What is Body Positive Yoga? Why it should matter to you!

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As a Body Positive Activist and a Body Positive Yogi, I get asked the questions, “What is body positivity?” and “What is body positive yoga?” a lot.

The Body Positive movement is so near and dear to my heart and I don’t think I could offer yoga any other way. If yoga today is only for a select few who to fit into the narrow mould of a Yoga Journal cover model (white, thin, cis, able-bodied, affluent), then I am not interested in it.

I want our yoga practice to heal us. I want our yoga practice to be a place where we feel safe. I want our yoga practice to be a place of radical self-love. I want our yoga practice to be inclusive. I believe in the power of yoga to heal and transform and I believe that everyone should have access to the benefits of yoga. This is why Body Positive Yoga is so important to me!

 

First, let’s talk about Body Positivity. When I started practicing yoga, I didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t look like the other people there and I was always the biggest body in the room. So once I started teaching yoga, I wanted to make it a safe space for other people who might feel like yoga was not for them. Back then the Body Positivity movement wasn’t as popular as it is now. I didn’t even know about the term. Over the years the movement has grown and changed to become more inclusive and intersectional. A move in the right direction in my opinion.

As an evolving movement, everyone’s interpretation of body positivity might be different, but at its core the term represents the idea that all bodies are worthy of self-love, self-care, and acceptance. It includes the idea that all bodies are allowed to feel beautiful, regardless of their colour or jean size or health status or how attractive you personally find them to be. Although the mainstream media has been focusing the Body Positivity movement on feeling beautiful in our bodies, I am more interested in finding ways to love and respect our bodies, even if we desire for our bodies to change. This allows for space in the body positivity movement for someone who might still want to lose weight, or for someone who might be ill, or for someone who wants/needs to modify their body.

 

How does body positivity apply to yoga?

Yoga is for Every Body! Everyone should have access to the benefits of yoga! Yoga is not just asana (the postures), which yoga in the West tends to focus on. If one can consciously observe their breath one is practicing yoga. I have worked with people who are in palliative care. People who are unable to get out of bed and are in so much pain from cancer and the healing power of Yoga Nidra (a guided relaxation) has been the only thing they found to relieve that pain.

For me Body Positive Yoga is so much more that just body size. Yes, there is a lot of focus on body size in the Body Positivity movement as a push back against Western yoga’s focus on thin bodies and because of North America’s fatphobia erasing bigger bodies from movement based activities. If we never see larger bodies being physical, then we start to believe that it isn’t possible for larger bodies to be physical, to be healthy, to be an athlete, or to be a yogi. Here are some great resources proving otherwise:

Fat Girl Running – A blog about being an active larger girl in a thinner world via the individual yet universal sport of running.

Louise Green – Louise Green is a globally recognized plus size athlete, trainer and advocate with a leading voice at the forefront of the Body Advocacy movement.

FabUplus – FabUplus is a health, fitness and lifestyle magazine dedicated to women with curves. Their goal is to empower, encourage and inspire women to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter what your size.

Body Positive Athletes – This is a closed Facebook Group forming a community of people who believe that the term ‘athletic’ defines a lifestyle and not a body shape or size.

Jessamyn Stanley – Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher, body positive advocate, and writer based in Durham, North Carolina.

 

As a Body Positive Yoga Therapist I do my best to make sure I know as many variations and modifications of poses as I can. And I make sure offer those modifications to the poses in a way that doesn’t sound like the are a lesser pose. I also like to affirm at the beginning of the class that each student has full permission to move their body in the way that feels right for them. I believe you know your body best and you know what works best for your body. Throughout the class I will also encourage you to listen to your body and modify your poses so that you are maximizing the benefits for your body while minimizing the risk of injury.

