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Just Breathe

Cat, Cow, Motherf****in’ Unicorn!

You’re a 5 year old kid and your world crashes down around you because your classmate broke your favourite coloured crayon. Then you go home, get in a fight with your brother because you didn’t want to share. So you find yourself alone in your room wondering if the world (your parents) has forgotten about you because this time out is lasting forever!

Ten years later you’re 15, half way through high school and struggling to figure out “who you are” even though this won’t happen for another 10 years. Who your friends are and who is or isn’t mad at you, how your rugby team is doing, and how you played at field hockey last night are all that’s on your mind while you sit through class. Between those thoughts and staring at the dreamy boy (or girl) on the other side of the room, you think about how stressful life is.

In another three years you’ve completed your first semester at university and in those first few months your entire world has turned upside down and around three times. Nothing you did up until the first day of university truly prepped you for it. But what could? Everything is uncertain – what am I even doing here? Is this person really my friend or do they just think I’m smart? Do I like my major? Should I change it? Will I get a job when I graduate? Will I ever drink again and NOT get hungover? Does he like me or does he just want to sleep with me? And everything is a first – first love, first apartment, first roommates, first bills to pay on your own, first jobs, first time struggling at a class that used to be your best, first time making your own decisions about life, first time realizing that if you don’t do groceries they won’t appear in your fridge, first time taking care of yourself when you get sick. The lists go on and on. But you got through, you figured it out, you graduated, and even have some great memories to prove it wasn’t all difficult.

After a couple years of loving the liberty of not being in school for the first time in your life; working many jobs, traveling, going on various adventures – you realize you need to get your crap together, move out of mom’s house and get a full time job. Well that’s harder than expected and takes a heck of a lot of work. Like when you spend hundreds of hours applying to over 80 jobs and don’t get one interview. Alas, yet another time in life where you’re figuring things out, making things work, and pretending you know what you’re doing until you start to convince yourself.

This is the toughest part so far. It’s the first time you haven’t had a path you’re ‘supposed to take’. Up until now you’ve always known what’s coming next. And along with the liberation comes fear.

In this day and age jobs are extremely hard to come by. It seems you need to know someone who happens to be hiring in your field or at least in a field that you are capable of working in… and that person has to want to hire you. The chance of these acquaintances hanging around are quite low, and therefore the majority of twenty-somethings are struggling. So we travel. We joke about how adulting is hard. We workout. And sometimes we just get drunk.

It’s that weird age where you have at least one friend who is engaged, one who is galavanting another country, one who is married and starting a family, one who is partying as often as possible, one who is still unemployed living with their parents, and one who landed an amazing job and is basically rich and famous. And then there’s you and you think – What the hell am I doing?! Do I be patient and wait it out to just see what happens? Or do I try to find a way to grab the bull by the horns?

Society is a really difficult thing these days for young adults because everything has very recently changed or is in the midst of changing. People used to live by certain standards – standards which essentially planned your life out for you. Today these standards have been trampled and we have to figure it out on our own. 99.9% of me loves this! I love that we get to be our unique selves and live the lives we want to live. This can only promote greater happiness in the westernized human population (which is definitely something I think is lacking, generally speaking). But that 0.01% of me wants someone to just tell me what to do!! Tell me what job to do, tell me where to live, tell me what to do with my life. This is the child coming out wishing my dear mother would just have all the answers for me. But it’s not truly what I want, it’s not a real wish – it’s my fear speaking.

Life is SCARY! Who knew?! Well – probably everyone past their twenties (give or take a few).

The unknown is a terrifying thought, no matter what it relates to. But it also allows us the one thing that keeps people going in the toughest of times – hope. The future will always be scary, and the past will always seem easy. But in the moment, your scary problem is always scary and it’s always your problem – even if you know that in a year (or 5) you will laugh at yourself for worrying about such an ‘insignifant’ thing. But the truth is that anything that carries your focus or worry for any amount of time is significant in some way. And that matters.

