Cultivating an at Home Practice with Michelle Smith

It’s hard to replicate the magic of the right in-studio class, however it’s not always possible to make it to the studio for an hour-long class. I feel you, I get it.

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Enter, the elusive home practice. At home sessions give you the opportunity to explore your personal practice at your own pace, in your own time. If you stay open to it, it can be an empowering experience. Here are some tips to make the most of your time on your mat.

Schedule it:

Make a date with yourself - and don’t cancel! Find a time that works with your schedule and stick to it. If you don’t have an hour, or even 15 minutes to carve out, work to meditate for 5 minutes in the morning, or do some stretches before you get out of bed. It doesn’t have to be grand - but showing up can start your day in a big way!

Create an atmosphere - or don’t:

Find the atmosphere that works for you and your lifestyle. The ideal is to find a quiet, tidy space where you can find focus. It helps to de-clutter the mind when your space is de-cluttered. Set up a Spotify playlist or move in silence. Your space, your rules. Maybe you have 4 kids running around, the TV blaring and your mother-in-law visiting. That’s okay too. Accept that your practice will be different than in-studio. Maybe today it looks like pausing before reacting, maybe it’s taking 5 minutes to focus on your breath in the morning before you get out of bed. Maybe it is throwing down your mat amidst the chaos and finding 10 minutes of movement. Heck, invite them to join you! Own your practice, however it happens.

Warm up:

Once your space is set up, take a few moments to connect with your breath and check in with the physical body. As you begin to quiet your mind, turn your attention inward to the emotional body and pay attention to your inner voice. Choose to set an intention for yourself if it feels right. This is a skill that pays dividends off of your mat. Take a few moments to warm up the body. Think about the movements your instructors guide you through at the beginning of class. Start with gentle postures and gradually increase the movements.

Make this practise your own:

In your home practice you can focus on your specific movement and mindfulness goals. Not sure where to start? Start with your favourite poses. Go through the poses you know, try different transitions. You’ll likely find you know more than you think! Get creative and enjoy the process. As always, listen to your body and stick with what feels good. There are plenty of online classes you can access at home. Our In Fine Feather instructors are always happy to chat, and you can also draw inspiration from our Flow Progressions on In Fine Feather’s Instagram & IGTV.

Stick with it:

Last, but not least - don’t get discouraged. Practise does not make perfect, because there is no perfect. Use your home practice to get curious, find some moments of connection, and move your body. If in the end you find in-studio sessions are what works best for you, we’ll see you on your mat in class.

Practice at Home with IFF’s Online Yoga Classes

Beginner Yoga Series
30.00

Finding your home practice with Helena. For the first time ever In Fine Feather Yoga is offering online classes. These videos are 20 minute practices that you can take from the comfort of your home. These online classes will also offer proper alignment and important cues to safety support you while you practice at home, as if you were practicing inside the studio. Helena will be guiding you through five different classes; each session is suitable for yoga practitioners of all levels and is beginner friendly. These five videos will explore different elements of the practice:

-Finding Mobility
-Finding Balance
-Finding Strength
-Finding Heart Centre
-Finding Your Flow

Purchase
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More About Michelle

Michelle found yoga after a lifetime of organized sports gave way to post-secondary student life. Struggling to keep a steady gym routine, she enrolled in a yoga class. She quickly found herself continuing to return to her mat after noticing a sense of focus, steadiness and ease in her chaotic schedule. The four corners have remained the space where she can slow down and reconnect with herself.

Looking to strengthen her personal practice, Michelle enrolled in 200-hour teacher training at Anjeli Teacher Training Academy with Diana Lockett and Daniel Horgan in 2017. She quickly felt the call to share her passion for the healing properties of yoga and thoughtful movement with others. Michelle’s teaching and practice take a light-hearted approach to an alignment based and heart centered class that encourages exploration of the body and spirit. It is her goal to guide herself and her students to be present and connected with one’s self, surroundings and Universe.

Find Michelle on Saturday afternoons at 12:00-1:00pm for an Intermediate Flow class. Register here!

Yoga Teacher Training | The Start of a New Journey by Lisa Kiss

Last year in July I got together with Helena to grab a coffee at Planted in Hamilton and interview her for my blog. I was featuring ‘Fempreneurs’ in Hamilton and obviously Helena came to mind because she’s been running a business successfully for the last five years!

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Never would I have thought six months later I would be on route to becoming a yoga teacher. I danced my whole life for about 15 years and loved the community feel. After I turned 18 you have to stop and start adult level dance classes to continue dancing. I was craving a community to be a part of again and in 2016 I tried my first yoga class. Coming from a dance background I was able to do most of the classes and I loved it. It felt just like stretching! I took a little break from yoga because of school but, started doing some classes at a different yoga studio. It didn’t have the small community feel I was looking for.

