Welcome to Canadian Yogi
“The Devil whispered in my ear: ‘You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.’ I whispered back: ‘I am the storm.” - Unknown.
It started on my birthday when my best friend; my beautiful mother, was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. With tears flowing I left my fiancé, my cat and my life in Australia. What was once my comfortable and calm life, now catapulted back home (after 8 years) to face an incredibly intense emotional storm. I was constantly in crisis mode to care for my mother and family as we entered the unknown. I will admit that I tremendously neglected my own self-care and practice as I dedicated my entire being to my mum. I could feel myself slipping away from me. My mind, body and soul were slowly becoming strangers. There was stress, anxiety, fear and depression looming in our home. I was so sad, so lost. My body couldn’t keep up with my mind and I knew deep down that I needed to rest and take time for myself.
Yoga saved me. My own personal practice and reflective journal could not have come at a better time in my life. I knew that I desperately needed to make time for myself so that I could give wholeheartedly with depth and with love. As I was constantly caring for my mum, I knew I had to incorporate a practice that flowed with everyday life. Historically, yoga has been used to address a variety of health problems, including mental health. A systematic review and numerous subsequent studies showed that yoga is an effective intervention for stress, anxiety and depression treatment (Field, T. 2016).
I started with a morning affirmation when I awoke and I was inspired to personalize one of my favourite quotes by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be strong, balanced, beautiful, whole? Actually, who am I not to be?”
Implored by this thought of discovering everyday moments for myself, I created a visualization & mantra in the shower. Here, I would visualize the water cleansing my body, washing away the negativity, self-doubt, anxiety, sadness. I would then call upon the divine in anjali mudra and say healing words of prayer for myself & my mother. Following this, I would visualize covering myself in gold. Closing my eyes and visualizing the water being gold, covering me and protecting me from anything that could hurt my mind, body or soul.
Finally, I would sing the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. I first learned this mantra when I did my yoga teacher training in Goa, India and it always takes me back to the warm sun on my skin, the smell of turmeric and spicy masala, monkey filled treetops where our yoga shala was, looking down at the calm waters of Arambol beach. As I would chant this mantra, I would also visualize this happy and peaceful place that brings me back to my nature roots and adoration for yoga. Upon further research, I found that this is a life restoring mantra, for rejuvenation, nurturance and healing (Anantashastri; et al. 1914). It was perfect.
I felt a tremendous difference in myself, within my Manomaya Kosha, after a week of this practice and journal reflection. I started to feel hopeful and positive again and I wanted to share with my mother insights into this. I wanted her to feel strong, hopeful and empowered too. We created a healing mantra together that she would say whenever she felt any dismay. It went like this, “ I am strong. I am powerful. I am so loved. I will prosper! I believe I will be healed. It is God’s will that I will be healed”. This mantra was incredible to create and share together, for in our desperate times of pain and suffering, we would come back to this mantra together and she knew she could come to this in her own personal healing and solitude as well. Upon research, a study by Hardoerfer, K., & Jentschke. E. in 2018 found that yoga therapy may be used to alleviate anxiety symptoms in cancer patients.
One morning at the kitchen table my mother was experiencing pain as she sat with her eyes closed with her head in her arms, resting on the table. I felt helpless, so I put on a song that I heard her sister singing the night before, Ave Maria (Franz Shubert 1825). My mother told me that this was her and dad’s wedding song. I asked her to visualize her wedding day and she told me she could see herself walking down the aisle with her papa, looking around at all her friends and family who all looked much younger back then, and then looking up at her husband, my dad. This made her feel happy, calm and at peace. For a moment in time, this would take away her pain and bring her to a place of tranquility and love. With this, I encouraged her to start singing this song in the shower every day. When she would sing, she would put her hands in prayer and close her eyes and visualize her wedding day. These were incredible moments to talk about and share together. My mind, my spirituality and my soul (Vijnanamaya Kosha) were starting to intertwine and sing again and I felt grateful to be able to share this with my mum.
I have always been deeply drawn to nature and the cosmos and I decided to add sun and moon salutations to strengthen my Annamaya Kosha and practice outside; either under the sun in the mornings or under the stars and moon at night. Practicing yoga within nature for me is so powerful as it beautifully reminds me that I am but a tiny human speckle within a harmonious and whole universe. I would rotate doing 11 sun salutations in the mornings and 11 moon salutations in the evenings. I could slowly feel myself within my body again. I started to feel grounded and connected to my body, recognizing this precious time and space of also being back in my childhood home with my family. Relating this to literature, a meta-analysis of publications on yoga from the last few years found that yoga as monotherapy or adjunctive therapy shows positive effects, particularly for depression and anxiety with yoga and nature being a positive alternative to standard pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment approaches (Saeed S.A. et al. 2018).