I also use Yoga Sutra (The Book of Yoga) cards in class to help me know whether people are comfortable with hands on adjustments. The cards offer an opportunity for learning something new about yoga philosophy and then the students are invited to place the card face up near their mat if they would like hands on adjustments. Or face down near their mat if they would like to be left alone today. This way the student doesn’t have to communicate verbally and I will still check in with the student before putting my hands on them even if their card is face up. Knowing the people and the bodies in my yoga space helps me to make my classes safe. This is one of the reasons I have moved away from offering drop-in classes and now only offer pre-registered classes and workshops where people can let me know about any issues or concerns beforehand and then we can work together to make it the safest most beneficial practice for them.

I am also very aware of the language I am using during class. I never want to use body shaming language in the class, like “to burn more calories do this” or “if you are trying to lose weight try this”, or even calling a certain expression of a pose “the full expression of the pose”. The benefits of an asana practice can be experienced and felt in any variation and any body. And I want to make sure that I am using non-gendered, non-agist language, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and LGBTQ+, body positive and body ability positive language.

I strive for the space that I create for yoga to be a space to:

  • Appreciate your body for everything it can do and everything it does for you
  • Notice where your body is strong and capable and focusing on that
  • Feel your body as an ally, not an enemy you have to be at war with
  • See your worth as more than a number on a scale
  • Redefine health – My definition of health includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know you can be healthy at any size. If you are not familiar with this topic look into “Health at Every Size” by Dr. Linda Bacon.

For my business I have guiding principles that help to frame how I operate a body positive business:

1 – Honouring the Tradition of Yoga

I always strive to offer a practice that holds reverence for the lineage, history and culture from which yoga arose. I do this by studying the philosophy of yoga, knowing the history of yoga and the culture in which it arose as well as how culture has shaped what we know as yoga today, including the history of colonialism in India. I also do this by stating at the beginning of my workshops and retreats that I honour the path of yoga, I honour that it is an Indian tradition and I thank my teachers for guiding me on this path. Yoga is not mine. It is something I honour and offer to others.

2 – Unceded Chief Drygeese Traditional Territory of the Yellowknives Dene

I always strive to recognize who’s land my services are being offered on. So when I am home in Yellowknife I will state at the beginning of workshops and retreats that I thank the Yellowknives Dene for allowing me to offer my services on the unceded Chief Drygeese Traditional Territory of the Yellowknives Dene. When I am traveling, I take time to learn whose land I am visiting and will thank and honour them at the beginning of my workshops and retreats.

3 – Anti-Oppressive Space

I always strive to make the spaces I create as anti-oppressive as possible and this is challenging since we do live in oppressive spaces. I focus on making my spaces:

  • Anti-racist;
  • Anti-colonial;
  • Patriarchy resistant;
  • LGBTQ+ positive; and
  • Body and ability positive.

And I acknowledge my privilege. I can’t possibly have all the answers on how to make my spaces anti-oppressive so I always welcome conversations on how to achieve this.

4 – Accessibility

I explore ways to make my services as accessible as possible, including, but not limited to:

  • Offering free classes;
  • Offering classes-by-donation;
  • Offering classes from which proceeds will be donated to a cause; and
  • Offering to work with individual for whom cost is a barrier to make my offerings accessible.

 

I do all of this because I believe feeling safe, and this includes feeling free from oppression as much as is possible, is so important to helping us to heal. And as a Yoga Therapist, I want your yoga practice to be healing. I believe that through yoga we can heal ourselves and ultimately our world.

 

Thank you so much for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts. What does body positive yoga mean to you? Did I miss something? Why is body positive yoga important to you? Share in the comments below.

xox

Krystal

 

P.S. If you want to watch a little video of my talking about Body Positive Yoga you can do it here.

P.P.S. If you want to practice Body Positive Yoga with me, you can get started with Body Love Yoga CardsBody Love Yoga Cards is designed to get you started on your yoga journey as well as your body love journey. And you if you are already on your way, it will help you continue on that path! With Body Love Yoga Cards you are committing to a 10 day practice. It’s made for people just like you who feel like they don’t have enough time for their yoga practice.

Big shifts can come from small changes! Get started today!

