Deep Thoughts

Boyfriends come and go, yoga stays forever

I’m one of these people that just loves to clean up messes. Take in strays. Fix people. Put everyone else first and focus on the potential rather than the damage being done currently. And as you can probably guess, this hasn’t worked for me or any of my “projects.”

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on why this is since I began my yoga practice, as I typically feel most drawn to the mat when I’m going through some shit. See, anyone who knows me well, knows I have a track record of shitty relationships. And since another one just ended, I spent last Friday night Netflixing The Perks of Being a Wallflower with my parents. There was a scene that slapped me in the face (in a good way):


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Sam: “Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we’re nothing?” Charlie: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

But whatever brings people to yoga — whether it’s a physical reason such as a desire to lose weight, complement your time at the gym, heal an injury or gain flexibility, or a more internal motivation to heal your heart from a loss, addiction or breakup — the yoga is going to start working on you. It’s going to start enlightening you. It’s going to make you strong on the outside and therefore strong on the inside. It’s going to make you love yourself. And no matter what got you on your mat, as long as you’re there you’re doing it right.

I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never had any serious physical ailments that have demanded or challenged my practice (other than instability, inflexibility, etc.) My reasons were more internal. Things like self-esteem, body image and anxiety. At first it was like a chore: I’d be busy at the office all day and try to finish up and run over to the studio still in full-on, ego-charged work mode. Never finding softness, never tapping into the meditative side of yoga and never opening the lines of communication between my body and mind. I would think about how friggin’ hot it was, or how inflexible or bloated I was, and when I looked in the mirror I was comparing myself to everyone else.

But when I was drawn to the mat because I was trying to really heal myself internally (recent history includes quitting my job this past winter with some major fear of judgement issues and lack of support, and obviously a few failed relationships) the yoga started working on me. I became more and more aware of my body by allowing my physical movements to communicate with my thoughts. Sound crazy? Try relaxing your eyebrows right now. Just do it. Chances are you’re looking at a bright screen. Maybe your phone and you’re unconsciously straining the muscles around your eyes. How much better did that feel? Now do lift your chin up, close your eyes, and do it again.

Now when I look in the mirror, everyone around me is a blur. All I hear is my heartbeat and my teacher’s instruction as if it were coming from a faraway cave. My gaze is balanced between looking inwards and outwards into the fiery eyes of my own reflection. Throughout all of these what could seem like “setbacks,” I have not felt discouraged or afraid. My last relationship actually ended on decent terms, because I was able to trust my intuitions through yoga and the self-reflection and self-love it induces. I was able to know what I deserve. And I knew before it ended that I would be okay; I had yoga and I was grateful even through the toughest moments. It’s that feeling of reassurance, just like knowing your family and friends always have your back, no matter what.

Last week, I discovered that yoga can literally be a shoulder to cry on, when I cried a little during my Vinyasa practice. Sometimes the conversation between body and mind starts off a little intensely. “Camel Pose” Ustrasana for example, is known to be one of the deepest heart-opening postures that trigger all kinds of emotional responses. And although it’s a back bend, it doesn’t require an excessive amount of strength or balance or flexibility. Yet there are days when all I have to do is lift my chest up and cactus my arms, and my heart feels vulnerable.


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Ustrasana or “Camel Pose”

If music is what feelings sound like, then yoga is what feelings actually feel like. Which is a killer combo to heal the heart: music and physical release. Sometimes after a breakup all you wanna do is stay in your room and blast Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You”. Now imagine doing that to a heart-opening yoga flow. The point is, pouring rubbing alcohol on a cut you got while rock climbing hurts like a mofo, but that’s how you know it’s working. And even though it hurts to heal it, that’s not going to prevent you from climbing again another day. Knowing I have yoga in my medicine cabinet and the ability to heal my heart, and the knowledge that I can then go out there and keep loving and be deserving of love in return is one of the most reassuring feelings in the world.

Namaste~

“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
― The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Deep Thoughts

I love you, moms.

As we get older, we tend to notice our parents in ourselves. It could be an expression that slips out, a deep moral view on something, or my favourite — a terrible dad joke.

