 with the COVID-19 virus. One of the few things that has helped me keep my sanity has been the Harry Potter series. For the last few months I have been re-reading the books and rewatching the movie series (a couple of times). While very nostalgic because I was the same age as Harry as the books were released, they have also offered me something that I can be sure of and anticipate what is going to happen.

In the spring I finished a Harry Potter cross-stitch for my classroom, thinking we would be returning in a few weeks. This did not happen. Pattern available from HardKnotLifeStudio on Etsy. Pattern: Muggle Teacher. I added the different house scarves around the outside because I felt there was too much blank space on my white aida cloth.

My most recent project has been to knit my house scarf. Several years ago I went on Pottermore (now the Wizarding World) and got sorted into Ravenclaw. Admittedly I should have known that it would be my house, given that the three adjectives that describe Ravenclaws are Wisdom, Wit and Creative. Sadly there are not many Ravenclaws represented in the books outside of Cho Chang, Luna Lovegood and Filius Flitwick. However I am proud to represent a house that isn't Gryffindor.

Frustratingly the colours of Ravenclaw in the book are blue and bronze, while in the movie adaptation they are blue and silver. So when I went about looking for yarn colours for my scarf, I opted for the movie colours as those were the ones that were visually seen by audiences and therefore the most recognizable.

There were many patterns for Ravenclaw house scarfs, but I opted for the ones seen in Prisoner of Azkaban, with the smaller alternating stripes (which seemingly are worn by upper year students) rather than the large block striped scarf seen in the Philosopher's Stone. This was the free pattern I ultimately settled on (but made my own adjustments as noted below):

Obviously I changed the yarn colours from those of Gryffindor to those of Ravenclaw. I opted for three skeins of Dark Country Blue and one skein of Grey Heather from the brand Caron: Simply Soft.

I particularly liked this pattern because it is done on circular needles, so you just knit all the way around, creating a wide tube of stockinette stitch. There is no counting individual stitches, no purling; you can just put your mind on auto-pilot and away you go. You do have to count the total rows as you knit to ensure your stripes are the same size, but it is a very easy project to do while watching Netflix.

I cast on 120 stitches. The circular needles I had were a bit too long for only the 100 sts called for in the original pattern, but I figured a little bit of a wider scarf wouldn't make much difference. I did like the measurements in the original pattern - 30 rows of the main colour, followed by 4 rows of the secondary colour, 4 rows of the main colour, and then 4 rows of the secondary colour again. It did create a really neat look, just like the movie scarves.

The original pattern featured a photo of a scarf with 14 secondary colour striped pairs of lines, but I stopped mine at 10. I stand about 5'5'' and even then the scarf was taller than me and therefore plenty long enough. Because I made my scarf a little wider, it is a pretty thick and hefty garment. Knitting in the round creates a tube of knitting, so to finish off the open ends, I added tassels. Because grey wasn't the main colour, I opted to alternate blue and grey for the fringe. This was pretty simple to do with the help of a crochet hook. I used four pieces of yarn for each piece of fringe.

In total this scarf took me over 70 hours to knit. While incredibly time consuming, I am thrilled with the final result :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Life Changes

I am a couple of weeks from turning 30, and my life is at a crossroads. To put it mildly, I'm overwhelmed. ***I apologize in advance for the negative tone of this post. I just realized how many things I had been ignoring and suppressing so now it's coming up like word vomit*** I get angry when I get vulnerable, and currently I feel very insecure about my future and out of control.

I just completed my 2nd year teaching in Ottawa and this much I know:
- I'm over city living
- I need something different
- I feel completely disconnected from everyone and am seriously lacking any sense of community or sense of belonging
- There is nothing keeping me in Ottawa
- As a French teacher I can find work virtually everywhere - this in particular has made the options of where to move to endless
- Due to the fact I don't know what my exact plans are, I have been unable to communicate this to anyone and have been suffering in silence

I have always been a planner - a very type A person. To this point in my life I have attempted to map out and control the direction of my life. But despite my efforts, if you had asked 20 year old Britney where her life would be, this would not be it. I saw myself at 30 with a husband, a couple of kids and a house.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate my life. I have a career that I love, hobbies I enjoy, pretty good physical health, and a stable and supportive family. However my very low tolerance for drama and stress has (this year in particular) forced me to cut many people out of my life. My work situation was similar; due to the fact that I was covering a one year maternity leave, I didn't see the point in investing time and energy into those relationships - as I knew I was leaving. I also know myself well enough and as an emotional person, I suppose to a certain extent I was looking to make my departure easier on myself at the end of the school year.

