the Georgia Straight - Sept 2017.

Industry expert: Carolyn Anne Budgell reveals Vancouver's five best new yoga trends

As a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher—and a brand ambassador for Vancouver’s own Lululemon—Carolyn Anne Budgell knows a thing or two about flexing, stretching, and achieving peak Zen.

Primarily a specialist in vinyasa yoga—which she translates as “flow” or “power” yoga—Budgell combines spiritual and physical components in her classes, which she teaches for global chain Semperviva Yoga. As well as offering public courses, Budgell is a teacher’s teacher, using her expertise to train international instructors in best yoga practices. Just imagine how limber those classes are.

Stretching her brain as much as her body, Budgell has authored pieces for brand websites My Yoga Online (now Gaia.com) and Halfmoon Yoga, as well as taking on the role of presenter at the Wanderlust Whistler festival, a three-day retreat that offers everything from paddleboard to aerial yoga.

A strong advocate for raising the profile of the practice in the community, Budgell offers a number of free workshops across the city, setting up her mat everywhere from the beaches of Kitsilano to high-traffic locations like Gastown’s streets. The star of a number of Lululemon and Mala Collective online videos, she has set the personal goal of providing access to free yoga instruction to as many people as she can.

Situated at the cutting edge of the Vancouver scene, Budgell is in the perfect position to share the five best yoga trends taking hold in the city.

AcroYoga

“Like the name suggests, this practice combines acrobatics with yoga positions. It’s done in partners, where someone acts as the base, and the flyer poses on top of them. Both partners work really hard. Normally, the flyer is the one with the flashier poses, but acroyoga is about celebrating that the person supporting them is just as crucial. It’s often practised outdoors, so acroyoga comes alive during the summer—you’ll definitely have seen it in Vancouver’s parks this year.”

Kundalini yoga

“This variation uses less traditional yoga poses, and focuses instead on the spiritual practices designed to lead directly to enlightenment. You’ll sit and hold your arms out in a T-shape by your body for five minutes straight, for example, and that will help to raise your vibration. Right now, people are really searching for direct ways to feel complete. This isn’t a type of yoga that I practise myself, but recently the search to achieve a person’s spiritual potential has become more mainstream, and kundalini is becoming more popular.”

Meditation and mindfulness

“Meditation is a huge trend right now. A lot of people are realizing that their stress and anxiety levels are through the roof, and five minutes of meditation a day helps so much with that. I’ve been teaching the practice in Vancouver for seven years, and demand has skyrocketed in the last little while. There’s a lot of corporate meditation happening in offices here—today I’m going into a financial institution to do a 35-minute intro over lunch, for example. It’s something people can do on their own or with an instructor—it depends how you like to learn. But it’s easier to cheat if you’re alone.”

Yoga Fusions

“A lot of hybrid workouts are emerging in Vancouver, with yoga sessions blending with classes like pilates or high-intensity boot camps. There’s a lot of benefit to combining yoga poses with things like strength training, so recently there’s been an uptick of classes that would have a half-hour of intense activity, and then a half-hour of yoga. Also becoming popular here are classes that make sure every pose involves a little bit of strength and a little bit of stretching.”

Kids’ yoga or family yoga

“This has been coming up for a while now. People are starting to realize how much our next generation can benefit from all of what we learn in yoga or meditation, and yoga has now become incorporated into a lot of physical-education curriculums in Vancouver elementary and high schools. As well as that, a lot of yoga studios have family yoga classes once a week, and mom-and-baby yoga is becoming increasingly popular. Yoga helps kids establish a healthy pattern in the brain and the body early on. It teaches them how to stay calm in stressful situations, how to use their body, and how to stay fit and strong.”

Posted on October 3, 2017 .

your flesh shall be a poem..

Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Walt Whitman

Posted on August 8, 2017 .

the water blessing.

ocean.jpg

The buoyancy of water,

Stronger than the deadening,

Downward drag of gravity.

The innocence of water,

Flowing forth, without thought

Of what awaits it.

The refreshment of water,

Dissolving the crystals of thirst.

Water: voice of grief,

Cry of love,

In the flowing tear.

Water: vehicle and idiom

Of all the inner voyaging

That keeps us alive.

Blessed be water,

Our first mother.

John O'Donahue

Posted on August 8, 2017 .

letting go of plans - a birth story ..

Hana’s story of entering into this world, our world, on June 22 and making it infinitely more fun, more beautiful and more time-stopping (present).

Introduction

How every legend ought to begin: It was a full moon and the summer solstice. Very ominous. She was ‘due’ to come earthside on June 13th, I was convinced it would be June 8th. We found ourselves at June 20th and still no baby girl. I’d been drinking concoctions from Granny, walking up and down hills in our neighbourhood, doing hours of nipple stimulation a day, regular yoga practice … but Hana simply joined us when she joined us (and it was all beyond perfect).

 

After a relatively smooth and hormone-laden blissful pregnancy, it/she woke me up around 5am on the 21st. The faint surges, the whispers of the body, the promise of her life. I knew this was it and dozed off…

* women had always told me of this moment and that ‘I’d know’. They were right. In my last month of pregnancy after each acupuncture treatment, I’d convince myself that labour was beginning. I’d feel new flutters and movements. However, when I awoke again a little later on the morning after the full moon, my instincts heightened, the cramps were different and I quietly knew. *

(I cleaned the bathroom. Felt that would be smart. Called my doula. Stayed calm and focused. Establishing a focus early on before it got intense seemed right.)

