Blue Monday – an Invitation

Did you know that blue Monday is actually just a myth?!

It was supposedly “a fraud perpetrated by a psychologist hired by a travel agency” to encourage people in the northern hemisphere to bust out of their seasonal funks’ and take a sunny vacation. (CTV news Jan 19, 2019)

For someone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, Blue Monday still feels real to me. Does it actually feel like ‘the most depressing day of the year’?  I can’t say for certain, but it’s definitely a tough time of year for me. Did I buy into the travel scheme years ago. You bet I did. Do I feel taken advantage of? Nope not for a second. Why? Because I saw an invitation and found that those sunny destinations DO work for me, at least in some way although temporary.

I’d have to say that normally I am a pretty big skeptic though. I used to hang my hat on quick fixes and big promises of the next fad wellness intervention. I’ve been conditioned into a skeptic through learned experiences. I’ve been lead down some dead-end paths before where I have absolutely felt taken advantage of. And what I’ve learned is that anyone in the wellness industry who claims to have the magic pill, a quick fix, to be perfect or have their life all together, who claims to have the next best kept secret, who only shows you the ‘best’ parts of themselves, who wants to fix you or be the one to change you is in my opinion also a fraud. Because first of all —Nobody is perfect. That expensive wellness coach has his/her fair share of ‘problems’, hurdles, life events that shaped them. That fashionable super bendy yoga instructor has his/her fair share of dark places. That wellness company who claims to be the ONE who has all the answers, has its share of imperfections too.

I’ve always chosen to be transparent in my journey as a wellness promoter. I don’t have all the answers. I’m on a journey. I certainly don’t agree with taunting people with false hope or painting a picture of some perfect world. I show up with all the various parts of myself, the light and the dark, the ones I am proud of and the ones not so much.  I live out loud in an authentic way. Why? Because my goal is to be real, to share my experiences – good and bad, to make connections based on life as it is, to share the ups AND the downs of my journey, to build a community where we can celebrate our individuality and all walks of life, and where maybe someone somewhere can relate. Where our circle is equal. Nobody in front, nobody behind. Nobody above, nobody below. Just equal.

The wellness industry is one of the top-grossing industries in the world right now.  How incredible is that?! Better than say a weapons industry or something, right?!? It’s comforting to know that people are investing in themselves. But my hope is that everyone has a little bit of a skeptic in them.  That they are brave enough to ask why? That they are not being taken advantage of because they are in a vulnerable place in their lives. Because it’s only fair that you have the truth.  

When I fell head first into the wellness industry back in 2013 I looked for what worked for other people.  I felt insecure, not good enough, had little self-love in my tank. My skewed eyes saw that the ‘skinny busy’ people looked happy and successful.  I felt attracted to that. I thought that if I could lose weight by working out 7 days a week and work a crazy amount of hours at a dignified job that that would bring me confidence and joy.  So I snuck down that rabbit hole and bought into the ‘fitness’ world of wellness. I became a regular gym junkie and took up running. I developed injury after injury, but kept pushing.  I lost a bunch of weight and became an arrogant, careless party drunk (i’m allowed to call myself that). I got a lot of attention, a lot of complements based on the outer layer, I loved myself a little more because of the reactions of how hard I had worked. I hurt people I loved. I did things I am not proud of, which I’d share here but out of respect for other people involved I will just leave it at that (although I love to chat one on one with anyone who feels the urge to).  I ran, and worked, and drank myself into a very dark place – I now refer to as rock bottom. At that time I was working in a busy emergency department and all too often could related with many of the clients that walked through the door. I’m actually surprised I didn’t end up there, in one of those emergency beds. I contemplated taking my own life as an easier way to deal with the mess I created. I thought I’d spare the people who loved me any more hurt. I’ve never told anyone how much pain I felt or how dark those days actually were. And I’m definitely not telling you this now for pity. I’m just being real. Thankfully in those darkest days I kept choosing to mend instead.  I kept re-evaluating my trajectory and searching for the real person within. I kept peeling back years of layers and suffering. I abruptly cut connections with toxic people. I stopped the gruelling fitness routines and crazy diets. I got help. I stopped numbing myself with alcohol. I saw a counsellor. It was two steps forward, one step back, then three steps forward, four steps back. It took work but it didn’t look like the work I was used to. It was waking up every single day being open to growth and grateful for the opportunity to try again. I got curious about how to live a life that felt peaceful yet fulfilling, where I could be happy yet resilient when life through those lemons. For some reason I kept coming back to my mat. Day after day. I found refuge there. I found acceptance. I found some answers. Not just on blue monday but on most of my blue days throughout the year. Yoga was what worked for me. Not just showing up to a class and doing some poses.  Yes that helped me too. But digging deeper into the philosophy of yoga, the yogic lifestyle. I gained weight and lost friends. But I vowed to question each new turn. I definitely walked the new path lightly. I literally questioned everything. I tried it all on first and I’ll be totally honest not all of it fit. There were people who came into my life that broke my trust. That made me feel two inches tall, that rattled and shook me, but each time I would come back to myself and ask does this feel right? I moved slow. I looked for evidence. And yes the scientific evidence out there was a great resource in answering my ‘why’s and how’s’, but ultimately it came back to the evidence I found within. I bought into the invitation.