We always wish to be living like a kid again, but as a kid we always pretend to be our parents, we love when we get to do things by ourselves, and we are devastated when our favourite coloured crayon breaks. Perhaps we should just try to live in the moment, as cliché as that sounds, and take life a day or a week at a time. Set some realistic goals, accomplish them, and repeat. Appreciate the people around you and let yourself feel that fear that life so nonchalantly throws at us. If for anything, so that you can feel the amazing sense of hope that pulls you out of dark holes, lets you walk aross quicksand, and allows you to fly through the dark sky like a shooting star – a beacon of hope for anyone lucky enough to witness your fire. Because that’s what you are, what we all are. Small, similar, yet very different bright stars in this universe who each leave our own impression on the world as we know it.

Be a unicorn. Be you. Leave your own impression on this beautiful world.

catcowunicorn
I’ve been known to say “Be a unicorn!!”, and with this in mind and my love for yoga, a dear friend texted this picture to me this morning that I will most likely have framed soon. I’m not sure where it came from so if you do know, share the info and I will give credit where credit is due.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the World, Just Breathe Yoga

ForOneMinute

I went to the University of Ottawa for 4 years after high school. I loved everything about Ottawa and still do – I love visiting those places that carry memories in a way that put a smile on your face before you even realize you look like a happy goof to the world around you. Those are the places I miss, but I suppose it’s really the memories from those places that I miss.

University is certainly no walk in the park – growing from a teenager to a young adult is not an easy feat, and though I’m now 25 and perhaps considered a “real” adult, I am still growing and always will be.

In my second year of university I couldn’t do a lot of things I wanted to. Nothing was physically holding me back, except that it was. I was diagnosed with Anxiety when I was 11 years old. Though it’s considered a mental illness, I don’t consider it as such. Anxiety is not an illness to me, but a part of of who I am. Having anxiety is technically something off kilter with chemicals in my brain, and let me tell you it is certainly a struggle to live with. But you do. You just do.

In my second year of university my anxiety was the most intense it had ever been up until that point. I had my first panic attack and I am forever grateful for my darling roommate at the time for spooning me that night until I stopped crying, fell asleep, and as my alarm went off the next morning.

But there is so much more than just the bad stuff. The personality traits that I love most about myself come from my anxiety – my outrageous sense of humour, my unbelievably realistic ability to stand in anyone else’s shoes and feel with my whole heart and soul what they’re feeling, my uncanny ability to observe and respond to people’s feelings without their saying anything at all, and my ability to feel and explore every feeling of my own, to live every moment, and to appreciate the simplest things – such as waking up in the morning and feeling normal rather than feeling as though I will vomit at any moment, or waking up and actually vomiting.

Yes, life is tough – and don’t we all know it! But we find ways to get through. And for me anxiety has been, and most likely always will be, my hardest battle.

 

MomandS
My beautiful, supportive mother with my fluffy sister.

So – in my second year of university my beautiful, supportive mother gifted me a yoga mat during the holidays that came with a miniature DVD which had an extremely basic 20 minute yoga practice on it. As cheesy and drastic as I know this will sound, this little DVD and yoga mat changed my life.

I used to squeeze the mat diagonally in the small space between my bed, door, and desk, and I would place my laptop on the end of my bed for optimal viewing. I went through the practice and felt more calm than I had in months. I decided in that moment that I would do this 20 minute yoga practice every night before I went to bed. I promised myself that even if it was too late to function anymore, I could certainly spare 20 more minutes of sleep to feel this sense of calm.

 

Grad
Graduating from the University of Ottawa – my favourite picture which happens to have been taken by my spooning roommate’s mother. 

A couple months later the panic attacks had subsided, I was less of a hermit and able to enjoy social gatherings again. As a bonus, as I resurfaced in my friend groups people were complementing my physical appearance left and right. I felt better than ever.

And thus began my yoga addiction.

Two years after graduating, and having caught the travel bug, I ventured off on the trip of a lifetime (though I didn’t know it until I came home) to Montezuma, Costa Rica where I lived for one month among the most amazing group of women, and the most knowledgeable, inspirational, energetic, determined yoga instructor and teacher I have ever had.

Every single one of those people left a beautiful mark on my life, and after gaining many friendships, a ton of knowledge, a certified yoga teacher certificate, and an appreciation for the talent monkeys have for stealing objects from humans, I was off galavanting the Pacific coast for a couple more weeks before I returned home.

FirstClass
The first yoga class I ever taught. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to teach these two beautiful humans, and I’m so lucky to have shared this accomplishment with them. They are in Savasana after a successful 2 hour yoga practice.  

