Yinspiration: What Do You Yin For? Part 1

Yinspiration: What Do You Yin For? Part 1

New to yin yoga? Our instructor, Ashley McEachern, asks her students to share their yin yoga journeys in order to help newcomers to the yin yoga practice understand why we yin.

As a yin yoga instructor and trainer, I am continually seeking out both scientific and anecdotal evidence that this practice of long held yin yoga postures, accompanied by therapeutic tools such as aromatherapy, breathwork and guided meditation, can actually help people. In Bernie Clark’s article “A Scientific Basis for Yin Yoga” he effectively articulates that traction, such as the feeling across the spine in yin yoga forward folds, “stimulates the growth of bones and their associated ligaments”[1] while prolonged holds in poses create stress and tension which stimulates myofascial release, elongation of fascia and leads to pain reduction and increased mobility.[2]

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On Yin Yoga – A Well To Do Q&A with Ashley McEachern

On Yin Yoga – A Well To Do Q&A with Ashley McEachern

welltodologo

We here at Well TO Do have been big fans of Ashley McEachern, Toronto yoga teacher extraordinaire, for ages.  In fact, to quote WTD Co-Founder Erin: “Going to Ashley’s Yin class often feels like my version of going to church.”  So, we couldn’t have been more thrilled when WTD Contributor Christine Noonan had the chance to catch-up with Ashley to talk Yin Yoga, aromatherapy, inspiration and so much more!

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To Do List: Nothing.

To Do List: Nothing.

Today’s Dream: Replace schedules with short stories, deadlines with tan-lines, gossip with philosophizing & smog with fresh air and clear water.
Today for the first time all summer, I broke up with busy. I rode my baby blue bicycle to the park, threw down my blanket, and starred up at the bright blue sky. I wrote a mini manifesto, declaring that I would seriously commit to the following three things:
1) Time: A perfect world is a part-time world. I want time to create and embrace empty space. Time to NOT THINK. Or, to think, scream, reflect, cry, and undo the patterns I have become too busy to recognize.
2) Creativity: Words. Not for sale. For expression. For release. For passion, love, inspiration. I need that blessed thing called time to let my creative juices flow.
3) Money: Balance the need to make money with the need to take care of myself. Earn enough money to follow my unbusy dreams.
How could I be creative and thus make money off of my passion without time ? I couldn’t. It took me eight months of working a like crazy – consulting, wedding planning, writing and teaching yoga –  up to 60 hours a week before I was strong enough to admit that I was exhausted. I lost balance. Totally and completely took the plunge. In the end I was losing weight, getting sick and unable to get a good nights sleep simply because I said yes to everyone and everything that came my way. I was stretching myself so damn thin that no one, not my clients, my employers, my partner nor my friends were getting the best of me. Hell, they weren’t getting any of me.

 Appears that going from a busy buddhist to a serious, committed, meditating, balanced lifestyle is a big of a shock. I used to be busy all the time. Like too busy. Too busy to even realize how busy I had gotten. Today was the first time in months that I took enough TIME to simply sit, read, relax, write for me, garden, call old friends… to just be. Truth be told, it was challenging. I realized that over the last year here in Toronto, I got seriously addicted, like many in our society, to doing.

The New York Times assures me that I was (am?) not alone in this struggle. Tim Krieder writes an article The Busy Trap where he smacks us busy folk in the face. Why? Because, they are busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence. Suppose the free hours can help me determine how I want to really, really live my life. I know its not busy. How do I know this? Because the happiest days of my life were spent living in the middle of the Colombian jungle, with a few lovely visitors and nothing to do but cook, clean, read, write and teach. Ill take that over busy any day. 
But in the meantime, I gotta learn how to get over my busy addiction… and my guilt complex for not teaching five classes a day and writing a best selling book. So here they are, my practical strategies to stop being busy.

