This article was originally published on November 18 2015. It has been updated and reposted as I feel this contemplation is relevant today.
It is hard to make sense of our world sometimes.
When I began studying The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine one of the most fascinating parts for me and many of my Acupuncture colleagues was the idea that each person has a constitution.
While we are a complex mix of energies, cultural influences and sets of conditions based on our personal life circumstances, in this system each person has one Element that stands out.
The "element of primary influence" as I like to call it can be both the greatest strength and weakest link for you. While it is important to never reduce yourself or another into one particular personality type or constitution, I will say that knowing a little more about how the Five Elements work in human beings can dramatically change your relationships.
For me and many of the students who are working with me this year, learning the element of themselves, their partner, close friends and even their students has given them the opportunity to change their perspective and offered different ways to communicate and function harmoniously.
If you missed it, I have been leading a 20 Day Yoga Challenge this month. A group of my yoga students and I have committed to doing at least 20 minutes of yoga each day for 20 days. It has been refreshing to share my practice with others and also to stay connected to the physical expression of Yin Yang Yoga.
However, physical yoga (yoga asana) is the tip of the iceberg.
On July 19th I am taking this exploration beyond the mat and hosting a free weekly online bookclub. We will be going through my newest book Elemental Yin Yang Yoga together and you can take part even if you haven't read the book yet.
Whats the point of this bookclub?
I don't know about you but when I read a book on yoga theory or lifestyle, I come up with a lot of questions. As an author I do my best to answer those questions but responding to emails and having very little time to chat with students at the end of class doesn't feel like enough.
So I am making myself available to everyone who registers and joins the conversation. Together we will share insights, ask questions and virtually "meet" like minded yogis who want to explore the benefits of Elemental Yin Yang beyond the yoga mat.
Why should you sign up?
Sure, you could just read the book on your own.
But if you sign up you will get access to an exclusive page where you can not only ask me specific questions about the book but also read it along with me and a community of others with the help of my personal notes and reflections.
There are also a few perks to registering for this free content. You will get:
These are my gifts to you for your interest and participation in the bookclub.
Register here before July 19th to get access to the club and all the bonuses!
We are also hosting an online contest. If you share the link: www.aquinyoga.com/bookclub on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #elementalyinyang you will receive an additional entry into our draw as thanks for spreading the word.
This article was originally published on Oct 15, 2013. It has been updated AND a free yoga audio has been added. Please enjoy!
Poor sleep doesn't happen all at once.
It may begin with a few late nights here and there. Perhaps you are sparked by an interesting idea or conversation or have loose ends to tie up from the day. At other times, the late nights and restless sleep may be a symptom of having too much weighing on your mind—an attack of the dreaded late night stress monster.
In fact, so many people have sleep issues that we as a culture, have begun to normalize them. Every time I read a study about how copious amounts of coffee are suddenly good for you or that getting less sleep might help you to be more alert, it makes me want to scream into my chamomile tea.
Personally I know that my own sleep cycle has swung out of control when I wake up exhausted, and keep hitting the "snooze" button until I am left with the least possible amount of time to get ready.
Perhaps you can relate.
If you are ready to redirect yourself back on the path to quality sleep and better health, I have some tools for you.
The first key is to develop better habits or proper “sleep hygiene.” Granted, this is simple common sense stuff, but most people find that bad habits are a huge culprit for poor sleep.
Parts of this post where originally published on Sept 25, 2013. It has been entirely updated for your reading pleasure. Enjoy the tips!
Last week I opened the doors to my 20 Day Online Yoga Challenge. This flexible and fun challenge is perfect for keeping up a regular practice over the summer if you happen to be away or are simply looking for something outside of your regular studio class.
However, it takes a certain mindset to cultivate a solid home practice.
And sometimes trying to self-generate inspiration on the yoga mat becomes more of a chore than a joy. So in addition to sharing my challenge with you, here are some ideas to help you create a consistently, outstanding practice at home.
1. Make Space and Set the Mood
Before you begin your practice, make sure you have everything you need, your mat, your blocks and clothing appropriate for your environment and the temperature. At bare minimum, you need enough level, uncluttered surface area immediately surrounding your mat to move on.
In an ideal situation, you should set up the space to be beautiful, inspirational and alive.
The space and mood of your setting then becomes an extension of your practice and makes you feel joyful and ready to have the best practice possible.
Be rigid about being comfortable enough to let go on the mat.