 

 

 

Uplifting Yoga for Winter Days [VIDEO]

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If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you probably can feel the shorter days affecting you? I know I can. Up here in the Northwest Territories it’s dark when I wake up and dark again by 4pm. Winter can sometimes have negative effects leading us to fear its arrival. However, winter can also be an opportunity to slow down, embrace being creative and connect with yin and kapha energies.

This short (10 min) winter yoga flow is for people for whom the darkness is scary and an unwelcome season in their life. For people who want to know how to channel or harness the winter energy. For people who want to let go of the past and move into the new year and the new light with new energy and new vision for their life.

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Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

Krystal

 

My 5 Top Tricks to Turn a Body-Loathing Day into a Body-Loving Day

We are always learning, always growing, always changing. Or at least life is always providing the opportunities for these things. In the beginning of my body love journey I thought, maybe one day I won’t have to think about this so much. Maybe one day I could fix this problem. Maybe one day all the mental, emotional and physical energy I put into loathing and punishing my body will be mine again. I used to wonder what people who didn’t have to work on their body (i.e. thin people) did with all the extra mental, emotional and physical energy that I was dedicating to the process of trying to comply with beauty and health standards. I know better now and I know that this struggle is definitely not one that “thin” people are immune to.  

I also know that loving your body is a lifelong journey.

That magical moment of never having body loathing or shame ever again will possibly, and probably, never come. Because if the world around me is forever changing, and my body continues to age and change, and my LIFE JOURNEY continues to follow its winding, bumpy and beautiful path, how could my relationship with my body remain unchanged? So that means there will be times when I might feel body-shame and body-loathing. Even as I work as a body positive advocate, there will still be these days. Yes, I put WAY less energy into hating, fixing and changing my body, and when I get the bad-body-feels they don’t last too long, but my relationship with my body will always be an ever-changing journey.

So I thought I would offer you my 5 top tricks to turn a body-loathing day into a body-loving day.

1 – Be a REBEL

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When I have thoughts of hating my body or that I am not good enough as I am to show up in the world, I like to use my rebellious nature to my advantage. I really don’t like being told what to do and I don’t do well with feeling like my choices are limited. Sometimes this part of my personality can be a challenge, but when it’s me and my self-limiting beliefs restricting me from living the life I want, I can take my inner-rebel and unleash her wrath on all that shame. ‘Take that negative self-talk! You can’t tell me what to do! I’m the boss of me!’

2 – Body Love Outfits

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I LOVE clothes and costume and make-up. I love using my body and face as a canvas for expressing my creativity. It is an important part of feeling free and authentic in my day to day life. However, big events that I get really excited about and create grandiose outfit visions for are often a trigger for my body-loathing. And the more excited I am, the more triggering they can be. Lately though, I have started doing this thing that’s changing it all. I’ll put on my ensemble of choice for the event, usually an ensemble that pushes me out of my comfort zone, and then I will stand in front of the mirror assessing the situation like I normally would. And the usual boring negative thoughts about my body may come up. If they do though, I say to myself and my body, “I am going to love you. I do love you. And I am going to keep loving you so hard that you will rock this outfit. I will love it so hard that everyone else will just have to get on board. This is a body love outfit.” And then I rock that outfit HARD!

3 – Move it and Lose it (the Loathing that is)

When I move my body in ways that feel nurturing, empowering, and delicious, I forget about all that body loathing and start enjoying my body here, exactly as it is, in the present moment. I forget about what I look like. I don’t care about how my body appears. I care only about how good it feels to exist in my body. Yoga asana is absolutely a practice that brings me back to loving and appreciating my body. But I also could truly dance forever. Dancing fills my soul and I feel most free when my body and mind are lost in moving to the music. When I move my body I feel free, I feel strong and I feel powerful.

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4 – Through My Eyes

When I am hating on my body, sometimes it is good for me to remember how I see the world. Where do I see beauty in the world? It shows up in a smile. In the warmth of a breeze on my skin. In feeling seen and heard and supported by my loved ones. It has nothing to do with conventional and commercial concepts of beauty. I fall in love with people for their humour, their incredible mind, and their heart. These things have nothing to do with the way they look. So maybe the way I look isn’t really that important in being able to show up in the world and be loved.