Practical Strategies to STOP BEING BUSY.
  1. Be unbusy. Yep. Simple isn’t it? I am going to sit in my unbusyness. I am going to start reading the news again, writing silly stories, gardening and calling old friends.
  2. Give myself permission to do potentially un-financially rewarding tasks that fuel my soul, like writing.
  3. Determine the life I want and stick to it. I decided that I would not work weekends. Having worked in retail for years, I missed many holidays and weekends, and moving to my self-employed role, I promised myself not to do it. And then I realized, woops, I had indeed picked up a yoga class every day of the week, leaving me no TIME to go visit my family, head to the island or get lost in High Park. No. I will not work Saturdays.
  4. Cook beautiful meals. Part of being busy meant that my diet took the hit, and my wallet. As a gluten intolerant eater, I dropped 12$ a day on a salad at Fresh that I could have made at home and ate for days! Yesterday, I made a wonderful meal for my partner and I and sitting to eat, after leisurely cooking for an hour was magic, and oh so missed.
  5. Strategic To-do lists. I still have lots to do, but I can do it without being busy. I remember one point in my life where I was scheduling massage, acupuncture, floating, yoga and work back to back and frankly, not healing from any of it. Not anymore. The new to dos mean there will be EMPTY space between appointments and clients. Eg. “To Do: Nothing”.
  6. Meditation. 11 minutes a day. That is all. Try it.
  7. Accept nothingness. I teach restorative and leave blissed each practice, though I have not actually practiced myself. Why? Because, the purpose of restorative really is to do NOTHING, so I get to experience the energies of busy people like myself in their nothing time. Relief. Peace. Heavenly. What we all need.
  8. Wake up without an alarm clock, and surprise, I’m waking up earlier every day. Setting a morning routine and ditching the AM rush has been a wondrous shift in my quality of day. No technology until 9am. No technology after 10pm.
  9. Ask for help. Delegate tasks. A life long lesson of letting go, trusting others and chilling the f out.
  10. Sunday is family day, church day, community day, and for me, its going to be island day. Embrace one special day with people that inspire you. Do nothing with them. Or yoga followed by margaritas. You decide.
Want to do nothing with me? Join me for a 30 minute guided meditation each Tuesday at YYOGA on Queen Street West, followed by Restorative Yoga.
 Want a special credit for some comfortable, locally made, sustainable yoga and meditation clothing to wear while you are being unbusy? Visit my friends at http://www.myinnerfire.com/ and use my discount code “AshleyMc” for some yoga gear love.

You Need To Eat REAL FOOD

You Need To Eat REAL FOOD

I am a yoga instructor. Most days, I teach three to five yoga classes, including hot yoga, commuting on my one gear bicycle from one studio to the next in the ‘in-between’ times, and sneaking in my own personal practice during the rare breaks that extend longer than an hour.

For the past six years, I genuinely believed that my delicious peanut butter chocolate chip protein bars, protein shake and green juice was sufficient (and healthy) fuel to support me throughout my days. I presumed that the protein powder in my morning smoothie would benefit my system considering the amount of physical activity I was doing. I was certain that despite the high levels of cane sugar, palm oil and obscure “natural flavours” listed in my go-to snack bars, consuming them was the right thing to do for my hyper-active lifestyle.

Six months ago, I learned, the hard way, that I was wrong. My teaching schedule had picked up, meaning I would leave the house at 9am and not return until 9pm Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was teaching more hot yoga than usual and never missed a personal practice. It was mid-October, and while the muscles and the money were flowing, my overall health was not. Something was wrong. It all came to fruition one day when I literally had to pull over on my bicycle on my way home from teaching, and vomit in an alley. It was humiliating and traumatizing, but the precise reality check I needed after months of ignoring my bodies’ more subtle signs (re: headaches, nausea and dehydration).

I began to visit all of the specialists, naturopaths, acupuncturists and MD’s I could get my hands on. We did all of the tests, from blood work to diabetic testing and beyond. I tried taking pills for adrenal fatigue and stacking my water with electrolytes. But time and time again, the same message came through from all of the people I entrusted my well-being to.

“You need to eat real food”.

In our moderScreen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.43.58 PMn day of busy living, mom’s home cooked meal is more of a pipe dream than a daily reality. Those twelve hour days left me little to no time to prepare a healthy meal that would actually fuel my body. While few companies are marketing a chicken roast with veggies and potatoes as the athletes daily dinner, it seems to me that the athletic world has become dangerously obsessed with micro-protein shakes, bars and juices.