Stepping into the IFF Community

Now circling back to that meeting with Helena, I mentioned wanting to start practicing yoga consistently again so, she suggested doing an Energy Exchange. The next week I was being trained and the week after I started on the desk. Helena moves fast with things, #bosswomen! But I’m glad because I was able to start my yoga journey that much sooner. I was on the desk Sunday evenings for six months and Sunday mornings and Monday mornings for three months. Working on the desk was great because I got to meet and talk to so many great IFF community members.

Yoga Teacher Training Progress

After practicing weekly for a few months, I decided to learn more about IFF’s Teacher Training Program. After talking to Helena for about 10 minutes I said, “Yes! This is something I really want to do.” I patiently waited three months to start the training and now we’re already done Module 1! It’s going by so fast!

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Out of the four modules I was the most excited for Module One Anatomy and Asana’s. I didn’t study science in University, so it has been amazing thus far to learn about something different. It’s crazy how everything in the body is connected and works together without you having to do anything. It has most definitely helped me with my own practice and now I notice things about people randomly when I’m just walking down the street. It is great preparation for observing bodies while teaching a yoga class. Natalie J is great source of knowledge and I’m so glad Helena has her teach the first Module! It’s been great to take this knowledge with me into Module Two which has officially began!

I’m very excited for this whole year of learning more about yoga, deepening my practice and being involved with such a great community! I’m extremely happy that I chose to start this journey with In Fine Feather; they are a community that you want to be a part of!

Peace & Love,

Lisa Kiss

More About IFF’s Yoga Teacher Training

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

More About Lisa Kiss

Find out more about Lisa Kiss, read her blog and explore her services here.

My Story As A Yoga Student and How You Can Begin The Practice By Helena McKinney

There is No Time Like the Present. 

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My name is Helena McKinney and I took my first yoga class at a studio in 2008; with no idea of what to expect. All I knew is that something was missing from my life whether it was movement, fitness, focus, mindfulness or more, I truly feel I went to my first class out of curiosity, a drive for change in my life and honestly because someone invited me. I have to admit, I was pretty sore after my first class. It introduced movement I was not used to, but I felt very intrigued to go back because of how I felt the days following. Muscles I did not even know I had were awakened and I quickly realized that yoga was something I wanted to do again. I appreciated the combination of the challenge, the strength, the balance of stretching and relaxing. The first class created a shift and each class since has continued to everyday of my life. 

I am writing this piece to share my yoga story with you, but also to dismantle some of the misconceptions of this practice. I’d like to encourage everybody, of every body type to find a practice that works for them! Over the course of 11 years, I established a daily yoga practice with the guidance of my teachers, I completed my yoga teacher training in 2011 and opened my own yoga studio in 2012, In Fine Feather Yoga on Ottawa Street in my home town of Hamilton. At one point, I too was a total beginner, but I want this practice to be more inviting to those perhaps uncertain of how to get started. We all have different reasons for starting yoga, often it is to find better work/life balance, to help work through an injury after physiotherapy, for more peace and ease in our mental health, to get in better shape and build more strength. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to make change, I assure you the practice will improve all areas of your life. These are some of my tips and tricks and ins and outs for finding the right yoga studio practice. 

Why do you want to start yoga and what do you hope to achieve through practicing? Let’s find the right yoga for YOU!

This is am important question because different classes and styles of yoga can achieve different things for the body and mind set. Some classes are meant for stretching, de-stressing and relaxing the body, other classes invigorate the body and are more of a physical workout. You want to ensure that the first class you are attending meets some of your expectations and that you are prepared for the pace of the class. Most studios in the area will have a variety of classes, with different levels for total beginners, to more advanced students. Gentle and Intro classes tend to be slower paced where stretching, breathing and a guided relaxation will be integrated. These classes will also teach you the basics for alignment and teach you the foundations of each pose. This is a great place for beginners to start to feel more comfortable in a guided yoga class. Flow or Vinyasa classes will take you through yoga postures at a quicker, more fluid pace. These classes will integrate yoga poses that encourage more strength, mobility and balance which would be more suited to students who have some experience with fitness or yoga. These are things you might want to consider before taking a class at a new studio. Perhaps call in/email first and consult with a studio manager about their class schedule and your interest in beginning classes. They will be able to direct you to the right class based on your specific needs and expectations. For the first year of my practice, I consistently stuck with beginners classes and established a strong understanding for the postures. So it excited me when I moved into the more advanced classes with confidence and felt prepared to try more difficult poses safely. You can check out IFF’s class schedule here.

How to continue a regular practice and fit it into your lifestyle?

Reminder yourself that healthy growth in life is gained over time, patience, persistence and practice. Most studios will have some type of introductory special for new students that offer you one month unlimited. Take advantage of this offer over the 30 days, its a great personal investment. This gives you the opportunity to try all the classes on the schedule and the different styles of classes. You will get more flexible. You will be stronger throughout your whole body. You will notice other differences in all aspects of your life. After a few months of my regular practice, I noticed myself more relaxed in the day to day, patient at work, my sleeping patterns were more consistent, I slept well and actually rested at night. My eating patterns became healthier, my body naturally wanted to eat foods that fuelled and energized me. My mind felt clearer to prioritize my day. Some of my closest friends even noticed a difference in how I held myself. I stood taller and walked a little lighter. I had to keep up with this practice. 

