Growing Pains

Trying new things is hard. The growing pains are uncomfortable. 

As I continue to process the information I received over 8 days at the Kula Yoga Project’s advanced teacher training, and embark on an 7 day juice fast for the first time, the growing pains are eminent.

The Kulafied clan of yogis, soaking in the final morning of ocean air and sunshine.

Kula Yoga Project is a studio based in NYC. If you’re in New York and love yoga, GO. It’s awesome. Studio Director Schuyler Grant has developed a signature Kula style that seamlessly combines the breath based flow of Ashtanga with the precision of Iyengar alignment, to create a sweaty and incredible mind/body experience. Spending 8 days with her was a privilege, and man did I ever learn a lot. Here are a couple of my favourite take aways...

Kula’s style is definitely unique in that unlike in most yoga classes, the teacher will not demonstrate (unless absolutely necessary). Instructors use concise cues to guide students through the practice, so that they can have their own experience initiated from inside themselves, instead of trying to recreate a shape that they see in front of them. One of my goals coming out of this training has been to completely stop demonstrating in all of my classes. Obviously this means that as a teacher, my cuing has to be impeccably precise (which it isn’t yet, but I’m working on it), and it also means that I have to sit with the discomfort of students sometimes looking lost when my cues are less than perfect. 

In addition to all of that, the students have to become proficient at actively listen, so the learning curve for both myself and any practitioner that isn’t used to learning this way, is steep. But hey, I’m not perfect and I’m learning too. So sometimes I just pop down to the ground and show something real quick. Students are creatures of habit though. If they get used to watching, they don’t learn how to listen. So I’m trying incredibly hard not to give in to the urge to demonstrate, ever. The whole point of teaching yoga is to help make people present, so as teachers we have to be present ourselves; and we can’t be lazy. If I’m demonstrating on my mat for 2/3 of the class, the students are only getting my full attention 1/3 of the time. I can’t fully teach to the room, if I’m not SEEING what is happening to the bodies in the room from all angles.

The other skill I’m practicing is teaching to the metronome: guiding class to a steady rhythm from start to finish, with very specific breath and movement cues, to allow students to unconsciously drop into a flow that is so much more than your typical Vinyasa. That rhythm is what makes it a moving meditation, and is one of the reasons Kula classes feel SO good. Again, if you’re in NYC go:

So I’m trying to teach with incredibly precise cues, without demonstrating, while simultaneously adjusting, and while keeping a metronome-like rhythm. It’s a lot and it’s hard. ...For now. 

So, why bother with these new “practices” if teaching felt so beautiful and seamless before I started applying them? To inspire. Every day I hope to inspire students in their practice, whether it be physically, mentally, or spiritually. Kula’s advanced training blessed me with the guidance of teachers who have inspired me to grow; so I have to do the work. I trust that it’s worth the effort. Like everything else we’ve ever had to learn to do, it will become easier and more embodied with practice, patience and time. Right now, some days it feels really great and natural. And other days it feels frustrating and significantly less great. But that’s part of learning and growing, and I want to be the very best that I can be for my students and for myself.

My first morning juice: apple, grapefruit, orange, celery and romaine.

In the spirit of bettering myself, I’m beginning my ritual fall cleanse this week, but with a bit of an added spin. I’ve set my intention, and am on day 2 of a 7 day community juice fast. In the week leading up to the fast, my intention was met by some “shocked” reactions (to say the least): “7 days? ... Why so extreme? ... But you’ll lose weight? ... You don’t need to cleanse, you’re already clean?!” Guess what folks, we live in big smelly city where our pace is significantly faster than what is “healthy” and where most of us consume processed foods. We could all use a little cleansing! Myself included. And sure, maybe juicing is considered by many as being one of the more extreme ways of doing it, but I am being led by an incredibly knowledgable teacher whom I love and trust completely. Her name is Caroline Dupont and for a taste of her magic check out: 

The fast is done in a community setting so that everyone feels supported throughout, and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference to have that support. At the group meeting that marked the beginning of the fast, we gathered together, sipped on samples of broth and almond elixir, set our intentions and Caroline led us through a beautiful Kirtan. One of the most challenging things leading up to the fast was that I found myself doubting whether I should do it or not, not because of my thoughts and feelings around it, but because of other people’s opinions. I did my research. I’m not alone in this journey and I’m not crazy. I am brave.

Tonight marks the end of day two. I have honestly felt better over the last two days then I did last week when I was omitting things gradually from my diet. My energy level is a little lower, but it’s a welcomed change of pace, and I have not felt hungry at all. Meal time is so simple and I love it!! Do I want tea, juice, mineral broth or almond milk? Done. WAY simpler!! Don’t get me wrong, chewing on something will feel amazing when this is over, but for now I am very much at peace with the process.

So cheers to being brave, overcoming obstacles and blossoming into new possibilities. Some lessons are harder than others, but everything is a practice. We all have our stuff, and we do our very best with the tools that we have to grow from our experiences.

Check back in next week to hear about how the rest of the juice fast goes.

A Peaceful Physicality

It takes a strong spine to stand up for what one believes in against the sometimes overwhelming waves of coercion that the world can throw at us, but ultimately it is the only way to escape the militant insanity of our modern culture with one’s dignity and body intact.It takes a strong spine to stand up for what one believes in against the sometimes overwhelming waves of coercion that the world can throw at us, but ultimately it is the only way to escape the militant insanity of our modern culture with one’s dignity and body intact.
— Frey Faust

Dancing in the park while at Impuls Tanz in Vienna.

Following a week of workshops with the Toronto Dance Community Love-In, Frey Faust,  originator of the Axis Syllabus, presented a portion of his research on fascia. He spoke of alignment as matching synovial joint surfaces and finding fascial equilibrium, as well as balanced voluntary muscular tension. He spoke about the fact that fascia remembers, but that it can also change; and that ultimately it desires harmony, or balance. He suggested avenues of research as opposed to giving absolutes, and finally he offered that when we hold ourselves with grace and move with respect for our structure, then, we can find a peaceful physicality.

This is a teacher who conveys the complexity of the human body and dynamic movement with clarity, but who simultaneously creates an environment that supports inquiry and self-discovery. I can only hope to offer a similar experience to my students as I continue to discover new theories and ask questions. A safe space to explore the many dynamic possibilities their bodies are capable of, and an opportunity for the discoveries they make along the way to influence as many facets of their life as they desire.

For more information about Frey Faust and the Axis Syllabus, visit