This is not enough.

It is not enough for me, for my students whom I watch reach for a protein bar after taking a lunch time hot yoga class because they don’t have time for lunch, having just enough time  to squeeze in yoga instead.  Working in the wellness world I see athletes and yogis (myself included) continually exhaust their resources, surviving off high sugar protein bars and juice, and end up sick, when all they needed was a hearty balanced home cooked meal.

Finally, I bit the bullet and I signed up for a healthy meal delivery plan. The hardest part was my ego getting over the fact that I was not “together” enough to cook my own meals, that despite being a yoga teacher, I had not been honouring my body as I instructed my students too. Alas, when I overcame the self-imposed shame and guilt of not cooking and self-caring, I struggled with the numbers. It felt easier to spontaneously spend money on grab-n’go foods rather than fork out a monthly amount to a food delivery service. I assumed I was saving money.
Yet, when I finally sat down with my financial advisor, it became devastatingly clear that the amount of money I was spending on juices, shakes and bars was MORE than I would be spending on three meals a day that are stacked with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.

The results were fast and furious. No more headaches. No more roadside spews. No more living in fear of my diminishing health. I had to redefine what healthy meant in my own life, scaling down my schedule to teach less hot yoga classes and scheduling time to actually sit down and enjoy a full meal.

I often lead a yoga sequence based on the stomach energy line in our body, and I have started to invite students to ask themselves – how are you eating? What is the first thing you grab when you wake up and the last thing you consumer when you go to bed? How do you feel after breakfast? After lunch? After dinner? How much ‘eating’ time is spent plugged in? Do you sit to eat, or are you walking, running, rushing? I believe that ‘diet’ should really mean, daily self-reflection on the way that we nourish our bodies, and I am so grateful that there are people out there ready and willing to take care of us. 

Check out my friends at https://healthymealplan.ca/ or take a day off and cook yourself a well-deserved home made roast with veg and soup and salad and… enjoy 🙂

Namaste,

Ashley Holly Yoga

Desperate for the light

Desperate for the light

She roars.

Imprisoned by the shore.

Layers and lesions from her days as a whore.

Swept off her feet by a gangsters deceit.

So swept that the fed him and bed him his first born.

A girl.

But so soon he left.

And she all but wept.

Fell for a new man on the brink of death.

Too soon so was she, in the hands of his misery,

hands that hit, hands that bit, hands that tortured until

she slit her own wrists.

She’d gone from bad to worse.

now bad had cleaned up.

so she begged him to save her.

from her new lovers thrust.

and he did, but fell back, into his holy ruin.

hands wringing the neck of the man who he knew.

hadn’t just hit, the woman, but had hit his girl too.

So he called up a friend from his time at the zoo.

said “kill him now. send him to his doom”.

two days later, misery met grief.

and the tears that she’d swallowed ran so deep you could see.

that love and pain are one in the same.

that love and hate are reflecting states.

rage met passion, love sparked lust,

and the screams for redemption were triggered by that thrust.

her hand, raw and broken.

from the wall it had bust.

when she aimed for her daughter.

but hit his old stash of dust.

Hit it once, then again, then again once more.

Any thing to kill the pain that was choking her.

Now that the bad was back in the gang.

and the worse was dead and shamed.

she sat on her porch.

for a melancholic sit.

looked at her baby girl.

playing in a pile of shit.

looked at her legs.

bruised and burnt.

looked at her life.

how quickly it had turned.

She wept enough tears to.

drown herself that night.

Then set herself on fire…

desperate for the light.

* Inspired by a conversation with the characters in the story that wrung my heart.