I am almost 30, and I honestly didn't see myself with such an unclear future. I have few romantic pursuits (I could go on a tangent about the waste of time that is online dating), very few friends I am motivated to see and hang out with, and in general am feeling very helpless at the state of the world and current events in the news. I am incredibly frustrated with the housing market. As a single woman who makes a pretty decent income; I can't afford anything. What pisses me off the most is that I feel I logically did things right: I went to school, I got a job in my field of study, and irritatingly the inflation of wages did not increase at the same rate as the housing bubble. The only way I'll be able to own a home is if I have a dual income (partner), win the lottery, find me a doctor, or buy a tiny home. Many days I just want to go off-grid, get myself a tiny house, and travel the world.

As the end of the year trip, my Grade 8 students got the opportunity to go to Quebec city. I came back from the Quebec trip with a sore throat, that quickly progressed to a head-cold, to a fever, to laryngitis. It has now been a week, and I am still battling the throat soreness and loss of voice. I quickly realized that my throat pain and illness is most likely related to stress and the pressure I am currently under to figure out what to do with my life in the next few weeks.

My initial plan months ago was to move to Prince Edward Island. I have traveled there on several occasions and to me it is the most beautiful place on the planet. I went through the hassle of getting a PEI teaching licence (Canada irritatingly requires a different provincial licence for each region you wish to teach in) only to discover that there is a housing crisis on the island and virtually nowhere to live. So I have work, but no housing. This sent me back to the drawing board.
The current state of education in Ontario is not ideal under Doug Ford, with massive cuts to Special Education funding and increases in class sizes so I don't particularly want to stay in this province.

My current thought is to move to British Columbia, which has presented it's own set of challenges and things to think about. I would have to go through the process of getting a BC teaching licence, which for whatever reason is far more laborious than the PEI one. Trying to choose a city is also up in the air. I have a few friends in various cities, as well as family on the West Coast so there are many options. Most school boards are hiring French teachers as well, which bodes well for me. But for whatever reason teachers in BC have the lowest wages in the country - which considering the high cost of living seems pretty counter-intuitive. BC is also quite a hike away from Ontario - a 8 hour plan trip one way, so transportation is also another factor.

I am travelling to British Columbia starting next week, so I am hoping that my time there will help bring some clarity and decisiveness to what I will be doing in September. Sending good vibes to everyone out there :) <3


Friday, October 20, 2017

Judgement and Changing the Stigma of Addiction

I remember starting a diary when I was about 8 years old. Admittedly most of my entries comprised of my food consumption for the day (ah the life before drama and stress). As I got older my entries were much more honest and forthcoming. Many things I confided in writing, I never told my parents or friends in person. I enjoy having a blog because it keeps a certain lvel of privacy while at the same time baring my soul

So here it is. I am in love with an alcoholic. I can feel the judgement already. And I can also understand why. For those of you who are aware of my personal life over the past couple of years, you will know that I dated someone very seriously, who I did not know at the time had a drinking problem. I was very much in love with him by the time I understood the magnitude of the situation and you can't really just "unlove" someone. So I tried to stick it out. But after a few months I quickly realized that I could not fix him, and I couldn't just "love" him until he was better.

I made the very painful choice of stepping away from the relationship and spent September 2016-March 2017 focussing just on myself. During those eight months I decided to become a yoga teacher. Something that I truly believe changed my life and my outlook on many things. During the program many aspects of human health were discussed, including mental health and addiction. I should preface this with the fact that prior to meeting S I had no prior experience with addiction. Amidst all the group discussions and sharing of personal stories, I came to realize that all the women in my yoga teacher training group had been touched by addiction in some form, and how prevalent the problem is - particularly alcoholism.

I realized many things during my eight months while learning to be a yoga teacher - namely that I can be an incredibly judgemental and critical bitch - towards myself but also at others. When it came to S addiction I had a very black and white mindset. "Why doesn't he just stop?" "Doesn't he understand that all the negative things in his life are a result of alcohol?" "If he truly cared about me, he would stop drinking.". All of which I discovered is complete and utter bullshit, and contributes to the stigma of addiction.

 No one wants to become an addict. They are not supid or weak. Most addictions are the result of trauma, an incredibly painful experience. Humans have a natural aversion to pain, we want to feel pleasure. Unfortunately for most addicts, they don't have healthy coping skills, or good roles models in their lives (many have parents who are addicts) and result to the "quick-fix" method to numb the pain, to not have to feel. It is a temporary solution that unfortunately quickly becomes a pattern. because they don't have any other alernative. Addicts are not weak, often they succumb to addiction after being strong for too long. Many have anxiety or depression or other mental health issues. By drinking or taking other substances it silences their minds and gives temporary relief to their thoughts.

