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How to Make a Difference: A Poem

This Photo by Me & Her Photography This poem was originally written and published by Steve Haase in Aug 2013. To celebrate his birthday we wanted to share this powerful message with you once again and thank you for being part of the Aquin Yoga tribe. The universe did not second guess you, my friend. For billions of years life has labored for you. Now you're here. Alive. How amazing is this? You are life itself—evolution in motion. Your human ability to think and to wonder To plan, and to dream… all are miracles themselves. Creation, it wants to move forward, right now And you are the best circumstances it has. When you hold your thoughts back, feeling not good enough, You deprive all of us of your greatness. When you hesitate to act out of fear of failure, You deny your own divinity.
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5 Tips to Transform Your Side Project Into a Motivating Mission

"What exactly is the POINT of all this work you're doing for the Aquin Yoga site?" I asked Erin last Sunday. It was a sunny afternoon, but all I wanted to do was sit inside brainstorming with Erin about her business and website. Even though this is what I do all week-long for my day job at HubSpot, my enthusiasm for the project overpowered my desire to relax that day. "I mean, let's say more and more people come to the site and check out your posts and audios, what's the ultimate GOAL with all of this?" I continued. "Well, I want to help people… help the people I know and care about to live healthier, more inspired lives." oto by Me & Her Photography "Good, and…" "And I want to start with people here in Hamilton who are doing amazing work and need a community and support to develop their bodies, minds and spirits." Now we were getting somewhere. I had an idea. "Look, what if we create a program that does exactly that? It brings together people who are 'fighting the good fight,' doing amazing things in their local communities and lives but just need some more wind in their sails." The energy started to build. Erin added, "We could start with a weekend retreat here in the area and teach yoga, meditation, nutrition…"
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Is Your Life A Hot Mess? Try These Yin Yoga Baby Steps to Self-Discipline

If you are like most people, you can probably admit that there are areas of your life that could use some tightening up…. or, you know, a complete overhaul (the kind with bulldozers and a full time construction crew). The catalyst for making changes and improving your life can come from just about anywhere.  Something may inspire you, scare you, or even infuriate you to start renovating your life and moving in a new direction. The ability to  follow through on the change you want, however, comes in large part from self-discipline. Photo by Me & Her Photography It takes self-discipline to make a decision to do something radical and see the process through. And the act of implementing this discipline can be difficult, especially if you are out of practice. The two big reasons are: 1)    You feel your life is too hectic and out of control.  Life is busy and you don’t really get a break from living it.  It can leave you feeling suffocated by your responsibilities and circumstances.  For people who feel wildly out of control, applying self-discipline can feel like further restriction.  When we feel restricted, it often forces us into a deprivation model for our lives.  We deprive ourselves of something and then, in a moment of "weakness" we cave and over-indulge in the very thing we didn’t want to do.
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3 Creepy Things About Yoga That Need to Change

Fighting Hartebeest by Filip Lachowski Yoga has completely changed my life.  The practice has provided a fertile ground for traversing the yet undiscovered parts of myself, and the world around me.  Yoga has provided discipline and structure in times when I needed it most.  It has been a touchstone during periods of doubt and disillusionment and a welcome break from my busy life.  Yoga has helped to keep me healthy and most of my close relationships have a connection to that world.  Yoga continues to teach me how to yield and be flexible, and how to stay strong and hold my position. But this is not a Yoga love fest. Even the beloved world of Yoga has its imperfections, and today I want to tell you... 3 Creepy Things About Yoga That Need to Change:
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How to Make A Perfect Green Smoothie

It has been a VERY hot week. The prolonged heat can rob you of your appetite, but as any health conscious, self-aware person knows, it still essential to get enough nourishment. One of my favourite ways to stay on top of good dietary habits in the middle of the summer, is to add a green smoothie to the daily menu. I absolutely love this healthy treat after yoga or a hike and it keeps my body happy. If you are looking for truly sustainable snack to help you maintain your energy even in the deep heat of summer, this might be just the thing for you.
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Yoga Tips for the Summer

Summer and Yoga. Those words look great together, don't they? If you are like me, Summertime Yoga is what you yearn for as you get out of bed and step into a cold dark room, onto a cold mat in the dead of Winter.  What Yogi hasn't had romantic visions of practicing in the sand, on a dock, or anywhere we don’t need to wear 3 layers to keep warm? But, like many of my students, I have found that the fairytale-like conditions of more free time and beautiful weather don’t always lead to a more disciplined practice. Students who take a break or drastically reduce their sessions over the summer, usually have good intentions.  Some promise themselves to practice yoga every evening on the dock at sunset during their time at their cottage, or strengthen their home practice by getting up with the sun and doing yoga before work during the week on their patio.  Without a doubt, there are some lovely aspirations to continue to build everything we have been working on together throughout the year. Sadly,  a good number of my own students return to their regular routine in September with dusty yoga mats, riding high on guilt and shame because they haven’t practiced in weeks or even months. It can be frustrating to feel like we starting over and it may take a long time for students to carve out a groove comparable to where they were before the long break. If this sounds familiar, I have a few simple ideas to help maintain your yoga practice this summer.
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What is Elemental Yin Yang Yoga (and why is it the BEST)?