The yogi’s superpower is deep self-reflection

The yogi’s superpower is deep self-reflection

Two newlyweds strolled down the 118 stairs to reach me at the ocean shore this morning. One has green eyes that reflected like treetops rising above her rugged old green t-shirt. Looked like the kind of t-shirt you would get for free after volunteering at a  Cancer walk for a day. The other, she had flowing blonde hair draped over oily skin. She looked like she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Smiling incessantly as I moved them from one yoga posture to the next. “We are here to rest. We just need to stop. No adventures. No plans. Just five days of nothingness before we go back to real life”. This seemed to be the norm here in the Caribbean. People, often newlyweds aged 30-45, were coming here to this little cove in St. Lucia with the sole intention of stopping. “We live in a  high-rise in the middle of busy city in the UK. The view from all of our windows is just concrete. We just need to stop and breathe”. I heard a cry for help before they even hit their yoga mat. Settling in to their breath, I asked them to sit and listen to the birds, the ocean and the wind for the forthcoming minutes. I put them in the yoga asanas, one and then another, and watched as they grinned and smiled at one another, like something huge was happening and I had yet to learn the secret. I peppered the asana with insightful comments about how anything is possible, how what you believe in becomes you reality, how important it is to sit still and breathe out anything that does not serve you. They smiled and moved and listened like good students do. An hour later as they rose from savasana I noted tears in their eyes.

“That was really good. I forgot. We need to do that all the time. Can we come every day? Is there yoga every day? It’s so powerful.” the questions spewed out of her like a vomiting newborn. And so did the tears. Her partner held her hand. We sat. She asked me “What are you doing here?” I replied, “I am a consultant for the spa, and I am teaching yoga in the mornings for three weeks. I used to be an office drone but I was unhappy, so now (motioning towards my yoga mat and the great sea behind me) this is my office”. Her eyes widened and her partner excitedly exclaimed “See baby, you don’t have to live life the way you are living it. There are other options out there”. And so came their stories. She who wept was a doctor, in the final few months of her residency, broken but not yet dead (not yet she reiterated), exhausted, unhealthy and uninspired. She sneaks away and cries in the supply closet and dreads the forever of workaholism that sits ahead of her. The money isn’t worth this. She is creative, she explained to me. “Well, I used to be creative. I would create art and designs. I haven’t in years. I don’t know if I even remember how anymore” She looks up at her partner proudly, “Margo is an acupuncturist. She is peaceful. Published author too, but peaceful. She saves me. We bought a house in Rhode Island, with a view of the sea. I think I need to move on. Overhaul. I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. I want to be healthy and happy and creative and have community” the tears continued. The holding continued. “I’m ready. Thank you” she said. “Thank you for helping me see clearly”.

Homework

What do you need to change in your life to feel supported, healthy and nourished?

What do you need to let go of to find balance rather than chaos?

Do it now.

Find the Gem Every Person Has to Offer You

Find the Gem Every Person Has to Offer You

Married 44 years. Three children. Two grandchildren. One on the way this January. “So we come on vacation now instead of January because we must be there for the birth of our grandchild”. He has a humility in his brown eyes set upon his leathery skin. She paces back and forth from English to Hindi and back again announcing neat things she sees in her magazines. “We love to travel – we travel the world you know”. He seems proud and she grins earnestly beside him.

He leans in, articulating his words in his thick accent to accommodate me and the purr of the airplane. “Last year, one whole month, we travelled to Thailand to Laos to Vietnam to Cambodia” He is smiling charismatically. I ask naively if they backpacked, ignorant to the fact that very few folks en route to the Sandals resorts in St. Lucia took to backpacking. “Ohhhh no!” He laughed. “You see we rented a private driver because we had a very important project to complete. We went to a small hilltribe village in Vietnam – right on the border – to meet” he stops, holding me in a state of anticipation…”to meet our foster child!” She squeezes his hand tightly, the way that only lovers that stuck it out for a lifetime could. He continues, “we were the first foreigners in history to visit their village. We had to hire a security guard and a lady from Plan Canada to take us there. You know our granddaughters write her letters now? They color pictures for her and she sends pictures back.” I wonder why he is telling me this story. We have been squished together on the plane for nearly two hours without a word shared. His wife leans in and says “We come to St. Lucia to celebrate our 44th anniversary. We are so lucky you know. We are so blessed. All of us…” her eyes sweep the herds of middle-class foreigners about to disembark on a tourist-ridden Caribbean island.

They both catch my eyes in a piercing glare. “Do you know how lucky you are?”

They smile until I nodded my head and reply “Yes, we are all very lucky, aren’t we?”

Homework:

What makes you lucky?

Name three people that you are grateful for and write them a letter, call them or tell them how grateful you are.