I’m not here right now to sell you yoga.  I know fully that one way is not right for everyone. And I’m asking you right now to call my bullshit. To try this wellness stuff on for size. To chew on it for awhile. To maybe rsvp to your own invitation.

I took my YTT to become a yoga teacher because I wanted to learn more about the ancient practice of yoga.  I wanted to know how it worked for thousands of years for so many people and why people were buying into it even in our modern day society where things are consumed then tossed aside like the latest fast fashion.  Yoga seemed to stick with people, and as a nurse in the healthcare industry, as a person lost in the chaos, I wanted to know why.

What I learned over the years both as a nurse in various positions and as a yogi is that if you only focus on one aspect of your being then you will eventually lack in wellness in another aspect.  For example, people who only focus on their physical wellbeing can often disintegrate mentally. I also learned that pure health is not a destination. Health and wellness changes across the spectrum. People can flourish with illness and people can disintigrate with wellness. But I love that yoga invites us to look at the living being from a holistic view – body, mind, and spirit.  Instead of looking outside the box, it invites us to remove the box completely. It offers multiple paths for all different sorts of people with no rigid answer to what brings peace or joy. An ancient yogic text called the Bhagavid Gita is a story about wisdom, spirituality, and actionable paths for living yoga, ultimately, each path offering a way to live a purposeful life while maintaining inner equilibrium. It invites us to keep trying even if one path doesn’t work.

What I have realized over the years and what I’ve built the very essence of viva la lemon on is the fact that yoga and wellness practices are just an invitation.  They are a practice that invites you to look inside yourself (some more so than others). And if the one doing the inviting is aligned with these ancient practices then he/she believes that every living thing inherently has the answers within them. Yoga, and what I value in the wellness industry, is a comradery here on earth with the purpose of simply walking each other home. It’s a path but you dear one, you are the driver.  You decide what feels like a ‘yes’ and what feels like a ‘no’ right there in the shoes you are in, on the path you are on. 

A few years ago a massive company came up with a slogan called #thisisyoga.  It commercialized untraditional views of yoga – people running, people meditating, people laughing, people of color, people of all sizes, actively doing something that appeared as a form of selfcare.  Although I don’t necessarily agree with all the values of that company, I loved that this particular campaign made yoga seem more accessible. Because I believe if you are acting in a way that is caring for yourself that’s from a place of unconditional love without attaching to the actual fruits of your labour then that my friend is yoga.  You are already doing it! Doesn’t matter if you are lifting weights, doing headstands, dancing, singing, or lying quietly in savasana. You are already doing it. And if you just looked in the mirror and realized that maybe you’re not then oh my gosh dear one you have so many opportunities to do so. Because that invitation stands for everrrrybodddy.

So whether blue monday is a myth or not, we know for a fact that seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and burnout is not.  Instead of tossing it under the rug because it’s a myth, let’s use this to assess our state of resiliency right now. Let us use this as a great reminder to check in with how we’re feeling mentally, physically, even spiritually. Let Blue Monday be a time that we notice the path we are on and the trajectory of our future. Perhaps this can be our time to question everything, including those who once inspired us. Maybe to call bullshit. This is an opportunity to take action.  To say yes now to nurture the future we want later, or to kindly say no to what feels like a weight so we can heal and choose a new path. My intention for writing this blog post (thanks for making it this far) is to share a piece of my path with you, to be authentic in this big wellness industry, to be vulnerable, perfectly imperfect and to remind you that no matter what anyone else says, YOU have the answers you seek within you!! I’ve had my own rock bottom and if I can be that hand that reaches down to lift you up then I’ve done what I have set out to do, and one day maybe you’ll do the same.  Blue Monday shouldn’t be the only day of the year that we look, speak out, or question. But let’s also not miss this opportunity. 