After a couple weeks, I started my Applied Yoga Therapy 1 module and inspired by this, I added a walking meditation, reflecting on the mayans and connecting myself with the world around me. Pritvi (earth) beneath me with every step I took, jala (water) within the big white stratus clouds floating above me, air with the cool vayu (wind) blowing the autumn leaves around me, the sun; this magnificent ball of tejas (fire) shining down on me in the sky and finally akasha (time & space) and realizing I am exactly where I need to be right now.
Throughout my walking meditation, I foraged fallen leaves on my path and created a Mayan Mandala. I admired the beauty of change and the importance of discovering beautiful glimmers in everyday life. This was exactly what my personal practice for myself and for my mother encompassed. We are already a very close family but, this brought about new depths of honesty, vulnerability and love. There are feelings of realization and bliss with my Anandamaya Kosha, looking at this mandala and reflecting. The importance of loving big and celebrating everyday little wins, choosing to see the beauty of change, the beauty in everyday life, the beauty in the storm.
Anantashastri; et al. (1914). kr̥ṣṇa-yajurvēdīya taittirīya-saṁhitā कृष्ण-यजर्वेु र्वेदीय तत्तिैत्तिरीय-सहिं हिता [Taittiriya Samhita of the Krishna Yajurveda] (in Sanskrit). pp. ५२.
Field T. Yoga research review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Aug;24:145-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.06.005. Epub 2016 Jun 16. PMID: 27502816.
Hardoerfer K, Jentschke E. Effect of Yoga Therapy on Symptoms of Anxiety in Cancer Patients. Oncol Res Treat. 2018;41(9):526-532. doi: 10.1159/000488989. Epub 2018 Aug 8. PMID: 30086538.
Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019 May 15;99(10):620-627. PMID: 31083878.
I no longer believe! The realization shook me like an electrical current. I put the book I was reading aside and stood up. For a moment, I was all alone in the world, frozen in body and soul. Is that tingling or numbness that I feel? I am finding it difficult to breathe.
That moment of realization felt intensely empty. It was like living in a vast emptiness with no boundaries. The people who were important to me and the ideals that sustained me no longer mattered.
Where is my heart? Do I still have one?
Where is that foundation that kept me grounded and made me feel secure in myself and confident in who I am? I walked a few steps then froze. I no longer believe, not in a God, or a Goddess, or a Yoga Master, or a Divine Being, not in friendship, love, or compassion. Nothing. Complete and utter nothingness.
The feeling of pointlessness caused by the loss of faith in everything was overwhelming.
I cannot tell you exactly how long that happening lasted. When I was finally able to pull myself from the shock of the limitless void, I started reflecting on how to fill this sense of hollowness.
My yoga training immediately kicked in and I brought my attention to my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I am going to let the breath carry me to a feeling of safety. I do not need to fill the void in me. Inhale. Exhale. I choose to let it be and leave things as they are. Inhale. Exhale. Life will take its course and change will happen naturally as long as I allow it. And I WILL allow it.
It took me a few days to really grasp that I don’t need to fill the void. I chose to let it be and leave things as they are. Keep to my routine. Go to work. Come home. Keep the apartment clean and uncluttered. Prepare my meals. Most of all, keep practising yoga and meditation, even if I no longer believe.
Losing my faith did not impact my daily life as one would expect. I kept about my daily routine and felt oddly exhilarated and free. Having no belief for a short period of time freed me from the clutter of too much. Too much indoctrinated notions and concepts and a high degree of rigidity in an outdated belief system that no longer served me.
Nature does not allow the void to linger in us. Something that vanishes must be replaced by something else.
Since that day, I find myself more open to new ideas and more understanding. My outlook on life now is more spiritual than ever. A willingness to appreciate life and others has supplanted my need for reassurance with an established faith system that gave me a false sense of security. My connection with nature and the universe is so much stronger that I feel giddy with a renewed sense of freedom and light.
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward happiness, compassion toward suffering, delight toward virtue, and equanimity toward vice, thoughts become purified and the obstacles to self-knowledge are lessened.” _ sutra I,33. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali interpreted by Mukunda Styles.
Transformation is about realignment and evolution, transitioning from one state to another. This article is about my personal gradual transformation of my Hatha Yoga practice into Raja Yoga.
My transformation was slow, too slow for my liking. Moving from understanding to experiencing yoga and life took me and is still taking me a long time but I appreciate the value of patience. I have used and still use the contemplation of the Yoga Sutras as a tool to transform the focus of my yoga practice. These are transitional sutras that allow Hatha Yoga to deepen and become Raja Yoga (in particular Sutras II, 46 to II, 55)
Hatha Yoga is my initial doorway to enlightenment, but it is through the doorway to wisdom and insight of Raja Yoga that I find myself. My interest in yoga goes back to the early seventies. For years, my focus has been hatha yoga to deal with the aftermath of traumatic experiences and aiming for a greater sense of well-being.