Many addicts (particularly alcoholics) also suffer from low self-esteem which also helps fuel the cycle of addiction. They feel bad about themselves, that they aren't worth anything, so they use. Then they feel guilty for using, berate themselves again, and use to forget and block out what they have done. Repeat. This cycle of addiction also tends to run through families/generations.

That being said, the brain is very malleable.  Some habtis and thought patterns are useful, so that we automatically do things without thinking; brushing out teeth, driving our car, etc. It's the unhealthy patterns that are created in the mind that are much more detrimental to our healh.vNo one becomes an addict overnight. It takes years of thought patterns and habits to create "grooves of the mind", but the same can be said for reshaping the way our brain thinks and the way we act. As much as we can think our way into something, we can also "rewire" our brain to think our way out of it. This of course takes time. The brain controls everything, so mental health is of the most importance.

Since meeting S this has became very evident. When our relationship ended in 2016, he sought help. He attended a month long in-patient program, attended AA meetings on a weekly basis, started addictions counselling and even spent a month in rehab in Northern Ontario. He has been an alcoholic for roughly 5 years, so it will likely take that amount of time before he is fully on the road to recovery. Despite all the work he's done, he still has occasional slip-ups. This i now acknowledge is to be expected and not something he should be berated for. It's like someone who is on a diet and accidently has a cheat day. Does that one cheat day erase all the good choices they've made? Of course not, but it's how they get back on track after a relapse that is the most crucial.

I never stopped loving S. I tried to delete him out of my life - unfriended him on Facebook, deleted his cell number out of my phone, and trash-talked him at every chance I got (which I now realize was to convince myself that I was right and he was a "terrible" person for doing this to me.) But despite my efforts, I couldn't stop thinking about him. I would send him emails every one in a while and he would respond. I would get angry and emotional and sever contact again. I reached out to him again on a more permanant basis in March 2017. I could see he had been making much more effort in his quest for sobriety and I found myself falling in love with him all over again. It was like the S I dated at the beginning of our relatioship.

We are currently seeing each other long-distance and he is looking at moving into a sober-living facility for a year. We have talked about a future together, but right now his mental health and sobriety is top priority. Nothing can come before that. Without your mental health you have nothing. So judge S for being an alcoholic. And judge me for choosing to stand by him. Feel free to judge me when you're perfect.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My go-to knitted hat pattern (free!)

I actually created this pattern myself, combining several concepts from other knitted patterns I've come across. I've made about 20 of these tuques in various colours for my students. This hat knits up in about 2.5 - 3 hours. I've also included how I make pompoms (optional). This tuque fits the average 10 year old.

Use bulky (5) or chunky yarn (6) and size 9.0 mm (US 13) needles
Cast on 40 stitches (sts)

Knit 3 inches of ribbing in Knit 2, Purl 2 (K2, P2)

Knit 5 inches in stockinette stitch (knit one entire row, purl the next row, repeat - this will create a right side (RS) and a wrong side (WS) of your tuque.
Begin decreasing to create the top of the hat:

Row 1: Knit 5, Knit 2 together until the end of the row
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: Knit 4, Knit 2 together until the end of the row
Row 4: Purl
Row 5: Knit 3,Knit 2 together until the end of the row
Row 6: Purl
Row 7: Knit 2, Knit 2 together until the end of the row
Row 8: Purl
Row 9: Knit 2 together across the row (9 stitches)

Cut the yarn, leaving a long tail. Using a darning needle, sew through the 9 stitches remaining on the needle. Draw up and cinch it tight. With the wrong side facing out, sew the two sides together. Use the cast on tail to sew through the ribbing. Turn the hat right side out and turn up the cuff.

To make pompom (optional)
Wrap your yarn around a coaster or small book. I chose a small Beatrix Potter book. I loosely wrapped the yarn 100 times. Cut the yarn

Cut a piece of yarn approximately 12 inches long. Carefully slide the wrapped yarn off the book/coaster and set it in the centre of the 12 inch piece.

With the two ends of the 12 inch piece, cinch and knot it tightly around the middle of the wrapped piece. I tend to double knot it on both sides.

With a darning needle and the ends of the 12 inch piece, sew through the middle of the pompom, back and forth a couple of times. This secures it better and prevents it from coming unraveled.
Hold both ends of the 12 inch piece, use scissors and cut all the loops you have created. 

Starting small, trim the pompom into a more circular shape, rounding it off until you achieve the size you want.

Using the two long tails on the pompom and a darning needle, attach the pompom to the top of the hat, securing it firmly.