This is so important!
One might think yoga in a forest at twilight is going to be blissful…and for the mosquitoes eating you alive, it just might be. Find a place to practice whether it’s indoors or outdoors that isn’t going to pull your focus off the mat for any reason.
Yoga is a lodestone practice for many people. We turn to our mats to keep the body and mind happy and healthy. We get on the mat to work out the stagnation of careers that keep us sitting all day or working our minds to the brink of exhaustion.
For you, yoga might be the constant in a life filled with ups and downs and growing uncertainty.
But what happens when you suddenly don't feel motivated to get up and on to your mat or to your favourite class?
I have written about this before, but as we enter the summer months this topic may require another look.
The fact is some of my regular students take the summer off and then come back to their mats in September with pangs of regret that they didn't make room for yoga during those balmy months.
After that brief hiatus, the body starts to crave the rhythm and fluidity of the postures while the mind reaches to find space and clarity that a good yoga practice can provide.
And I understand completely.
While the weather is beautiful I like to spend more time outside enjoying the warmth, hiking trails, and any combination of pools or lakes I can jump into. But on those longer breaks from my yoga practice, it feels like something is missing.
Yoga is not just a physical practice afterall. It is a ritual of movement that can awaken and connect with the subconscious levels below our daily operating system.
More and more I see how many of us need that time on the mat in order to be more aware and deliberate in the world.
That is why this summer I am determined not to let my practice wane.
But like I have mentioned so many times before on my podcast, for most of us having an accountability partner is key to helping us stay on track and stick with our commitments.
So, I want to be your accountability buddy on the mat.
Today I am opening the doors to a 20 Day Elemental Yoga Challenge. From July 1-20 I am going to create a series of videos (and a few audios) that you can follow for your daily practice. The challenge is to do at least 20 minutes of practice per day. If you have the time and energy for more you can simply pile up a few of the sessions together to great the length of your desire.
Yoga is a powerful practice.
Physical asana (the poses themselves) can help to make your body supple and strong.
An hour of movement focused on honouring your body and your breath can produce countless positive side effects for your well-being.
But sometimes due to the relaxed nature of many styles of yoga, it is easy to forget about one of the most important benefits to regular practice; inner strength.
True, that there are many more intense physical and spiritual paths that demand the cultivation of your deeper resolve. It takes momentous effort to climb a mountain or participate in an IronMan. And surely, monks living in secluded monasteries know a thing or two about self-discipline.
But for ordinary people who don't wish to become elite athletes or dedicate their lives to religious practice, yoga is one possible path to developing profound inner strength.
One simple reason is that study of yoga in any and all its forms takes discipline.
It takes time and effort to embark on a physical or spiritual practice like yoga and once you get deep enough, you realize that there is no prize and no public acknowledgment to pat you on the back for getting to your mat (unless you are an Instagram yoga star, but even that attention is fleeting).
It sometimes takes heroic effort, but it is your own personal resolve that causes you to show up again and again.
And the benefits you experience are the ones you create for yourself because you showed up and paid attention to both the limitations and the opportunities on the mat that day.
No one else can do your practice for you.
You can't outsource it and it is a project that will take a lifetime.
Cultivating inner strength however, doesn't have to be grueling.
On Friday nights for almost a decade when I am in Hamilton,ON I teach a Friday night Yin Yang class. De La Sol has been my teaching home for a long time and this class is one of the highlights in my work week.
Now that we are officially into May I wanted to share a Spring inspired playlist that includes some of my favourite songs to use on the mat to get the body moving at this time of year.
Enjoy and let me know what tunes you are rocking on your mat right now.
Updated from its original format. First published Sept 9, 2013
Happy Spring Equinox!
The first day of Spring is a huge relief from winter's chill. Today we can start to look forward to new growth and possibility for the season ahead.
As an Elemental Yin Yang yogi this is also the time to welcome Wood energy into your life for the next few months.
(If you aren't familiar with Wood energy you can learn about the basics here.)
In preparation for all the creative output and work we are planning for here at Aquin Yoga HQ, I spent some time this weekend decluttering my office. (That's a picture of my badass library in fact.)
But decluttering physical space is just a part of my Spring cleaning routine.
The most important way I prepare to get productive for these next few months is by cleaning up my thinking and getting clear on my goals.
To do that I use an array of tools and techniques and my hope is that by sharing them with you, you will find a few more ways to make your Spring amazingly productive.