I was surprised that in all of my years of yoga practice, learning, and experience, it was the passing of my mother that gave me a great push forward. The death of my mother made me incredibly mindful of the absurdity of life. I had been exposed to death before, but nothing prepared me to what I felt and experienced when my mother, the person I loved the most, passed away.
I remember crying and laughing at the same time, crying of grief, and laughing at the absurdity of life. I felt as if my soul had broken. It was while standing in front of her bedroom, seeing an amazing luminous light leave her body, that an overwhelming sense of liberation accompanied the sadness that I felt.
Loving someone deeply for a long time tied me to a way of thinking and of being that at times felt confining. I wanted to stay in the bubble that my mother created and for that I sacrificed my need for freedom and development. When I lost my mother, a major attachment chord was severed. My eyes opened and my perspective on life and my perception started changing. That insightful moment hit me like a flash of lightning.
My growth in Raja Yoga has been in becoming increasingly mindful of the mental tools of my ego, expanding the self, controling the mental, cultivating attention and perception, encouraging the unfoldment of my consciousness, perceiving the mental planes, and becoming increasingly aware of and building the character and influences of my subconscious mind.
What is transformation? Should we always be seeking growth, transformation, and self-improvement?
Transformation has been a goal of mine from a very young age and I feel that I have been undergoing changes for most of my life. Traumatic situations allow us to transform, and I’m sure many of us living on this earth have had plenty of trauma. From these experiences, we evolved and transformed from what was to what is. Trauma has had such a bad rap in mainstream thinking; however, trauma shifts and inspires us to better ourselves. Are we not here to learn life’s lessons? Did we not agree to have these traumas to better and deepen our understanding of who we are?
It’s hard to see the light of the situation when you are in chaos yet we have the knowledge and awareness to transform our souls, and our Being. These event transformations help guide us and push us to move forward, bettering ourselves, and understanding that there is a purpose to everything in our experience.
Here is an example I’d like to share with you. I remember when I was around 10 or so, and I went to my very first pow-wow. The drums and the singing brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps all over my body. I knew and could feel on a cellular, soulful level, that this meant something profound. Of course being that young I didn’t understand what this meant, but I trusted the process and allowed myself to feel and soak up this beautiful experience. Into the future, now 36 years of age, I recently discovered my great-grandmother was Nippissing First Nation and that I am indigenous. I am still fine-tuning the details. Unfortunately, in the past, when a Native woman married a non-Native man, she would lose her rights and status to become “Metis”. Recently that law has been reversed and I am happy to know that my great-grandmother in her way, has been guiding me my entire life.
I have always worked closely with the indigenous community in my area and love everything about our culture and now I know why. Now I know why I had such an impactful, mind/body/heart and soulful experience that day at the powwow so many years ago. My ancestors guide me and teach me in ways of truth not tangible in nature. My mom never met her grandmother ,so unfortunately we didn’t have an opportunity to be able to build a relationship with her, but I feel like she’s been a huge guide for me throughout my whole life in spiritually assisting me and keeping me on the right and true path.
Thank you, dear great-Grandmother!
Grandmother has been a huge transformation for myself and my family. Having learned something powerful about who we are, initiates and inspires us to learn more about our heritage and lineage.
Ashley is owner of Devi Healing Center
You may contact her at email@example.com
This elusive concept that spiritual seekers hope to attain...that "thing of mystery" or possibly just "irrelevant" to those that do not seek such things.
Are we transformed? Do we become transfixed in another reality at a curtailed point of awareness? Does that sublime moment last forever or.... are we even cognizant of transformation when it happens? Will it happen? Has it happened?
Each moment of each day; each year, each experience slipping away into the next. Moments of change and evolution. Questions of perpetual perplexing complexity.
Suddenly a realization! "It is not just one act or one experience or, a momentary epiphany that propels us into another dimensional reality whereas we somehow transform into Gods & Goddesses as told to us from the ancient past. It is through this creating, this expression of "multitudiness of our Being" that perpetuates conscious awareness of change and transformation".
Life is an Infinite Transformative Power.
The cornerstone of all Sacred Teachings, we are not looking upon it, we simply are it.
Masters All! Remember these basic simple Truths and know that Transformation is none other than a word to describe the Eternity of Life. Information, conscious and /or spiritual awakens the Transformed One who then lives and breathes in this state. Simple and elegant, trans-fixed, translated and awakened; The Sleeper who then lives and breathes in this state of only Eternal Now.