The Common Misconceptions

But…Yoga at a studio is expensive! This is something I have often heard. The variety of class passes offered at studios are an investment because of the unique technical instruction that each teacher provides the class with. Saying that, it is very common that the local studios in Hamilton offer Karma Classes or Community Classes available daily or at least a few times a week. These sessions are accessible at a pay what you can rate or donation based. Find our community classes on the schedule here. These community classes were the foundation of my practice when I started. I feel blessed that they were offered at De La Sol in Hamilton and this allowed me to really develop my practice in my early years. My personal practice was so important that making it to those classes became apart of my weekly routine.

You don't need to be flexible, yoga helps you with this, you don't need to be in shape, movement helps with this, you don't have to be a certain age, classes are always mixed ages, you don't need to find the perfect time to start practicing yoga. The time is now, the present moment. It is yoga practice, not yoga perfect. If you feel the calling to make some type of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual change in your life, reach out to your local studio. Ask yourself this important question, what do you hope to achieve through practicing yoga? Know, that the answer does not need to become present to you right away, but trust that through the guidance of a knowledgeable yoga instructor and your own ambition- anything is possible. I am overwhelmed with how far I have come through practicing yoga and on a daily basis I get to share this everyday with my students. Yoga truly encourages us to live healthy, more self aware and whole.


I invite you to reach out if you have any further question about starting and maintaining a yoga practice. Please email helena@infinefeatheryoga.com.

Be Well Always and with Gratitude,

Helena

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More About Helena

In 2008 Helena attended her first yoga class, unaware of the incredible journey the practice would lead her on. Helena comes from a professional dance background, trained in ballet, contemporary and acrobatics. Her teaching career began over 12 years ago instructing students in dance at the competitive level. Helena has always had a passion and knowledge for movement, but through yoga she has discovered how to move more mindfully and live more consciously. Dedication to her practice has led her down a path of greater health, strength and peace. Feeling compelled to share this passion, Helena completed her 200 hour Teacher Training at De La Sol in 2012 and has continued her studies in Yin-Yang Yoga.

Helena established In Fine Feather in 2012 just after receiving her Teacher Training certificate. Recognizing the unbelievable benefits of the practice, Helena immediately began to reach out to her community, offering pay what you can classes at a community centre in downtown Hamilton. As her passion for teaching continued to grow, she branched out into other areas of the city doing corporate wellness in the workplace. Teaching in all these different and unique settings of the city has directly contributed to Helena creative teaching style as well as her desire to open this space in central Hamilton.  She is very excited to share this journey with her students.

Teaching brings Helena the most joy because it encourages people in her community to live with greater stability, mobility and happiness on and off the mat. Her classes look to inspire a deep connection with self awareness while integrating breath with movement, to leave feeling strong and restored.

More Blogs By Helena….

2018 Yoga Gratitude Flashback with In Fine Feather and Helena McKinney: In Fine Feather Yoga has done some incredible things in Hamilton this year and we wanted to share our rendition of a 2018 Gratitude Flashback!

The 8 Limbs of Yoga by Helena McKinney: I am inspired to share more behind the philosophy of the yoga practice. Yoga has purpose beyond the physical asana/movement to transform our overall life perspectives and increase our capacity to have contentment. Let’s explore the 8 Limbs of Yoga, which have greatly deepened my understanding of the practice.

Helpful Tools to Beat the Winter Blues by Meagan Santa

Spring hasn’t quite arrived yet, there’s still snow on the ground and I’m not the only one who is beginning to feel cooped up inside. Many of us experience “the winter blues” in various forms, some worse than others. For myself I’ve found that putting extra effort in taking care of my health, sticking to a routine and spending time in community helps me get past the winter blues and keep my spirits up.

Health

With the winter months calling us to stay in bed and not leave our warm homes, I’ve found sticking to my routine especially in the morning and evening a big help. The average adult makes 35 000 conscious decisions each day, according to multiple sources on the Internet so with  regular routines and healthy habits we can sustain our energy longer.

I’ve found consuming warm foods and beverages like soups and teas to be a great way to warm the body from the inside out. But in anticipation for spring, I’ve been sneaking in a few cold salads and entrees into my week because it acts as a pick-me-up and reminder that the warmer days will arrive soon! Ensure you’re fuelling your body well with whole foods and getting in all your vitamins to further support the body. This is a helpful article to reference here!

Routine

Get in the habit of practicing meditation if you may be, “feeling in your head” or “stuck in a rut.” Specifically a gratitude meditation is said to help ease symptoms of overwhelm and stress, not to mention, recognising what we have to be grateful for (big or small) is a good feeling that allows for a little peace and lifts my spirit.

