Truth is in the Name

Following along the themes of the Yamas as the first limb in the 8 limb principles of yoga, the second of the Yamas is a simple one but not always easy. Some of my favourite asana postures are like this too. They challenge the mind and the body to work together.

We’ll be exploring the idea of Satya, or truth, as it pertains to the way we express ourselves both outwardly and inwardly.

Kali Mudra

Kali Mudra

Pose: Crescent Lunge
Mudra: Kali Mudra
Mantra: Sat nam (“My name is truth”)

  • From standing, step the right foot toward back of mat. Allow the left knee to bend toward the big toe. Ensure the pelvis is stable.

  • Come into Kali mudra, named after the fierce goddess Durga, bringing hands together with all fingers save index fingers interlaced - index fingers represent the sword of Durga, who slays illusions.

    • Both Kali and Durga are manifestations of the goddess Mahadevi

    • Durga represents the empowerment that enables us to stand in our truth

  • Inhale to lift the hands overhead

  • Exhale to lower them to heart level while visualizing the sword cutting through whatever causes you to be inauthentic (words, clothing, actions, habits)

  • Chant mantra Sat nam (“My name is truth”)

This time of year (if you’re living in the North-western hemisphere) we notice the days getting colder and darker and we learn into our comforts. It is a time of year where we can allow unhealthy habits to develop that deplete us or we can stoke the fire from within using fierce discipline and face our truths, no matter how uncomfortable or ugly they may be.

Whether we relate to the idea of mythology or not, the energy of Durga (often depicted in a menacing image holding many weapons while riding a tiger) represents our inner battles with duties/responsibilities, seeking happiness, values, forgiveness over mistakes - both personal and those of others, as well as other circumstantial challenges we face in life. Each weapon she yields represents each category of the struggle.

Image from India Currents

Image from India Currents

Focus of the Month: Ahimsa, from the 8 Limbs of Yoga

If you’ve been in a yoga class or teacher training and hear about the guiding philosophies that go beyond just the physical practice (Asana), then it’s probably in reference to the Yamas or the Niyamas. These principles were written thousands of years ago and once considered mandatory vows for any yoga practitioner.

They can be difficult for the modern practitioner to embrace in a secular, contemporary society. In the same vein, yoga was developed for adolescent boys to teach them to sit still with discipline and to strengthen their bodies for the arduous work ahead of them. Now, more than half your average yoga class is practiced by women and even more classes are created for women, like pre- and post-natal yoga.

My suggestion, as I review just a couple of the meanings from the 1st Limb of Ashtanga Yoga - The Yamas - would be to consider these “rules” less as directives and more as reflective tools that allow us to deepen our self-awareness in yoga class and beyond. These practices can have deep and long lasting effects, whereas the physical practice only takes you so far on the path.

For example, violence isn’t just firing a weapon; it may also arise in the harsh ways we treat ourselves (like pushing too hard in class to keep up with or compete with classmates). Or, non-possessiveness could be interpreted as letting go of old grudges.


The first of The Yamas is Ahimsa, which means Non-Harming.

Rather than trying to explain, my teaching style is to bring it into the senses immediately - to feel - starting with the physical body in the Asana practice.

Pose: Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)
Mudra: Padma (Lotus) Mudra
Mantra: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (“May beings in all reals experience the feeling state of ease”)

  • From standing, step the right leg back towards the right edge of the mat, spiraling the right heel down so the foot is grounded

  • Bend the left knee and guide the right hip toward the left big toe

  • Bring hands together at the heart with fingers apart, in the gesture of Padma (lotus) Mudra

    • Drawing inspiration from the purity and perseverance of the lotus flower floating above the muddy waters of desire, fear and attachment - the feelings that cause us to lash out at others or ourselves

    • Meditate on the namesake of the pose: Vira means “hero” or “warrior” and bhadra means “with great virtue”

    • Apply concept of non-harming with fortitude and grace of a warrior

    • Attune warrior energy toward the virtues and peace and non-harming of yourself, others and the environment

    • Chant: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (“May beings in all reals experience the feeling state of ease”)

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). Photo by Annaliese Godderz.

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). Photo by Annaliese Godderz.

Padma (Lotus) Mudra. Photo by Joelle Ng.

Padma (Lotus) Mudra. Photo by Joelle Ng.

Why moving to Canada was the best decision for my health

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Back to School days have got many of us thinking about our goals and how to get in the flow now that our free-spirited summer is winding down. While we can stay adventurous year-round, the cooler and shorter days allow many of us, especially those of us on the East coast, to turn inward and take stock of the resources we have and prepare to harvest for the Fall. 

While I speak with some of my colleagues, most sound pretty tired and melancholy. I couldn't help but feel guilty for the gifts of rest and nourishing food I've given myself over the past couple weeks, regardless of how busy work becomes, because I actually felt energized and excited to dive into the work and start creating projects and managing time. Why should anyone feel bad about being productive? But sometimes the "busy" syndrome kicks in and we feel like we're not giving enough of ourselves, to work, to study, to family or friends. It gets to the point in our Western society where it becomes sexy when we're too booked to be social and too exhausted to care. 

The other day I was grateful to have spent some time connecting with a dear friend (which we both had to schedule INTO our busy lives) who reminded me of the difference between nervous system fatigue and pure exertion fatigue. One leads to burnout and anxiety while the other leads to a good night's sleep and satisfaction.

The City that Never Sleeps (aka The Big Apple) comes to mind when I think about nervous system fatigue because it forces your system to function at such a highly sympathetic (fight or flight) level that certain hormones start overproducing which can lead to chronic dysfunction of vital systems like digestion, reproduction and the ability to process our own emotions. With so many new experiences in our lives these days, the nervous system must keep up with each new experience, monitor it, and control the rest of the body's reaction to it. And that's a full time job! We need prolonged periods of rest between these bursts of activity and adrenaline to achieve homeostasis - the state where the body is in balance and can optimally function - which can only be done when the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system is engaged. Oh hi, Yoga! 


Anatomy & Physiology aside, moving to Canada has been one of the best decisions I've made for my health. I drink less coffee (more beer, but that's a story for another time) because my breaks between work involve stretching in my backyard or in our spacious living room that actually fits area rugs and wall hangings(!!), nature walks on the Bruce Trail near my home, freshly prepared meals with my partner and, most interestingly, conversations in our new community here in the City of Hamilton with a diverse group of friendly and open individuals from various ages, classes, backgrounds and interests. 


In a rapidly evolving city (for better or worse, depending on whether you take an economic or humanitarian standpoint), that has become a hotbed of renovations, artistic and culinary collaboration, as well as a leader in innovation and sustainability; conversations with my new neighbours have challenged me to stay open-minded and present, considering others' perspectives and paths - something I was not invited to explore as much as I thought while in NY due to the path I chose to pursue and its corresponding network of similarly-minded, mostly millennial group of ambitious theatrical and spiritual dear ones. 

It is this group of harlequin hippies to whom I am grateful for continually inspiring me to keep going when the burnout was real and to keep considering the dreams, philosophies and life's simple joys.

Stay well, my friends! xo

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