What is Elemental Yin Yang Yoga? Anyone who has practiced yoga more than a handful of times, probably has a very clear idea of what they like. Some students use Hatha Yoga (physical yoga) to de-stress by moving slowly and prefer to take part in classes that are more relaxed in nature.  A slower approach where you hold postures for long periods of time, exerting little muscular heat and energy, would thus be considered a more “yin” approach to yoga. Other yogis, however, prefer a vigorous practice on the mat. In "yang" forms, students push beyond their assumed limitations of strength and flexibility in order to build heat through breath work and movement. In my signature style of yoga called Elemental Yin Yang, we combine these two approaches to practice in a way that make the class both accessible and challenging for most students. In the yang portion of class, you can expect to move at a fairly quick pace without too many long holds, except for the odd posture one wouldn’t want to hold for too long.  Utkatasana for 15 breaths anyone?
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The Trap of the “Yoga Goal”

In the last ten years, I have taught a wide range of people.  I have led class for professional hockey and football players, MMA fighters , world class musicians, stay at home parents, high powered executives, surgeons, school teachers and even a few circus performers. While one would think that all of these people from different walks of life would approach yoga in very different ways, I have noticed that the trap of the "Yoga Goal" can gobble up anyone, at any time. Photo by Anita Ritenour But wait. "How is having a goal for one’s Yoga practice,  a trap?" You might say. "Isn't is good to have goals?" Here is what I think: On one hand, goals are great. They give us a benchmark. They give us something clear to strive for and work up to, and when we achieve our goal’s, it is a clear sign that progress has been made.  However, the trap of the "Yoga Goal" has caught us when any posture becomes an obsession.
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Standing Balance Pose and Avoidance on the Mat

Balanced Rock by Alan Vernon We all have postures in our yoga practice that we find challenging. As a Yoga instructor however, postures we dislike or avoid can become pathological gaping holes in our classes. For about 4 years, I turned a particular blind eye to anything that had me or my students standing on one leg. One reason was of course that, I didn’t want to risk falling over in a standing balance. Literally falling flat on your face does not instill confidence in one’s “yogic” abilities as a teacher.  Another reason for my own avoidance, was that I couldn’t stand the tortured look on my students faces as they tried in desperation to stand on one leg. (A Note for newer yoga teachers: DO NOT LOOK AT THE FACES OF YOUR STUDENTS WHILE INSTRUCTING A MODERATE STANDING BALANCE.Even the most self-assured instructor will feel a cold chill creeping up their spine if they dare gaze upon the stone cold death stare of their students at this point in the practice. Trust me, stand at the back of the room. Imagine everyone is smiling. Pretend they still love you.) One day, while taking a class with Hart Lazer in Montreal, I was made to stand on one leg holding my other big toe. I wobbled around, felt my ankle burn, hated every moment –my typical experience of the pose. Then, he made us all repeat the posture….while standing on a chair. To be clear, the ground wasn’t far, but falling off a chair while standing on one foot was not a particularly appealing option to me, so instead of fumbling around, I took the risk of falling very seriously and I stood on one leg. The undeniable truth was that I had previously been looking for ways out of the posture, waiting for it to be over and using every uncomfortable microsecond and micro movement of my body as proof that the whole thing was a waste of time and I would never “get it”. Standing on that chair gave me a very real reason to take the posture seriously. I made sure my foundation was strong and focused on nothing other than my responsibility to breathe and do what needed to be done to make the posture work. The whole dramatic story I had been telling myself for years, with the myriad of reasons why I couldn't do the posture was just a lie. While it was true that when I began yoga, I really didn’t have the strength and stability to stand on one leg for more than a few seconds, after years of practicing, I still believed wholeheartedly I was just terrible at balance postures and that would never change. This type of insight comes up a lot in yoga and it is a helpful metaphor for how we view ourselves in the world. Most of us put so many limitations and restrictions on what we believe is possible for ourselves, often because of some outdated experience we once had. Years later, we may still be relating to that old way of being, simply because we haven’t allowed ourselves to explore what is new and possible. This is the real power of yoga and it is just waiting to be uncovered while you stand there on your mat... on one leg.
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