Wear your new tuque with pride :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 - The Year of Letting Go

To summarize 2016 is difficult. The first half was incredibly challenging. But the second half was a journey of self-discovery and exploration.

The year 2016 was the year I learned to let go - of toxic people, of expectations I had of myself, of expectations I projected onto others, and preconcieved notions I had of myself that limited things I was willing to do or try. I have channeled my inner Elsa and am learning to "Let It Go".

Everyone has an energy, and it's whether you decide to surround yourself with positive or negative ones that ultimately influences your own. Unfortunately for the first half of this year, someone who was very sick and with a very negative energy was one of the closest people to me. I have never been so exhausted and stressed out in my life. After removing him from my life, positive energies and people started to fill that void he left. It was really amazing to see the shift, and how the situation started to balance out. It's OK to let go of people that do not serve you in a positive way. Life is too short to deal with the negative presence of toxic people.

I have always been a planner. I love check-lists. Post-its are life. For the most part, things that I have planned to do in my life - I have achieved. With the exception of my love-life. If I had things my way, I would have been married with a child already. This year has totally reversed that opinion. By me setting milestones such as marriage, or having kids, or purchasing a house with a specific year in mind, I am setting myself up for disappointment. There is no deadline for these things, and I have come to accept that when the timing is right (if/when that occurs) then it will happen. I have also come to grips with the fact that these things may never happen for  me, and I am starting to be OK with that too. Prior to this year, I pinned so much of my identity to my relationship status. I have been somewhat of a serial monogamist since I was 19, going from one long-term relationship to the next, without alot of breathing room in between. Being single was not acceptable.

Being single can be lonely sometimes, but nothing is worse than being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone. I would rather be single, and I will never put myself in that situation again. I have embraced my singlehood in a way that I never have before <3 I have learned this year that happiness is an inside job, and I can't rely on others (particulary men/ romantic partners) to give it to me. I consider myself I pretty successful person and I am happy with the vast majority of what I've done in my 27 years. Being single I always saw as a blemish on my otherwise pretty solid resume - that somehow I had failed, that I wasn't good enough to be chosen by someone as their partner. Now it is something that I have embraced. Being single leaves me open to so many possibilities. Being unattached has it perks - I don't have to factor in anyone in deciding what I want to do with my life, I do what I want. I wanted to take pole fitness classes, so I did. I wanted to brush up on my Spanish, so I registered for college classes. I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I went and bought a board, boots and bindings. I am able to grab life by the horns again, after feeling for the better part of this year, like I had no control at all.

2016 really tested my inner strength in the face of difficult situations and really made me re-evaluate my persception of myself. I am so proud of myself and thankful to my support systems of family and friends that got me through the first half of this year. I think I came out stronger and wiser than I was before. My attitude about my relationship status has also shifted into a positive one. Bring it on 2017!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Yoga in School

Yoga in Schools

          In my four years of experience teaching in a handful of different schools with diverse ethnic and socio-economic populations, the majority of students are rajastic (energetic) and need assistance grounding their prana (calming themselves.) Most educators are quick to coin these students as "unregulated" or "lacking self-regulation". In most cases this is true. Young children, unless they are explicitly taught, have no idea how to calm themselves down and control their words and actions. The notion of being present is usually an elusive one, and many students experience anxiety anticipating "what's next" and trying to predict future events.

          My childhood was the epitome of ideal. Two parents who were happily married, two siblings, a stable home environment, an involved family unit and great support system. And yet I was anxious. I remember having night terrors often as a child. Horror movies rendered me unable to sleep properly for days. To this day, feeling scared is not an enjoyable one. I am most definitely not an adrenaline junkie. School for me was just as stable as my home life and I remember feeling safe and secure at school. I was always a good student and felt I could control my marks and what activities I was involved in. I always loved school.

          My memories as a student in elementary school however do not match the types of behaviour  I am now seeing in classrooms. Every classroom seems to have at least half a dozen "behaviour" students; ones who can't emotionally control themselves, who are "runners" that will just take off out of the classroom without warning, who need to be bribed with iPad time in order for them to do any school work, who are prone to outbursts, who have difficulty keeping their hands to themselves or who are aggressive, volatile or use profane language.

          I believe there are three major factors that are contributing to this epidemic of unregulated behaviour (prana): the overuse of technology,  the overconsumption of sugar, and the lack of mental health education in the school system.

          While technology is a great tool and has benefits, especially for students with learning disabilities, the overuse of technology has a negative effect on the nervous system. The overstimulation of the brain and sensory organs creates agitation, anxiety and a type of addiction. With their brains being accosted by images and sounds and overstimulation, the removal of said devices results in students that have low attention spans, that don't seem to know how think for themselves, be creative or to simply "be bored". It's as if their brains always need something to do. The notion of "downtime" or "quiet time" is not familiar.