My friend and acupuncturist, Irene, showed up around 3pm. Our doula, Melissa, was already with us, hanging out and catching up. Irene and I went into the bedroom where she placed the needles and then gave me space alone in the room to breathe and go within.

We are now at one of the most special memories I have of this journey: lying alone in our bedroom, relaxing into mild contractions while listening to Irene, Melissa and momo laugh softly in the next room. These were the friends that I had chosen to be present for this event. It was ALL LOVE and it set the pace and introspective, respectful tone for the subsequent 20 hours.

(Irene left, I ate some pasta, everything intensified, the mucous plug came out, my water never broke.)

Melissa had printed out my affirmations and she taped them to our piano.  She helped me find comfortable positions for the contractions. She helped me explore touch, and space during the contractions. She reminded me of breath and fluttered lips.  All were things I had planned for and completely forgot the instant the plain got real.

The Phases

Yes, I had plans, I had hopes. Early on in the pregnancy, the first expectation was broken when we were told it was safest to deliver in the hospital rather than at home. Phase 1 of ‘releasing the plans’ was complete.

Phase 2 of ‘no plan is the best plan’: reading Birthing From Within and realizing how much power there is in not being attached to how my labour should unfold.

Phase 3 of ‘I cannot control this thing’: being 11 days overdue and thinking I could force it and control the birthing process into life.

As so many experiences in life had taught me, I thought I knew how to surrender and let go but now… my body was teaching me. Everything. Again.

 

Back to the mantras on the piano. In the moment, I hated them. None of them were meditative. But the time that I had spent months earlier creating them was enough. Daydreaming about how I would repeat the mantras during labour was enough.

So was the case with making a labour playlist. Assembling the songs was enough. Pressing play in the moment was the absolute last thing on my mind.

And the essential oils I brought. Forgotten.

The expectation that I would need someone guiding me and showing me how to birth my baby. Wrong again.

 

The Dream Team

I thank Melissa from a deep and vulnerable place within for so much: for suggesting positions to be in, for gracefully accepting my ‘no thank yous’, for visibly loving me and admiring me through the whole process, for sitting on my bathroom floor while I labored in the bathtub, for patiently repeating my new mantras ‘this is temporary’ and ‘you’re getting close’ probably 400 times, for standing on the other side of the shower curtain as I labored under the distracting showerhead stream for almost 2 hours at the hospital and for being of clear mind to whisk out her camera at the last second to capture the crucial seconds of Hana’s arrival (also happily unplanned).

I thank Mohammed for feeding me exactly 2 tiny ice chips at a time. What I am seriously thankful for is him knowing and trusting all along that I could go it alone – that in a sense, birthing a baby is truly a solo journey. No matter the interventions, we do it ourselves, from a powerful place within.

There was a moment in the middle of the night, around 2am (after 12 hours of labour) where momo and Melissa both retired to separate spots in our home to nap. They had helped me establish a strong rhythm and knew I would be fine. And it was during the 2 hours that they napped where I was alone in the dark of our living room, dancing and swaying and sitting and resting, that the labour progressed almost fully. I called our midwife again, woke them up and we were soon rushing off to the hospital.  (where I had to labour in the waiting room until a bed opened up because the full moon brought out ALL the babies that night – Phase 4 of ‘plans are a bad idea’…)

It really was an inward journey and I lastly am thankful that I found this practice of yoga and meditation nearly two decades ago – through it I have learned how to be comfortable with myself, how to be quiet and focused and how to talk to my Self with words of trust and self-love. I just had to. And only I could.  

                                                                           

Epilogue

Our midwife Rachel talked about my mula bandha a lot while I pushed for 3 hours. Her yoga/sanskrit languaging surprised me and also was THE BEST for getting me to access my strength. It was so long but she believed in me. In those final hours, I needed her.

I have kindly left out of this story the nurse who kept offering me drugs/laughing gas (she was SUCH a pusher, but I was not going to be bullied) and talking over me to the midwife about how my labour was taking too long. After about 2 hours of this energy (that was truly taking me out of my highly focused mind and into the world of hospital /  pressure / worry), I resorted to smacking her hand away every time she touched me. So I guess the nurse is now in the story. 

Hana finallyyyyyy burst onto the scene at 12:30pm with eyes open, grunting hello, taking us in.  We thought she was gorgeous but looking back at these photos now, I see how wrong we were. The beauty is in watching her learn and grow and settle into her own personality.

I feel very blessed that we returned home at 6:30pm that same evening of her birth. After I had stopped gushing ‘she’s perfect! She’s perfect’…. ‘I expect to go home today’ were the next words out of my mouth.

Home. A concept I thought I understood. A place in my heart that has never felt bigger.

 

 

Posted on May 14, 2017 .

seeing clearly.

Meditation is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit and to not get carried away by hope and fear. Through meditation, we're able to see clearly what's going on with our thoughts and emotions, and we can also let them go. What's encouraging about meditation is that even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we're closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance. We're able to see how we run and hide and keep ourselves busy so that we never have to let our hearts be penetrated. And we're also able to see how we could open and relax. 

Pema Chodron/

Posted on April 6, 2017 .

meditate & love.

My whole teaching consists of two words, 'meditation' and 'love.' Meditate so that you can feel immense silence, and love so that your life can become a song, a dance, a celebration. You will have to move in between the two, and if you can move easily, if you can move without any effort, you have learned the greatest thing in life.

*osho

Posted on March 26, 2017 .