Wellness is a spectrum. Look at the direction you’re facing on that spectrum, can you see flourishing?  Or do you see disintegration ahead? Those answers look different for everyone. Do you need or want change? Do you need to assess your boundaries?  Is your selflove tank running on empty? Are you sad, stressed, or anxious more than you are not? Its okay. It’s okay to be in the place you are in dear one. This post isn’t about shaming. BUT here is the invitation, from me to you. I want to assure you that you are not alone.  That we, the viva community are sincerely here for you. We too have complicated stories. We too are on our own path. We too have depths beneath our surface. We are a community that was built on the belief that we ALL belong. That we all hold a place to be here, to be ourselves, and to be loved no matter what path we are on. We stand with AND for one another. Are you with us dear one?

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Top 6 reasons to do Viva La Lemon Yoga

If you have been thinking of doing yoga but are apprehensive or nervous then embrace those feelings and give this a read. If you have been practicing asana (poses) at home but are interested in finding deeper connections to the ancient practice then give this a read. Yoga truly is for everyone.
Here are 6 reasons you should consider practicing yoga with Viva La Lemon.

1: Expertise

• Nicole is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT, 200 hr) who received her training from a Yoga Alliance Certified School receiving certification in Hatha Yoga.
• Nicole also has a certificate in 'Core Strength Vinyasa' (CSV, 25 hr) Yoga and enjoys being a student of yoga through her own daily practice. Additionally, Nicole enjoys attending a variety of different styles of yoga sessions in the area.
• With over a decade of experience in the health care world as a nurse, Nicole is very knowledgeable of the human body including anatomy, physiology, and even pathophysiology. She also has a deep passion for wellness and self-care.

2: Grounded in Yoga Philosophy

• Nicole has a way of taking ancient Yogic teachings and applying them to modern day life.
• Nicole uses the 8 limbs of Yoga to facilitate her classes and encourages the learned experiences to transcend out into our daily lives off of the mat.

3: Relevance

• Nicole encourages students to stay sensitive and vitally aware of their body. Ahimsa, the first Yama or yogic ethical principle, means non-violence. Nicole helps bring awareness of the body's limitations and promotes ahimsa; yet encourages curiosity in opening body, mind, and spirit more deeply in poses.
• No two bodies are the same, therefore no two poses should look the same. Nicole encourages students to find relevance to each pose on their mat moving them along with verbal cues, offering variations or modifications along the way. She promotes a caring, safe, non-judgemental environment where each student is celebrated.
• Nicole makes space for students to stop along the path at anytime and work their edge. Nicole's deepest desire as a facilitator is for each student to seek and find their truth, their growth, and their full expression each day.

4: Connection

• Nicole believes in the power of connection, union, and community.
• Yoga is a Sanskrit word which widely translates to union. This has many meanings in yoga. However, Nicole believes that yoga unites the mind-body connection with Divine source through the practice of the 8 limbs of yoga.
• In Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras (3rd century B.C.E.) – considered to be one of the core texts of yoga – he begins with a simple sentence: Atha yoganusasanam. This is translated as 'in the present moment is the teaching of yoga' or more technically: 'now', not later, but right here in the present moment begins the instruction on Yoga, as laid down by the ancient sages, that is available to everyone. It means that anyone who wants to can begin the path of Yoga. Which is why Nicole is so adamant that yoga is for every body! That by connecting to the present moment anyone can benefit from yoga, helping everyone live their best life.
• Even though yoga is so much about going within, and connecting with our center, building connections both on and off the mat is Nicole's vision. Following class Nicole encourages students to introduce themselves to one another. Enjoy a cup of warm tea or cold refreshing infused water (depending on the class location). Having a short visit connecting with other students begins to spread positivity and that deeper inner connection with the present moment outward off of our mats. Of course there is no obligation to stay.