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5 – Flawed and Imperfect and That’s Okay

On that note, there are days where the positivity can’t drown out the negative thoughts. Days where I feel like I am not enough. Where I feel like I am not good enough to show up in the world. On those days, I let go. I accept that maybe, just maybe, I can still show up in the world as my flawed and imperfect self and maybe I can let people love me anyway. Maybe I can even let people love me because of those flaws and imperfections. And I turn to this quote from the wise Brene Brown, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”

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So that is my wish for you – to allow people (even yourself) to love you “flaws”, “imperfections” and all!

Krystal

You are enough!

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Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I am not enough. Let’s be real, I often struggle with feeling like I’m not enough. And one of the ways that I like to prove to myself that I am not enough is to say “You didn’t even practice yoga today”. I mean, come on, I’m a full time yoga instructor and a big time yoga lover – how can I be enough if I skip my yoga practice?

There are many core beliefs underlying this cycle of thinking that I would like to examine and challenge for myself.  One of the beliefs that I am definitely not willing to accept, and for sure I do not want to perpetuate in the yoga community, is that we are a “good yogi” (enough) only on days where we do a 60 minute primarily asana-based yoga practice.

This is not the intention of yoga. Yoga is union. Yoga is a system of tools for your life. Yoga is in the moment. Yoga is one conscious breath away. Yoga is not just another thing on our to do list that we get to check off for a sense of worthiness and approval of ourselves.

So with this in mind I want to share with you that today my yoga practice looked like one minute of conscious breathing meditation and I am still enough. In fact, that one minute of conscious breathing reminded me that I am always enough.

And, whatever you did today, you are enough.

Love,

Krystal

Celebrate Mother’s Day With Yoga

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It’s Mother’s Day this weekend! Time to celebrate the women who brought us into this world, and what better way to do that than with some yoga. 😉

Check out my ideas for how you can share yoga with the Moms in your life below.

Moms-To-Be and New Moms

For the Moms-To-Be and the New Moms in your life, I am just releasing my brand new Mom and Baby Yoga Nidra CD this very weekend! The CD has three audio tracks, including:

    • Baby Bonding, connecting you to the magic and power of the life growing within you;
    • Beautiful Birth, helping you to visualize a beautiful birth; and
    • Mom Time, giving you some time for yourself after the baby has arrived.

Yoga Nidra is one of the most powerful and relaxing yoga practices. I know the Moms will LOVE it!

Moms with Kids

For the moms with younger children, you can give yourself the gift of sharing my Yoga-Based Games for Kids E-book. Set your kids up with the e-book and then take a few moments of quiet to yourself. If you want even more of a guarantee of entertaining these little ones, or perhaps some help getting them to bed, check out the guided relaxation audio that is included right in the e-book!

Moms with Teens

Moms of Teens might enjoy doing a Partner Yoga practice with their child. Partner Yoga offers a fun way to spend time together, create memories and learn new ways of communicating and supporting each other. If you are looking for some ideas, check out this great resource for partner yoga ideas.

Moms who want to Connect

Meditation is typically seen as a solo activity, but when you practice together you are each holding the space of meditation for the other. Doing a meditation together gives you the shared experience, which can then be discussed after the meditation is complete. If you are looking for a meditation, you can check out my meditation on Unconditional Love here.

Moms who want some Alone Time

For Moms who really need some downtime, a restorative pose (like the one pictured above hugging a bolster) and some yoga nidra can really help you forget about any troubles in your world. I have some free Yoga Nidras up on my YouTube channel or you could gift your mom my original Yoga Nidra CD, Yoga Nidra from the Heart.

I will be at the Yellowknife Trade Show this weekend with all of my CDs and DVDs. I would love it if you stopped by my booth to say hello!

Let me know what you plan to do to celebrate your mom in the comments.

Have a great weekend Moms!