Everyone said I would come back to Canada and be “all zen-ed out”. In fact I felt a little bit sick of yoga, having done it for at least 6 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. I went back home and went wholeheartedly back into the exercise routine I had left behind – CrossFit and boxing. After about a month I started going to yoga classes again and that’s when I realized how well yoga co-exists with life. Rather than returning home in a zen state, I came home changed. I had found an even deeper appreciation for the practice, and had such a full brain but I didn’t know where I wanted to go with everything just yet.

Another year and a half later, I am now living in a different city than the one I grew up in, I have new friends, a new community, a completely different job, there have been changes within my family, I have more experiences under my belt, and I am finally really excited to announce that I will be a regular, 3-days-a-week yoga teacher. As I continue to explore life as a 25 year-old woman with much behind me and even more in front of me, I look forward to sharing my story with strangers and friends, and strangers who become friends, in my own yoga classes.

Crow pose

My main goal in life is to help people in any way possible; to be part of the reason someone’s smile appears on their face. Through Just Breathe yoga I intend to do so as often as possible. And who knows, maybe even be an inspiration to someone out there!

I hope to see you in my classes soon! Just Breathe.

From my mat to yours – Namaste.

 

A Story of Appreciating the Little Things

 

A content, elderly man of a tall but slightly hunched stature came in last Friday afternoon to meet with my boss about his annual tax return. He brought with him his mostly empty black backpack from the 90’s, his lovely elderly wife and a craving for something sweet.

On his way up to the second floor he must have just been daydreaming about the little shiny jewels sitting on the reception desk – as soon as he walked out of the elevator he told the receptionist who he was there to meet with and proceeded to take a few candies from the bowl. As he spotted my boss walking down the hall towards him, he swiftly took another handful of candies.

The meeting went well, it was his adventure of the day – but it wasn’t over yet. On his way out he shared some pleasantries with the receptionist, took another handful of candies and went on his way. The elevator was taking some time to arrive at the second floor, so the elderly man put this opportunity to good use and unzipped the front pocket of his backpack, looked at the receptionist and said “If you don’t mind’, by this time his hand was full of candies, ‘I’m just going to take a few more.” With absolutely no shame at all, and a huge grin, he shoved his over-stuffed hand into the open pocket of his backpack dropping some on the ground.

From the elevator his wife called out “Darling, you’re dropping them everywhere!”

“Oh Jeez. I sure am!” He looked up from the candies on the floor, turned to the receptionist, smiled a gruff but kind smile and said “I’ll get those.” On his way back up from picking the candies up off the floor he looked at the receptionist again and said “Oh, I just can’t get used to this body!”. Before zipping up his backpack he took a few more candies for good measure. Once he had everyone laughing at his jokes his wife called him to the elevator and down they went.

Well, not 15 minutes later the elevator door opened with a ding and out walked the same man, with a coy smirk on his face. He slowly but confidently walked to the desk, and placed both his fragile hands down for balance. He looked at the receptionist and as he winked he said “I seem to have forgotten a glove. Did you see one?”

“No, sir. There haven’t been any gloves left here. Would you like me to ask -”

“No, no. No need for that.’ He eyed the candy, looked back at the smiling receptionist and said, ‘I’ll just take a few of these and be on my way!” And with a wink he stuffed a handful of candies into his trouser pocket and caught the elevator back down to his waiting wife.

This is one small part of one day in this man’s life. This is one little story of a man who has lived (and continues to live) a long, prosperous life. He has children and grandchildren, has traveled the world, he’s happily married and long retired – he has accomplished a lot. And though his body is slowing down and the little things in life are all that’s left for him, he is more happy than ever.

If only we could all be so happy, and enjoy all of the little things in the fun, hilarious, amusing way that this man does. If a fun challenge for you is to find out how many candies you can take from one reception desk in the span of an hour because that will make you happy – then DO IT! Because no matter what else happens, in the end the little things are what you’re left with. They’re the best memories, the most moving experiences, the most influential people. So make the most of every moment – because the little things are really the big things.

Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean doing huge adventurous trips every year, or learning a new language and teaching abroad; living life to the fullest is to not waste it. Living life to the fullest is appreciating every emotion you feel no matter how hard it may be. Feel every feeling, notice what’s going on around you, and appreciate what you have. Smile, and just breathe.

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