Simply find a comfortable position seated or on your back. Tune into your physical body, relaxing from head to toe. Then deepen your breathe, following each inhale and exhale. When ready think of 5 things you are grateful for. Your morning cup of coffee can count or the short walk around the block with your dog. Observe what warm feelings arise within you. Keep focused on those feelings for 10-15 breathes.

Community

In Fine Feather Yoga has lots of workshops and events happening inside the studio. Specifically our March 30 Day Challenge is a perfect opportunity to get out of the house, connect with like-minded people and feel like you have conquered a productive day. We have planned a closing party for challengers as well as weekly inspiration and resources arriving to you via email! Getting a sweat on daily will allow for the stagnant energy to shake off, plus it’s good for you! Yoga for winter blues is my go-to form of movement when it comes to heating the body from the cool temps outside. I’m looking forward to pressing play on the weekly home practice videos lead by Nicole & Helena! You can sign up for the challenge here and learn more here.

Hamilton has lots of opportunities to connect with others year-round. It can be as simple as asking a friend for coffee, checking out a new store or going for a walk. Ottawa Street is filled with friendly shop owners, art, vintage antiques and places to eat. This photo is in front of the mural at Antique Detective on 137 Ottawa St N. I always feel better after going for a walk even if it’s a quick 15 minutes around my block. Grab an extra layer, listen to a podcast, take your dog, and enjoy!

One Last Suggestion

My last & favourite suggestion to beating the winter blues is watching funny movies/shows or reading comedic books. Laughing is said to be the best medicine, corny or not!

PS: It’s important you don’t ignore the symptoms of winter blues especially if you find yourself suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) aka winter depression. The article here is a great resource to learn more.

More About Meagan

Meagan is a graduate of the In Fine Feather Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training Program, the assistant manager at the studio, a lifestyle coach and yoga instructor. Check out her blog post where she shares her IFF Yoga Journey. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga by checking the class schedule HERE and find her bio HERE.

Connection & Community by Amy Gowling

One of my favourite things about practicing and teaching yoga at In Fine Feather is the community. Through movement and stillness we create and share space to grow stronger, to heal, to relax, and to reconnect with ourselves and others. There are times when I’m in class and I become overwhelmed with gratitude that we’ve all showed up, that we’re all working towards our best selves and sharing that with each other.

It’s About Connection

Yoga is about union, connecting within ourselves: mind, body, and breath. It’s also about connecting with each other. Before coming to this studio my yoga practice was mainly about shutting the world out and connecting with myself, finding my own light. What I’m learning here is the power of sharing our light with each other and how it can lift and strengthen you when you do. There’s an incredible healing power in connecting with others; of having a sense of community and belonging. We’re stronger together.

It’s About Community

In the month of January, Thursday’s meditation was about creating an anchor. A simple tool that’s available anytime to help you regain control of emotions. This is a powerful meditation practice and anytime is great time to start. The winter months can be emotionally challenging. There’s a greater stillness that can be found when meditating with a group. We connect through the simple act of holding space and stillness for each other. I’m so glad I attended last Thursday’s meditation, and am looking forward to more sits together! You can check out the schedule here.

Namaste

Amy

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More About Amy

Amy’s interest in yoga began in 2009 while working in Mental Health as a Recreation Therapist. After reviewing the research on the benefits of yoga for depression and anxiety, Amy decided to learn more by taking some classes. It didn’t take long for her to see the transformative power of yoga in herself and want to share this with others. She became certified to teach yoga in 2012 through Octopus Garden Yoga Center, and is also a Certified Senior Fitness Instructor through the Canadian Center for Activity and Aging. She believes yoga gives us the power to focus our attention on what we want to manifest in our lives and that in turn makes us limitless. With a mindful approach to both stillness and movement, she encourages students to cultivate the deep contentment that is available by being present, curious, and accepting.

Amy currently teaches Chair Yoga Mondays at 12:00-1:00pm and Gentle Yoga Sundays at 8:00-9:00pm.

2018 Yoga Gratitude Flashback with In Fine Feather and Helena McKinney!

In Fine Feather Yoga has done some incredible things in Hamilton this year and we wanted to share our rendition of a 2018 Gratitude Flashback!

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A Message from yoga studio owner, Helena McKinney!

This idea was shared with me a few months ago and it was an incredible exercise in reflection. I was able to honour my past achievements while eagerly awaiting the future! I sat back and explored 10 things I’ve achieved this year personally and professionally. The second part of this journaling practice was to path out 5 things to look forward to in 2019. Let me see if I can paint a little picture for you, I hope you don’t mind if the year isn’t in exact order!

My Ambassador Proposal with Lululemon!

1) On a regular day in June, I thought I was heading to the studio for a meeting with one of my instructors. Rather, I arrive to a practice room full of balloons and champagne, with the overwhelming surprise of being asked to be an ambassador for Lululemon. This was a goal of mine for years, so I of course said YES! They later went on to tell me that I received this great honour for my work within the yoga community. This type of recognition and acknowledgment was incredibly validating that I am on the right path. We have gone on to create awesome events in the community over the last year, some of which I will share below, but this particular moment meant so much to me.