Krystal

Tips for Developing a Home Yoga Practice (Infographic)

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Yoga is essentially an inquiry. An inquiry into ourselves. An inquiry to observe our actions and reactions. An inquiry to get to know ourselves a little better.  An inquiry to tolerate the consequences of being ourselves a little more. And hopefully an inquiry to LOVE ourselves a little more.

A home and personal yoga practice is essential to receive all of these benefits. The experience is yours. The practice is yours. You get to shape it into whatever you need, whatever you want.

OWN IT! The journey of self-inquiry is profound and endless.

Below are some of my best tips to get you started on this rich path to deeper SELF LOVE in your home yoga practice!

1. Give yourself the gift of space

Creating a space at home or the office where you will do your practice can help remind you of your intentions and also encourage you to practice. Knowing that you have a space that you can use can be half of the battle. And the more you practice in it, the more that space will remind you of how good you feel during and after your practice. Your space can be filled with your props and any other visual cues like an altar or a poster displaying an intention or affirmation. Often anxiety about the other obligations we have in our life can overpower our desire to begin or maintain our own home daily practice so having those visual cues of your dedication can be very helpful. Give yourself the gift of creating a little space in your life and in the day that will be a sacred practice for self-care.

2. No rules

A yoga practice is just that, a practice and twenty minutes of daily yoga practice is more likely to show positive results sooner than two hours of occasional practice. So allow yourself to let go of a rigid idea of what your home daily yoga practice should look like and see if there are any natural breaks in your day that might lend themselves to begin a practice with the time available.

3. Listen

Take some time at the beginning of your practice to notice how your body is feeling. Are there places in your body where you need to release tension and stretch? Are there place that need more gentleness and compassion? Do you have energy you need to release? Also notice what is happening in your mind. What kind of mood are you in today? What kind of thoughts are you thinking? Are there any shifts you would like to make in your mind that your yoga practice could help you with? Notice your breath too. Your breath can be an excellent indicator of how you are doing. Is your breath fast or shallow? Are you able to breath easily into all parts of your torso? Use this information to get a feel for what you need from your practice each day.

4. Use your breath

Use your breath at the beginning of your practice to clear your mind, setting the intention that you will be present with your body, mind and breath for your whole practice. You can begin with deep belly breaths and work into a three-part breath or ujjayi breath.

5. Choose Your Asana

Asanas are the poses we do in our yoga practice. For your asana practice it is nice to start with some poses to warm up your body like the six movements of the spine (cat/cow, side stretch and twists) and a few sun salutations. From there you could move into other poses based on how your body and mind are feeling that day. You can get ideas for which poses to do by making some mental notes in class on how the different poses make you feel and which ones you like or feeling like might be healing for you. If want some more help and guidance with a personalized therapeutic home practice, you could see me for Private Yoga Therapy Sessions.

6. Get Creative

  • Have kids and find it hard to make time for your practice? Make your yoga practice “Family Fun Time”.
  • Standing in line at the grocery store? Come into Tadasana and take a few conscious breaths.
  • Feeling tension in your neck and shoulders at work? Take a five minute break and do the 6 movements of your spine right from your office chair.
  • Having trouble sleeping? Lay in your bed and swing your legs up the wall coming into the Great Rejuvenator, Vipariti Karani.

Infographic - Tips for your home yoga practice

EARTH WEEK 2015 CELEBRATION – FREE MEDITATION AND YOGA CLASS!

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As a celebration of this lovely planet that supports our needs every day, The Luscious Life is offering you a free online meditation to Connect with the Earth. This meditation will deepen your connection to the earth, allow you to feel the energy of the earth and send some love back. Check it out here!

Also, there will be a FREE Yoga Class with the lovely Anneka Westergreen as part of Ecology North’s Earth Week celebrations. The class is at the Collective Soul Space, Tuesday April 21, 12-1pm. Hope to see everyone there!