5: Wellness

• Students have many personal reasons for practicing yoga. Yoga is not a cure for the multitude of ailments out there or a quick weight-loss fix but it helps bring wellness and healing into your life when you practice with ahimsa. Bringing both mental and physical health to the body, mind, and spirit; you will be sure to find what you are looking for.
• Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true Self and understanding the boxes we are trapped in. This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom. "Know yourself so well that you will grow into your wholeness and greatness." — C. Lewis
• The 5th Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana, which means to surrender. Nicole reminds us that life knows what to do better than we do. Through devotion, trust, and active engagement students can receive each moment with an open heart. Rather than walking against the current, surrendering is an invitation to move with the current, enjoy the ride, take in the view and feel well.

6: Authentic & Personable

• Nicole has been practicing yoga for 4 years. She is not affiliated with big marketing companies or big yoga studio chains. She brings her own understanding of the ancient practice of yoga to small rural communities in south-western Manitoba. She also adds other special touches of wellness to her class such as use of essential oils, healing crystals, soothing music and energy purifying smudges.
• At a Viva La Lemon class you will find Nicole to be approachable and personable. She does her best to cater to individual needs. She also offers private sessions to those who are interested in a more tailored practice.
• Nicole isn't interested in changing anyone. She believes in embracing our authentic selves, encouraging students to be unapologetically themselves in the present moment. "Everyone is perfectly imperfect in their own ways, when life throws us lemons, we embrace it and still find love and grace for our one precious life" — Nicole Barclay

We would love to see you out at a Viva La Lemon class. Check out the yoga page for upcoming classes.

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There is Always a Choice

I have to apologize for my hiatus from writing for a while. I had put it on the back burner as I had experienced some negative energy and attitudes toward my previous posts. Eye rolling and sarcastic remarks; I knew it was inevitable but I guess I thought I was better prepared for it. Of course it was just all my perception of other people’s opinions. It is after all their birthright, to have an opinion, to judge etc. I had been getting better at not letting my feelings of unworthiness and shame rattle me. But in the right environment, with the right people, with a lack of self-love, acceptance, patience, and compassion – things can go awry.

Over the last few weeks, however, I have finally overcome this little bump in the road. I have come to welcome and embrace this negative energy. To hold space for the suffering I felt inside. And because of it I have found this new place of gratitude, knowing deep down that the universe was showing me this for a reason. That within the good there lives some bad and within the bad there lives some good. It’s called life. And thankfully along with the negative energy was lots of positive too. I was just too caught up in resisting and defending all the negative to appreciate all the good. And I’ll be honest fear still lives in me some days. Fear that I’m not doing the right thing. Fear that I’ll cause my family to suffer because of other people’s reactions. It’s real but it’s not my focus anymore.

So often we are faced with these challenging environments and situations.  But I truly believe they are meant to be an opportunity for growth. A lesson in finding grace. Finding love and acceptance. Acceptance of ourselves, of others.

And something I find fascinating is that we always have a choice in these types of situations – in life. A choice to call upon our warring self or our infinite self. Sarah Blondin explains:

“Movements like blades: sharp, short, deliberate. Carrying the weight and fierceness of a million invisible warriors behind her. She is angry, defiant, raging against her reality. Her breathing short and shallow – she breaths fire. She is the one who starts war. She is the part of you that is capable of burning down cities and waging war against the ones she loves. She is the part of you that hides under the surface. The part of you that surprises you when she shows her teeth. The part of you that you deny, push away, pretend does not live there within you. She is your darkness. The woman who dwells in the shallow waters of your being. She is in every one of us. She rides up on the back of the wave of your righteous ego, she feeds on the ideas that you deserve more, better, different. She lurks in the thoughts and emotions that keep you small. The notion that you have something to fight for, to reclaim, to preserve. She is the face of war. The part of us who can understand how we fight others. How we ruin our lives, how we can kill in the name of our beliefs. She is who we must look to when needing to find compassion for others who are captivated under her spell. She is who we must hold lovingly in our hearts when we see those caught in her grasp. She is who we must learn to love into gentle submission, for she only lives and breathes on our un-love. She can only survive when and where we have forgotten to love.

Then there is the soft one. The woman with long white hair, who moves like liquid, glides on her step, floats on light. She is tender – always tender. She comes when you ask for help. She comes when you fill your lungs with a conscious breath. She lives there beside the wicked. She is shelved beside the one who wars. There they stand within you, both hands open – a choice. The one who sees as an owl: able to look from all perspectives, gentle, hands soft as the skin of a plum, heart her language and tongue. She is able to withstand storms. She catches the furious pain of others, the difficult experiences you face, the things that make you want to fight, and she cradles them, swaddles them in unconditional love, over and over again. She loves all. She is the bottomless source of light, love. She is your essence. Pure and wise, she lives in your greatest depths, deep in your tissues. She is your greatest ally. She is who you can choose to embody, to call forth as you navigate your life.