I Hired a Yoga Studio Manager…Thank You Meagan Santa!

2) This journey started with a particularly ambitious and talented yoga student who decided to take teacher training at In Fine Feather. Megan Santa, now our studio Assistant Manager, approached me about helping with registration forms and answering some emails. Her and I have developed a friendship, a mentorship, an active role for her in the studio and a sisterhood that is invaluable. I often find myself saying… “Everyone needs a Meag in their life”, and I even have a hashtag for her #EveryDayWithMeag! Together, her and I have big plans for the New Year, we can’t wait to share them!

New Yoga Programming and Classes Excite Me!

3) We opened the Wellness Room; our smaller, cozy back room in the studio. This created the opportunity for so many new programs. Yoga is a unique practice, where there is a style for everyone. Opening this second room, we were able to make more styles available to our community.

4) This past April we started offering Prenatal Yoga classes for all the soon to be moms. I look forward to the mamas coming in each week because they bring such an incredible warm energy to the space. I feel as if we have some small part in their journey towards bringing a baby into this world and this is a blessing for our staff to witness. See what people have been saying about prenatal yoga with IFF!

5) Over the last year, when connecting with students, we kept hearing a similar story of elevated stress, anxiety and experiences of difficulty in their lives. This led us to understand, that as a collective community, we would all benefit from having a more regular meditation and mindfulness practice to counter balance some of the challenges we are all going through. We now offer meditation classes three times a week, along with classes that invite us to slow down. Find out more about meditation and how to start a practice!

Community Partnerships and Collaborations are the Key to Making More Happen!

6) Where do I even begin to thank all the incredible community partners we have worked with this past year. It is important to acknowledge the places we’ve been, the people we have connected with and the awesome energy we generated. To name a few; Niagara Parks and the Namaste Niagara events at Journey Behind the Falls. It is truly unreal practicing yoga right beside one of the world’s greatest wonders. We collaborated with Lululemon and Collective Arts Brewery at the Liquid Arts Festival; how hysterical was the yoga and beer class we hosted! We worked with The Hamilton Tiger Cats and Lululemon and practiced yoga on the field before the football game at Namaste Ticats. A very nostalgic class for me because I used to be a Ticats cheerleader back in the day. Who didn’t love the yoga and wine events at Between the Lines Winery, could Mother’s Day be any more beautiful and celebratory? We hosted the most lovely holiday staff party designed, decorated, furnished and catered by a local start up business, Every Golden Moment. We had a magician and everything!

All the while the studio continued to host our annual 30 Day Challenge, our 6th Yogis in the City photo contest, our second round of yoga teacher trainees graduated and we hosted countless workshops and educational programs throughout the year. Busy, busy bees!

Making Yoga History on Ottawa Street North!

7) Sew Hungry, the annual food truck rally was hosted on May 5th and the studio, with Lululemon and the Ottawa Street BIA decided to make something special happen for this event. Yoga Now and Feast Later was the first time a huge group of people gathered on Ottawa Street to practice yoga. Ottawa Street is a historical shopping district in Hamilton and this is the neighbourhood I grew up in. I have fond memories of taking dance classes as a kid on Campbell St, going to the Farmer’s Market with my dad and fabric shopping with my mom. Ottawa Street is not only the location of the studio; its my home, its my heart and I was proud we made this possible for the neighbourhood.

Rebranding and Creating a New Vision for IFF!

8) If you know me, I love when things look pretty! I was craving a rebranded presence for the studio. This gave me a reason to get all the staff together for a photo shoot. The set was beautiful, floral and everything I envisioned. Not only was the website completely reinvented but we redesigned the visuals for the entire studio. The front facade was replaced (we kind of had to because of that epic wind storm), we rebranded our workshop posters and online newsletter. I couldn’t be more please with the fresh look and take pride in how IFF presents itself.

Mindbody Training and Two Conferences in California!

9) Another huge goal for me was travelling and attending these two business conferences. I knew I would flourish, gain huge insight and come back feeling inspired and motivated. I can truly admit that all 10 of these accomplishments might not have been possible if I didn’t invest in this type of training for myself. I had never been to California and the west coast is beyond stunning. The sunshine lit something up inside of me. I was able to bring Meagan with me for the second trip and we had the opportunity to see guest speakers, Michelle Obama and Bille Jean King, as well as many other motivational speakers and leaders in the wellness industry. Mindbody also reached out to myself and IFF to do a social media take over for their company; literally, how incredible to be asked to take part in this!

Celebrating our Five Year Anniversary at Yoga in the Park!

10) We all love Yoga in the Park; students always express that this practice is the highlight of their summer. Celebrating our five year anniversary at Gage Park was an absolute must. On Sunday September 9th, an abnormally cold, windy morning, we were overwhelmed with the attendance and appreciation from the community. So many of you showed up for this special occasion! We did giveaways and acknowledged some of our founding members, reminisced on the journey of the studio and had some sweets and treats. Another huge thank you goes to my community partners at Lululemon for hosting this party to recognize my contributions to the yoga community. 5 YEARS….WE DID IT…as a small business owner, this is a huge milestone.

