Monday, September 27, 2010

the language of yoga

Here I am at the local Starbuck's in Campbell River, listening to a man talk about his enlarged prostate. This really, really isn't by choice. Obviously along with all the other maladies and remedies he's sharing with his friend, hearing problems must be somewhere on that list. This is definitely one of those moments when I wish they would crank out the music deafeningly loud as it seems I have super hearing and his voice pierces through the hushed tones of the other customers.

Anyway, I'll try and focus on the task at hand.

I just came from the 5:30pm Level one and two yoga class led by Geri at Yoga Solace Studio. I went in with a migraine hovering around my head and body but have come out feeling energetic, revitalized and refreshed thanks to the class and a changing weather pattern.

How wonderful it is that I can go virtually anywhere and drop-in on a yoga class and instantly people are "speaking" my language. The different "dialects" that each place presents makes it all so interesting. I did poses in Geri's class that I've never come across in my 42 years of yoga practice. And, there in an Iyengar style class (note this is my comparison regarding "styles" of yoga, no where does she mention the Iyengar approach) was emphasis on bandhas and breathing that I've not come across in this style of yoga since I left Victoria in '86 (before the formally organized system of Iyengar yoga teacher training evolved).

Yoga room was to the right of the sign behind the raised parking lot
Cathedral is across the street
Just 2 Sundays ago I was in Victoria enjoying the yoga class offered at the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria led by Ty Chandler and as serendipity would have it, the bells of Christ Church Cathedral pealed in the distance sporadically throughout the class and again at its conclusion.  The cathedral is situated just around the corner, directly across the street from what was then the Y's yoga room where I taught my first yoga class under the guidance of the Yoga Centre of Victoria teachers who had taken me under their wings.

Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria
I had the sheer joy of being in Shirley Daventry French's class the previous Thurs morning (the first time since 1986) amongst some of the same teachers and later shared lunch with yet more. A few days prior to this I took part in my good friend Marlene Miller's class at the Peninsula Yoga Centre in Sydney.

So many times during this trip I have had reason to declare "this was worth the trip"; these have been just a few of those moments.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A-1 wild life

Peacocks still rule in Beacon Hill Park
Seagulls and cormorants provide 24 hr surveillance in Sydney
The seals still hang out at the Oak Bay Marina
Herons nest in Beacon Hill Park
And a hardy surf-sailor kicks up a mean wake off Beacon Hill Park 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A-1 tour for Di

lovely humongous tree in Beacon Hill Park

flower gardens in Beacon Hill Park

Snuffleupagus tree in front of the Empress
(may not be the real name of this type of tree)

float house garden entry way

the lawn complete with lawn chair of a float home resident

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nance's A-1 tour

Nance Thacker copyright 1984
click on image to enlarge

It's an overcast day out here in beautiful Victoria B.C. Yesterday began the same way too, but while I was caught in the throws of a 3 hr. computer angst attack, the sun began to shine through the windows of SERIOUS CAFE in the Fairfield neighbourhood where I was enjoying a Chai Latte and beckoned me to come outside and play. (Isn't it amazing that one can experience angst AND enjoyment at the same time - I guess that explains the squirrelly dream I had last night, but that's another post.)

So I thought I'd take you on a tour of Victoria. Please push, crowd and shove as you board the virtual bus.

One summer when jobs were unavailable, yoga classes were drastically cut down, money was scarce, the studio above the laundry was hotter than hades and I was house-sitting, I spent most of my time on a beach like this at the base of the bluffs off of Dallas Rd., taking in the sun, tucked in behind driftwood that afforded both privacy and wind-break. Many impromptu "structures" were built by beach bums more inventive and industrious than I. On particularly blustery days when more cover was essential, I would "squat" in their structures while their occupants where elsewhere. It was an unspoken agreement that (though we acknowledged each other's presence with a smile and a nod, rarely were words exchanged) as long as one respected the territory of another, this was OK.

When I wasn't at the beach, like many of my beach "buddies", I was in the library - we may have been poor, but we were a well-educated lot. I particularly enjoyed this kinetic sculpture whose branches move slowly, windmill-like; a metallic tree turning in the wind. And, as I took this picture the haunting voice of a minstrel busker was carried on the light breeze filtering through the passageway. Victoria possesses many locations that afford the best acoustics for musicians and in this respect at least, is a buskers dream.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reality Check

A headline in the local newspaper the other day was: ELDERLY MAN DIES IN CRASH. He crashed his car "when it appears he went into medical distress". As the details unfolded I envisioned a grey haired gent in his late 70's on his way to his maker only to find that the man was...60.

That's right six-oh, 60, sixty years old, and he's considered elderly. I almost went into shock when I read this. The reporter who wrote the piece is, obviously, barely out of his teens. To consider that a man of 60 has (as Wikitionary's definition of elderly states) "lived for relatively many years" is reasonable but "elderly" doesn't take into account that he probably felt in his prime until "wham" his time was up. It just seems a disservice.

Close to 60 myself, I can accept that I would be, in aboriginal terms, considered an elder. I feel entitled to embrace the hard earned wisdom that the term of respect implies I've gained over the years. But I guess that would make me elderly which is so remote from the word elder. Wikipedia states that, the term elderly "implies or means that the person is retired" which can vary according to the country that one lives in.