Last but not least, there are still a few spots left in the new round of Next Level Yoga: Invert Yo’self. Inversions can improve circulation, increase immunity, reenergize and relax you. And they can be TONS O’ FUN! It starts on Wednesday, and you can register online here!

And let us know what you are doing for Earth Week in the comments below! Happy Earth Week 2015 everyone!

Tips for Your First Yoga Class

Curious about yoga but afraid to try it out?

I will be offering a new round of my Empowerment Yoga for Beginners class, starting April 19th, and I know that yoga can be intimating if you’ve never tried it before. However, yoga is a beautiful practice that can be beneficial to your overall health. Here are a few tips for your first yoga class to ensure that your experience as a beginner is as smooth, beautiful and healing as can be!

Short version - yoga tipsTip 1: Be an earlybird

We all have our zone of comfort and arriving early to       meet with the teacher, set yourself up, and pick your favourite spot, will help you begin your first class from a more relaxed place.

Tip 2: Dress for comfort

Speaking of comfort, you want to wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and that will also allow you to move your body. Dressing in layers is a great idea because, depending on the style and flow of the class, you may be warmer or cooler. Most classes end with a pose called Savasana, where you will be laying on the floor in a relaxed state for a few minutes, and you don’t want to miss out on the bliss that is Savasana by being chilly.

Tip 3: It’s about Practice, not Perfection

Please do not worry about what the other students’ poses look like or even how the teacher appears in the pose. Every body is different and every body has different needs. Always practice in a way that is minimizing your risk for injury while maximizing the benefits of yoga. One of my favourite things to remind students about is that we always adapt the poses for our body’s needs rather than trying to adapt our body to the pose. Yoga is a practice not a state of perfection.

Tip 4: Choose wisely

How do you know how to adapt a pose? Look for a teacher who will offer modifications for any needs you might have like an injury, illness or life stage. This goes back to 1 – Be an earlybird so that you can discuss any needs or concerns with your teacher. It’s also a great idea to check out the different styles of yoga offered where you live online beforehand so that you can make an informed choice. Not all styles of yoga are the same so you want to choose the best one for your needs.

Tip 5: The 8 limbs of Yoga

Most classes focus on the physical aspect of yoga, asana, or poses. In truth, asana is just one of the eight limbs of yoga, which also include guidance for everyday life, breathwork and meditation. Asana was primarily developed to allow the yogis to sit in meditation for longer periods of time. So I invite you again to let go of worrying about how “perfect” your poses are, and maybe notice more what is happening in your mind during your asana practice. How we show up for yoga is how we show up for life.

Tip 6: “I really regret going to yoga” said no one EVER!

Yoga is an incredible practice offering so many benefits to our bodies, minds and spirits when it is practiced safely and with awareness.

I hope this guide helps you to feel ready to start your own yoga journey and I hope to see you on a yoga mat soon! You can register for my upcoming beginner class here.

Love,

Krystal

Try these fun spring detox yoga sequences!

Welcome Spring!

Can you feel it in the air? I can! There is an energy and an excitement as the world comes back to life. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal; a time to clear out the old and make way for the new. In our Next Level Yoga Series we are practicing a fired up, core strengthening, twisting and third chakra focused sequence, using the element of fire to burn through this past season’s energy so that we can move forward.

I wanted to let you all in on our practice with these short sequences that you can do from home.

Do you have other favorite twists? What do you do to get fired up? I wanna know. Drop me a line in the comments.

Happy Spring!

Krystal

E-BOOK: SPRING BREAK YOGA GAMES FOR KIDS!

Kids yoga gamesClick here to access your free E-book!

For many of you, it will be week two of Spring Break with the kids home. In honour of this time that can leave parents wondering what to do with all that time at home, I am offering you my “4 Yoga-based Games to Play with Your Kids E-book” – 4 Yoga-based Games including, Balloon Breathing, The Gardening Game, Blind Balance Challenge and Boat Relaxation (audio).

I would love to see some photos of you and your little ones playing together. Please feel free to share any photos and let me know what you think.

Happy Spring Break!
Krystal