          The amount of time spent on technological devices has also put a dent into the amount of time being spent outside in nature. Instead of being outdoors, immersed in the best source of prana, students are often alone, anti-social and indoors where they have access to the Wi-Fi. The internet only came around when I was in Grade 4, but even afterwards, my parents would always send us outside to play; badminton, tag with the neighbourhood kids, manhunt and basketball. Unfortunately for many busy parents, technology is seen as an easy way to keep kids quiet and engaged, with detrimental side-effects from overuse. While sticking an active child on a device may seem like an easy solution, or a quick-fix, it is really just adding fuel to the fire.

          Due to technology we live in a society where everything is quicker and things are expected instantaneously. According to a paper published by Bentley University, "The pace of ever-changing technology is setting us up for an anxiety-ridden society. In this constant state of change, without giving us a change to adapt, it negatively effects our sense of self."  Everything is now, now, now. Even as an adult, when I don't get an instant response to an email or text message, it can cause me anxiety. What are they doing? Why can't they answer? Why are they not replying? Depending on the time of day, I can also be caught compulsively checking my phone and Facebook/Instagram for notifications.

          This instant gratification response I've noticed has had a direct impact on the amount of student patience as well - many of them have none. The idea of waiting for something is a foreign notion - whether it's for a laptop to  start up, or a webpage to load, they easily get annoyed and frustrated that it takes any time at all. In addition to lack of patience, I have also noticed a lowered attention span. Unless their brains are being bombarded with flashy images or text, they disengage and lose focus. It's as though they have a psychological reliance on technological devices; a different type of dopamine (the pleasure hormone) addiction.

          In  the book "The Marshmallow Test," psychologist Walter Mischel describes a research study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960's. Young children were presented with a dilemma. They were presented with a reward (a marshmallow) that they could have right away, or they could wait for up to 20 minutes, and receive a larger reward (two marshmallows). "This idea of delayed gratification unexpectedly turned out to predict much about their older lives", states Mischel. The longer they could wait, the higher their SAT scores, the better their cognitive function in their teens, the better they coped with stress,  the better their self-worth, and the less likelihood they had issues with addiction or obesity. This research study was conducted in the 60's, long before the age of technology, and I would be interested to know the results of the average wait-time of kids today. I imagine the times would be shorter, given the age of instant gratification we live in. Short-term technology looks like a wonderful tool, but long term is it wiring the future generations for failure?

Taoist Lao Tzu is quoted as saying, " “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” I believe the overuse of technology, both at home and in the classrooms is creating a generation of anxious kids. They are always looking for what's next, and the wealth of information and images that flash before their eyes that they don't have the time to process - their brains are on overdrive. The instant gratification response technology is fostering only exacerbates the problem. More, more, more. Now, now, now. Faster, faster, faster. We have to teach them to "unplug", quite literally and figuratively. It's somewhat confusing as well, because the link to anxiety and technology has been firmly drawn in the sand, but the push in education seems to be towards using more technology, not less.

          Another major factor involving children and unregulated prana is the lack of mental health education among educators. As a teacher, it may seem surprising, given our line of work, but there is no mandatory  psychology or child development courses you have to take in order to work with students. As a result, very few educators have any background knowledge in mental health.  Most of my knowledge of mental health has stemmed from my own issues with anxiety, working with counsellors, doing yoga, and reading literature on my own.

          Because of this void of information, from an academic standpoint, as part of our training we are taught about classroom management and punitive measures  to curb unwanted behaviours. Sadly however, this does not deal with the root of the problem. In his book "Lost at School", Ross Greene talks about how students are doing the best they can, with what they know (this can also apply to adults). If students could do well, they would.

          Greene refers to how emotional regulation needs to be in place, before any academic learning can occur. This book really shifted my perspective on children and their needs. There is no way they will be able to take in any new information, if their brains are being all "monkey-minded" and running in a dozen directions at once. If a child's mind is all over the place, typically their body is too - because the mind and body are so intertwined. All behaviour has a root cause, and taking the time to understand their mental/emotional needs goes a long way to facilitating and monitoring improvement. Unfortunately this method requires a lot more legwork and time. Given the demands of educators today, there simply isn't the time to sit down and have  a one-on-one counselling session with all the students in your classroom. The "highest needs" behaviour students get the priority, and sadly many students fall through the cracks and get overlooked. Case in point - me. I was always a "good student" but because my behaviour didn't warrant any addition time, my issues with anxiety went unaddressed for years.