Five Visions and Intentions for 2019!

1) Hosting our 3rd year of yoga teacher training and graduating inspired instructors who can continue to pass on the traditions of this practice.

2) Launching a new mentorship program for entrepreneurs in the wellness industry and consulting with them to share some of my insight on establishing a successful business.

3) Going on our first yoga retreat, Om in India! We can not wait to travel across the world and experience the birth place of yoga with a group of like minded souls!

4) Creating online programs and classes for our yoga friends that have moved away so that we can maintain a connection even if we can’t see you in the studio anymore! We miss you!

5) This is a big one for me, I would like to develop my career as a keynote speaker. I want to start sharing more about my unique journey and experience of life. Telling my story is important. Every moment that has developed me as a person has contributed to my role as a female entrepreneur and community advocate in my home town, Hamilton.

Hopefully, this time next year I will be doing a gratitude recap on these goals; right now they are just visions but I know that with focus, perseverance and dedication they will be brought to life. I am grateful for the support of my staff, my family and friends but most importantly the community that shows up to be with me. Thanks for giving me strength and for giving me so much purpose. I invite you all to take some time over the next few days to explore your 2018 accomplishments and write them down. Acknowledge your achievements and take that positivity every with you into the New Year! We learn through sharing, so feel free to post your gratitude list online, tag us and #IFFYogis2019

Much Love,
Helena McKinney

5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays Without Neglecting Your Health By Meagan Santa

I’ve gathered my favourite tips to support you in enjoying everything the holidays has to offer while avoiding the guilt and low energy that usually follows a busy holiday season. This isn't a time to neglect your personal health & wellness. Instead it's a time of year where it's crucial!

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  1. Stay hydrated!

    Drinking extra water will offset some of the processed sugar and alcohol intake that leads us to dehydration. We all have something we love to indulge in and this time of year it’s usually not foods that give our bodies nutrients.

  2. Recipe substitutions!

    This may not be a favourite trick but it can help with a sweet craving. An easy example is hot chocolate. Check out this healthier recipe to make at home here! Substitution examples can include white sugar for coconut sugar or sour cream for greek yogurt.

  3. Choose your splurges and treats ahead of time.

    Create balance by not indulging at every event or party. Pick a few that will offer you the best opportunity to fully relax and enjoy.

  4. Pre-plan your workout & yoga schedule!

    Commit to moving your body and clearing your mind every single day. This will allow you to show up as your best self. The holidays can be stressful but by claiming this time on your mat, meditation cushion, cycle class, etc will encourage you to go throughout the day with a positive attitude.

  5. An exercise to use in meditation:

    Shield yourself from negative energy by envisioning your body wrapped in a golden light. Additionally you can come back to this exercise for a moment before entering an environment that may seem difficult. Imagine this golden light protecting your from judgements or negative emotions.


I believe that no matter the season of life or the month we are in, it’s possible to find a balance of sorts. This comes down to creating healthy habits that work for you and your lifestyle. Not all of these tips may resonate with you but I suggest you pick a few that do and implement them. Happy Holidays!

More About Meagan

Meagan is a graduate of the In Fine Feather Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training Program and the assistant manager at the studio. Check out her blog post where she shares her IFF Yoga Journey. Come meet Meagan on the mat at In Fine Feather Yoga in Hamilton! Check out her bio HERE and find her on the class schedule HERE.

A few words... by Aldona

A Note For Our Newer Community Members

One of our long time community members Aldona wrote this piece for us making us laugh and feel filled with gratitude for the space we have created on Ottawa Street. At our 5 Year Anniversary party we celebrated Aldona having practiced almost 1000 hours of yoga at the studio with a gift that she shares below. A quick note for our newer community members who may not know who Gus is! The studio owner, Helena McKinney took an orange kitten in bringing it to the studio to stay for a short span of time until she could bring him home with her. In the short time he spent at In Fine Feather Yoga, many students found joy in spending time with Gus before class, including Aldona. He is missed well at the yoga studio but loves his home with Helena where he has lots of toys and sun rays to lay in.

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Meet Aldona

You've seen me at the studio.  I'm usually one of the first people to show up for a class.  You've probably seen me sitting on the bench in the front lobby talking to reception or chit chatting with another participant or casually pointing out directions to a new member.  Back in the day, when Gus was in the house, I'd be the one fussing with him. Either playing with him or brushing him or putting him in the back room just before we started our practice.  I really enjoyed my time with Gus .  It was my furry meditation prior to my physical practice. It seemed silly to some but to me it was important.

I first came to Yoga years ago when the fitness gym I was at started offering a single Yoga class. I was one of the first people who started coming to class and instantly feel in love.  Fell in love with what Yoga did for me, both physically and mentally. I knew Yoga would be part of my life for a long time to come.

