May 09, 2011

Whistler Yoga Conference

My sister Angelique has recently begun practising yoga. A jazz ballet dancer throughout her teens with a new yoga-focused employer, she suggested I join her at the last weekend's Whistler Yoga Conference. I was a little reluctant at first, not sure if I'd be able to do those classes, let alone a whole day of them.

I'd tried the odd yoga class but didn't enjoy it, until Tim and I did an introduction to Bikram Yoga while we stayed in Victoria in 2005 (at the time we lived in Australia). I loved Bikram but was still training and racing as a triathlete and found it too hard to uncover an extra 3 hours a week (a Bikram class is 90 minutes) on top of all the Ironman training and a fulltime job.

Angelique was keen on the Whistler weekend and I thought it good to have an open mind so I said I'd join her for the Saturday. I knew I could use a good stretch, exactly six days after the BMO Vancouver Marathon and hoped my energy levels would have recovered enough.

Angelique chose our classes and did a great job of it.

At 8am Tina James taught our first class. It was a Chakra Balancing Master Class - Jivamukti. It was fantastic, though naturally quite challenging for me. Tina is well-known for her expressive and inspirational nature coupled with her ability to effectively integrate the powerful mystical aspects of yoga, dynamic vinyasa flow sequences, ever-unfolding visualization tools, powerful intention and precision alignment, according to the Whistler Yoga Conference website.

We'd met Tina on our way to the conference as we nearly got lost between a parking lot, and the hotel. She saved us, and had a good laugh about being able to "stop us from heading off into the wilderness". It was nice to make a connection with our first teacher for the day.

During the class Tina said at one point: "You're the one you've been waiting for - there's no one else coming." It's a quote that stayed with me. So often we wait for other people in the hope that they will making things happen for us. Instead, we should look to ourselves and trust in our own ability.

Our second class was with Anodea Judith, Chakra Based Sun Salutations. Held in the gorgeous Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, it was another superb class. Anodea began her study of yoga in 1975 through Satchidanandas school of Integral Yoga, has studied Anusara for the last ten years, and has traveled through many disciplines in the last 35 years, including a masters and doctorate in Psychology and Human Health, with additional trainings in numerous somatic therapies, yoga trainings, and spiritual disciplines , according to the Whistler Yoga Conference website.

I recognized several postures from the Bikram Yoga introduction, which was nice. It both confirmed how much I'd enjoyed Bikram and made me think more about incorporating a yoga routine into my training

After a short lunch break, we headed into our third class, taught by Dashama and called Sailing the Winds of Love - Journey into the Heart. Dashama handed out a pack of Osho Zen Tarot cards for each person to blindly choose one, giving us the opportunity to read the meaning at the end of the class if we wanted or ask her for an explanation. 

The one I happened to draw was the Adventure card, explained as follows in the book: Zen says truth has nothing to do with authority, truth has nothing to do with tradition, truth has nothing to do with the past - truth is a radical, personal realization. You have to come to it.

Knowledge is certain; the search for personal knowing is very, very hazardous. Nobody can guarantee it. If you ask me if I can guarantee anything, I say I cannot guarantee you anything. I can only guarantee danger, that much is certain. I can only guarantee you a long adventure with every possibility of going astray and never reaching the goal. But one thing is certain: the very search will help you to grow.

I can guarantee only growth. Danger will be there, sacrifice will be there; you will be moving every day into the unknown, into the uncharted, and there will be no map to follow, no guide to follow. Yes, there are millions of dangers and you can go astray and you can get lost, but that is the only way one grows.

Insecurity is the only way to grow, to face danger is the only way to grow, to accept the challenge of the unknown is the only way to grow.

When we are truly in a spirit of adventure, we are moving just like this child. Full of trust, out of the darkness of the forest into the rainbow of the light, we go step by step, drawn by our sense of wonder into the unknown.

Adventure really has nothing to do with plans and maps and programs and organization. The Page of Rainbows represents a quality that can come to us anywhere - at home or in the office, in the wilderness or in the city, in a creative project or in our relationships with others. Whenever we move into the new and unknown with the trusting spirit of a child, innocent and open and vulnerable, even the smallest things of life can become the greatest adventures.

Food for thought.

It was another inspiring two-hour class, and we had a short break before starting our fourth and final one of the day. To be honest, I was quite tired at this point, feeling the effects of last week's marathon as well as being a yoga novice trying to keep up. Then there all the conscious and subconscious emotions that are stirred up and whirling around your mind.

Again the fourth class was fantastic, and I am so glad we went. The Sacred Dance and Yoga session, taught by Hemalayaa, was laugh-out-loud fun. In Sacred Dance and Yoga, we’ll seamlessly fuse four spiritually restorative elements: creative yoga, sacred dance, grounding meditations, and rejuvenating pranayama. Playful, flowing, inspiring and powerfully transformative, this session is designed to help you transcend beyond the physical and into the sacred flow of your own inner Goddess, according to the Whistler Yoga Conference website. 

It was the perfect class to end an amazing day. I'm so glad my sister, who stayed on for a second day while I went home, convinced me to go. It was the mental and physical stretch I needed a week after the Vancouver Marathon. (If the timing of the 2012 conference is the same, I'd highly recommend all Vancouver marathoners to attend one day - it's awesome recovery.)

Among other things, attending the conference has strengthened my belief that I will need to begin practising a form of yoga to increase my strength and flexibility if I want to succeed in my goal of running a sub-3-hour marathon.

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