So in light of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little bit about my moms. Just thinking about the chain of incredible women in my family who have lived, given birth, and taught life lessons to be passed down again and again gives me chills. Beyoncé found a way to show us what this looks like with her latest audio/visual masterpiece, Lemonade. If you STILL haven’t seen it, here’s a clip:

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.”

Beyoncé might be onto something here. I’ve been thinking about and feeling a lot of karmic energy lately, the idea that the universe creates patterns and pulls, and they can be passed down through the generations. Things like personality traits, talents, habits, and emotional tendencies can be “genetic.” Before your eyes roll completely back into your head, just give this a chance.

Neither of my grandmothers had it easy. On my mom’s side, my grandmother’s given name was Lenna Yvonne McNamee, but everyone called her Rene. She grew up on a farm in rural Jamaica (yes, I’m white and I’m half Jamaican). She had 6 siblings, one who had physical disabilities and one who tragically died in early childhood. Her father died when she was only 17 and so her mother was widowed and homeless at 50. At age 21 she got pregnant but it was hushed up to protect the reputations of her and her family and with very little support, she had to give the baby up for adoption (shoutout to my half-auntie Ingrid). But something good was coming her way. My crusader of a grandfather came into the picture, big-dreamer city boy Victor Levy from Kingston, and brought her to Canada to live happily ever after. My memories of her are filled with love, comfort and nurturing. She was the type of person that would be there for you in a pinch, never leaving my side if I was sick. She’d do anything for her family, but not enough for herself. She was a big-time worrier, and I didn’t understand it back then why we weren’t allowed to go to the park without my grandpa. But I get it now, Grammie. You loved us in infinite amounts.


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My grandma Rene in Jamaica (top left), my grandma Donna (bottom left), and my mother Anne holding me at Disney World while Mickey Mouse tries to strangle my brother (right).

On my father’s side, my grandmother was Donna Marion Louise Skuce. Born and raised with 2 siblings in the black fly-infested bushes of northern Ontario, she was an incredibly resilient woman. Her father (my great-grandfather) was one of the first official guides in Algonquin Park, Canada’s oldest provincial park. There’s even a lake named after him. But despite her ability to paddle canoes, drive tractors, and drink beer, she was stunningly beautiful. She left the bush to become an x-ray technician, where she met my grandfather who was a charming x-ray tech instructor from England. So what happened? Small-town girl meets handsome man with accent, they get hitched, pop out a couple of kids (what’s, up Daddio) and travel the world. Which sounds like an amazing life — except that throughout all this she battled abuse, alcoholism, and an unfaithful marriage. She eventually broke free and came back to Canada, got re-married, and lived a satisfactory life. She wasn’t an affectionate person, but she showed her love in all the ways she could. I believe she struggled with a lot of guilt. Guilt for not being a better parent, guilt after her daughter tragically died of breast cancer at age 49 (rest in peace, Aunt Cindy), maybe even some self-guilt for not making better choices and having a happier life. And eventually all the guilt, alcohol and cigarettes caught up with her, and she died of lung disease just 3 days shy of Mother’s Day, 2 years ago.

My own mother’s life on paper might seem boring in comparison, that perhaps this bad karmic energy didn’t reach her. But it sure reached her sisters and their daughters, and it sure trickled down to me. I had a dream once that I was dying in a car fire. I didn’t wake up because I wasn’t afraid or in any pain, I felt strong and supported by both my grandmothers, one on each side, pulling me out of the wreckage. Now I’m no Bible thumper, but I’d say they were angels. And I do feel their presence every now and then in my life, usually when I could really use some strength or guidance.

If the universe blesses me with a situation where I can conceive and raise strong and beautiful women into this world, I hope that maybe I will have suffered through the last of this karmic curse. I hope they will be born with clean slates and oodles of love and support around them to create new, positive patterns.

Happy Mother’s Day, moms. I love you and I can feel your love so much, whether you’re physically here or not.

Melissa


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My mom (right) and I doing what we do best, shopping.