When an athletic injury temporarily took me away from my mat, I knew in the back of my mind that I would return to my mat ...one day.   That 'one day' came in the form of a new Yoga studio opening in Hamilton on the comer of Barton and Ottawa St. It’s name, In Fine Feather and it’s director, Helena.   My first class at the studio was led by Helena and even though I could not do all the poses, I enjoyed  her style of teaching.  I knew that returning to my mat was the right thing for me. No matter what mood I was in, no matter how sore my body was, no matter if I could ‘do’ all the poses or not, practicing Yoga always made me feel better.

As the studio grew, so did my practice.  IFF moved into it's present location and I  started coming more often. Whenever my schedule allowed, I would keep returning to my mat.  I saw the benefits Yoga provided  me and I knew that my mat and I would be friends for a very long time.

A Surprise Gift

A few classes later...... I found myself sitting in Gage Park on an unusually cool September morning  getting ready for a class.  I wasn't happy with the temperature outside but IFF was celebrating it's 5 year anniversary and I wanted to attend.  After the practice Helena stood to say a few words and all I could think about were how cold my feet were: I'm the one in the studio who never thinks it's too hot...EVER!!  She started talking about a participant that had done almost 1000 hours of  class time and I started to wonder how many classes I had done at IFF.  The more she talked, the more  I noticed that she was staring right at me.  When Helena announced that she was gifting  me a scholarship to one of the modules in her teacher training... well,  needless to say I was a little surprised.

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New Year Plan

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to  enhance my existing  practice,  to expand my knowledge,  to spend  time with fellow Yogis at the studio and to deepen my friendship with my mat.  I hope my appreciation for Yoga will grow so that I can experience even more benefits that a Yoga practice can provide.  It's given me so much up to this point and I'm certain that I will take in so much more...if I just keep coming back to my mat.

Helena, your idea of a scholarship was generous and I’m honoured to be the first recipient.

I look forward to starting the new year off on my mat in an environment that’s friendly, comfortable and what has come to feel like a second home.

Thanks so much for this gift.  It truly means a lot to me.

And if I’m lucky, there might be a visit from a certain furry orange guy....hint, hint.

-Aldona

Interested in Joining the IFF Community or Furthering Your Yoga Knowledge?

Find our class schedule here and start your own yoga journey with our New Student Intro Pass here. If you’re interested in joining Aldona in one or all of our teacher training modules, click here for more information.

Why I Didn’t Take Yoga Teacher Training to Teach Yoga. By Andrea King.

Wait, what?

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Okay, let’s flash back to 1995. I’m practicing yoga in my bedroom. Just a copy of Yoga Journal magazine and my bare feet on the floor, doing my best to follow the poses in the magazine, trying not to smash into my cat. The cat thing remains the same in my home practice, by the way.

My practice was solely mine. It was like my little secret. It took quite a few years before I told anyone I did yoga. After all, I was a punk rock girl and I honestly didn’t think it suited my image. I loved the magazines. I loved reading about the teachers and the sequencing they put together. I also loved to flip to the back to pour over the lists of schools and studios. I would sit and dream about immersive programs in Costa Rica or California. I became completely obsessed with all things yoga, but I never actually thought about teaching.

Practicing in a Yoga Studio

Yoga stayed a part of my life and eventually I started practicing in public. Gasp! I even let other, non-yoga people know it was part of my life. I still held onto the dream of teacher training, but it was something close to my heart that I didn’t share with anyone. I dove into my career as a hairstylist and continued my yoga practice. I even added meditation and dove deeper into learning about myself. Then I reconnected with a friend who was enrolled in a teacher-training program. I couldn’t believe the level of jealously that bubbled up inside me. “How could she be in teacher training!? She hasn’t even been doing yoga as long as me!” Oh, man. The stories that came up. Eventually I gained some perspective and asked her about the program and how it was going so far. Her answer surprised me.

Personal Development and Yoga

She told me she took the course to improve her practice but she wasn’t planning on teaching. Huh? She explained how she was learning so much about herself and the course provided a ton of personal development, all while nerding out about asana and yoga philosophy. I didn’t even know that was a thing. To enroll in teacher training, without the intention to actually teach!? But suddenly, my brain went into overdrive. I was working for myself, so I had the time flexibility to get super deep and nerdy about my practice. I could totally do this. I got in touch with the facilitator and sent my deposit immediately.

The Unexpected Outcome

One of the great things about YTT is that it’s set up as a self-discovery course, allowing the space for you get to know yourself better. Physically, it can reshape your practice and invite a sense of body awareness that is indescribable by my knowledge of the English language. The part I didn’t expect about this process is that I love teaching. I hope that’s evident if you’ve shown up to my classes! If not, I’d love to have you in one of my classes at In Fine Feather Yoga on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday evening or Saturday morning. In Fine Feather is a huge part of my journey as a yoga teacher, I met my fellow teacher Jackee Desimone while I was in my own teacher training program as she was an assistant in the program. I found out she was also from Hamilton and that she taught classes at IFF. Still on the hunt to feel comfortable in a studio space, I started attending Jackee’s classes and the hunt was over, I found my yoga home. After practicing at the studio for a while, Helena offered me an energy exchange position and it was such an amazing way for me to immerse myself in the IFF community, connecting with members and enabling me to try more of the classes on the schedule. Eventually I made it on the sub list, and when needed I was able to hop in and teach the very community that I was a member of.