          As with any school subject, mindfulness needs to be taught. According to Ministry of Education documents, students are allotted 200 minutes a week of French, 300 minutes a week for Math and Literacy,100 minutes for Health and Physical Education, 100 minutes of  Music/Visual Arts and Drama and 200 minutes to be split between Science and Social Studies. I can only speak for the classrooms I've taught in, but not 1 minute was spent being mindful, doing breathing  exercises, or doing yoga. Why? Because of the time constraints. The Ontario curriculum is so packed, there is no possible way to cram it all in during the 10 months of the school year. There simply isn't additional time or consideration to factor in managing student energy. Teachers are so busy juggling the curriculum expectations and content they need to teach, prana management takes a backseat.

          Knowing what I know now, it's shocking to me that such a crucial part of the mental health puzzle has been put on the backburner and swept under the rug. Sadly, due to lack of information/knowledge very few educators are aware that implementing a yoga club, or mindfulness minutes during the school day could do wonders to prevent unwanted behaviour. Collectively in the education system, the correlation has not yet been made to positive behaviour in students and being mindful. There are some studies out there, but they have not gone mainstream.      

Most recently there was an article by the Huffington Post in mid-2016, discussing  Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Maryland, that replaced detention with meditation. Instead of sending misbehaving students to the principal's office, they would go to the Meditation Room, to do breathing exercises, do yoga and calm down. Since this strategy was implemented, detentions have gone down and attendance has increased. While not all conclusions can be based on this one case, the science of yoga, and the mind-body connection cannot be ignored. Schools should be encouraged to follow their lead.

          The current state of student mental health is dire. The combination of excessive technology, diets full of excessive sugar, and a lack of awareness from front line educators, has made the school environment a recipe for disaster. Meditation and mindfulness should be taught in all schools as an antidote to try and balance the current situation. We can try and limit the amount of technology, we can try and alter our diet, we can try to be more aware of mental health issues in children, but we can also try to bring mindfulness, meditation and yoga into schools, because it is a powerful tool to rewire the nervous system. Teaching them this means to self-care is essential. Being able to manage your mind is just as important as cramming information into it.

Books Cited
Lost at School, Ross Greene
Monkey Mind,
My Age of Anxiety
Western Body, Eastern Mind, Anodea Judith
The Marshmallow Test: Why Self Control is the Engine of Success, Walter Mischel

Monday, October 3, 2016

EON project - 10 yoga classes with 10 different teachers

E: Experience
O: Observe
N: Note

As a component of the 200 hour YTT (yoga teacher training) I`m doing. I have to attend 10 different yoga classes taught by 10 different teachers. While very exciting, I find it somewhat daunting. As humans we are creatures of habit, we stick to what we like, and avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. I personally have my favourite classes and teachers, so the notion of having to do something that I`m not entirely comfortable with is aggravating. I can admit to the fact that I`m a bit of a control freak - I think I always have been. I am very independent and assertive, and sometimes don`t take too kindly to other people telling me what to do. I`m anticipating that feelings of frustration and anger are going to come about during this process.

Class 1:Wake Up
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Mahaya
Date and Time: October 1st 2016 at 11:00am

I have been to several `Wake Up` classes taught by other teachers. I`m not entirely sure why, but doing any core-work, stokes an internal fire and makes me very angry (digesting emotions perhaps?) Coupled with the fact that I was anticipating a different style of class and the positions we would be doing, changing the routine totally through me off. I dislike feeling unprepared. Again, that's my own issue to sort out, not the style of class or the teacher. There was quite a bit of abdominal poses and being the type-A that I am, likely pushed myself too far (even a couple of days later my tummy is tender). It was a more vigorous class than I initially thought with planks and core work, and mentally I wasn`t really able to shake that. I went in with a certain expectation, and once things started progressing and my expectations were totally off, I mentally tapped out. I`m also not entirely sure why, but for a `wake up' class, I found it made me tired. Yoga in my experience doesn't energize me. It grounds me (maybe a little too much) and I often find myself sleepy afterwards.

My Takeaway: I'm much more of a morning person when it comes to going to class. I would rather get up and start my day off with yoga, than have to try and drag myself to a studio after work. Though I prefer the 7am classes to the mid-morning ones.

