01 July 2015

Downward Chihuahua: A Lesson in Genetics

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” Henry Ford
“A Belief is a Thought You Keep Thinking.”

We can learn a lot from our four-legged friends: unconditional love, forgiveness, infectious joy.  Dogs don’t fret over the future or obsess about harms done; the innocence and loyalty of puppyhood carries through to their final days. For some of us, these are natural tendencies; for others it’s a work in progress.

I researched the Chihuahua breed before adopting. Experts say they that they’re yappy, territorial, and nippy—a mighty personality in a miniature body. But Roxane didn’t fit the criteria. Pensive and submissive, all was well in her world with a friendly face and warm body to cuddle up to. Basia was the opposite. Weighing less than two pounds, she braved each day with the courage of a natural-born warrior. Even though she was the newest addition, she staked her claim and made it known that she would be the pack leader.

Nature or Nurture                                      
Whether we are born a certain way—the random result of genetics—or a product of our environment is a longstanding debate between scientists and sociologists. Although each side has their own theory, no definite conclusions can be drawn.

Most of us agree that hair colour, eye colour, and height are genetically predetermined. And most can agree that language and facial expressions are adopted from our environment. But the line is less clear when it comes to personality, intelligence, or talent, for example.

Are We Just Another Chihuahua?
So what separates us from the animal kingdom? Are we hardwired at birth to shrink in the face of opportunity or to live large, stand tall, and rise to any occasion?

To be born into the Western world is to be born into the land of opportunity. Clean air, running water, and fresh food: these freedoms are the foundation upon which dreams are built. Happiness is our birthright. Unlike our canine companions, we can observe, reflect, and ultimately choose who and how we wish to be. Like two sides of the same coin, fear or faith, love or hate, it is nothing more than a choice that we make.

What do you choose?

30 June 2015

Kino MacGregor: Fall in Love with the Practice

Working for Sweat Equity Magazine over the years has put me in touch with some of the most vibrant, brilliant, and inspiring yoga teachers I’ve known to exist, and some I have yet to meet. This issue (June/July), one of my all-time favourite yoginis is sporting the cover of the magazine. As bright as she is talented, as poised as she is poetic, the most controversial yogini to date–Kino McGregor–talks about falling in love with the practice of yoga.  

26 June 2015

Lighten Up: with Rodney Yee


Sweat Equity Magazine July Issue
If anyone were destined for a life on the mat, it’s Rodney Yee. Physically ambitious in youth (Yee was a skilled gymnast in highschool), with an innate curiosity about the complexity of the mind, the stage was set for Yee’s mastery early on. From high school Yee went on to study philosophy and physiotherapy at the University of California in Berkeley, but he wouldn’t stay to graduate. His interest in the science of movement gave way to rigorous physical commitment, and he dropped out of school to study ballet full time. If flexibility were the only criteria for determining the success of a yogi, Yee’s destiny was written well in advance. But that was only the foundation upon which his monumental career would grow.

Yee’s natural curiosity about the mind-body connection drove his scholastic decisions, complemented the rigors of ballet, and finally brought him to the front door of an IyengarYoga class, with a mind and body in need of healing. As so many teachers have said before, Yee was hooked after the first class. But did he forecast international acclaim as a yoga teacher? Did he anticipate national prominence in the early 1990s, when yoga was hardly a household word?

If Yee wasn’t aware of his untapped potential, Gaiam was. The fitness-based corporation (whose title roughly translates to mean “I am Earth”) offers props, products, DVDs, books, and CDs devoted to supporting widespread consumer interest in health and wellness. Rodney Yee is their most celebrated yoga ambassador and, quite literally, the early “roots” of the corporation; it was here that his rise to stardom began. Countless instructional videos, guided meditations, yoga programs, and live-streaming TV shows, in addition to guest appearances on Oprah Winfrey, CNN, and PBS made Yee a yoga icon.

Rodney’s dedication to the physical practice is obvious. His physique and charm have escorted thousands of people worldwide to the practice of yoga. But less obvious is the generosity of the man behind the mat. He’s been extensively involved in charitable work and, with his wife, Colleen, co-directs the Health and Wellness Initiative of the Urban Zen Foundation (Donna Karan’s project to help incorporate complementary practices into health care).

From humble beginnings to celebrity status, Yee fit’s the profile of success. But the desire to share the fruits of his labour is what makes his success worth celebrating.
Built on a foundation of commitment and service, engaged in all aspects of a holistic lifestyle, Yee is the epitome of his sponsor’s namesake. He is a living example of yoga.

21 June 2015

Old Age and Beauty

There is nothing exclusively beautiful about youth. Just as a sapling is no more beautiful than an old oak tree, neither are we more beautiful when we are young and less so in later years. As with the old oak, we are more majestic and wise with each passing day, more worthy of awe and inspiring beyond measure.

But our capitalist society won’t benefit from our Self-realization. All marketing, all advertising, and all consumerism succeed only to the extent that we believe in the lie of our inadequacy.  

Don’t buy it. Literally. You are perfect, complete, a profound manifestation of all that is brilliant and good, just the way you are.

Here are four simple ways to help you remember:

1.     Spend time in nature, alone. Nothing is as powerful a tool for connecting with your essence as time spent in nature.

2.     Eat live foods. Eat fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts: processed junk clogs the body and dulls the mind. Intuitive knowing is polluted by processed junk. If you don’t believe me, eat a medium pizza and notice how you feel. Then eat a large salad full of sprouts and greens, and notice how you feel. Feel the difference?

3.    Meditate. Spend ten minutes a day in solitude, mindfully noticing the rhythm of your breath, the tingling sensation of life force in your body. These will connect you with the subtleties of being that go unheard and unrealized in the clamor of daily life.

2.     Do Yoga. Yoga is the scientific study of the mind and an eight-step path to Self-realization. It is so much more than stretching! But the body, through asana, is a good starting point. 

Enlightenment is the process of remembering, not achieving, your state of pure being (at all ages and stages), which is manifested perfection, beauty, wonder, and infinite bliss.  

12 June 2015

Expand Your Mind

Eastern traditions know the body and mind to be a unified system. Dis-ease or pain is the physical manifestation of a deeper phenomenon. As we connect with our body through asana, we tune into our emotional and spiritual needs.

Flexibility’s not limited to muscles and joints; it is also a way of thinking. If the body is tight or rigid, it’s more difficult to be open-minded. As we release tension in the physical body, our perspectives shift to allow other concepts and considerations to enter into our realm of possibilities, which are infinite.  In stretching the body, we expand the mind.