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.

Getting Back Into the Flow by Meagan Santa

Make the Transition from Summer to Fall with Ease!

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The end of summer usually brings a melancholy feeling. There’s the excitement and anticipation of what autumn brings (cozy sweaters, pumpkin flavored everything, fairs) but also the end of those free-spirited warm months. It’s not a surprise we often fall out of routine and struggle to get back into the flow state this time of year. I’ve compiled a few suggestions to make the transition easier.

The Flow State

To begin, according to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the flow state is a “complete immersion in an activity.” It’s “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.” By implementing any of these suggestions, my hope is it’s easier for you to find yourself back in a flow state with less worry and a lot more ease.

Raise Your Vibration

1. Raise your vibration by doing something you love and truly enjoy for at least one hour a day. This activity will immerse you in the flow state and/or keep you present. Going to a yoga class, listening to music and cooking, working towards a goal, reading a good book, coffee with a friend, painting, meditation, working out, etc. Ensure that this activity is beneficial for your body & mind. Watching an episode from your latest Netflix show may be enjoyable but it isn’t necessarily going to raise your vibration.

Gossip & Judgement

2. Avoid the gossip, don’t fall into the habit of judging and/or comparing yourself to others. Instead celebrate the good times summer offered, be compassionate of the struggles other may be going through, don’t assume others have it easier or better than you and stay in your own lane! Judgement and gossip will only cause you to feel negative. If you are interested in deep diving this topic, check out Gabby Bernstein’s article here. “I believe that judgment is at the root of all our problems, from the pettiest disagreements to the most catastrophic world events. Our belief that we are separate from one another leads to gossip and bullying as well as deep divisions and violent hate. Healing judgment is extremely urgent right now.”

Scheduling & Communication is Key

3. Simplify your schedule by planning ahead. This will give you time to access your week, prepare, schedule time for yourself to rest/recharge, ask for help, etc. By doing so, you are also encouraging clearer communication to those around you, family, partner, etc. Set yourself up for success by making this a Sunday night ritual followed by an act of self care. No one wants to start their Monday off feeling frazzled and unprepared.

Meal Prep to Save Time & Money

4. Meal prep! If you practice yoga, there’s a good chance you are mindful of your health. Nutrition is a major component to being healthy, feeling energetic and avoiding unnecessary stresses that come up when we are “hangry.” It doesn’t matter what day of the week you do this- although Sundays usually make the most sense. My favourite meals to prep that are quick & yummy include smoothies, soups, wraps, stir frys, cut up veggies, grab’n’go fruit, trail mix, and oatmeal/overnight oats. Imagine family dinners with half the stress and zero confusion as to what to cook, early mornings with a nutritious meal ready to go, and healthy snack choices. This will not only save you time but also money! Click the links to check out my favourite recipes.

Gratitude & Water in the AM

5. Start every day with gratitude and a litre of water (maybe with lemon)! By pairing these two together as soon as you get up, you are encouraging a positive kickstart to your physical and mental health. Think of 5 things everyday you are grateful for. It can be as simple as a good cup of coffee, taking the dog for a walk or as large as your last vacation. Tip - fill your reusable water bottle up the night before and leave it in your bedroom.

At the end of the day, remember that what we are experiencing is simply an energetic reset and a slow seasonal change where habits are affected, and new schedules are upon us. It makes perfect sense that we want to be going strong 24/7 and falling right back into our usual mode of go-go-go but that’s not possible. Give yourself a break as we all transition through this temporary time together.

Share with other Hamilton Yogis

Please share on social media if any of these suggestions helped you get back into the flow of things this fall. Tag #IFFyogis and #IFFbackintheflow.

More About Meagan Santa

Meagan is a graduate of the In Fine Feather Yoga 200 Hour Teacher Training Program and an assistant Manager at the studio. Check out our recent 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.