Class 2: Yin
Studio : Samatva
Teacher: Justine
Date and Time: October 3rd at 5:00pm

I have been a regular attendee of Yin classes for the last couple years, once I discovered what it was. For a go-go-go person like myself. I need Yin classes to bring balance back to my mind and body. As an elementary school teacher I am on my feet all day and am constantly putting my energy into others. Yin classes let me slow the hell down and re-center. While I dabble in running, these classes are great for stretching out the tendons in your legs, particularly your thighs and calves. Admittedly though I'm more bendy, sitting in a posture for 5+minutes provides ample opportunity for meditation and to just "be". With poses held for longer periods, the emphasis on watching the breath helps in learning to let go. Yin is the yin to my yang and brings balance back to my sometimes chaotic life. Complete with shoulder presses (these minor enhancements I live for) and lavender oil aromatherapy, there are a multitude of reasons that this is my go-to class. I know what to expect with Justine, having attended numerous classes of hers before, so there is no anxiety and no curve-balls to anticipate.

My Takeaway: Yin yoga is the yin to my yang. It is my medicine and antidote that lets me find equilibrium again. It's difficult to venture out into different venues once you find something that works.

Class 3: Kirpalu
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Aileen
Date and Time: October 12th at 4:00pm

I wasn't even aware of what type of class this was going to be when I showed up, so I had absolutely no expectations. Mona sent all students an email, making us aware of a free class if we were interested. So I bit. I'm quickly realizing that I need to start letting go of expectations. I always set them too high, and then when things don't work out the way I want them to - I get disappointed. These cycle has repeated itself many times. Particularly with romantic interests/ relationships. Logically I know that not expecting anything specific is the better way to be. It allows you to go with the flow and just accept it for what it is. But realistically this idea of getting rid of expectations is a relatively new concept and a challenging one for me to overcome. I've always been so goal-oriented, the idea of putting time and energy into something (and perhaps not getting the result I want) and just "letting it go" is both baffling and frustrating.
This was my first ever Kirpalu class, which comprised of an hour of quite a bit of core work (planking and leg lifts), and isometric static stretches. Kirpalu is a branch of Hatha yoga, so it wasn't too intense. I rather enjoyed it, but I also think that is partially because I went in not knowing what to anticipate. Normally core work fills me with rage, but today I was able to just do it, without any attachment.

My Takeaway: Start saying "yes" to new experiences more often, you just might like them. New opportunities give chances for growth. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Class 4: Hot Ashtanga
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Frederique
Date and Time: Thursday October 18th @5:30pm

I was really dreading this class because I have always associated Ashtanga with difficult. Throw in the heat of a hot studio, and it was the perfect combination of everything I avoid. I give a lot of energy in my day-to-day activities, so I look forward to gentle classes to help me unwind. This was my first ever Ashtanga class. Ashtanga is very regimented with specific breathing counts (to 4) and structured poses in sequence and intense strength needed with all the repetition. There were plenty of verbal reminders to stay within the limits of your own body, as some participants were pushing themselves to possibly the point of injury or hurting others (i.e. headstand). It struck me as a more "competitive" form of yoga. I recently found out that the style was originally created for 14 year old boys as a way to manage their prana. As a curvy woman, there were many poses my body simply couldn't do, so I had to sit on my mat and wait for that series of poses to be over before I could rejoin. I left the class feeling somewhat defeated.

My Takeaway: My life off the mat already resembles the practice of Ashtanga with its rules and regimens. While I can totally see the appeal it would have for some people, I think I'll stick to my gentle classes.

Class 5: Lunar Flow and Restore
Studio: Samatva
Teacher: Tracy
Date and Time: October 22 @7:30pm

I rarely take classes this late, I tend to take classes first thing in the morning, so it took concerted effort to go to this class, but I'm glad I did. It was calming and gentle and cooling. As someone with a Pitta-dominant dosha, I am a very intense person. Not surprisingly, I tend to choose yoga classes that are cooling and slow, as a antidote to counteract my type-A personality and my hectic life. The inner perfectionist in me responded very well to verbal assists to check alignment and remembering to breathe. The power of the moon was really highlighted as a cooling, calm, but powerful force. As a Cancer zodiac sign, with the moon a governing planet, this notion really resonated with me. I really enjoyed the cooling, gentle flows and the quieting effect it had. I definitely slept well that night.

My Takeaway: A wonderful cooling flow for fiery times or if you're looking to wind-down before bedtime. I learned a whole new pyramid sequence too.

Class 6: Hatha Yoga
Studio: Kingston YMCA
Teacher: Royah
Date and Time: February, 17th @9am

This was the first time I took a yoga class at the YMCA in several years, I wasn't sure of what to expect. It was a pretty typical hatha yoga class, starting with pratapana (lots of gentle warm up poses) including head rolls, shoulder shrugs, side bends and forward folds. There were some standing poses including mountain pose, warrior, reversed triangle and plank. It was a great gentle class to start the day. I particularly like when teachers read quotes or passages during integration, which was the case in this class.
It was during this class that I realized how much I am uncomfortable with silence. I am always surrounded by sound. In the car I listen to music, at work there are usually kids talking, and at home I had episodes of varies shows on in the background. I'll have to ponder why silence makes me so uncomfortable.