Now I know why I have such an aversion to the idea of retirement - I still see myself as a relatively young person. But I guess it is more correct to say that I am youthful or young at heart. But, if I was to die tomorrow the headline would read, ELDERLY WOMAN CROAKS and that sucks. I would be soooo turning in my grave. But really, I won't give a shit by then so what gives?

Today the paper also announced: BEIBER MEMORABILIA SELLING ON eBAY. At the time of the report, a bid of more than $3,500. was reached for a signed school yearbook. Somehow that just seems wrong. The kid's barely a warm bun  out of the oven; I have dust bunnies older than Justin Beiber. I know that admitting this makes me a candidate for WHAT NOT TO WEAR but I have a sweater that is as old as his grandfather.

I know the term memorabilia really is synonymous with the word memento but, it has connotations of nostalgia and history.

I'm waiting for his memoirs. I hear their coming out next week. That should be exciting!
(I started going grey at 30) Nance Thacker copyright 1984
click on cartoon to enlarge

Sunday, September 5, 2010


OMG! The phantom editor is a real person. Her name is Lisa Miriam Cherry and she's just published STORIES FROM THE YOGIC HEART a collection of 27 stories of how yoga has transformed their lives. And, my story, A HOUSE FOR MY SOUL is one of them.

I have found the process, from the initial submission of my story (and notification of it's acceptance), to actually holding the book in my hand, to be TOTALLY SURREAL! For some background see: here and here, and here. (I really think I should really call this blog the SUBLIME AND THE RIDICULOUS.)

True to Lisa's modus operand, just when I was wondering, hmm I wonder what has happened with the book, I received an e-mail from her on August 18th, notifying me that the book launch party was to be held on Sept 2nd at THE YOGA SANCTUARY in Toronto and I was invited... because, my own story A HOUSE FOR MY SOUL appears in the book. I'm skeptical by nature, as you can plainly tell, but it was so.

At the party (which was so much fun) Lisa told me that it has taken her 6 years to produce the book. As thumb through it's pages and read the stories I marvel at the task she set for herself, appreciate the gargantuan effort it took for her to bring this project into the world; a true labour of love. She has my deepest admiration and respect!

I am moved by the stories of the other authors and am deeply humbled that my piece appears alongside theirs. We come from all walks of life and all ages (the oldest yogi is 98 years old); all felt our lives transformed by the grace of yoga practice. As you read you will see that we also give voice to the evolutionary process yoga has undergone over the last 50 or so years. From little specks of light, a shift would take place that would propel yoga into the mainstream of North America.

For the first 7 years of my study of yoga I practiced in isolation, self-taught, through books and TV programs. Meanwhile, others of my generation were doing the same in their own little spot in the universe or trekking to India to study at the feet of masters and bring back the wisdom or serendipitously stumbling across a swami who happened to live in their own neighbourhood or gathering with other self-taught practitioners to share what they had discovered.

My first participation in public yoga class was in 1975 through a yoga teacher training program offered at Sheridan College (which was then a budding, little community college not the internationally renown home of the school of animation that it is now) in my hometown of Oakville, Ontario Canada. I learned about it through an ad in the local paper, THE OAKVILLE BEAVER. At 23, a yoga practitioner and frustrated waitress with a newly minted degree in fine art, I found myself surrounded by eccentric, middle-aged, middle class, white women struggling to find balance in their lives as wives and mothers. Some were already teaching yoga, offering Sivananda influenced classes after hours at school gymnasiums, local YMWCA's and church basements. They formed a kind of yoga underground. This is how yoga was spread in the burbs, in my neck of the woods, in those days.

When I moved to Victoria, BC I became a member of the Yoga Centre of Victoria, an informal collective of individuals who taught public classes and gave peer workshops out of the YMWCA and their own homes. Envisioned and propelled by the driving force of Shirley Daventry French, amongst others, the community practiced the same form of hatha yoga as the Oakville group and was composed primarily of the same demographic to which was added a number of men (mainly husbands at first) and later younger practitioners appeared. Within a few years Swami Radha and B.K.S. Iyengar became our gurus. "Seniour" teachers - some international, some from the states and some Canadians - came to teach their methods. From these modest beginnings a formal yoga centre - the IYENGAR YOGA CENTRE OF VICTORIA - has sprung up in the heart of Victoria.

Not all had an affinity for these chosen masters and a faction of the group split off to follow the teachings of others and form groups of their own - Iyengar, ashtanga, Kripalu, flow, vinyasa, hot yoga, Baptise yoga, Moksha yoga, anusara and others have sprung up in a process of evolution that continues today in centres world-wide.

We are now so resource rich with yoga teachers that young people flock to classes at thousands of yoga centres in North America.

Krishnamacharya, Sivananda, B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Swami Radha, Swami Satchidananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Indra Devi, Baba Hari Dass, Venkateshananda, Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, these are some of the names of teachers and gurus that you will find in the book. If you do yoga they, and all who came before them, are part of your lineage. When you come to the mat you honour them and are responding to your innate need to "come home" and communicate with the Great Spirit, the divine, God.

My practice in all its forms is my refuge, my inspiration, my celebration, my life-long companion, my teacher, my creation, my connection with nature, the universe, all beings and the Great Mystery. It is the unique expression of my heart and spirit.

I am truly blessed that yoga came into my life.

Lisa has not only put together a book that explores how yoga has transformed the lives of it's authors, through their journeys you will discover the seeds of how yoga became, to use a modern expression - "viral".