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.

Meditation - Why you need to be practicing it right now. By Meagan Santa

Meditation is proven to reduce stress, improve sleep, enhance self awareness & promote emotional health. So why aren’t more of us practicing it daily?

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I was first introduced to meditation in my yoga teacher training in 2016. I learned 3 key points that encouraged me to explore different types of meditation and work it into my daily routine since graduating. The idea of meditation can seem overwhelming, intense and it carries stereotypical weight. Before I walked into meditation training, the vision in my mind when I thought of it was a man sitting cross legged for hours somewhere tropical. But I had also heard of many successful people, mentors, and teachers finding incredible benefits from this practice. So I walked into class that day with an open mind and open heart to what I could learn. These 3 key ingredients stand out to me and helped me build my meditation practice- explore various types until you find your meditation match, know you don’t have to be in easy sitting pose to mediate and remember it takes practice!

Find Your Meditation Match

I remember feeling overwhelmed when reading the various types of meditation. Some included mantras, others focused on mindfulness elements, walking meditation, chanting, vibration or sound, morning meditation, etc. So where do you start?

The first three types that I practiced were guided, sound and mantra. I suggest you try one each day for 5-10 minutes. After those three days, reflect back on which type of meditation felt the best. Which would you be more willing to try again? All three variations can be found on Google, YouTube, and various local classes, including In Fine Feather Yoga.

Guided meditation is a voice leading you through either by recording or in person. It’s helpful to stay focused on the present moment and voice with this tool as well as providing you the chance to explore various topics covered in guided meditations, like gratitude or relaxation depending on the recording or class. Sound meditation quickly became one of my favourites. A bell or singing bowl is often used in classes or recordings to provide a guide to come back to the present moment when the mind gets distracted. I found this type of meditation to be simple and relaxing. Mantra meditation is the practice of chanting or repeating a word/phrase out loud that holds meaning. It gives the mind something to focus on when it would normally get distracted. “Om” is known to be the most basic and powerful mantra. Many chose to combine the words “Om” and “Shanti” as it means peace in Sanskrit. It can be repeated as many times as you’d like or followed along with a recording.


How To Sit in Meditation

Contrary to belief, easy sitting pose isn’t the only way to meditate. Traditionally yoga was practiced first, followed by meditation because it prepared the body to sit for a longer period of time. With this in mind as a beginner, it’s really important to take time to find a comfortable position. That could be seated against a wall to support the spine, laying down, using blocks to support the knees, sitting on a meditation cushion, hand weights for grounding, etc. The more often you practice in a seated position, the better your posture will get and the quicker you’ll find yourself relaxing. Lighting candles, using essential oils, or soft lights are not necessary but can help to create a more relaxing environment wherever you chose to mediate. What I believe is so powerful about this practice is that it can be done anywhere for any length of time and you are bound to feel better afterwards. Whether that be 5 minutes in your car on your lunch break, 10 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up, or after your yoga class.

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It Takes Practice

I could give you a list of meditation techniques or what my meditation practice looks like. But at the end of the day, you just need to start. Even if you sit for 5 minutes. Build from that number and eventually it’ll be 10 minutes, than 15 minutes. We scroll our phones or watch numerous TV commercials in that same span of time. It’s a choice and a commitment we must make to ourselves. The long term benefits are worth the time put into practice! You may feel more immediate benefits like stress relief, less anxiety, body awareness, lower blood pressure and/or better focus. My favourite app to support my meditation practice is the Insight Timer which offers lots of resources, guided meditations, a timer with a sound/bell tool as well as a tracker to motivate you!

Our Intro to Meditation Classes

You can find me leading the Saturday morning Intro to Meditation class at 11:15-11:30am with a $5 drop-in. Additionally, we are hosting classes on Thursday and Sunday mornings at the same time. Check out the schedule HERE. These classes are designed to teach students how to sit comfortably, breath deeply, release the body & still the mind. Each week we'll explore new methods of meditation, some with full guidance and some in silence.

More About Meagan Santa

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.