Present Day at IFF

Fast forward to now where I teach 4 classes on the schedule and have even had the honour of helping out with the 2018 YTT program. In Fine Feather asks only that you do your best, and I’m so happy I get to do my best with them. So, if you’ve been looking for a way to deepen your practice beyond attending classes, or you’re feeling stuck, I urge you to consider YTT. If you’re looking for a deeper way to connect with yourself and your community, this could be your way. And remember, you don’t even have to have an end goal in mind! This could be something just for you, like it was for me. Who knows what will happen? Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions by email here.

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More About Andrea

Andrea King doesn’t just love to teach yoga to yogis , she also has an intense passion for teaching yoga teachers!  Quickly after graduating from her own teacher training she was signed up to volunteer with the next group of future teachers and hasn’t stopped since. She is also a 2019 YTT facilitator at In Fine Feather Yoga; beginning in January. From this passion of teaching teachers, Andrea has began offering mentorships  to new graduates as well as advanced training to new and experienced teachers. You can contact her for more details here.

Two Year Chair Yoga Anniversary at IFF! By Amy Gowling

We're celebrating two years since In Fine Feather Yoga started offering Chair Yoga!

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I began teaching Chair Yoga in 2012 while working as a Recreation Therapist in CAMH’s Geriatric Mental Health Program. I was aware of the many physical and mental health benefits of yoga and wanted to make it more accessible for my clients. This prompted me to take additional training, attend workshops, read, and really think about the purpose behind each pose to develop a program that is safe, adaptable, and therapeutic for a variety of people.

Chair Yoga in Hamilton

When I moved back to Hamilton I wanted to continue offering Chair Yoga to the community. After talking to Helena, the owner of In Fine Feather Yoga, she happily offered her space at the studio to host classes following our discussion about Crown Point’s need for accessible programs in the neighbourhood when the YWCA was due to close for renovations.

Reasons to Practice Chair Yoga

It's been wonderful to see the diversity of people coming to this class. They've joined for many reasons such as: looking for something more accessible while they recover from injuries, wanting to learn more modifications as a teacher, looking to build strength, balance and flexibility for healthy ageing, or to learn sequences that can be done at a desk during work. A chair as a prop has so many uses!

Benefits of Chair Yoga

Often people are surprised by the level of physical strength and intensity in this class. It's challenging while being accessible to all levels and physical abilities (getting down onto the ground is optional). Components of the class include: core strengthening, range of motion exercises for all the joints, balance poses, flexibility and strength, breath work, gratitude, and mindfulness. Golf ball foot massages and self-acupressure techniques are sometimes thrown into the mix just for fun (and their great therapeutic benefits).

Above is a pose you can try right at home, Seated Crescent Lunge:

  • First grab a sturdy chair with a straight back.

  • Sit relaxed but upright with feet grounded.

  • Close your eyes and take a few nourishing breaths to focus on the sensations in your body and commit to moving mindfully.

  • Walk your feet to the right, turning the whole torso so that only the right bum cheek is on the seat.

  • Right knee is bent with foot planted, ankle inline with knee.

  • Place right hand on the chair back for support and balance.

  • Keep shoulders inline above hips.

  • Moving onto the balls of left toes guide the left leg back until you begin to feel some stretch in front of the left hip. (There is no benefit to making this an intense stretch, keep it comfortable and look to your breath as a guide; a strained or restricted breath is a sign of going to far, encouraging you back out a little.)

  • Feet firm into ground, squeeze inner thighs toward each other, and squeeze belly toward spine. Keep this muscular engagement, and if you’re feeling steady, inhale to lift left or both arm(s).

  • Hold for 1-4 rounds of relaxed breath.

  • Exhale to release effort in arms and legs, bring left leg forward beside right.

  • Walk legs to the left to repeat pose on opposite side.

If you've ever been curious about this class, come check it out on Mondays at 12:00-1:00pm. It's a wonderful group of people in an inclusive, supportive space. All are welcome!!

Chair Yoga is listed as a Community Class meaning it’s Pay What You Can with a suggested cash donation of $5.00; making the yoga practice more affordable and accessible to everyone.

More About Amy Gowling

Amy believes yoga gives us the power to focus our attention on what we want to manifest in our lives and that in turn makes us limitless. With a mindful approach to both stillness and movement, she encourages students to cultivate the deep contentment that is available by being present, curious, and accepting. Read her bio here and read Amy’s past chair yoga blog about how accessible it is for anyone to practice here.