Tightness in breath, sharpness in movement, darting in eyes – means you are calling forth the warrior within you to rise. You are bringing her up on the waves of contempt. One conscious breath inward, into your very depths, and she will fall. You have the power to call the soft one into form. You can choose.

There is no question which feels better, which one breathes us more alive, more vivid. It is up to you to choose the powerful choice of living as the soft one. Whenever you feel lost in a sea of raging thoughts and waves, she is there. I promise you! She serves where the other severs. She heals where the other wounds. She replaces, replenishes, restores where the other robs, pillages, eradicates, and steals your love. The same love of the world. It takes great strength, and determination to choose her when you are in the fire. It is not just a choice, but your choice. Nothing will suffer more than you, if you continue to choose war. A part of us enjoys the fighting arguably more than the peace. Such intensity and emotion is very powerful, palpable, weak and root but alluring in force. The gentle softness of the other is far less intense; it requires a dropping down and rooting rather than a rising up and spinning. They are two polar energies; forces living within you. The choice for you to make at every triggering moment in your life…. Notice all of the places you choose to fight instead of resting in your divine source. Anger and warring shows us we are afraid. Shows us we are trying to protect our vulnerability and softness. Your walls are there to stop you from feeling, to distract you from hurt. But feeling your softness, returning to your nature is the only thing that will set you free. The only thing that will feed your life in the ways that you are asking. Resist the reflex of protection. Your heart needs you to not be afraid any longer. It will heal your anger, your wars. It will save your world, your life…All war large or small, fought in the quiet of your mind, in the words you say to another, in the language you speak with your body, in the way you treat even the smallest of discomforts – is still war. Fight long and hard enough against your life, your circumstance, the people in your life, and you will begin to see the war first starts within you and spreads through your body like a tsunami of hate, and drowns any chance for wellbeing. Any chance for harmony. Any chance for grace. How tremendously powerful you are dear one. Don’t you see how much love you can create for yourself. How much suffering you can obliterate. How you can quench the dry, cracked earth around you by breathing the soft one within you awake. The world around you and within you needs you to be her, to stand in her unbeatable force. You are capable of being both, but please choose wisely dear one. For your quality of life and love depends on it. ” (2016)

So I made an effort to choose differently. The choice to call upon the soft one within my being. To wrap love and compassion around my darkness and others who may be under their dark ones’ spell. Filling my lungs with a conscious breath I choose to do my best at swaddling myself and others with unconditional love. For we are all one. The universe is as much inside of us as we are inside the universe. There is no separateness.

And thankfully this too shall pass.  A buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (2010) explains, “Impermanence is the very heart of life” (p. 103).  Everything and everyone, is constantly changing.  I am not the same person I was just one second ago. And neither is any other living thing in this world. This is why growth is possible.  “Thanks to impermanence, we can change suffering into joy” (p. 64, Mcleod, 2012). We can choose peace knowing tomorrow brings endless possibilities. So whether I receive love or hate, I will continue to write. Write from a place of love and compassion, understanding and curiosity.

And just to clarify a little…

I am not writing with the intent to preach. That is not the point of creating this space. I am not a psychotherapist or Buddhist teacher. I am just a human pondering my purpose and meaning in life, learning to find happiness here, and sharing that with those who may have similar desires and interests. I am a student of this work, of these practices. I always will be. Always reaching new questions along life’s journey that has me thinking and feeling deeply, or seeing situations with a new light. And it is a vulnerable place but there is value in it for me. So thanks for reading dear ones. My only wish is that you may find some value too.
Much love VivaLa🍋 followers! So much love.

 

 

 


Blondin, Sarah. (2016). S02-OUR WARRING SELF VS. OUR INFINITE SELF (RELEASING ANGER). [Audio file]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/liveawakepodcast/s02-our-warring-self-vs-our-infinate-self-releasing-anger   
Mcleod, Melvin. (2012). The pocket Thich Nhat Hanh. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. (2010). You are here. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, Inc.