My Takeaway: Seamless transitions from pose to pose make the class flow smoothly and time passes quicker. You're able to stay in the moving meditation easier and more sustained periods.

Class 7: Hatha Flow
Studio: Kingston YMCA
Teacher: Brian
Date and Time: Wednesday March 1st @9am

After my second yoga class experience in a fitness facility like the YMCA, I definitely have a preference for a strictly yoga studio space. The etiquette is completely different and some students attitude towards the space is very lackadaisical, coming and going when they want. I personally find this very distracting. I go to yoga to block out distractions, not to be surrounded by more.
I also noticed that I was somewhat uncomfortable with there being a male teacher instead of a female one. I'm not entirely sure why this was, other than perhaps my preference and "normal" routine of having a female teacher. He, unlike every other teacher, didn't even have a mat because the room was so full. He wandered around the room and demonstrated poses in many different places. I wish I had that confidence. I hadn't really considered the impact of teacher voice until this class. No issue really with the sequences, but I realize my mind was not really present during the class because it kept wandering to the way he was talking.

My Takeaway: The importance of teacher voice, intonation and tone can totally impact a class.

Class 8: Inversions: Lift off
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Kathy
Date and Time: March 27th @5:30pm

I have wanted to be able to do a headstand for the last couple of years but recognize there are many pre-curser poses to perfect before being completely inverted and putting your entire body weight on your neck and head. I have always loved inverted poses, I find them very grounding (when your feet/hands are on the ground) such as forward fold and downward dog. I have struggled to find the confidence in my own strength regarding what my body is capable of doing. Not having the confidence has often prevented me from attempting certain poses for fear of looking awkward and uncoordinated. This class was the smallest class I've ever attended - with only 3 participants including myself. This allowed for a lot of one-on-one attention which I think is crucial when working on inversion poses that involve changing blood flow to the brain and a higher risk of injury. The class started with gentle pratapana and the "So Hum" mantra which I found very empowering. The second half of class was working on shoulder strengtheners and practicing putting some weight on the head with the use of props. I came out feeling much more confident and it strengthened my resolve about working my way up to headstand.

My Takeway: Be more confident in what your body can do. Fear really is the only thing limits us.

Class 9: Power
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Adrienne
Date: April 1st @10am
I am now reminded why I never do Power classes. They make me angry, which is an emotion I don't like feeling. As someone has a Pitta dominant dosha, which is based in the fire element - I hate heat. I dislike the summer (ironic because I was born in the middle of July) and sweat like crazy. Power classes which work the core and generate a lot of warmth in the body, just add more fire to my fire element, resulting in an even bigger fire.  I already sort of knew that I disliked power/fitness classes, but now because of my yoga teacher training I am more clearly able to define why. I choose classes that balance out my fiery dosha and personality - I do not go to power classes if I have the option. I know we aren't supposed to have preferences - but I do when it comes to the types of yoga classes that will be more beneficial for me. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate and stay present because I was trying to just sit with my feelings of rage and being uncomfortable. Adrienne gave us lots of positive feedback and that helped my temper a little. That being said, I love how I feel after a power class - it does make me feel empowered and strong, but the feelings that are evoked during the class somewhat negate that.

My Takeaway: if you want to build core and upper body strength. or are looking for a more fitness style class, power is the route to go.

Class 10: Kundalini
Studio: Janati Yoga School
Teacher: Sarah
Date: April 4th @5:30pm
So I got a sampling of what it's like to be a beginner in a yoga class again. First ever Kundalini class. Similarly how I associate Ashtanga with strength. I knew that Kundalini was very breath oriented. There was a sequence of 10 different postures, most of them seated, and done using the Breath of Fire (very intense and quick inhales and exhales). Who would have thought that breathing would have been such a workout. Sarah was really supportive of us sticking with the forceful breathing, encouraging us and counting down how much time we had left in each pose. Typically my yoga classes ground me and mellow me out, but all the intense breath work moves all the energy up towards the head. I left the class feeling high and tingly all over.
Kundalini is so very different from any other yoga class I've ever taken. The vast majority of my classes involve linking gentle breath with asana. Kundalini is very forceful breath work (pranayama) and the asana really takes a backseat. Integration was also done in virtually the pitch-black (curtains drawn and everything) and after a very intense lung workout was amazing.

My Takeaway: If you want to get your prana moving in a very forceful way - this is the class for you!*Probably not the best option for Vata types